They led him to the abandoned ruins, and he followed them into the house they lived in.
Sheaves of dried herbs hung on the wall of the first room. Except for that, the house was completely bare. There were just two mats on the floor. They pulled one over to him.
“No, that is your bed. You won’t have anything to sleep on if you give me that!” he protested.
But the first woman laughed and said, “We don’t sleep much. We don’t waste time sleeping. He could come at any time. But you need your sleep. Or you could stay awake and watch the stars with us.”
Pele took the mat and spread his own blanket over it. How strange they were, he thought, surprising him every moment. Maybe he should do what they did in order to see what they saw. From where he was, he could see the sky through the many holes in the roof. Stretching himself on the mat, he lay down and adjusted his eyes to the darkness. At first the skies above him were not completely dark. They were cloudy and unpromising. But after some time, the clouds moved westward, and the black track of sky gleamed faintly.
“There!” they cried triumphantly, “Just watch closely!”
Pele looked at the skies and they seemed no different than they did on all the other evenings he had looked on them. But all on a sudden the stars appeared, not as fixed pinpoints of light, but as moving celestial bodies, moving in harmony with each other, like in an orchestrated dance. And the two women were right, the stars were moving eastward, and even as he lay there on the hard floor, he could feel them pull the earth with them. It was marvelous, the way they swept slowly eastward, millions of stars all at once, and how everything obeyed. He knew, as if he could see it all, that rocks were shifting and river courses were being redirected and whole mountains were sliding east.
“What is this?” he asked in a loud whisper.
“Hush, hush. Feel it, just feel it for now. Don’t talk.”
Though it felt as though it had gone on for a long time, the whole event had lasted only a few minutes, and when it was over, the clouds came back into place and everything was as before. Pele’s first reaction was to get up and ask the women to tell him about it, but a terrible weariness came over him, and he fell fast asleep.
Easterine Kire is a poet, novelist, short-story writer and writer of children’s books. Her first novel, A Naga Village Remembered, was also the first Naga novel to be published in English. Her other novels include Bitter Wormwood (shortlisted for the Hindu Prize 2013) and When the River Sleeps (winner of the Hindu Prize 2015).
Easterine Kire’s work has been translated into German, Croatian, Uzbek, Norwegian and Nepali. In 2011 she was awarded the governor’s medal for excellence in Naga literature.