“Come with me now.”
I raised my head gingerly, recalling a night of chills, pain and fever-riddled dreams.
The girl smiled, joy flooding her eyes. “We make you better.”
I doubted it. Oh, the sickness would go – but I had been travelling for so long and still I woke each morning, desolate.
She shepherded me through tall grasses. I heard tinkling bells in the distance, laughter and chanting.
The entire community had gathered by the river, bearing lit paper lanterns. The tiny flames punctured the early morning mists like stars fallen to earth.
“Grandfather left our world last night for eternal happiness. Now we wish him safe travels. You must do the same. You must let your loved one go.”
I took the lantern, paused and then launched it into the air, watching until it disappeared.
Enveloped in the embrace of strangers, I had set myself free.