Men clad in simple sleeveless robes and armed with spears, bows, and other weapons steadily marched through a forest in three rows of three. Their faces were painted with various patterns of a dark red hue. A man in an ornate headpiece stood at the front – his body paint spanning his face, arms, and legs – the leader of the group, no doubt. He raised a hand and signalled for them to stop. The men paused and looked at their leader, wary of potential danger. Raising his bow and arrow, the leader aimed at the canopy of a tree in the distance and released. Whatever he had fired at, the shot had clearly missed the target as the branches shook as something rapidly climbed down them. The men held onto their weapons, armed and ready for whatever would be coming towards them. In contrast to his men, the leader was calm and walked towards it, waiting for the creature. In the next moment, the men saw a small shadow running towards them.
The small shadow screamed as he barreled his way into the arms of the leader, who picked him up and carried him in his arms.
"How could you shoot at me!"
The small shadow, which the men could now recognize, was a young boy of maybe 5 or 6, his 2 front teeth were missing, and his hair was tied sloppily in a bun atop his head. His small face grimaced as he pounded the man holding him with his tiny fists. The leader seemed to be restraining a laugh. Smiling widely, he rubbed the back of the young boy who was now pouting in an attempt to seem angry but failed to realize that his fat cheeks would only render him adorable.
"Ayan," he spoke gently, "you should be waiting at the village. Does your mother know where you are?"
The young boy froze, his voice a soft murmur.
"I sneaked out when Bibi was distracted, I heard you were coming back today, I wanted to be the first to greet you."
"What an honour for me then, to receive the favour of our most outstanding youth – none of my men even noticed you!"
The man laughed lightly as his eyes shone brightly with adoration. He held the boy with one hand, using the other to tickle his sides. Ayan quickly succumbed, and his giggles were loud throughout the forest clearing. The man waited until he calmed down, his cheeks flushed from laughing and his eyes wet with unshed tears, before he continued, this time his voice a bit sterner.
"It was still unsafe for you to leave on your own like that – your mother must be worried sick. You must apologize when we get back."
Ayan nodded, his little face turned stern.
His eyes darted between the leader and his men, seemingly hesitant to continue before he leaned up and whispered in his ear.
" Actually Baba, I had company! My friend said he would protect me."
The man raised an eyebrow in curiosity, "Oh? Who is this friend that is so powerful?"
Ayan gave him a brilliant, toothless smile and leaned in even closer as he whispered excitedly, "He really is! Super strong! It's a secret but he said I can tell you and Bibi! His name is - BZZZZZZZZZZZ."
A phone sat atop a nightstand, lit up and vibrated loudly. Thick blackout curtains ensured that it was the only light source in an otherwise dark room. The screen showed the time was 9:30 am, the person calling was saved as Lyra. A hand shot out and grabbed the phone, pulling it towards the bed and the lump bundled under the covers. A pair of eyes squinted at the screen and blinked repeatedly, their owner still drowsy from sleep. The lump stirred and stretched a hand out from the covers, feeling blindly at the wall. The click of a light being switched on could be heard. Immediately warm light shone directly over the bed, illuminating its occupant and bringing a warm glow to his golden bronze skin. He steadily grew more awake – his eyes rounding out with clarity to reveal two orbs as dark as obsidian. His hair was short, save for the top - which was long enough for tufts of it to be sticking out in multiple directions.
He muted his phone and reached over to the nightstand to open the drawer, pulling out a small notebook and a pen. Ignoring his phone that was now ringing a second time, he opened the notebook and started to write. He recorded the date, the time he had gone to sleep, and the time he was rudely awakened, interrupting his dream. He quickly jotted down all the details he could remember – the forest, the young boy who coincidentally shared his name, the men who seemed to be from a time way before his own. His last point he underlined, circled once and then again, it was three simple words – name still unknown. Leaning against his headboard, he spent a few minutes re-reading everything he had written down. Ayan was 25 this year – a final year student in university, and for the past 10 years, he had recorded all his dreams.
He was 10 years old when he first started having these dreams, coming to him sporadically and without any sense of a linear timeline for him to follow. The characters and the settings never changed - an ancient village and the sceneries surrounding, villagers who seemed to be indigenous to the land, all centering around a young boy who shared his name. Sometimes the boy was as young as he appeared in this latest dream, sometimes a teenager, or even a young adult. At first, he was excited, treated it as his own puzzle to solve – rearranging the details to create a story just for him. However, as he grew older, he became acutely aware of an enigmatic factor. Since his dreams followed the youth for so long, he had long familiarized himself with all the significant people in his life. He had seen his parents, his relatives, his friends and the villagers. Despite this, there was one person in his life who always seemed to evade his dreams. He had heard the youth refer to them, but only in secrecy and to very few people. Some dreams even followed his adventures with the friend, but any discerning features about them always faded when he awoke. Any mention of their name was consistently interrupted by the dream ending abruptly. It was as if the details were blurred on purpose. These discrepancies plagued him, filling him with intent to discover this mystery friend. This was the catalyst that started his journaling. He recorded every dream in full detail as soon as he woke up, not wanting to risk forgetting anything. Bit by bit, he was able to gather minor information about the friend. He knew they had long hair because the youth had offered to braid it once. He knew that they both grew up together, as the friend always appeared whether they were children or teenagers. Some details were more peculiar as well. Ayan seemed to be the only person this friend interacted with as no other characters appeared to know him personally. The fact that the youth kept their existence mostly a secret was suspicious as well.
Sighing, he took one last, cursory glance at the details recorded before placing the notebook and pen back and shutting the drawer. Those details were barely a drop in the bucket.
He knew how bizarre it seemed that he was so thoroughly obsessed with his dreams, but he was sure that his sanity was intact. Of course, he never told anyone about this – how would he even explain it, and a part of him instinctively felt like it was best kept to himself. Perhaps his dreams held no more significance than an overactive imagination. But it was difficult for him to shake the feeling that they came to him for a reason - and that he would understand why if he could figure out who that person was.
Rubbing his forehead, he glared at his cellphone.
He was so close to finally figuring out the name! Why did it have to ring at that exact time!