They hide in the rain pits. They don’t come out in the daytime, only at night, and I come down here when the moon is full and the starlight in filtering down through the leaves and shining on the water.
That’s when they come up. Up to play, up to eat. Up to visit with me.
The Chakari, they’re called. Spirit Walkers. My father says they’re the dead come back to us, but my mother scoffs at that. The dead don’t come back, she says, no matter how much you beg them. They are gone. The Chakari are only fish, she says, fish that live in the pits filled by the constant rain.
I don’t know who I believe more. I don’t think the Chakari are dead, or spirits of the dead, but I don’t think they’re quite alive either. Quite natural. They’re too beautiful for that.
They come out, their pearly white fins swirling in the water, their black eyes fastened on me, and I smile at them through the clear surface. They know me by now. I’ve been down here enough. I give them the apple blossoms and willow leaves I’ve brought, and they chatter and giggle and swirl away, returning with shells and brightly colored pebbles to trade. I don’t have many friends in my village, but when the moon is full I come down here and play with the Chakari, and then it doesn’t quite matter that I’m too young, too small to join in the games the others play. It doesn’t matter that I’m chosen last for everything, that none of my siblings will let me tag along after me.
The Chakari like me. They like my black hair and my smile, and when I come down here to cry they comfort me with bubbles and gifts of seaweed and sea-glass. They’re the only friends I have, so I always come back. No matter how often my father says it isn’t natural to like them.