Atmaja didn’t know much. She didn’t know where she came from or where she was born. She only knew that she was different.
She knew she had walked for what seemed like forever, not really knowing where she had come from. She often found herself swimming in lakes and ponds for her skin would get dry and flaky. Swimming in water calmed her. It relaxed her. She did this on many occasions and each and every time she would upset the people from the nearby villages because it was their property, their water that the mysterious and beautiful Atmaja was in.
“I catch you again in my waters, girl and I promise you that I will cut off your arms and legs so you’ll have nothing to swim with,” they would all threaten.
She didn’t see the harm in it. In fact she hoped someone would enjoy the water as much as her and swim with her sometime.
She didn’t understand why others were always angry and busy. Why did they yell and fight so much? Why couldn’t they bask in the sun and watch the clouds roll by in the sky like her?
Atmaja came upon a forest. She did not know where she was, but hoped she was close to home, wherever that was. It began to get cold and dark but she continued on hoping her feet would remember the way home. She grew tired, weak and hungry. Days she had traveled until she finally fell over exhausted and dehydrated. She slept.
She would drift in and out of sleep wondering if she were dreaming or not. Her mind was cloudy but her eyes would catch glimpses of hallways and tunnels. She could hear the sound of running water, as if a river was close by.
When she fully woke, she found herself on a small rock ledge. She was naked lying in a nest made of feathers, branches and strands of tattered cloth. There were bones piled in a corner. She looked around, shaken and uncertain of where she was. She did not recognize this place and she didn’t know how or why she was brought there.
Suddenly, she heard a noise. She called out softly,” Who’s there?”
Atmaja could see the shadow on the wall. It did not appear completely human for it did not have legs but a long serpentine tail. Atmaja backed away slowly and covered herself with cloth fearing for the worst. The creature slithered into the light.
It had the upper body of a woman. Her bottom half was that of a snake. On her back were wings.
Atmaja asked,” What do you want from me? Why have you brought me here?”
The Naga answered,” You have brought yourself. I found you.”
“That’s right. I was looking for my home. I kept walking and hoping I would find it.”
“You have, Atmaja. This is your home. You are my daughter,” The mother Naga further explained, “You have been a wanderer ever since you were born. One day as I slept near you and your brothers and sisters, you wandered to far from the nest. I could not find you. I hoped you would find me and now you have.”
Atmaja asked many questions. Why did she not have a tail? Why did she like to swim so much? Why were their bones of man in the cave? All in which the mother Naga could explain.
“You’re father was not Naga. He was human. You like to swim because we like water. It feels nice on our scaly skin. The bones are remains of the humans who have tried to kill me. The Naga are not bad but when in danger we do what we must.”
For days, Atmaja stayed with her mother. She enjoyed the water and played in the waterfall. She listened to her mother sing songs. She did not feel different. She felt special for once. But her mother insisted that she needed to stay the free spirit she was born as and find peace with her human side as well.
“But why, mother? I want to stay with you,” Atmaja said.
The mother replied, “If you should ever need me call to me. I will always love you for you are my child and I am your mother.”
Atmaja set out again the next morning. As she passed by a small village, she felt her skin was getting dry. She sought water and found a pond. She first dipped her toes in and found the water to her liking, so she dove in. She swam until she was tired. As she was climbing out of the pond, a man approached her. He was angry and grabbed her.
“I told you if you swam in my pond again that I’d cut off your arms and legs! You did not listen and now you will be punished!”
The man brought her into the village and the other townspeople who had also been unkind to her were yelling and throwing old food at her. Her hands and ankles were bound. They then tied her to a block. She was pushed to her knees where she cried and begged.
“Please, I promise I will not swim in your waters again! Let me go and I’ll leave your village.”
Her pleads were ignored. She cried and called for her mother. Her tears rolled down her face and into her long brown hair. The man held the ax above his head. Atmaja closed her eyes and listened to the angry mob.
There began a keening wail from the crowd. The screams grew louder and louder. The screams circled around her but she was unable to see what was going on. She tried to free herself but the ropes were too tight. The screams were getting closer. People were falling around her. She could hear the bodies hit the ground. Her wrists began to bleed from the harsh rope. The knot was too tight. There was silence. She waited for what seemed like an eternity. She prepared herself for the end until her mother appeared in front of her. Her mother released her and Atmaja stood up slowly. Her mother scooped her up in her arms. She held on as her mother lifted them into the sky. Atmaja smiled as did her mother. Atmaja felt comfort in her mother’s embrace and that was enough. She was going home.