Layke was collecting herbs in the meadow after he gave up waiting for his friend. He felt the furriness of the oregano under his fingers as he picked it and put it in his pouch. It was nearly full now.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew over to where he was standing, pulling the pouch out of his hand and onto the ground, spilling then scattering its contents. The now-empty pouch was being blown along towards a huge tree.
Layke chased after it, and vaguely recognised the tree that his pouch blew past as the tall one which had been hit by lightning so many times it was now black and scarred.
The pouch now in his hands, Layke crouched down, surveying the scene before him. All his herbs had been scattered around the meadow, so now they were all spread apart. Did he really want to collect them all? Or should he just start collecting again?
Sighing, Layke decided to start again. There was a reasonably-sized patch of herbs near him, so he went to it and started picking. Just as the roughness of the herb left his hand to go into his pouch, he saw a foot on the edge of his vision.
Instantly, his head snapped up, revealing a brown-haired girl dressed in rags. She had a hunting knife strapped to her belt and a leather strip holding up her hair, which was mostly coming out anyway.
“Hello,” she whispered.
Layke opened his eyes groggily. He was lying in his bed, head throbbing and feeling like he had been asleep for a very long time.
“Who--” Layke began.
The person’s face directly above him was coming into focus now. A look of recognition came across his face, but before he could say anything a hand clapped across his mouth.
“Don’t say a word,” the person hissed. “I’m not meant to be here.” Seeing the look on Layke’s face, he hurriedly added; “I’ll explain later, when we’re out of the house. Just follow me, for now.”
Layke nodded, and was hauled out of bed. His pillows were arranged so that they vaguely resembled the shape of his body, then Layke was pushed out the window, falling with a thump on the grass.
The person pulled him back up again, but even when he was up his grip on Layke didn’t loosen. The person started running, forcing Layke to keep up with him. It was only when they were hidden in the trees close to the meadow did he stop for Layke to catch his breath.
“You can ask questions now, just remember to keep your voice down.”
Almost as soon as he said that, Layke started bombarding him with questions.
“Why are you here, Percy? I thought you hated me? How long was I asleep for?”
“Voice down!” Percy hissed. Layke stopped, staring at him expectantly. Percy sighed. “I’m here because … Well, Waiye really wanted to talk to you.” He silenced Layke. “One question at a time, remember. I’ll answer your first bout of questions, then we’ll think about the second. Now, I still resent you, and I’m doing this for Waiye, alright? And you were asleep for about one and a half days.”
Layke’s eyes widened in surprise, all other questions forgotten. “One and a half days? How could mother ever let me sleep for that long without dragging me up to do work?”
Percy shrugged. “I suppose one of your mother’s friends made her let you sleep. I’m not sure. I only knew about how long you slept because my aunt -- the person I’m staying with at the moment -- was talking about her neighbour who got slapped and started bleeding. She said your very own mother wouldn’t have let you sleep at all if it wasn’t for her friends. Then again, she said she wouldn’t have let you sleep either, because boys and men don’t deserve sleep when they’ve done something so wrong.” Percy gave a bitter smile. “That’s how it is in this world.”
“It doesn’t have to be, Percy. It’s because we accept it. We don’t have to accept it! We can fight --”
Percy silenced him with a hand. “I don’t want to hear it. Save it for Waiye.”
“But Percy, we could do something! We could --”
“I said I didn’t want to hear it. Just because I’m here now doesn’t mean I forgive you. I’m still angry at you for stating such horrible ideas to me. It doesn’t mean I am your friend. It means I am Waiye’s friend.”
“I know, I know, you’re doing this for her. But still, Percy. Think of all the men out there...”
“No, Layke. No.” Percy shook his head. “Just don’t.”
“You promised to me that you wouldn’t talk about it any more. Why are you so eager to go back on your promise?”
“Really, now? That certainly explains all the attempts to get me converted.” Percy spat out the word like it disgusted him, which it did.
“I’m not trying to get you converted!” Layke knew this wasn’t true, though.
“Fine. Believe what you want. I’m going.” Percy turned on his heel and started running. Layke knew it was impossible to get him turned back this time. He sighed. So now he was dragged out into the middle of nowhere, hoping to find this mysterious girl called Waiye.
First thing’s first; make his way to someplace familiar. That wasn’t hard at all. Soon, Layke found himself standing in the middle of the meadow where he used to play in his childhood. Everything was so familiar it made him want to cry. Even the trees were familiar.
Wait, the trees. Layke remembered something like this from his dream. As he walked towards a tall scarred tree, he felt a strange feeling of deja vu.
Then he remembered. He walked towards the Lightning Tree and there, behind it, was a girl. Her brown hair flew in the wind, framing her face perfectly. She had a hunting knife strapped to her belt and was dressed in rags.
Waiye behind the Lightning Tree, repeated over and over in his mind as he smiled at Waiye.