“Help!” I cry out, desperately hoping someone can hear me. But perhaps, with the tsunami that hadn’t hit, they’re still up at the top of the island, pondering over what happened. I’d like to hope they aren’t still there and that they’ve traveled down far enough to catch my cries. “Help!”
There’s the sound of shuffling leaves and my breath catches in my throat. People die all the time when they’re in the woods alone. That’s why we’re supposed to go with a hunting partner, something I’ve never done. But at this moment, tied to a tree and defenseless, I wish someone were here with me.
The sunlight streams through the leaves above, but I still feel like I can’t see everything around me. I feel so useless, so powerless, something I’m not entirely used to or up to feeling. To add to it, I feel as if someone—something is watching me, waiting for something to happen. I feel as if I’m on the brink of danger, moments from meeting death.
There’s a sound, as if small tinkling bells are being rung, but only for a moment in time. The pleasant sound disappears almost as instantly as it had arrived.
I look around frantically, my arms and legs rubbed raw where the rope holds me taught against the tree.
A wolf steps out into the clearing.
I recognize this wolf. It’s the new leader of the wolf-pack that had attacked my tribe and made Wurn the most powerful of the three tribes. The one with the human eyes.
They seem to glisten with mockery as the snout of the beast lifts the corners of its lips into a smirk. It leans back on its haunches, ready to pounce. My breathing has ceased, and all that I can hear is the sharp thumping of my heart in my ears and the dull sounds of the forest around me. Everything is still for a moment, and then it leaps.
I turn my head and squeeze my eyes shut, bracing myself for impact—but there’s the sound of something moving quickly, then the painful whimper of the wolf as a hard blow is applied to its body. I look up to see a boy standing before me, staring down the beast. It gets back up and growls, anger reflecting in its eyes. It snarls and gets ready to leap again, when the boy pulls a spear from the strap on his back.
The wolf tries to attack again, the boy stabbing the animal in the shoulder. The wolf falls away again, whimpering and snarling as it limps away, defeated.
The boy turns around and faces me, his painted-on blue lines almost seeming to glow in the daylight.
The new Revli Tribe Leader. The one that came to warn us about the tsunami.
“Are you all right?” He asks, his voice soft and caring, his eyes full of concern. I can only nod, lost for words for what he had just done for me. “Let’s get you untied.”
“How did you know I was here?” I ask as he picks at the Wurn Tribe’s knots.
“I heard you calling for help,” he says simply, finally getting one of the knots undone. “And I wondered what happened, why someone needed help out here. I thought everyone had made it to safer ground. I was wandering the island, curious on why the wave hadn’t hit, and that’s when I heard you. I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
I swallow the saliva that had been building up in my mouth and look straight ahead. It was pure luck he found me when he did. I would have been dead and gone by now if it wasn’t for him.
“There you go,” the boy says as the last knot is untied. “All finished.” He smiles slightly and watches me as I shrug off the twine.
“Thank you,” I smile slightly back, my stomach uneasy.
“You’re welcome,” he says, his gaze lingering on me a moment too long, it seems. “Right. Now we have to get you home.”
Home, I think, dread filling me to the brim. “No!” I practically shout, then stop myself from saying anything foolish. “No, I just… I—”
“Touched the water,” the boy smirks as he offers up the truth. “I know you did. The entire Revli Tribe knows.”
“We’re in touch with the Voices of the Sea,” he says, beginning to walk. “I could show you if you’d like. But you wouldn’t be going home tonight. You’d be coming to my tribe.”
“But—” I start, looking back in the direction I had come with the Wurn Tribe.
“My tribe won’t care,” the boy smiles, turning back to talk to me. “We accept everyone, no matter who it is.”
“Is that why you warned us about the tsunami?” I ask, curiosity getting the better of me. “Because you’re accepting?”
“That’s right,” he says, something strange glinting in his eyes. “Now are you coming or not?”
I glance around me, sure I’m no longer in danger, and yet there’s something strong pulling at the pit of my stomach. Something seems off about this situation, but what is it?
“I can’t.” I shake my head and hug my sides. “My tribe… they won’t understand.”
He stares at me for a moment and then nods. “It’s a good thing I do,” he smiles. “My offer always stands, you know. We’re not far from your tribe. If you ever should seek shelter, we will accept you with open arms until you decide to leave.”
I nod, unsure of what exactly to say.
My eyes snap up at him as he begins to walk away. My heart beats faster as adrenaline begins to pulse through my veins.
“How do you know my name?” I ask, making him turn back around towards me. He gives me a strange look, one that makes my thoughts ever the fuzzier.
“Your Tribe Leader had said your name when we came to your village to warn you. Do you not remember?”
I shake my head, trying to rattle the blurriness from my mind. “I don’t.”
The boy just shakes his head and smiles a small smile. “Well I do. And I don’t forget the name of such a pretty face.”
He smiles and walks off, heading straight through the forest. My face flushes red; I can feel it as it becomes hot. No one had ever described the way I looked with that word before. It sends tingles of happiness through me, and yet something inside still has that strange feeling wedged beneath my skin. He said he was trying to figure out why the tsunami didn’t strike. But what could he possibly find out here? Especially when the reason—or reasons are beneath the waves?
I somehow turn myself around and find my way back to my village. My people are beginning to trickle into our deserted home, their faces giving way to their confusion and fear.
I hear banging on one of the wooden doors of the houses around me, and I am reminded of Lily-flor. I rush over to the house and yank the door open, splinters falling to the ground as I break the lock the Wurn Tribe had created somehow. She rushes out and hugs me, her face pressed into my hip and wetting my clothes with her tears.
“Are you okay?” I ask her softly, kneeling down to look into her eyes. They’re wild with fear. I pull her into a hug and tell her everything is all right, reminding her she can’t tell anyone my secret.
I stand up, taking her hand in mine. I watch as my Tribe Leaders approach the flat rock we call home cautiously, looking around for any threats. They talk amongst themselves as they peer into each house.
Rai-si’s eyes stop on me, questions flooding them. My breath catches in my throat as I recall what they had done to me. They threw me in a hole in the ground, into the cold water, and trapped me. What would they do if they knew what had happened, why the tsunami didn’t hit the island? What if they knew that I had spent time under the water, that I had breathed underwater?
But he looks away, turning his attention to the people. They ask questions, shouting words that can hardly be understood over the rest of the babble thrown his way. He nods and mumbles reassuring words at them, making his way to the center of everyone. Lily-flor and I close in as well, hoping to be able to hear what he is about to say.
“The tsunami has spared us,” he says, everyone hushing. “The reason why, I have no idea. We saw it coming, and we saw it disappear. But I’ve had a vision.”
The tribespeople begin to whisper amongst themselves. Rai-si only has visions when something terrible is to come. The last time he did, it was because the island iced over. Everyone’s tribes halved through the winter, but because of that vision we knew what steps to take for not all of us to die.
“Silence,” Rai-si says, and a hush falls over the crowd once again. “I had a vision that one of our tribespeople will betray us. And through that betrayal, there will be chaos and ruin, death and blood. And there is no way to stop it.”
The tribespeople cry out in confusion and anger, wanting to rid of that person.
“Silence,” Rai-si bellows once again. “Because of this vision, no one may go past the edge of this rock. We will hunt in the upper parts of the island. The one that betrays us will go down below, close to the water.”
“Have you seen who the betrayer is?” A boy asks, a fleck of anger in his words.
“No,” Rai-si says quietly. “But I know who it will be.”
His eyes flick up to me for a moment and my heart stops beating. A moment later, he’s looking away, saying more things to the crowd, but my mind is not working right. He believes I will betray them… and his visions are never wrong. But what will I do that will bring chaos, ruin, death, and blood?
“But I tell you this, whoever that traitor is,” Rai-si says over the voices carrying to the skies, breaking me away from my thoughts of terror. “Although it be hard, the future can be changed. You can change the vision. You just have to keep your eyes wide open.”
Once again, Rai-si’s eyes shift over to me for a moment, and the crowd begins to break up. The Tribe Leaders go into their houses and shut the doors, as does the rest of my tribe.
And I am alone, feeling as if I’m standing on a fence and I could fall either way.