The giant sauntered toward the city gate. “Come.”
I shook my head. “I’ll stay here.”
He marched into Obodo.
I heard the rumbles of his feet and saw his head bobbing over scorched houses.
I trudged away from the city gate.
I hated getting wet.
But I didn’t have a choice this time.
I reached Miri Lake and dipped a finger in it.
The lake was cold.
I waded into it, shuddering as the water soaked my body.
Miri Lake had a charm that the streams and rivers around Obodo didn’t have.
Not only was it green, my favourite colour, but it was the home of Nanyi, the god of requests.
Unlike other gods and goddesses with elaborate shrines and pompous priests, anyone could approach Nanyi and make a request.
The water rose to my neck as I waded deeper into it.
I stepped on a bulky stone.
This was it.
I was with Nanyi.
Now, I had to dip below the surface and use the stone to draw a symbol of my request on the lakebed.
I had tried this once.
And ended up so scared and afraid of drowning that I abandoned the request and rushed out of the lake.
I had to do it right this time.
I thought of the symbol for protection.
A straight line surrounded by a circle.
Stories had been told of people who wrote the wrong symbols and were shocked by what happened next.
A farmer once wanted a large goat; he drew the wrong symbol and woke up the next morning with a wild dog sleeping beside him.
I dipped below the surface, touched the stone and tried to lift it up.
It didn’t budge.
I tugged at it.
The stone stayed put.
I felt an overwhelming urge to go back to the surface.
But if I went back up, I wouldn’t have the courage to dip again.
I had to lift the stone and draw the symbol or go back up and forget the whole thing.
I tugged with all my strength.
The urge to breath overcame me.
I broke the surface and gasped for air.
“You prefer to drown than die in a fire?”
The giant stood at the shores of the lake.
I beckoned him over.
“I’ll stay here,” he said with a chuckle.
“Please! I need your help.”
“You can’t swim?”
“I want you to lift something for me.”
The giant stepped into the lake.
He reached me with a few steps.
“Help me lift a stone.”
He glanced around. “Where is it?”
“Below. The bottom of the lake.”
“What do you want to do with it?”
“Make a request.”
“Why do you need a stone to make a request?”
“Just do it. Please.” The cold water was getting to me. “It’s beside my feet.”
The giant bent forward and reached beneath the surface.
I felt his huge hand brush against me.
He straightened himself.
The stone looked like a pebble in his hand. “Is this it?”
“Yes,” I muttered. “Quick, reach back down and draw the symbol for protection.”
A thought popped into my head.
I had to write the symbol myself.
If he did, then he was the one making the request.
I shivered with cold.”Give me the stone.”
“You don’t look well, let’s head back to land.”
“No, give me…”
He flicked the stone away like it was a grain of sand.
He plucked me from the water, threw me over his shoulder and carried me out of the lake.
I was torn between relief that I was no longer in water and anger that he didn’t let me use the stone.
“You should have given me the stone.” My voice shook.
Was it the cold or the rage?
“You look sick.”
“I’m not sick.”
He put me back on the ground. “Ready to trade?”
I was enjoying the ride on his shoulders.
I couldn’t think of anything a giant would want from a boy like me. “What do you want?”
The giant scribbled three wavy lines in the sand.
Wavy lines meant something to drink.
“Water?” I asked him.
He shook his head.
The giant shaped his right hand like the claws of a tiger. “What happens when you dig your nails into your body and scratch?”
“I get marks on my body.”
“Is that all?”
“If you scratch deep, a red thing comes out.”
I tensed. “Blood?”
“You got it.”
All the fears I felt before returned.
At the lake, I had felt comfortable around him. When he got me out of the water, I started trusting him.
The comfort and trust were gone.
“You want to see your Father, don’t you?”
“Then give me your blood.”