When morning finally came around Jae woke up with the sunshine in his eyes. Despite the strange circumstances he’d managed to fall asleep somehow.
He groggily looked around, the small enclosed space was empty. The fire was now out and Lord wasn’t next to him anymore.
Just as Jae thought about him, Lord opened the makeshift cardboard door of the Jungle Gym.
He walked in holding Jae’s school uniform and backpack.
“I found your belongings,” he said, “I was able to get them back before the others took them.”
Jae felt his eyes watering, “Thank you so much!”
He grabbed his uniform. The clothes were still wet and they squelched with water, but Jae overlooked that as he reached into his blazer pockets. He felt relieved when he found his train pass, his wallet was also still in there. They hadn’t taken any of his bank cards or his money, that meant he could get home without much trouble.
Just as Jae was starting to feel a bit complacent, he began to panic again. He couldn’t find his phone. It wasn’t in the pockets.
He opened his dripping backpack and rifled through its compartments. All he found was his wet textbooks and damp exercise books, but no phone.
It was possible that one of the homeless people had stolen it, or it had been flung somewhere else and was now sitting in the park somewhere. Or maybe Derek had taken it.
None of those possibilities was good. He could only imagine how badly his Aunt and Uncle were freaking out. Without his phone, he couldn’t contact them.
Jae sighed, he would just have to go home and face the music.
“What time is it?” he asked.
Lord took out a silver pocket watch from his old red jogging trousers, “It’s nearly 8 am” he said.
The trains were probably running by now, Jae wanted to leave immediately but his uniform was still soaking wet. Plus he would feel bad leaving Lord like that, he had promised the guy a meal.
“I got you some other clothes since that uniform isn’t wearable,” Lord said as he passed Jae an old black hoodie and some oversized ugly grey khaki pants.
Jae felt surprised, “Wow, that’s really nice, thank you.” He looked around at the small enclosure in confusion, “where did you get these?”
“There’s a dumpsite nearby, people throw away all kinds of things, including old clothes. I just grabbed you some. Most of the items here are from the dump.” Lord explained.
Jae nodded, it made sense, one man’s trash was another man’s treasure.
He quietly went to the corner and slipped on the pants and the hoodie. He put the long down jacket he’d been sleeping with, on over the top. “This is so much better,” Jae said.
He picked up his school shoes, they were still wet but they were wearable. He slipped them on and heard an uncomfortable “squelch” sound, he felt like he was walking on something slimy, but it was better than being barefoot.
He then threw all his other belongings in his bag. He looked up to see Lord silently watching him do all of this.
“Say, there’s a McDonald’s near the station, do you want to get a bite to eat with me?” Jae asked.
Even though Jae couldn’t see Lord’s face through all his hair, he felt that the man was surprised.
“I really meant it when I said I’d treat you to a meal,” Jae said awkwardly, “I wasn’t lying.”
“I see” Lord nodded, “Than we should go.”
Jae walked out of the enclosed area of the old Jungle Gym, Lord following closely behind him.
Seeing Gallows Park in the sunlight was vastly different from seeing it at night. Right now it looked like a normal park. The dangerous and creepy vibe this place had previously given was gone. It was now just a large field with tons of overgrown grass, bushes and some trees.
There was a rusting slide, not too far from it, Jae could see some swings and a seesaw covered in weeds. In the distance Jae could make out tents, groups of them all clustered together. That must be where all the other homeless people in the park stayed.
Jae felt something strange about the location of all the tents, they were all on the edge of the park. As far from the centre of the park as possible.
At the centre of the park was the Jungle Gym where Lord lived. Did that mean the homeless people were avoiding Lord?
‘No it’s probably a coincidence, maybe it’s better to live at the edge of the park’ Jae thought.
He only thought about this briefly before he headed towards the exit. As he walked he glanced at Lord.
Lord was really tall, probably 6’3 or maybe 6’4, he definitely made Jae who was 6’1 feel short. Jae was used to being one of the tallest people in the room so this was a new experience for him.
Lord also had great posture, his back was straight and he walked with confidence, it made him seem even taller.
He was wearing a green old woollen hat, he had it pretty low on his head but Jae could still make out his bright almost silver eyes.
His long black beard and moustache hid most of his facial features, but Jae was certain Lord wasn’t old. He remembered how slender and soft Lord’s hand was, behind all that facial hair was probably a young man.
Jae estimated that Lord was probably in his late twenties at most, yet Jae also couldn’t shake the feeling that Lord was also so much older. He gave off this ancient feeling as if he’d existed for thousands of years.
‘But that’s impossible” Jae reasoned, “There’s no way someone can live for thousands of years.”
Lord seemed to notice that Jae was staring at him and he looked back at Jae. “Is something wrong?”
Jae shook his head, “No, I was just curious. You’re not like most people.”
Lord nodded, “True. Wherever I go I tend not to be like most people.”
“…” Jae didn’t know how to respond to that, Lord had a really weird way of speaking.
At that point, they walked out through the broken iron gate, and Jae suddenly realised he was lost.
He remembered how Derek and Sam had led him to this place. They had taken many turns and walked through several different streets. This place was really far from the station.
If Jae had his phone he would have just used maps to find his way back, but he didn’t have his phone.
He looked at Lord sheepishly, “You wouldn’t know the way to the station would you?”
Lord shook his head, “I haven’t left this park much since I arrived on this land, so I am not familiar with this place you call a station.”
“You know you really have a funny way of speaking” Jae laughed.
Lord gave him a blank stare.
“Alright let’s go in that direction” Jae pointed randomly down one street, “Hopefully we’ll run into someone and we can ask them for directions.”
Lord nodded and they both walked down the quiet street, soon they were in a neighbourhood filled with expensive-looking homes.
A woman in tight black jogging pants and a crop top suddenly came running in their direction. She had her bright red hair tied in a bun. She was holding a leash as her big Golden Retriever ran next to her.
“Pretty” Jae thought as he saw her.
“Hello, Ma’am sorry can I take a second of your time” he called out to her.
The woman looked startled as she saw them, well, of course, she would be. Jae had a massive black eye, and a red and purple bruise across his jaw, his lip was also busted. His hair was also dirty and he was dressed in old ragged clothes.
No to mention Lord, who looked like the homeless hermit he was. His extremely long beard and excessive facial hair combined with his bright intimidating glare would put anyone on edge.
The woman cautiously stopped and looked at them warily, “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Um, we’re really lost,” Jae said for some reason he was feeling a bit shy, “Do you know the way to Fair station?”
“You’re not far from there,” she said, “If you keep walking down this street you’ll come to a busy road, turn left there and keep walking down and before you know it you’ll be at Fair Station” she explained.
“Thank You” Jae was feeling lucky if they hadn’t found her they probably would have wandered in the opposite direction and gotten lost.
Just as they were about to leave, the woman grabbed Jae’s arm. She shot Lord a suspicious look and glanced at Jae’s bruised face.
“Do you need me to help out, I work for the police, are you in some kind of trouble?”
Jae realised she had misunderstood something, “It’s not like that, I’m good don’t worry.”
“Thank you for the help,” Jae said to her again as he pulled away from her and walked away hurriedly, dragging Lord with him.
The officer watched them walk away with concern. As they disappeared from her sight her phone rang, “Detective Blue, can you come into the station. There have been some developments in that case.”
“I’ll be there soon,” she said.
After 30minutes of walking, they had finally made it near to the train station. Jae excited pumped his fists with excitement, he was so glad they had gotten directions.
Right next to the train station was a small McDonald’s, Jae’s stomach growled. He was so hungry.
“Let’s eat,” he said.
Lord nodded and they walked into the fast-food joint together.