Chapter 3: Dreams

I started to dream almost immediately. I was at the top of a high wall looking out over a dense forest. I was dimly aware of a bunch of other people with me, and that we were some sort of a team, but I didn’t really see any of them or know who they were. Standing a few feet away was an old shepherd dude. He had on a colorful long robe – it looked a lot like the old tattered bathrobe my dad would wear every Christmas for our family pageant. He had a long curved crook made from wood that was as smooth as it was gnarled. He had a long grey beard and bare feet.

He was giving out instructions to our group, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I was looking down at the forest. It was bright and green and seemed to be teeming with life. I couldn’t see any animals, but I felt quite excited at the prospect of going down and exploring what it was like. The shepherd guy called my name.

“Taylor, are you paying attention son? This is important.”

I looked over and he was smiling at me, a smile that said he knew how excited I was and understood how hard it was to pay attention, but that he did have something very important to say.

“Don’t ever let it go. Hold onto the hand rail. It will keep you on the path. It will bring you home again,” said the shepherd.

The group nodded and I looked to see who my company was. They looked very familiar. There was a thin girl with very white skin, a worshipful gaze in her eyes as she looked at the shepherd. Then I noticed her socks – the same socks that the doll Serlena wore. But this girl wasn’t a doll, she was a real girl who bore a striking resemblance to the doll I had met. Interesting. There were four short brothers who I quickly recognized due to their varied statures. Ned, Ted, Fred and Zinga stood huddled together, short, fat, tall and skinny, but minus the pointy hats, colorful clothes and spears. Next to them was a chubby boy with bright blond hair dressed all in yellow. If I had to guess, this must be Garrison, the ear-chewed bear. A tall, gangly old man with a tuft of white hair on the top of his hair and long drooping earlobes stood protectively behind Garrison. I almost laughed to see this human version of Mr. Bendy Bunny. There was another small boy darting back and forth between everyone, dressed in a rag-tag outfit of assorted pieces of patched clothing. I noticed his finger angling towards his nose several times and recognized him as Patrick the Expert Picker. There were a couple other kids gathered around that must be other toys I had briefly met. There was one other girl, with long wavy white blond hair. She wasn’t necessarily pretty, and was dressed in a patchwork quilt skirt and shirt. But there was something about her that seemed to shine through her plain exterior. I had no idea who she was. As I turned back toward the shepherd, I caught a hint of sparkle as light bounced off her hair and for a moment, she almost looked like an angel, but when I looked directly at her, she was still plain as ever. The shepherd tapped his stick three times on the top of wall.

“It is time,” he wiped a tear away from his eye. Gee, this guy was really sentimental. We were just going exploring for a little while, we weren’t going to be gone forever.

He pointed to a ladder that would descend the wall to the forest floor below.

“Be careful my little ones,” he called as we filed down the ladder. “It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.”

*****

The next thing I knew, I was standing with a group of strangers at the bottom of a big wall. I looked around at the others. I had no clue who they were or where we were, although there was one girl who seemed to shine from an inner light  who stood in the middle of the bunch. I didn’t recognize her, but she seemed very familiar. I turned my attention to our surroundings. Why was there this big wall here? I looked around some more and saw a trail heading into the woods. There were hand rails running along both sides, although I wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t steep. There weren’t any cliffs to fall off of. The forest looked a little dark and scary, but something in me was yearning for adventure. I was about to say something to the rest of the group when a pretty girl with really oddly colored stockings made her way to the trail head.

“Let’s go explore!” she said.

She had a nice voice, I decided, and I felt like following her. I did want to explore the forest after all. And if she was going, well, I had better go along to show her what to do. I couldn’t let a girl go off into the forest alone. It seemed several others in the group thought the same thing because we all marched toward her. For some reason, we all grabbed onto the hand rail as well. I figured, it was there, so why not hold on to it? It was smooth and cool, but not cold. We walked off into the unknown, hearts happy.

*****

I woke up to someone nudging me. It was Serlena.

“You must have been having a pleasant dream,” she said. “You have quite the smile on your face. What was it about?” she asked.

“It was… There was this… I can’t remember.” And I couldn’t. I felt strangely happy and excited about something, but at that moment, I couldn’t remember what I had been dreaming about. The thoughts had seemed to disappear the moment Serlena touched me. That’s the way it was with dreams, right?

“Oh well. Come along then. It’s time for you to get started.” She stood up and skipped out the door. Didn’t she walk anywhere?

“Get started with what? Where are we going?” She didn’t answer, just skipped on down the long hallway and beckoned for me to follow.

Eventually, we came to some stairs and I followed Serlena down flight after flight. The light changed from dazzling white and hospital bright to dim yellow and dungeon dark. We came up to an old iron door with bars over the window. Serlena tapped an odd pattern and I heard the sound of a chain dragging across the floor seconds before a grizzled face appeared in the window. It looked just like Garrison, the guard I had met upstairs, except that he was a red bear instead of yellow and he had both his ears intact. He narrowed his eyes when he saw Serlena, but didn’t say anything as he pulled the door open on squeaking rusty hinges. He glanced up at me quickly as I walked through the door and then turned away, looking down at his toes. I caught sight of a chain trailing out behind him, although I couldn’t be sure it was attached to him anywhere.

“Come along,” called Serlena in her singsong little voice.

I turned away from the red plastic bear, but not without his face flashing through my mind again. That brief moment when he had looked at me I had seen an expression on his face that I hadn’t ever seen before. It was sadness, but a deep sadness that went beyond the surface. It seemed to be a grief borne of regret and something else – fear. But it hadn’t seemed like the bear was afraid for himself. More like he was afraid for me. But why?

As I followed Serlena quietly through the rows of prison cells, I couldn’t help but wonder at her spritely step. She was still skipping. I could barely keep up, I felt so depressed by the faces of all the toys peering out through their cage bars as we passed. What were they doing down here? Most of them hung back in the shadows, so I didn’t get a good look at any of them – just lots of sad and lost looking eyes.

Suddenly, Serlena stopped near an open cell. I saw a corner of her mouth curl up into a sneer and she beckoned me closer. She walked inside and once again signaled for me to come in as well. She sat down on the bare stone bed (at least, that’s what I supposed it had to be) in the corner and patted the cement next to her. I sat down.

“This is our dungeon, where we keep the monsters we have captured,” she whispered close to my ear as she smiled triumphantly, as if she had been the one to capture all these so-called monsters. Maybe she had been.

“They keep coming here, trying to ensnare us with their wicked ways and take us back to the Wog to be sacrificed. But we have proven to be smarter than they. And finally, we captured the most important monster of all! One of the Wog’s own evil minions, created specifically to torment us! You can see why we need your help, Taylor. We need someone who can find out their plans and keep them away. And you have a gift that can help us. You can Imaginate. You shall be our spy. Gain their confidence. Make them think you’re one of them. First off, get what information you can from the creature in the cell next door, then help us get rid of these monsters once and for all!” And with that, she skipped off, slamming the cell door behind her and leaving me surrounding by dank, dripping, dismal darkness and an errand I wasn’t sure I wanted to do.

At first, I thought maybe it was a joke. Did she really just lock me in here? I tried the door but it wouldn’t budge. Maybe she had figured out I wasn’t really a toy and thought I was one of the Wog’s spies. Maybe I was, after all, the Wog was my dad. I rattled the door and shouted after her, but all I could hear was the sound of water dripping somewhere else in the dungeon. She had sounded like this was part of the plan. But why not tell me about it upstairs? Why bring me down here and lock me in? I felt like a human sacrifice or something. They tell you you’re amazing and that they need you, and then they end up sending you to do all the dirty work that no one else really wants to do. I gave up trying to open the door and tried to peer into the cell next to me. I couldn’t see the occupant of the cell because it was so dark, but I saw someone move in the shadowy corner.

“Pssst…” I hissed. The creature stopped moving. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I gave up for the moment and wandered back to the bed. My nap in the warm, white room upstairs seemed eons ago. I sat on the concrete slab with my back against the wall. Before I knew it, I had drifted off to sleep again.

*****

I found myself back in the forest I had dreamed before, trotting along a trail with my hand on the guard rail. The others were all still there, the pretty girl in front. We traipsed through the forest quietly, no one talking. Suddenly, I saw a flash of color in a tree to my right. I paused for a moment making the guy in back of me walk into me.

“Hey, what’s the hold up!” He grumbled.

“I saw something!” I pointed up in to the trees. Others stopped and looked as well. The colors flashed again and descended. It was a bird, a beautiful big green, blue and red bird. It fluttered down lower to where we could see it well. No one moved. I hardly dared to breathe. It was gorgeous! Its long wispy tail feathers trailed down to the branches below. Its bright red chest would have been overwhelmingly bright if it hadn’t been for the glittering blues and greens shimmering over its wings. It had a kind of crest of feathers sticking up on top of its head that were bright blue, like the color of a clear sunny sky. It trilled a simple song, but the music took my breath away. The notes expressed joy, pure and simple. As we all listened, I could swear I heard a voice whispering soothingly on the breeze. It said,

 

Say that sudden splash of joy,

was a sunny gardens song,

that sang its music sweet,

and sent it rushing along.

Until it reached my heart,

and helped me find my way

through this dreary world,

to help me day by day.

Love is like music,

Gently caressing the soul

Building up higher.

And that’s exactly what this sweet birdsong was doing. I felt like the notes were giving my heart a hug. The joy the bird was expressing with its song made me want to be a better person, to walk taller, to do more with my life. I felt edified, lifted up, inspired. We all stood there, transfixed until the bird took flight, still singing, and its music faded into the distant trees.

I sighed, breathing out any bad feelings I may have had inside me and letting happiness flow back in. I looked around at my companions. It seemed we had all been touched by the bird’s melody. I noticed that the pretty girl hadn’t stopped to listen though. I caught a brief glimpse of her colorful socks a ways ahead of the rest of us on the trail. Maybe she had seen something and decided to explore some more. She had definitely missed out on a wonderful moment though. Even the tall grumpy dude behind me, who had grumbled when I’d stopped so abruptly had a dreamy look on his face.

“Let’s get going,” I called to the rest of the group. “I’m sure there are lots more wonderful things for us to see and hear in this forest. Let’s go find them!” And we started off again.

As we walked along under the canopy of trees, trying to catch up to stocking girl, the shining girl (she wasn’t pretty, just full of something that made her seem more beautiful – happiness maybe?) passed up some of the others and started walking right behind me.

“Hello,” she said airily. Her voice was as melodious as the songbird’s had been.

“Hi,” I replied, a little tongue tied.

“Isn’t this a wonderful place? I’m so glad we got to come. I can’t wait to see what we get to learn and experience. Isn’t it just amazing?” Her enthusiasm bubbled over and she laughed, a sweetly contagious sound. I laughed as well.

“What do you mean? Where are we? Why are we here? Who am I? Who are you? I don’t remember anything. I just remember starting out back by that big wall.” I felt an instant connection with this happy creature and knew I could trust her.

“My name is Aeolianna. You really don’t remember? Well, it’s a good thing I’m here to teach you then, isn’t it? This forest is Coille Beatha. We are here to be tested. We are on a mission.” She smiled.

“A mission? Are we like spies or something?” I was definitely excited by that idea.

“No, we are on a mission of learning. We need to collect all of the Keys of Knowledge which will enable us to get back to where we began.”

“And where was that?” I asked.

“At the top of the Great Wall. We lived there before we came here, and we will return if we are victorious.”

“Victorious? What do you mean?” I was glad Aeolianna was here to talk to. And she was really smart. How did she know so much?

“If we find all the Keys. Then we’ll be able to return,” she replied

“Okay. Sounds easy enough. But where do we find these keys?” I asked.

“Along the way, along the path. I’m not entirely sure where each one is, but I know that if we follow the path, and do what we’re supposed to be doing, we’ll find them. It is simple, but I don’t think it’s going to be too easy. It’s supposed to be a challenge, so that we learn things,” she said.

“Well, count me in! I guess I already am though, since I’m here. Is that why all of us are here? To find the keys and have this experience?” I was full of questions today.
“Yes. That is the reason we are here. And we have to learn about someone too.” She looked puzzled for a moment.

“Who?” I asked. “Who do we have to learn about?”

“I don’t remember.” She seemed rather bothered by this. “Why can’t I remember?” she said, thinking out loud.

“It’s okay Aeolianna. I don’t remember anything. You know so much already. I’m sure we’ll figure it all out together. Maybe some of the others remember more. We’ll talk about it when we stop for breakfast or something.” We kept walking, but I put a hand on her shoulder. “I just have a feeling – it will all be okay.”

“Thanks um… What was your name? You never told me.”

“Oh yeah! I’m Taylor. I’m not sure what that means, but that’s my name. I’m not sure who I really am though. Maybe that’s something I have to find out on this journey of ours.” I smiled back at her. It was sure nice to have a friend!

We continued chatting as we marched along the trail.

“So, how do you know all this stuff?” I asked her.

“I’m not really sure. It’s like when we were listening to that bird singing back there. It’s almost like I could understand his song. And that’s what he was talking about. He was talking about purpose and the way everything is organized. He was talking about someone, I think the someone we’re supposed to learn about. It wasn’t like understanding words though. It wasn’t like when I talk to you and I can hear the words and they make sense. This was more a sense of… feeling. Of listening and understanding with my heart, rather than my head.” She laughed a little. “Does that make any sense?” she asked.

“Actually, it does,” I replied. “I didn’t get nearly as much out of his song as you did, but I did hear love and joy and peace. And I think I heard a voice.” Suddenly, I was a little hesitant to share, not sure what my new friend would think of me. But she’d shared her experience. I guess it was okay to share mine.

“A voice? Besides the bird?” she asked.

“Yeah. At first, I figured everyone had heard it, but now, maybe it was just me.”

“What did it say?” she asked.

“It was like a poem or something. Hold on, let me see if I can remember. There was a certain rhythm to it.” I walked on in silence for a few minutes, trying to remember the feelings as the bird had sung, trying to remember the words that had floated so lightly on the breeze to me. It was like Aeolianna had said. I hadn’t heard those words with my head, they had been understood more by my heart. I could only remember the last bit.

“Love is like music,” I began slowly, concentrating on turning emotions into words. “Gently caressing the soul, building us up higher.” I looked at Aeolianna.

“Wow. That’s neat. It’s like we both had our own experience with the song – we each learned something different. Don’t forget what you learned. It feels important, like we might need it later on.”

I smiled, glad I had chosen to share with her.

“Come on everyone!” called the pretty girl from a spot up ahead where the trail widened a bit. “Let’s have some breakfast!”

We all hurried to catch up. We each carried a backpack and as we walked into the clearing, we set them on the ground. I opened mine and found my breakfast bag. Yum! I had a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion and tomato. My favorite! We all settled down to eat, some sitting on rocks, some sprawled out on the meadow grass, some leaning against the trees on the edges. I sat by Aeolianna. As we basked in the warm sunlight, I laid down and stretched out to take a quick nap.

*****

I shifted uncomfortably. I awoke feeling quite disoriented. Why was I sitting on a cold slab of concrete? I pushed my eyes open only to be greeted by dim darkness and whispery silence. I remembered where I was. I was in a cell, in a dungeon, in a weird white building, inside a stuffed gorilla. Sounded kind of like one of those camp songs where one thing builds on another and you have to keep repeating every detail that comes before. I realized I had dozed off. I couldn’t remember what I had been dreaming about, but I had a lingering feeling of happiness and sunshine, which was quickly snuffed out as I took in my dismal surroundings.

Then I remembered. I had a job to do – pretend to befriend a monster, find out how to stop it and other monsters that were infiltrating this world, and hopefully, Serlena would let me out of here after that. It didn’t seem too hard. I just wished I didn’t have to be locked up in a dungeon in order to do it all. And I didn’t have a lot of faith in Serlena’s description of monsters. Granted, her and the other toys upstairs were obviously afraid of something, or why else would they have guards at every door, secret passwords and need someone to rescue them? Maybe they were trapped here. Maybe they really did want to escape but didn’t know how. Serlena had me a little confused though. She seemed to be perfectly happy staying here and talked about the place like it was paradise. I cautiously crept closer to the cage, hoping to see what this monster I was supposed to talk to was like.

As I inched close to the bars, peering at an angle through them and into the front of the adjoining cell, I glimpsed a dim sparkle. It was gone almost as soon as I saw it, making me wonder if I had imagined it. The sparkle tugged at my memory somehow – I felt like I had seen that sparkle before. Now that was just crazy. How in the world could I remember a shimmer of reflected light? I’d seen lots of sparkling things in my 10 years of life. What was so different about the way this one moved that it would seem familiar? I heard a soft fluttery noise and glimpsed another glimmer of light.

“Hello?” I called softly. “Who’s there? Who are you?”

I heard a rustle then a soft voice whispered, “I am no one. I am nothing. I am a monster.”

The voice sounded oddly familiar. Its tone was so sad, as if all hope had been drained from this creature.

“You have to be someone. And you are something, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be talking. Come on over by the bars and let me see you. I can tell if you’re really a monster or not.”

The rustling sounds increased and I caught a shimmer again as the creature hesitantly moved into the more lighted area. I gasped, it was my butterfly creation! She was still just as beautiful as when I had made her and taken her to school, but she was covered in dust and dirt and one wing was badly torn. Her stuffing was coming out.

“I know you!” I shouted. The word “you” echoed down the corridor. I lowered my voice. “I know you!” I said again. “You’re my…” I stopped. Serlena didn’t seem to recognize me as one of the Great Ones, and therefore, must not have had any memory of being made by my dad, or played with. I doubted this butterfly knew who I was. Maybe I should keep that information to myself for now. “You’re my friend,” I finished. It was true. I had been very proud of my creation and had enjoyed playing with her after my science project was done.

“Your friend?” asked the Butterfly. “Have we met before?”

“Well, um… not really. I just…” I paused a moment. In my mind I saw myself with the Butterfly before, walking along, talking, and we were friends. Then, just as quickly as the memory came, it faded. I couldn’t place it. “Yes, we are friends. We’re both stuck down here, right? We’re both confused about what in the world is going on around here. So, that makes us friends.”

“Okay, I guess. What is your name?” she asked.

“Taylor. I just got here, and somehow, now I’m down here. Not very hospitable bunch, are they? How did you end up here?” I was quite curious.

“I really don’t remember all of it. I know that I used to be in a different place – happy, safe, loved. But that seems like a faded dream. Somehow, the Princess pulled me in here, into the monkey. She told me I was a monster and told me how ugly and useless I am. Then she put me in this cage and I’ve been here ever since. That’s really all I remember.” She sniffled a bit and fluttered her wings nervously.

I tried to remember the last time I had played with her. The science project had been last year, and then I’d brought her home. I had left her showcased on my dresser in her jar. For weeks, I had taken her out and imagined she was real, flying her around my room as we took a magic journey together. Then one day, I had gotten home from school and found the broken bits of the jar on the floor and the Butterfly missing. My mom said that Bruno, our spritely Labrador puppy had likely gotten into my room while I was at school, knocked the jar off my dresser and taken my Butterfly as his new chew toy. I had checked Bruno’s stash of chew toys and hadn’t found a shred of evidence to support this theory, but since there wasn’t anything else that made sense, I had left it at that. I had been sad that my creation had been destroyed, but life goes on, and I played with other toys and soon forgot about my special butterfly. Now I wondered if somehow Serlena had had a hand in stealing my friend. I really beginning to doubt that Serlena was who I thought she was. The more I got to know about her, the more I disliked her. And it wasn’t just the socks – those she couldn’t help. There was something else about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

“This Princess who brought you here, is she the same one that brought me?” I wanted to make sure.

“Yes, she is the Princess of this land. All must obey her or they end up here, in the dungeon.”

“I see.” I hadn’t been disobedient or anything, so why was I here? Did Serlena really think I was on her side? And what about all the other toys upstairs. We had had such a fun time with the food fight. None of them had seemed particularly malicious. Well, maybe Fred the gnome at the front door, although his three brothers weren’t so bad. Fred was just a grouch.

“So, if Serlena brought the Butterfly here, why did she tell me to find out why she’s here? Serlena must know she’s not really a spy or anything. So why have me spy on her?” I didn’t realize I had spoken my thoughts out loud until the Butterfly gasped.

“You are her spy?” In a flurry she flew back to the shadowy corner of her cage.

“No, wait. That’s not I meant.” I called to the Butterfly. Drat! Why did I always do that? I would often get lost in thought and forget whether or not I was talking to myself in my head or out loud. It was embarrassing sometimes when I would start talking to myself in the bathroom and then realize there was someone else there. Or when I was walking down the sidewalk, although I could usually pretend I was talking on the phone or something. But this time, I had really stuck my foot in my mouth.

“Please come back, Butterfly. I’m not Serlena’s spy. She stuck me here thinking I would be, but I can’t do what she wants me to do. I want to be friends with you.”

Except for a brief sparkle, there was no reply from the shadows. My new friend didn’t trust me, all because I didn’t know what was going on myself. I needed to get things figured out, and fast, before I ended up making any more mistakes.

I went back to the bed slab and curled up in a ball. The concrete was cold and definitely not comfortable. I really wished I had a pillow. Then I remembered something. I stood up and walked back over to the bars. Right at the edge between our cells, was a ball of stuffing that had fallen out of the Butterfly’s wing as she had run away.

“I’m going to borrow this to use as a pillow, okay?” I called to her. I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t answer. I just wanted her to know I wasn’t stealing her fluff, just borrowing for a legitimate purpose. I curled back up on the cement and after tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, managed to doze off once again.

*****

“Taylor, it’s time to get going,” I heard a melodious voice sweetly sing to me. I opened my eyes and saw Aeolianna looking down at me. I slowly sat up.

“Alright, I’m coming” I said as I reluctantly packed up my things and shrugged my pack onto my back once again. I stretched. What a nice nap that had been! I felt rested and ready to continue on our journey. I stood up and looked around. Our whole group was getting ready to move on, all except the tall grumbler who had been behind me before. He was still relaxing in the shade under a tree. I walked over to him.

“Come on, it’s time to go. We’ve still got lots to do.” I nudged his foot with my toe.

He peeked one eye open and glared lazily up at me.

“Eh… I’m still napping. You all go along. I’ll catch up later. Don’t worry. I’m fast.” He closed his eyes again.

“But if you get up now, you won’t have to catch up. And you won’t miss out on anything. Come on, we really should all stay together.” I nudged him again. He merely grunted and rolled over. I looked helplessly over at Aeolianna. She shrugged.

“Alright everyone, let’s go!” she called out. We followed her along the trail. I looked at our group. I noticed that the sock girl was missing as well as the tall guy. I looked ahead to see if she’d wandered on again and caught a glimpse of color around the bend. It seemed like she was talking to someone. By the time I could see her clearly, she was standing alone, leaning against a tree.

“It’s about time all you slowpokes caught up,” she said with a smirk as she marched ahead of everyone. I didn’t particularly like her. She seemed rather pretentious. Granted, no one else seemed inclined to take charge, but she wasn’t much of a leader – it seemed like she just wanted to tell everyone else what to do, but didn’t actually care about them. I had thought about trying to talk to her and get to know her better, but decided against it. Likely she wouldn’t tell me much of anything.

I decided to get to know some of the others in our group. I noticed four brothers all walking together. They were each as different as they were alike. They were obviously a family, but one stood out from the rest. He was shorter than any of his brothers and had a rather vacant expression on his face. His brothers were arguing about something and he had a silly grin on his face and didn’t seem to be part of the discussion. I caught his eye and I was surprised. His eyes were brimming with intelligence. In the few moments we looked at one another, I felt like we had a conversation. His eyes were a light clear blue, bright and full of interest. He really wasn’t paying any attention to his brothers. I watched him look around the forest, taking in the breadth and beauty of the landscape unfolding around us. I could sense the wonder in his gaze as he marveled at the lush life surrounding us. As I watched this funny little man, I heard the voice I had heard before as the bird sang. I heard it with my heart, not with my head.

 

Once every so often

comes a day –

different –

A day of peace.

A sacrifice accepted.

I am known

to Him.

Like the quiet river as it winds past

The purple pansies dancing in the

Gentle breeze whispering through

The lush forest of mighty oaks as

An eagle boldly soars into

The mountain home, serene and calm

As the quiet river as it winds past…

And so I feel –

on this day –

beautiful –

A day of peace.

Peace is a pansy.

A pale, purple, stream of joy,

That winds through the soul.

As the voice faded, I looked to see what the short man was looking at. I saw a small lavender flower peeking out near the roots of a tree. The little guy turned his head and I felt the last part of the poem again. Peace is a pansy. A pale, purple stream of joy, that winds through the soul. Suddenly I understood. It was him! This odd little man was somehow speaking to my heart without words. When I tried to translate the emotions into words, only poetry could do it justice. I slowed my pace a little until I fell behind him and his brothers. His brothers were oblivious to me, but he watched me intensely.

“Hi! What a beautiful day it is, isn’t it?” I said with a smile.

“Chocolate,” he replied.

“Excuse me?” I was a little confused by this response. I thought about it a minute then replied, “I guess it is a chocolaty kind of day. It’s rich and luscious, just like chocolate.” The voice came to me again.

Hints of flavor emerge, yearning to satisfy a fantasy.

Roasting tidbits, balanced on the winds,

Are raining delight over an island of dreams.

The soft canopy of freshness blankets the soul

With soothing tranquility.

Quiet calm seeps into the mundane task

Of daily living.

 

Happiness is a

blue blanket that warms the soul

as it heals the heart.

 

I was starting to see a pattern. My mind translated the feelings into words, and I could almost see the poems in my mind’s eye. And at the end of each poem, there were three lines with a specific rhythm stuck together. And they were the part that seemed to be easiest to translate into words. I smiled and nodded at my new friend, letting him know I understood what he was trying to say.

“Thank you,” was all I could think to say.

“Chocolate,” he said again. But I knew what it meant.

His brothers heard him and finally realized I was there.

“Who are you?” asked one of them. He was quite fat. I wouldn’t hesitate to describe him as roly-poly either.

“My name is Taylor,” I said. “I was just getting to know your brother here a bit. He’s quite an interesting fellow.”

The other three brothers looked at each.

“What do you mean ‘interesting’?” asked the thinnest one.

“Well, we were talking and he’s really quite smart. He was telling me…” I didn’t finish my sentence as the brothers looked at one another in shock, as though no one had ever used the word ‘smart’ to describe their brother before.

“Smart? Him?” said the tallest one. “He’s not smart. He can’t even really talk. All he ever says is one word at a time.” He shook his head like I was nuts.

“How in the world did you talk to him?” asked the fat one.

“Well, I talked, he listened, and then I listened while he…” I guess he hadn’t really talked. Did these brothers not know how to really communicate with their other brother?

“While he what?” said the skinny string bean brother.

“While he talked to me.” I understood. There were words involved, of a sort. It counted as talking in my book.

“Yeah, right,” scoffed the tall one.

“What’s your name?” I asked my friend.

“Zinga,” he said.

“Actually, his name is really Ed, but he doesn’t answer to it, and he says his name is Zinga. It’s just some nonsense word he made up,” explained the fat brother.

I wasn’t so sure about that. “And what are your names?” I asked the other brothers.

“I’m Fred,” said Roly-Poly.

“I’m Ned,” said String Bean.

“And I’m Ted,” said the one towering over the rest.

“Well, it’s nice to meet all of you.” I turned to Zinga. “And thank you for the lovely chat. Talk to you later.” He beamed at me as I walked past the brothers and back near Aeolianna.

I told her about my encounter with Zinga. She was especially intrigued by what I had discovered about the last bit of each of his poem communications. She handed me a small notebook and a pencil and I wrote down the lines I could remember.

“Just in case,” she said.

“In case of what?” I asked.

“You never know when wisdom will be needed. Writing it down assures that you will be able to use it when needed.”

“Good idea. I do like to write things down. Too bad I can’t remember the rest of his poems, just the last three lines.”

“Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe he puts a special meaning in those last three lines.” She sighed a happy sigh. “Isn’t it wonderful how each person has their own unique gifts and talents? Apparently, Zinga is able to communicate without words, but only certain people, like you Taylor, have the gift to understand him.”

“It’s sad that his brothers don’t have that gift though,” I said.

“Maybe they do,” she replied. “But gifts have to be used to be had. If they tried to listen with their hearts rather than with their ears, they might realize that they can hear their brother better.”

“Maybe,” I conceded. I’d have to try and talk to them later and explain what I knew about Zinga. Maybe they’d listen and learn something. After all, isn’t that why we were all here? To learn? I had a sudden feeling that Zinga was here for a different reason. It seemed like he already knew what he needed to, like he was on a higher level than the rest of us. Maybe his purpose was to teach. I looked forward to learning from him.

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