Anna and Hannah each sat on a little footstool, with a footstool between them like a table. The bowl of cheese curds was resting in the exact center of this footstool. The sisters faced each other, forks in hand.
“Isaac, watch and tell me if she eats more than I do,” Anna said.
“If she eats more, let me know,” Hannah said.
They glared at each other. The lilies behind Isaac made a crackling sound, and then trumpets blared again, and the girls started eating. More accurately, they shoveled the curds into their mouths until their cheeks bulged.
“Time out,” Isaac said. “You need to chew and swallow your food or you’ll choke.”
Watching each other warily, the girls put down their forks. They chewed and glared. Suddenly, Anna snatched up her fork. Her hand darted out and she took one of the cheese curds from the bowl and popped it into her still full mouth.
Hannah jumped up and grabbed a handful of cheese curds, completely ignoring her fork. Anna grabbed the bowl and twisted away from Hannah, keeping the rest of the cheese curds out of her reach.
“This means war,” Hannah said, waving around her handful of cheese curds as she yelled. Read More
“Do you both live in this house?” Isaac asked, once the song was over.
“Of course we do, it’s our house,” Hannah said.
Anna nodded. “It’s our house, so we live here.”
“So who lives in the other house?”
Hannah and Anna looked confused. “What house?” they asked in unison.
Isaac unfolded the map and showed the picture of the two houses. “I could only find your house, though. I didn’t see any signs leading anywhere else.”
“Oh, that house.” Hannah jumped up and grabbed Isaac’s arm.
Anna jumped up and grabbed the other arm. “We’ll take you there.”
Isaac stood up and allowed the two girls to lead him through the bushes and down a steep hill. They stopped in front of a wall of overgrown rose bushes.
“She doesn’t do much yard work,” Hannah said.
Anna nodded. “She mostly just sleeps. She’s the queen of dreams, you know.”
Isaac, who had been contemplating the sharp thorns on the nearest rosebush, turned to look at the little girls in horror. “You mean she can’t go home?”
Hannah shrugged. “She is home.”
Isaac shook his head. “No, I mean the home she had before she came here, where her family is. She can’t go back?”
“She is home.” Anna put her hands on her hips. “Hannah told you that. They’re all in her dreams now.”
“What do you mean? What happened?”
Hannah stepped closer to Anna and put her hands on her hips too. “She became the queen of dreams and took a nice nap and then went back.” She looked at Anna.
Anna continued the story. “But too much time had passed. Her parents and her sister and brother had all grown old and died. Her baby cousin was a great-grandpa. So, she couldn’t go back, not really.”
Hannah smiled. “So she came back here and she dreams about them, and in her dreams they’re real. So she doesn’t want anyone to wake her up.”
Anna smiled. “She has a great big sword and would probably kill anyone who tried. She’s really scary.”
The girls continued smiling, but Isaac frowned. It was an awful story. He hoped it wasn’t really true. Isaac looked at the wall of rose bushes. “So, no one would throw a party anywhere near her house if people are scared to wake her up, right?”
“We could check, but we’d probably hear them screaming from here if they did,” Hannah said.
“She wakes up if people are too noisy?”
“Doesn’t everybody? I do,” Anna said. “Especially when Hannah snores.”
“I don’t snore, you do.” Hannah glared at Anna.
“Yes, you do. I wish I had a giant sword too.”
“Can we see over the rose bushes from the top of the hill?” Isaac interrupted. He didn’t like where this argument was going.
The girls turned to glare at Isaac, then looked back up the hill. “Maybe,” they said in unison.
Isaac hurried back up the hill. He walked along the top of the hill until he found a spot where he could look across the rest of the island. There was an empty overgrown garden, the red roof of a far away house, and a deserted beach beyond it. The party wasn’t on this island.
Hannah and Anna trudged back up the hill. “Time for cheese curds,” Hannah said happily.
“Yay!” Anna said.
“Wait, can you tell me the best way off this island?” Isaac asked. The girls were already pushing their way through the bushes back to their yard. Isaac chased after them and tried not to worry about the story they told. He would get home and see his family again. He got home last time, after all.
Timmons led Isaac back to the beach. A narrow bridge of sand snaked across the water to a smudge of land on the horizon. “There it is,” he said. “You’d better hurry.”
And so Isaac hurried over the sandbar, worried that any moment the water would come rushing back to cover it back up again and wash him out to sea. Luckily, he made it across just fine. But when he stepped on the beach and looked back, the middle of the path was already underwater again. Scary.
Isaac looked around. It looked like there was a sign next to a path leading up the sand dunes at the edge of the beach. Isaac walked over. There were two signs. The top one said “Anna’s House” and pointed to the right. The next sign said “Hannah’s house” and pointed the same way.
Isaac unfolded his map. There was a red X on the island with two houses. Well, that made sense. He wasn’t sure who to visit first, but he didn’t need to decide yet. There was only one path for now. He followed the path off the beach.
He continued following the path as rocks and ferns and palm trees were replaced with rose bushes and bunches of bright orange lilies and magenta hibiscus flowers. There were sign posts every so often along the path, but they kept pointing the same way.
He reached a white rock path that led to a white house with a red tile roof. Both signs pointed to the house. Did Hannah and Anna live in the same house? Then why were there two houses on the map? Read More
Isaac followed Timmons to a little house by the woods. On the outside it looked much too small to be a house. It was really more the size of a broom closet. But, when Timmons opened the door, it was bigger on the inside.
The little house was still cozy, but there was enough room for a kitchen and a big round wooden table, and a fireplace and a couch, and several rooms besides. Isaac was impressed. “You could have a whole city of houses like this and fit them all on the beach.”
Timmons laughed. “You could if you could find people who want to live here. Most people don’t like going for a walk and forgetting who they are. It’s unsettling, I’m told.”
“You don’t think it’s a little weird?”
“Hmmmm.” Timmons poured two glasses of milk and started spreading nut butter and honey on slices of bread. “It’s what I’m used to,” he said at last. “If you’re used to something, it’s not weird.”
Isaac sipped at the milk. It had an odd flavor and was thin and watery. “What kind of milk is this?” he asked.
“Coconut milk,” Timmons said.
“It tastes weird,” Isaac said.
“I suppose it might be strange for you if it’s not what you’re used to,” Timmons said. He smiled and drank his cup of milk.
“I guess normal isn’t the same for everyone.” It was strange to think about. He sipped the coconut milk. It wasn’t terrible. “Have you always lived here?”
“I don’t remember.”
Isaac sat up straight. “Is it because of the jungle? Am I going to forget where I came from if I stay here?”
“I don’t know,” Timmons said. “I’m not sure how much I don’t remember because I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten. I can’t even remember when I’ve forgotten something.”
Isaac took a bite of the sandwich. It tasted familiar, but not exactly like the ones his mom made. “Maybe you could write things down. Then when you read your notes, you’ll remember and you won’t forget any more.”
“I suppose. But then it would remind me that I’ve forgotten things and I’d be sad. It’s nice not knowing if I’ve forgotten anything. Then I don’t really have any reason to miss the memories I’ve lost.” Timmons took another bite of his sandwich and smiled.
“But aren’t there important things you don’t want to forget. Like your name or where you live or things like that?”
Timmons laughed. “So far so good. I’ve not forgotten them yet. I don’t think I need to worry. And if I forget them later, maybe I didn’t need them after all.”
“Why do you even live here? It seems dangerous.” Isaac ate the last bite of his sandwich without really tasting it.
“Hmmm.” Timmons began clearing the table. “I’m needed here. I help people who get lost and confused in the jungle. I like to help. I like my house.”
Isaac looked around at the cheerful house. It was nice. But it was so quiet. “Aren’t you lonely?”
“I can visit people when I need company. Sometimes, if you don’t get along, having people live close isn’t so nice. You’ll see.”
That sounded ominous. “What do you mean?”
“It’s time to go. If you want to walk across to the next island, you have to go now,” Timmons said sadly.
Isaac stood up and followed Timmons to the door. “Will you be at my party when I find it?”
“Sure, if I remember it,” Timmons said with a smile as he opened the door. Somehow, Isaac didn’t find that completely reassuring.
Where had he been before? He remembered water. Nothing more.
“What are you doing here?”
Isaac turned and his heart jumped. There was someone right next to him. How did he miss that? “What?” he asked.
“Why are you here?” the boy asked again. He was just as tall as Isaac, but his legs were furry and he had two bumps on his head, just where his forehead met his hair. His feet didn’t look the same as Isaac’s either.
Isaac thought for a moment. “I don’t remember. I don’t even remember my name.”
“That’s normal here.”
It was a little scary, not being able to remember anything. Did he hit his head? He nervously patted his head, his arms, his legs. All was fine, until something made a crinkling noise. He found something folded and flat and covered in markings. What was it for?
“What’s that?” the boy asked. “Can I see it?” He held out a hand.
Isaac handed him the paper. “I don’t remember what it is.”
“I think I’ve seen something like this before, but I don’t remember when.” The boy gave it back to Isaac.
Isaac folded it up and put it away. “Why can’t I remember?”
The boy laughed. “No one can. Not here. We have to go that way.” He pointed towards a darkly shadowed path.
Isaac didn’t like the look of it. “Why that way?”
“To remember. It’s too bad you don’t remember why you’re here. Sometimes people remember.”
“What people?” Isaac asked, looking around.
“I don’t remember.” The boy started walking. Isaac followed him.
Isaac wasn’t sure why he felt nervous when he couldn’t see well. Would he know when he could remember? “What am I scared of?”
“I don’t know,” the boy said. “If I can’t remember me, I certainly won’t be able to remember you.”
“Will you remember me when we can remember?”
“Will I remember what?”
“Will you remember the things I’ve forgotten?” Isaac asked. He couldn’t remember if that was normal or not.
“Not here and not there, but maybe somewhere,” the boy said. “Who knows?”
“Are you scared?” Isaac asked.
“I remember… I remember that I like to laugh. Can you remember anything funny?” the boy asked.
They walked a little further through the patches of light and darkness, stumbling over small obstacles and skirting around larger ones. The patches of light grew larger and larger. Suddenly, Isaac remembered. “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana,” he said suddenly.
“What?” The boy looked confused.
“It’s a joke. My name is Isaac, and I’m looking for a party, and I remembered a joke.” He grinned and looked at the boy. “Are you a goat-boy?”
“I’m a faun, not a goat-boy. My name is Timmons. Your joke isn’t very funny, you know.”
“That’s because it wasn’t the whole joke. Just the ending. That’s what I remembered first,” Isaac said. “The joke really is funny. Well, it might not be as funny if you already know the ending.”
“You’re not very good at telling jokes. You should tell the beginning first and save the ending for last.”
Isaac felt his face heat up with embarrassment. “I know that. If you’re so good at telling jokes, you tell one.”
Timmons shrugged. “Fine. Why did the doe give the faun an umbrella?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“In case of reindeer.” Timmons laughed.
Isaac looked confused. “I don’t get it.”
“Well I won’t explain it to you. That ruins the joke. Maybe you’ll get it later.” The faun stopped walking and turned to face Isaac. “Unless you’re looking for a party of one, your party isn’t here.”
“How do you know?”
Timmons smiled. “I can remember things here, outside of the jungle, and I know you’re the only new person I’ve seen here in a while. I think I would have noticed a party.”
Isaac took the map out of his pocket. There were now three islands marked with an x. “Do you know how to get to another island?”
Timmons looked at the map. “When the tide is low, you can walk over to that island on a sandbar.” He pointed to an island at the center of the map with a picture of two houses.
“When will that be?” Isaac looked out at the water. It looked just as deep here as it did anywhere else.
“In the evening. Would you like to come to my house for lunch while you wait?”
Suddenly, Isaac was starving. “I’d love to. I can tell you some jokes while we wait.”
The faun smiled. “That sounds like fun. As long as you remember to start at the beginning first.”
“I told you that I know how to tell jokes!”
Timmons laughed. After a moment, Isaac laughed too.
They reached the end of the line, and they were finally able to climb aboard an oddly-shaped flat boat. The goat taking their tickets waved them forwards. “Move to the center,” he said.
The crowd huddled together and watched the goat unhook the boat from the dock. “How does the boat go anywhere?” Isaac asked the beetle. “It doesn’t have a sail or a motor.”
The beetle laughed. “Just watch.”
The goat pulled a lever and the boat folded up and around the passengers. Seats popped up, and everyone began to sit down. Isaac turned to the mouse and beetle. “Let’s sit by a window.”
“They’re portholes,” the mouse said.
“Oh, right.” Isaac looked around. “Can we sit by the portholes? There’s some empty chairs over there.”
The mouse sighed. “I don’t know. Can we?”
Wheeling his suitcase behind him, the beetle called over his shoulder, “I can. I’m not so sure about you. Maybe you’re too short.”
“I was correcting his grammar. Grammar is important,” the mouse huffed. “I am not too short.” He chased after the beetle. Isaac trailed behind them.
Things were still popping up around them. Potted plants, hallways, and bookshelves appeared as they hurried past. When Isaac reached the portholes, the mouse and beetle were already sitting in the chairs, arguing.
Isaac ignored them and kneeled up on the chair so that he could look through the porthole behind it. The boat shook and moved forward. The surface of the water looked closer and closer.
“I think we’re sinking,” Isaac said.
“Of course we are,” the mouse snapped. “It’s supposed to go under the water.”
Isaac gasped. “It’s a submarine! I’ve always wanted to ride on a submarine.”
Just then, the goat approached. “Tickets?”
Isaac jumped up out of his chair. “Wait. If you’re here, who’s driving the boat?”
“The driver,” the goat said.
“Oh. Right.” Isaac sat down again.
The mouse and beetle handed him little brightly colored circles of paper. “And the boy?” the goat asked.
“He’s my luggage,” the mouse said. “I’m allowed one carry on. He carried himself on.”
The goat looked at Isaac. “He doesn’t have a tag.”
Isaac turned out the back of his collar. “My shirt has a tag.”
The goat sighed. “Very well.” He moved on.
The mouse turned to Isaac. “You had questions?”
“Oh, right. Were you at the island for a party?”
“It was a work break,” the beetle said. “We were taking a break to work. I got so much done. I’m really looking forward to the next one.”
“What do you normally do?”
“It’s our turn to ask a question. You already asked one,” the mouse said. “Where are you going?”
“I’m not sure,” Isaac said. “One of the other islands.” He looked out the porthole. They were finally underwater. A catfish swam by the portholes, chased by a dogfish. “Hey did you see that?”
“Yes. Any island would do?” the mouse asked.
Isaac pulled the map out of his pocket. “As long as it’s on my map.”
The mouse looked at the map and nodded. “That’s easy enough.” He reached under the chair and pulled a lever.
The goat appeared. “Ready to leave?” He asked.
“My luggage wants to see an island,” the mouse said.
The goat pulled a page of star stickers. He peeled a gold star from the sheet and stuck it to the middle of Isaac’s forehead.
The boat, the goat, the beetle, and the mouse all disappeared. Isaac was standing in the middle of a dark, dense jungle. “Where am I?” he asked. “Wait a minute. Who am I?” But he couldn’t remember.