“She’s expecting you,” Isaac told the waiting messenger ant. The messenger ant nodded and left.
Isaac turned to the guard. “Do you know the way out of the forest? Or the potted plant? Or the lobby?”
The guard shook her head. “Ants only know the ways they are told. Except maybe the explorers or the queen. If you have a question you can ask her.”
“All right. Thank you,” Isaac said. “Which way is the forest path?”
“Over there, in the forest,” the guard said. She waved an arm towards the forest, and then turned to watch the aphids.
Isaac thanked her again, and then he left the fluffy aphid with the others on the tree. The butterfly followed. Isaac turned to look at him. “Do you know where the forest path is?”
“It’s nearby. Follow me,” the butterfly said. It flapped its brown and tan wings and flew in and out of the tree trunks.
“Not so fast,” Isaac said. “I’m walking and that takes longer.”
“Then why don’t you fly?” the butterfly asked.
“I can’t,” Isaac said. “I don’t have wings.”
“You do have those narrow little wings,” the butterfly said.
“Those are arms,” Isaac said.
“The name hardly matters,” the butterfly said.
“They aren’t wide enough to be real wings,” Isaac said. “I’m too big, and they’re too little.”
“I suppose you’re right,” the butterfly said. “Here’s the path.”
In front of them, a narrow, leaf-strewn path led into the forest. “Where does it lead?” Isaac asked.
“I don’t know,” the butterfly said. “It branches not that far from here, and I never could decide which road to take.”
“Do you know which path the spider took?” Isaac asked.
“No, I didn’t follow him in,” the butterfly said. “It’s dark in there.” The butterfly landed on a tree and opened its wings. It seemed to disappear into the bark. Spots on its wings suddenly looked uncomfortably like eyes.
“Your wings look like they have eyes on them,” Isaac said. “When you disappear like that, it’s creepy.”
“Why?” the butterfly asked.
“I don’t know. I guess because I’m used to seeing eyes as part of faces,” Isaac said.
“Then you’ll just have to imagine the face,” the butterfly said. “Do you know which road you’ll take?”
“I guess I’ll go see what they look like, and then I’ll decide,” Isaac said.
“How will that make a difference?” the butterfly asked.
“I don’t know, but it might,” Isaac said. He turned to go and then paused. “Do you know the way out?”
The butterfly flapped her wings and reappeared. “The way out of where?”
“The forest. The potted plant. The lobby. The cave,” Isaac said.
“I don’t know about the rest, but you’re already out of the forest now,” the butterfly said. “Why go in if you don’t want to be there?”
“I want to be on the other side,” Isaac said. “The side with the big basket wall.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the butterfly said. “So, I suppose you’ll be much more likely to know where it is than I do. Perhaps you should ask yourself. Or look at the path and then decide if it’s right. You said that might help.”
“All right,” Isaac said. “Thanks for your help.”
The butterfly opened its wings and disappeared against the tree trunk again. All that was visible were the eerie unblinking eyespots. Isaac turned and followed the forest path. The light was dim and yellow as it filtered through the trees.
Not too far in, the path branched in two directions. Both looked about the same, but one seemed a little less worn and definite. “If I was a spider running away from ants, I think I’d take that one,” Isaac said. And he turned right and took the less traveled path.