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.
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.
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.
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.