Once there was a tiny snake. The reason to make this point from the outset is that its size plays such a very important part in the story I am about to tell you. So, once there was a tiny snake whose name was Tyrone, and he was yellow and blue. That is, in the main he was yellow with a thin stripe of blue going round and round in a spiral over his entire length and ending in a diamond of blue at the top of his head. His eyes were also blue. Tyrone spent his days in lazy abandon sliding from one comfortable spot to another depending on the temperature and place of the sun. He loved lying in the sun, at least he did until it became too warm, and then he would grudgingly move into the shade where he would return to a semi-somnambulant state. It was not so much that he would sleep, but that he would drift between the worlds of appearance and dis-appearance. Tyrone lived to drift and would surely have continued on in this vain for eternity if the following circumstance had not forced him onto a journey he did not ask for.
The sun had fallen low in the sky casting long shadows from the giant oaks over the grassy slope where he lay curled. His drift had taken him to the essence of the oak whose shadow he lay beneath. Knowing her for who she really was, he was in a state of awe, when he was abruptly jerked back into the world of appearances by a string of angry words whose meaning he was unfamiliar with. Opening his bright blue eyes he raised his head and looked around for the source of the anguish. Above him in the boughs of the oak sat a human boy with his legs draped over a branch and his pajamas tangled in the smaller branches from which he was pulling with all his might to free himself.
“How in this world did you get yourself into such a predicament?” Tyrone asked incredulous. And that is saying something about the nature of this particular adventure, for Tyrone had never had the experience of incredulity. He certainly was familiar with awe, wonder, horror, joy, abandon, misery, love, beauty, fear; those aspects of the essential world and of the material one, but none of his previous experience prepared him for such surprise; for what did not make sense.
A moving shadow passed over the boy– a red-tailed hawk hunting. Tyrone slid below a fern at the base of the tree.
The boy swore loudly.
“Hissssss– shhhh,” warned Tyrone. When the hawk had passed, the snake popped his head out and directed his intense gaze once again at the distraught child. “So, what is your answer?”
“Oh, do stop that at once. You’ll only get both of us into some kind of trouble if you insist on drawing attention to yourself. That hawk, for instance, after he had me for dinner might take you on. Though it is not usual, neither, I have to say, are you.”
The boy’s hair –which was bright red–stuck out in several directions. “I just woke up. Why am I not in my bed?” He opened his mouth to let out another string of obscure words.
“Hssss–Shhhh. Now, tell me everything you can remember and don’t leave anything out. I can’t help you sort this out until I know everything.
“How can you help me. You’re too small.”
The boy’s eyes grew large with wonder at the sound; a snake laughing is not something one hears everyday. “I remember going to bed and then drifting to sleep, something about flying. Yes. I had wings and a different sort of body. It was light, not like being awake with this heavy clunky body that is hard to move in. And now I’m awake and stuck up here. Stupid body — stupid snake.”
“Now, now, no need to call names is there. Won’t help a bit. It’s not a stupid body, just you don’t know how to work it yet, and I am by no means a ‘stupid’ snake. By the way, name’s Tyrone. Yours?”
The boy’s face was a mix between a pout and dis-belief. “Andrew, Andrew Benedict Aniston. They call me Andy — and, that-a-boy and Gopher. Sometimes mom calls me rascal and trouble but mostly Andy.”
Tyrone rolled his eyes causing the blue of his eyes to circle like the blue stripes around what could be called his neck.
The boy smiled. “Do that again.”
Tyrone complied, pleased to have diverted Andy’s attention from his distressed condition and giving himself time to consider the clues as they were presented.
Humans had seldom crossed his path so he was unfamiliar with their particular reality, but he knew from his observation of all life forms, that each has an esssential life that creates and nourishes the one in physical reality — the world of what Tyrone called, appearances. It seemed that the child had drifted between the worlds and was in a bit of a muddle-which is something like, but not really — the middle, for there can be no middle ground between above and below, at least not so far as Tyrone knew. But maybe, he thought, incredulous for the second time in one day, humans were capable of being in the middle.
How that would be sorted out is the adventure.
“What else do you remember before going to your nap?”
Andy sighed heavily. ”Could you get me down first?”
“Not really. I don’t know where you are yet. Come on, try to remember.”
“I’m right here. Can’t you see me?”
“I see something, but it isn’t really you.”
Andy started to curse, but stopped up short. “My brother is sick. Everyone was busy taking care of him when I was put to bed. Mom was crying.”
Tyrone nodded. “Good. Tell me about your brother.”
Andy smiled. “The most important thing about him is that he’s my twin. Of course, he’s brave and strong and loads of fun. Since he’s been sick, Mom won’t let me see him. He’s in a dark room alone. Why do they do that to him?”
“They are trying to help him get well. They think that’s how to do it.” Tyrone shook his head. “Maybe they’re right, but it isn’t always best. There are many reasons for sickness in the physical world and knowing what lies beneath is not what most beings are capable of. Of course, a real doctor would know. Let’s hope your brother has one. What’s your brother’s name?”
“Billy — that’s for William.”
“And how old is Billy?”
“He’ll be nine, as I am.”
“Tell me more about your time flying.”
“It was great fun– at least it was for awhile, but then it got very dark, and there was a big wind and a terrible sound. I remember now. I was looking for someone. That’s why I was flying; to get up high and look around to find them. But then the dark and wind came, and the next thing was that I was here in this silly tree–sorry tree–you’re not silly. Nice tree. Would you let me down now?”
Tom would have laughed at this last bit if not for the terrible information that came before. This was not good–not good at all. “Andrew, go back and remember when you were flying. Can you do that?”
“I’ll try.” Andy squinched up his eyes tight. “Now what?”
“Who are you looking for? “
“Billy, he’s lost.”
“Very good Andrew. Can you see him?”
Andy shook his head hard nearly freeing his pajamas from the grasp of the oak’s hold on him, but she held her grip.
When Tom saw the oak reach her branches tighter to protect the boy, he smiled and nodded to her. “I see, so he is now present enough that he could be hurt. Do help him down then, won’t you?”
Andy looked back and forth quizically from the branches stuck to his sleeves and Tom. “Are you talking to the tree?”
Very gently the branches moved to lower the child. Unless one were looking very closely– as we are now — it would merely have appeared that the tree was moving in the wind.
“Thank you,” Andy said with great seriousness.
The oak appeared to nod.
“Better?” Tyrone raised up to his full height to better peer at Andy which brought him to Andy’s shins.
“You really are small aren’t you? How do you propose to help me then?”
Tom didn’t take offense, as he fully understood that it is in the nature of young beings of all types, human or otherwise, to be demanding and direct as is correct. “Good question. Here is what we know; you went on a journey to find your brother, along the way you lost yourself, you are now in neither the surface world where you consider yourself to be awake, nor are you fully in the world you associate with dreams and imagination. You are in the netherworld with me. This is the place I know best, so– if we’re going to find your brother and return you both to the world where your parents will be waiting anxiously for you– we must get on with it. Can you keep a secret?”
“Oh, yes, Billy and I have lots of secrets. What’s the secret then?” Andy sat down on the ground and put his face up close to Tom’s, who reached his body as long as he could make it to put his mouth up to Andy’s ear.
“No one–under any circumstances– can know that I am your guide. Do you have a pocket in that get-up you’re wearing?”
Andy pointed to a small pouch at his left hip.
“Good. I will travel with you in that pouch, but do you understand that once anyone knows of my existence, you will have dis-sed me–sent me to the world of dis-appearance– or appearance as the case may be; for it will depend on who you tell. As we are to be companions on this journey you may call me, Ty. Unless, of course, you’re in immediate danger and then TYRONE, will bring quick help. Got it?”
“Got it, Ty.”
“So, let’s go then.”
“But where are we going?”
Ty laughed, that sound unlike any other. “It’s a surprise.”
“But how will I know where to go?”
“Once I’m in your pocket your feet will be led by my knowledge. I will be your guide remember?”
Andy nodded and very carefully picked Ty up in both his hands. ”Please don’t wiggle, or I might drop you.”