…the sound of laughter

I have a friend who did one of those “meme” things, and I’ve never been very good at those “meme” things, but this was a particular sort I’m particularly … odd at. It walks you through a series of questions and tells you things “about you” based on the sorts of answers you give, and so it’s like one of those tests I basically don’t bother posting my results to here, because I think they’re silly and usually can’t find an answer that suits me. This one, however, was one of those which walks you through a narrative, rather than just throwing multiple choice questions at you. I do terrible at those, too, sometimes my responses to the prompts taking me (quite naturally) way out of the narrative they thought they were directing, but my mind certainly builds an interesting and distinct story from the prompts. So … results, whatever, here’s the narrative, as I imagined it as I read the questions. (My friend’s original post is here, though you can’t see it if you aren’t her friend, too, so I’ve copy/pasted the original instructions in below my story, if you’re interested.)

     It is a warm day, but the shade of the forest instills the air all around me with a calm coolness as I walk. The sounds of nature are diffuse, gentle, welcomed almost as silence in contrast with the everyday aural congestion of civilization. My shoes’ light, rhythmless addition matches well with the environmental background noise and connects me with this place. Occasionally, preceding a gentle breeze weaving through the trees and across my skin, there is a sound like the waves of the ocean breaking at a distance; the leaves and branches dancing playfully in a cascade of motion that sweeps across the forest the way the memory of a child’s laughter sometimes sweeps across my mind.

     As though he’d the same thought as me, the young boy who walks beside me releases a brief, delighted laugh to join the air that tears the sound playfully from his lips and frolicking through the forest. I smile and look at him as we walk, pathless, between the trees. We share a mutual silence as we each enjoy the beauty of nature in our own way, but glad to be together. Looking at him should feel like looking backward or behind – he is myself as a child – but instead the moment feels timeless and eternal, present and future at once, not looking backward but reaching forward with the best of me. The air is crisp and clean as I breathe, refreshing and invigorating and helping me feel as though I were still the youth at my side.

     We hear a noise up ahead, and my younger self stops dead in his tracks and turns to me quickly. The look in his eyes is not fear, he is not looking to me for leadership, for support, for instructions – the look in his eye is excitement, a conspiratorial glance that signals we are in for something fun, together. I beam a grin back to match his, and we both peer in the direction of the noise.

     There is definitely motion in the foliage. We proceed cautiously toward the motion – almost comically so, as we both pantomime exaggerated stealth or sneakiness, knowing we could never really sneak up on a forest creature that didn’t want to be met. There is a flash of color, a shape, a shadow, whatever it is is moving out, and toward us, to meet us. All at once it is visible, and we stop moving, stop pantomiming, stand upright with heads cocked sideways a bit as we look the creature over.

     It is a dragon. Well, not really a dragon any more than the child standing at my side is a man – surely in comparison to the trees and the sky and the sun he is “man” and this is “dragon”, but this dragon stands barely as high as my knees, and appears to be wingless. A continuously green skin (neither a pale green or a bright green, but somewhere between commercial fluorescent green and key lime pie), smooth like pleather or vinyl, covers most of the rounded, almost rotund creature. There is a line of about seven somewhat raised, somewhat pale, yellow diamond shapes running from its neck down the end of its tail which look like they would be hard to the touch, but certainly don’t qualify as armour or spikes. It approaches us slowly on four legs, but pauses briefly and stands up on its hind legs, standing about as tall as my younger self, and looking him hard in the eye.

     Dropping back down again after a long moment, it closes the remaining distance quickly on all fours again, and begins sniffing at the child’s petting hand like any other domesticated animal seeing its owner come home after time away. It recognizes us as we recognized it – slowly, not sure at first that what we were seeing is real, and then glad to see an old friend. The dragon wags its long, wide tail happily and runs circles around the boy, stopping briefly to sniff a happy hello at me before sneaking quickly behind and then between the youth’s legs. The three of us now proceed together, reunited. The boy that is myself as a child is riding happily and comfortably on the shoulders of the dragon, just behind the first hard, raised yellow diamond, one hand on it for balance, the other reaching forward to pet its head, a beloved companion.

     Seeing the dragon again brings back a flood of recognition – this isn’t just any forest we’ve been walking through: We’re home, at long last. Not in some wilderness foreign to me, I know these trees, that hill, the clearings here and there just out of sight, and most of the animals and insects, faeries and dragons and more that populate my home. No fences, no walls, no borders, community and freedom, light and peace are my home. No timepiece but the sun, the moon, the stars. No mirror but the streams and lakes that ripple and shift and giggle as they trickle and splash. It feels good to return to this place, to remember that the other home was always a home away from this one, the real one. There is a new lightness, a new energy in my stride as the three of us continue forward, and I greet familiar trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, with a touch and a smile and a warmth, a silent, glowing hello.

     We reach a clearing I have not seen in a length of time I know not how to count, and a hundred and a thousand meals eaten ’round this stone rush into my memory with all the speed of the dragon and child rushing toward it now. It is a large, round, worn stone, shaped somewhat like a mushroom or a lightbulb that has been flattened, standing about waist high. There are smaller stones spaced around it for sitting, and it and they are all the same mottled, dark, ancient gray of stones placed and carved in a time before time. Upon the table are the most fabulous desserts, in mind-boggling, eye-turning, impossible-if-you-weren’t-looking-at-them bright colors. The variety of shape, texture, and color is astounding, but these are not just enhanced versions of all the desserts you already know; the only name ever given to these food is “delicious”.

     Myself and I both know we aren’t here for the food, but we cannot resist grabbing a little something each from the table as we go by and enjoying it as we pass out of the clearing and back into the woods. He shares the creamy mess he’s taken with the dragon, who slurps it hungrily from his hand, happily licking the boy clean. I occasionally break a piece off mine as I go, tossing it their direction, and the dragon leaps up every time and snatches it out of the air with its teeth. This isn’t the first time we’ve played this game, and my younger self enjoys the ride immensely, in no danger of losing his seating – because he is familiar with it, and because the dragon is protecting him. Our stroll continues for a while, and we munch our delightful treats and breathe the wonderful air and enjoy the day.

     Eventually we come to an edge of the forest, where there is a wide, flat area of grass, wonderfully dark green and lush. The dragon’s hide looks slightly yellowish as it strolls into the grass, and the grass looks slightly blueish as it slides under and around the dragon’s low-hanging belly. The grass is wild, grown tall like my neighbors never used to like me to do when I lived in a proper house back in town, and I love it. I notice a lone teacup, tilted, in the grass a few feet away. I do not stop, mention it, or point it out to myself, but as we walk by I recall the mad tea parties we had, just around the bend from here. I wonder if we’ll find any of the old party-goers still there after all this time, sipping tea, telling stories and jokes and sharing poetry and switching chairs at random intervals ’round and ’round the table. I don’t want to stop walking right now, I’m just getting back into the feel of this place, but I decide we’ll have to come back and see if any of our old friends are up for an old-fashioned mad tea party later on. My mind flutters briefly on … a particular young woman. I wonder if I’ll see her again, if we’ll ever have mad tea parties together again. I shake my head, as though the motion will shake the thought from my mind like dust, and set my eyes on what is in front of me.

     It is a lake, wide and flat and stretching out to the horizon here and there, and out to the mountain on the other side, green and beautiful in the distance, and in its reflection in the water. The water is cool and calm and clear and I can see the clouds and the sky and the sun reflected in it. I do not stop moving forward when I reach the shore, though my feet stop carrying me. I am flying above the surface of the water, the dragon with the boy on its back flying beside me just as naturally as the rest of this day, and we are speeding faster and faster, just above the surface of the water. The coolness of the shade has been replaced by the coolness of the moisture in the air above the lake. We fly close enough that sometimes the toes of the boy’s shoes just brush against the surface of the water, hanging down from the wingless, flying dragon. I reach out toward my mercurial reflection in the undulating surface of the water rushing beneath me, but then look forward again and push on, out, across the lake. I again hear the sound of a child’s laughter.
     This time, the laugh is my own.

The 10-question quiz!

Rule #1: Don’t think about your answer. Go with the first one in your head.
Rule #2: Answer the questions before looking at my answers or the following interpretations.

1. You are walking in the woods. You are not alone. Who is with you?
2. You are walking in the woods. You see an animal. What kind of animal is it?
3. What interaction takes place between you and the animal?
4. You walk deeper in the woods. You enter a clearing and before you is your dream house. How big is it?
5. Is your dream house surrounded by a fence?
6. You enter the house. You walk in to the dining room and see the dining room table. What’s on it?
7. You exit the house through the back door. Lying in the grass is a cup. What material is the cup made of?
8. What do you do with the cup?
9. You walk to the edge of the property where you find yourself standing at the edge of a body of water. How far does it go out into the distance?
10. How will you cross the water?

* * * * * * * * * *

And now for the professional (cough, cough) analysis:

1. The person who you are walking in the woods with is the most important person in your life.
2. The size of the animal is representative of your perception of the size of your problems in your life.
3. The severity of the interaction you have with the animal is representative of how you deal with your problems.
4. The size of your dream home is representative of the size of your ambition to solve your problems.
5. No fence is indicative of an open personality. People are welcome at all times. The presence of a fence indicates a closed personality. You’d prefer people not drop by unannounced.
6. If your answer did NOT include food, flowers (plants), or people, then you are generally unhappy.
7. The durability of the material which the cup is made of is representative of the perceived durability of your relationship with the person you named in #1.
8. Your disposition of the cup is representative of your attitude toward person in #1
9. The size of the body of water is representative of the size of your sexual desire.
10. How wet you get in crossing the water is indicative of the relative importance of your sex life.

The interpretations have no more merit than what you assign them yourself, of course. There is no source given, so this could have been written by a panel at Johns Hopkins Mental Health Department, or some junior high kid with no better way to spend the time.

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