After dragging Damien’s limp body into the forest, I was immediately escorted back to the park. The forest creatures allowed me just far enough into the trees to conceal Damien and then without a word, they made it very clear that he was under their care now. Words were not necessary. I knew at once that I was to return to the park. The creatures within the forest did not like my presence there but tolerated it for Damien’s sake.
I found a bench in the park and just stared blankly ahead as I pondered what had just happened. Eventually, I sensed a presence next to me. When I turned to look, Te was sitting next to me on the back of the bench. How long had he been there? How long had I been there? For the first time, I took a good look at Te. He was so small! I’d never seen anything like Te. He looked like a tiny dragon, covered with red scales and his underbelly was blue to match his tiny wings. Those wings could not possibly be used to fly. They would never support the weight of Te’s body. They were much too small to be of any use. Then I noticed the tiny white horns just starting to protrude from behind Te’s ears, which looked too large for his body. Then it hit me. A child! Te must still be growing. Sure enough, Te’s feet seemed too big for his body as well. Our eyes met and locked for just a moment. Te had no doubt been scrutinizing me while I looked him over. Why was Te sitting next to my head? What was he doing in the park while Damien was in the forest? Finally, the creature spoke, as if he had just read my mind.
“You seemed concerned,” Te said in that high squeaky voice. He had come to check on me.
“How is he?” I asked.
“He will be fine. He just needs some rest and to stay out of trouble for a while.”
I wasn’t sure. Could Te be trusted? I’d never seen him before I stumbled upon Damien in the park. Besides, he’s just a child. What does he know? I’d believe that Damien was ok when I saw it with my own eyes. But clearly I would not be permitted into the forest to check on Damien myself. My only option was to believe what Te was telling me. After all, Te didn’t have to seek me out. Why would he leave the forest just to lie to me?
“Thanks,” I managed to mumble, still lost in thought.
At Te’s suggestion, we took a walk around the park. I had been sitting on that hard bench for so long, my legs were numb. Pain and tingling shot through both legs as I stood up. Te waited patiently as I gingerly stumbled around stomping my feet in front of the bench, waiting for my legs to wake up. Eventually, I was steady on my feet and we slowly walked down a path through the park.
Perhaps I had been quick to judge Te. We talked as we walked. He appeared wise beyond his years. He told me of life in the forest and about the mistrust they had for people. He was surprised that I was allowed so far into the forest even though I was obviously there to help Damien. I learned about a long history of conflict between the forest creatures and people. Differing ideas and values had led to a deep-seated mistrust and fear between the two worlds. In the distant past, the creatures of the forest and people mingled freely but eventually their differences drove them apart. For a time, the park was a place where people and the creatures of the forest could come together peacefully, but as time wore on, the rift grew deeper and the forest creatures stopped coming to the park. I had not known any of this history. Te sure knew a lot for a child. In fact, I know very little about the forest creatures. Maybe Te wasn’t as young as he appeared.
I realized suddenly that day had turned to night. I was so engrossed in Te’s stories that I hadn’t noticed the sun sinking below the horizon. I had to get home. Te promised to look after Damien for me and I said I’d return to the park soon. I walked home slowly, thinking about this odd creature called Te. He never did answer my question about what he was. In any case, I was looking forward to our next meeting and hoping for good news about Damien.