In the days ahead, Milo noticed dramatic changes in Daisy. She seemed happier, lighter and free from the tension of her previous worries. There was a bounce to her little steps. Her fears about the cat had gone and she started to enjoy the journey again. As they travelled, the landscape changed. It became much more inviting. They began to follow a slow, meandering river and stopped often to enjoy the gentle flow of the water and the beautiful surroundings of the valley. Set on their course, the days passed as gently and effortlessly as the river. Daisy felt fulfilled, but Milo knew he had yet to discover something for himself. He began pondering the meaning of the journey and all that he had yet to learn. This started as a nagging question; one which gnawed at his peace of mind. He hungered for the answers to his questions.
The next bridge stood at the end of the valley and as they picked up their pace he began to wonder if more bridges lay beyond. Familiar excitement bubbled inside him as they drew closer. Slowing to a stop by the bridge, they discovered, basking in the sunlight, a lizard. The emerald green of its skin glimmered in the sunlight and as Milo moved closer, he was taken aback by its beauty. It was one of the most striking creatures he had ever seen. The lizard, as if sensing their gazes, turned his eyes upon the strangers.
“Hello, my name is Epic.” He smiled widely, “I’ve been waiting for you two.”
Milo blinked in surprise, “What do you mean?” “Aha! Someone after my own heart - already asking questions!” He swivelled his lithe body around to face them, “That’s an excellent question, seeing as how this is called the ‘Meaning bridge’.”
After a staggered pause Milo composed himself. “Hello, I’m Milo and this is Daisy”.
Epic nodded, “Well, stay and talk a little while. I would love to hear about your travels.”
As they indulged Epic with the details of their journey, Milo sensed something unique and unusual about this bridge. But he couldn’t determine exactly what it was. Over lunch, Daisy told Epic the awful story about her brother and the cat. Epic listened attentively and it was only after she finished that he spoke.
“But your brother survived and wore his triumph as a badge of honour. Although you’re scared of cats, you’ve never met one. Was it so terrible?”
Daisy thought this over for a while, before admitting that in retrospect maybe she had turned it into a catastrophe that it really wasn’t. Curious about Epic’s perspective, Milo mentioned the dreadful dog-attack Grandma Tilly had suffered and how she had barely escaped by pretending to be dead. Epic started to laugh, much to Milo’s consternation. The little vole gravely asked Epic why he was laughing.
“Isn’t it funny!” Epic chuckled, “A squirrel playing possum? Did you know that possum means ‘I am able’ or ‘I can’ in Latin? That is ironic: a possum playing dead and not able!”
It had tickled Epic, but was rather lost on Milo and Daisy. The lizard continued, his eyes twinkling. “You said that after this incident, Grandma Tilly gained psychic and intuitive powers. Has she not gained great respect from other creatures because of this? Is she not provided for in her old age due to helping others? That seems like a pretty worthwhile life to me!”
Puzzled, Milo and Daisy broached the subject of Daisy’s ordeal in the woods, mentioning Doc and the Valley of Shadows.
“Don’t you think what happened to Daisy was terrible?” Milo asked, his eyes searching Epic’s face.
Epic offered a wry smile, “I realise Daisy felt really awful for a few days, but did that not cause you both to take much needed rest? You met the wonderful, wise old Doc and were uplifted by the group meeting! And then, probably the most important part of all, Daisy faced her greatest fears!”
Epic seemed to have a different perception of every story they told him.
Milo found him fascinating and wanted to know more about his life.
“How did you end up here?”
Epic paused, “Now that is a long story. A story for another day. Tomorrow I’ll tell you.”
Milo’s head was racing. He could have stayed up all night, but the day had been long and the journey far. He and Daisy needed their sleep.
The view that greeted Milo the following morning intrigued him. Every time he looked, the landscape seemed different; something about the light playing across the countryside at different angles. He thought it a truly amazing sight and was secretly delighted when Epic took them on a tour of the area. They returned to the bridge for lunch and settling down to eat, Milo reminded Epic of his promise to tell his story. Before Epic could begin, Milo took the opportunity to enquire about the lizard’s name.
“Epic is a rather unusual name. How did you come by it?”
Epic leaned back, lifting his head proudly, “Well, I am from Greece, over the sea and far away. My mother named me Epictetus after a famous Greek lizard. He lived over 2,500 years ago! Back then, many creatures worked under the command of others. Epictetus had been catching food for his superiors when he broke his leg. Unlike the others, who would have used it as an excuse to stop working, Epictetus carried on.”
Epic paused, his eyes glazed with thought, “I have often wondered that by having the same name I have attracted, in some way, the same life.” He shrugged, “Anyway, I had a happy childhood and was a fairly happy-go-lucky adult with a serious side and tremendous restlessness. Then one day a group of us were cornered and seized in nets. I was dumped in a box, taken away in a truck, shipped over the sea and finally ended up in a glass tank in a shop.”
Milo could not believe it. They shared the same past!
It comforted him to know that Epic would understand how he felt.
Epic continued “I descended into gloom. There was no way out. I thought my life was over. However, as the days passed I noticed that my fellow captives reacted and behaved differently to our situation. I started to think about all the stories my mother had told me about Epictetus.” He paused, as if to savour the memory, “I then recalled what Epictetus used to say.
‘It’s not what happens to you, but what you make of what happens.’ Remembering this, my life changed.
I decided to accept my situation but also resolved to change my situation. I became ready for any opportunity to escape. It came the day the lid to my box slid open during a transfer. This was my one chance. I knew I had the power to change my life and I seized it. I found my way to the hatch of the lorry, discovered an opening, climbed through and disappeared into the undergrowth. I was free! After a few hours journey, I arrived here. It was a long time before I finally built the ‘meaning bridge’.”
Inspired by Epic’s account, Milo instantly wanted to share his own story. His tale spilled out and he emphasised his capture and great escape. When he finished, he expected Epic to comment, but the lizard, apparently unaffected, said nothing.
“Tomorrow I would like to come with you on your journey,” Epic smiled, “and show you something along the way.”
That night, Milo found himself plagued with a hundred thoughts and questions. His racing mind demanded answers; a sharp contrast to Epic, who remained ever calm and unhurried.