Tales from Kilgour Forest
Since he was already awake, Daniel arrived to the outpost early. The small cabin greeted him with beautiful stillness. Sunbeams drifted through the treetops, fingers of light outstretched as if to wave a polite good morning.
Inside he took stock of the cabin’s contents. An old mini-fridge, an electric kettle, worn and scratched wooden table, two wooden chairs. A filing cabinet rested in the corner, packed to the brim with papers. Most of them looked like outdated brochures.
On the table rested the contract. Daniel had signed it after only half-reading it.
He set the electric kettle on. He explored the cabinet’s contents and found an old tin of English breakfast, the leaves half turned to dust.
Most of the contract contained normal duties, lock up and open the gate each day, remove debris from walking paths, ensure enforcement of banned activities such as drinking and littering.
As Daniel sipped his tea he noticed that the contract was not actually one page, but two that had been stuck together. On the second page he saw written:
Addendum to the Aforementioned Rules
The caretaker shall be responsible for persons and creatures within the woods and those expelled, pushed, or who left willingly from it.
What an oddly specific contract, Daniel mused to himself. It appeared this made him responsible for the crazy Colonial era re-enactor.
As if beckoned, Daniel heard the crunch of wheels on gravel. He went outside to see a cop car pull up. Two police officers stepped out.
“Oh, yes, well, I don’t know where Jim is, but, well, I’m the new caretaker.”
The two cops looked at each other with a glance Daniel could not read.
“This guy says he knows you,” one of the cops said, and tilted his head towards the shadow of the Colonial Man in the back seat.
“We met briefly this morning, but I wouldn’t quite say we know each other…”
“Well, the woman agreed not to press charges, if he has someone to look after him. All we seem to be getting out of him is nonsense, but he insisted the caretaker would know what to do.”
Daniel opened his mouth to say that he assuredly did not know what to do about a trespassing Colonial re-enactor, but the words of the contract whispered at the back of his head.
“I suppose I shall figure it out,” he said half-heartedly, more to himself than the cops.
The cops took this as agreement enough, and quickly deposited a bewildered but quiet Colonial man on the driveway.
There were several seconds that the two men then stood there. The trees continued their collection of sunlight, and the squirrels carried on their foraging, the ancient forest having better things to do than worry about the awkwardness of the social niceties of man.
Colonial Man shifted his feet from side to side, as if to say he wanted a decision to be made, but did not have the power to make it.
“How about a cup of tea?” Daniel asked, and Colonial Man nodded gratefully.
Daniel turned to walk towards the outpost. He turned back and outstretched his hand, “I’m Daniel Nakamura.”
Colonial Man shook his hand, “Elias Macey.”
Daniel set on the electric kettle, and dropped in a packet of English Breakfast.
Daniel passed Elias a cup. Elias took it gingerly, with eyes that remained transfixed on the electric kettle.
“Are you a great scientist?”
“Oh no,” Daniel looked at the kettle, “you can pick one of these up at any sort of a home goods store. Maybe even some supermarkets.”
“What is a super market?”
Daniel paused. He was annoyed that this man kept up such a rouse with such insistence. But when he looked at Elias, his shirt wrinkled and ripped in places, his shoulders sunk and his eyes mournful, he felt a twinge of pity. This man might be crazy, or under the influence of some hallucinogen, but he seemed well meaning.
Over the next several hours, Elias recounted his story. Born at the start of the Civil War, he had always known the United States as one nation, but knew families on both sides that held deep, ugly grudges from that time.
He had visited the grand city Washington to see the Washington monument rise to the sun in a feat of engineering, but had lived in a wooden farmhouse built by his father and brothers. His father had been a dairy farmer, and so he had never questioned that he too would become a dairy farmer.
Elias had read stories of submersibles that could sink to the bottom of the ocean where there still might yet be the lost civilization of Atlantis, and asked Daniel if they had yet to meet the inhabitants of the ocean. In Elias’ time none had yet to inspect the inner reaches of the Earth, and space might yet be traveled to with the ease of an air balloon.
The cars and streetlights Elias had witnessed had appeared like fantastical creatures of supernatural magic. Elias’ story took them through a whole box of stale tea biscuits, shared amongst the two.
Daniel still firmly believed this man was crazy, but the sheer ease and detail with which Elias crafted his tale pulled him in. There was something sad to have to give the truth that the ocean seemed to be fish all the way through. Elias lived in a world that still had yet to be fully explored and documented and analyzed. Daniel mused that it might be nice to live in a world still with some mystery about it.
Elias’ story was peppered with breaks as Daniel explained such contraptions as the mini-fridge under the table, largely empty but for some old milk and a jar of pickles. The long drone of an airplane overhead sparked stories of flight, with Elias’ incredulous that there were air ships large as houses that could carry hundreds at a time across the sea.
Elias’ face transferred from awe to fear several times, but all with complete earnestness.
They spoke until sunset tinged the back wall of the outpost to remind Daniel that he must close the gates. And he needed to decide what to do with this man that had come into his care. To bring him to his home was off the table, his family was quiet, reserved. They would ask pointed questions Daniel could not answer.
They walked out into the sunset that stretched small gravel stones into long shadows.
“Can I walk with you?”
Daniel nodded, and they walked into the forest.
If there was any truth in Elias’ words that he had come from a distant century, the question still remained how he had gotten to this one.
As if he could feel the question that sat between them, Elias stopped and touched a tree, his palms spread out across the bark and his head bowed in reverence. For the first time Daniel noticed Elias was no older than he was.
Then Elias began to tell the tale of how he came to be stuck in a tree.