Tales from Kilgour Forest

Part 7

IMG_7141.jpg

Daniel’s body relaxed when he rounded the corner to see the outpost still stood. 

 

Not a second later came the smell of burning. 

 

He flung the door open. Elias stood over the hot plate, face contorted in lines of distress. 

 

On the hot plate were the remnants of burned mushrooms. 

 

“I went foraging and then made breakfast. But I encountered trouble dousing your electric fire.”

 

“…douse?” Daniel said blankly. Daniel now noticed the table was covered with a layer of water on which floated more burnt mushrooms. 

“A bright spark came from your electric fire when I doused it.”

 

“I see,” Daniel felt the clenched tightness in his chest of a man that has worked dutifully, and only found himself poorer because of it.

 

Daniel dried the hot plate, and plugged it in. 

 

Nothing. 

 

Daniel’s shoulders sagged. He would need to buy a new hot plate for the place. Somehow he had hoped he would be richer for working rather than poorer.  

He cleaned up the mushrooms and water and went to the refrigerator to begin to unpack the food he had brought. The refrigerator packed to the brim with mushrooms and tubers, still covered in a layer of dirt.

 

He looked at the mushrooms packed tightly and began to laugh. He must be on the craziest game show where people pretended to be characters from different ages to see the reactions of normal people. 

 

Perhaps there was a prize at the end of it. 

 

Elias looked confused, and perhaps a little scared at Daniel’s laughter. 

Daniel tried to squeeze the events of the last day into a storyline that gave him some hope that there might be a good end to it. Maybe Elias would snap out of character and be on his way. 

 

The thought that Daniel might need to share this small cabin with another person of indeterminate sanity for an unforeseeable amount of time and feed them with one paycheck was too much to stomach. 

 

So, Daniel ignored these thoughts as he cleaned the refrigerator and spoke to Elias about the systems of modern food production. Every so often he would glance around the room to look for hidden cameras. 

 

At lunch he introduced Elias to rice with tori katsu. Elias picked at the rice. 

With the morning Daniel had, he ignored Elias and set into his bento box. 

 

Elias nibbled at the rice and found it to his liking; he set into it with fervor. 

 

They ate in silence. Daniel thought of the boy lost to the woman in the woods. Perhaps there was a connection between Elias and the boy. 

 

That reminded Daniel that he knew now there was a logger and a war deserter that had been lost to the woods. But he still did not know how Elias got stuck in a tree. 

 

“Would you, I mean, I don’t want to make you upset…” Daniel mumbled through a bite of chicken. 

 

Elias looked up.

“Your story. Would you finish it? About how you came to be stuck in a tree?”

 

Elias gave no response. He finished his meal slowly and then set it to the side. 

 

“I thought the story Jeremiah told me of the Logger, and his own tale, foolish fantasy. I put it out of my head for some weeks. But as the moon grew fat and Amie was once more with child, Jeremiah’s words crept back. 

 

At the next full moon, I snuck out of the house in the dark of night and rode for the forest and the copse of white birch trees that waited there.  

 

I walked around the trees three times, as I had heard tell from witches’ tales that they like things in three, and it added an air of ritual to the thing. 

I called out to the spirit of the wood, my voice barely above a whisper. While there were pagan words on my lips, my heart clenched for the fear that Christ might forsake me through actions of my own stupidity. 

 

No woman came and I thought myself quite foolish. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness and saw the trees plainly for what they were. No great mystery lurked in the dark of night. 

 

The fire dimmed and I set water on the last coals that lingered. I was glad to head home, where I could mock how I had been played a pretty tale from the warmth of my bed. 

 

But as the last ember darkened to black, a shadow moved amongst the branches.