The Loggers in Swallow Part 3

(Check in the category Light in the Woods for the first two parts of this story and the two previous pieces about this area)

The Mayor headed back into town determined to find Bill, the new science teacher. He was sure that he could get Bill to figure out the answers to this and get the loggers cutting trees. He charged into the boarding house where he knew Bill was staying and knocked on Bill’s door. Bill answered rather sleepily, but then it was just past 6AM. The Mayor said, “I need your help. The loggers aren’t able to get into the woods and we need to get these trees cut down now.”

Bill was rather taken aback by this. He was very new to Swallow so why would the Mayor be calling on him for help. “I really don’t know what I can do,” replied Bill. “As you know, I am new here myself.”

“You can figure out why the equipment keeps losing power when it gets within ten feet of a tree,” shouted the Mayor. “You are a scientist aren’t you?”

Bill thought for a minute. Maybe this was why Sally had taken him into the woods before school started and showed him the light hanging in the center and told him the stories of rescues and faeries and all. He hadn’t, of course, believed any of it, but he had done as Sally wanted and kept an open mind. He had even read the scientific studies which had been done on the woods, and he had discovered many others who were just as bewildered as he. No one believed that there was anything supernatural, but no one could explain the happenings either. Now Bill had to consider the Mayor’s request. “I’m sorry, Mayor,” answered Bill, “but I really have no idea why any of this is happening.”

The Mayor was frantic. “I’ll pay you,” he stammered. “I’ll pay you $1000! Just get those trees cut!”

Bill thought fast. Obviously the Mayor was in over his head and he probably had done something underhanded, or else why would he be trying to bribe Bill. Bill knew that the Mayor hadn’t lived in Swallow for very long. The Mayor had run for office in the last elections a month ago and then he had come up with this money-making scheme right after that. The whole thing smelled and Bill was not about to be a party to any of it. He liked it here in Swallow and he liked Sally and this was his first teaching job after graduating last June and he was lucky to have it. Taking all this into consideration, Bill said, “I am sorry, Mayor, but I simply cannot help you. I have no idea why the machines are stopping, but I would suggest that you consider if the woods want to be cut down and if it is in Swallow’s best interest to have them cut.”

The Mayor was furious. “Do you want more money?”

“No,” replied Bill calmly, “I do not want any money. I simply will not do anything to help you and I have no idea why the woods are stopping you and it makes no scientific sense, but I do believe that it is the woods themselves that are keeping you from cutting the trees.”

“What utter poppycock,” said the Mayor. “I’ll show you all. I’ll go into those woods myself and start cutting them down right around that stupid light. Nobody but a moron could believe all the legends that have sprung up around that dumb light.”

And with that the Mayor stomped out of the boarding house leaving Bill standing speechless in his doorway. The Mayor stopped at the hardware store and bought a new chain saw and then got a can of gas to fill it up. Then he walked out of town and headed for the center of the woods. He found the spot where the light was hanging and he pulled the cord on the chain saw, but it wouldn’t start. He had tested it in town and it started up very easily, but now he couldn’t get it to work at all. He stomped around walking from tree to tree, pulling the cord, determined to cut down at least one tree, but he couldn’t get the saw to work. Soon he realized he was lost. He had moved away from the path from the town, and he now was in a part of the forest he’d never been in before and he couldn’t find his way out. The sun had risen and he knew which direction to go, but every time he headed east he ended up back in the same thicket. Hours went by and the Mayor started to panic. What if he never got out of here? Were the woods really alive? Were they holding him captive? That was just stupid. He wouldn’t believe that, and yet why couldn’t he find his way out? After all, this wasn’t a giant forest. Even walking in the wrong direction, he should get to an edge eventually.

He’d gotten tired of carrying the blasted chain saw and so he left that in the thicket, but hours later when he arrived back at the same thicket, he discovered that the chain saw was gone. He would have thought that he mistook the place, but the end of the starter cord was there, neatly cut from the saw and left where he couldn’t miss it. The message was clear. Someone or something was protecting these woods. Darkness was falling. The Mayor had stumbled through these woods around in circles all day long and it was now getting cold and the Mayor had to admit that he was afraid. He found a log to sit on. He was tired and hungry and he had no idea what to do. For the first time that he could ever remember, the Mayor had no answers. He saw a spot that looked as if it had been a bed for deer and he decided that he would lie down for a bit and rest. Obviously walking around wasn’t working. Maybe someone would miss him and come looking for him. He’d just have to wait for a rescue party. And then he had a horrible thought. Would anyone actually miss him? With that thought shaking him, he fell asleep.

To be continued. . .

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The Loggers in Swallow Part 2

(Check in the category Light in the Woods for the first part of this story and the two previous pieces about this area)

The loggers arrived very early the next morning and lined up the bulldozers. As soon as the foreman, Scott, arrived and gave the word, the bulldozers began advancing on the woods. There was no more pretense of doing conservative forest management. The woods were to be leveled and then a housing development would be built on the old forest grounds.

Scott watched as the bulldozers approached the woods, thinking of all the money he was going to make off this job, when suddenly the bulldozers stopped. They hadn’t just stopped. Rather they had turned off their ignitions. What was going on, thought Scott as he walked over to the nearest driver.

“What are you doing? Why did you stop?” yelled Scott.

“I didn”t,” replied a very worried driver. “The bulldozer just stopped on its own.”

“Don’t be absurd,” shouted Scott. “Get moving, all of you!”

The drivers started up the engines again and if they went backwards away from the woods, the engines continued to work, but if they got within ten feet of any tree, the engines just stopped.

As Scott was trying to decide what to do, the Mayor arrived. Scott said, “What kind of funny business are you trying to pull here, Mayor?”

The Mayor looked puzzled. He had only lived in Swallow for a few years. He was using it as a stepping stone to bigger plans, both financially and politically, and while he had heard rumors about a light in this forest, a light that mysteriously helped out those in trouble, he didn’t believe any of it. When he had been approached by both a lumber company and a land developer, each wanting the woods to be taken down, well, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

That is when he took the advances from both companies and bribed the majority of the town council so he could railroad through his plans. It all seemed so simple. These people did not understand the ruthless business world. They lived in some sort of magical world. Most of them had been born in Swallow and the few newcomers either succumbed to the mystery of the place or they moved on. It was a golden opportunity for the Mayor. These people were too stupid to stop him, or so he had thought until this morning.

“I have no idea what is going on,” said the Mayor. “I know the townspeople believe in some mystical mumbo jumbo, but that isn’t real!”

Scott replied, “Real or not, something is stopping us. Unless you have some ideas, we are going to go elsewhere for our lumber and you will just have to give back the monies you were advanced.”

The Mayor began to panic! He couldn’t give back that money. He’d used it to bribe the town council members to support him and he’d also had to buy his wife a new wardrobe and a new car to keep her in this tiny town. He just wasn’t going to be stopped by some weird magic. He needed answers and he needed them now. Then he remembered that there was a new science teacher in town. Surely he would have a rational explanation for this. The Mayor decided to contact him right away.

“Listen, Scott,” answered the Mayor, “I am going to get answers for you. I just need a little time. Please, can you give me twenty-four hours?”

Scott thought for a minute, and then replied, “Ok, twenty-four hours, and no more of this namby-pamby soft sell to the townsfolk. No more talk of just thinning the woods. We are going in tomorrow morning and we are going to take all this wood and that is that. You agreed to that, and that is what you are being paid for, so it is all or nothing and if we don’t start felling trees tomorrow, you’d better be ready to return the $500,000 advance or things won’t go well for you at all.”

The Mayor looked very uncomfortable, but he nodded in agreement. Now he just had to find that science teacher–what was his name? Bill, that’s right, and he was not a native so he wouldn’t believe all this garbage and he was a scientist so he would have answers and the trees would then start falling tomorrow. The Mayor was sure that he could get Bill’s help, and if he had to bribe him too, well, then so be it! There was a fortune to be made here, not only from the lumber, but from all the cheap tract homes that would be built. Swallow might be a small town now, but its location just two hours away from Olympia made it a prime spot for cheap housing, and the Mayor planned on making a fortune from both the lumber and the housing. No one was going to stop him.

And with that, the Mayor went in search of Bill.

To be continued. . .

Loggers Arrive in Swallow

Note: this is the third in a series which I have called “Light in the Woods” and you can find the two earlier stories by clicking on that category in the category list on the right side of this page. Thanks!

Bill was teaching his third period physics class at Swallow Regional High School when he heard loud trucks rumbling past on the main street. Since this was a nearly unheard of noise, both he and his students raced over to the windows to see what was going on. The trucks were from Washington Lumber Mills and there were at least five of them.

His students started talking and speculating. Ben said, “Why are they here? We don’t have any trees for them to cut.” Samantha continued, “They can’t have our sacred woods. The light will protect us.” At this the other students nodded in agreement and Bill wondered. He remembered how Sally, the math teacher, had taken him out to these woods the day before school started and how she had tried to explain to him about this mysterious light hanging from a rope in the middle of the woods, a light that glowed when people were in trouble. Sally had gone on to talk about faeries as well, and Bill just couldn’t believe it at all. He thought she was trying to trick him, but in fact she was just letting him know how things were here in Swallow and warning him that if he wanted to stay and to fit in here he had to be ready to accept that not everything could be explained by scientific reasoning.

Bill had pondered long and hard about this and even read some of the scientific journal articles Sally had recommended which had discussed the light and tried to figure it out. The bottom line was that the scientific community thought it was some kind of hoax but they hadn’t been able to prove that or to offer any explanations for the phenomena reported by the community over a period of centuries.

Bill called his class back to order and said that they would have to wait until after school to get the explanations. The students grumbled a bit, but they got down to their assignment anyway. Soon the bell rang and it was time for lunch.

Bill caught up with Sally on the way to the teacher’s lounge for lunch break. He was hoping to have a quiet word with her, but the lounge was buzzing with news. Apparently Washington Lumber had put in a bid to buy their woods and the newly elected mayor had granted them a permit to do some cutting. The Mayor, Don Smythe, was relatively new to the area and he had gotten himself elected by running on a platform which promised to provide more jobs for the citizens of Swallow. The economic downturn had hit this area really hard and so folks were willing to buy into Don’s promises of a quick fix.

But now that they knew his quick fix entailed the cutting down of their woods, they weren’t so sure. Afternoon classes seemed to drag on forever, but finally school was out and Bill and Sally and many others headed out to the woods to see what was happening. The mayor was there trying to reassure folks that trees would be cut within the guidelines of proper forest management, but the citizens were angry. “How dare you bring them into our woods,” they hollered. “You had no right to do that!”

Unfortunately, by the town’s constitution, the Mayor did have that right if he got the support of over half the town council and he had been shrewd when he was running for office to be sure that over half the councilmen were in his pocket. The Mayor had always wanted his own power base and now he had it and he wasn’t going to let a bunch of hot-headed ignorant hicks stop him. He had moved here with the sole aim of taking over the town and becoming an important figure as his way of climbing the political ladder and no one was going to stop him.

“Now, folks, please be calm,” said the Mayor. “This will mean more jobs for us all, and this old forest is a valuable commercial asset which everyone can now benefit from. Today the trees will be tagged and lumbering will commence first thing tomorrow. Please go on home. Your elected officials know what is best for the entire community.”

The crowd started to disburse, with much grumbling, but Bill heard many saying things like, “They’ll be surprised,” or “If they think they can cut our woods, they’ll soon learn differently.” Bill couldn’t imagine what they were talking about, but he had taken Sally’s advice to heart. When he heard things that he didn’t understand, he didn’t scoff, but simply took it in and waited to see what would happen.

The loggers walked into the woods with their bright orange tape and began marking trees. But they kept finding themselves back in the fields leading to the woods. Over and over again, they tried to tag trees, and over and over again, they ended up back in the fields. Finally, the foreman got very angry. He called the Mayor over and said quietly, “I know you had to lie to them to keep them from making a scene, but we can’t go slowly after all. We are just going to have to level the entire woods at once. We can’t be bothered with this tagging nonsense.”

The Mayor looked uncomfortable, but there was too much at stake and he was slated to make a lot of money off this deal so he agreed. “But don’t start until dawn,” the Mayor continued, “when no one is here to see until it is too late.”

The foreman agreed, and the loggers headed out of town for the night.

To Be Continued. . .