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. . .