(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. . .