By the time she reached her house, the moon was already out. Her Grandfather was standing on the upper deck looking through his telescope, looking for Samantha in the forest with it. When he spotted her riding up the driveway, he rushed out to greet her, practically jumping up and down with excitement.
“Sam!” he shouted. “You’re back!”
Samantha strolled in casually and parked her bike. She wasn’t sure she could trust Grandpa, given how much trouble his notebook had caused her.
“Was everything all right?” he asked. He looked noticeably concerned, his eyebrows scrunched up. But Sam played it off smoothly, pretending not to notice.
“2.3 feet,” she said.
“Huh?” Grandpa said. She explained that 2.3 was the average diameter of the trees in the forest. She explained how she’d had trouble with the rope, and so she needed to find some vines to tie off the rope in place while she circled it around the trunks. “I measured 52 trees,” she said. “Took me a bit longer than I thought. 2.1 feet is the average for the Douglas Firs. 1.7 for the Pines. 3 feet for the Oaks.”
Grandpa was speechless. He opened the porch door for Sam as they returned to the house. He sat down in a chair and breathed easier. Then he started laughing a bit. He had been concerned, worked up in a hyper-worried state for no reason at all. Ha, he thought. He matched her casualness with a casualness of his own.
“By the way, Sam, I can’t seem to remember where I put my notebook. You haven’t seen it, have you? My old age makes me forget things,” he said.
“Oh, that little notebook? Why, I took it to record the diameters of the trees. I thought you’d left it out for me, so that I could take notes in it. Problem is, as I was so busy measuring trees, I set it down somewhere and left it. I’m sorry.”
Grandpa didn’t respond. He straightened up in his chair and looked sternly at Sam.
“Grandpa,” she said. “You seem really concerned. What was in the book? Please, tell me.”
Grandpa put his hand on his forehead and closed his eyes. He was gathering the right words to say in his mind, but they weren’t coming.
Usually Samantha would have loosened up a little, backed off seeing that the topic was upsetting to Grandpa. But given that she’d nearly lost her life, that she’d been tied up in the woods with a clan of green hunters — slapped and interrogated all because of the book, she felt a bit more aggressive than usual.
She thought carefully and then said, “It’s just that I’m supposed to study here for the rest of the school year, and the thing you’re most fascinated by, what you keep clutched in your study diligently taking notes in, you won’t share. How am I supposed to learn from you when you won’t share what you’re learning about yourself?”
Grandpa wiped a bead of sweat off his brow and took a deep breath. She was right. He feared she might leave, call her mother and insist that she couldn’t stay here anymore. And Grandpa was lonely — he enjoyed her company so much, it’s like a light bulb came on with her presence, and he had someone to share life with again.
“All right, all right, Sam. I will tell you about my notes in the book.”
Grandpa slowly retrieved a glass of water from the kitchen and then sat down. “I moved out in the country after I retired so I could be away from the lights in the city. Out here in the country, there’s no light pollution, so I can see the stars much more clearly. I built an upper deck with the intention of carefully observing the stars.
“One night while I was gazing at distant stars, I heard something in the forest. It was a terrible sound of something snorting and screeching and bolting through the underbrush. I turned my telescope towards the forest to at the direction of the sound. I saw an elk rushing out at the edges of the forest, and through the windpipe of his neck, a long wood stick.
“I turned my telescope towards it and saw the animal turned and rerouted back into the woods through some ropes. At first I thought it was a rogue hunter, enjoying some primitive hunting methods. But then I caught a glimpse of something green flashing in front of the elk, and I knew it was strange.
“After that event, I turned my telescope to the forest and began to observe everything I could. What I imagined I saw turned out to be true. There was in fact some kind of forest creature, with green skin, moving about in the forest. His weapons, it appears mostly spears and bows.
“He’s incredibly hard to spot. And despite the frequent use of the forest by hikers, no one ever runs into him — at least not during the day, and not near the edges of the forest. That’s the only reason I allowed you to venture into the forest alone, because it was daytime.
“I knew no one would believe me about green creatures in the forest, but if I could somehow collect evidence, it could be the biggest find of the century. I needed to lure them out a bit, draw them into some kind of trap. But it wasn’t meat that drew them out. I tried laying out some dead rabbits near the forest’s edge, and then some maimed ones still with some life. None of this did anything to draw them out.
“And then I did something that worked although who could have guessed it. I was out on my deck, refinishing the wood for the upcoming winter. I brought out my radio and cranked the volume all the way up, so I could listen while I finished the wood.
I guess the right song came on the radio — I can’t remember what it was, but it was kind of slow and dreamy. I was actually about right to start hammering some loose panels on the deck when I looked out to see several of them creeping across the meadow towards the sound.
I got a good enough look at them, at their posture and movement, that I started drawing them in my notebook. I estimated their heights and weights, and the furtive jungle crawl they adopted as they moved through the grass..
I figured if I could draw them out again, towards an unknowing trap, I could catch one. The trap would need to be a false floor on the ground. Immediately after the false floor falls through, I’d need a net or some other cover to enclose them in there. I drew several sketches of the trap in my notebook, and had some other calculations estimating their times and trajectories in the forest.
“I wondered if they guided themselves via star orbits, so I made notes about that too. It seemed that, in fact, their appearance did coincide with the size of the crescent of the moon, but it may just be that a waxing moon gives off more light to see them.
Samantha remained calm, soaking it all in. “Very interesting,” she said. “But I think you may be jumping to conclusions too quickly here. You’ve never met them, and you’re already trying to trap them like animals.”
Grandpa piped in: “You haven’t studied them like I have. You haven’t seen how sneaky and hunter-like they are. You don’t know anything about this group.”
Samantha considered telling Grandpa everything here and now, but it was clear Grandpa was in no state of mind to entertain friendly relations with Harr’s people. He only wanted to expose them so that he could be credited as an exhibit of his, the find of the century. He would trap and encase as many as he could to study and experiment on them. She had seen the way he laughed devilishly with each note he scribbed in the notebook.
She added, “If I do see one, I’ll steer clear.”
Without his notebook, Grandpa wasn’t sure how to start again, and for the next several days, the two focused on studies. But the encounter was always in the back of Samantha’s mind. She wondered if it was true what Harr said about their ancestors, how they had kept meticulous records of everything until one day disappearing suddenly, right as they studied the patterns of song. What is it they could have found?
She wondered about Harr, and whether he was all right. She didn’t like learning about Grandpa’s research, but she could hardly blame him. He always seemed on the cusp of some great discovery, as he would tell them on his visits, but nothing ever came of it. When he retired, it was an anticlimactic end to a lackluster career. He was the professor who almost discovered, who almost published a book, who almost became a celebrated speaker. Almost, but without ever crossing over into that sphere of validation.
One night, nearly a week after Grandpa had confessed the contents of his notebook, Samantha slipped into her room. It was evening, a couple of hours past twilight, and nearly dark out. Samantha opened her window and looked out toward the forest. She hummed her favorite tune and started to sing a soft melody. She found she couldn’t connect the right words to the melody, and then the melody fell apart and she felt a stupor of thought.
Soon a different tune started to come out of mouth, and it was almost as if she her mouth was operating on its own. She could hear sound emanating from her but she wasn’t consciously directing its course. She moved away from the window and leaned back on her bed, closing her eyes. She pulled the blankets up over her body and continued to sing, letting herself be completely enveloped by the forest song.
She sung through the entire melody, and the chorus, and was slowly come to find the words for lyrics. She was just drifting off to sleep, barely singing audibly anymore, when she heard a loud thud outside and brush falling. Samantha jumped to her window. Harr was standing at the bottom of a deep pit in the backyard — it was some kind of trap. Grandpa flipped on his light and ran outside with a shotgun.