The voice inside Samantha’s head whispered “Sing.” She could hear it again and again. “S-I-N-G.” That was it. One word. But what exactly did it mean? Sing now? Sing later? Practice singing? Hear someone sing? And even in this very moment, singing was, well, an awkward thing to do, with this greenish figure right before her.
Who was he? His face was not too unlike that of an ordinary’s boy’s face, except his thick eyebrows. He was young, but his skin had a greenish tint to it, almost as if he had bathed in an algae-covered swamp and the algae had melded into his skin. It clearly provided an advantage in hiding, though, since it allowed him to blend in the forest in near invisible ways. His thick brown eyebrows were a bit bushy. His large black eyes, the pupils wide, looked observantly toward Samantha.
On his body, he wore a plain brown tunic, which extended nearly to his knees and was tied with a belt at his waist. His hair was wild and unkempt, but it could have just been from the frantic running.
“I’m Harr,” he said. “We live in these woods, and always have. Our society is called the Invisible Order, because with our skin, we seem invisible to the animals we hunt. It was my cabin that you found my book.”
“Oh,” Samantha said. “I’m sorry I took your book. Is that why you were running from the others?”
“More or less. But I saw that you brought the book back. What was wrong with it? Why did they tie you up?” Harr asked.
“It wasn’t your book in their hands. It was my grandfather’s, and I never got a look in it before they took it from me.” Samantha explained. “My mother ripped up your book thinking it was a book of useless sketches I’d drawn.”
“Oh,” Harr said.
Samantha and Harr walked on through the forest, without a plan, talking with each as they walked.
“Are there many more like you in the woods?” Samantha asked.
“Yes,” Harr said. “But we keep to our area of the woods and never leave it. We are careful to stay within the bounds.”
“What exists beyond?”
“This forest.” Harr said. “No one has ever left to see.”
They walked on a bit more. Harr’s cabin was in another direction, and though he was familiar with the area, having drawn it all in maps, he was at a loss for a strategy now. They paced on, heading back in the direction Samantha had entered the forest. Harr thought back to the night he saw her in the cabin, when she looked up at the sky and sang.
“What is it you were singing that night in my cabin?” he asked.
“You were the one outside,” Samantha said, “while I was in your house.”
“Yes,” Harr said. “I like to hear you sing. We are a clan of hunters, not artists. There was something about your voice that intrigued me.”
Right now Samantha wanted to know what was in her Grandfather’s book, not talk about song. What did he already know, what is it that upset the other forest members so much? Maybe he knew something about them, something dark about their nature. It might not be a good idea to open up and trust them yet. Maybe her grandfather was privy to some malicious side of these people, and she better not be too trusting. Still, she didn’t have the book, and unless she wanted to risk her life, she wasn’t getting it back.
“Harr,” Samantha said. “I can’t stay out here in the forest. My grandfather will get suspicious. It’s already been several hours since I left, and I told him I was only planning to measure the diameters of the trees. He will come looking for me, and I don’t want the same thing to happen to him as me. It’s not safe, especially for him if they found out he was the owner of the book.”
Harr understood. Although he was an outcast now, turned out from his own clan family, he did not expect the girl to befriend him. He had chosen a lot and was ready to accept the consequence3s. At the same time, he was curious to understand the contents of her grandfather’s book, and the details it contained.
They walked on until the two arrived at the place Samantha had parked her bike. She turned and looked at Harr. “I need to go, but I’m not sure what to do.”
“About your grandfather’s book?” Harr asked.
“No, it’s something else. You mentioned song. There’s something I need to tell you about your book, the one with the maps. I plotted the main lines in musical notation, and when I sang the song that resulted, it has been in my mind. I’m not sure what it means. Do you?”
Harr thought for a moment. He asked her to explain how she had drawn the lines, and how music was structured. She explained how she had taken the maximum and minimum points from all the lines, how she had laid these out in a single line until they wrapped. And the patterns on the map played out as patterns in the music, and it was a song. But not just any song. At time she felt like the song had a life of its own, that it came to life of its own will and began playing in her mind without her wanting it there. “Could it be that the song is a good thing, or do you think it might it be something else, something dark?” she asked.
Harr explained that patterns were important in the makeup of their society. He wasn’t surprised that the patterns of the map might play out in some other form and actually have rhythm to them. He explained about their various roles, the observers, the record keepers, the interpreters, and the hunters. He told he had been a record keeper since he was a child, and that’s what he had drawn in the book. It was a detailed account of every animal they could observe and track, not just from one season, but hundreds of seasons, being passed down through the generations.
Hearing this, Samantha began to feel heavy as she realized the importance of the book, and why they might want it back.
“Our ancestors,” Harr explained, “weren’t originally hunters. They were careful observers of nature, and they looked for patterns in everything — not just the paths animals took in the forest, but the rate at which plants and trees grew, the places and path water ran, the orbits of planets, frequencies of stars, and paths of meteors. They even examined patterns among themselves, births and deaths and reigns and, sleeping and waking, the pitches of their voices. They wrote everything down and analyzed it to pieces, comparing and contrasting everything against each other, and then one day, a large group of them just disappeared. No one could figure out where they went. It was so many generations ago. Of course it was long ago, so it’s only a legend, and who knows if the stories have been exaggerated as they were passed down.”
Samantha wanted to stay and hear more. The patterns she had discovered in Harr’s book seemed like an important discovery. She wanted to understand more, to learn about Harr’s ancestors. But it was getting dim now, and her grandfather would be coming to look for her at any minute.
“And one more thing. Kind of a creepy thing. They were exploring the patterns of music several weeks before they vanished. Some people think they just floated away on a song.”
Now Samantha had been paying attention to Harr before, but now she turned fully toward him, with bright eyes. “They were analyzing patterns in song when they vanished? What kind of music were they looking at? What sort of patterns did they find?” She would have stayed there another few hours if Harr had more details about this.
Harr shrugged his shoulders. “That’s just it — no one really knows,” he said.
“You don’t have any more details? There aren’t any more legends about their findings or their disappearance?” Samantha demanded.
“Look, it’s getting dark. We can talk later. Right now you should go. The last thing we want is your grandfather combing these woods for you,” Harr said. Harr was right. The last thing she wanted was to spark another search party, because then her mother would find out and pull her back to her old school and home. She would never be allowed back in these woods.
“But now that you don’t have a home, how will I find you? Will you return to your cabin?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t return to my cabin. I don’t really have a home anymore.”
“Then come find me,” she said. She described the house with the giant telescope on the upper-deck, and he knew it immediately.
“When?” he said.
“When I sing for you,” she said. “Listen for my song.”
With that, she mounted her bike and started to pedal away. “Wait,” Harr said. “The diameter of the trees. It’s 2.3 feet. To be more exact, 2.1 feet for the Douglas Firs. 1.7 for the Pines. 3 feet for the Oaks.”
Samantha smiled and pedaled away.