When Samantha got outside, Grandpa was standing at the end of the pit, pointing his shotgun at Harr and shouting, “Don’t move! Don’t move a muscle.” It must have been one of Grandpa’s traps, which he’d built to try to capture a sample of Harr’s people.
The back porch light spilled sharp shadows on Grandpa and Harr in the dark, making it harder to see the faces. Samantha put her hand on Grandpa’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Grandpa. I know him. Please put the gun down. He’s harmless,” Samantha said.
Grandpa held the gun steady. “Stand back, Sam. I know what I’m doing. There’s no way I’m letting this green monster out of my sight,” Grandpa said.
Samantha tried to reassure Grandpa again, tugging on his arm, but he wasn’t listening, so Samantha neared the edge of the pit and looked down. The pit was about 10 feet deep, and 6-7 feet wide. She sat down on her rear end, scooted toward the edge, and then jumped down, landing near Harr’s feet and rolling a bit to her side, unharmed in the soft dirt.
“Sam! What are you doing!” Grandpa shouted. Samantha laughed in the dirt. Grandpa stopped pointing the shotgun at Harr and moved it to the side.
Samantha tried to reassure him again. “Grandpa, it’s really okay. Please put the gun down.” It took about 10 minutes of coaxing before Grandpa set the shotgun down.
Looking at them in disbelief, Grandpa swiped his brow about half a dozen times. When he seemed more at ease, Samantha started to tell Grandpa everything, how she had first seen Harr when she got lost in the forest several weeks ago, and how she ran into him a few days ago while measuring trees. She explained that Harr was a record keeper, and that her mom had torn up his record book, which left him in a lot of trouble with the others in the forest, so now he was without a home.
Harr then spoke up and explained how his people had lived peaceably in the forest for as long as anyone could remember, and they had never harmed any humans or put anyone in danger.
Grandpa pulled over a nearby porch chair and sat down at the edge of the pit. He still didn’t want to let Harr out of the pit. He felt if he let him out, he would dart out of sight in a flash.
The night wore on while Harr explained more details about the various roles in their society, and how they had to carefully track animal patterns so they could be successful in their hunts. But even so, the clan was often out of food for days at a time.
Grandpa didn’t know what he wanted to do with Harr yet. He knew that a good scientist would do more than just trap someone like Harr. He would bring him into his lab and carefully study him for weeks. If the creature would be useful, Grandpa would need to prove something about him, making a correlation of some kind. Just trapping a freak would never bring him the academic claim he had been pursuing. The focus would be on Harr, on the creature and his characteristics, not on the scientist. To shift the focus, he would need to make an astute observation, connecting Harr to something even more mysterious and unexplained. He would need to come up with some more answers. The hunting structure was interesting, but not so peculiar that it would lead to a few sensational newspaper articles.
While Grandpa sat thinking about what to do, Samantha got on all fours, positioning her body like a footrest, and urged Harr to step on her back. Reaching as high up as he could, he grabbed hold of a branch vine and pulled it as he climbed out. Grandpa hardly even noticed, lost in thought as he was. Grandpa just kept tossing his gaze back and forth on the ground, trying to come up with a plan for changing the headlines from “captured freak” to “greatest discovery of the century made by retired scientist.” It wasn’t enough, but exactly what he should do was unclear.
When Samantha tapped the back of Grandpa’s shoulder, Grandpa’s whole body jolted in surprise. He immediately noted the pit was empty and was about to reach for his gun when Samantha grabbed his hand instead.
“There is a legend of a lost people,” Samantha began. “Harr’s ancestors used to live in this forest. They were the observant scientists, keeping the most detailed records of everyone and everything around them. They were known throughout the land to be far ahead of their time. One day, when they were observing the patterns of the stars, juxtaposing the patterns against the orbits of the planets, they just disappeared. Completely vanished. Legend has it they’re still alive, but much deeper in the forest. Rumor has it that their methods for astronomy have far outpaced our own, and that they have connected the paths of the stars with the growth and swell of every living thing on earth.”
This story caught Grandpa’s interest, and he looked intently at Sam while she relayed it. The element about the stars seemed to mesmerize him, and although Samantha was embellishing the astronomy angle, she was playing up the only angle that would catch Grandpa’s attention and help save Harr. Since Grandpa wasn’t a biologist, or an ethnographer, but rather primary interest was astronomy, the physics of space and time, she knew his curiosity would trump any other agenda.
“Yes, I see. Tell me more,” Grandpa said.
Samantha fumbled around, thinking of some other element, when Harr stepped forward.
“They decoded the stars,” Harr said. “They studied the relationships of one star to another and plotted them on a map. When you account for the discrepancies of distance, plotting only the stars at the same distance, they form an unmistakable map. The group followed this map until they disappeared.”
“Fascinating,” Grandpa said. “A primitive group without sophisticated tools has nonetheless been able to map different stellar distances, and plot them on a map notwithstanding, one which perhaps led to a phenomenal bend in space and time and which no doubt has contributed toward their apparent vanishment.”
Samantha wasn’t sure if Harr was merely following her lead, playing the astronomy angle to hook Grandpa. The serious way Harr shared the info, the straightforward delivery with no pauses to figure it out in his head, persuaded Samantha that what he was saying might be true.
“Yes, they kept such detailed records of the stars, as well as the planets, and their orbits and moons, that it began to structure all their other scientific endeavors. Some say they became obsessed with it, and their findings only fueled their interests.”
Grandpa was stroking his chin, looking at Harr like he used to look at other scientists back in the university.
“Their location has been a mystery since their disappearance. But there is a secret map in the record keepers archives,” Harr said. “If you are willing, I can take you there.”