The Forest God

Posted on May 15, 2017

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The Forest God

Here is a quick little story two-and-a-half years in the making which would probably still be being pondered over if I hadn’t set the artificial deadline of my blog anniversary (5/18) to “publish” it.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

This day, October 31, 1665, Solomon Pentacost

My name is Solomon Pentacost. As I lie Dying, I must prepare my Soul for the Journey that awaits it. This is the Confession of my Sins committed in the Plymouth Colony the year of our lord 1639.

In the name of the One True God, I have committed Terrible Crimes, the most terrible of which may be to Believe His Sovereignty. I have Tortured and Murdered, and taken Magick from the World. I do not ask you to spare Judgment, for I believed I was guided by Wiser Men, and I fear my Judgment will already have been passed sorely upon me. I have been taught about Miracles, but I have seen Magick, and I believe that we have made our God in Our Form, and in Hubris, we have murdered the land we seek to sustain us.

I ask only that you believe my tale and if you are granted the Chance to undo my Harm, that you have the Strength I did not.

Pautuxet MA, Present Day

This had been the coldest winter since 1770, the year Boston Harbor froze solid. The day was warm under the April sun, but N’oreaster remnants existed in plowed snowbanks around the Pautuxet town square. Paige was tempted by the grass between the piles, but knew the ground would be too wet to sit on. Instead she sat on the north side of the high pentagonal granite curb surrounding the raised war monument in the center of town. On the sides of the granite stone were listed the men who had sacrificed their lives in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the “Spanish” War, and the Civil War.

Paige sat with her back to the monument, studying the toes of her Converse high tops. This was one of her favorite places to be, the center of the old town, still surrounded by some of the earliest houses. Directly across from her was a house that used to be a tavern where rebels plotted the Revolution. To her right was the crisp white clapboarded steeple of the Congressional church you would expect to find at the center of every New England town. It was so bright, you couldn’t look directly at the glossy paint on a summer day. Although this was the historic and geographic center of town, most of the business had moved to Route 1 long ago, so traffic was light here. Sometimes she would stop on the way back from school, lie on the grass and do all of her homework before she went home.

Her most favorite thing about this entire town, though, was right behind her, halfway to the memorial, The Devil’s Trumpet. The cast iron tube was about six inches across and four feet tall. It curled over and flared open at just the right height so you could bend and put your ear or your lips to it. It always reminded Paige of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Although it was pitted by time and patinaed by rust, it remained undiminished in its solidity.

Most people over the age of twelve ignored it like they ignored many of the miraculous things they were surrounded by. Paige could sit right in that spot and name a half dozen such miraculous things: the Trumpet, the Colonial graveyard in the corner of the stone wall of the house across the street where you could trace the histories of entire families in the weathered slate with your fingertip or with a crayon and some paper, all just a few feet from the road; the ash tree that was eight feet across and bore the scars of numerous accidents but was finally succumbing to ash rot from the now nightly salt marsh fog; the names and stories of the men behind her; the one woman’s name who died in the Revolution; the fact that George Washington slept in the house to her left while he plotted with rebels in the tavern to her right; the bottle dump she found behind the cemetery… Sometimes she felt like there was a bubble around her here that only she felt. She would lie on the grass and imagine all the stories of this spot while the cars drove by uninterested. Nobody paid her any more attention than they did the monuments.

As she did almost every day, Paige walked over and spoke into the trumpet. “Helloooo, Mr. Devil, are you there?” Then she would turn her head to listen. Most days it started off as a steady moan, like the bereavement of a wolf pack decimated by a hunter’s gun. But more and more, if she was lucky, visions exploded in her head. Today, she felt a huge rush in her stomach, like she did on the big water slide in Fenbury. She barely felt the ground as she danced around and around, arms akimbo. Colors poured out of her, coloring all of the world around her in hues she had never seen. The sky became bluer, the grass greener. The sun was a liquid that splashed and sprayed like waves at the beach and smelled like joy. The clouds tasted like sugar-on-snow. Everything was more real, more vibrant; all the houses and tarmac and ugly wires were gone. She smiled and laughed and when she pointed at the ground flowers grew and bloomed. She was about to speak into the trumpet again, but shivered as an angry black cloud drifted across the sun and cast her into shadow, reminding her just how tenuous was the hold on spring. In a few more minutes the sun would be behind the ash, and it would be too cold for her to sit here. She picked up her book bag and turned down the road to walk home. On the way, huge, unseasonable snowflakes began to drift down, covering the world in a blanket of white in a few minutes.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

I remember the night we met the Devil, though he was dressed like a man and we had supped and sweated, lost and celebrated with him through our voyage and the seven long winters since. Miles Standish stood across from us pulling at his beard as we sat at the rough-hewn table. The fire was roaring, but the wind still found every crack to gutter the candles and torment us. I was glad to have a pot of mulled cider, both against the cold and against Miles, for even when I had thought he was a Good Man, he terrified me.

We had all, me, Miles, and our six brethren, been made lean by hard work and meager rations. Any softness that remained from the Continent had been worked out of us these bitter seasons at Plymouth. Nods went around the room as each man entered and took his ration, but the mood was somber, as the late-night Sabbath day meeting was very unusual.

“You all were chosen years ago,” began Miles, “for your piety, your loyalty, your work ethic, and your lineage.” He looked at each of us in turn. “Since the voyage and the founding of the Colony, none of you has disappointed. You have been forged on these shores.” Praise was rare in this hard world, murmurs of approval and thanks went around the table. Miles continued, “We are entering our eighth year here, and each of you will be rewarded with the land grant of a farm in Pautuxet.” He was interrupted by a round of “Here! Here!” and cheers which seemed out of place on these grave faces.

Miles waited a moment and held up his hand. “It is only now that I can tell you why we are really here.” The door shook and the candles sputtered. The time, the storm, the cider, we knew we faced a grave announcement. I sat forward on the bench, pressing my elbows into the wood hoping the roughness would gird me for whatever was to come. The others did likewise. For all that we had achieved, for all that we have done since that night, in the End, we were not Well-Chosen.

When Paige came in her mom was at the sink, still in her work clothes. The news was on the kitchen television, showing Antarctic ice sheets calving off in real time. When she saw Paige, her mother turned it off.

“Your father has a Selectmen’s meeting so we are eating early tonight. Dinner is almost ready, why don’t you go set the table?”

Paige went up the near-vertical back stairs of the old house, running her fingers along the plaster walls, all the way down the narrow hallway and into her bedroom where she flung her book bag on the bed. For a moment, she held her arms out and tilted her head back spinning in her room like she had at the Center. As she went around, she spun by posters of fairies and elves, brushed her fingers along the spine of shelves upon shelves of books, finally, she looked over at her window sill where in a little pot was an amaryllis her father had given her the year before. She was learning to force the bulb, and stopped mid-spin to go over and look at it. She bent down and pointed her finger at it, willing it to grow like she had seen in her vision. The leaf coming out of the bulb seemed, just a little, to push up. She backed up, in surprise and just a little fear, and realized she was a bit dizzy. She composed herself and bent over to try it again. Just then, her mom called her to dinner.

Paige stood up and gave the flower a stern look, then left her room, continuing her circuit through the house by coming down the formal front stairs, with the old wood paneling below and wallpaper above. She touched it all, like welcoming an old friend before she walked into the dining room and set the table from the built-in china hutch. Her mom brought in a big iceberg salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and croutons. Paige went out to the kitchen where she dished up the baked chicken and potatoes. Her dad came in just in time to grab a plate. The three of them sat around the ancient mahogany ball-and-claw table, its grain gone dark with the centuries.

“You are in a good mood tonight, dear, did you have a good day at school?” asked Paige’s mom.

Paige blushed a little and mashed up her potatoes before mumbling “I guess,” and stuffing her mouth with a forkful to end conversation.

Both parents talked a bit about work, then Paige’s mom asked her dad about the meeting.

He blew out his cheeks. “This is one of those seemingly simple things that has the whole town riled up. Optimistically, the town originally used a small four-sided monument in the Center to memorialize our war dead, but we filled it up long ago and now we are a century of wars behind. We need to add memorials for the World, Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, and Afghanistan wars. People cannot decide if we should replace the old monument with a new one, or get a new one and keep the old.”

“Seems wrong to just replace that old monument, it’s become part of history itself,” said Paige’s mom.

“It’s true, but if we get a new monument, then the question is where to put it? At the least we’d need to totally remodel the Center.”

Paige made a moue. “Seems like I’m the only one who even looks at the monument. I’ve read all the names. I even wrote a book report on Molly Forkston, the only woman on it.”

Suddenly she sat bolt upright, “What about the Devil’s Trumpet?”

“That old thing,” said her dad, “will probably get bulldozed.”

Her mother said. “I remember listening to that as a child. It would roar in your ear.”

“Me too,” said her dad.

Her mom looked over, put a hand to her mouth and giggled “Our first kiss.”

“It roared?” said Paige. She hated it when her parents got all gooey, and looked back down at her food. “It only whispers now.”

Her dad was looking at her mom and turned back. “What’s that, honey?”

“You can’t let them take that out. It’s special. It’s the oldest thing in town. There’s history behind it. It’s,” she struggled for the word, “Legendary. It’s famous. If you take that out all of the magic will be gone for good and for always.”

“We could use some magic,” her mother murmured, looking out the window, past their reflections, into to the black of night. “Snow, in April, and a drought predicted for this summer! What will it take for people to see what’s going on?”.

Her father looked from her mother to Paige. “Maybe you should come to the meeting.”

“Don’t tease her,” her mother returned her attention to the table. “The Center is her special place.”

Her father looked back to her mother and held up his hands “Who’s teasing? I’m serious. I think Paige understands that place better than anybody alive. Besides, it would be educational.”

“Could I?” she asked looking back and forth between them.

Her mom looked at her, “As long as your homework is done, and you don’t have any tests.”

Her dad smiled. “It will be a good excuse to end on time for a change.”

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

We were utterly silent, both from the shock that there might be higher goals to the colony, and also out of long habit for Miles’s leadership. Every face watched him. “Before Patrick was a long line of Christian Warriors. They started from the Holy Lands, and swept up through Europe, driving out Ignorance, and bringing with it the Great Word of Christ and our Lord God. Always before them, the light of the One True God drove the pagans ahead of them, ridding the land of their Great Evil and Ignorance.”

“This was truly the First Crusade. It was fought in forest and fen, field and swamp, mostly in secret and under cover of night, for the Druids with their Magick controlled a great army of fell beasts – the Army of the Fallen, made when the angels mated with humans and beasts, creating all of Faerie, the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Fomoire, and the Aes Sídhe — the elves dwarves, goblins, giants, lesser gods, and other abominations of which we dare not speak.”

We each crossed ourselves multiple times. My hand shook as I did it.

“Many great unsung warriors fought this holy war. This holy mission swept all of the scum into Ireland, where they made their last stand. Twelve hundred years ago tonight, in the Year of our Lord 439, Patrick stood on the Ireland’s shore and drove the pagans and their monsters into the Western sea.”

There was silence around the table. This was the Hidden Knowledge of which we had long heard whispers. The One True History of the Puritan Faith. We were being indoctrinated. We knew this to be a great honor, and collectively held our breath. But I also felt terror at this Secret Knowledge. Now, I know that one man’s Insanity is a dangerous thing, but many men’s shared insanity is a Religion.

The meeting was contentious. As far as Paige could tell, both sides had good points. Everybody agreed it was time to honor the more recent wars; and it didn’t make sense to have monuments in two parts of town. It looked like they would either make one big monument or arrange the old and the new to be equal on the small plot of land.

So far nobody had mentioned the Trumpet and she prayed they had forgotten it. Then Mr. Stanley stood up. He was an architect, and pretty new to town, but he took an interest in just about every project. He said had decided to “volunteer some sketches.” He rolled out some drawings and put them on the the table in the front of the room with little weighted bean bags to hold them flat.

He invited people up for a closer look. At first the crowd was quiet as they tried to understand the drawings.

“What the hell is this, Jerry?” Asked Paige’s dad.

“Like I said, it’s a redesign for the Center.”

“It’s a traffic circle.”

Paige had finally made her way forward.

“Well, yes…”

The two men were looking at each other across the plans. Paige stood near her dad looking at them. Everything would change. Everything that made the Center special would be gone. No more ash tree. No more graveyard. There was a sidewalk and a fountain. Suddenly, she noticed something behind the tavern. “I don’t understand. There aren’t any houses across from the church.”

Her dad glanced down and everybody looked where she was pointing. “Condos? You want to put condos in Pautuxet Center?”

George Philbrick, one of the other selectmen, leaned over the drawings. He was one of those men who carried all his fat in his belly, like he should be carrying it around in a wheelbarrow. He combed his hair over, yet still acted with the pomp and bluster of the much more powerful man he had been when he played high school football. Now he was a local contractor who used his position on the council to further his own and his backers’ projects in not so thinly veiled ways. “You would never see them, we’d tuck the entry road in here,” he lowered one hand enough to point at the fire station access road that ran behind the library, just north of the monument. “We’d only need the circle to handle the congestion.”

“Congestion?”

Mr. Stanley held up his hands as if defending himself. “Well, there are no traffic lights in town. You don’t want the first traffic light in Pautuxet in the center of town, do you? It would change the flavor of the whole village.”

At that the meeting blew up.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

Miles looked at each of us in turn.

“The Forest God, the King of all Faerie, led the retreat. He strode quickly to the ocean, looking only forward and ignoring the chaos around him. As the waves broke around his knees, his army began to crowd around him, making a last stand on the shingle between the tide and the approaching horde, spurred on by Patrick, who was now full of the Light of God, speaking in voices and frothing at the mouth. Patrick and his enemy locked eyes, and then, with a sad smile, the Faerie King reached down and touched the water with a single extended finger. The water froze into a bridge extending from the beach into the night, a bridge to Freedom. Patrick felt it like the blow a lover takes to the heart when he realizes he has been cuckolded. How? How had magick yet remained?”

“As the ocean froze into the West, the Faerie army streamed upon it, ready to make a Final Stand. But the Forest God turned his back on Patrick’s Christians and with a single thrust of his staff, signaled the remnants of his army into the night. The Christians stopped at the beach, terrified of this last powerful spell, but Patrick howled and clawed at the air in his fury, urging them on into the night, mad for Final Victory.”

“Caught between Patrick’s Fury behind and the Terror in front, the Christian army reluctantly followed the Faerie on to the ice. The Faerie ran before them, taunting and enticing. Renewed by Patrick’s Grace, the Christians followed many leagues out to sea, but the cold air brought by the ice created an impenetrable fog, and they fell into chaos as they circled blind in the mist and the dark. Screams and howls pierced the night as they fell upon potential enemies and themselves. They tried to turn back, but could not find the way. When daylight finally broke Patrick kneeled alone on the beach, exhausted beyond endurance, looking out to the horizon with the great waves rolling in from Infinity, no fog, no ice, no armies. He had finally driven the Serpents into the sea, but at what Cost? What Cost?”

“I tell you, Dear, the whole thing was insane. The sheer gall of those corporate raiders, seeing a crack and pouncing on it. The Center has looked the same for 500 years, and now they want to change it to put in a housing development! Well, there was no getting order back after that. I thought we would have to call the police. It was insane.”

Paige’s mom actually chuckled. “I bet that went over like a cement cloud.”

“A veritable lead balloon.” This was the first time Paige’s dad had smiled since dinner.

“But dad, there’s no way that people will let that happen, is there?”

He ruffled Paige’s hair. “I don’t know Fuzzy Bear. Ten years ago, those people would’ve been tarred and feathered, but now, there are as many new people in town as old, and I’m afraid the money might do the talking.”

“People hate those property taxes,” Paige’s mother said.

“Yeah, but even if the builders bring in money for the monument, as soon as they start selling houses, everybody’s comps go up, and so do their taxes. People are so short-sighted.”

“They kill the very things they fell in love with when they decided to move here,” said Paige’s mom. She waved her hand, “We have temperature inversions and smog. How can a little New England seaside village have smog? It’s the coldest winter in history and we can’t even light the wood stove.”

“There has to be something we can do!” Both of her parents looked at Paige.

Her father scratched his chin. “Well, Paige, you may have hit on the angle earlier. If there was a real strong case around the Devil’s Trumpet, that may be enough to shut them down. You have to make a case for the historical importance of the Trumpet. Build it up as a tourist attraction. That may be the only hope.”

“I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s just as good if they rip it up,” said Paige’s mom

“What are you talking about?”

“Remember Crazy Lizzie? She used to listen to that thing every day. Thought the Devil was going to marry her. They put her away.”

“Oh, honey. Back then they didn’t know what to do to help people like her. Today they’d know she’s a schizophrenic. That would never happen to our Paige, she knows fact from fantasy.”

“I’m just not sure. How can that thing sit there for 500 years, nobody pays any attention to it, one person does and she goes crazy. Why would we submit Paige to that?”

“That’s just superstitious. Weren’t you just decrying the lack of Scientific Method at dinner? I for one cannot wait to hear the ‘story behind the story.’ Paige will do a great job.”

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

“Yes. He had driven them across Europe, scoured every fen and dale, every mound and circle, but at the last moment, the Faerie King used Foul Magick, to vanquish the Brave and Holy Christian Warriors and escape across the sea.” We glanced nervously at each other. “Yes. Across the sea. To the New World. To here.”

“Patrick, in his wisdom, knew many of the abominations to be immortal and feared that the Faerie had not perished. For years, he sought out every whispered rumor, every wild tale, searching to make sure that they could not come back to dim the light of Christianity. Before he died, he recorded the True History and entrusted it to a few remaining Warriors to forever be on the lookout and defend against the return of this Foul Menace. He gave this information to Brendan and his disciples, and they came here in their crude crafts one thousand years before this land was put on any map. Columbus, also a Warrior in the fight, followed Brendan’s Navigatio in his hunt, but he fell short in his quests.”

“Like my father and his father and his father before him back over one thousand years, I have been a Keeper of the Truth and a Watcher for the Return. But, it is has not been enough.” He looked around the table weighing each of us in turn. “Now you are the New Warriors. We are here, Gentlemen, to hunt the Forest God and the remains of his Tribe before they swallow this Great World that God has bequest to us.”

The next day, Paige ran from school to the library. Yesterday’s snow was gone, replaced by unseasonably hot weather. There was a yellow haze in the air under glowering clouds. There were already signs along both sides of the road. Red-white-and-blue horizontally striped signs that read “Honor Our Dead,” one word per stripe; and yellow signs with blue italic letters that said “Save Our Center.”

Paige put her book bag in the room with the grandfather clock and went directly to the card files in the old-fashioned oak cases. She looked at the Dewey Decimal poster on the wall and went to the 900 section. She tried 974 for History of the Northeastern United States. Finding nothing there, she tried 902, Miscellany of History. She even tried 270, History of Christianity, but there was nothing there, either.

Mrs. Piper, whose erect trim form and salt-and-pepper hair had been a fixture at the library almost as long as the clock, came around the high counter with an armful of books to reshelve.

“Can I help you, Paige?”

“I’m looking for information on the Devil’s Trumpet, but there doesn’t seem to be anything here.”

Mrs. Piper put her books down on top of the cabinet. “Well that’s odd. I know we used to have some history on that.” She began to repeat Paige’s search, frowning in puzzlement. “I don’t understand….” She looked at Paige. “At one time we had a local history on it. Just a pamphlet, really, but nobody has looked for it in a long time. Not since the Masters girl. Oh, dear.” Her eyes went troubled and looked away, as if she suddenly had looked into a past she wished to forget.

“Crazy Lizzie.”

Mrs. Piper looked back. “You know about her?”

Paige shrugged. “All I know is what my mom said. That when she was little, there was a crazy lady who thought she was going to marry the Devil.”

“Well, not exactly the Devil.” Mrs. Piper interrupted herself. “Your parents know you are working on this?”

“It was my dad’s suggestion. After the town meeting last night, he thought finding out the history of the Trumpet might be the only way to save the green.”

She poked around at the screen for a few moments. “This is so strange. Our copy is gone. It’s like it never existed, but it did exist, because I remember reading it and here are some old articles on it.” She tapped a few keys and then and pulled one up.

Local Author Claims to Solve Devil’s Trumpet Mystery

Local author Langdon Brown has produced The Forest God, a slim volume on the history of the Devil’s Trumpet located in Pautuxet Center. This cast iron tube has been standing in the square since time immemorial. Brown claims that he has done meticulous research in Pautuxet town records on this local tourist anomaly, that it dates to 1640, and that there are records of annual ceremonies there for at least a generation after its installation. According to his research the Founding Fathers did indeed capture some sort of beast, which they called “The Forest God,” and interred it beneath the green. The purpose of the trumpet was to have access to the “beast” for these ceremonies.

Brown claims to have recorded the creature and even engaged it in conversation, although independent experts have not investigated these claims.

It would be easy to gloss over this as the canonization of local legend wrapped in a bit of scholarly authority for the tourist, but Langdon has his doctorate from Princeton and has taught New England history for two decades at UMass Amherst. His credentials are impeccable. Needless to say, this slim volume has sparked much debate in scholarly circles and is sure to engender further scientific analysis before the matter is settled.

“Meticulously researched,” said Mrs. Piper.

“So there really is something buried under the Green!”

“Paige, just because somebody wrote this down, doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s an interesting story, but I’m not sure anybody would believe it. I don’t think it will help your case except maybe to use the legend to get some attention on the matter. If you want, I can keep digging. There must be some record somewhere of actually installing that horn and why it was done. Maybe at the Town Hall.” She blew out her cheeks in frustration. “If only we had his book, we could check his references.”

Mrs. Piper was idly scrolling and searching. “Ah here it is. Looks like a local reporter went to check his facts and debunked the entire thing.

Local Author Debunked

The tale spun by Langdon Brown in his recent book The Devil’s Trumpet certainly revived interest in the nearly forgotten artifact of the sleepy little hamlet of Pautuxet. Brown, professor emeritus at UMass Amherst presented what seemed like a scholarly, if somewhat inconclusive, history of the horn. He listed several first-person accounts and several civic documents amongst his sources.

This story could’ve easily bolstered the local folklore and receded quietly into the folds of history, had not this intrepid history student been intrigued enough to want to know more, and decided to visit this seaside town myself. Despite spending several days combing the Town Hall archives and the archived manuscripts in the library, I was able to find none of the documents.

Neither was I able to find any of these supposed histories, nor any reference of them. The author could not be reached either at the University, which stated that he was on sabbatical for an unspecified amount of time, or at his home in Pautuxet.

Without rebuttal from the author or access to the source documents, we at the paper feel unequivocally that the booklet was a hoax, perhaps designed to draw more tourists to this seaside village.

“Why didn’t somebody dig it up and just check it out?”

Mrs. Piper was stroking her chin. “Look at the date. This was in the Sunday edition of the Herald, November 21, 1963.”

Paige looked at her with raised eyebrows.

Mrs. Piper looked over at her. “The day before President Kennedy was assassinated. The country never recovered from that. Nobody would’ve had a moment to consider some crackpot’s theory of the Trumpet after that. It just fell off the map of history.”

“Except somebody took all of the books.”

“Except for that. I would still really like to have a copy and check those records myself.”

Paige sat there, lost in thought, then suddenly turned to Mrs. Piper. “What about Lizzie?”

“She died a long time ago. Her sister still lives on Cable Road.”

“Shouldn’t I talk to her?”

“Oh dear, Paige, I’m not so sure that is a good idea. Lizzie was sick a long, long time. I don’t think it would be good to talk to her sister.”

“I have to know. Somebody has to know.”

Mrs. Piper stared at her a without saying anything, then she turned back to the computer. She pulled up and printed some clippings and then turned to Paige. “When this happened, in the early sixties, Lizzie was a little girl like you. She became obsessed with the Trumpet, saying the Devil had proposed to her. It didn’t go over well. People were scared. It upset things around here. Back then, after the war and McCarthyism, all people wanted was conformity. They almost dug it up then. It wasn’t so different than it is now.”

“What happened?”

Mrs. Piper pursed her lips and tapped them with the index finger of her left hand. “It was very emotional. Like a mob almost. But then, one Sunday the priest used his sermon to calm people down. Saying people were focused on the wrong thing, the Trumpet, when we should be praying for Lizzie. He totally downplayed it and turned people around.” She looked at Paige, “Back then, a lot more people in town went to church together. In the end, they just poured some cement down it and forgot about it.”

“Her sister still lives down on Cable Road.” She handed Paige printouts of the clippings. “Here is all of the information, but you have to promise me that you won’t go bothering anybody, at least until you talk to your parents.”

“I promise,” said Paige taking the papers. It seemed like days had passed since they’d entered the darkened computer room. As she collected her book bag, the brightly lit library felt strange and new, like she’d never been there before. The long shadows of the late spring day were already creeping across the green as she made her way home.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

Miles nodded and a cloaked and hooded figure stepped from the shadows. A wave of surprise went down our line of acolytes, as we had not sensed his presence. From this stranger, each of us was given a plain iron cross hung from an iron chain, large enough to be grasped by the hand at the base. We also received a pitch fork of iron from tines to handle, and an ochre-hooded cloak, matching the one worn by the stranger. Like the others, I donned first the cross and then the cloak, then we stood at attention holding the forks. I thought we were Brave, but now I know us to be Cowards.

The hooded stranger led us through a ritual in a strange language that sounded like the yapping of dogs, tracing a cross of blood on each of our foreheads. Miles came down the line and handed us books bound in a fine, soft skin. “As part of your training you will learn this language, Enochian, the original and true language of the Fallen. All of the Fallen understand this tongue, they must obey it, and we will use it to cast them out. The crosses will protect you from their Magick, and the weapons have been used by your brethren for a millennium to drive the Faerie forth and destroy them from the dark lairs in which they dwell, for their Magick cannot abide iron, which is wholly the Invention of Man and gives us Dominion over Nature. We will practice with these weapons until you can wield them as easily as a fine ash rake. From this day forth, you will never place your weapon more than an arm’s reach away.”

Paige was dejected when she left the library.  Father Allerton was hammering “Save Our Center” in a row along the church’s lawn beside the street. They looked like a crazy yellow and blue fence. She smiled and waved, but his stern face was frozen into a frown of concentration.

She turned right toward home and ran into Mr. Stanley putting up “Honor Our Dead”signs on the green. There were daffodils around the monument she didn’t remember from yesterday. She stopped across the street and watched him. He stopped what he was doing and looked over at her.

He clearly recognized her from the meeting. “Something I can do for you, kid?”

She was a little nervous talking to this man, but she suddenly blurted out the thing that she had been wondering ever since the signs started going up. “Why can’t you leave the Center alone, and put your housing development somewhere else?”

“You are just a kid. You want things to be the way they are because that’s how they have always been. But that’s not how the world is. The world is constant change. Being in front of that change, controlling that change, being the agent of that change: that is how you become successful. You might as well learn that now.”

“It’s not just because it’s old, it’s because there is history here. It’s the soul of the town. If you take it, people will forget there was once magic here.”

“Don’t tell me you believe there is a Devil buried here. I hate to break it to you kid – there ain’t no Santa, and there ain’t no Devil in Pautuxet Center.”

She wanted to tell him to just put his ear to the Trumpet, but for some reason, she didn’t want this man to know that there really was something buried there. Instead she just stood there, shaking in anger. They locked eyes for a moment, and Paige was sure she felt just the faintest rumbling beneath her feet. Then, the aspen leaves showed their bellies, the way they do before a cloudburst comes through, and with an unseasonal peal of thunder spatters of rain began falling in large drops. Stanley jumped and looked up first at the sky, and then at Paige. “You better get along kid, or you are going to get wet.”

The storm was so fierce, it seemed like night had fallen. Paige was soaking wet in a minute, and the flashes of lightning and thunder came together like they were chasing her all the way home.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

I was disconcerted, this strained me and all I held true. “Brother Miles, why must we War with these creatures? If they are created from Angels are they not God’s creatures? Can we not Save Them?”

Miles walked down the line and stood nose-to-nose with me. “These creatures were created in Defiance of God. They were a Desecration of the Power invested in the Fallen. They have no Souls. They cannot be Saved. You can never doubt the Righteousness of your Mission or its Importance. We win this war, or they win this war. It is Magick or Man, it cannot be both. To the victor goes the very Earth and every soul upon it. Do you doubt me?”

“N-no brother,” I replied. I was adrift in a stew of Fear, Piety, and Righteousness, and knew not how to get my bearings.

Miles raised his large fist and smashed me square in the face breaking my nose and staggering me back. “To doubt me is to doubt God! Do you doubt me?”

The blow was like none other I had ever taken, but I stood tall, and took my hand away from my bleeding nose. “No brother, I do not!”

As I swooned in my spot, wondering if I could keep my feet, Miles looked down the line, from man to man. “Who doubts me? Who doubts God?” There was a manic light in his eyes I never seen before and flecks of saliva in his beard as he shook his blood-covered fist. I was reminded of his tales of Patrick. Later, some would say he glowed with an Internal Light. We stood at attention and stared silently at him. He seemed to suddenly relax. He walked back to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry Brother. I thought we would have more time. But the time is upon us. We have found an altar inside a circle of ancient oaks on a hill not far from here. We are in the midst of the Enemy and knew it not.” Somehow, the blow had made me feel special. We bonded over my pain and my blood, and I knew then I would do whatever this man asked. Would that blow had never been struck!

“I will ask great things of you, and you will not be ready. In a lifetime, I am not ready. In a millennium, we are not ready. But alas it falls to us, the only Free and God-Fearing men in this entire New World, to make it safe for all those who will follow. To eradicate Faerie and make this world over for Men. Are you with me, one and all, though we walk through the Valley of Death and face the Devil’s minions Themselves? Are you ready to face Terrors beyond imagining and do deeds greater than those ever told? Will you accept the Duty you were born to, though none will ever know your Sacrifice or sing your Heroism?”

As one, we shouted “Aye!” raising our weapons, me in my new cloak covered in blood, and were there anybody there to watch, they would have noticed we too now had the manic glint in our eyes. Fools the more we.

Sunday afternoon found Paige biking to Lizzie’s sister’s house on Central Road. Her mom was against it, but her dad argued that once Paige started the investigation, at least she should call and see if Leslie would talk. To everybody’s surprise, Leslie agreed.

The house sat behind a thick laurel hedge that completely hid it from view. Paige parked her bike and walked up the stairs to the wrap-around porch. Like almost every other porch in town, the tongue-and-groove ceiling was painted the perfect robin’s egg blue of a summer morning. The door opened before she could knock.

“You must be Paige.” Leslie was fit and tan. She wore her snow-white hair pulled straight back in a ponytail and wore a denim work shirt tails-out over jeans, like she’d been out in the yard. She stepped aside to let Paige by.

Paige walked in and looked around the house. She’d been in houses like this before, dark and cool on a bright sunny day, furnished with antiques, each in its own spot like she had just walked back in time. Most of the pictures were black-and-white or fading EktaChromes printed from slides.  Leslie motioned to the couch, a Victorian affair in blue velvet with dainty Chippendale feet. Paige felt self-conscious as she sat on the very edge of the uncomfortable beast, taking a ruled notebook and pen from her backpack.

Leslie offered her iced tea from a pitcher on the coffee table and Paige held it while she looked around.

“Kind of stuffy, huh?” asked Leslie, her blue eyes sparkling over the rim of her glass.

“Oh, no. It’s beautiful. It’s just there are so many things.” Paige let her gaze wander about the room.

Leslie looked around, “Sometimes, I feel like I live in a museum. It’s how our mom left it, and it’s how Lizzie liked it.”

Paige’s head snapped around. “Lizzie? She lived here?”

Leslie put her glass down on a coaster on the lamp table next to her. “Yes, for years. Those institutions were terrible places. As soon as I could get a job and support both of us, I brought her back here.”

Paige picked up an ornate silver picture frame on the end table by the sofa. In it was the photo of another old woman, clearly related to Leslie, except she seemed a little frailer, more delicate, her gaze was not as direct, and she wore her hair in two braids down to her waist.“What was she like?”

“She’s wasn’t crazy, if that’s what you are asking.”

Paige blushed and put the photo down. “Do you mean you believed her? You believe in the Devil – I mean the Forest God?” Paige was too stunned to write notes.

“Ah. You’ve been reading your local history. Most people don’t make the distinction unless they read about it, or talked to him. Of course I believe in the Forest God. Any idiot who would test the theory and go stick their ear to the pipe would know there is a Forest God. And, I know my sister’s was not crazy.”

“But if you know he is real, why didn’t you tell people! Why did you let them think Lizzie was crazy?”

Leslie leaned forward, clasping her hands between her knees. “Because if you have to choose between truth and family, you always choose family. I was just a kid, but I saw what people did to Lizzie. They called her crazy and locked her up. Then, they made her crazy to prove they were right. Or at least they took away the part that made her Lizzie. It killed my parents. If I’d let them do the same to me, who would’ve taken care of her?”

Paige looked at her for a long time. “Why talk to me then?”

Leslie sat back, “Because people tend to forget things. Almost everybody has forgotten about Lizzie, but if you keep on the way you are, the same thing that happened to her could happen to you. I don’t want to see that happen. Your mom doesn’t want to see that happen, so I told her I would talk to you.”

“So, you have heard him?” asked Paige.

“Oh, yes. There was a time I was so jealous of Lizzie. She used to take me with her and let me talk to him.”

“What is he like?”

Leslie looked at Paige and narrowed her eyes. “You’ve talked to him, haven’t you?”

The questions surprised Paige and she told a truth she hadn’t admitted to anybody else. “I talk to him all the time, but, I just hear mumbled whispers in a language I can’t understand.”

Leslie leaned forward, her elbows on her knees holding her glass between them. “What else Paige?” she nearly whispered.

The words gushed out. “He speaks in my mind, mostly. He is angry and wise; gentle and powerful; the images he shows me are like poems. Like every beautiful thing you ever saw. You can see the magic in it, all the world connected, and him in the center, feeding it and being fed from it. When the visions stop, everything is like a shadow of what it was, disconnected, alone.”

Leslie nodded. “Maybe people are lucky they can’t hear him. Once you’ve seen it in your head, seen what the world is supposed to be, it’s hard to live in what it has become. People who never saw the world the way it was – they have no way to know what was stolen from it. Everything has a soul, if you can see it. In the name of God, they cut it all out to make man king of the earth. But you cannot rule what you are not part of. Now it’s all gone crazy and they think they can fix it. You cannot heal what you do not believe in.” ”

Leslie’s eyes focused and she looked directly at Paige. “.”

“Paige, can you do things?”

“Things?”

“Lizzie could do things. Oh, just little things. You know how if the powder gets rubbed of a butterfly’s wings, they cannot fly? I once saw her breathe on a butterfly that was injured like that and it flew away. At our mother’s funeral, she stuck a yellow rose in the ground and it became a bush that’s still there.” She looked at Paige, “Can you do anything like that?”

Paige returned her gaze and nodded silently, so excited to share her secret, she was afraid to breathe. “Sometimes, I can make things grow, just a little, I only just started trying, though” she whispered. “But people are going to dig the Trumpet up. The magic will go away. Then nobody would ever know it was ever true. I’m trying to save it.”

“There’s your answer. If you really want to solve the mystery, let them dig him up. That’s all Lizzie ever wanted, to set him free.” She laughed and clapped her hands. “Won’t that cause a ruckus! Whoot. I want to be there to see that.”

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

Despite having made the Seven Winters we were contracted to make; life was still hard for us Puritans. That summer we took our grants and the Colony expanded to Pautuxet. But the first year was hard. Most of us still wintered at Plymouth, stabling the animals in our houses for warmth. All daylight was dedicated to outdoor work: clearing land, gathering wood, building structures, animal husbandry, hunting, growing and harvesting food. From the moment the snow melted until it came again, scarcely was there a minute to waste if we expected to survive the cold, dark Winters. Yet, we Protectors worked harder still. At night, oil for lamps was non-existent and candle tallow was a precious resource. What work or study that could be done by firelight light was done before turning in to wake once again before the dawn.

We had much work to do. Every free moment we studied Enochian, or we learned to wield the heavy weapons in the woods. We learned the Secret True History of the World, and the lineage and names of all the Angels and the monster races they had spawned, the demons, Dragons, Goblins, Giants, Succubi, Cambions, Elves, Fairies, Sprites, Spirits, and other Dark Kindred. We learned the Strengths and Weaknesses of our Enemies, the spells to call them, the Arcane Methods to kill those that could die and bind those that could not with iron, Anathema to the Old Magick. We suffered exhaustion, hunger, cold, bruises, broken bones. Yet Miles drove us harder and harder. To a man we were gaunt to emaciation, but we could not complain, for Miles drove himself harder still. None had ever seen him sleep. Rarely did he eat. When we trained, Aethenon, the hooded man, was always there although we never saw his face. He spoke only in Enochian, never to us, just reciting prayers and incantations, or talking to Miles. He was never seen in the Village and we had no idea where he lived. We never mentioned him even amongst Ourselves.

Paige’s parents were already at the table when she got home. She told them everything that had happened with Leslie. “It was sad, Mom. Leslie said both her and Lizzie talked to the creature in the Trumpet. She said people did what they did to Lizzie was to keep him imprisoned and make sure he didn’t get free.”

“Honey, that was a totally different time and a totally different situation. Lizzie had health problems that people didn’t understand.”

“She wasn’t crazy!” Both of her parents turned to look at Paige. “Her sister said Lizzie wasn’t crazy until after they put her away. They made her crazy with drugs and by shocking her brain.”

“Paige, maybe ‘crazy’ is the wrong word, but clearly she had issues, she thought she was in love with the Devil.”

“He’s not the Devil, he’s the Forest God. People have been talking to him for centuries. I talk to him all of the time.”

Her parents looked at each other.

“You talk to him?” asked her mom.

“You don’t believe me?”

“Honey. You have a very active imagination. I’m sure that there are sounds coming from the tube, it’s just some illusion, made by the wind.”

“But you talked to him. Langdon Brown even recorded him.”

“Honey, be reasonable,” her dad said, “A god?”

“Reasonable? It’s not even a mile away. Instead of telling me that me and my friends are crazy, you could just walk down there and listen for yourself! You even have and still don’t believe it. That’s crazy.”

“Nobody said you are crazy…” But it was said to dead air, because Paige jumped up and ran upstairs.

Paige slammed the door to her room, but she didn’t go in it. Instead, she stayed in the hallway and crept over to the stairwell, where she sat on the top stair and listened to her parents.

“I just don’t want her to get her hopes up with all of this stuff,” said her mom.

“What’s the real issue? The Trumpet is historical, it’s political, her interests are pretty-civic minded,” said her dad.

“I know. But…”

“But?”

“But she already has problems fitting in. Look what happened to Lizzie. Kids were so cruel to her! Even the adults were.”

“Honey, you are worried that following up on her passions might make her unpopular? I would be ashamed if my kid was popular. Popularity in junior high school it’s just code for conformity. I’m proud of her imagination and I trust her enough to follow this up. It’s the Scientific Method.”

“The Scientific Method to believe in magic?”

“You can believe in whatever you want, the method is the willingness to put those beliefs to irrefutable tests. She’s doing just that. She’s investigating the phenomenon,” said Paige’s dad. “It’s the best way for her to learn there isn’t a god in a hole in the ground.”

“I hope you are right. When I was her age, and I became aware of the larger world, I became so disillusioned and, well, scared. And things are an order of magnitude worse than they ever were with religious wars, terrorism, the weather. It doesn’t seem like there is any hope. I don’t even watch the news when she is around. Every good thing, every bit of progress we ever made is being undone. The world is stretching apart at the seams. I can see how she might want to escape reality and believe in magic. And so far, her investigation just seems to be leading her to characters who will support this wild idea.”

“You are afraid she might not come back?”

“Yes. I don’t want to lose her.”

Paige could tell her dad had stood up and was holding her mom now.

“What are we going to do?” her mom whispered.

“You know, I think we owe it to Paige to do just what she said.”

“You want to walk down and listen to the Trumpet?” Paige held her breath.

“Let’s just say, it’s a nice night for a walk, I’ll call up to Paige and let her know we are going out.”

Paige scrambled up from her spot on the stairs and quietly snuck back to her room. When her dad called up the stairs, she opened the door and shouted down, “What?”

“It’s a nice night, your mother and I are going for a walk. We won’t be gone long and we’ll lock up when we leave.”

“Okay dad. And dad?”

“Yes, Paige?”

“I love you.”

“We love you too, honey.”

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

One Fall day, after we had reaped the last of the meager rye harvest, Miles lead us into the woods to train into the night as the sleeting rain drove needles into our resolve. When we finally finished, the waxing Hunter’s moon shown through the clearing storm, orange as a pumpkin on the horizon. We gathered around him, shivering in our cooling sweat and sodden cloaks and longing for our distant hearths.

“Tomorrow is the full moon, the beginning of Ahallowtide, when our world and the world of magick come closest together. It is the time the Druids called the Old Gods. This is our time to strike. Tomorrow, meet here and bring your weapons and rations. We will slip out during the bonfires and be gone the night. If you are asked, tell your families we hunt the stag for our winter larders. But in truth, we hunt the Forest God.”

Although our training had required numerous expeditions into the forest at night, still I was uncomfortable with the enormity of the Dark Continent at our backs extending into Unimaginable Mysteries. We looked around at each other, but our dour natures and a lifetime of acquiescing to Authority left us not the Imagination to refuse. Tomorrow we would go into the forest and battle Evil. Our fate, we felt, was in God’s hands. Oh, if only we knew the fate we were setting into motion. Would we have veered our course? I do not know if we had the strength. Our wills were not our own. Dismissed, we found our way back to the Village. I was lost in my own thoughts, and was too afraid to disturb the Polar fall evening with speech.

The next day Paige was returned to the library, and Mrs. Piper took her back to the computer. She typed as she talked. “I looked all over for these books. Here, the Athenaeum in Fenbury, Amazon, eBay. Nothing.” Then she turned to Paige. “This calls for a Deep Web search.”

“What’s that?”

“Most search engines only skim the top of the Web, but a few special engines will get you to more obscure data. Pages that are online but not linked to anything.” She sat down, logged in and opened a program Paige had never seen before. She typed in “Devil’s Trumpet.” A few pages came up, but one URL had a bunch of hits. She clicked it.

On the screen was a page with a brown background, like a piece of old leather. “The Devil’s Trumpet” was across the top in gold letters. Below that was a list of links: The Forest God, References, The Confession of Solomon Pentacost, Transcriptions.

Paige pulled on Mrs. Piper’s sleeve to get her attention, “Look, ‘The Forest God.’”

“This looks like something from the very first days of the Web,” said Mrs. Piper as she clicked the link. It turned out to be the text of Langdon Brown’s book. They bent their heads together and silently read the manuscript, only conversing when it was time to scroll to the next page. They skimmed it quickly, and then looked at the references, which listed ancient, hand-written documents.

“Well, there is no way to tell if these are fakes, but if so, it seems elaborate.”

“Especially for something that nobody can find,” echoed Paige. She pointed at the next link, The Confession of Solomon Pentacost, what’s that?”

Mrs. Piper clicked on it and began scrolling as they both bent over the monitor and read. After a long silence, they both sat back. “That is quite some tale,” said Mrs. Piper.

Lizzie looked up at her, wide-eyed. “What happened? It just ends in the middle.” She took the mouse and scrolled down the page.” He says he transcribed it, that he took it directly from the original but it was lost, before he could complete it.”

“Yeah, well, that’s a classic fakir’s trick, Paige. Cite a reference that nobody can access.”

“My parents say they have heard him, though,” she looked down. “Even I have heard him, although you can barely make it out, now with the cement. And there are transcriptions of recordings right here.” Paige pointed to another link, that had transcribed conversations backing up the Confessions.

They clicked on the link and scrolled through some of the transcriptions, which were first in some strange language labeled “Enochian,” and then in English. “He said he verified it directly from the Forest God himself. Have you heard him?”

“When I was young,” said Mrs. Piper. ”I’m sure it’s some physical phenomenon, like putting your ear to a seashell and hearing the ocean. That’s why Langdon claims the recordings are in Enochian and claims he had to learn Enochian to have the conversation and make the translation. It’s closed loop logic. You can’t verify it; you can’t dispute it.”

“What is Enochian?”

“It’s the language of the Fallen Angels. The language that was spoken in Heaven before the Fall, when there was only Paradise and no Heaven or Hell.” Mrs. Piper looked at Paige and smiled. “Very esoteric stuff.”

“The Fallen Angels? That’s in the Confession. I never heard of that before.”

“There are lots of gospels that didn’t make it to the New Testament. People interpret them differently. Some Christians say Lucifer rebelled and God cast him and his followers from Heaven, creating Hell. Most of that isn’t actually even in the Bible, it comes from Dante’s Inferno. One book that didn’t make the cut is The Gospel of Giants which tells of angels begetting races of monsters by mating with mortals. Others have a more charitable view of Lucifer or Satan. Many cultures and many myths got conflated over the last couple thousand years. You could spend a lifetime sorting it all out.”

“But this is saying the Forest God is an Old God, when the earth was magical, before people came.” She looked at the screen.

“Honestly, Paige. I don’t know what to make of it. This man had a great reputation and kind of threw it away. Now we find all of this stuff online and it looks like he only told half of his story. Why would he do that? Either way, if it was an elaborate hoax or if it was the truth, why not publish all of his evidence?”

“Maybe I should talk to him, too.”

Mrs. Piper looked at Paige over the tops of her bifocals and then gave a laugh. “I don’t suppose there is any stopping you at this point, and truth to tell, I want to know myself!” She turned back to the computer, printed off a record and handed it to Paige, “According to tax records, he still owns a house down by the beach.”

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

The next day was All Hallows’ Eve, a rare day of resting when we would pray and fast to prepare for the morrow’s festivities. The day after that, All Saints’ Day, we celebrated the Saints and Martyrs of the Church. On the third and final day, All Souls’ Day, we would honor the Dead by visiting and decorating graves.

Work ended at noon so that we could prepare. We went home and returned around dusk, wearing homemade masks of bark and cloth so that souls couldn’t recognize us and perhaps possess us on this night. Oh, Naïve Children, we.

Traditionally, Reverend Allerton lead services and prayers until midnight, when a great bonfire was lit and our fast was broken. Under the guise of our masks, we Protectors slipped away hours earlier following Miles who navigated the deep woods paths rapidly by the light of the roe-colored moon. We prayed out loud as further protection while we walked through the woods.

Eventually, Miles silenced even that, and we walked in silence for several hours. I had never been this far from the Village. Gradually, the land rose before us and we walked through an ancient Oak Forest with trees that were old before St. Patrick’s Victory over the Fallen. As soon as we stepped below the massive trees, I could feel the change, as if the forest contained its own atmosphere. The air seemed alive and I was sure the trees took notice of our Presence.

We stepped into a clearing with the oaks around us like standing stones. At that moment, the moon shown out from the clouds, and there was Aethenon, standing behind an altar. On the altar was Sachem, one of the Red Men who had befriended and helped us when we first arrived. He was naked to his breech cloth, with a dirty rag stuffed into his mouth. The whites of his eyes shown clearly in the moonlight.

On either side of the altar were two iron cages. In each were slumped some kind of creature which moved slowly and as if in pain. When I moved closer to the nearest cage, the creature in it looked up. She was tiny as a doll, and her features were more perfect than any woman I had ever seen, but also sadder than I imagined possible. There was something in her demeanor, the way she slumped on the floor of the cage, one wing bent and broken behind her, the other missing entirely. A small galaxy of lights orbited about her head, but they were winking out one at a time. I realized I was seeing a creature out of tales, a Fairy.

Paige biked all the way to the end of Atlantic Avenue on the shoulder of Little Bear’s Head.

The address brought her to an old, white Colonial house, with a red asphalt-shingle roof that had seen better days. There was a little shield-shaped plaque on the clapboards by the front door that simply said “Brown House 1823,” signifying that the house was part of the Historic District, like Paige’s own house. Behind the main building, the house stretched away in a series of diminishing additions that eventually connected the house to a big, white barn. The front yard was small, with a stone wall sitting right on the edge of the road, but from its position on the hill, it commanded a view to the southeast that, except for the cracked and faded asphalt on the road, was unimpeded by any intrusions from the modern age. She imagined looking out a hundred years ago and seeing sail-driven lobster boats plying the waters between here and Big Bear’s Head to the south. Today though, the wind was picking up and although the sun was out when she left her house, now everything to the east was a mass of black clouds. The ocean was pitched into fitful, choppy waves with no rhythm or harmony, as if it could not decide which way to go. To the south and west, poisonous brown smog stood as if ready to battle the cleansing storm.

Originally, she was just going to ride by, but somehow the little plaque changed her mind. She pushed her bike up the path from the granite-pillared gap in the stone wall to the front portico, where she carefully leaned it against one of the wooden Doric columns before she went up and knocked on the door. A tall, thin man wearing rimless spectacles and graying hair combed straight back off of his forehead opened the door. He tilted his head quizzically, like he’d maybe never seen such a small creature.

“Mr. Brown?”

“Yes?”

Paige blurted “I’m trying to stop them from digging up the Devil’s Trumpet, and I was looking at your website on the Forest God.”

“Oh, dear,” he said. He looked out at the ocean, as if he’d never noticed it before either, then back to Paige. “I think you’d better come in out of the weather.”

He led her down a dark-paneled hallway, with stairs on her right and a formal living room on her left. They went through the house, past the kitchen at the back, to the first addition, which was one long room with windows on both sides and bookshelves on every remaining wall space. He had a desk in front of the east windows and a sofa in front of the west. There was a fireplace at the center of the far end, with a door to the next annex to its right. The ceiling was low, and light from the windows lent an airiness to what otherwise might’ve been a stuffy room. He gestured to an arm chair past the desk and sat on the old wooden desk chair.

“You are actually looking for my dad, Langdon,” he said. “I’m Hollister.”

“Oh,” said Paige, suddenly feeling quite foolish. She should’ve guessed that he wasn’t old enough.

He looked around, clearly as uncomfortable as she. “Can I get you something?”

That seemed better than sitting there not knowing what to ask, so she said yes and they walked back out to the kitchen, which by comparison was dark and cool. It turned out Hollister really only had water to offer. “Usually, I have ice tea, but it has been so unseasonably cold. And,” he looked around absently, “well this is just my summer home. I’m not really stocked up just yet.”

“It’s me who should apologize. I just wanted to bike by and look at the house, and then I saw the plaque with your name on it, and I just decided… Oh, I don’t know.”

He got her water and motioned her back into the office where they took their respective places. “Unfortunately, my dad passed here a few years back.”

“Oh,” Paige said again. “Then I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Not at all, I might be able to help. What are you looking for?”

Paige explained what she knew and started rattling off her questions. Hollister held his hand up to stop her. “When he was working on the Forest God research, I was mostly away at school. At first he was just fascinated by the historical puzzle of the Devil’s Trumpet, the source of this quaint New England tale. He would come home here from UMass over the summer and tinker with it. It was a summer whimsy.”

“After he wrote the book and became discredited, it became an obsession. The more he dug, the more fascinated he became. It was the recordings, though, that really obsessed him. It became all he could think about. He started to let his other studies slip. I think, in truth, that he had some kind of breakdown.”

“Whatever happened? Everything is gone but the website, and that is only on the Dark Web.”

“I had no idea there was a site. That site was probably just so he could access things both here and there, before they had the ‘cloud.’ I think he really lost perspective. When he started talking to…whatever… is under there, it was all he could think of. He spent the entire summer up there working through the night. He was convinced that if he could bring this to the world, it would be the biggest discovery of the century. But just the opposite happened. He went back to school to work on the tapes. By the time he could get back here, the Lizzie Masters incident had happened, they filled the tube with cement, and the records were all gone. In those days, cameras were not so commonplace, Xerox machines didn’t exist, and there was nothing digital at all. It was all text. You worked from sources and took notes. It was all too easy to squirrel the documents away and discredit him.”

“The only thing he could do was to double down, to regain his reputation. But ultimately, it broke him. He didn’t return here much until he retired, and then he took it up again. That’s probably when he really started using the site. He couldn’t do any research but he corresponded with people all over the world.”

Paige toyed with her water glass. “You don’t believe in the Forest God, then.” The afternoon light was still coming in from the west but the eastern windows had gone dark with the impending storm.

He looked out the window while he answered. “It’s a sad thing for a man not to honor his father’s legacy. When he was alive, we used to fight about it all the time. Not that I didn’t believe it, but that I could see what it was doing to him, what it had done to him. I didn’t believe he should be doing the work. I never really thought about if the creature was real or not. Now that he’s dead, and I’m curator of his effects, I’ve been going through everything.” Suddenly he sat upright and looked directly at her. “Would you like to hear something; something interesting?” Before she could answer he lurched to his feet and walked across the room to an old reel-to-reel recorder she hadn’t noticed on one of the shelves. He fiddled with the controls and suddenly a scratchy voice came out of the built in mono speaker. “These tapes are all analog. There was no way for him to get them on the site like there would be today.” He fiddled with some things and put a reel on the machine.

“This is Doctor Langdon Brown. The date is December 20th, 1963 I am recording the Devil’s Trumpet, a local historic site in Pautuxet Massachusetts.” There was a bumping as of the microphone being lowered and then you could hear the doctor’s voice coming from a distance. “Hello, I am Langdon Brown.”

There was a rustling sound, followed by what might’ve been a groan, and then a clanging, as if wood on metal. Suddenly there was a whispering, but you could tell that the full voice was a deep bass. It crackled a few times and finally there were very distinctive words in a foreign language that Paige instantly recognized from listening to the Trumpet, a guttural sing-song moaning.

“He had transcriptions of these on the site!” she said.

“He has hundreds of hours of this. He used to go up there in the wee hours, put the mic down the tube and hide in the bushes by the monument with his headphones and recorder. He would stay up there until false dawn and come home. Seemed a bit daft to me. If anybody ever saw him, and of course a few people did, it would just add to his crack-pot reputation.” He looked about on the bookshelf above him, pulled down a box with a tape, swapped the tapes and hit Fast Forward and then Play. This time, the voices were the same, but they were both speaking English. The bass voice was speaking slowly, “…they have driven my subjects into hiding, or killed them with disbelief. My kingdom is dust, and magick is gone. Even here, under the ground, iron-bound, I can feel the Age of Man weighing on the earth like lead mail, suffocating and poisoning it to its bones. Too late, too late, too late.”

Paige’s eyes got big and her draw dropped. “Whoa. That. Is. Incredible.”

Hollister turned around, but remained standing by the tape machine. “Yes, not only did my father get the complete linguistics of Enochian, well beyond that farce John Dee vomited up, but in the process, he taught English to the Forest God. I’ve been through all of the tapes. I’ve listened to every conversation. It’s too nuanced, too complete, too intricate to be a hoax. I don’t know what this is, Paige. But I believe my dad believed it was a god, and I cannot prove it any differently. I want people to know. I want people to find out the truth, even if I cannot do it.”

“You want them to dig him up?”

“The Devil’s Trumpet is just an artifact of man; the Forest God is a force of nature. How can the first be weighed against the last? Dig it up, tear it out, discover what is under there. I fought it for years, but now…now I think I did my father a grave disservice. I think he was a great man whose reputation was unfairly ruined. If I had those records I could prove all of this. At least I could prove what he wrote was true based on what he found.”

“But why? Why would somebody go to the trouble to discredit him? If they didn’t believe in the Forest God, they could just let him discredit himself.” She thought a moment. “Was it because of Lizzie?”

“I’ve thought about this long and hard. They solved the Lizzie problem with cement and electroshock. It had to be somebody who did believe in the Forest God. Somebody who has a vested interest in keeping him imprisoned.”

“The only people who would care are the people who put him there, the Puritans.”

“Precisely, Paige, and do you know what became of the Puritans?”

“No, no I don’t.”

“They became the Congregationalists. And the oldest church in the country, our Congregationalist church was originally a Puritan church.”

“But that’s crazy! That’s a 500-year-old conspiracy. Are you saying Father Allerton has those records?”

“I think he always did. My dad never mentioned where he got the research. I think everybody assumed it was from the Town Hall, but back when all of this happened, there was no town hall. All of the records were in the church.”

“How did he get them in the first place, then?”

Hollister spread his hands, “Let’s just say, my dad was a resourceful old coot, and he chased this legend down for many years. In a town this small, enough inquiries about a secret this big are bound to lift the edges of the rug somewhere, somehow.”

“I’ve known Father Allerton my whole life. He just doesn’t seem like he could part of something so evil.”

“Most men who commit evil are convinced they are doing the absolute right thing. Allerton must’ve caught on to what my father was doing and shut it down.”

Paige wanted to tell this man that she, too, had talked to the Forest God. She put her glass down and opened her mouth to speak. At that moment, the lightning hit simultaneously with a huge blast of wind carrying enough water that it seemed like the very waves of the Atlantic were bursting over the house. Paige jumped and let out a little shriek as she turned to look out the window. Hollister walked over to stand by the desk and look out the window as well. “Ayuh. That’s a real Sou’wester. Lot of fetch behind that storm. And with all of this heat, plenty of room in the atmosphere to store up a real good churn. Could last for days and rain fish brought all the way up from the Caribbean.” He looked down at Paige. “We better call your mom and get you home.”

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

Too late I found my Doubt and with it a shred of Honor. “What is the meaning of this?” I asked. “What have you done with our friend? What Abominations are you committing on these creatures?”

Miles restrained me with a hand against my chest. “He is an offering for the Forest God.”

“He is a man. He is our friend. We would be dead many winters past but for him!”

Miles whirled upon me. “You forget yourself. We would be dead but for God. It is our Fate that we are here. If he helped us, God willed it. But he has also withheld information about the Fallen. His tribe has been secretly succoring them since they got here. We found this place because it was the one place they would not show us.”

“The Red Men are like children. They are kind and brave and free with what they have. They share with all.”

“There is some debate still whether they are men, or animals, or perhaps even some form of the Misbegotten of which we are only now learning.” Miles surveyed the group. “We will settle this debate tonight. The Fallen have no Souls, and search constantly to obtain them. Aethenon is an expert at harvesting Souls. If the Red Man has a Soul, the Fallen will show up and we will capture the Forest God, and bind him with Iron. He unites the worlds. Binding him will take magick from the World, and we can run the rest of his Kingdom down with hounds. If the Red Devil does not have a Soul, we have other Methods to employ.” He leaned in close to the cage and leered at the fairy. “How do you feel about stealing shoes now?” and laughed.

“Madness!” I cried, reaching for the cage.

Without warning, Miles spun on me, swinging his iron staff like an ax. “Disbeliever!” My training saved me from a cleaving blow, as the staff deflected off of the handle of my pitchfork into my neck, but it was still powerful enough to knock me out.

True to Hollister’s prediction, the storm did last two days. Branches littered the roads all over town. Power went out, and Paige’s dad drove them down to the beach so they could watch the waves crash over the sea wall. The third day, Monday, started cold and drizzly, but by noon the sun was out and it was heading to be a scorcher. After school, Paige went to the town hall, just down the hill from the church. When she explained she was looking for the old records, Mrs. Locke, the administrator explained that the truly old records, before the town hall had ever been built, were indeed kept in the church.

Paige started up the hill towards the church. The sign board in front of the church gave the topic of Sunday’s upcoming sermon KEEPING THE DEVIL IN HIS PLACE. No subtlety there, thought Paige.

There was a function hall in the basement that was used by various groups. Paige used to go there for Brownies. She went around the corner and tried the door on a lark, surprised to find it unlocked. Her heart hammering, she slipped in and looked around. The lights were off but there was plenty of ambient light coming through the windows to illuminate her way across the floor to the door by the stairs. She’d never been up the stairs, but since they were in the back of the church, she hoped they might lead to an office or something. She still didn’t have a plan and expected to get stopped at any moment. She crept quietly up the stairs to a hallway, and then went down it, opening one door at a time. Most of them were filled with folding chairs, or plastic tubs labeled for various holidays: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas. The last door opened on a windowless room with file cabinets around the walls and a beat-up oaken partner desk with a chair and a lamp in the middle of the room.

She started on her right, reading the name tags on file drawers and working around the room counter-clockwise. The cabinets contained all kinds of church records and events, and she could see they got older as she went. On top were alligatored brown boxes with old town records, which were much more randomly ordered. It was those she began to focus on. The most recent she found dated before the turn of the 19th Century. She had to use the chair to get to them and then bring them down to the desk to go through them. It seemed like nobody had been in here for years and she began to lose her nervousness, but she still pawed through each box as fast as she could. Way in the back on top of a stack of papers was an oak file draw with brass fittings on the corners and a little brass lock. It was scratched and battered and in the little brass cardholder on the front it said “Plymouth Colony.” She pulled to open the drawer, but it was locked. She started to wrestle with it to get it to the front of the cabinets, when the stack of loose folders it was set upon let go like a small avalanche. The onslaught would’ve knocked her over if she hadn’t jumped off of her chair, losing any control of the box. It slid off the edge, dropped six feet to the floor, landed on a corner and burst open like a hooligan-beset Halloween pumpkin.

She bent to rifle through the pile in her excitement. Inside the remains of the box were ancient leather-bound books. She was afraid to open them lest they disintegrate, but she started looking at their covers for dates. She was shaking partly from the near fall and partly from excitement. These were Langdon’s sources, she was sure of it.

She was caught unawares when father Allerton asked from the doorway, “Can I help you find something, Paige?”

She looked at him for a moment, horrified. She was caught between a plausible lie and trying to figure out which questions to ask first. Then she just exclaimed, “I’ve been learning about the Forest God.” She didn’t know what she expected, but it wasn’t the reaction she got. First Father Allerton raised his fist and started to gesticulate angrily with it, but he seemed to see it out of the corner of his eye and dropped it down. His shoulders slumped and he looked away from Paige towards the wall which hid the monument and the trumpet, as if he knew at any time exactly where it was. His gaze was distant and his demeanor was sober.

“Good old Langdon Brown. That old fool is dead but his fabrications live on.”

Paige didn’t know what to say. She held a book in her hand, clutched to her chest as if it would protect her.

“This is it, isn’t it? This is the source material Langdon used to discover the history behind the Trumpet. They weren’t fabrications. You hid this to discredit him.”

“I hid nothing but what he had already stolen from me once. It’s no fault or concern of mine that he could not steal it twice.”

“You ruined him.”

“Him! Ruined him!” His hand came up and she thought he would strike her. He looked at it aghast, as if it had a life of its own, and let it drop again. “In his folly, he would let forth pure evil on the world. You have no idea the horrors that are contained in that sacred pentagram you call the Center. It is almost dead, but still, were it to be loosed…I cannot imagine what damage it would wreak. It’s my job to make sure that never happens.”

“Who appointed you to cage a god?”

“This piece of land has been occupied by a church longer than any other in the country, almost 500 years. Lost twice in fires and once in a hurricane, but we have always rebuilt. And do you know why that is, Paige?”

Paige shook her head, but he was still looking away.

“The church was built here, on this knoll above the Center, to keep an eye on the Trumpet. That’s right, first came the Trumpet, and then came the church.” He turned to face her now. “Because, you see, Paige, there really is a demon under the earth there. Oh, not The Devil, but a devil. The king of the ancient half-creatures that were spawned when Lucifer led his revolt and his minions ran rampant over the earth. People have been allowed to forget what’s in that tomb over the centuries precisely because this evil was locked away. There has been an Allerton heading this church since it was built, forty-one generations of us. It’s my job to remember what is in there, to guard these ancient texts, and to make sure that it never, ever gets loose.”

“You are keeping magic from the world! Look at the world, does it seem better to you?”

“You call it magic, but it is evil in its basest form. Do you want to share a world with soulless creatures who have no sense of right or wrong? Beings with no propriety who have spat upon the One True God? You cannot control them. You cannot understand them. It is a war, and only one of us can survive. We are the meek. The earth is ours. It was given to us by God and by the sweat and blood of good men who warred for years to clear our path to glory.”

“No souls? They came from angels. They have magic, what do we have?”

He scoffed. “You argue with the pure passion and utter incomprehension of a child. There is no ‘almost’ here. If you dig him up and let him loose, there is no going back. These creatures have no conscience. They are primal, like a great dragon sitting in the center of town, with a hunger that can devour us all. You will be changing the world in ways you do not understand and could not possibly comprehend. Leave it alone, child!”

“Is that it? Control? Power? What about awe? What about humility?”

“I will hear no more of this. He seduced you like he seduced that other girl. Put down what is mine and be gone. Be sure I will be talking to your parents and the police about this.” With that he began circling the desk towards her.” He raised his hand again as if he would strike her and backed her into the corner. Paige shrieked and the Father flew backwards over the desk, across the room and into the wall.  Paige took off running the other way without looking back. She was down the stairs and out in the sun running towards the street before she realized she still held the book in her hand.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

When I came to, I was sitting against a tree, hands bound behind my back. Sachem was still tied face up to the crude granite altar, which I could now see was hewn out of a single slab of stone. Every muscle bulged as Aethenon walked up to him, stropping a small, sharp blade on a piece of greasy leather hanging from his belt. He was chanting an incantation as he held his knife up to the light of the risen moon. He nodded to one of the other men who leaned over and pulled the gag out of the Sachem’s mouth. Aethenon, made a series of quick cuts on the man’s near arm and then pulled off a long strip of flesh which he looked at critically before he tossed it into the brazier burning at the base of the altar. The Fairies made high-pitched mewing noises before they covered their mouths. Sachem only grunted. Aethenon continued chanting, but the white of his smile was clear within his hood.

The men stood around the circle as Sachem was slowly stripped of his flesh. But so skillfully was it done, that he bled only enough to create a black sheen in the light of the fire and the moon. The Fairies had been shrieking for a while now, and the Victim seemed to have put himself into some kind of trance, separating himself from what was happening to his body. I envied him. At one point Miles strode up to him and raising is iron fork above his head bellowed “Scream you bastard!” and then brought the butt of the tool crashing into the Red Man’s jaw with such violence that to a man we shuddered at the crack. Yet still the man would not respond, and Aethenon continued on, chanting slightly faster, slightly more excitedly with each strip of flesh thrown sizzling into the fire. To me, it was clear who had a Soul, and who did not.

Paige’s head was a whirl – first the recordings and then Father Allerton’s confessions. Paige ran into the empty house, tossed her book bag into a chair, and called out for her mom, but got no answer. She went to the counter where her mom would normally leave her a note if she stepped out, but there was nothing there. Paige stuck out her bottom lip in disappointment, she was bursting to tell her news. She opened her bag and looked at the book she had run out of the church with. The cover was dark brown leather and bound with a silken ribbon that was laced through holes in the front and the back. Her hands shook as she opened it. Inside were fine vellum pages, carefully folded and placed in the cover, which acted like an envelope to hold them. She opened them and saw by the introduction that she was holding the original version of the Confessions. The ink had faded to a sepia scrawl on the ivory-colored page. It was very hard to make out the cursive, but by looking at the pages she could make some of it out. She went to the end and started to work her way backward, to see how much was missing from Langdon’s translation. The last page had a verse in a foreign language, which she guessed must be Enochian. Suddenly, she felt very nervous about handling the precious document and quickly bundled it up and put it away. She would have to share this with Hollister as soon as her mom came home.

Just then the phone rang, and she ran to the hallway to pick it up.

“Paige, thank God you are home. I’m at the hospital with your dad.” Paige felt a feeling in her stomach she had never felt before.

“Hospital?”

“Yes, somebody threw a brick through his office window. It hit him in the head.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“He needs surgery, Paige. I need to be here. Do I need to call somebody or will you be okay?”

“I need to be there, too!”

“I know how you feel, honey. But there is no way to get you here and nothing you could do once you get here. I need to worry about your dad and not about you right now. I will call you as soon as I know anything.”

“Okay, mom.” Paige said in her smallest voice, and then piped up, “Tell him I love him, over and over and over again.”

“I have been, honey. Everything will be okay.”

Paige put down the phone and wandered from room to room, touching the various things that a husband and wife collect in a lifetime. A picture, an old wooden plane, knick-knacks, her father’s prize amaryllis, the magazine he was reading face-down and open to the page where he left off. She looked in the refrigerator out of habit, then went to her room, but it seemed too lonely. At that moment, she really wanted to talk to the Trumpet. She always felt better after she did that, but it was late, and she needed to stay by the phone. She went down to the great room that connected the house to the barn, and turned on the TV. She watched aimlessly for a while as it got dark outside and eventually fell asleep on the sofa.

Paige’s mom finally came home around 2AM. She crossed to the sofa, picked up the remote, turned off the TV, then sat down next to Paige and brushed the hair out of her face. Paige woke, and looked at her for a moment with one eye, then sat bolt upright and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. They hugged for a while and her mom stroked her back. Paige found herself crying for no reason. The more she tried to swallow the great sobs, the worse it got until she was coughing out spasms of tears.

“Mom, I’m so sorry we fought! What if I never get to tell him that?”

“It’s okay honey, he’s out of surgery.”

“Is, is, he going to be alright?”

“They had to relieve some pressure inside his skull. He should be okay. He’ll be in the hospital for a few days. He’s sleeping now, but we can see him in the morning.”

“Why-y would somebody do this?” she choked out.

“Probably some idiot who got all fired up about the Center just wanted to break a window and didn’t realize that when you throw a brick out of a moving car, it hits with the speed of the car. If it has been an inch further forward, on his temple, he would be dead.”

She hadn’t meant to say that last part, it just spilled out of her. At that, Paige started crying all over again, and her mother broke down and joined her.

They cried for a while together and then her mom pulled way. “Paige there is something I want you to know.”

Paige looked up at her, “The other night, your dad and I….”

“You heard him, didn’t you?” Paige said.

Her mother looked at her. “Yes, yes, we did. Just like when we were children, not as loud, but still there. How did you know?”

“Because mom, I told you I’m not crazy.” She stuck her tongue out and then her mother laughed. Soon, they were both laughing as hard as they had been crying.

Confession of Solomon Pentacost

The front of the man was almost laid bare. His struggles long since ceased, he almost looked to be sleeping, but that his eyes bulged open unblinking. It seemed inhuman that he could endure this. The men watched silently, each to his own thoughts overgiven. Suddenly, a shadow fell across the scene. The men all looked up in shock. All except Aethenon who stopped cutting but only increased the force of his chant. A tall creature towered over them, like a man made of roots and branches, his beard of leaves, his eyes a storm gathering over the sea. He ignored Miles and his group, even Aethenon as he crouched down over Sachem and stroked his brow with a hand whose fingers writhed like branches in the wind. The Man’s eyes closed, and then his skin slowly but steadily grew back over his wounds. The creature was speaking in a low voice in the same language as Aethenon, who at that moment was raising his knife to strike.

The creature was smiling at Sachem, still stroking his brow and murmuring, when he backhanded Aethenon so hard he flew out of the circle into the trunk of one of the giant oaks. The dichotomy between the gentleness in front and the violence behind was not lost on me. The tree shook with the blow and Athenon dropped heavily to the ground with the wet sound of dumping a net full of alewives. Slowly the other men began to take stock, Miles was urging them into a circle around the creature who was still ignoring them. Sachem was almost healed now, and the Forest God stood up and reached out to the cage nearest him. On contacting the iron bars, he drew his hand back in surprise. Then a shrewd look of understanding came over him and he finally looked at the scraggly band of men standing around him in a rough circle. I screamed and raged at my bonds.

They held Paige’s dad for nearly a week, concerned he might get a blood clot and have a stroke. Paige and her mom were there every day. Finally, late in the afternoon of the sixth day the doctors said he was stable, and they drove him home, a great bandage around his head like a turban. He was quiet and haggard as they took Washington Road from Route 1 and came into town. The moon was already in the sky behind the church, even though the sun was still up. The day had set a record for heat and the setting sun did nothing to diminish the temperature. Paige’s clothes were stuck to her with humidity.

Paige’s mom slowed the car as they came into the Center. There was some kind of construction going on, and a cop was directing traffic. Paige’s dad sat up straight, “What the hell?” Her mom pulled the station wagon over in front of the library and they all got out. Paige wanted to run ahead, but her mom took her dad’s arm to steady him, and they walked the fifty yards to the Center together. That walk seemed to Paige to take all summer.

There was tape and saw horses around the monument and the green. It looked like a crime scene. There was a back hoe parked on the street.

Paige’s dad saw one of the other Selectmen and pulled away from her mom. “What the hell is going on, Bill?”

Bill looked nervous as a schoolboy with a slingshot and fidgeted from foot to foot. “Well, you weren’t at the Monday meeting, and Stanley made the suggestion that we dig this thing up and put this whole Devil’s Trumpet thing to rest.”

“You can’t do that! You don’t have the authority.”

George Philbrick ambled up. “Well, in fact we did. We had a quorum. We decided we need to move this project forward if it was ever going to happen at all.”

“Move this project forward? You act as if the town has taken the vote.”

“This will make the vote make more sense, by cleaning up any issues around that piece of junk.” He hooked his thumb over his shoulder without even bothering to watch the back hoe gouging the grass out of the Green.

“Junk? It’s an historical landmark at the very least. Probably a full-blown archeological site!”

Bill looked scared, but George actually looked at his watch and smiled. “Too bad the court is already closed today and you can’t make your case.” Then he seemed to notice the bandage. “Real sorry about your accident,” but the smile never went away. Paige was glaring at Bill and she could feel the ground begin to quake again. At that point Paige’s dad balled up his fist and would’ve taken a swing, no matter how feeble he was, but Paige’s mom had her arm around him and pulled him aside.

The three of them walked over to the small crowd. Mrs. Piper and Leslie were there. Mr. Stanley was there looking smug. A small knot of people Paige didn’t know, including a man with a big flash camera and a notebook were gathered behind the barriers. It seemed that this should’ve been a much bigger event, maybe the biggest event the town had ever seen.

“I’m sorry Paige,” her dad was saying as her mom guided him to a seat on the grass.

She pulled her gaze back from the crowd. “What’s that dad?”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop this. I’m sorry I couldn’t save the Trumpet and the Center.” She looked at him. He looked so sad and weak. She had never thought of her dad as weak. She had always thought of him as some kind of god: wise, just, immortal, it was a shock to realize just how human he was.

“I don’t know if saving the Center is the important thing anymore, dad.”

Paige’s parents exchanged a look. “What do you mean, honey?” asked her mom.

“You heard him yourself, there really is something buried here. Isn’t saving him more important than saving the Center?”

Her dad laughed. “Actually, that might save the Center.” He reached out with his free arm and put it around her, and they held each other while the excavator worked into the evening.

At one point the backhoe operator turned off his machine and got down to talk to the Selectmen. Paige and her parents went over.

He was a wiry man in dirty jeans and a white T shirt who worked for the highway department and whose skin looked like a boiled lobster. “I don’t know what’s down there, but it’s a darn sight deeper than I anticipated. That’s why it’s taken so long. I’m ‘bout seven feet down and I finally hit something. I gotta move some dirt around to make room. It’ll be a while yet.”

“It’s been 500 years, should we hold off until tomorrow?” Somebody asked. But nobody liked that idea. They decided to get some lights and keep going. Before the lights had even gotten there though, the backhoe uncovered a plate about three feet across that was connected the bottom of the tube, and started digging out around the sides. The excitement in the crowd started to rise and nobody had driven past in a while. Anybody who came this way stopped. The church parking lot was beginning to fill up. The hole was narrow and dark, you couldn’t really see what was going on, but finally, they called for chains which they hooked to rings welded on the top of the plate and ran up to the bucket of the backhoe.

The backhoe strained against the object, rocking on its hydraulic supports, growling and whining like a wounded dinosaur. The operator start dropping and lifting the arm to jerk the plate, and Paige wanted to yell at him to stop it before he broke it, when suddenly it lurched free. As the dirt cascaded down, it looked like the plate was the top of a crude cage, capping some kind of a dry well set in field stone.

The crane hoisted the cage up. It swayed from side-to-side, clanking on the granite blocks of the dry well surrounding it. It came up all in one piece. At first they could only see the top, a single piece of iron, pierced by the tube. As it cleared the ground and came up, there was a shower of cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and leaves from inside the cage and out. Inside the cage looked to be a dirty stump, a shredded ball of bands, dried and split, slumped to one side.

At that point Hollister pulled up. Seeing him, Paige remembered she still had the diary in her backpack. She pulled it out and ran over to him, holding it out without speaking. He took it from her and looked at the cover. He gave her a glance and started paging through it. “Where did you get this?”

Paige shuffled from foot-to-foot. “I’d rather not say.”

He laughed, then immediately started flipping through it. “Paige, I cannot thank you enough. It’s all here, even the parts Dad hadn’t copied. This is what I needed to finally clear my father’s name.”

“I almost forgot about it. I was looking at it when my dad got hurt. There’s a part in there at the end that is in Enochian, do you know what it means?”

“It’s an incantation of some sort. Let’s see,” he began reading in Enochian,

AARG AARRL OKKEN

A FULL GRA OLPRIT

COMMERALAHE COMMAH…”

He looked at Paige. “Do you know what this is? It’s the binding incantation for the Forest God. It’s what Abethenon spoke when they captured him.” He repeated it again, this time in English.

In full moonlight,

Nothing eternally bound

In iron and innocent blood

Cannot be unbound

With maiden’s tears

Freed forever

From the hands of man”

Just then Father Allerton drove up into the church lot. He got out of his car, looked over at the Center, then rushed toward the crowd so fast that he forgot to put the car into gear. As the crowd watched, it rolled across the lot, down the embankment to the terraced lower lot, and bounced across that miraculously missing all of the other cars until it hit a big white pine, only narrowly saving it from careening down the hill and into the Town Hall. Its alarm started shrieking just as the Father bounded across the street from the church, bearing a cross in front of him with both hands like a knight carrying a pennant into battle. His screams froze the action as he came through the crowd. “NO! NO! Not in the full moon light! Put it back! For the love of God, put it back!” He raced to the cage, everybody except Paige now looking at him instead of the cage. He looked over at Hollister and Paige huddled over the diary, “Tell me, tell me you did not speak those words!”

Paige looked up as the cage swung in the moonlight at the bottom of the chain. What she had taken for a stump in the bottom of the cage unfolded slowly in the moonlight until it was almost eight feet tall, bound by the considerably smaller cage. Only then did she understand the cruelty of the device, too short to stand, too narrow to lie down, an eternity without succor or rest. Hunched over, it looked like a statue of man sculpted from driftwood. There was not skin, but the muscles were made of corded and split wood. Suddenly, Paige was overcome and ran towards the cage. She was laughing and crying at once. An arm extended from between the bars towards her. Only then did the Forest God look up. Paige met his eyes, they were grey and smoldered like a banked fire waiting for fuel. He seemed terrifying and wise, full of destruction and creation, as elemental as a thunderstorm. Most people screamed and fell to their knees.

The Father was screaming, “STOP HER!” When Paige reached out and held the wrist of the hand touching her cheek with both hands. She closed her eyes and tilted her head, tears streaming down her face. The arm began to turn from gray to brown. It swelled until the checks disappeared. Here and there, where the tears had touched, small branches sprouted.

Hollister looked from the scene unfolding in front of him to the book and back. Finally, in a strong, clear voice he began reading the Enochian incantation again.

“No, no, no…” the priest sobbed torn between stopping Hollister and tackling Paige. The car’s siren continued to shriek. Slowly, the Forest God stood up, the cage protested against the forces being applied within it until the top broke off at one side, and he easily deformed the bars and stepped through.

“The tears of a virgin under the full moon,” Whispered Mrs. Piper, then she looked at Paige’s parents. “Tonight, is the Milk Moon, the Spring Moon. It’s true, it’s all true. She broke the bonds of iron, and restored magic to the world.”

The god looked about him, blinking in the moonlight. He worked his jaw as if he would speak.

At that point Father Allerton charged the Forest God, the cross held high in both hands, furiously mumbling prayers under his breath. He seemed possessed. Spittle was flying from his lips and his words could barely be heard. The god looked at him as one might look at a rat in the cupboard, and then reached down and plucked the cross from his grip like he might pick a mildly toxic flower. He held it up and rotated it to observe it.

“This,” he said in a voice that echoed off the center of the earth, “has always bothered me.” And then he slammed it into the ground, butt first. The force of the blow staggered those who were still standing. The Father fell to his knees and prayed. The god swept his arms around. “Why do you worship death, when there is so much life?”

At the point of impact a wave of green seemed to come from all directions. Paige felt a surge of energy as the wave passed her, swept through the Center and out across the town. The greens became greener as it passed over and a great bubble of light expanded from that very spot, just as in her visions. The ash tree’s rotting branches sprouted leaves and swayed in the wind. The wave rocked the steeple so violently the carillons went off with a clamor not heard since the Indian wars. Time stood still for the crowd, until  the wave came racing back, breaking on the Forest God. He smiled and Paige noticed now that his eyes were the color of old ice, taking on the palest blue as they caught the light. New shoots erupted all over his body writhing in a green mass against the brown. He seemed to stand even taller. The wave crashed upon him and then raced back out with equal speed, carrying what messages Paige knew not. Then everything was very quiet, the bells dying away and even the birds stopping their songs.

The cross began to grow. The Father fell back, his hand over his mouth. As fast as Paige could raise her head to watch it, an oak tree grew, spreading its arms over the little common. On its trunk formed the body of a man, arms outstretched along two branches. People pointed and gasped. The priest crawled around the tree on his knees, and stared up enraptured.

The man took form more slowly than the tree, but all stood transfixed as he appeared from the trunk. When he seemed full-formed he fell to the ground like ripe fruit. The Forest God walked over to him and began to touch the wounds on his hands and feet, healing them without scars.

“Don’t.” Said the new-formed man, “I need them.”

“And I need you, Little Brother, because the sickness in the Land stems from the souls you tend.” The Forest God helped the new man to his feet. “If they don’t just kill you again.”

“And you, too.”

The Forest God laughed. “They could never kill me; they didn’t invent me!” He reached out and put his arm around Paige, drawing her close.

At that moment, the cop drew his gun and shouted “Freeze!” Paige wrapped herself around the Forest God just as he pulled the trigger. Red blossoms appeared on her white blouse as the cop fired again and again. The Forest God folded his body over her and held out his hand to the officer who promptly shot across to the ash tree where he hung suspended his gun hand embedded in the tree. Nobody moved for the longest moment. The Forest God let out a shriek and then a moan. When he finally unfolded, Paige lay in his arms. The stains were gone from her blouse and she looked as if she were sleeping.

Paige’s parents came running up and knelt beside their daughter. Paige opened her eyes and reached out to touch her father’s face. Gently, she reached up and unwound the bandage. There wasn’t a trace of his wound or surgery.

“A miracle,” whispered her mom. Paige smiled at them and at first did not speak. She held her mother’s hand. “How long, Paige? How long have you had this power?”

“A while now. At first I wasn’t sure, but lately, it’s been growing.’

Her father was looking back and forth between the two women, “What, what…”

“Our little girl, grew up all at once, dear, and I think we might be losing her.”

The new man looked over to the ash tree, held his head and sighed, putting one hand on the Forest God.

“Is this war, little brother?”

“Remember whose blood flows in your veins. I did not bring you back to start war, but to stop war. But, neither will I do this again.” With that he picked up the cage and using his bare hands compressed it as a man might crush a beer can. The cage creaked and groaned, when with a great screech it collapsed. He continued crushing it until it turned red hot and began to deform into a small meteor in his hands, which he threw, smoldering, into Father Allerton’s car, bending the car nearly in half with the impact and finally stopping the alarm. “They were wolves when you came and rabid mongrels when you left. Tend to your flock. Magick will not be denied again.”

Father Allerton had crawled around to witness the conversation and was groveling before them. “I will be your servant! I will spread the Word…” The Forest God raised his hand, and his fingers grew towards the priest, eventually trapping his tongue between a thumb and forefinger. He looked at the New Man, “In the future, I suggest you speak for yourself.”

The New Man looked around at all that was built. He sniffed the wind and choked on what he scented. “This is a long road.”

“A very long road,” the Forest God replied. He lifted Paige to his shoulder. “But now that at long last I have my Queen, I must reunite my children,” and they strode off into the night, the trees bowing to them as they passed.

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