Part 3: Chapter 50
Blackness. Total blackness. Surrounded by darkness.
Oona climbed to her feet as quietly as she could. Extreme caution reigned high on her agenda; she was a bit dizzy. The witch steadied herself on her feet and remained silent. Her eyes panned the pitch blackness in all directions. Then, slowly Oona raised her head to the heavens and saw blue pins of starlight splashed all across the night sky. Then she very purposely drew herself back to her more immediate surroundings, and noticed that everywhere in the darkness around her were the sounds of God’s wholesome nature.
“This place is just waking up from winter,” Oona whispered respectfully. Then she drew in a deep breath of the chillingly refreshing and delicious night’s air. “I must mark this spot with great care,” she said more loudly but still softly. “This must be the point of return to my own time.” She looked around hopelessly in the black of night. “But what can I use?” Oona waved her hands freely in the void around her and tried not to move more than one step in any direction. “Where I stood only a moment ago in the warmth of my apartment, I stand now in these dim and damp, out-of-doors’ surroundings.” Oona could not quite grasp the sensational accomplishment.
Upwards Oona noticed the glow of the now-exposed white light of a glorious Moon, about three quarters full. Oona easily found the North Star which would guide her toward Boston. Clouds rolled gently to the east. Here was a magnificent night sky, refulgent in all its sheer splendor and shining beauty, and to which her own time could never compare.
“Had I screamed?” she softly asked herself. Not sure.
But wait! Nearby; very close. Something.
Now Oona stifled a scream and realized that something or someone was with her. Practically on top of me! Oona jolted to reposition herself and pivoted slowly, careful not to drift far off center. The two were closely entwined in what Oona hoped was 1692 Westbridge. The good witch readied herself for deadly combat with whatever black mass crouched beside her. Together they were an unlikely tangle of humanity. There had been two quick thuds; two had landed in quick succession, one practically on top of the other. Then she heard the commotion of a child.
“Louis!” Oona exclaimed. And she waited for a reply.
“Yeah,” Oona finally heard.
Shocked with the sudden addition of a nine – almost ten – year old onto the scene, extreme alternative planning was critical and immediate. Oona tore herself away from the stars. She and the boy were each bathed in black, though Oona could clearly discern Louis’ Under Armour service mark on his otherwise bare chest. She quickly moved to shroud the young man with a woolen blanket she had draped about her shoulders. Still with several remaining layers of rough cloth, Oona left herself well-protected for the expected long journey which lay ahead. She supposed she had not allowed for unexpected events such as this, as she had tried to foretell differences in historical records, and even the very calendar of events on which she had cobbled together her fragile plans. Oona strained to see the faint outlines of Louis.
Weeks of planning all thrown to the wind, left now with precious little time to improvise.
What story would Oona use to explain the boy? With him, the journey would likely take longer. And how much longer, with those little legs following behind her? That Oona did not know. “How far can a boy of nine or ten walk?” she wondered. “How long can he endure vigorous outdoor activity?” Oona strained again to see the child.
Oona had estimated a robust five days’ walk just for her, with additional time for rest and shelter of course, and minus the possibility of alternative means of transportation, Oona had only herself to make the trek as short and as safe as possible. So now what? From an invisible stern face, Oona directed her words at Louis. What will happen now?
“How will I ever make up for lost time?” Oona loudly asked Louis.
“Uh, I don’t know,” said Louis.
“And how precise were all my estimates for this insane adventure?”
“Are we in the Past?”
The temperature: somewhere in the thirties to low forties Oona presumed, was comfortable for the damp night, boosted by the powerful aroma of evergreens. The air was so noticeably fresh and crisp; different than in 2011 – more fragrant and rich. Unmistakably different. Then Oona’s attention turned to a panic as she suddenly felt most vulnerable.
“Louis: As the Guardian of the Gran Liv, I planned for you to assist your sister Thankful during my absence and marshal the Great Book to safety.”
“Uh,” was all he could get out of his mouth. Then he added, “I think she marshalled it.”
“Along with your mother and your brother,” she finished. “Now that plan has already failed and I just got here!”
“How do you know we really made it?” Louis asked with some skepticism, still mostly ignorant of the witch’s inner conflicts.
“Louis: for what reason did you go off our plan?”
“Uh, I spoke to Opa and rushed down to tell you. When I opened your door, there was like a bluish well and I jumped in to tell you.” He raised his voice nervously.
Oona said nothing and stared out into the blankness of night with cool, empty moonlit eyes which pierced the darkness and finally fastened onto him. Completely unnoticed by her, Louis followed her through the open portal and into the past. The Time Trick lingered, as it said it would, for that one minute lost to time. Oona took another deep and exasperated breath.
“I heard you scream and I wanted to help?” Louis suggested.
“I did not scream,” she shot back. Had I? Then she asked him most innocently, “Did I?”
“Uh… no.” But I saw you melt inside the well. It was pretty amazing.”
“By your callow act, we may never see our time again, boy.” She took a breath. “What of Lucia? What of Gran Liv? Did you think of these things, Louis? To help me you needed to be on the other side! I counted on you boy to help guard Gran Liv, to keep it secure until I was ready to return. Now, with you at my side here, I despair that my – our – round trip might never be accomplished, and that we will be doomed to live out our days in this primitive time. I am in great fear we might never get home.
“Uh, no Oona. I’m really sorry.” He looked back at her, straight through the darkness that hung between them. “I’m sorry. And the part about Opa is true.”
“What did he say?” she asked. Oona could not help but think of his youthful purity.
He gave me two names you can trust…here…and he said Lucia was hung on Thursday.”
“Are you sure?”
“Thursday. I wrote it down.” Louis reached in his pocket to take out the paper. “Here,” he said and very quickly realized that doing so was useless in the near total darkness.
“I thought it was Friday,” she said.
“That’s not what he said. He said it was Thursday she was hung on.”
“Yeah,” he said.
Oona shook her head from side to side. “With all my preparations, all my calculations; with all my research, and all my adjustments to account for calendar changes, celestial phases and other uncertainties, standard time and a Leap Year. Odd that after February twenty-ninth, the year 1692 is the same as the calendar of 2011. And now with a small child in tow, I may arrive ONE DAY LATE!”
“It is not just you. I planned to arrive with the appropriate time to apply the subterfuge and execute the mission; not to spend too much time so as to attract attention. I planned for the time when the witch was put to death.” Oona recited, with some exasperation. “Lucia was never part of the historical record, though she was a part of history. I struggled to cobble her historical record and plan everything right.” No contemporary words exist that document her moment of doom.”
“I know,” Louis assured her.
“Louis: there is nothing here but forest,” Oona plainly proclaimed. “Let us orient ourselves to the north, boy. Let us see. Yes, there it is, at the end of the Little Dipper. Yes, the North Star.” Not so prominent. “Yes, Louis, we made it young man, to a time which is different than the one we left.” Stay with the plan and be on your way. But suddenly Oona’s plans fell one day short.
With no sense of immediate danger in their vicinity the pair needed desperately to mark the spot and start to walk north. Oona waved around in the night while Louis stayed in place. She returned only with some small debris and a few small stones.
“Ah, do you think there’s a road around here, Oona?”
“We shall soon find out,” she said, and got to work to mark the soft moist ground. Oona tried to make impressions deep enough for the tidbits she collected to survive for two weeks while they traveled north and back again. Then, a few inches into the soil Oona came upon a wet rock-smooth surface. She moved her hand in all directions, and scratched away the moist soil from its crest. “I hope we have come upon a sizable boulder.” She left a small stone surface bare, about one foot square, and crowned with the small stones and fragments. Then she mounded the bare soil in a small perimeter around it, and now plainly exposed in a natural and unassuming way, through the layers of cold earth and debris.
“This spot is well marked. No one will move that mass.” Oona meant to say she hoped no one could move the rock below. “It is time to move north. We will see what this place looks like in two weeks.” And they began to walk in the direction of the North Star.
Oona leaned back toward her young companion and added invitingly. “My dear boy Louis, we shall soon see whether we are truly in Plymouth County, the land of the Pilgrims, as it existed in their Majesties’ newly unified Province of Massachusetts Bay during the reign of the co-regents King William and Queen Mary.”
“Wow,” Louis said in response.
“Yes, Louis, I believe we are there.” Oona tried to be inspirational with her words, and careful not to bare her fears and rising sense of hopelessness. She desperately borrowed cheery images of the two colorful sovereigns, and kept a steady voice when she strongly stated, “We are here! And we know what we must do now, do we not?”
“There are no cars, right?” His youthful naïveté had shown through rather courageously.
“Come Louis; now that we have marked the location, we must walk on. Come let us find a mile stone or a signpost to follow.”
“Uh,” he muttered.
“We may even ‘hitch a ride’ on a covered wagon,” Oona joked, with a twang in her voice, which was an irresistible mixture of her small French accent with echoes of the Wild West. Oona’s solemnity only returned when more seriously she said, “Relax boy.”
“I am relaxed. Are you?” Louis quickly countered. To the boy, Oona seemed stressed.
“Do not be fresh or I shall cast you in stone!” And though she could hardly distinguish the boy from the night, Oona knew when she had gotten his attention. “Here, this way.” she called to him.
The two cut through the thick darkness in fairly good time, one follower behind the faint outline of the other. After only about fifty feet, Oona confronted what could only have been a farmer’s fieldstone wall. Louis walked into Oona’s back side and nearly toppled her onto what stood to be about four-foot high.
“I believe we are traveling in the right direction, Louis,” the good witch said tiredly. How she struggled to keep her mounting depression away from the boy. “In our time, only remnants survive of this magnificent wall that in our time scarcely spans the northern boundary of your own back yard.”
“Shouldn’t we see a road somewhere?” Louis sounded a bit uneasy, as if he was spooked by the wall and the dark. For a long moment the boy stood frozen in the darkness of their surroundings, his face turned to Oona.
“I do not know, boy,” she admitted sadly. “I know we must keep walking.”
Evidently fatigued from their shared experience in time travel, Oona and Louis carefully breached the wall of stones. Reasonably certain of the boundaries that embraced their mission north, Oona planned to avoid the waterways and cat-tail marshes that saturated the New England landscape in those times. And with the full impact of the shared experience – whatever that experience truly was – and which weighed down on them heavily, Oona proclaimed in a strong and steady voice, “This is right Louis; I know this is right. We are headed in the right direction.”
The pair briskly continued on their way when, only a few feet beyond the fieldstone wall, they were painfully stopped in their tracks by an unseen thick wall of thorny bramble. Louis cried out in pain. It was difficult in the darkness for Oona to discern the severity or the locations of the boy’s wounds.
“Stay where you are Louis. I will untangle you child.” With high steps, Oona worked her way around to face to boy. “Stay still.” She needed now to free herself from the small, excruciating thorns; thoroughly consumed in impassible brush. Oona slowly backed away from the thorns and then managed to pull the crying boy backwards and into her arms. Their short turns to either side did nothing to improve their surroundings; or afford any glimpse of a path forward. Still they trudged their way relentlessly through what seemed only forest, more forest, and endless forest. To their left and right were brush, saplings and trees, distinguished increasingly so since their eyes adjusted to the moonlight. And all the while Oona kept a watchful eye along a north northeasterly path. With makeshift staffs in hand, the pair was hindered with one obstruction after another. It seemed there were unseen fallen trees and boughs everywhere that the bramble wasn’t. Oona realized with every short step she took, there would be far more dense forest than farmers’ fields on the way to Salem.
“There will be far more unknowns, my little man, than dry and narrow paths, or primitive roads.” Outwardly undeterred, Oona advised, “Soon we will meet others, Louis. And please be quiet when we do. This incredible journey of ours can easily get us killed. It will be tough going, Louis, very tough, and this entire experience may turn out to be one solely to survive. And we must approach settlements with the greatest of caution.”
“Okay,” was all she said, and Louis kept walking. They walked on and on, drawn by their mutual attraction and shared terror. Grimly, Oona’s words sank deep into Louis’ mind. He hadn’t expected anything like this. He actually didn’t know what to expect by going after her. All he knew was that he wanted to follow her, and he did. Louis’ innocent eyes saw his mentor and nanny better than ever in the low light of the night sky. And after walking for what seemed like hours (it had actually only been less than one hour), Louis suddenly brought an end to their unsteady procession with the soft glow of his iPhone.
“There’s no connection,” he innocently stated. “When do you think I’ll get a signal?”
“You won’t get a signal here!” Oona blared. Her eyes burned through the night in the direction of Louis, and seared through his young soul. “Give me that phone!” she demanded in a low and nasty voice. Then in a more commanding way she declared, “I am frightened by the very sight of it! We must destroy this thing!”
“What?” he screamed.
“Be quiet, boy! We will both be burned as witches if someone should find that thing in your possession!” She struggled to be calm and unequivocal with him. “If that device were ever found boy, it would bring certain death to us both!” She outstretched her left hand calmly to Louis.
“I just wanted to get directions,” he said. Louis held his beloved phone to his small chest.
“We have directions,” Oona snorted. “We have the stars!”
“What if it’s cloudy?” Louis defiantly shot back.
“Silence! Silence!” Oona roared, and the raven-haired beauty waited for stillness then continued more comfortingly, “Those guiding points of light up there are our GPS child. And by the good graces of Erzulie, and Pi Gran Liv, and Almighty God I hope, we will be ushered on to places which existed over three centuries ago.” Then Oona inched closer to Louis, her hand still extended. The intensity of her person fully realized the pain and sadness in the boy’s shadow. “And I have a map and a compass.”
Louis solemnly handed over his phone to Oona who regarded his latest iPhone most admiringly. It was the same model as she carried, that is when she was not traveling in the past. “It is truly a wonderful device,” she mused, and absently examined the phone in the moonlight, oblivious to the boy’s pent-up emotions. Then she turned her attention back to the boy.
“Anything else?” she asked him firmly.
Louis sunk his hands into his pockets and gave his nanny a book of matches and a small Swiss Army Knife.
“What are you doing with matches Louis,” she crisply asked. Yes, very fortunate to have brought matches along.
“I found them in the garage.”
“What were you doing there?”
“I was looking”
“Looking for what?
“Things to help you,” he replied.
“How can this be so? I thought yours was a sudden, unplanned departure? Was it not?”
Louis felt the bitterness in her voice as he did the sudden bite of the March air. “I wanted to come all along… I wanted to follow you all along, to follow you and help.”
“So I see you planned well for your journey, young man,” she said, now with a wry smile on her darkened face.
“Thanks,” he slowly said. “But I really…didn’t plan that much.”
Oona held the items in her hands, and her thoughts returned to the phone. The iPhone’s face was brightly illuminated and its program icons were paralyzed. No time showed on the screen. There was no signal…anywhere. “There is neither internet nor phone Louis. Nothing.”
“There’s a great website, Oona, to get stuff back.”
“Forget it boy. Things are simpler now. There is nothing that works like that.” The camera suddenly flashed into the night. “Well, almost nothing, she smiled back at the boy in the dark.
Louis’ eyes swiveled fiercely.
“My camera works!”
“Don’t be a fool! We do not want to record this event. We must destroy this thing. I am truly sorry.”
“What about my pictures.”
“I’m sure you backed-up before your journey,” she said with some sarcasm.
“Uh, I’m not sure.”
Oona checked his pictures’ folder and, yes, Louis’ pictures survived what was still not proven to be their incredible journey into the past. “Humph,” she jolted. “The flashlight…works.” She waved the beacon into the night for a quick moment and just as quickly turned it off.
This could be very helpful for as long as its charge will take us.
“The phone simply must be destroyed, Louis.” She argued against her own best judgment. “It must be pulverized,” she said with authority. “And perhaps we should burn it first.”
The boy sobbed a steady stream of tears now.
Better I suppose to hold these things for when they are needed. So to lessen his pain, Oona offered, “We should keep the matches for now and the knife as well.”
“My phone is very valuable, Oona” Louis pleaded. He whiningly begged for its safe return, and extended his hands weakly toward her dark image.
“Listen boy!” she insisted. “Value is what we get…for a price! What we get is trouble with this thing.” She waved the phone near to his face. “Trouble!” she stated firmly. “And the price – our safety – is much too high a price to pay!” Oona straightened her back and stood perfectly straight and still. “The risk is just not worth it, Louis.” Then she mildly rolled her shoulders and assumed a look of quiet reflection.
Oona’s body language was difficult for the boy to discern.
Then, more confidingly, the witch added, “I have no idea what to do with these things, Louis. We may need the light of day to sort them out. Come, let us walk on.”
“Why don’t you use the flashlight until you destroy it?” Louis mockingly asked.
Oona stopped mid-step. She was as quietly amazed with the brash character of her young cohort, just as she was with her own ineptitude on that very subject.
“Good idea!” Oona finally said, and more quickly turned and shot out a beam of light in Louis’ face. And she smiled. “The phone’s light will help us tremendously, Louis.”
And with the light of the iPhone, they assumed somewhat of a walking rhythm through the thick brush and thorns and other barriers of the inhospitable forest. And though saddened and deflated, Louis assumed a now steady gait behind his nanny on their star charted route north. The pair’s rate of speed increased steadily, and their steps were interrupted only by quick checks of the stars that shone through the broken canopy of tall trees. It was quite a while before fatigue returned to crush their bodies. And though it was not possible to know the true time, Oona estimated it had been three to four hours since they had arrived; this leg-of-their journey filled with steady and uneventful, if at times twisted, walking. Odd to have walked so easily for so long in the March cold.
Fear of some great miscalculation swelled in Oona’s mind. Daybreak would come and “There could be severe consequences for nearly any solecism.” Nonetheless, Oona’s competing moods and predilections were thankfully invisible to Louis, or so she hoped.
Higher more open ground was eventually reached. Here Oona gazed up to the sky above, and prayed that all her reckonings had in fact brought them to the right place in history. Louis was at her side when Oona finally passed him the iPhone, and motioned him to take the lead while his flashlight still beamed strong. She lagged for a while behind her charge.
“Well, we are here, are we not?” Oona asked, as if to bolster her guide, and the two continued their route through presumed seventeenth century surroundings. “Dates may be off a bit, Louis, so we must be especially careful to reach Salem on time, so as not to miss our appointment.”
“Thursday,” he said; his eyes wide with caring.
“Yes, Thursday, the thirty-first of March. And we must not be late.
“Uh, huh,” he absently acknowledged as he shined his light on the shifting shadows.
“Yes and not too early as to give ourselves away.”
Louis nodded along and waved his light wisely. Then he heard a sudden, panicky screech.
“Your Nikes are exposed!” Oona shrieked.
KC was arrested and brought to Police Headquarters where she was placed in a holding cell while Cathy and Frank negotiated for the release of her children to their temporary care. Once that was done, Frank helped Cathy prepare the van before his wife got on the highway with the Boehme kids for the two week stay with the Tooeys in Minnesota. He said his goodbyes and returned home with Little Andrew.
KC explained the whole matter as best as she could. “I recently lost my husband and my kids are having trouble with it too. I was taking them on vacation and I had no idea how tired I was. I drove right off the road and into the church. I am so sorry. I’ve never done anything like this. I’m so sorry. I was exhausted. I was raped about a month ago and I still have broken bones.” She waved her hands absently. “I’ve been out of work and things have been awful. I’m sorry.”
The Westbridge Police were firm and fair, well respected and respectful to the community they serve. The policemen accepted KC’s tale with considerable sympathy: the recent loss of her husband and the rape.
“Mrs. Boehme: Didn’t you say you had three kids?” the desk officer asked.
“Ah, yes I do.”
“And where are they?” he asked. “I only saw two.”
“I’m not sure at the moment. Louis is my middle child and he is with his nanny.”
“Are you okay with that?” he asked.
“Oh yes. There’s no panic; no problem.” KC felt quite the opposite and hoped she hadn’t betrayed the sudden disappearance of her son. “We have been through a lot you know. Louis is an exceptional kid, a ‘Brain’ you know who will be staying with Oona, my nanny, and attending school as usual. They could in fact be home right now or at my cousin’s house. Maybe even in Cambridge. But I’m not worried. And it’s the weekend.”
“Okay,” the desk officer said. He leaned away from his desk as if to stretch his back.
The pastor at Our Lady’s Church was very kind not to press charges against KC for destruction of property and destroying the peace. KC, who belonged to a different parish, responded in kind with a pledge to Father Brennen to take care of all the damages and also make a generous contribution to their Annual Fund. She proclaimed her relief that no one was hurt by her carelessness. Frank returned to Headquarters close to 4AM, and returned to his house with a stressed and exhausted cousin-in-law.
KC vowed to keep her nerve, and would “hold her breath” for two weeks. She hoped that the Book remained undiscovered in the church sanctuary until it was needed. “If Lucia still swirls about when we return to the house on April ninth, chances are we’ll all be finished off by the evil bitch.” And if Oona accomplished her tasks, they would be safe and Lucia would be gone completely.
But Where is my son Louis?
Frank said what little he could to console her and brought KC to the guest room.
“I needed to make a snap decision, Frank.” KC said.
“Don’t beat yourself up over it, KC. I’m sure Louis is OK.”
“He could be in danger. How could he not? He’s not even ten!”
“Look, KC. Louis is a smart kid and could have been hiding in the house when that bitch got outta hand. You know: he could be just avoiding her ‘modern-day malice’.” He tried to be funny and without question, he was not. “A neighbor might even have him by now.”
“Or a fucking pervert could have him by now!”
“KC: The cops can do an Amber Alert and the cops will find him if he’s NOT with Oona. It’s your choice. Let’s go back to the police. Tell them…the truth, or something closer to the truth than you told them.”
“I don’t know Frank. I don’t know.” They hugged tightly.
“Hang in there at least for the night. The kid has enough sense to beware of scumbags and to find shelter. He’ll show up even if he is with Oona. They’ll come back.” Frank hoped they would make it, wherever they were and whatever they were doing.
All within Oona’s sphere of responsibilities.
“He’s a free thinker. That scares me Frank.”
“He’s also clever and resourceful. Please, try to rest and I’ll see you in a few hours.”
KC got into bed and prayed Louis was safe somewhere. He’d be ten years old soon. She supposed Louis was with Oona, though she just couldn’t be sure Louis was with Oona, and didn’t even know if his being with her was good or bad. KC prayed for their safe return; prayed that both were safe. And she hoped. They both disappeared without a trace. Louis had left no clue she knew of, while KC had to explain more time away from work as well as her son’s absences from school. And she hoped the police did not check her story too closely. Louis’ iPhone went straight to voice mail while Charley and Thankful were on their way out west.
Louis reeled around in terror, and in doing so, the gray blanket which covered him fell off to one side. That revealed a very distinct layer of Under Armour. There he stood, exposed; his blue eyes gleamed innocently; his Under Armour insignia shimmered in the deep gray brilliance of the moonlight.
“These things will surely mean our end,” began Oona. “Unless you are deathly careful to conceal such clothing,” Oona said sternly and pointed at him, “These things – the sneakers, the Under Armour – must remain completely covered at all times! If they are not, our mission will surely fail.” Oona was forceful and deliberate with her words. “Do you understand me?” She seemed like an unseen rock in the harbor – one you know is there and cannot see – as she silently demanded an answer from the boy. When she received no response, Oona continued: “Be certain Louis, there will be a time when we must discard all these things: the zippered jeans, everything.”
“Don’t you have a magic backpack or something to hide my stuff in?”
“Ahh, no,” she deliberately and longwindedly fumed. “Louis: this is not a game.” She lowered her voice into a loud though even whisper. “I really cannot believe you followed me here! Your presence was totally unplanned! I am honestly…disappointed. You will pose great difficulties for us, and I must stress that our very lives depend on both of us being very careful.”
Louis was sternly wounded. He sheepishly nodded to Oona, who then, more consolingly, chimed:
“I have no idea what a nine year old does, or thinks. And for this I am sorry, Louis. I have no doubt that in some way you will lend assistance on this critical mission. You may bring forth unforeseen advantages: unintended but with positive outcomes.” She turned her back to the boy and resumed her obstinate gait. “Your bond with Anton – Opa – perhaps, which spans centuries and bears both elements of time and substance. Yes, you – and he – may help deliver us in the end.” She gestured now broadly for them to resume their hike, and quickly added, “Promise me boy, you will neither make a sound nor reveal a thing to anyone you meet. Promise me you will not speak among others. Your manner can spell doom for us both.” We must conduct ourselves in a manner of speaking that will not cause alarm. Oona took an extra moment to carefully place her words and assertively leaned in to the boy. “Louis: you must act as a mute – a deaf mute boy!” She regarded the nine year old as close as she could in the darkness. “And if you do not act the part, my dear boy, I shall make your condition real.”
With his more usual swagger, Louis asked, “How do you know we are even in this time?” He was sure to put great emphasis on the words “this time.” Since they arrived, Louis had seen much of nothing in the complete darkness of his surroundings. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, because he barely saw anything! The sky was a little brighter now, he supposed. A few steps on Louis added, “Do they even have electricity?” Fortunately the blackness of night masked the small smile which helplessly sprung onto his lips. “And I’m so hungry,” he whined.
“Enough!” she said.
“Oona: are there McDonald’s or Wendy’s or anything else like that?”
“There are no Wendy’s in this time,” she said flatly. “Now I know you are just playing with me. You know better than to ask such nonsense. I know you are kidding and I am not amused.”
The boy briefly shined the light of his iPhone at Oona then and quickly changed direction. It had lost much of its charge already.
“There is nothing like that, and you know that…don’t you?” the good witch continued. “We are 300 years behind all that. Believe me!” Oona shook her head and more deliberately struck a steady march forward. They steered around trees and other obstacles.
“But I’m so hungry!” Louis decisively wailed.
“You should have thought to eat something before embarking upon a journey such as this. You really have no idea do you, of what may be in store for us back in time?” And then for emphasis Oona repeated the claim: “You have no idea. We either trudge through soggy soil which will not be kind to our feet, or we tolerate the trammel of brambles everywhere else.” With their red prickly stalks, the wild brambles of March punctured their skin like barbed wire. Under cover of darkness those spiny shrubs harassed them nearly every step of the way.
“I’m sorry, Oona. I’m only nine.” Louis began to sob dryly.
“You are almost ten!” Oona shot back absentmindedly. After a long lingering moment, with only the sounds of their moving feet, raven haired Oona forced herself to say, “Not a problem.” It was no time to be cross with young Louis, she reasoned. Then the good witch stopped and neither person said a word. Oona moved around and looked squarely at the boy’s faint image. It was chilly and not too damp, actually more pleasant than she had imagined it would be. So far the weather seemed about the same as what they left in their own time; remarkable only in that she suddenly felt so well adjusted. Oona had gotten what she fully expected, and in that regard day travel was much preferred. She reckoned their first leg to Boston would be a long 35 miles by way of twisting, meandering routes. Fortunately the black skies were calm the first night, rich with peaceful splashes of white and gray in the sky, gathered mostly around the moon. Blatantly buoyed by that realization, a rising tide of exuberance rose among the two weary travelers.
“Look, God’s night light!” Louis proclaimed among the sounds which moved easily through the night. The near total darkness of their surroundings betrayed mostly twisted shadows. Oona’s strong face bore no hint of the smile she wore inside.
“Well-drained brambles and similar raspberry or blackberry bushes are generally not in close proximity to farmers’ crops,” she said.
“Is that good?” he asked.
“They harbor insects and diseases which spread.” There was great drama in Oona’s words. “It may mean we are nowhere near farmers’ fields. Or it may mean they lie just over the next stone wall.” She winked her wink though unseen by Louis.
“There’s like nobody out here. It’s just us,” he said.
“I am not so sure of that,” the good witch said. Once again the pair resumed their northerly journey surrounded by rich mixed forest. They deftly meandered their way through thick underbrush and sometimes massive obstructions. Wet fallen leaves and pine needles carved intermittent paths for them. They marched forward, one behind the other as blind men would in familiar blackness. Sometimes they walked side by side and held hands when space allowed. And though constrained with rugged ground cover, the early spring earth had awakened. Even in the dark Oona could tell it was so. They walked on and on that first night, aided by the decreasing light of the iPhone and by white beacons of snow patches left over from winter.
For a while longer we shall be mindless automatons.
It was sometimes with extreme difficulty that the pair stayed north; Oona navigated their way through the thick canopy of trees and the blue dots of light on which their star-charted course depended. The two forged on for a while longer and continued their northerly trek wrapped in forests with no fields. It was as if civilization ended when they crossed that first fieldstone wall a few miles back. Oona’s eyes tiredly adjusted to the monotonous blackness of their surroundings. Her ears attuned to the piercing quiet that hung over them.
“Why are the trees so thick?” Louis finally asked.
“Keep walking child. Please!”
“Where are the houses?”
Oona estimated their journey had taken them four hours thus far. She kept a steady pace forward until sheer exhaustion found a place on Oona’s schedule.
“Oona, can we just rest for a while?” Louis chimed, as if on cue. The boy surmised she was by now quite exhausted and needed to rest. The two agreed they were tired enough to stop.
“Certainly,” Oona said. And at that very moment the two time travelers stopped in their tracks and guardedly descended to the dark ground. Their eyes found one another. At some point we will meet someone. The two drew closer to one another for added warmth. Oona was pleased there had been enough rough clothe materials to cover both she and the boy. Louis had ample covering for now. Quite handy for the boy of nine who followed her into the unknown.
“We must be very careful in our travels,” Oona said. “And if necessary, stealing even from the poor is a real possibility.” Oona assumed the two would need to steal something along the way to Salem. “Remember Louis, there are harsh penalties for stealing!” she cautioned. He needs clothing. Then with a softer though a bit awkward touch, she added, “Go to sleep now, boy, and we shall resume our march north in the morning.” Oona smiled to herself. Things are definitely okay.
Still there was much on Oona’s mind. Along with the grogginess and fatigue, there was considerable anxiety which cast a pall over their emerging mission following their presumed journey back in time over 300 years. And no doubt there were wild beasts in the dense, untamed forests which also contained “savages,” as the white settlers knew the Indians, or the Native Americans of their time.
Oona needed a new story before they met anyone. What can I do with a nine year old child, other than discard my carefully crafted master plan? The witch and nanny sighed loud enough for Louis to hear, “Who knew?” She thought things through and started to spin a story. Her mind was clearer now that she was away from Lucia’s grip. Under the lightening sky of early morning, the pieces of a puzzle started to fall into place for Oona. Perhaps I should pose as a Massachusett ussqua woman; “No, someone more distant. If I ever meet a real Massachusett, he would know me as a fraud.”
Louis nodded in his torpor. He had heard the word, “fraud” but wasn’t sure what it meant.
“My hair and skin tone are such that I could easily pose as an Indian maiden, on her way north to Boston.” And what of Louis? “Yes, someone – an Abenaki – with a hostage or a prize. Yes, someone on business: returning a rescued boy to his parents. They were separated…somehow. A skirmish with the Native Americans – the Indians. “A widowed mother and a lost son.” Yes, plausible.
Louis stirred in her embrace.
“Yes, I shall be a trusted guide from the Native American community on a mission to reunite a lost, deaf and mute boy with his home and widowed mother in Salem.” Yes, that is it! And while she had little notion of all the backstory details, Oona’s confidence rose palpably; she knew she could fill in those questions as they went along. “Yes, Louis. That will be our story. A story which will not be easily validated on unfamiliar terrain. We are unknown to Boston and to Salem, and to Providence. And someone can say something along the way. ‘But he canst not be of our people’!” she mused. “And you, the poor deaf, mute who can’t say a word. No longer a Señora, my ropa will suffice with a few minor alterations to its adornments. Yes, highly adaptable, my boy, to a simple native, triad dress.” She winked at Louis. More confidently Oona thought of the roles they would now carefully play.
That achievement was brief once her thoughts moved on to other things. She dreaded the regular tasks: chores like brushing teeth or freshening one’s mouth, daily hygiene, hair care, eating. A few days in the past can kill us. Oona thought of her disagreeable footwear and of walking, and of keeping warm and dry night after night. And everything now – every challenge, every resource, every threat – will be multiplied by two.
“If we are, in fact, in the past, we need to recalibrate our visit without delay, to accommodate the presence of the young one and the change of Lucia’s death date.” And for what seemed like a few hours’ journey through the wilderness, from an area that would one day become Westbridge, Oona reckoned they had travelled only about five miles north, and stood west northwest of Plymouth. “It still is a good start: about two miles an hour in the dead of night. From here Louis, we must reach Boston in two days’ time,” she gently whispered and calmly repositioned herself on the ground.
“And from Boston is Salem, still about 45 miles away from here. There are still several hours until dawn, which will come around 5:35AM if my calculations have been exactly correct.” Louis’ head had managed to rest now on Oona’s lap. She turned to the boy and asked, “What do you think of the sounds of the night?”
Louis stirred from his sleep and heard Oona’s question. With the absence of light, Louis had never seen the night sky such as this: bigger and brighter and more colorful, with the stars more plentiful than anything he had ever seen before.
“The occasional fluttering of bats against the slowly brightening light does little to distract from the rich and beautiful sky, and the many stars still visible.”
“Okay,” he whispered.
Oona’s fog had lifted, but now her tiredness was real. Enriched with the sounds of the continuing forest in her ears, Oona was ready to rest. “Here in these times, there are a few settlements about us,” she said softly. Then, as if she surmised the boy’s thoughts, Oona announced, “In the coming days there will be many more farmers’ fieldstone walls to overcome.” And she wondered if that fog would return once she reached the Evil One.
“How do you know we’re really there?” whispered Louis. His question was unexpected, and Louis didn’t wait for an answer.
“We must be in the past because the world smells fresher,” Louis said. There was different, richer air, unpolluted by twenty-first century man. Yeah, the smell, the sky, and the stars are all different; fresher! And he fell quietly back into his slumber.
Finally ready to sleep for a while, Oona laid herself down on the cold ground beside Louis. She cushioned his head on a portion of her top cloak, and she followed him into a deep gentle sleep under the dream-like canopy of the tall, shadowy trees. Both stayed warm, dry, and at peace, blanketed with several layers of the witch’s precious period garments.
Dawn peaked through the cracks and crevasses of the east-facing trees, as it pointed the way with the light of a morning whose temperature matched Oona’s coolness of character. She awakened fully refreshed after only a few hours’ sleep. She was for now and forever, hopefully, free of Lucia’s magick.
“Louis: Here you must behave as if you are in a museum. We must not disturb this land!” Her words of caution had no visible effect on the boy who did not stir from his balled up position, as if frozen to the ground on which he slept. “You must not touch a thing, and ask before you do anything. Am I making myself clear?” she asked with only the slightest French accent. “And you are a mute. Do not speak. And act as if you hear nothing. When we are near to others, speak only with your eyes and only to me.”
Louis rolled over and pressed his face into his woolen outerwear.
“And always stay at my side! Anything foolish or unplanned can forever change the world and with it the course of history!” Oona plainly could see the boy needed to be more roughly roused.
But not until I perfect my plans, starting with the disposal of what Louis has given me. Oona paused and then rose and assumed an “Indian style” sitting position, and began to braid her hair. The good witch was ever mindful of her clothing, not only the boy’s. She knew she needed to change their collective images in a very short time. She rapidly formed, and hung comfortably over her bosom, two tight long hair-wraps in braids. With a few adjustments to her garments and accoutrements, she would now be a Native American.
The witch had much on her mind, and for the moment she observed that the ground cover was not as gnarly as it would be later on in the spring. Her feet, crudely wrapped in seventeenth century-like materials, managed to stay dry in this place where springtime was slowly shaking off the ravages of winter. And while navigating the course north had been difficult, no streams or rivers stood in their way this first night. In fact, Oona recalled that in her own time, there were no substantial natural barriers in this area other than the bramble – the thickets – that had actually been quite bearable for them so far. “I believe the rough terrain will be no different now.”
From what she could see through the trees, daybreak was streaked with brilliant pink and blue as it prepared the low sky for the rising sun. Sunrise brought the early dew into focus against the haziness of the morning. And that brought hunger. There were no wild grapes, no raspberries, strawberries, nothing! It was too early. Tufts of wild grass had barely started to be green again. Oona smiled to herself, and felt as though she had gathered both strength and composure since their arrival. And she hoped the boy felt as good as she did. She mildly rolled her shoulders, and said to the boy:
“Get up Louis; Time for school.”
Louis did not move.
Oona slowly rose to her feet and stretched her body, and saw what looked like a small but obvious opening in the tree lines, possibly a farmer’s field or a grazing meadow. The good witch was torn between caution, which would avoid mankind, and fulfilling basic needs, which would lead them toward mankind. She looked down on Louis, who still slept, and she took a few moments to use the sun and refine her crude reckoning, on a day she hoped was Saturday, the twenty-sixth of March, 1692. Oona smiled broadly. “I know we are there.” And she chose to move toward the break in the trees.
“This way to Boston, Louis,” she called. “In this time of 1692. This is not a dream, boy.”
Louis still did not stir.
Oona paced a few feet from the boy. “Let us see. There are the matches…and a knife,” she softly stated. “And there is the iPhone!” Oona raised her voice purposely to rouse the boy from his sleep. “And even the smallest bits of debris can change the course of world history,” she bellowed. “And also get us killed!”
“Huh,” Louis finally said.
“Not a trace of this iPod must survive!” She meant it. “Your clothes must go as well, Louis, including the Nikes. We must dispose of everything in ways that will never offer clues to our future, and never alter the past.”
Louis turned onto his back and opened his eyes wide. Oona’s eyes locked onto his immediately. Even with the sharpness of her words, Oona regarded her charge most affectionately at the moment.
“Whatever you brought must be obliterated,” Oona insisted to the boy, just woken up.
“Somewhere we will steal rough clothes for you to wear.” Then, confidingly she added, “If your clothing is discovered,” she drew in a deep breath and warned, “If we are exposed, it means certain death!”
“Whoa,” Louis sat up, and shook off the last of his sleep. “What’s obliterated?”
“It means we must render these things unrecognizable. Everything you brought here must be destroyed: your garb, your belongings, everything must go, and with no traces.”
Louis objected very strongly with few words and many howls. He whined loudly enough to stir noises in the surrounding woodland. Deer or possibly bear. Oona let the boy vent his hopeless anger for the moment, and as he slowed his outburst, she reconsidered the practicality of her own position on the matter. Fear of Lucia and of what might lie ahead swayed Oona to take on risks as rationally as she could.
“Remember, boy: everything we do is fraught with risk. Everything should be destroyed, Louis, and we should try to find better things in their place.”
“It is not important.” And with some reluctance Oona proclaimed, “You may keep your Under Armour until we procure additional garments for you.”
“What about my phone?”
“No, the phone must be destroyed!” And she motioned Louis to stand up; so as to purge the boy of any remaining belongings; and there were several: two breakfast bars and a package of gum.
Louis cried softly, dryly, and continually, upright and helplessly exposed to Oona’s scrutiny. In the thick of the forest, there they stood.
“We must walk on and find a suitable place to dispose of the phone, Louis.” While she could see the boy still cried, she added consolingly, “We should first feast on these granola clusters for a breakfast on the go.” She looked lovingly into his pale blue eyes.
A moment later they were on their way. Louis followed closely behind his nanny who was confident that morning travel would be far easier than what they had experienced at night. Oona greatly preferred the light of day, though travel by cover of darkness had its own advantages. Here they were strangers and would be quite easy to notice. Nonetheless, the couple stayed on course, and while she tried to keep pace with her own hunger, thankfully Louis trudged on without complaints. Oona predicted there would be some respite from the empty monotony of their renewed march north. As the pair proceeded in the direction of what was certainly a substantial break in the wilderness, they approached a narrow brook defended by scattered boulders and small clusters of birch and hornbeam trees. There they stopped and drank greedily from its icy cold winter run off. Then Oona approached a well-placed rock formation, and the boy followed her as if he approached his own execution.
Man and nature will surely, someday find a way to comingle responsibly.
At the edge of the brook the witch pulled the iPhone from under her garments. She placed it there, on a stone altar of sorts, perfectly shaped for her destructive purposes. The good witch motioned to Louis to assist her, and handed him a stone. With their makeshift mallets, the two smashed the thing and eventually reduced the phone to a mass of glittering dust. They gathered the remnants of the boy’s beloved iPhone for disposal in the small brook.
“Go there.” Oona pointed Louis to a large boulder covered with patches of bright green lichens. She said nothing more, and he obeyed her mechanically. The witch waited for the boy to reach his destination at the surging brook. She uttered a few words of magic and blew scant remains to the brisk morning breeze. Amidst the sounds of the woodpecker and the songbirds, the tiny particles were lost to the emptiness. Then Oona joined Louis in order to complete the task. They slowly and carefully spread the remains into the narrow waterway, mixed now with Louis’ tears. It only took a few moments longer and the task was complete.
He is so upset; Poor boy, poor Louis. With his phone book, pictures, play list and apps, and a flashlight.
The pair resumed their walk through the brightening woods and could now clearly discern the open space surrounded by woods. There were many kinds of oak and other trees. Completely unnoticed by them, an Indian brave moved to the brook side from where he strained his eyes to capture the sight of a few sparkling fragments and dust spread sparingly but still visible.
And as they moved along their way, Oona foraged along the ground, and looked for certain roots and herbs for special concoctions or rudimentary snacks to eat. Oona secretly admitted the boy had brought along mostly useful things – things which she hadn’t thought of herself, given all her preparation and all her checks of inventory. Nowhere in all her careful planning did she really prepare for day or even night travel. Sadly, Oona had not given much thought to the basic condiments of survival: small useful things that could be obliterated easily. Her thoughts had been of survival by “blending in.” She had so meticulously planned to fit in with others, mindful of authentic clothing and language norms, with a believable character and a believable story.
“And what did I bring?” she said aloud. “I brought parsley for oral hygiene. And then there was Louis, the boy of nine, almost ten, who casually followed me through a time portal with no fear and more than a few practical elements of survival! I suppose he had been planning: Earbuds and gum, and God knew what else?” That boy was thinking! As they marched on, spring showed increasingly blue amid the patchy gray paleness in the sky above them. Focused on what was perhaps open ground farmland, they walked on and on through the vastness of a white pine forest surrounded by a sea of thick brush. Tangles of bramble tore ruthlessly at their clothes and flesh. And her hunger would not relent, with a fatigue that seemed to get worse with every step.
“Every step you take into the future, Louis, is progress,” she said. “But progress toward what end?” she mouthed rhetorically.
Louis kept up the pace behind Oona and showed steady determination with little regard of the impediments.
“And there is always a ‘maintenance fee’ for progress, correct?” Oona’s pace quickened. “Or for doing what we plan to do?” she quipped.
Finally they came upon a small empty ridge where they spied empty farmer’s fields, none large, laid bare from the winter. Whether new or fallow, each one was of a different hue. Oona took a large swallow to clear a palpable lump in her throat. Beyond what was clearly a farmer’s hedge, there stood a small stone and timber structure with a smoking chimney. Upon closer scrutiny, they saw the small figure of a man.
“Be careful not to disturb a farmer’s fields. Barren though they appear, he may already have planted his crops.” Then slowly and purposely, the two carefully started their descent toward the small house in the center of grazing fields and farmland. Oona emphatically warned Louis, “We must tread carefully both physically and mentally, my boy. Be calm!” We do not belong here. “We are intruders to this time.” We do not belong here. “Relax.”
The boy followed his nanny. Finally he had hard visual evidence of a new world! Then, without fanfare, Louis belatedly declared, “I’m tired and I’m hungry.”
Oona stopped abruptly and turned around to face Louis. “And you are mute!” How she feared words from his mouth at the worst possible moment. “Are you going to be like this all the way to Salem?” Mon Dieu!
“I smell and I need a shower!” he continued.
“Remember boy: You are deaf and you are mute. And there are no showers in this time.” Then Oona resumed her steps down the slope toward the man and his crude shelter, she wondered if they really would make it to Salem and, even less likely, ever find their way back home. Oona feared that a five day journey there, even with ample rest, could drive her insane. Be strong!
“Be smart. Be unassuming,” she said as she continued to pace forward. “Any breach of good manners or etiquette; any error or impropriety, any inconsistency can mean discovery and death!” Oona did not wait for the boy’s reaction. “Be silent at all times!”