Mechanical Insects in the Forest
Travel Log, 27th of June, 2008, or 1908, I can never tell anymore.
Mechanical Insects in the Forest
The trip to Chicago regrettably had to be canceled because of gremlins that had taken up a home under the hood of the auto. We could almost hear the ghastly little things chewing metal just outside our window as we attempted to sleep that night. Transmission fluid and new fan belts are easy to obtain, but gremlin killer in an easy to use spray can there is not. We had to take the Archive’s auto to a proper witch doctor to first remove the gremlins, and then take the poor spent vehicle to a proper mechanic to have the damage repaired. Generally speaking in this day and age the average mechanic does not lift an auto’s hood and find himself greeted by large bite marks in the machinery. This prompted him to take a good hard, mystified look at us. Michael simply told him “What? We didn’t nom nom it.”So with our trip canceled, and some of our stress brought down a peg or two, we decided it might be enjoyable to take a simple trip for the afternoon. We were about to get into our newly repaired auto but stopped when we distinctly imagined that we heard small voices singing Gremlin from the Kremlin. So instead we took up arms, garden rakes and garden hoses, and guarded the auto for a few hours until we were quite sure the threat had passed. Our trip ruined by the knowledge that the sun would now be down well before we had a chance to get beyond Providence, we instead opted to explore the small forest beyond the house.
A small path presented itself in the foliage and we used this spot to slip into the wall of green. About four minutes of walking into the forest presented us with our first novelty. Or well, perhaps novelty is not the best word. Aberration? No. Weird stuffs? Yes, we were presented with weird stuffs in the form of a thick old tree that was covered in clock faces. One would think there would be a neatly designed sign beside the tree to explain its strange shrine of visual time, like most strange or historical markers have in New England. But no. The tree stood alone in a small clearing and a vast variety of clock faces in just as many sizes lay hooked to the tree.
Upon looking a little closer it became apparent that not one of the clocks was keeping the same time. The difference in some may only be minutes, but the exact time was not to be had from any of them. Michael leaned in to have a closer look at this and jumped back as a strange crickety creature came between him and the clock face he was staring at.
Now, this creature looked like an insect, but its movements seemed very sluggish and labored, as though its small body was carrying nearly too much weight for its wings. Looking closely we could see that it indeed was nearly too heavy for its wispy wings, as its body was made of a gold metal. It landed on the top of one of the clock faces, fidgeted with its legs around the top of the clock till it got a strong purchase on a hook hanging from a nob on the tree. It gave its wings a frenzied buzzing before lifting off and taking the clock with it. The clocks surrounding the newly departed one all clanked back into place, leaving only a small spot on the tree visible.
Another metal insect of a different design came along and followed the same routine. And then another. We were so busy watching this strange display that we almost missed the large and labored beetle moving across the ground. He had gears sticking out from its bum and some type of circular reading glass on its back. Behind it it dragged a clock. Slowly it moved over the tree’s thick trunk legs and up the side of the tree. It found one of the empty nobs and placed the clock face on it.
The whole thing was very efficient and timely, this more obvious the longer we stayed to watch. But the whole thing was terribly surreal. I mean, to what purpose was this tree and its many clocks here? And who had crafted these mechanical insects to tend to the tree and its coming and going clocks? A mystery very tempting to solve. The only problem was the sun was starting to set, and long shadows were starting to darken up the forest. We feared staying much longer might lead to us not finding our way out again.
In a rash move, desperate for some sort of information about this scene, Michael reached out and grabbed one of the larger mechanical creatures off of the tree before it could fly away with a clock. The clock fell to the ground and its glass face broke. The glass shards caused the clock hands to bend and stop moving steadily forward. The strangest noise filled the forest as this was going on. It was as if somewhere in the wooded area someone was moaning over head and it vibrated within the trees.
As we tried to ignore this strange sound, Michael took his pocket knife from his back pocket and used one of the thin blades to remove the cover of the dragonfly’s back. Inside were more mechanical parts, lots of turning cogs and rotating parts. But resting neatly in the middle of all of this was a small, rolled up piece of parchment. Michael held the dragonfly’s metal bits apart so that I could slip my fingers inside of it and remove the parchment.
I unwrapped the aged looking little thing and squinted to read the very small script that was very elegantly written on the page. It read: Eleanor Patch, stolen time twelve minutes. Taken from her at four o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday. She is to be returned eight minutes of that, at three o’clock on a Thursday. The Fates are all in agreement on this solicitation and request.
At reading this Michael dropped the dragonfly and both of us stepped away from it and the tree. The bug turned, seeming to stare up at us from its mesh looking fake eyes. It soon recovered and took back to the air, rushing away from the tree. Another of the large beetles had come and was slowly dragging the broken clock away, while smaller, almost tick like insects were busy eating the remains of the glass and small clock bits.
The two of us turned from this scene and quickly left the forest the way we’d come. I think subconsciously we were trying to forget our steps as if to mentally brush dirt over the path we’d taken so that it would remain hidden. It was a strange sight and despite how beautiful the insects were, and the clock faces they tended, there was an overwhelming sensation of something being wrong with the area. Some mysteries are like that, and the sensation of wrongness is meant -to the wise willing to heed it- keep people away. We heeded the sensation.
Back home we tried to put the event behind us and simply watch a movie. The sound of soft gnawing on metal brought our attention back to the car. Instead of worrying about witch doctors and mechanics again, Michael simply grabbed our large and ferocious (in theory) feline, put his harness and leash on him, and took him outside to the car. He opened the hood, set the cat down and pointed to a pair of eyes peering out from behind the engine. “Nom noms! Get him!” He commanded the feline. There were a few icky sounds while Hunter rid the car of its new infestation of gremlins, but it was pretty clean when I went down to retrieve him. And thankfully we’ve yet to have to clean up any gremlin heavy hairballs on the carpet.
Like many of the things we encounter in our shared lives, Michael and I have been trying to artfully recreate the insects we witnessed and the clocks they tended to. Please find enclosed on the next page of this journal a few paint sketches of what we saw.
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Mechanical Insects in the Forest Copyright (c)2008 Bethalynne Bajema
Mechanical insects done by both Myke Amend & Bethalynne Bajema (c)2008
Insect and Clock collages by Bethalynne Bajema (c)2008
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