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rumour or reality; a research thesis by lem king

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There was a monster in the woods. That’s what they said, at least. The people of the nearby town were wary of the trees, rarely entering it and even then only in tight groups of ten or more, ropes tied between them. They were worried about getting lost, they told Lem.

 

“If the creature spots you, he can draw you away from the path, into the deep woods,” one of the locals told Lem. “You don’t come back from there. He draws you into his realm, out of time.”

 

Lem readjusted his grip on his tape recorder. “If no one comes back then how do you know this… creature gets them?”

 

The man frowned. “Well. Some do come back I suppose, and come back changed they do. Different, talking about years spent in there when they’ve been gone but hours.”

 

“Are any of them still around?” asked Lem. He’d probably gotten everything he could out of this guy, and he crossed his fingers. “I’d like to interview them, if I can.”

 

After some cajoling, the man gave Lem directions to a house on the edge of town, closer to the woods than the others. Strange, for one so reportedly scarred by their experiences to live so close, the tall pines looming over the cottage and casting it in shade. Lem quickly set up his camera, holding for a few moments on the cottage before he panned towards the trees - even if he couldn’t get an interview, it would make for great interstitial footage. Very spooky and somber, very serious.

 

“Get a good shot?” said an easy voice behind him.

 

Lem spum around. There was an older man coming up the path behind him, a basket slung over one arm and his greying dreadlocks held back by a strip of dark green linen.

 

“I, uh-” Lem cleares his throat, switching off the camera as he lowered it. “Hello, my name is Lem King, I’m here to-”

 

“I know what you’re here for,” said the man. He sighed. “I suppose you’ll be wanting an interview.”

 

Lem blinked. “Oh, are you- Do you live here?”

 

“For most of my life,” said the man. He walked past Lem towards the cottage, pausing at the front steps. “Well? Come on, let’s get this over with.”

 

Lem hurried to follow him. “Well, I- only if it’s not too much of an imposition-”

 

“It is,” said the man, “but you may as well. As soon as folks like you hear there’s a living survivor you all push your way in here and won’t leave ‘til I tell you.”

 

“Oh,” said Lem, his shoulders slumping, “I didn’t- I wasn’t aware there had been other documentaries made about this phenomenon.”

 

The man turned from where he was unpacking his basket on the counter, considering him a moment. “That what you’re making?”

 

“I- yes,” said Lem. “It’s as part of my thesis, I wanted to study a piece of folklore that hadn’t been so extensively covered. I didn’t- I wasn’t able to find very much on this creature here, so I thought…”

 

“Well, you’re in luck in that part,” said the man. “The crews that come by either come out disappointed or don’t come out at all, so I don’t suppose they’ve been able to make much out of it. Fero can be a little shy with visitors.”

 

“Fero?”

 

“That's what he's called, the creature. Or it's what he asked me to call him, at any rate,” said the man. He gave Lem a look. “You planning on recording any of this?”

 

“Oh, I- yes, of course, if that’s alright, I-” 

 

Lem scrambles for his camera, his hands shaking. To interview someone with first-hand experience with a mythical creature! This could be even bigger than his thesis, this could be a real documentary, or the splashy start of a youtube series. The man sat down at the worn kitchen table, gesturing for Lem to take the other seat.

 

Lem cleared his throat. “If you could- If you could briefly introduce yourself and then, uh, and then describe your experience? With the crea- with Fero?”

 

“My name’s Samol, and I’ve lived here in this town since I was born. When I was… Oh, it would have been almost forty-odd years ago now, I went out into the forest with a hunting party. We didn’t use the ropes like they do now, just trusted each other to keep an eye out, but something caught mine.”

 

Samol paused, his gaze drifting to the window. Lem tried to catch it with the camera, the small glimpse of the forest from the window.

 

“You met this Fero creature?” prompted Lem.

 

“That I did,” said Samol, his gaze still distant. “Just on the edge of a clearing, a little man, so green he almost blended right into the forest, with big green eyes as bright as sunlight through the leaves. I could feel… I could feel the other people I’d come in with moving away from me but I let them go, I still thought at that time I could find my way back out easy.” He paused. “It’s hard to tell… Time moves different in those trees. The world had moved a great deal for me when I walked back out, even though the others said I'd been out of sight less than a half hour.”

 

“But it- what was he like? This Fero creature?”

 

The corner of Samol’s lips quirked upwards. “Loud, I guess is the word I’d use for him.”

 

Lem lowered his camera slightly, frowning. “Loud?”

 

“You’ll understand if you meet him,” said Samol. “Best you don’t though. It's mighty dangerous to go into the forest alone even without taking Fero into account.”

 

“But he didn’t hurt you ,” said Lem.

 

“I’m more of the exception that proves the rule, you might say,” said Samol. “Helped that I didn’t know what he was at first, treated him like I would any man I’d come across in the market square instead of a wild animal.”

 

“Well, that’s- I’m not going to hurt him!” said Lem. “I just- it’s just a little video footage, surely he can’t be opposed to that ?”

 

Samol sighed. “I suppose there’s no convincing you to stay away?”

 

“I’ve been hiking before,” said Lem, “I’m- I’m perfectly qualified.”

 

Samol hummed. “Be that as it may, you’ll need more than your wits about you out there.”

 

"I just want to talk to him," said Lem. "I just… I want to hear what he thinks about… well. Everything, I suppose."

 

Samol hummed, considering Lem for a long moment. "You want to know what he think, huh?"

 

Lem swallowed. "I- yes?"

 

Samol hummed again. He reached up, untying the strip of green linen from around his hair and holding it out to Lem. “Here. You’d best take this then.”

 

Lem took it, looking down at the simple green robbin on his hand for a moment before he looked back up at Samol. “Is this… what do I do with this?”

 

Samol shrugged. “It might work as a token, or sorts, provided you behave yourself well enough.”

 

“I… see,” said Lem. He tied it around the strap of his camera. “I’ll bring it back after- when I come back.”

 

“It’s just a ribbon,” said Samol. “If I minded it getting lost with you I wouldn’t give it to you.”

 

“Right,” said Lem. His eyes drifted to the window, where the trees waved in the faint breeze. “Right, well.”



----



Samol watched the young man through his window the next morning, heading into the forest. Samol let out a long breath, warming his hand on his mug of coffee. He could just make out the tiny scrap of green fabric he’d given Lem, waving with each one of Lem’s steps before he disappeared among the trees.

 

He waited a moment and then picked up his basket, stepping out into the cool morning air. He took a few steps out his back door, following the well-worn path towards the edge of the forest towards a worn looking stump, just beyond the treeline. He set the basket down on it, pulling the cloth covering it away. The faint scent of sugary pastries drifted into the morning air.

 

He looked around him. No sign of any one or any thing, this early. Just the birds, and the faint sound of Lem’s boots as they moved away from him.

 

Samol waved a hand. “Now I know you always say you ain’t hungry, but I picked you up a couple of things the other day I thought you might like to try. Had a few of them myself from that new baker, he’s turning out pretty well I’d say.” He took a sip of his coffee, scanning the treeline. “Not much else going on, usual gossip and mischief. My sons are coming to visit next week, so I suppose I’ll learn about how’s going in town.”

 

He glanced behind him, towards his cottage. When he looked back the basket was empty, the woods around him just as still and vacant as they had been before.

 

He huffed a breath. “Thought you’d like ‘em.” He paused. “Take it easy on this one. He don’t mean any harm, I don’t think. Just a little foolish. Says he'd like to know what you think of the world.”

 

There was the long, whip-like call of a lyrebird in the distance. Samol took another sip of his coffe and then turned back towards his cottage.



----



Lem sat down on a rock to look over his map. He’d marked off the most likely sighting spots, calculated by studying the sightings of other, similar forest legends - caves and notable trees, significant rock formations and bends in streams. He was almost to the stream, in his estimation. Even if he didn’t see the creature there, it would be a nice spot for lunch. He glanced at his watch to check how long he’d been walking and then frowned, lifting it to his ear. It was still ticking but - did the seconds seem a fraction too slow? Perhaps it was just his imagination.

 

There was a rustling sound nearby, breaking off his train of thought. Lem tensed, looking towards the source of the sound. The rustling came again. Lem swallowed, carefully creeping across the forest floor, peering around a tree.

 

There was a man there, short and dressed in a kind of patchwork green leather, making Lem think of dappled sunlight on the leaves above them. The man took the final bite of the food he was holding, licking the sugar from his fingers.

 

Lem’s foot slipped a little on the root of the tree, the scraping sound echoing in the still air.

 

The man - the creature - turned towards him, it's green eyes wide. Lem’s breath caught in his throat, and he took a step backwards. The creature tilted its head, studying him like a hunter studies it's prey and then leapt into the tree above. The branches shook. Lem watched the path of shaking branches as the creature disappeared, moving further away, further into the forest.

 

"Oh- wait-" said Lem, scrambling too late for his camera, "wait, wait-"

 

He stumbled into motion, following the path the creature had taken, deeper into the forest.



----



Deeper and deeper into the forest, deeper and deeper into the forest, deeper and deeper into the forest, deeper and deeper



----



The rustling overhead disappeared after a point, but luckily there was still enough of a trail for Lem to follow - the heavy imprints in the soft earth where the Fero creature had jumped to the ground, the branches of a bush broken here, a stray footprint there. Lem recorded it all as best he could with shaking hands. Here, on film, was irrefutable proof of a mythological creature, and it was going to come from his thesis.

 

He paused to lean against a rock, looking over his map. It seemed as though the creature was heading towards the stream. Lem nodded to himself, feeling pleased to have so easily guessed it’s destination.

 

There was a flash of something ahead of him, like the gleam of green leather, and Lem jolted up, scrambling over the rocks to follow. His foot slipped and Lem flailed, letting go on the map to find his grip on the rocks. He watched as the map fluttered down, back down the hill he’d just climbed. Lem let out a sigh. It would be so annoying to double back, especially when he’d been so close. He glanced at the top of the ridge of rocks, mere steps away from him.

 

Well. Perhaps he’d just have a peek, so he knew which direction the creature had gone. Then he’d go back for the map.

 

He pulled himself up, panting with the effort of reaching the jagged ridge. There, at the bottom, was the creature. He couldn’t make out it’s expression from this distance, but- it waved cheerfully, walking casually into the trees. Lem swore, pulling himself over the ridge and skidding as fast as possible down the hill, hot on the creature’s trail.



----



The map blew in the breeze, momentarily caught in the branches of a tree before it fluttered down, landing in a puddle. The ink began to seep into the water, the crisp lines of the map blurring together, unreadable.



----



Lem hadn’t been able to find the creature. There were still some signs of it, a few broken branches here or there, enough that he still wanted to press forward. His muscles ached a little from struggling up the rocky hill, but he’d stop soon enough for lunch. He’d get hungry eventually, after all, it was only...

 

Lem frowned down at his watch, shaking his wrist and then holding it to his ear. He couldn’t hear anything from it now. Judging from the time on it, it must have stopped right after he’d entered the forest. How annoying.

 

He shook himself. Still. He’d be hungry eventually, and even through the murky light coming through the thick trees above it must have only been mid-morning. He had plenty of time still before he had to start heading back.

 

He was beginning to feel thirsty though. He could hear the stream in the distance and began to head towards the sound. He’d stop here, just as he’d planned to earlier, and rest a little. Maybe get some footage of the forest for interstitial voiceover later. Maybe he’d even see the Fero, since he seemed to be heading in that direction.

 

There. This was all going perfectly according to plan.



----



Fero crouched in the trees above, watching the man head towards the stream. He’d been following him for a while, stumbling around the forest with apparently no goal in mind, getting excited over every broken branch or snapped twig. He was certainly much less annoying than the group that normally stomped through, hunters from the nearby town strung together with rope, jumping at every tiny noise, or groups of people looking for him, whispering theories to each other as though he wouldn’t be able to hear them.

 

The man bent to the stream, refilling his water bottle and taking a long drink from it. Fero felt the water cool the man’s parched throat, letting himself breathe in time with him. The man sat down, leaning back on his hands, tilting his head back to look up at the trees above, letting out a deep breath. The forest air filled his lungs, bringing Fero with it.

 

The man blinked, picking up his camera, scanning it along the treeline. A green ribbon waved in the air with the movement, drawing Fero’s eye to it. He knew that ribbon. He’d given it to Samol himself, after all.

 

Fero drew back, into the shadows of the branches, his eyes still fixed on the ribbon.



----



Lem followed the stream, walking along the bank as much as he was able. If he remembered the map well enough, it would lead towards some caves, which he’d marked as another potential sighting spot. Hopefully it would be better than the stream. There’d been no sign of the creature there, nor had he been able to find its trail since then. Disappointing, but judging by the light above him it was barely midday, so he still had plenty of time left before he would have to think about making his way back.

 

There was a small clearing at the base of the mountain where the cave system began. As Lem reached it, he caught a flash of something drifting towards the mouth of one of the caves, the sound of footsteps retreating into the darkness.

 

“Wait-!” said Lem, trying to pull his torch out of his backpack and run at the same time. “Wait, just a minutes, please, I-”

 

He clicked on the torch as he rounded the first corner, stumbling to a stop as the beam of torchlight illuminated the creature. It’s pupils narrowed, cat-like, in the light, it's gaze knowing. Lem paused.

 

I- hello? Can you…” Lem wet his lips. “Do you understand me?”

 

“No,” said Fero.

 

Lem’s shoulders slumped. “Oh.” Lem frowned. “Wait-”

 

The creature’s face broke into a grin and it laughed. The sound bounced off the walls of the cave, his delight multiplying in the darkness.

 

“Oh, no,” said Fero, “I mean, you walked way further than you're supposed to, I don't understand you at all.”

 

“I- that’s- I don’t see how that’s-” spluttered Lem. “I’m on a very important research mission.”

 

ferohis head. “Research on what?”

 

“On the- uh.” Lem paused. “Well, it’s- I’m doing my thesis project on folklore, you see, and I thought, well, wouldn’t it be something if I could find proof of something that hasn’t already been studied to death, and I came across a book that mentioned, uh. You? I suppose?”

 

“Okay,” said Fero. He paused. “What’s a thesis?”

 

“It’s- I- well, it can be anything, really, but it’s sort of like large, final project,” said Lem.

 

“Huh,” said Fero. “That’s a new one. Normally when people blunder all the way up here they’re like so we can catch you and put you in a museum .”

 

Lem frowned. “Why would they want to do something like that ? Surely video is enough.”

 

“Oh, that’s usually why,” said Fero, “Usually by the time they get up here I’ve smashed all their tech. I don’t like being taped.”

 

Lem’s hand flexed on his camera. “Ah. I… I see.” He cleared his throat. “Well, I, uh-” He huffed a breath. “I’m honestly not sure- I wasn’t expecting you to be able to talk .”

 

Fero wrinkled his nose. “Rude.”

 

“I- there’s no record of you being able to talk !” said Lem. “Although I suppose what there is of you is very vague. It took me an annoyingly long time to even be able to track down the location of the town.”

 

“Good,” said Fero. “I hate visitors.”

 

“I’m not a visitor ,” said Lem, “I’m a researcher .”

 

Fero waved a hand, his clawed fingers glinting in the torchlight. “Whatever that means.”

 

“It means I’m here to- to- to learn something,” said Lem, “and I’m not leaving until I do!”

 

The creature blinked, tilting its head at him again. Lem felt it’s gaze on him, hot in the cool air of the cave.

 

“I, uh. Well. You know. I’m not- I’m dedicated to knowledge, is what I meant,” said Lem. “I’m dedicated to finishing my thesis.”

 

“So when you’ve finished that, you’ve finished learning?” asked Feto.

 

“Well, I- No, I suppose not.” Lem paused. “I suppose- Well. I mean, I don’t suppose you ever stop learning, do you? There’s always something new.” He wet his lips, taking a steadying breath in. “Take- take you for example.”

 

“Me?”

 

“Yes,” said Lem, glad his nerves weren’t showing in his voice. “I mean, I’m sure that no matter how long I was here, there’d always be something new to learn about you, wouldn’t there? Or the forest? And something new you could learn about me in return?"

 

Fero stilled, his eyes widening slightly. “People don’t- people like you don’t normally want to know about the forest, which- that sucks, because I made some really cool stuff for it.”

 

Lem tamped down on his excitement over the tiny scrap of information the creature had just given him. “Oh, well, I- I’d love to know about the forest, if you have time.”

 

He began to lift his camera, stopping at the creature’s eyes narrowed.

 

“Oh, it’s just… my memory isn’t that good,” said Lem.

 

“You can write it down if you need to,” said Fero.

 

Lem huffed a breath, digging around in his backpack for his moleskin. “Could you… I’d love to know about what you made first? If you have time, of course.”

 

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” said Fero. “We have as much time as I want.” His eyes gleamed. "Ask away."



----



>search results for “forest” “spirit” “lem king”:

 

Hidden Tales: What Modern Folklore Can Tell Us About Ourselves by Lem King

On The Subject Of Rare Trees And Their Preservation by Lem King

Rural Folklore [interview transcripts available via request, please see library information desk]

Famous Missing Persons Cases , Du Carte et al.

Dendrology Through Time by Lem King

Arborist of the Forest by Lem King

Unfinished Memoir Document by Lem King [Rare Collections, please see library information desk for access]