Note – this is now Chapter 12 of the story Of Wind and Wings, a story inspired by these prompts of Sue’s.
Note 2 – this chapter is not based on one of Sue’s prompts. It is an “in between” chapter that was needed to fill in detail.
The giant, bushy eyebrow climbed up the man’s face, like an oversized caterpillar.
“Yes, there is a long history of the Barrows family living in the region. A very long history, indeed.” The twin caterpillars descended towards each other in the middle of the man’s face, as if racing towards his nose, but leaving their tails sticking up. “Not that there was ever very many of them, the Borrows, around here. No, no, there seems to only be one or two children in any given generation. Very thin line. Of course, theirs was a species that became extinct back in the 1880s or 1890s.”
Ed had decided to spend the day exploring the village instead of the moors. Besides the rain, he knew they would feel so empty without his companion. Actually, either companion, Lauren or her mother, would have been better than no companion at all. Not knowing where to turn, he ended up making a visit with Mr. Brown, the historian.
“They didn’t become extinct, except maybe locally,” Ed said. “They emigrated and found their way over to America. Or I should say ‘we emigrated’, for they were my ancestors.”
In an explosive movement, Mr. Brown’s eyebrows jumped up almost to his hairline. “You don’t say! Interesting. All I can tell you is that they dropped off of the records around here.” Ed got the impression that ‘here’ was the only place that Mr. Brown cared one whit about. The Barrows were long gone from the area, so were of no interest to him, except as history.
“But you do know about my family, then? At least while we were still here?”
“Of course. They are part of the local history.”
Ed was actually more interested in that other family of the book. In particular, he wanted to find out more about the youngest member of the family, the daughter, Lauren. But he knew that was a direction this conversation could never go.
“When studying the local history and such, where do you get all of your information?”
The two fuzzy protrusions came together in a single brow. “Here and there, you know. The usual sources. Church records, town and county records. Libraries. Private collections, when the owners feel charitable. Even artifacts and architecture can help tie loose ends, though out here they could be behind the times, so never a perfect date. Mostly old records, though. You know. Where else does a historian gather data?”
Despite the day of intimate conversation, Ed didn’t have a way to get in touch with Lauren. He didn’t have a number, an email or anything else. He had waited for over an hour before driving into the village, but she didn’t return. As to Liza, Ed wasn’t too proud to admit that her mood scared him.
“Are there any books about this area?”
He did want to find out more and would use any excuse to avoid reading his great uncle’s book, particularly the version that Liza gave him.
“Goodness no. Who would buy them?” The single brow bunch up even more, but then straightened out, separating once more into two objects. “I do remember your friend, Mrs. Smyth, trying to publish a book a few years back. She called it “history”, but of course it was mostly speculation and fabrication. A romantic novel if I remember correctly, but no Bronte, her. No. And no, nobody else would bother with our small corner of the world. No.”
“Why don’t you write one? You could put in the geography and geology, you know, how the land was formed and all. Then there is the archology, the earliest people here, followed by the actual history. Put this entire region in context. It isn’t’ just empty nothingness, as some would think. I’m sure it is rich and vibrant.” Ed had started to become excited by the idea, until he saw Mr. Browns scowl.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Pulman, but it wouldn’t be possible.” The giant caterpillars drooped. “Every few years someone does a study, ancient pollen counts and all, and rewrites that geography. First, Man came in, cut down the light woodland and plowed up the soil, making it thin, which caused an ecological disaster, a mistake of nature called the ‘moorland’. Then another study proves that there were never any woodlands, that the moorland was as natural as the forests and man had nothing to do with it. And then the year after that it was a combination of forces, with the climate going through constant change after the last ice age, plus the hand of Man and other such things. Then someone calls that research bunk and it’s back to the drawing board. It would change before I could write it out.”
“But what about archeology, then?”
The caterpillar eyebrows drooped even farther, threating to cover Mr. Brown’s face. “That is even worse. First they say that every millennia, then every few centuries or whatever, there is a new invasion, wiping the old people off of the map and replacing them with the new. And then they say that each new ‘wave’ is only a handful of people that become the rulers and leave a mark in language and artifacts, but the old people still survive. And then they do genetic testing and go back to the bigger waves. They say the new comers bringing in agriculture were from the Mediterranean and totally replaced the old. And again and again. And then the experts test more of the local population and come up with something else. But a new body is found and so… Every year it’s a different story and every year we start fresh with new theories.”
“Then write a straight up history book, one to put all of your hard research and knowledge to good use.”
“The records only go back so far and are very incomplete. The bloody Puritans, if you’ll pardon my language, destroyed much more than they built and so much before mid-seventeenth century has become almost as much speculation as Mrs. Smyth’s book. I could piece the fragments that remain together and come up some semblance of truth and history. Pull in outside references to corroborate everything. Perhaps. With a lot of work. But who would buy it?”
Mr. Brown shook his head, sweeping away the air, and the very idea of a book, with his brushy forehead. “No, no, it isn’t worth my while. There needs to be no books about this place. Go out and look at it. It is its own book. Better than a book.”
Ed contemplated the man in front of him. Mr. Brown was supposed to be the fact based historian of the area, but when pushed, he retreated out into the moors as much as anyone else. Ed decided that he would still try.
“Mr. Brown, I am trying to discover my roots, my family history. The longer I am out here, the more I feel akin to the land and even this village. But I want a factual history, not just stories.”
The animate caterpillars settled down, losing some of their self-life. “I would suggest one of two courses. First, you can go to the sources yourself. I can tell you the places to go, where to find what and how to get your foot in the door. Or you can read your great uncle’s notes and try to separate the wheat of fact from the chaff of myth. He did all of the research for you already. He studied it all. But he also allowed his imagination to run free on the moor. The moorland is a very big place, Mr. Pulman, and if you let your imagination roam it at will, you are apt to pull in some very strange tales, tales that have no business showing their misshapen heads in a history.”
“And you can’t help me?”
The bushes jumped up again. “What? You didn’t listen? Yes, of course I can help. I can point you to where you need to go. I can help you verify a fact and let you know if I think something is a fairytale, but I can’t do your research for you.”
“Thank you Mr. Brown. As to ‘pointing me to where I need to go,’ the first thing I’d like you to point out for me is a good place for lunch.”
Mr. Brown smiled. “Of course. There is actually only one place in the village worth the time. I’m about to head there myself. Join me?”
“I’d love to.”
“Two minutes while I close up and we can be on our way.”
As Ed watched Mr. Brown close up his shop he realized that he had never seen a customer come in. He had to wonder where the man earned his money. The historian smiled broadly in such a friendly way that Ed didn’t even take notice of what his monster eyebrows were doing. Ed returned the smile. He felt that this would be a rather good lunch.
And so it continues, now up to chapter ten (10) of the newly named Of Wind and Wings. Chapter 11 is here. Chapter 10 is here. Chapter 9 is here. Chapter 8 is here. Chapter 7 is here. Chapter 6 is here. Chapter 5 is here. Chapter 4 is here. Chapter 3 is here. Chapter 2 is here and Chapter 1 here.
Note – Although this is based on and is a continuation of a story using the prompts from Sue Vincent’s #writephoto, this is an “in between” chapter that did not use a prompt.