If you walk up the back property and follow the wire fence until it ends, there’s a copse of trees in a shallow depression where the stream runs through it. Keep the stone wall on your left and it’ll curve right and you’ll run straight into it. The wall is built in the English style, a row of stones like dominos sitting atop it. The hills around there carve out a pillowed landscape and these trees are some of the only ones visible for miles.
First time finding it I was chasing Daisy who’d run out the house when the door hung open a second too long and she took off like the wind, following a scent or her wiles or lord only knows what. Anyways the door opened and she took off, and I took off following. She ran straight out toward the back property like she knew where she was going even though she’d never been back there but once, maybe twice. Led me straight to the trees, it seemed. Got to the shade of the oaks and just plopped down like she meant to come here the whole time.
Soon as she settled I stopped to look around. Had to catch my breath because of all the running we just did to get out here. Heard sister shouting off in the distance. Lost her myself we were flying so quick. And I’m standing there panting and suddenly the silence of the place really hits me. Like damp air, like a pillow over your ears. Everything kind of muted and dreamlike. The wind was slight but sung gently through the branches and the ground covered all around with ferns, thick with them. Smelled of age and time itself.
Looked over at Daisy and she’s lying in front of a tree with, I fool you not, a door in it. A small one, like a chipmunk or even a fairy built it. Round, with a tiny doorknob on the one side not bigger than an acorn. Got close and realized it was an acorn. Door was a disc sliced right from a tree. Daisy got up again and watched me approach like she’d brought me out here just for this, and then I thought well maybe she did.
Opened the door and a pile of envelopes just about fell out, had to press my body against the tree to keep them all in. They had an elastic around their middle like they were just waiting to be picked up from the post and looked old, was the first thing I could tell. Used my hand to feel around the rest of the hole but the letters were it. Sat down on a log with the stack in my lap and Daisy lay down again, looking real somber up at me from underneath her brows.
The envelopes were blank like they’d never been sent, just a little number in the top left. One, two, three, ordered just like that from the front of the stack to the back, eighteen in all. Slid the first one out and set the stack down next to me. Flap wasn’t even sealed, just opened right away and I pulled out a couple sheets of paper. Kind of looked around like I was doing something sneaky even though I’d found these all my own.
Opened the sheets, folded up neatly in thirds, and felt some air leave me all in a rush. Knew they were going to be old, could tell by the paper, but the first sheet, dated in the right corner, read February 2023.
I don’t know who will read this, but if you are reading, my job is done. There isn’t a less direct way to say this: almost everything you’ve been told about the machine riots of 2022 will have been a lie. I can only hope that these trees are remote enough to be left untouched by the inevitable spread of this scourge.
Where do I begin?