Carter ducked branches and stepped over fallen limbs as he weaved his way through the thick woods of the Mark Twain National Forest. He picked up a stick in the beginning of his stroll, letting it lead the way to gather spider webs. He was also cautious not to get his shoes scuffed or suit torn.
After forty-five minutes, Carter had reached his destination. He found a relatively clean stump to sit down on and waited for the sun to fall behind the trees. He frowned as he looked down and saw that his shoes had been scuffed. The sky stole his attention. It looked as though it was on fire with swirling purple flames. It was unusual how much how much it looked like an Edvard Munch painting, screaming for admiration. “Where are you?” Carter thought out loud.
As soon as the thought passed, the last ray of sunlight disappeared, and the painting turned to black. Carter heard a door shut nearby. He walked the direction of the noise. Carter approached a little broken shack with a busted door. He dreaded the conversation that was about to take place, but he needed the information the inhabitant could provide.
Carter knocked three times on what remained of the shack door. “Hello? Please let me in or I’ll let myself in. I would hate to be rude.”
“Yes, one minute. Let me cover up.” Carter heard shuffling inside. “Ok, come in.”
Carter opened the door and examined the room. A small fireplace stood on the opposite side with a small dining room table sitting in front of it. The fire was lit with a pot cooking something that smelled delicious. No doubt in Carters mind it was a deer the old man had trapped. The smell of the soup almost overcame the aroma of death inside the shack.
The person Carter came to speak to was dressed in a cloak that completely covered his body. As Carter spoke, the man remained with his back turned facing the fireplace. “Do you know who I am old man?” Carter asked.
“I prefer what the locals call me, ‘Methuselah.”
“Of course. No disrespect intended. Do you know who I am Methuselah?”
“Yes, I know who you are. It is the only reason you’re alive.”
“If you know who I am, then you know why I’m here.”
Methuselah sat down in front of his fireplace and cut up vegetables to put inside the pot. “You would like to know if anyone has come by searching for the book... Have a seat. The meal is almost ready.”
“I’ve not the time Methuselah. I have other things-“
Carter sat down at the small makeshift dining room table. “Methuselah, you are the only… person, that I’ve met that could come even remotely close to my abilities, without my influence. You are two hundred and fifty years old. How did you know how to…”?
Methuselah chuckled, “I guess it’s like knowing how to breath. If you want to enough, you tend to figure it out.”
“Hmm. I suppose.”
Methuselah put a ladle up to his cloak and tried his soup. “Just a little longer. You can wait. You have time.”
“I’ve come to that understanding, Methuselah.”
“Would you like to hear a story?”
Carter knew the stories behind Methuselah’s stories. Those who heard them either complimented them or perished to what Methuselah called, “the unknown.” Carter was not worried about dying as much as he was worried about the possible confrontation. He did not want to risk losing the information he sought. “I would love to hear a story.”
Methuselah told his story. “There was a man, full of greed. He was so full of greed that he was willing to do whatever was necessary to obtain every treasure there was on earth. He had spent his entire life stealing, bargaining, lying… killing. Until, he had everything of value in his possession but one gold coin.
“The man spent years searching for this coin. People around him died from starvation, poor health, and exposure to the elements. One day, the rich man came across one of the people dying from starvation. The starving man asked the greedy man if he could have a morsel of bread if he told him where the coin resided. The greedy man agreed. The starving man told him it resided in the bottom of an old woman’s stomach and told where she lived.
“The greedy man threw down some bread and rode immediately to the house that the starving man described. He kicked down the door, cut open the old woman’s stomach, and found nothing.
“A young woman walked in on the gruesome scene and screamed that the greedy man had killed her mother. Soon after, the starving man, the young woman’s husband, came to console her.”
Carter nodded his head, “Humorous indeed. It took an unlikely twist. I enjoyed that. Well said as well. I understand the point of your story, but I am well aware of the consequences of my actions. I am not merely destroying wherever I see fit. There is a purpose for what I do.”
Carter leaned toward Methuselah resting his elbows on the table. “The other day I toppled an entire city. There are people with abilities, that just a few years ago would have been unimaginable. The United States is deploying every force they have on Hawk Island and are soon to fall. All of thhis is because of me.”
“No! It’s because of the book! The knowledge you retained from it. It was clever, letting pieces of the book out little by little, never letting anyone have the whole.”
“How would you know that?”
“These woods talk Carter. Almost as much as you do.”
Carter winced, “That is why I am here, and the reason YOU are still alive. There are some with a stronger will than others. If they learn of this book, they can take it away from me. You realize how detrimental this would be to my cause, don’t you?”
Methuselah poured an old tin cup full of meat and vegetables for Carter, then one for himself. Face still covered, he sat at the table across from Carter and spoke between bites. “I’m not sure I fully understand your cause. But to answer your question, as of yet, nobody has come by asking for the book. People are asking other questions though.”
Carter fought staring as Methuselah shoveling food into his hood. “People are expected to ask questions. It is the specific ones about the book that will thwart my efforts. I would appreciate it if you let me know when you hear something.”
“I will let you know. I don’t mind your company.”
Carter drank from his soup cup and ate a piece of meat. His eyes widened. “Methuselah, this is sublime! What is in this? I must have your recipe!”
Methuselah replied, “His name was Joey.”