“Pathmaker” Ep 1: Skip Estes

Skip’s neighborhood was normally safe by civilized standards. Except this particular morning a commotion across the street brought him out of a serious breakfast focus. His curiosity got the better of him, so he tried to sneak a peek through the blinds hanging over his living room window. There were three white, windowless vans lining the street in front of the neighbor’s house. Two police cruisers blocked the driveway making a “T” shape that leaned to the left. The neighbor’s name was David Freelin, and he and Skip had been neighbors for years. He had always been a good neighbor. The memory of the time when David ran an electrical cord across the street during the last ice storm once the power started going out, but he had a generator and shared it with him until the power came on again.

Skip hated the reason that David was being harassed. The Constitution used to state that religion was not something in which the government would dabble. That part had recently been removed, and before anyone had a chance to repeal it, things began to take a turn for the worse, becoming dangerous. A new government office, The NRCC, National Religious Control Center, and their enforcement organization, The Inquisitors Office, started removing the resistance. They began with the most vocal of the nonreligious people. Once most of those were removed their attentions moved to the more common citizen. They claimed they were just doing an “extra census.” Commercials stared to air right when the census takers began knocking on doors around the neighborhoods of the entire nation. Skip remembered when the media started to change. The television commercials explicitly say, “Get religion or we will come get you,” but that is what he thought they meant. About two months later the white, windowless vans accompanied by police cruisers began showing up in neighborhoods. They were arresting, or abducting as some called it, the people who had not answered their extra census questions asking about religion satisfactorily.

Once the NRCC realized the loudest voices of opposition were cleared away they would virtually unregulated access, to everyone. This was Skip’s best guess to explain the current environment in which his wonderful neighbor was being abducted.

He understood the federal policy like this: everyone must have a recognized religion. The rationale presented was nonreligious persons cannot have an objective moral sense, and this caused of all the social trouble, leading to criminal behavior. Considering this was a US policy, it seemed odd to Skip they were open to most religions as long as it was a recognized one. Even though the people still had freedom of religion, the modern change had an unmistakably Christian root. All other religions claiming that there might be more than one God, or less than one, became the same as “terrorists” and that a proactive measure should be instituted for citizen safety. The media aired nothing but propaganda to accuse the extra-religious and the nonreligious. This was segue to the introduction of the NRCC.

For David Freelin, his life had been labeled “terroristic and an undermining of the American way,” by the rhetoric accepted as truth. Still in a thin white T-shirt and dark boxers, they lead him into the back of the left-most van. The van drove off leaving the remainder of the posse in and around the man’s home. Skip watched as several things were brought out of the house and loaded into the remaining vehicles. “Evidence no doubt” he muttered to himself. Once the yard had emptied, he let the gap in the blinds fall. He backed away, still looking forward. His mind began whispering to him with worrisome ideas. Anxiety began to creep into his mind. The answers given on his new census would not be to the liking of the Inquisitors’ Office. I might be next, echoed in his mind. It didn’t take him twenty seconds to decide that he would be next, this catalyzed anxiety into panic. He sprinted out of his back door and into the yard. They could be coming right now, he thought.

His back yard was fair in size, but the truly dominating feature in the environment was the dense forest not more than twenty yards from his back door, and the canopy bordered the entire neighbor hood on this side. Skip had spent several years carving a walking trail that traveled into the woods a few hundred yards before looping back around to the left, intersecting back with itself about fifty yards from the beginning. It was not an escape plan, being as it is a closed circuit, but he decided to walk it anyway hoping it would calm his nerves bringing some much need clarity to his thoughts, regarding a solution for escape. He went back inside to prepare a bottle of water and grab a handful of almonds. He hopped out the open door way and was almost running for the little opening to the homemade trail.

The woods quickly enveloped him, as he eventually slowed himself down several notches, and after a few minutes his pace resembled a stroll rather than power walk. Despite his leisurely pace, an expression of deep concern as deep lines creased his forehead accompanied by pair of eyes that darted around frantically. The poets of old seemed to find some solutions hidden within nature, but at this moment he was could see none.

In that very moment, a light grey rabbit hopped onto the path before him freezing him mid-step. The rabbit turned to look at Skip. The forest seemed to quiet, and all attention was on these two creatures in the stream of time existing together. He could not seem to draw his gaze away from the rabbit; mystified by the amount of attention it now invested doing the same to him. In a high pitched voice the rabbit asked, “Why so worried, path maker?” Skip blinked and one nervous chuckle that sounded like a cough shook his torso in spasm.

“What?”

“You look so worried. We have never seen you bearing the posture of fear with such intensity.”

Skip, positive that he was now insane, figured his fear of persecution for tolerance must have pushed his mind over the limits of constructing a rational design of his surroundings. Indulgence seemed dangerous, but he answered in spite of the impulse of caution. Skip professed, “I’ve a lot of fear right now, little rabbit.”

“That is terrible, path maker. I believe you will choose wisely. You make good paths, path maker,” it said with a tone of simple understanding. The rabbit gingerly bounded within a few yards of Skip.

“What?”

“You saved us when we were young, so we think you can choose rightly.”

“How did I save you?”

“When we were young, my litter reached the age when the nest was no longer large enough to contain such numbers of sprouting children. Our mother told us that we must learn the way of the forest around our nest so that we may expand the amount of feeding and sleeping places. She explained that children grow larger more quickly than seasons of the year can change, so the family must do this or suffer great losses. We listened like good children and began adventuring and playing under all the new trees we found. We ran and jumped from every new stone and rolled in the patches of grass where the beams of light find the forest floor. This time of childhood brought unmatched joy in the litter’s life. We share no greater memory of the past. After many days of jovial frolicking, our view of life would be changed by the nature of the forest forever.

“We were venturing far from the nest one very sunny day, frolicking like every other day. Then, one of us cried out with terror, “Hunter.” We all echoed the warning cry and then ran. We ran with our ears put back. This was a narrow eyed hunter that uses terrible claws extending from paws where they lie hidden under fur. They pounce on their prey in a great bite coupled with the extension of those claws. They can pierce fur in half-a-dozen spots, killing in a moment’s time. It seemed at least one of the litter was doomed when we luckily came across a clear place on the forest floor, clean to the bare earth. We each raced down the clear path. Without any obstacles to slow us we ran as fast as the wind blows before a storm. The diamond eye could not keep up at such speeds, so it quit the chase. Eventually we came to the end of the cleared path when we saw a great boulder of many colors and knew that we were safe at last.

“We returned home to tell our mother of the dangerous adventure. She lamented that we were almost prey for a hunter, but rejoiced in the discovery of the clear path. The whole family has used the path for survival for many generations. We all have used the path often as we have grown into adults, with litters of our own, some of us. We show our children how to use the path to navigate the forest and use it for escape. It is a good path.”

“So you see, path maker, it saved us. Maybe you may make a path for escape as you did for my litter.”

Profundity struck Skip. He did not want to run, leaving his home behind. He did not possess much, but he enjoyed what he had gathered. The thought of abandoning that life seemed regrettable. He said to the rabbit, “So you think I should run from my hunter, even if it means finding a new home?”

“That is what all rabbits must do when the litter grows too large for the nest, or when hunters take over the land. It is the only strategy we use, and it has made rabbit families since the beginning.” The rabbit’s nose quit wiggling, as he reared up on his hind legs and asked, “Path maker, will your hunter catch you?”

“Yes, little bunny, they are the great hunters. They will catch me if I stay at my home.” Skip felt tears come to the corners of his eyes.

“You must run, path maker, do not let the hunter consume you. We would be so sad. You must run and find a new nest. Then you can keep making paths for future litters in far away forests.” With that the rabbit sped off into the under growth. Skip was left standing alone. He knew the little rabbit was right. He spun around and ran down the path towards his home. Once he had broken free of the forest into his back yard he paused. The back of his house had color all over it, and he realized this was the colored boulder. Skip decided right then and there he would find another place and create more paths. These walks were one of his great joys here. He would not make this the last of his homes, but he would free himself to make another. He readied his departure.

Skip had a blue Pinto. The hatchback burned a little oil but could get him around. He stuffed everything he could fit into his car. He tidied up the house a bit and left a note for whoever would enter the house next.

The Path Maker was here, but now escaped, with a new path to make.

He stuck the note to the refrigerator with some scotch tape, put the tape in his pocket, grabbed his keys, and headed for the Pinto. He stopped right before he climbed in and looked to the forest behind the house, “Thank you, little bunny,” he said aloud, and off he went.

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