Tim Wilson's Close Shave
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A dried twig snapped in half under the weight of Tim Wilson's boot, filling the otherwise silent backwater woods of Clackamas County with sound. The nature enthusiast paused for a moment, removing his Stratton hat from his head allowing it to hang from his neck as he brushed the sweat from his brow. Though the head honcho of the Wilson Center was not usually the one in charge of tracking down critters, three of his employees had failed to bring this particular one in, so it was up to him to step up and boost morale! But this was exhausting work, and he could use a rest. A mossy boulder lay just ahead, perfect for sitting on for a short break. Wilson tugged on his backpack's straps, slinging it off his body and setting down before laying on the boulder. He sighed in relief; the cold, damp moss feeling divine against his hot and sweaty back.

"Aahhh…" He grinned, rocking to and fro to cool his back. Once cooled, he leaned up and reached for his bag while scooting closer to the shade provided by a nearby tree. Wilson produced a notebook, pen, and energy bar. He scratched at his beard before tearing open the wrapper and getting to writing.

Wilson's Log, The Hunt for King Louie, Day 2

I didn't expect to have such trouble keeping up with a critter! From what Roger told me, I knew King Louie was clever, but this takes the cake! So far he's managed to collect the fruits from the traps I've laid out without triggering them. He somehow even got the net undone and grabbed all the papaya! I might just have to contact the Supervisors for help with this big boy, but I want to give it the old college try before throwing in the towel.

But what really gets me about King Louie is; how did he get here? It's not every day one finds a great ape in this corner of the world, especially one that stands upright most of the time! Plus he's so big! I certainly hope our humble little wildlife center can house such a large and intelligent critter. I don't think the folks would be happy to see the big dogs take another one of our furry friends like they did with Ringo, even if it was for the best. At least King Louie is easy to follow, given how big his tracks are. I hope to catch him and bring him home soon!

I should shave when I get back. My beard is so itchy!

Wilson decided he had rested long enough. He crumpled up the wrapper of his energy bar and stashed it in a container within his bag, stowed his stationery, and put on his backpack once again. Before setting out once more, he grabbed his canteen and took several hearty gulps. Water escaped from his lips and trickled down to his beard before hitting the ground below. Content, Wilson secured his canteen to his waist once more and began his trek anew, scratching his beard as he did.

Many hours later, the sun was finally setting behind the rolling hills and Wilson had come no closer to capturing King Louie. Though it was frustrating, it was nowhere near enough to put Tim Wilson down!

Despite his endless enthusiasm, he did not quite have the energy he had so many years ago, so no matter his excitement to meet King Louie, Wilson would have to stop for the night. He sized up the trees, looking for one he may easily climb and possessing a branch just high enough so most critters wouldn't reach him and just low enough so having to suddenly jump wouldn't hurt too bad. Following a brief examination, he found a satisfactory oak and began his ascent. Once he sat upon his intended brach, he tested its durability before getting to work.

A very neatly folded piece of blue plastic with lengths of rope tied around it was procured from his bag. He unfolded it, revealing the plastic to be a hammock as he began securing it to the branch. Once done, Wilson slowly and gently slid into his makeshift bed and repurposed his backpack as a pillow. He watched the sunset and the moon rise with a satisfied grin.

Wilson laid back and got comfortable as he watched the moon continue its ascent, enjoying the serenade of crickets, hooting owls, and the gentle flow of the nearby creek. Though many could enjoy the sounds of nature on their own, this was music to his ears. What he found most beautiful of all was that it was never the same, no matter how many times he heard it. Sometimes a chorus of coyotes would join in, or a fish leaping from the water would create an outstanding crescendo. Wilson shut his eyes and eventually fell asleep, a wide smile on his face. This was what he lived for.

The moon was high in the sky when Wilson was stirred from his sleep. He blinked thrice, slowly leaning up in his hammock. Though the world around him was still spinning, he was able to spot a pair of yellow eyes staring at him nearby. This snapped him out of his slumber, as the man looked around him to see many more pairs of eyes in the distance; all of them almost as tall as the branch he was resting on.

Just as he was assessing his situation, one of the pairs seem to suddenly become taller; easily being at eye level with where Wilson rest. Much to the critter caretaker's chagrin, that same pair of eyes which seemed to magically enlarge began moving towards him. Feeling the branch shaking with the might of its steps, Wilson quickly reached into his bookbag in a panic and produced a flashlight, which he then shined at the approaching critter.

He nearly gasped at what he saw; a giant, almost human being covered head to toe in brown fur. Its feet were massive, almost as long as a dog, and it had long lumbering arms. But what struck Wilson most of all was its face. Despite its gorilla-like features, the critter had an almost human-like facial structure, yet at the same time, it was still distinctly not human. Had Wilson known more about aesthetics, he would have described it as 'belonging in the uncanny valley'; but alas, he was not so learned. Instead, the conservationist would go on to describe it as 'spooky!'

The critter stopped in front of Wilson, who looked on like a deer in the headlights. It narrowed its eyes, appearing to observe the odd, comparatively hairless creature which laid before it. Following a moment of contemplation, it spoke.

"You smell of the jailers and murderers, but you are not like them."

Its voice was heavily guttural and accented with an unknown language, and carried a cadence the likes of which only a wise and ancient being would possess. Wilson swallowed nervously, unsure of how to process what was happening. Boring was a weird place, but never had he heard a critter speak to him; at least nothing beyond the typical parrot's squawking. Taking a moment to collect himself, he swallowed nervously before responding.

"H-hey there, friend! My name is Tim Wilson… and I, uh, I'm from Wilson's Wildlife Solutions." He staggered his way through his introduction; doing his best (and failing) not to panic.

"Tim Wilson… why do you follow my kind? Why do you lay traps for us?"

"Well… it's a long story, friend. But to summarize, we at Wilson's Wildlife Solutions are trying to wrangle all the weird and wild critters that live here in Clackamas County… The Supervisors say its a 'nexus' or something like that, so we get a bunch of irregular critters. But we care for them all the same." He found his confidence in talking about his dear organization, proudly sharing its goals with his newfound companion, but he quickly realized that they were nowhere as enthusiastic as he.

"Was it not enough to cull us all those years ago? Now you seek to put us on display for your kind's amusement?" The being's tone grew irate, and Wilson shrunk away in fear of retaliation. Were he not surrounded and in a vulnerable position, he would have attempted to throw out an emergency flare by now, but it seemed as if diplomacy would be the only way out. Wilson wasn't exactly the best at communicating with people, he was always more at home with animals. This thing was sort of like a critter, he thought, so he maybe he'd make it out okay.

"No no no no! You've got it all wrong! I love critters of all shapes and sizes! N-not that I'm saying you're a critter since you know, you can talk and seem pretty smart! But uh, I don't know if you're familiar with apes, but you kind of look like really big ones to us, so we figured one of you were critters in need…" He stopped for a moment. The thing he was talking to was awfully big, much bigger than King Louie. Had he only been chasing a juvenile this whole time?

"I know what apes are. We are their children, you and me. You do not have the scent of a killer, Tim Wilson. You smell of mercy. But you smell of the jailers and the murderers. We will let you go, but you must carry a message for us." It turned around, signaling for another of its kind to approach. A much smaller specimen, about the size of one and a half Wilsons, approached. The human pointed the flashlight down and quickly identified the critter as King Louie.

Wilson's attention was immediately brought back to the much larger being he was speaking to earlier, as it ripped a long piece of the trunk from a nearby tree, then handed it to the smaller one, who in turn accepted it used a sharp rock to scrawl a message onto the wood. Once done, the trunk was returned to its originator, who then handed it to Wilson. Before he could look it over, the being spoke again.

"Go when day breaks. Do not return unless the jailers are in agreement."

With that, it turned around, as did all the other pairs of eyes and King Louie. Wilson was alone once more. He would not sleep again for the remainder of the night and watched the moon set, then the sunrise. Birds began chirping as the forest came to life with a different set of characters. Exhausted, Wilson packed up his belongings and held onto his wooden carving and took a moment to read it. Though it was roughly etched and barely legible, he was able to understand what it read.

we forgive you;
given choice for now, not forever;
let us back in

He set out for the nearest clearing, where he set off an emergency flare and awaited extraction from the center. Some few hours later, Wilson presented the object to the Supervisors, who in turn introduced him to some rather funny looking aerosol cans. Sometime later, the entire Wilson Center had met the funny aerosol cans and no one seemed to remember King Louie, not even the computers, journals, or critter profiles.

It was business as usual at the Center, with the only nagging problem being Wilson's own beard; it was so darn itchy! Perhaps he would consider a shave?

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