Researching Nathan James, Part 2: The Civil War
As I walked through the trees into the lit field, I wasn't nervous. It felt familiar, almost comforting. There is a small cabin in the middle of a clearing surrounded by woods. A small porch leads to a modest front door. The house feels familiar, but I can't place it as somewhere I have been before. The backyard has a small stack of firewood and some other random items.
"Can you tell me what you look like?" Barbara prompts.
I look down at my feet, which no longer match the feet I see every day. These feet are small, really small, and so are these hands. I can't be any older than five. My hair is a touch longer than shoulder length and tangled, like I have been playing outside. My skin is as fair as my hair and my cheeks feel red from running. I look down to see the smock dress she is wearing is filthy. She is brushing off loose dirt and leaves from her hair and dress so her mother won't be upset. I think she is returning home from a friends house.
At this point, I am seeing everything through her eyes. I have my own thoughts, my own feelings, but I am in tune with her's as well. Her movements and words are totally her own, I have no control over them. It is very clear that I am only along for the ride.
"Can you identify a date or time period?" Barbara asks.
The numbers "1863" appear in my mind, though I question whether I am seeing it or if my mind is making it up. I go along with it all the same.
"During the Civil War," I respond.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Virginia" appears in my mind. Again, I am skeptical of what I'm seeing. My surroundings look similar to the area where my grandparent's farm is, in Petersburg, Virginia. I am also a native Virginian. It would make sense that I would see this, right? I decided to see where this would lead me, even if I was skeptical of its path.
"Virginia," I replied.
I see something moving in the corner of my eye and run behind a bush to spy on what it is. Two men, no older than 19, run out of the wooded area behind my home. They are both dressed in what I assume were once gray pants and a dirtied white shirt. A gray jacket hangs unbuttoned on both men with dark stains I can't quite identify. Their steps are light and calculated, like they are sneaking away from something. They keep glancing behind them to make sure they are alone.
"Do you recognize either of them?" Barbara asks.
I took a moment to explore the faces of the two men. One was clean shaven with short brown hair. He was large around the middle and struggled to keep up with his companion. His face looked exhausted, like he could collapse at any moment. He doesn't look familiar to me. The second man struck me immediately. He had the smallest semblance of a beard and light hair with flecks of red in it. Standing at around five and a half feet tall, his wiry frame was only accented by the quick movements he made at the slightest sound. His eyes darted across the empty clearing, searching for any sign of movement, as he made a break for the firewood behind my house.
Without warning, I launch myself from behind the bushes and run up to the men. "That's ours!" she says, staring at the wiry man right in the eyes. The girl has her own actions, her own words that I couldn't predict nor control. It's like I am watching a movie from the eyes of the main character.
In that moment, I recognized him. He is my brother from my present life, Miles. This man's looks are different, his demeanor is different, but something inside of me recognized him right away. The girl is not afraid of him, in fact she seems more intrigued than angry at these men showing up un announced to steal her firewood. The fear in his eyes made her sad, but she holds strong even though he is larger and stronger.
My now brother gripped her at the shoulders to try and scare her off, but she held steady, looking him right in the eyes the whole time. Not knowing what to do next, he turned to run back into the woods.
"Wait!" she says. "If you really need it, you can have it. Mom's got a lot more in the house." The men stop in their tracks and trepidly turn back to the firewood. The larger man removes a canvas bag from his shoulder I hadn't noticed prior to now and collects three logs. Again, the thin man turns to me and takes hold of my shoulders, shaking me slightly.
"Don't you tell anyone about this, ya hear! No one!" he says.
She isn't frightened, she is confused. "Why would I tell anyone?" she says.
"Just don't!" he reiterates. With that, the two men run across what I would assume is my backyard and into the woods. Though this event registered to me as big deal, the girl seems disinterested and rans to small area near the woods to play in the dirt.
"Play in the dirt a moment, then move to the next big event in this life," Barbara said.
Seconds later, I am watching five men in similar gray suits approach my front door. Unlike the wiry man and his companion, these men's suits were buttoned to the neck and clean. When they approached the door a woman, the girl's mother, answers. We are watching this interaction from the edge of the woods, so I can't hear their exchange. The woman stands in the doorway, blocking the five men from entering. The leader of the five pushes past her, violently knocking her into the door jam, and enters the home uninvited. Now the girl is scared. I can feel her heart thumping inside my chest. We run to the pile of firewood behind the house and wait for them to leave.
I notice something glimmering out of the corner of my eye. As we lean down to exam it closer, a pair of black boots march into view. She quickly rises to meet the eyes that below to those boots, but not before covering the object with her foot. The same man who entered the house kneels to my level.
"Do you recognize this man?" Barbara asks.
"No," I reply confidently.
The man's face is hard, but softens at the sight of me. I guess being a kid has it's advantages in times such as these.
"What are you hiding under your foot, little one?" the man asks.
"It's mine, I found it yesterday," she lies quickly.
"Might I see it?" the man asks.
Fearing he may do her harm, she removes her foot to reveal a shiny brass button. The man picks it up and inspects it carefully. It matches the buttons on his gray jacket.
"Have you seen anyone come through here? Maybe someone that looks like me?" the man asks.
"No, sir," she says politely, in hopes he will leave. "May I keep my treasure?"
"Of course," he said handing me the button. "We should be on our way. Please tell your mother thank you for her hospitality." The man started towards the woods, the other four men following in his wake. They are walking toward the same spot my brother and his companion ran toward. I feel the girl start to panic. She doesn't want them to get into trouble. The words bubble inside her throat.
"What was that!" the girl shouts, pointing in the opposite direction. "I hear something over there!"
Without a word, the men change course, away from my brother and his companion and into the patch of woods on the other side of our field.
"Do you feel you have learned everything you needed to learn from this life?" Barbara asks.
"I do," I reply.
"Allow yourself to float out of the scene and land into your next destination," she said.
Before I could laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement, the ground started to shrink until the small cabin looked more like a Monopoly piece. I look beyond the field below and see a bright patch of colorful flowers. Without warning, my feet are planted on a large cobblestone path surrounded by those flowers. I had landed into another lifetime.
Stay tuned for next week's adventure into early Victorian England.
Till Next Time,