KLANG! KLANG! KLANG! “Trustworthy, loyal, helpful”
The noise of the bell shatters the still summer air. You take a second to check your watch, 10:07, “They are late again, typical, but not that it really matters.” You say to yourself. It doesn’t matter if they are late or not, you are in a place not back or forward in time, but out of time.
KLANG! KLANG! KLANG! “Friendly, Courteous, kind” You think to yourself as the bell tolls. It’s a still summer evening, the sweat hangs as thick as the air, a wall of warm air, laden with moisture has just wandered up the mountainside, helped out, no doubt by the cold air pushing in from above. Not that it matters, very few worldly things matter when you come here, you are isolated, not alone, but separate from the world.
KLANG! KLANG! KLANG! “Obedient, cheerful, thrifty” The words roll off the tongue, but are never heard. This is a quiet time in the place outside of time.
Outside these valley walls, cut off the rest of the world, but for a single payphone, you think to yourself what is happening? You wait each successive week for the news of the outside world to come creeping in through the new people. They are they reason we come to the place on whom time has no bearing. They are the link to the places where the watch dominates life.
KLANG! KLANG! KLANG! “Brave, clean, reverent.” “That’s the last of the bell, twelve times, like always, a clock in itself, twelve times tolling every night at 10 o’clock.” You say silently. The bell is all the watch you need here.Here the outside world is not real, it is a thing to be speculated about, as close as you can drive, but more distant than the points of the light in the sky. Here the universe is simply, “where is the staff going swimming?” “Where are the fun places to be?” Never when, here time is extra baggage.
You look out form your tent, at the old, but brand new structures that have been here for as long as anyone can remember. When were they built? 1946? 1953? It doesn’t matter; they are as new as the day they were built. The ramshackle latrines, Number 13 down the hill, the one everyone avoids like the plague, and it’s as new now as it was 30 years ago. Time moves of it’s own volition here, and when you are as ancient as time, you move slowly or not at all, for a place like this.
Then a curious thing happens, another temporal oddity. Excruciatingly slowly, although it could be only fractions of a second, a note is heard. The note dominates over the distinctive ancient crackling of a new radio, whose antenna picks up only ghosts of the outside world’s troubles. It dominates the night. It pierces the air, and hangs. It hangs in the air like a bird frozen in place. It begins barely above the chirp of the crickets, but soon it becomes the Earth. This moment of non-time becomes the reason for living. For that one non-second or one non-year, you are powerless against it. This is the enchantment of this place, where time the driving force of the world, here it is nothing.
As the slow, mournful note plays out, the more curious thing happens, you find yourself falling, backwards through time which does not exist. You fall into a shell crater in a war torn far off land. You are standing over the quaking body of a frightened English boy, who with his last remaining strength scribbles seven notes onto a piece of paper, hoping it will find me, through the void of time that separates us.
Then the next note is heard, and I am thrown back to the place that exists out of time. Higher this time, but shorter also, this note as a baby to a man quickly lives it’s live and moves off to make room for its son. So to does this note. It is less heard than consumed in this place. Taken into the body as more than a musical figure, but as its own being. This too then moves off into the inky black sky, unfettered by a roof, bounded only by stars. A third note then, much the same as the ones that preceded it, comes and passes and is followed by more. The fourth, fifth, and sixth notes all come along when they feel like it, they range from meandering, to striking, to desperate.
Then the most remarkable of all, the last note, the seventh is played. It is this one that brings the occupants of this place out of time back to their own time. Here in a boxed valley, boys who are now men, old, with canes now, came just a few summers ago. 1962? It doesn’t seem that long when you come to the place where time chose to die. It is the last note that makes all the difference. It clings to the air, never wanting to be released, but knowing it will be back the next night, the life of this note lasts longer than its fathers. It hangs in the air, clawing, gnashing, and pleading not to be forgotten. It grasps at the still night, but gets hold of only air.
Now, and tomorrow and yesterday, all is silent, each person reflecting into his own. Some looking back to a boy dying in a shell crater in a far off land, some looking to the outside world, to “tomorrow” where their future awaits them. But every one of them asks one question, “How is it possible for this place, which seemingly waits for us, to remain unchanged for as long as we live?” “How can it be that here and no where else on Earth, a few notes in the dark bring old men back to their youth?”
Then all is silent. The music for that night is played, the bell is rung. But there remains one thing to be observed, a right of passage. A single man steps up; everyone knows the words that he will say, as if he had said them a million times before. Each hangs off of the words yet unsaid. He then utters the phrase which brings all to a close, in this place outside of time, he answers every question.
“Good night Scouts, welcome to Camp Orr.”