The Bear

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Creative Nonfiction
The sky dimmed dauntingly, the depiction dark. A stagnant air was wallowed in.

I observed it out the car window; eerie, or perhaps just foggy. Its hiss was unmissable. It was previously a sunlit woodland, hidden by curling clouds.

The three of us drove into the novel haze and parked. I didn’t even stop to think as I slammed the car door with a thwack and headed off into the forestry.

Woods were quite a harmony for our group; we were booming skylark voices following the path. But I felt a tumult in the mist as we quieted. A subtle embrace of fresh pined air entrapped in another murky aroma. We blended with the foliage, though perhaps not my red-stringed jacket, but besides that, we fitted neatly in the vegetation.

Though through it, I felt a clarity— a wandering lined air, innocuous and unperturbed. Having grown-up with the woods as my backyard, I was none the wiser as I carried one sneakered foot in front of the next. I’d pass the occasional rock, a hurried runner— I was relaxed if I were to put a word it. Perhaps my mind had wandered too simply though, a kilometer in I beheld him.

A beast like no other, the creatures stare like eyes of a new moon. From further away he appeared feline, but upon moving closer I could inspect and see him for what he was—a monster that growled and hid under caves during snow periods. He wasn’t even close, but our group felt his presence, our steps at a standstill. I wasn’t sure what the right move was, I just knew not to run. The creature eyed us, though not like one eyes its prey. Its gaze wasn’t heavy; it was just black—indulgent. Me, I was nothing to it; another organism existing in the fog. It didn’t even give me more than a second glance, despite my hold on my backpack, ready in case of attack. Somewhere through my fear turned to fascination, my eyes lingering on the animal. He wasn’t intimidating; he seemed, approachable. Though I’m sure my mind would have turned opposite if I’d heard him growl.

He moved along, and I backed away, my friends following suit. “Woah,” was all I heard next, the wood’s native out of sight.

Were we supposed to continue? None of us felt we were. We turned and walked back to the car. Our minds wandered over the ‘what if’s’ of that serene fearful moment. He was right there, that feared ferocious animal. My hands had shaken upon his appearance, but now— I felt mistaken, left curious. I wanted to return, despite the injurious threat. If I could ask him a question—no, I knew the creature couldn’t answer; his black phantom fir encasing a different mind than I could ever fathom.

But I felt in the wrong. Our group had disturbed his homeland; we’d built our homes among his branches of intimacy. Yet he’d been the one to have adapted, not ourselves. We had just intruded and thought to run at his emasculate appearance. Perhaps though, he was not a creature to be feared.