Melted By The Bear(8)

By: Amira Rain

Suddenly, as if I’d been animated by some force outside myself, I was moving. Without taking my gaze from the snarling, shadowy form approaching, I was stooping low to pick up a good-sized rock from the stony ground at my feet. I hadn’t even been aware of making a plan or initiating the movement of my body, but it was now happening. I was going to try to defend myself as best I could, for as long as I could.

After standing and pulling back my arm, I hurled the rock at the bear. “Get back!”

I missed. And not only did the bear not get back, he didn’t even pause in his slow, lumbering approach.

I grabbed another baseball-sized rock and let it fly. “Stay away!”

Again, I missed. By several feet, actually.

“Don’t come any closer!”

The bear, only twenty feet away now, if that, made some sort of deep, throaty noise that sounded like a chuckle.

Not wanting to retreat and show weakness, I resisted shuffling backward, willing my feet to stay put. “I’m warning you!”

Another chuckle-like noise from the bear told me that he didn’t think much of my warning.

Sweating buckets and with my breathing fast and ragged, I grabbed another rock and launched it. And this time, it met its mark, hitting the bear right between his eyes with a thunk. Like I’d thought when I’d seen that he was snapping branches beneath his feet, it was clear that somehow shadow bears were physically solid, even though they appeared to be made of nothing but dark mist. Too bad for me.

Also too bad for me, being hit in the head with a good-sized rock hadn’t even seemed to phase the shadow bear. He’d barely even flinched and was still ambling toward me, less than fifteen feet away now.

Trembling, I took a lightning-fast look at the trees around me, seeing that none of them had any low branches, not a single one. And I knew I wasn’t athletic enough to shimmy my way up ten or fifteen feet of bare trunk. As it was, I was in some small clearing within the forest, and the nearest tree, though fairly close, was still a good enough distance away that I knew the shadow bear would likely have me within its jaws before I even reached the tree.

Determined not to meet my death running, screaming, or crying, even though panic had me within a hair of doing all three of those things, I picked up another rock to hurl it. If I could at least wound the bear on my way out, even slightly, that would be good enough for me.

But before I could let fly the grapefruit-sized stone in my hand, something curious happened. The shadow bear came to a sudden stop about ten feet from me, one paw frozen an inch or two above the ground. I might have thought that me preparing to hurl a larger-sized stone had given him pause in his approach, but he’d cocked his head to one side, as if listening to something, as if there was someone or something making noise in the forest that he could hear but I couldn’t. All I could hear was the sound of my heavy, rapid breathing. The birdsong that had filled the forest during most of my hike had gone silent just before I’d spotted the bear.

Taking advantage of his apparent distraction, I launched the large rock at him, and like my last one had, this rock met its target, knocking him right upside the head. Though instead of roaring in pain or falling to the ground as I’d hoped, he just gave his head a brief shake, as if only mildly annoyed. He didn’t even pull his gaze from a copse of trees at the edge of the little clearing.

I knew this might be my only chance to live. With the bear so distracted, maybe, just maybe, I could start running and get enough of a head start on him that he wouldn’t be able to catch up. I at least had to try.

Not wanting to waste a second, I whirled around, already lifting a foot to tear off at a sprint, but I didn’t quite make it to that action. There was movement in the shadowy spaces between the trees around the little clearing. Large black bears, many of them, were stepping out onto the sun-dappled grass, growling. These black bears were completely opaque, obviously not shadow bears, though I couldn’t tell if they were shifter bears or regular all-animal bears. Not that it even mattered. All that mattered was that they were blocking my escape.

I whipped back around in the direction of the shadow bear, thinking I could maybe zip around him and then run my way back to the hospital while the other bears were attacking him, if that was even what they were going to do. For all I knew, they were his friends and they were growling only at me.

I couldn’t zip around the shadow bear, though. Non-shadowy black bears were now coming out from the trees behind him and on either side of him, too. They had us in a ring. It didn’t seem like either of us were going to be able to escape now.

Death for young woman by way of being attacked by other bears while trying to ward off initial attacking shadow bear. The thought would have struck me as funny had my situation not been so dire. In the span of a second or two, I’d gone from having a sliver of hope that maybe I’d live to see another day, to wondering just how badly being mauled would hurt.

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