The bear in the wood

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This short story is about a young man who leaves behind the noise and chaos of the city, to explore the forest. On his journey, he is abducted by a sullen and solitary bear. The bear is desperate
for a companion and holds him captive in his home. During his stay with the bear, the young man's life is changed irrevocably.

Submitted: September 17, 2017

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Submitted: September 17, 2017

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The Bear in the Wood

 

 

His name was Ahote and his spirit was restless for adventure and novelty. And so, unburdened by the responsibilities of family life, and quite capable of surviving on his wits, he  made up his mind to leave  the city in which he lived, and spend a few days wandering the great forest.  Many would question why anyone would wish to leave the comfort of the city in favor of the unadorned, and often harsh wilderness. But as Ahote well knew, The city, with all its grandeur, could be quite deceptive. It was the triumph of humankind’s ingenuity, but it also fostered his lowest and most ignoble instincts. Lurking behind the brilliant architecture, was a world rife with clamor, crime, and filth that he was happy to leave behind. He could not help but feel that the city had wrecked him, weakened him, corrupted him. It made him dependent on money, on possessions, and tempted him with all manner of lurid pleasures and diversions. He felt trapped on a noisy, chaotic island, surrounded by a sea of highways. He longed for fresh air, night skies with twinkling stars that were not upstaged by ambient light, and creatures who did not judge others based on the costliness of their apparel, or the loftiness of their occupation. Nature, to him, represented a purity that just couldn’t be found in the city. Like a newborn infant unschooled in the arts of pretense, insincerity, and corruption.  He certainly would not mourn the absence of the degraded cast of characters that dwelt in the city. The pushy salesmen, the ruffians. The suave confidence men and the scarlet women. All of them vampires eager to drain the vigor and vitality from him, leaving him feeling depleted and debilitated. But here, in nature, he found all that he had lost, coming back. His spirit, his strength, his insatiable lust for life. The natural environment replenished what the decadent city had depleted.

After traveling many miles through the wood, he came to a large clearing. In one corner of the clearing was an old stone house which was now in ruins. The roof had completely caved in, and there was a big gaping hole in the front half.  All around, the sun shined and painted a playful yellow tint upon the deep green pine trees of the wood. It’s warm rays made Ahote’s bronze skin shine, and his jet black hair glistened with a silver sheen. He heard squirrels scampering through the brush, and birds singing in the high branches. Just then, His peace was interrupted by a shrill screeching sound coming from behind the ruined stone house. When he went in back of the house to inspect, he received an unsightly surprise. The presence of Two old crones dressed in rags, assaulted his senses. More grotesque figures could scarcely be imagined. Their faces were leprous,their matted grey hair was full of maggots and their ragged clothing exposed their withered flesh. They were engaged in a tug of war with each other over a bone with a bit of meat still on it. Next to them was a garbage can overflowing with scraps of moldy food, and flies buzzing all around it. The two gorgons were pulling on the bone with all the might of their centuries old bodies, and hurling childish insults at one another, which revealed the dementia that had ravaged their minds. “Dung head!” Screeched one of the crones. “Donkey face,” croaked the other. Just then, one of the crones stopped, and fixed her frightful gaze upon Ahote.  “listen to me,” she hissed. “You must heed our warning! You are in terrible danger in these woods!”  “There are  dangers here that you cannot even imagine.” “The bear is out hunting  today,” hissed the other crone. “It will be a mournful day for you if you’re not careful!” After saying this, they resumed their battle and commenced to pinching each other and pulling each others hair in pursuit of their bone. Ahote turned and left the two old ragamuffins. He was a bit disturbed by their words. But could there possibly be any truth to the words of two demented hags? He dismissed the idea and continued to walk.

By late afternoon, he reached another clearing in which he could see a great hill in the distance. Out of nowhere, he heard a low growl and saw running toward him, what appeared to be a brown wolf. But upon closer inspection, he saw that it was indeed a large brown bear, just as the old women had foretold. As quick as a flash, he darted behind a large tree and hid.

But it was far too late. The bear had seen him and began to slowly walk over to the tree.  “I know you are hiding behind the tree,” said the creature in a hoarse growl. “It will be better for you if you simply come out.” So Ahote came out. The bear gave him a fierce look and said: “I will take you home with me and you will be my companion!” Ahote Knew there was nothing he could do but obey. The bear lived in a large log cabin at the edge of the wood. He led Ahote up the path to the front door, and they stepped inside. It was very dark and gloomy inside for all of the shades were drawn tightly. It smelled of wood and dust and a time long forgotten. “Perhaps we could open a shade,” stammered Ahote fearfully. But the bear did not respond to him. Instead, he motioned for Ahote to follow him, and they went into a room with a bed, a closet, and a dressing table. “This is your room,” said the bear gruffly, and then he left. Ahote lived with the bear for a full month. Each day, the bear would go out hunting in the forest and it was Ahote’s duty to tidy up the log cabin, chop wood for the bears fire, and tend to the bears garden.  During the moments when Ahote was not busy doing chores, he would simply wander about the cottage. On one of these wanderings he found a room, which was full of shelf after shelf of books. This seemed incomprehensible to him. “A bear who reads?” He thought.

Although the bear was generally hospitable, if aloof and stern, Ahote still held a secret terror of living with him. He knew that he was sharing living quarters with a creature who was not governed by any sort of reason, or logic, but rather only by instincts and appetites. A creature who had no knowledge of taboos, or sanctions. A feral, lawless creature, who at any moment, could decide that Ahote would make a tasty meal, and devour him.  Of course this particular bear showed signs of civilization, for one thing, he was the most well-read bear, Ahote had ever met. But still, the bears bestial nature always came shining through.  At supper he ate with a ravenous relish, and always released a loud belch when he was finished, much to the disgust of Ahote’s human sensibilities. He also did not use utensils to eat, walked on all fours, killed animals with his bare paws, and wore no clothing. All behaviors indicating a life of brutishness and carnality.

But still, Ahote could not help but be in awe of the many virtues of the bear: His strength, his courage. His ability to endure the harshness of nature, and live in the forest, completely self-sufficient. He admired the way the bears walk could make the entire ground quake, and all of the other animals knew to make way for him. He admired how imposing and majestic the bear looked when he stood on his hind legs, and how he could knock down a tree with his own might, and not with the use of any special tools. Ahote fancied himself a brave adventurer, a rugged individualist. A young man quite unafraid of exploring the untamed wilderness. But here in this log cabin, that bold spirit was cowed into meekness by the overwhelming presence of the bear.  In these woods, and in that house the bear was indeed a king, a God!

But life with the bear was very melancholy, for he was possessed of a dour nature, and was indifferent and sometimes even hostile toward conversation. He always kept the shades of his log cabin drawn at all hours of the day, so that no light ever entered.  One day, Ahote worked up the courage to ask: “Mr. bear, am I to stay with you forever? Or can I someday return to my home in the city?” “You must stay with me forever, and work for me and keep me company, for I am lonely, answered the bear.” “I’m sure you could make friends if you wished to,” said Ahote. “You didn’t have to kidnap me.” The bear gave Ahote an incredulous look and said: “do you expect me to believe that if I had come lumbering up to you, and asked you to be my friend, you would have obliged? I think not my friend. I am a fierce creature, red in tooth and claw. Therefore, I must take  by force, what I cannot gain through charm or warmth. Ahote began to say something else, But before he could finish, the bear gave him an angry grimace which told him to leave the issue alone!

One day, Ahote’s anxiety about living with the bear reached its apex. So the very next morning, he awoke early, packed some food in a sack, and slipped quietly out of the house. He began running down the forest path, just as the sun was rising and creating an orange glow on the horizon. But just then, he heard the door of the log cabin swing open violently, and out ran the bear. He had heard him leaving. Ahote ran as fast as he could with the furious bear in hot pursuit. He ran to the top of a big hill. The bear soon caught up to him and pounced on him, knocking him to the ground.

The bear wrapped his entire massive body around Ahote, And squeezed tightly. Ahote Knew this was the end. The powerful creature was going to squeeze the life out of him. He felt his breath tightening. But just then, the bear loosened his grip and fell to the ground with a crash. His last words were: “I must let you go. I must respectfully let you go!” Ahote saw the powerful beast lying on the ground. But he noticed that what was lying before him, seemed to be only the bears outer skin and fur. The inside of him was magically gone. He had somehow become nothing more than a large, warm, fur coat with his head still on it. The head had a look of wisdom, and fierce courage upon its face.  He knew that the bear was not evil, but simply desperate for companionship. The one weakness of an otherwise invulnerable creature. He picked up the large warm coat and put it on. Immediately, he felt the powerful spirit of the body that once wore that skin, infuse his veins.

 


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