Flash Fiction: Bear Necessities

Colby groggily stretched his stiff arms and legs while simultaneously yawning hugely. Yikes, he was sore. He felt some bones creek and pop as they grew accustomed to the rather novel concept of motion.

How long had he been sleeping? It felt to him as though an entire age had gone by. His body ached as if he had been sprawled out over sharp rocks and hardpacked dirt for some time. His mouth was disturbingly parched and his eyes felt funny: scratchy and unnaturally heavy. Still lethargic, he decided to keep them closed for now. At least he wasn’t cold, he mused. That fur coat mysteriously wrapped around him was remarkably helpful in that regard…

Colby drifted off again for a brief moment which was rudely cut short by a fierce itch on his nose. He was just about to scratch it when a low rumbling noise startled him completely awake. For a few tense minutes he lay perfectly still, listening. He could hear nothing but a faint drip, drip, drip of water somewhere in the distance. Finally the rumbling noise came again and Colby recognized it for what it was: his growling stomach. He was ravenous. How long had it been since he had eaten? He tried to recall…

Slowly a scene came to mind of a dark snowy day in the Sierras. He had gone camping with some of his friends. They had been looking up at the constellations and one of his friends had pointed and said, “That one is Ursus Major, the bear. Many ancient cultures used to revere bears as the incarnation of the divine feminine and would celebrate the bears return from hibernation as a sign that they would be nourished with the abundance of life needed to survive. The bears taught such people the importance of balance, between activity and receptivity, hibernation and harvest, the more masculine way of doing and the more feminine way of being.”

“That’s fascinating,” Colby had replied with a sincerity that surprised him. After that, he had felt unbearably ill, and after that…After that, memory became unsettlingly fuzzy…

A chill ran down Colby’s spine. His brain was trying to make a connection that he was finding increasingly alarming. The hard ground, the steady drip of water, the furry coat… that was it. Fuzzy. Furry and fuzzy and fuzzy? Fuzzy? He was fuzzy! Colby opened his eyes and stared at the appendage that had absently moved into the vicinity of his itchy nose. With increasing terror, he counted five gleaming claws attached to padded toes which extended out of a very furry paw. As the paw slowly settled itself back onto the unforgiving ground, fear turned to horror. The paw was attached to him. What in the final recollections of his immediate past had been a human arm and hand were now a hefty bear’s limb. What on earth…

With a shutter, Colby forced himself to lumber to his feet. It was bizarre to suddenly be a quadruped – for one thing he was already missing his opposable thumbs. For another, his eyes did not register his world the way his human eyes had,. In his defense it was dark, very very dark. Where was he? Certainly not in his apartment bedroom in San Francisco, California, that was for sure. There was no sign of civilization, let alone a bed, his clothes, or any human belongings. No signs of his friends or the camp, either.

Colby tried to frown, but merely grunted with the effort of forcing his face into an expression that was apparently not typical of bears. A cave? Could he really be in a cave? As if in mocking answer, a cool musty draft wafted past him from a chink in a nearby rock. Winter, bears, cave … no! Colby froze. He couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be, could it? The claws on his left paw tapped the ground anxiously.

Humans don’t do this, he thought furiously. Human beings don’t suddenly turn into bears who find themselves coming out of hibernation. What kind of nightmare was this?

Soon, he told himself, soon I’ll be back in my sleeping bag greeting the day with my friends, laughing and joking with them in relief about what a crazy dream I had the night before. To speed this up, he bit his lower lip, hard. That would do it, he thought, satisfied. But his efforts only resulted in a very painful tear in his lip and quite a bit of blood. No joke, he had teeth!

Seconds later, he was running, awkwardly, as fast as possible toward a small glint of light which he hoped was the entrance to the cave and to freedom. He had suddenly heard the roar of a very angry and hurt bear and it was far too close for comfort. It felt like it was right beside him. He was bolting out into a bright spring morning when it dawned on him that he had been that angry hurt bear roaring his pain at his own self-inflicted bite wound. Tentatively, he stopped and took one last look behind him. As far as his eyes could see and his nose could smell, the cave was empty.

Spring, it was spring. Confused, lost and afraid, Colby marked himself on a nearby tree and went in search of food and water. He had no idea what to do or how he’d gotten into this horrible predicament, but for now he would follow his instincts to secure necessities before engaging in any other rational deliberation. For now he only knew one terrible, gut wrenching fact: this was no dream.

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3 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Bear Necessities

    1. Yes, definitely! I’m imagining I’ll do a series of short pieces like this one. I was talking with my friend Madalyn who said that stories about people shape shifting into bears were really popular. I certainly hadn’t run across such stories. 🙂 But, I actually got a flood of ideas when she mentioned it, so far it’s a lot of fun and there’s some fascinating commentaries on gender roles and society as well as finding identity that a bear story can capture specifically well. Plus I might be able to convey a lot of things I’ve been learning about living as a strong and compassionate balanced person. Bears seem to capture that, even if only anthropomorphically.

      And of course, add a few other characters from different werespecies, and some humans who don’t understand them. 🙂

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