The man was no taller than the bottom of a window, but that never stopped him from challenging every bear he saw.
“What ho, fine friend! Go deep and prosper in the woods where nothing goes wrong and you are always fine!” he would scream, to the chagrin of everyone watching. They all knew the dangers of calling to the bears in fancy words, of mocking the bears in fancy words, but he was the most foolish in the town, and so he challenged the bears by throwing eggbeaters and assorted electronics at their faces until they retreated in confusion.
You scurrying hairy men! One would think you were not seven feet tall and could cleanly rip my head off, and I bow to you for this kindness!” Everyone could do no more than tremble and wish upon their pumping hearts that all the bears would do was eat no one but him. No one stopped him, though, and no one wished him ill, for they were kind and benevolent and didn’t care a whit if he was gone. They worried, of course, for their children and such, but they wanted the best for their children, and part of that was safety from the rapidly encroaching woods.
Sometimes, once in a while, a grandparent would look placidly upon the short visage of that man while sitting down upon a rickety old chair. Suddenly, its eyes would turn ferociously to the woods, and it would make a move as if to rise up and brandish something illogical as he did. But suddenly the fire would go out of its eyes, and it would collapse back into the chair like a wet noodle, sighing and pointedly not looking at the man again.
Sometimes, once in a while, a parent would be walking past the man throwing junk at the bears and insulting them in the wordy, almost complimentary way in which he did. Suddenly its eyes would turn ferociously to the bears, and it would begin to yell something incomprehensible, some sort of war cry, some sort of bestial song of battle. And then, suddenly, its voice would falter, and it would turn its head away in shame, retreating into the heart of the town.
Sometimes, one of the children felt bad. Most were knee-high or smaller, but there wasn’t a single one who was allowed to go near the man. Most did not; after all, he was frightening and he shouted at the bears. But sometimes some of them gave him glue and key chains when there weren’t any bears for him to yell at, even though he was still there, even though his eyes were darting warily to the darkening visage of the trees. However, none of them came when there were bears, for their parents were their keepers, and so they were bound to follow them to that extent at least. But one day, a little girl came by when the man was there and confronted a bear.
The bear looked down. The girl was entirely cream-colored except for her yellow hair and her blue shirt and pants. The shirt was covered in food stains that could have been old or new. Either way, the bear did not wish to find out.
“Bear,” said the girl again, offering the bear a crayon.
The bear found this the sort of thing that bears tended to run away from, which could have been sentimental or violent or idiotic. He decided to move away by completely turning around and loping back on all fours, to which the child responded by going away. Even though the one parent watching was very sure that such a thing had never happened before, he did not show his surprise. After all, it was better not to do such horrible things.
However, it surely thought, "No such thing will happen again,” for it went to the parents of the girl. They had words. The girl decided to stay in her house for the rest of her life, for you see, no one was supposed to point at him or show that he existed. After all, no one knew where he belonged, not even him. Some thought to themselves that he could have belonged with the bears, but no one dared bring it up for fear of being horrible. After all, there was no specific reason to anger at such a strange man when he was doing nothing to them. Even if he was some killer, he had done nothing to show them that he was such a thing, not even to the bears.
But one day, instead of standing in his usual stoic pose at the edge of town, he could be found on a bench a good ways within it. Everyone was mad with curiosity, but no one stopped to gawk, because that would have been a rather rude action. They only began to pay attention when they saw him rise up and begin to approach a very specific door. It was the door of the girl who had helped him.
One of the girl's parents had been standing on the other side, watching from a place where it could not be seen from something so far as a bench, and when the man began approaching the door, it scuttled back, frightened like a house spider. When the man knocked politely, it decided that not opening the door would be a horrible inconvenience. To its surprise, the man did not act threateningly in the least, choosing to bow graciously.
“I wish to apologize for the fact that the girl-child in your own possession did approach me. I do not have any ill will against the child,” said the man.
There was a pause for about a minute, and the parent then stammered out an apology. “I thank you. I am sorry for inconveniencing you in this way by siring such a child.”
The man said to the parent, “May our sorrow be forever existing in such a way, until these feelings become lessened, and we may both become happy once again at our separate times,” negating the otherwise-inevitable chain of apologies, as was custom, before walking away. The parent thought that this was the last time the man would visit the house. However, on the same time on the next day, he came again with the same speech. He came again for a week, a month, two months. The residents had become anxious. Finally, he said something different.
“I am unsure if it is custom to keep a child inside a house for as long as it has committed some kind of transgression. Could you answer this for me, I entreat you, oh honorable parent, with a yes if it is the case and a no if it is not?”
“It is indeed the case.”
“Is there a specific time for which you the holding of the girl-child who offered a crayon to a bear, and is your child, in existence so parts or parted the water of the grand reality?”
The parent was suddenly stiff. “This child that I presume is being spoken of was rude in my sensibilities.”
The man tried to look around the parent, but his vision was blocked by a dark shadow. “I do not wish for you to look into this house,” said the other parent, trying not to sound menacing.
The man turned around abruptly and left, but before he had gone even four meters from their house, he stopped and turned, finally expressing his true feelings. “To be frank, I wish you would learn from her.”
This was absolutely shocking to them, almost as shocking as the fact that he had wasted their time without apologizing. They watched as he shoved things towards the bears, wishing them a good day and a happy farewell and complimenting their humongous useless claws.
They crept up to him silently - all of them - and they snatched him from his post. He writhed wildly like a worm, but it made no difference. He had to be punished for his sin.
He was pushed into an unfamiliar room, and both of the parents whom he had spoken to were glaring at him. When the door was shut, they began to berate him in fits and bursts.
“I-I dislike what you did and asked!” said one of the parents.
“It w-was unkind! Very bad! Very!” said the other.
They continued on like this, spitting out words with the causticity of water, until the man started laughing. This really made them angry, and they began to cluck like chickens as they danced wildly, and the man laughed and laughed until it seemed like he was the master and not the captive.
Was he happy? Was he angry? Was he lost? He could have been any of those things, and it made them feel like they had missed something. That made them feel horrible.
Then something broke loose. In the greatest throes of rage, one of them overturned him and began to kick the side of his head, over and over again.
“P-Stop laughing! Stop it! I am being uncomfortable!”
He was still laughing, but he was starting to bleed, and no one was stopping it.
He was in pain, but he had been in pain before, just not the kind that someone could stop.
He couldn't laugh now, No one was laughing. The only sound was the crack of bone.
Then all was quiet. Somber, even.
And then all the parents, all the grandparents, were clapping like some god had come down from above and granted them a thousand fields of gold. They had all been watching from the sidelines, and now they came running and embraced each other. Finally, they were free from this demon of a man, this evil man who gave things to bears. There would have been a feast had he been powerful, but instead, everyone sang and spoke about things which had nothing to do with him.
Children came out of their houses and frolicked because they were not told who had died, and no one cared about the man who they had never been allowed to acknowledge. The girl who came out was confused at first, as she could not see the man. However, she had friends, and they were playing together, blissfully unaware of any change. Some children asked what had happened, and they were left with cheerful smiles on their faces and no answers.
The man was not part of “everyone” anymore, because it was better to not acknowledge death. He had been thrown out into the fields for this reason alone, and it is widely acknowledged that this was not meant as a peace offering, that no one had intended to give his body to the bears. But the bears came anyways, and when the saw the mutilated body, they were overjoyed. They danced with him, danced some arcane dance which made him break apart and disappear, and they loped into the town.
Everyone stopped rejoicing and hoped that the bears would flee. But the bears walked into the houses instead, smashing things against the walls until they were bent and broken as everyone covered their ears and stamped the ground with their stomping shoes.
No one in the town knew how to speak to them, so they could not simply ask for compliance from these monstrous beings. They circled around the children and took their breaths warily as the bears ransacked their houses. Some of them thought about the dead man, but they dared not voice their opinions. Their reasoning was that it was better to think positively, but they were really afraid that their young ones would suddenly disagree with them.
They waited, like fences enclosing rowdy immature bears, until their tormentors had stopped. All was quiet, and one of the bears had decided that it was no longer worth the work. They had been allowed to defile the borders of the town in the absence of any real order-keeper, and so the land was rightfully theirs. They simply had to destroy the remaining people, for they had set out to keep the land pristine, and now that it was not, they were useless.
She walked to the residents of the town and looked upon them. With a meaningful reserve not at all rare in her kind, she touched a parent. No one had told the parent to move, and it didn't want to move, so it decided simply not to react to such a strange occurrence. The bear opened its mouth wide and ate it whole, and the other parent jumped in as well so its mate would not be left behind.
One by one, the parents and grandparents were eaten by the bears until the children were the only ones left. They immediately scattered, and some of them screamed. The bears were in a frenzy now, but in all of the chaos, a single commanding voice shone.
"O beautiful ones, your hair is wild like our mother the Earth!" said the girl, holding up her hair curler. The bears were shocked and backed away, for the hair curler made them self-conscious and afraid.
The girl ran into the houses, taking ten things from every one. A yo-yo, a flashlight, a spoon - everything that she found seemed to drive the bears mad. She tried to make everyone else do it, but everyone else shied away from her as the bears did. The bears ate everyone else before fleeing as quickly as possible, and the girl was left to stew in her own guilt over confronting the bears like the man had.
She wondered where the man was. She thought about going into the woods and finding him, but she eventually decided against it. What she had done had made her feel dirty. She decided to take a bath in what had once been her house, and once she was clean, she felt less dirty. She decided to go to sleep for the night, and her dreams were filled with joy and laughter.
When she woke up, she remembered what had happened, and she cried, because it had finally sunk in that she would never see her family again. She cried under her blanket until her bed was wet, and she only stopped when she heard the door open. She quickly grabbed a mechanical pencil and brandished it at the intruder, a bear which promptly ran away.
She could hear more bears fleeing her house, and she rushed to the living room to see what damage they had caused. The walls were covered in claw marks and the chair cushions had been torn until they looked like bandages.
She decided to fix the claw marks, and she went outside to find paint. It was in a house nearby, smeared all over the walls. She flicked water at it until it started to run and painted the entire living room of that house brown. Then she went back to her house and painted the living room blue.
The seat cushions were next. She simply tore them off entirely to make hard chairs which looked decent. She stuck the stuffing into the claw marks and painted over them until it looked decent. It worked so well that when she went outside to throw the scraps away, the stuffing suddenly turned into wood. She was confused, but she quickly put it out of mind.
When she was done, the bears seemed to actively avoid her house, and when she even walked towards one of them, they immediately ran from her, as if they found her too powerful to challenge anymore. With this newfound power, she decided that the best course of action was to try and find the man outside her house, because she still hoped that he knew where they were. She had a hunch that he was in the woods, mostly because he wasn't in the town, so she decided on going there. However, she was still slightly afraid of the bears, so she sat for a while in thought until she had devised a plan.
The next day, the bears came to her house and saw that she was not there. They all seemed rather relieved, as they quickly began destroying everything. Meanwhile, the girl, who had been watching them from beyond the fence, ran into the woods to try and find the man. She searched in thickets, inside dead trees and old caves, never catching a glimpse of him.
But finally, she found a quaint cottage in a small clearing, and though it looked almost abandoned, it was the first sign of civilization she had seen in the woods. She walked into it confidently, expecting the man to be there, but was shocked when she opened the door.
Inside the house, there were splinters everywhere. Gruel bubbled in a pot, a bowl, and a cup. A desk was in the center of the room, next to a chair and a rocking horse with no head. Finally, there was a giant heap of pillows and mattresses in the back, and as she walked around the house in shock, she found that behind the pillow heap lay a twisted bed and a night table. She stood in awe of the mess around her until a burning smell snapped her out of it.
She saw that a pile of sticks had suddenly gone alight. She took the pot and ran outside to fetch water, and when she dumped it on the fire, it sputtered out. She moved the sticks away and crushed the glowing embers that she found.
She decided to fix the house to the best of her abilities, because she thought it was horrible that a house would look so abandoned. She started with the splinters. She tried to find a broom, but she used the board behind the pillows when she couldn't find one. She then arranged the pillows around the inside walls of the house partially for how it looked and partially because she didn't know what to do with them. Finally, she looked at everything else and gave up, deciding that it wasn't possible to do anything more.
She wanted something to happen, so she waited around the house. Finally, it began to get dark, and she realized that she didn't actually know how to get back home. She decided to lie down on the bed, and she immediately fell asleep.
She immediately forgot her dreams, as she awoke to the bears' angry snuffling sounds. They had surrounded her, and not only that, but they had covered the floor with all sorts of contraptions. In the time between being in bed and running out the door, she noticed an electric lamp, a golden key, a bracelet made of braided leather, and a beautiful carving of an angel with stumps where the wings and legs should have been. The bears followed her as she crashed through the woods in a blind panic. She had never heard the bears sound so angry, and she didn't dare look back. Fearful that the bears might catch up to her, she forgot where she was going until she saw, with unbridled joy, her town.
She could see that the bears had done some damage, but she could tell that she could fix it. She jumped over the fence and saw that they had not vandalized her house. She quickly jumped inside her house and came out brandishing a spoon. The bears rushed towards her, and the closest one slammed her into the other house so quickly that she only became afraid when her back was to the wall. The bear thrashed her around without biting her until she could not tell up from down, and she could not have moved if she had wanted to. She wondered dimly why the spoon did not work, but before she could do that, she heard someone call out.
"Hey!" The monosyllable made the bears' heads turn, and when they saw who it was, they ran away quickly. She saw the short form of the man run after them, berating them in his odd way, as she closed her eyes and tried not to throw up. She wondered dimly if she should even have gotten up, as she remembered how the man had held them off before. She wondered if she should die as she heard the sound shift, and she felt herself being pulled towards the light.
The man was far away from the town that he had protected. The world had partaken of him, and his tired soul had forsaken the world. As he looked up at them from the world of fire, he saw the boy run after the bears. His bravery had come from the memory of the girl, for he had been amazed by her boldness and had hid in a barrel and thought about it. This would be his first stand against the bears, and he knew their plans, for he had heard them speak to one another.
But he was not brave. He was not nearly as brave as the girl, and the bears were noticing as he lost steam. The man could see the girl's soul ascend to him, and he took the opportunity to whisper to the girl, frightened that the town would not last. As she stood between the world of the dead and the living, he whispered to her, "Child, you are now like me." And as the girl heard the screaming, she realized that it had not been the man who had saved her.
The girl's stance was wobbly, but she was back on her feet, for she had been pulled back into the living by screams of terror. She stood boldly, inhaled, and ran towards the bears. Part of her was afraid, for the bears had attacked her before, but she was far more concerned with the life at stake. The bears did not see her until she jumped out, only somewhat clean and only partially brave, with a spoon and electric mixer in hand. She told them of their kindness, of how they were incapable of hurting her despite their strength, aiming to dissuade them.
She was no longer completely brave, but how brave she actually was didn't matter in the end. The bears did not know that she was not completely sure that she could scare them off. They reacted only to what they could see, and they saw the girl whom they had beaten rise triumphantly above them, brandishing evidence of her superiority.
It terrified them. They ran away, running far away from the girl and the town. They ran until they reached the cottage where they had tried in vain to mimic the creativity of the human beings. Once they were there, they lay down for a while, tired from their flight and frightened by how quickly their power over the girl had been taken away
They began to remember the triumph they had felt when they had seen the mutilated body of the man, remember the control they'd had over the docile people who had not fought as they were eaten. Finally, they began remembering the power they had felt as they had chased the girl to her town, and as they had attacked her for showing her weakness by running away. By the end of the day, after they had realized that most of the joy from the town was long gone, they made a vow to never visit the town again.
Of course, the girl did not know that they were going to stop as she saw them running away. As such, she decided to go to bed, ignoring the boy who stared at her like she was a god. The boy, who had been sitting in a barrel, promptly reentered it and slept, dreaming of Bellona confronting a thousand bears. When they both woke up, the girl was pleasantly surprised, and the boy dared not come out of his barrel until twelve hours had gone by without the sound of a bear. By the time he had existed, the town looked pristine, and he was happy. He sought out the girl and decided to engage in small talk.
"I am unsure if the weather seems to have a kind demeanor, and I hope that you, the honorable girl of great power over the bears, would tell me how you see this day."
The girl looked up at him with a look of mild surprise, then carried on what she was doing without answering. The boy stood rooted, equal parts bored and frightened, trying to be polite and not chastise the person who had saved his life for being impolite. It was a losing battle, and so he said "I am very sorry" before promptly running away.
The girl had not really known how to talk to people as an adult would, as she'd had no practice being an adult before this point. She felt angry that she couldn't speak, and when the boy came to her again the next day, the scene ended in exactly the same way - the embarrassed fleeing boy and the silently self-deprecating girl.
It wasn't quite their fault. They were both the only people left, and their knowledge of each other was limited by the fact that they had never spoken to one another before that point. The boy, the older of the two, had been groomed to succeed his parents, and had forgotten how to speak to children in a non-patronizing way as a result. Meanwhile, the girl, as had been mentioned before, did not know how to speak to adults.
In addition, the world seemed to want to keep the boy useless, as the girl seemed to be able to fix things that seemed completely unfixable. She fixed the pipes in the houses without touching them, the walls of the houses with no wood or plaster, and even the roads despite neither of them knowing how to even fix them. The boy decided for this very reason to do absolutely nothing, and the girl, not knowing how to speak to him, did not ask him to help. Thus, boy and girl lived in their own separate spheres, and they wouldn't need to communicate for almost half a year.
Now this story is under construction again.