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Nature's Turn

by Sam Parzuchowski 11 months ago in Short Story · updated 10 months ago
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The end came quick, the day nature turned on us.

I remember the day Mother Earth had finally had enough. She no longer would stand for the abuse. It all happened quite quickly, perhaps she had been preparing. Greta tried to warn us but we didn’t listen and Mother Earth grew desperate. The final day when she walked out the door came and no one was spared.

It was only 2022, we were out west or up north, us humans were still everywhere. My friends and I, we thought we were different. For being outdoors, we thought we appreciated her, but we all took her for all she had.

That day I had rode my idiotic kayak to Trey’s friends house, more mountain manor than house. Looking back, I was lucky to at least be with family that day. Trey had been the only cousin born the same year as me. Because I had ridden my kayak I had to rely on Trey and his dodo of a friend to get us out. Daniel was the kind of guy who cheats at bar trivia, a bit of a dumb dumb, for that and other reasons I referred to him as Dodo. Dodo was a Kennedy though, or knew a Kennedy. My point is he had a fleet of vehicles and streams of cash and enough disregard for the have-nots to get us out of there that day.

Scout and I had been napping upstairs in the loft overlooking Marigold Creek. Dodo’s family home was high enough in the mountains that we could peer out the window and see the creek at its natural widest point. From the wall of windows trimmed in oak, you could watch the river trickle over and cocoon boulders that had fallen centuries before. The mountain grass and wildflowers encompassed and flanked the river. The view was lulling us to sleep when the first black bear came.

Scout saw it before me, she began a low guttural growl creeping up to the window, her protectionism shaking her entire body. For a fourteen pound Jack Russell she could stand her ground. I sat up from my blankets and followed her gaze. A fat teddy bear was walking out of the spruce trees. I wanted to squeeze the ginormous thing until its head popped off. I tousled Scout’s head with my palm and told her not to worry. Laying back down on the daybed that butted right up to the glass, I tucked Scout close to me and we watched the bear as she waded into the water.

What a sight. Dodo had said we might see some wildlife, but his teasers always felt too good to be true. And then, as if the moment couldn’t get any more magical, Mother Nature blew my mind and sent out four cubs from the spruces. They played and tumbled over each other. I sat back up, pressed to the window. This moment was surreal, watching Mother Earth in her rawness, free from intruders. This was the kind of scene Morgan Freeman narrates. It was probably our last peaceful moment.

Not too long after another mass of fur came out of the trees. It must be Papa Bear I thought, he was the size of a Subaru. And then came uncle bear, auntie, thirteen cubs and all the extended family. I had never seen anything like this. The river was covered in black bears, bathing in the water, sharing the treats the streams provided. They came to look like a flock, and then a mob. At some point my pinkies started tingling, a flush of panic building, my brain unable to not think fight and flight. I skipped steps down the stairs racing through the compound’s decks until I found Trey and Dodo grilling on the southern facing balcony.

“Guys! The bears - everywhere - I’ve never seen this before!” My sputtering was met with placid confusion. Scout yipped by my ankles in support. Trey was mildly intrigued, Dodo didn’t even turn from the grill, “Oh yeah, you can spot bears all the time, Trey, go check it out.” “No, No,” I insisted, “this doesn’t seem normal.” Dodo sighed and put down his spatula. He tossed his apron on a chair and the four of us headed back inside to look.

“Holy shit,” Trey breathed. We scanned the scene, since I had been on the deck more bears had joined. Dodo tried to play cool, “my dad has seen something like this before. I think,” clearing his throat, “maybe in the seventies, it’s like a non-annual migration.” We continued to watch, Dodo went to turn off the grill, admitting this was no casual bear sighting. At this point, there must have been north of sixty bears. We observed in awe.

“We’re safe in here, right?” I asked. Scout was curled in my lap as the sun dipped past noon. “Yeah, I mean the bears can climb but they can’t open these doors without thumbs. And they really have no desire to come up here with the river supplying their journey.” Dodo continued, “If any were to come close we have the bear mace and loud music. Dad said they had to do that before when they used to host galas here.” I rolled my eyes at Scout, she let out a sigh.

We sat there waiting for them to leave or dissipate when I spotted her. She was wearing tricolor zip-away hiking pants and a matching sports bra. Alone and about a quarter mile away heading toward us. “My God,” I pointed for the boys. Dodo actually sprang up and did something. He climbed the two stairs, sliding back inside to a gray box nestled in the wall. It looked like a breaker box. He popped the hook door open, spun some dials and laced out a walking talkie. He looked official, like a seasoned park ranger. “Uhhh,” he starts, vibrating the house and sending feedback shrieks. Scout springs up. Dodo adjusted some dials and pressed the talkie button again. This freaking house. Equipped with outdoor megaphone speakers.

“Miss, can you hear me? You’re about to be approaching a group of bears around the next bend. You need to turn around.” We watch as her head tilts up in recognition. She heard something but wasn’t sure what. Dodo tried again, picking up his tone and volume, “Lady! Turn AROUND NOW, BEARS AHEAD!” she heard it this time. The hiker gave a solid wave in our direction and headed back to the main trail. I wanted her to move quicker though. She had gotten too close, only a line or two of trees separated her from a protest of bears. Dodo hung up the talkie leaving the box open. I watched as little red riding hood started to hike downhill. Hurry up! I wanted to scream. And then, she fell. Dodo let a laugh escape before realizing what we were watching. As her ankle rolled she let out a yelp and several of the bears looked up from their pool and craned their necks toward her.

She propped herself up off a nearby boulder and was brushing the dust off when the first bear started to move. It was slow but then picked up to a trot, for every one hobble she took the bear covered three yards.

Dodo ran to the speaker, “RUN! RUN! FREAKING A, RUN!” Trey flew to the backroom where he kept his rifle. He came out loading it as he crossed the deck. Scout and I fled behind the couch, peeking over the back, the beating of my heart was smacking the leather. What was this horror scene playing out in front of us!? I had heard stories, I knew people went missing every year in National Parks, but not this. I couldn’t watch a bear attack actually happen. On top of some human glass perch nonetheless. I closed my eyes and heard Dodo continue to scream into the speaker.

Cracking my left eye I saw her start to run. Dodo barked out directions to turn a corner up ahead, to shout and make noise but the bear was gaining on her.

Trey set the barrel of the gun on the deck ledge, he crouched down to peer in as Scout and I peered down on him. We watched as Dodo and Trey tried to save this girl.

“Are you even allowed to actually shoot a black bear!?” Trey ignored Dodo and adjusted the scope. His shoulders rose and then fell in a deep exhale. He pulled the trigger. The sound made Scout’s tail go between her legs and for me to squeeze both eyes shut again. The bear lurched on impact, slowing down, then tumbling over itself falling sideways. It was horrendous. It’s fur was drenched in blood as it began withering about like a beetle on its back. I could hardly watch, tears ran down my face and my body shook, but the bear deserved to at least have us witness. Outside of my tunnel vision I heard the boys argue putting the bear out of its misery, legality versus ethics. I watched as the bear struggled and coated the Indian paintbrushes in a darker shade of red.

I had seen enough. I stepped up and out onto the deck, grabbed the rifle, made sure it had another round, and ended the bear’s life. It flopped, deceased.

I had never killed an animal before other than accidentally in third grade when I fed Amber’s fish too much. I handed the gun to Trey and slumped to the ground. The tears started down my cheeks and Scout licked them off. Dodo sighed and grabbed the gun to put it back in the safe, Trey came and sat by me. He put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in. My breath was quivering but I dipped into the embrace.

Then, a scream ripped through the mountains, splitting air into our skulls. I knew what we were about to see before I turned around. The hiker was mulled, alive. Three bears ripped her apart in front of us. Blood and limbs, vengeance and nature, collided and separated. I was shaking, I peed myself. I grabbed Scout and ran inside and curled into the fetal position in my own piss.

The bears turned on us after that. As I said, Mother Nature was through with us. She had done this before, rooted out the parasite, wiped out species with volcanoes, ice ages, humans themselves got rid of species too. That was all part of it. She wouldn’t, she couldn’t, take it any longer.

Dodo tried to radio in the attack, but it was unclear if he got through, the lines were jammed. We ran for our lives to his parent’s Tesla. Once in, we did not have time to breathe. The bears came up onto the hood and roof of the car, soon the wolves, elk. It seemed the whole animal kingdom joined. We raced out of there only to be met by a dead stop once we hit the main highway, we weren’t the only ones running.

When we got to town, we discovered the chaos had not beaten us there. I dashed to The Saloon where I knew my parents were usually holding court on summer evenings. I slipped into the tavern and tracked them down on the dance floor. I tried to convey myself as clearly, concisely, and convincingly as possible. My mom believed me and was ready to dash to safety. My dad, he didn’t buy it. He was still in denial. I didn’t have time to change him, I tried to drag him but by that time the bears had made it to town.

Only Mom, Dodo, Trey, his mom and I made it out. We didn’t have much time to dwell on losing our fathers and husbands. Scout turned on us shortly after that. It was the end afterall.

Short Story

About the author

Sam Parzuchowski

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