by Lena Ng
Yay! A three-day weekend’s coming up. A nice break, but too short for a trip to Aruba. But here’s another idea. You can explore your own backyard and be one with nature at the same time. That’s right. A good ol’ camping trip.
You’ve packed your gear—a rain-proof tent, sleeping bag, water filter, basic first-aid kit, shrink-wrapped rations, extra socks—left behind the gf, who hates camping anyway and would rather go to a stupid spa, and found the perfect site in glorious nature. You’ve hiked off the marked trails, built up a nice sweat, cooked over an open fire, and searched your skin for deer ticks.
Before you can rest your head, however, you need to bear-proof your camp. You’ve bagged your scraps, made a counter-balance of approximately the same weight (filled with your plates and utensils), and hung the two bags on a branch twenty-feet from the ground.
And just as you are finishing up, you spot it.
A bear. From the pronounced hump of its shoulders and concave facial profile, you think it’s a grizzly instead of a black bear. Not good. Grizzlies—called Ursus arctos horribilis (horrible brown bear) for a reason—are much more aggressive than black bears. In fact, they are the most aggressive of bears. It stands on his hind legs, stretching to ten feet tall, and sniffs the air. Its sense of smell is seven times more sensitive than that of a bloodhound. It catches your eye.
And it’s a big bear, looking about eight-hundred pounds which is an indication that it’s a male. The females are about half this weight. He takes one look at you and begins to charge. He crosses thirteen yards in one second. Even if you ran, instead of freezing like a nudist in winter, you could never out-run it. Your legs weren’t built to run thirty-four miles per hour.
That is not to say you aren’t prepared. You have a can of bear spray, a mix of capsaicin oil—the ingredient that gives hot peppers their kick—diluting fluid, and aerosol propellant. You spray and spray, taking care to spray away from yourself since what could be worse than being blinded while confronting a bear? But the bear seems undeterred. Maybe he enjoys a spicy meal.
Now what do you do? Climb a tree? Or play dead? Usually you would need to differentiate between a predatory attack versus a defensive one. Since he is a male without cubs, we will assume this is a predatory attack.
You choose to climb a tree. You scamper up the nearest balsam poplar and hang on for dear life. The bear looks up and sees your plump, juicy rear. He shakes the tree, so hard your teeth rattle. Your sweaty hands betray you; you slip from the branch and land at the bear’s feet.
Had you chosen to play dead, you would be in the exact same spot as you are now, except with less time elapsing. You curl up in a ball and place your hands behind your head, entwining your fingers, in order to protect your neck.
Pain rips through you as the jaws of the bear, with a bite strength of 1409.7 Newtons—a pressure which can crush bowling balls—chomps through the flesh, tendons, nerves, and bones of your hands, before biting through and severing your spinal column.
Now you can’t move. You continue to scream, but your piercing cries act as a dinner bell to the bear, causing him to salivate all over your face. He claws at your chest, your flesh opening up with gashes resembling half-inch-wide paper cuts. He bites your groin. He doesn’t care that you need your genitals. He doesn’t hold precious the sanctity of life nor the sanctity of your family jewels as he mauls them.
Your screams go up an octave.
As shock and blood loss sets in, you wish you could reflect on the meaning of your life, flash back over its most significant events, or look forward to rejoining past loved ones. But you are too distracted by the visceral, agonizing pain of being eaten alive since the bear isn’t courteous enough to first kill you.
Your voice grows too hoarse to do more than whimper. You are surprised you are not yet dead, but Homo sapiens are a resilient species. You wish you could fast-forward to the next part—like when you are sitting on your comfy couch at home, watching the latest episode of Doctor Who—and get to the point where you are singing in the heavenly choir, wearing your whitest dress robes.
Luckily it’s almost over since an attack lasts less than five minutes. Unfortunately those last five minutes are filled with searing, brain-flooding pain as teeth tear through your soft abdomen and the bear begins to gnaw at your spongy, blood-filled liver. To the bear, your intestines are like the hotdogs you ate at the ball-game. Your kidneys smell like pee, but the bear seems to enjoy it. You don’t even know what your spleen does, but it can’t be too vital since you are still alive and aware of every rending mouthful.
In your final seconds, be grateful you’ve helped the bear, starved and emaciated thing, that has evolved over thirty million years to survive through another harsh Canadian winter. He’ll gulp down large, unchewed chunks of your flesh, which will sit in his stomach and make him sleepy, then later will cache the rest of you in a hole it has dug, a five-foot-deep, make-shift food larder, and cover your remains, the bear version of leftovers, with branches.
I will admit the title of this piece is misleading. But how did you think this would end? Don’t feel bad…oh, I guess it’s too late for that. Most people would not survive an attack. You didn’t. But here’s hoping that, in your next life, you get to return as the bear, a flesh-eating one of course such as a polar, grizzly, or Himalayan black bear, not some silly, bamboo-eating panda. A top carnivore. Instead of a warm, weak, body of meat.
Lena Ng lives in Toronto, Ontario. She has short stories in three dozen publications including Amazing Stories, from Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. “Under an Autumn Moon” is her short story collection. She is currently seeking a publisher for her novel, Darkness Beckons, a Gothic romance.