Ursus Inopinatus – Kristopher David Cooley
COLIN SELTER HELD HIS BINOCULARS to his eyes. Nothing.
This brief excursion to the Canadian north was far from what he dreamt it would be. Cold, famished, and dying for a hot plate of sweet, greasy bacon, Colin realized that his wildlife expedition was a complete bust. With the exception of a few tiny snowbirds, the occasional squirrel, and what might have been a woodchuck, Colin had yet to witness a single animal.
Nor was the wilderness as breathtaking as the brochures had promised. Hills of pine nettles rendered the southern forests identical to nearly every other woodland on the continent, and the northern reaches of the country consisted of nothing but snow. The endless fields and mountains of white grew tedious, and the glare of the light on the snow was tiresome on the eyes.
The sun was setting in the violet sky. “Ready to call it a day, then?” queried Clarence Gilmore, his tour guide. A humiliating wave of defeat washed over Colin. How could he ever justify the expenses he accrued on his failed journey? A cricket chirped from a nearby laurel thicket. Colin swore.
“Might as well.”
The calm landscape became filled with silhouettes as the light of day dissipated. Snow crunched softly under the lumbering plod of the men’s thick, waterproof boots.
Then they heard it – the sound of cracking branches echoed through the forest.
“Quiet! – Something’s coming,” Clarence whispered, motioning for Colin to stop moving.
Huge huffing and woofing noises, pulsing in mighty gusts, blew through the woodland like a powerful windstorm. Vibrating tremors gripped the ground. Whatever was stalking them – it was gigantic.
Without warning, an enormous and distinctly ursine shape exploded from the forest’s edge. A hulking bear with a strange, yellow pelt bounded toward the two hikers with its predatory eyes locked directly onto them, scattering great swaths of snow and the debris of thrashed thickets with each pace.
“Get down!” hollered Clarence, pulling Colin to the ground as the ferocious animal barreled straight for them.
Filled with icy horror, Colin pinched his eyes shut, his heart nearly stopping. He couldn’t watch. Was this how his disappointing expedition would end – the moment he finally got to witness a spectacular animal was the same moment his life was to be wrenched from him?
As Colin braced himself and Clarence prepared for the worst, the ghastly bear let out a ferocious growl. Storming with terrible speed, the apparition tore through the snow, plowing right past them before disappearing into the forest.
Colin opened his eyes. “Bluff charge?”
Clarence struggled to his feet, thinking for a moment. “That thing smelled us long before it ever saw us. If it was threatened by us – hen yes, that’s likely the case.”
But there was also another possibility, one that Clarence was unwilling to rule out entirely: Perhaps the carnivorous phantom was circling back around, having used its bluff-charge to assess whether the men would make easy prey – and God knew they would.
“Which species of bear do you think it was?” Colin asked.
Despite all of his years in the field, the tour guide had never experienced any creature quite like the one that had almost found it in its heart to rob them of their lives. “Well,” he spoke, “I won’t lie; I have no clue. But I do know that brown bears and black bears can’t survive this far north, and this range is much too far from the coast to support polar bears. And judging from its size, I’d say that the bear that charged us was easily over two meters tall at the shoulder, putting it well outside of the normal range of bear growth.”
A fearful chill radiated down Colin’s spine. What kind of monster had they encountered?
“Let’s get the hell out of here.”
That oppressive dread of the unknown, which rears its head from our very nightmares and seizes our spirits utterly, was the singular force that spurred the two explorers along. Clarence led the way – and far be it from Colin to linger behind. Melted snow became patchier, revealing the forest floor beneath. The tour guide urgently followed the trails of his memory, and it wasn’t too long before they were greeted by the sound of running water.
“Strange,” Clarence muttered.
“What? What’s strange? Don’t just leave me hanging here!” Colin was clearly still shaken by the encounter.
“I don’t mean to alarm you, but I don’t recall there being a stream in this area.”
“What the hell do you mean? We’re not lost, are we?”
“No,” – he checked his compass,“it says we’re right on path; we should be going the correct way,” he sputtered, starting to lose his cool himself.
A deep huffing noise sounded from the woods.
Unable to feign bravery for another moment, Colin bolted. “Hey! Waiiit!” Clarence shouted, charging after him. But it was no use – the feeble-minded Colin was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
Just then, the bank quaked. The heavy huffing grew nearer.
Falling back on his training, Clarence promptly threw himself to the ground once again, remaining as still as he could.
Emerging from the brush, the giant yellow bear inhaled deeply, following the suggestion of its keen olfactory bulbs, which led it straight to the cowering tour guide. But this was no brown bear, and as such, stillness was no deterrent to its carnivory.
THE MASSIVE YELLOW BEAST went unreported. The whereabouts of Colin and Clarence remain unknown; authorities have long since called off the search, presuming the two of them dead.
Earth spun ever faithfully through space in its course around the sun, as it always had and as it always would.
Kristopher “Catfish” David Cooley is an aspiring author living in rural North Carolina with his beloved pet chinchilla. He is a shy-yet-agreeable Bigfoot hunter; no luck yet. Nature is his first love.