Suspense Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Helplessness is like having the world turn you inside out and dip you in salt. That was how Jack Simms felt as he watched a ravenous grizzly charge his lifelong friend, Cory Marx, from the brush, mauling him. Just a split second ago they were acknowledging a cute cub who had come wandering their way and were getting ready to head back to camp. Now, Jack knew he needed to do something but was frozen, shocked, his eyes bulging, his breathing short and quick, sweat pouring down his face although he himself felt cold.

The bear was over eight feet tall and at least eight hundred pounds. It kept bouncing up and down on Cory’s chest with its front paws like it was doing chest compressions. Jack could hear a rib crack. Then with one swipe of its massive paw, with those razor-like claws, the bear tore four deep, bloody lines across Cory’s chest, causing him to scream out in pain. The scream snapped Jack back to reality, and he grabbed his knife. He rushed the bear and leapt into the air, but not before he heard the sound of Cory’s face cracking in the bear's vise like jaws. Jack landed with the knife sinking into the bears back left shoulder. Jack screamed like a man gone wild and held on tight as the bear reared up and began thrashing, trying to throw Jack from its back.

Jack was thrown into the brush and the bear turned its attention to him; Cory lay there silent, bloody, and motionless behind the hulking brown beast. Slowly it stalked on all fours, massive and hungry. It snorted and its warm breath against the cool fall morning air was like steam from an old locomotive as she charged forward with the same force but with an intent to maim or kill.

Jack tried to run, but the hood of his jacket was tangled in thorns. He stripped himself free of his jacket, leaving it behind, just escaping a swat from the beast that would have shredded his back. The trail led uphill and was slowing him down. The bear was approaching swiftly, faster than he imagined an animal that size could run, so he left the path and headed downhill into the valley. Jack was moving much faster, but maybe too fast in his fright. He stumbled over a downed tree as he tried to clear it and began to roll uncontrollably. He took several bumps and bruises as he tumbled, was sent spinning when he hit a sapling, but didn’t stop until he crashed into a rock in the creek below, breaking his forearm. With the bone sticking out and bleeding profusely, he sat in agony, trying not to pass out. The bear’s roar and the rustling of leaves from above gave him a boost of adrenaline. He didn’t know what else to do but follow the creek and hope it took him back to camp.

Jack didn’t get far when he heard splashing behind him, the bear gaining on him as he stumbled along in pain. Up on his right, on the creek’s bank, were washed out roots where he could squeeze into the embankment and hide. The roots formed a cage too tight for a bear to enter. In there he figured he would be out of reach. But the bear had him pinned. Jack pressed himself as tightly as he could against the damp mud and root, trying to stay out of the bears reach; spiders and centipedes crawling all over him, along his face and down his shirt. The bear was able to rip his shirt with the tip of his claw but turned its attention to digging at the embankment. Wider and wider the hole became. Jack thought he’d run for it, but the bear was too quick and cut off his escape. With Jack’s knife still stuck in its shoulder, the bear dug frantically until it burst through, eyes red with hatred and sharp teeth dripping with saliva going straight for Jack’s face.

"Help," Jack cries out.

Jack woke up to himself screaming and it was actually spring. The air was cool, but he was sweating and gasping for air. It all came back to him. He was with his girlfriend Emma, who was asleep beside him. They met with Cory and Rachel, Cory’s new girlfriend from college, for a little getaway with their friends from back home, Mike and Lacy, last night. Since college had started, it was the first chance they had to get together and wanted to do something memorable. Coming from Nebraska, they thought some time camping in the northwest portion of Washington would be the memory they were looking for. Light was shining through the tent, and voices could be heard just outside. The others were up and had started the day. Jack checked his phone and saw that it was nine-thirty-seven, so he gently woke Emma.

Giving her a soft nudge and a gentle kiss, he said, “It’s past nine-thirty babe, and I smell coffee. Do you want to grab some with me?”

Emma groans out a “sure” and sat up with her long sandy-blonde hair all in her face. Her eyes were puffy and a little red, but Jack thought she looked absolutely adorable at that moment and wondered if she was the one.

“What,” she asked, catching him looking a little too long.

“It always amazes me how cute you look when you wake up,” he said with an adoring smile. “The rest of us look like we spent the night in the dryer, but you always look beautiful.”

Emma blushed and looked away shyly. Cracking a smile and slapping him on the arm she said, “Let’s get that coffee you sweet talker.”

They opened the tent to a blast of radiant light they were not expecting. The day was free from clouds, and they had pitched their tent in the middle of a meadow filled with wildflowers, so there wasn’t even shade coming down off the towering trees that surrounded the clearing. Once their eyes focused, they could see Mike sitting by the fire enjoying his coffee as Lacey was cooking up breakfast, the smell of which tied Jack and Emma’s stomachs in knots, they were so hungry. 

“About time you two rolled out of the old tent,” Cory said, coming out of his tent carrying a wide-angle lens to take to Rachel who is taking pictures further out in the meadow. “Do I even have to ask about the sweat covered shirt, Jack,” Cory said with an all-knowing laugh.

“Hurry up, Cory! I want to get pictures of all these adorable little baby bears before they disappear,” Rachel yelled out.

“Bear cubs! Oh, I have to see,” Emma squealed and ran towards the three little bears rolling on the ground wrestling.

Jack turned white, flashing back to his dream, then began to scream, “Emma wait! Get away from the cubs! Everyone, get away from the cubs!”

Jack took off running after Emma who had a good head start on him. Mike and Lacey both stood up to see what the commotion was. Cory was handing Rachel her lens as she waved Emma over.

“Emma, get in there. You and the bears will make such a cute picture,” Rachel enthusiastically declared.

Emma got to the ground and started playing with the bears. Jack was almost there when the mother bear emerged from the grass and flowers. Jack sped up calling out for Emma to run. The bear grabbed Emma with her two front paws and clamps down on the top of Emma’s head.

"No," Jack screamed.

Emma jumps, confused, but the adrenaline from the scare has her wide awake. “What Jack? What is it?”

Jack hugged and kissed Emma like he hadn't seen her for ages, “It was just a bad dream; dreams I should say,” he said, rolling back over, hearing the crinkling of cellophane. “Shit! Our candy wrappers!”

The front of the tent was torn open, and the snarling face of a bear appeared. It clawed Jack’s sleeping bag, pulling him outside. The last thing Jack heard was Emma’s desperate cries for help as the bear tore at his flesh with tooth and claw.

July 08, 2023 04:27

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