tw: violent content
Louis the Man could not have possibly stood more still or been more quiet inside of her closet if he were to have turned into stone. He watched, with the patience of a saint, as Cynthia the Woman tossed and turned, the bedsheets over her body flowing like restless ocean waves. He watched, through the crack in her ajar bi-ford closet door, as her body began to calm until it stopped moving entirely. He watched even still until her breath settle into a little snore, when the night drifted her away into dreamland. Only when he was absolutely certain she was sound asleep did Louis the Man slowly open the closet door, which in this late hour moved with an ear-piercing creak. He tip-toed out of the closet with the speed of a 100 year-old tortoise, every little step taking careful consideration, toward the side of the bed where Cynthia the Woman laid her sleeping body.
“What in heavens are you doing over there, Mr. Bear?” asked Ms. Fox with a chuckle.
“Working on my latest novel, of course,” said Mr. Bear. He sat cross-legged, leaning to his left against a tree stump. The birch trees around him rained bright autumn leaves while he clicked away at his typewriter on his lap.
“Well, you’ve picked a lovely place to get your work done, haven’t you?” said Ms. Fox, looking up at the afternoon sky. “But wouldn’t you be more comfortable if your typewriter sat on that stump instead of your lap?”
“I can’t,” said Mr. Bear. “This stump allows me to see into the world of humans. It has given me a wealth of inspiration.”
Ms. Fox walked up to Mr. Bear with a smile on her face. With the tip of her finger, she pushed back his reading glasses, which drooped onto the tip of his nose. “Quite the wonderful imagination you have there, don’t you, Mr. Bear?”
“Take a look for yourself. It’s enthralling.”
She giggled but shook her head. “Father told us human stories when we were little to scare us. I was always afraid they would destroy our home and turn it into a robot.” And with that Ms. Fox, sufficiently amused, waved goodbye and went about her way.
But humans were not all about robots, Mr. Bear thought. He saw so in the stump. He leaned over it and saw so many humans wandering about in strange, unnecessarily large cabins. They wore colorful fur on top of their body that can be pulled on and off. They stared at tiny, glowing planks more than they do anything else. But they did so much. Mr. Bear could hardly look away.
Mr. Bear stared at the stump until the sun went down and clicked away at his typewriter long after the moon came up. His lantern sat next to him to help him see. It also helped Ms. Owl find Mr. Bear without a fuss. She swooped down in front of him and dropped by his feet a wicker basket holding a steaming hot apple pie.
“Oh, Ms. Owl,” said Mr. Bear, “you’re too generous.”
“It is my pleasure,” said Ms. Owl. “I was surprised to see you out here at such an hour. But when I noticed that you were writing your next book, I was compelled to help you along. I absolutely loved your last book where the elk and the roe deer fall in love. Now, go on. Eat. I’m sure you’re famished.”
With a nod, Mr. Bear replaced his typewriter with the basket and stuffed his face in. Pieces of the pie flew everywhere, some disappearing into the stump. Ms. Owl made the most delicious pies. Everyone knew her talent for baking was second to none. He devoured the whole pie in less than a minute.
“I love your warm pies,” said Mr. Bear. “Thank you so much. Would you like to look at this stump? It’s really a portal to a world full of humans. It’s the inspiration for my current work.”
“Oh, really? Well, I’ve never been a fan of the fantasy genre. My bookshelf is made up entirely of romance novels and cookbooks. But you’re such a splendid writer that I’m willing to give it a chance. Oh, I cannot wait to spot it at the bookstore.” And with a wave, Ms. Owl flew off into the night.
Mr. Bear sat at that same spot for the next three days and nights, writing his next novel, but mostly watching all the interesting tales the stump showed him. He slept only a couple of hours each night, usually after enjoying a delicious, warm pie from Ms. Owl.
Before he knew it, the sun rose for another peaceful morning. He spent the last several hours staring at the stump and lost track of time. He looked to the page hanging on his typewriter to remind himself where he left off in his tale. It reads as follows:
Struggle as she might, and she indeed struggled, Cynthia the Woman could not release herself from the ropes that immobilized her, nor could she scream through the duct tape over her mouth. There was not a lumen of light in the car trunk where she resided, which she deduced from her claustrophobic cramp position as well as the vibration of a car engine resonating through her body. Her headache from the earlier assault persisted, leaving her to wonder how she would fair even if given a second chance at retaliation against her kidnapper. But what was more present on her mind than anything else was the anticipation of what would become of her once she arrives at the destination her abductor has designated—how he will seek to violate her body, her mind, and her soul.
“Now see here, Bear,” cried Mr. Rabbit, who hopped over for a visit. “I’ve spoken with many people in the community, and we think what you’re doing is unacceptable.”
“Whatever am I doing wrong, Mr. Rabbit?” asked Mr. Bear.
“Well…sitting outside for no reason, of course. It is unacceptable and we demand that you leave. You must go home at once; your presence is a disturbance to the community.”
Mr. Bear gave Mr. Rabbit a curious look. Why would writing outside disturb anyone, he wondered. But then he remembered that Mr. Rabbit was a twat. In fact, Mr. Rabbit was the biggest twat in all the Forest. He cannot stand anything out of the ordinary.
“But Mr. Rabbit,” said Mr. Bear, “by all accounts, me working on my latest novel in the open like this is quite tantalizing.”
“No it isn’t, no it isn’t, no it is not! You haven’t been home in days. Everyone I’ve spoken to says that’s strange. Ms. Owl’s even said herself that she keeps a close eye on you in case you try to commit some sort of home invasion in the middle of the night. We’re all on to you, so you might as well tell us what you’re plotting, you villain!”
“Plot? Well, I’m actually writing something more character-driven this time. I’m gathering inspiration from this stump next to me, which holds a portal to a different dimension (Yes, that’s the word for it.) where humans reside. If I am guilty of a crime, it is that I am obsessed with the endless scandal humans partake in. Would you like to look for yourself, Mr. Rabbit?”
Mr. Rabbit shook his head and stomped his foot furiously. “You’re a disgrace, Mr. Bear,” he snapped. “You don’t cut trees to build homes for growing families. You don’t gather healing herbs for the sick. You don’t even guard the community from potential wolf attacks. No, you play make-believe and write down your stupid childish imaginations on your stupid typewriter for the other stupid animals to gobble up. Grow up and do something meaningful with your life, you overgrown buffoon!” And on that note, Mr. Rabbit hopped away.
The harsh words of that mean ol’ Mr. Rabbit did not bother Mr. Bear one bit. In fact, Mr. Bear was grateful that Mr. Rabbit was not as wicked as some of the humans he saw through the stump. But the more he thought about what he has seen, the more he was confused, and bothered.
The sun was setting. Ms. Owl sat on top of a tree branch near where Mr. Bear sat, sipping warm coffee through a mug—she just woke up, after all. She watched as Mr. Bear drooped onto his back, staring up at the autumn leaves with a melancholic expression.
“Is there something troubling you, Mr. Bear?” asked Ms. Owl.
“Oh, Ms. Owl, you’re awake. I didn’t see you there.”
“My apologies. I was watching you for the past five minutes. I promise I’m not a stalker, but I can’t help but worry if you might have caught word of Mr. Rabbit’s anger toward you.”
“I’m aware of Mr. Rabbit’s attitude, but it’s fine.” Mr. Bear sighed. “Is it okay if I ask you a peculiar question?”
“You can ask me anything your heart desires.”
“As always, you’re too kind, Ms. Owl. Well, I’ve been wondering, what would compel someone to harm someone for no reason? I understand hunting for a meal, but to cause physical pain for its own sake is a concept that has left me baffled.”
“That is an intriguing question.” Ms. Owl tapped a feathery finger to her beak. “I swat away ants when they approach my pies. Does that count?
“Do you enjoy swatting away ants?” he asked.
Ms. Owl thought again for a moment. “No, actually. It is very annoying. But I have a duty to protect my baked goods. Perhaps you should consult Mr. Squirrel. If anyone can answer such a complicated question, it would be him.”
“You know, that is an excellent idea.” Mr. Bear, with a little more life in him, got to his feet and went about his journey. Ms. Owl was pleased with her helpful advice, as she should. She was truly a lovely owl.
The moon took the place of the sun by the time Mr. Bear arrived at the quaint, quiet cabin of Mr. Squirrel. As he raised a paw to knock on the old wooden door, the door swung open. Ms. Fox was just about to exit the house, only to be stopped by Mr. Bear’s unexpected presence. Ms. Fox was the friendliest in all the Forest. She was particularly friendly to anyone who showed her even the smallest amount of kindness, which meant she gave no attention to that mean ol’ twat, Mr. Rabbit. She always thought her affectionate nature was a secret, but everyone knew how widespread it was. It bothered nobody.
“Oh, Mr. Bear,” said Ms. Fox. She avoided eye contact. “What a pleasant surprise.”
“Hello, Ms. Fox. Is Mr. Squirrel still awake?”
“Just barely. It’s quite a late visit, isn’t it?”
“Yes, well, the matter is of the utmost importance.”
“Ah, yes, I see. Well, goodbye now.” And she scurried off.
Mr. Bear entered the humble home, which was luminated by the lit fireplace. Mr. Squirrel—no doubt the oldest but arguably the wisest of all the animals—sat in front of the flame, rocking in his rocking chair, which was much, much too big for his tiny squirrel body. He could hardly keep his eyes open. He was cute, the old little thing.
“Please, Ms. Fox,” said Mr. Squirrel, sensing an approaching body. “I have no more energy for tonight.”
“It’s me, Mr. Squirrel. It’s Mr. Bear. I request but a moment of your time.” Mr. Bear took a seat in front of the old squirrel.
“Ah, Mr. Bear. This is a surprise. No doubt after my honey-roasted cashews, are we?”
“No, no. I’m only here for your wisdom.”
Mr. Squirrel said nothing. Steadily he rocked in his chair, staring at Mr. Bear with his beady eyes, or perhaps he stared at something else in the room. He raised a hand in what looked to be in preparation of declaring something, but he simply scratched his chin through his white, lengthy beard that reached past the edge of his wooden seat.
“Quite right,” said Mr. Bear. “Well, I’ve been wondering: what compels one to bring physical harm to someone else? For example, say you wake up tomorrow morning and wish to strike down Mr. Moose with a large stick. What would possess you to have such a desire?” Mr. Squirrel transitioned his hand from scratching his chin to stroking his beard. “Please, Mr. Squirrel, I know this is a very peculiar question to ask you when you’d rather be in bed, but the matter has troubled me all day. Plus I’m in the middle of writing a novel and—"
“I love honey-roasted cashews.”
“I don’t understand—”
“I love them so much that I wouldn’t dare share them with anyone, not even if my life depended on it—I have already lived a long life, after all. Well, let us say that one of the cashews came to life, and claimed that she was my long, lost daughter? I’ve always wanted a child, but It was never meant to be. So could you imagine how I’d feel if a daughter came into my life like a miracle? I would cry tears of joy. But my daughter would still be a honey-roasted cashew. So, I would eat her. It is in my nature to eat cashews, just as it is in the nature of wolves to each everyone else. We cannot fault nature for eating those who want to be loved, only accept it.”
Mr. Bear was taken aback by the odd analogy. But when he went to ask a follow-up question, Mr. Squirrel already fell asleep on the rocking chair.
“I’ll give you anything you want. Money. Jewelry. Sex. Anything. Just please don’t kill me!”
But Louis the Man ignored Cynthia the Woman’s offers, as if he were deaf, or rather such conventional desires no longer piqued his interest. Louis the Man was a different kind of human, one who feeds on the suffering of the innocent like a bear feeds on honey from a pot.
“This is dreadful,” Mr. Bear mumbled to himself about what he’d just written, and he wasn’t wrong. He stopped writing and placed his typewriter to the side. By now he returned to his familiar spot by the stump. It was the dead of night, and almost everyone else soundly slept. He was more confused than ever. He looked at the stump and watched more humans hurting other humans. Most of the time, humans would hurt the humans they didn’t know. Mean words were exchanged, strikes would be swung, or devices that propel piercing pebbles were used. But why? These humans weren’t protecting anything, nor were they eating the humans they hurt.
“Hello, Mr. Bear,” said Ms. Owl, having just flew by. She walked into the light of his lantern with a basket containing a blueberry pie. It was clearly fresh from the oven because of the visible steam floating from it. But Mr. Bear turned his head from it. Ms. Owl frowned. “Was Mr. Squirrel not able to answer your conundrum?”
Mr. Bear shook his head. He remained looking toward the stump. “All of my work thus far would be for naught if I cannot figure out the secret to human cruelty.” He turned his head toward Ms. Owl, but chose not to raise his eyes to look at her. “Do you think you could come closer for just a moment, Ms. Owl?”
“I don’t see why not, but I’m afraid I lack the imagination to see figurative humans in the patterns on the stump like you can.”
Ms. Owl walked closer to Mr. Bear, anticipating some trick of the trade writers kept secret. Once she was close enough, however, Mr. Bear launched himself at her! He pinned her to the soft grass and clamped his jaw onto her shoulder. She screamed in pain once Mr. Bear’s teeth pierced through her feathers and her flesh.
When he released her, he saw her writhe on the ground, covered in her own blood. She couldn’t speak but only cried. Still, she looked up at him with pitiful eyes that wanted to know why he would do something so hateful.
Mr. Bear gained no insight into human cruelty like he thought he would. There was nothing exciting or pleasurable in attacking Ms. Owl. Quite the opposite, he was saddened to watch her suffer. Then he realized from remembering the events he witnessed through the stump that humans enjoy causing suffering, but rarely choose to watch their victims experience their agony.
So, Mr. Bear, with a hideous growl, bit into the body of Ms. Owl. Her still in his mouth, he lifted her up toward the sky. He shook her violently—losing his glasses in the process—but he only increased her suffering as she screamed a blood-curdling scream that seemed to echo around them. He slammed her down headfirst. He did this repeatedly until Ms. Owl no longer made a sound.
“HELP!” cried a voice some few yards away. “HELP! He’s killing her!”
It was Mr. Rabbit, awoken by the commotion thanks to his large rabbit ears. He ran to the scene at top speed, wearing his nightgown and holding his lantern to navigate the dark.
When Mr. Bear spotted Mr. Rabbit, he knew that everyone in the Forest would learn of his terrible deed by morning. Worst of all, he felt sick, not from being caught, but for what he had done. Human cruelty can only be enjoyed by a human.
He turned and ran through the trees, where no one from the community resided. He was destined to remain lost and alone with his shame for the rest of his days.