Image Sourced from Katu
Story Inspired by Actual Events
Swinging his head first right and then left, the small bear cub shifted his weight from one paw to the other.
This was not home.
He could not smell the light, airy fragrance of flowers or the sweet, call of the scent of berries. The smells here were harsh and stung his nose. Instead of dark brown dirt and supple grass beneath his paws this ground was a uniform grey and was hard. Try as he might, his claws could not make so much as a dent in the ground.
He did not even recognize the sights here. Instead of fields and forests, there were red, yellow and green lights which flashed above his head. Large machines thundered by him. Inside were those strange creatures his mama bear warned him about countless times – humans.
What would happen to him here? He was too young to be without his mama bear. He couldn’t hunt for his own food yet, and without her near him at night he’d freeze.
Taking a few steps backward, the bear cub bumped into something cold. Spinning around, he stared up at the tall edifice before him. It stretched to the sky like a mountain did, but this – whatever it was – went straight up. He placed a tentative paw against it. The cold seeped straight through his thick fur and chilled his skin. Stretching out his claws in the hopes of gaining some perch, the young bear scratched against the surface of the tall structure.
His claws against stone sounded low, while this caused a high pitched wail to fill the air. Howling against the noise, the bear cub pulled away.
This was wrong. Where was home? His stomach growled, and he felt a chill settle along his back. How had he gotten here in the first place? He could remember seeing the lights blinking from a distance and had tried to get closer. But he couldn’t remember exactly when the mountain had ended and the hard, non-living ground had begun. Worse, he couldn’t figure out how to get back.
A glint of sky blue and white capped mountain twinkled to his right. Turning, he could just barely see the top of his mountain home. His heart speed up as he broke into a full run. He ignored the lights and harsh noises as he barreled towards the mountain. He drew close, then the mountain fell out of view as it passed momentarily behind a particularly large machine which shook the ground as it passed.
The little cub ignored the hideous sight. He was almost home. Never again would he wander away from mama bear. This place was worse then she’d described. But, as the large machine rumbled away, bear slowed to a stop. His mountain was gone. Instead, only tall buildings stood before him.
How? Where? No, the mountain had been just here. It couldn’t just up and walk away. Frantic, the bear cub swung his head right and left. Then, there was the mountain. To his left, and not that far. Sprinting hard, he charged. In his hears he could hear screams from a group of humans as he passed, but he ignored them. Home was just right . . .
But as he drew close, the beautiful mountain shifted, then warped into a blue nothingness. Where he had been so sure his mountain was, now stood only a row of glass buildings. Stamping his paws in frustration, he blinked several times.
Then the fur along his neck and back stood up. His ears swiveled quickly around him. He’d been hearing the foot falls of humans all afternoon long, but these were different. They were purposeful, and they moved directly towards him.
The young bear cub whirled around to see three humans moving slowly towards him. Two looked alike in plain light brown cloth, short cropped hair and large red and white something’s on their feet. The third also wore the same light brown cloth around his body, but his hair was black and hung long and straight, reaching just past his shoulders. His skin was slightly darker than the other two and instead of the bulky red and white, his feet were covered with a soft dark brown cloth. Around his neck was a long, sky blue feather tied to a small bone. Bird bone, the bear cub guessed.
The first two walked quickly towards the bear cub. But, mama bear always said to run from humans. They aren’t safe. Oh, why did he ever come here to begin with?
The bear cub turned to run, but a voice flowed across a soft breeze. He could not understand the words, but a small amount of the fear inside him calmed. He turned back towards the humans. The third one had one hand out towards the bear cub. The other hand was wrapped around the feather and bone at his neck.
The first two remained still, watching the cub, as the third slowly walked forward. The soft dark brown cloth around his feet silenced his footsteps until the noise was like the gentle padding mama bear’s paws made against the forest floor.
Again the man spoke, his hand still out stretched. The bear cub was unsure why he should feel comfortable around this human, but before he knew it the man’s outstretched hand was resting against his forehead.
“Peace, little bear,” the man’s voice shifted on the wind and rang clear in the cub’s ears. “We are here to help. Is your mama bear around?”
The bear cub glanced nervously towards the first two humans. They stood, not far away, arms crossed.
The human before him didn’t look back as he spoke, “Don’t worry. They can’t hear what we say. Is your mama bear with you?”
“No,” the cub sputtered. “She said never to . . . but I did . . . the lights, it was all so different, so exciting . . .” he felt the tears form along the bottom of his eye lids. “And then the mountain was gone. I thought I saw it, and I tried to get to it, but I couldn’t. Is it gone forever?”
“Oh, no, little bear. What you were seeing was not the actual mountain, but the reflection of the mountain against the glass of the buildings. Think of it like the reflection of the trees behind you when you stare into the lake looking for fish.”
“Mama bear always says you must focus to see past the fake trees on the water. If you don’t , you’ll never see the fish.”
“Your mama bear is wise. The same is true in our human world. We must look hard around us always, or all we’ll see is the reflection of the world we hope to find, not the real thing.”
The small bear looked around him, “Is this world not real?”
“Oh it’s real. Just as the water and the fish are real. The problem is in what we see, not what is there. There is good to be had here, just as there is good to be hand in the water in your lakes. But if you don’t learn to see a reflection for what it is, one will go hungry always searching for what they need, never knowing it is within their reach.”
“You don’t have any fish with you, do you?” The young bear asked, his stomach growling once more.
The human laughed, and the sound was deep and calming in the cub’s ears. “No,” he said, “Unfortunately not. But come with me. We will take you back home to your lakes and your wise mama bear. I’m sure she’s worried about you.”
The man stood and the bear cub followed him towards one of the big human machines. It was not long before he was back up in the mountains where the land was familiar.
After climbing out of the human machine, the man placed his hand on the bear cub’s forehead once more. “Can you find your way from here?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” the bear felt an excitement rising in his chest, “I can smell my mama and I know the way to our cave.”
“Good,” the human smiled. “Remember, do not let the reflections trick you.”
“I’ll remember,” the cub looked up at the man, “Good is to be had anywhere. The trick is in being able to see your surroundings for what they truly are.”