Mason sipped at his cup, wincing as the coffee seared the roof of his mouth. He set the cup down on the moist grass freshly covered with dew. His blanket under him kept dry throughout the night as he had slept under the stars. The morning sun had stirred him and he used the remnants of last night’s fire to brew up a fresh pot of coffee from his percolator. He’d been traveling for days and finally found a place he could call his own. In a clearing in the woods, he’d built up his camp. His tent gave him shelter, the fire kept him warm, the woods provided the necessities where he could hunt and gather, and the creek nearby provided him with clean water. He liked it there, away from the wicked deeds of man, alone in the sanctity of nature.
He’d most recently come from Saint Denis, a city filled with people and crime. Everyone seemed to be in a rush. He had missed the open country, the good nature of people, and most importantly the quiet. Out in the open country, there were birds chirping, leaves rustling, and the wind blowing. Not much more, not much less.
Down the way, there was a small town. It had a grocer, a tavern, stables, and some other tiny outlets. Society was there if he needed it. He was going to make this his home. The clearing was wide enough to build a house which he intended to do. It would be just big enough to be comfortable. Mason knew he didn’t need much. The town and the trees would provide tools and timber and he’d figure out the rest.
He looked over at the small pile of lumber he’d be using for the base of the house when he heard a rustle in the woods. It didn’t sound like the wind through the leaves but something else. He rose in his place and inched toward the brush, unsure of what lie behind the leaves. The bushes were as tall as he was. The green and brown leaves and prickles shuffled and he reached his hand in to part the branches when he saw a tuft of thick brown hair and heard a snarl.
He stepped back slowly, realizing his dreadful mistake. The animal behind the bushes rose, his light brown pelt shown in the morning sun. The massive bear stepped out from behind the bushes and looked directly at Mason. Mason froze in place, terrified. If he took one more step in the wrong direction or made any sudden movement, the bear would surely lunge at him and rip him to shreds.
The bear, still chewing on something, slowly stepped toward Mason. Mason felt the droplet of sweat trickle from his forehead passed his eye to his cheek. He became acutely aware of how profusely he was perspiring, his shirt clinging tightly to his skin. Something caught his attention. Oddly, he smelled the faint scent of raspberries.
The bear was only inches from Mason, his back hunched over and on all fours. His wet snout twitched as he sniffed Mason’s clothes. Mason stayed still, careful not to alarm the massive animal. The bear’s teeth began to show as upper lips pulled into a snarl. It sat back on its haunches and stood up, lifting its front paws off the ground and towering over Mason. Mason stood, petrified, waiting for the massive beast to kill him with one swipe of his gargantuan paw or tear a limb off with his carnivorous teeth. He stood in awe before the bear.
The bear cocked its head to the side slightly and Mason began to wince in fear of the blow to come. The bear then shook his head and let out a frightful sneeze. The animal appeared to be dazed for a moment before it returned its front paws to the ground. It sniffed Mason one more time before shaking its large head and flicking its ears. It was then that Mason saw the red and purple juices that covered the bear’s lips, like a child who sloppily ate a chocolate bar. The bear turned and lumbered away through the bushes.
Mason realized he’d been holding his breath and let it out. He put his hands on his knees and tried to recapture enough oxygen to help him comprehend what had just happened. He was inches away from death, his final moments would’ve been of utter terror.
Luckily, the bear had just eaten his fill of berries to satiate him. Mason turned back to his camp and thought about how quickly he’d like to get his house built. No bears are gonna make it through thick log walls if he can do it right.
Mason looked down at the remaining coffee in the pot. He felt the tingle in his fingers, the adrenaline was slowly leaving his system and he decided he didn’t need any more coffee for the day, that encounter had woken him more than enough. He did decide, however, now would be a good time to start building up a fenced perimeter to keep out any trespassers or beasts.