Bear

It was bones cracking.

The nightmare.

But waking up gave him no outlet to scream, for his throat could only whimper and roar. His tongue pressed against sharp teeth, yellowed and stained as though he’d spent a lifetime swallowing rabbits and deer-livers. He had no lips to form words, but sometimes in that moment before consciousness, he remembered language.

What he’d say: the snap and pop of fire makes me remember what it was like to change.

One of the sisters always heard him, slipping out of their loft on silent bare feet. Her shawl reminded him of something blue he used to know, and her silky white hair curled like the rapids in the river beside his…

She touched his muzzle unafraid, hissing little reassurances and digging her fingers into the thick ruff behind his ears.

The other sister came shortly, always aware of the first’s absence. Her lips were red and her eyes darker than… another thing he used to know. Together they teased him, tugging his fur or blowing lightly in his ears. The dark one painted pink on his claws. The quiet one tied glass beads into his fur.

***

It was a woman’s hands.

The dream.

Caressing his face, his smooth human skin. He could never see a thing, but only feel her fingers fluttering his lashes, drawing a line down his nose, tracing the corner of his mouth. There was no need to remember language then.

Those were the mornings he woke quietly, the banked fire pushing gentle warmth at his back. He heaved up onto his paws and trundled to the door a few steps before settling back into this monster’s shape.

And remembering he couldn’t turn the handle. If he wanted through the door, out of the cottage, he’d have to break through. Easy, with his bulk. But then the winter would rush in.

***

The world outside was built of diamonds. Snow and ice glaring the sun back at him, but the sisters ran ahead, leaving shadowed footprints for him to follow. Sometimes he did, vaguely knowing it was a game, a game he’d played before, hunting… hunting deer on the back of a horse with gray muddled eyes. Named…

He didn’t know his own name.

Just Bear.

Maybe his memory would blossom with the flowers.

***

It was easier to sleep.

 

 

Today’s story based on the common prompt: Snow White and Rose Red
image by Roxnstix via flickr CC

 

18 thoughts on “Bear

  1. Oh, this reminds me so much of another fairy tale/myth I read once for one of my classes. I can’t remember the name, but I think I even mentioned it once to you b/c I thought it would be great fodder for a re-telling. Google is failing to help me remember what it’s called. Help?

    And, as usual, this was achingly lovely.

    • I… have no idea! LOL. My memory is very, um, loose that way.

      But thank you – I’m glad you thought so. It was a huge challenge for me to do something even vaguely story-like in less than 500 words. Heh.

  2. Gorgeously heartbreaking. I’m at the end of a story involving a bear shifter, so I really felt this one. There’s a sadness in having to hibernate, even if you do wake up knowing who you are.

  3. I really enjoyed the emotions and the way that he grasped for the words and knowledge that was just out of reach.

  4. What is The Beast supposed to look like? I think it would look like a giant wolf, because I have read Shiver by Maggie… Any ideas???

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