You wouldn’t. The words struck fire in the hearts of the determined, and suddenly no force of nature could stop the events ready to unfold. She took the words as a bet, always wanting to prove others wrong. It didn’t matter to her so much if she was always right, but she craved finding faults in others. She searched for flaws like a small child searching for candy, clammy hands grasping at nothing but air in hopes of finding more.
She found camping distasteful, due to its lack of action. You pitch a tent and pray to the gods of camping you don’t get eaten by a raccoon. Her friend adored camping and seemed offended by her lack of enjoyment. Raccoons can’t eat you, that’s bears – Where can I find the bears, they seem more fun than you. – There’s always a cave somewhere. – I’ll see you later then. – Where are you off to? – I’ve got a bear to chase. – You wouldn’t.
She had left the tent without another word. She had never chased after a bear before, or at least not consciously. Sometimes bears would appear when one least expected them, and quite suddenly, but she’d never actively pursued one.
The woods were a mess, and not in the way woods usually were. Branches crumbled on the ground suddenly felt more out of place, and the color of the leaves somehow seemed distorted. She tried not to analyze it, there was far too much going on in the trees to make any sense, and she always seemed to get lost as soon as she began.
Bears usually left prints, or so she thought. She was no bear expert, but, of course, she would pretend to be. If ever there was something she didn’t understand, she would either pretend it didn’t exist or feign expertise. But she couldn’t seem to spot any trail.
She figured if she kept walking long enough she would stumble across something. Perhaps she became luckier with each step she took, because soon she was approaching what seemed to be a cave.
She wasn’t one to think through her choices in order to make sound decisions, she liked kicking in the front door and hoping no alarms went off. Maybe that was why she walked into the cave alone, with a headlamp and no sense of direction.
She shuffled along, but when her footstep was slightly too loud and it whispered throughout the space, she was half tempted to call out and ask who was there. Her thoughts must have echoed loud enough, for as she proceeded on slowly she could make out a figure waving to her.
Hello? She did not hold back the question this time. The figure seemed to shift slightly. Hello. His voice rang back so calmly; she couldn’t find any reason to question why he was sitting, alone, in the middle of a cave. She didn’t know how to explain herself. I was just exploring. – I can see that. – And I stumbled upon this cave. – Welcome.
She continued on toward him, he seemed to be beckoning her through the strings interlacing his voice through echoes. How long have you been here? The question seemed reasonable to her. I should ask you the same. – Well, I just got here. – Yes, I heard your footsteps. – So, you’ve been here a long time? – I suppose. It seems irrelevant how long I’ve been in this cave. The important thing is that I am here.
Did he like the cave? She wasn’t sure why anyone would want to stay somewhere where nothing could be seen in full light. Her eyes were already growing numb from the shadowy atmosphere. He seemed to notice her discomfort. Your eyes will adjust if you give them time. – I’m not sure how much time I’m planning on spending in here. – Why are you here? – I was chasing after a bear. – Well, obviously. – Obviously? – Don’t you know, we’ve all got a bear to chase.
Laughter was dripping from his words, mixing into her mind like oil in water. She hadn’t felt any level of discomfort, but her body felt gradually heavier with each passing breath. She felt a bit winded; maybe she ought to sit down. It wasn’t long until she had joined him on the cave floor.
Why are you here? She felt the need to reciprocate his wonderings. I like to tuck myself away, escape the sunlight. It tends to be a bit too bright for me. – So you’re shielding yourself from sunlight? – There’s so much more than sunlight to be shielded from.
Her eyelids began to droop; perhaps she could get a few minutes of shuteye. Did you get lost in the woods? He seemed to notice her sudden drowsiness. I, well, I was trying to find a bear. – Silly girl, why would you go looking for the bears? They will find you.
A bear has never found me before. – Well, haven’t you lead a lucky life. – Are there no bears here? – If they are here, they don’t bother me. There isn’t much harm they can do to me in here. – Couldn’t they do the same harm inside this cave as they could outside? – Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be the same, now would it?
She didn’t know how to answer him, but she was losing interest. Her brain was slowly shutting off. She thought of the bear she needed to chase, but maybe she ought to just let it find her, yes, she ought to just let it find her. For now she would rest.