Photo by Thomas Lambert on Unsplash

Beyond the rolling reel of asphalt came a throaty, mechanical rumble. Its hollow reverberation filled the cut of tall pines. Haunched up and ears twitching, the bear cub watched for movement. He stood on the yellow centerlines, his chest warming in the early light.

The growl grew louder in ratchets. Over the far hill peaked a black Chevy Monte Carlo. It dipped out of sight. The bear dropped to all fours and checked his peripherals, his nose bobbing. His claws clicked on the pocked surface. The car rose again, swift, unswerving, direct, with matte black body and reticent, tinted windows.

At the light’s edge, the bear’s mother pawed at the pine straw and blew puffs of air, watching for the curtain to rise again. The tinted Monte Carlo crested the final hill, speeding towards her cub. She tried to move, away from the man-made beast yet towards her cub, her claws tightened as she lowered, hoping he would bolt. Move. Run. This roar is unnatural. She broke for the cub, baring her teeth, fighting her instincts, following others, bounding toward impact. The racing, black metal was faster. It stared into her cub’s wide eyes.

The car rolled through the cub. Ethereal bodies superimposed for an instant like disparate, crossed images in unfocused eyes. The cub snarled within the shadow, eyes half-closed, one paw raised in defense, untouched, matted and dulled, his fluttering fur bristling the car’s panels. A vibrato, buffeted grumbling.

His mother slammed into him. He bounced and tumbled into the shaded grass as she quickly wheeled and scanned wildly. The car had disappeared, curving into the rising golden aperture. She circled and twisted; she stopped and listened. Their world was silent.

The cub cowered in the dark weeds, his ears folded tightly. He looked for the car but found his mother, huffing and shining. He slunk to the far cedars. She followed down the shoulder scree, through the sedges, pulling up next to her cub with a final check for the mechanical shadow. From the woods came nasal chickadees and trilling siskins. Bees buzzed on Indian paintbrush. The bears faded into the thick timbers. The hum of nature blinked.

Having reached the forest’s end before its mother, a black bear cub appeared in the sunlit clearing. He licked at the morning dew then scrambled up the gravel shoulder of the firm roadway. He paused, sniffing the foreign surface, gently trotting to stop again. He nosed the paint and rose onto his back feet, looking far down the undulating asphalt. His ears, pointed and cupped, sensed thunder.

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