Fiction / Short-Short / Adventure
They lived in a small house halfway up the mountain. By West Virginia standards, it was a small mansion — 3 bedrooms. They had lived there now about six months. The woman was getting used to living this close to the forest, but was still a little overwhelmed by all the trees. The only trees she had ever seen before were in Central Park. The fall air had a nip to it, but the first frost hadn’t hit yet. Her husband, a West Virginia country boy from way back, loved the location. They had all of the amenities of civilization, yet were still at the edge. Behind their house stretched fifty miles of mountains and pristine wilderness, part of the Monongahela National Forest.
He was planting flowers in the front yard when he heard his wife’s scream of pain and terror over the vacuum cleaner. Dropping the hose, he sprinted into the living room. Looking wildly for the woman, he saw the sliding glass door open to the back yard. There he saw his wife pinned under a large black bear, writhing in terror as the bear tried to get its jaws around her head. Without hesitation, he launched himself at the beast. The bear reacted quickly, but it had never been hit by two hundred pounds of raging mad West Virginian before.
The man landed on the bear’s back and grabbed a mouthful of fur and skin from the bear’s neck in his teeth. He had his left hand full of fur and his right hand pounded away at the bear’s head and ribs. The man clamped his knees tight around the bear and attempted to strike the bear’s kidneys, guessing that they would be in the same general area as a man’s.
The bear had forgotten the woman by now and directed its full attention to the growling demon on its back. The man continued his assault, just like a barroom brawl, asking no quarter and giving none. The man spit out a mouthful of fur and skin and screamed for his wife to go get his pistol. He used everything he had to attack the bear’s vulnerable areas. He bit another chunk out of the bear’s neck. He beat the bear with both fists, trying desperately to stay away from the bear’s deadly jaws and claws.
The wife was back in an instant with the Ruger New Blackhawk .357 Magnum. She was screaming and crying, not knowing what to do, afraid of firing for hitting her husband. The bear finally dislodged the man from its back. Bleeding from the neck, it whirled to finally face its assailant.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The woman unloaded six rounds as fast as she could pull the trigger. The .357 slugs spun the bear around. Magnum rounds can do quite a bit of damage from fifteen feet, even to an enraged black bear. The bear had had enough. Turning tail, it headed for the woods.
The man, still spitting out bear fur, rushed to the woman’s side to check her wounds. She had several deep scratches and bite marks on her arms and in her scalp. He moved her inside and quickly treated her wounds. He called 911 while binding them up to stop the bleeding. She was starting to go into shock and he covered her with a blanket to keep her warm, all the while calmly talking to her in a loving and reassuring tone.
She responded to his voice and quickly stopped the slide into shock. She became coherent and lay quietly. The man, knowing that something was wrong with the bear to cause it to attack in the first place, and now made more dangerous because it was wounded, sought out more ammo and reloaded the pistol then tucked it into the back of his jeans. He could hear the wail of sirens in the distance and knew the ambulance was seconds away.
He gently took the woman’s hand and reassured her once more, explained that the paramedics would be here in seconds, and then told her, “That thing is headed towards Coop’s place. There’s something wrong with it and it won’t stop now. I gotta finish him off.” Grabbing his rifle, he quickly loaded it and stuffed a fistful of bullets in his pocket. He grabbed a flashlight and headed out into the lengthening shadows, following the bear’s blood trail.
The bear was bleeding badly. The man wasn’t sure how badly it was injured. He followed the blood spatters at a trot, completely focused on the trail. It had taken off at a good clip and if it maintained that speed it would take him a while to catch up. Soon the blood splotches were closer together and he guessed the animal was slowing down. He sped up.
Topping a small rise, he saw Coop’s place about a quarter-mile ahead, across a narrow but deep ravine. Smoke drifted up lazily from the chimney. He saw two of Coop’s kids on their swing set. All of this he took in at a glance. As his eyes started searching the ground between him and the children, he saw the bear heading up the side of the small ravine. At the top, it was going to be less than 50 yards from the children.
In high school, he’d run the 400 in just under a minute. That had been in shorts, running shoes, and on a flat track. And he didn’t have a minute. He was in a direct line with the bear and the children. Even as an expert marksman, he didn’t like that shot.
Shouting at the kids, they looked up just in time to see the bear come over the edge of the ravine. They froze a split second and then sprinted for the house. The bear was definitely injured badly and had slowed down.
The man veered to his right, sprinting as hard as he could. He covered twenty yards and dropped to a knee. Bringing his .30-.30 to his shoulder, he laid the front sight post on the back of the bear’s left shoulder and drew it down fine in the rear sight. It was a long shot, at least 350 yards. Aiming a little high to adjust for drop and leading the bear about six inches, he stopped breathing in mid-exhale and squeezed the trigger.
The rifle barked and he was levering the action as he looked to see his round’s effects. The bear stopped and roared, turning to see what had struck him such a blow. He couldn’t tell where his bullet hit, but the bear’s reaction allowed the children to make the house.
He sprinted forward another 20 yards, yelling at the bear, attracting its attention. He could hear the girls screaming in the house and hoped Coop was home. Either way, he knew he had to finish the bear.
Taking a knee, he quickly established his sight picture and sent another bullet screaming towards the bear. He couldn’t tell if he scored a hit or not, but the bear knew the sound of gunfire and didn’t like it. It headed around the house, moving gamely but definitely slowing down.
Scrambling across the ravine, he made the house and followed the bear’s path. Coming around the corner, he ran smack into the animal, losing his grip on the rifle. The bear was on him in an instant. Curling his legs up, he got both feet on the bear’s midsection while getting clawed. He swung a left hook but the punch lacked power because of his position.
The pistol was digging into his back but he couldn’t get to it. He pushed hard with his legs and got the bear off him. A quick combat roll to his left and he came up with the Ruger, leveling and firing in a single motion. It was point-blank range and he let the bear have six hard ones right in the gut. Even so, it wasn’t letting go of life that easy, its weight and inertia carrying it towards the man. He knew the bear had to be close to gone, but the trouble was he didn’t know how close!
Reversing the pistol, he brought the gun’s butt down on the bear’s head with all his strength. It was enough.
When he and Coop laid the bear out, it was carrying a dozen bullets and a cracked skull. They weighed it at just under four hundred pounds. They also found why the animal had gone crazy: an arrow broken off in its ribs, badly infected.