“. . . and so the animal activists remain disappointed as New Jersey’s Black Bear hunt began at dawn today. We are live from West Milford, New Jersey. Angelina Urisdae. Fox 5 news.”
Randall Beck switched off the television, picked up his hunting gear, checked his permit and headed out the front door. Outside he paused, breathing deeply filling his lungs with the cold, crisp December air. Great weather for hunting he thought until a piercing voice disrupted his musings.
“Good morning Mr. Beck.”
A frustrated sigh escaped Randall’s lips as he turned to regard his neighbor, Margaret Cassidy, or “magpie” Maggie as he called her. Beck glanced longingly towards his battered Ford pickup that sat several feet away from him. I’ll never make it he thought. Having no other recourse Randall dropped his backpack, put on his best ‘how-nice-to-see-you’ face, and greeted his chatty neighbor.
“Good morning Mrs. Cassidy, you’re up early.”
Glancing at the hunter’s attire and especially at his rifle, Margaret’s eyes filled with disapproval. Patting her gray-black hair, Maggie said, “I was just watching the news. You’re not really going to participate in that awful bear hunt.”
“Mrs. Cassidy, I really don’t have time for ─
His neighbor interrupted, “You know, everything has a right to live.”
Antsy to be on his way, Randall let the false smile slide from his face and said, “Mrs. Cassidy, the law says that I can hunt, so I hunt. I enjoy hunting. This is what they call a management hunt. All classes, male and female black bears are legal to harvest. I’m actually doing a public service. These animals wander into people’s backyards and go where they don’t belong.”
“Don’t belong? Really, Mr. Beck these bears were here long before you or anyone else. I-
Randall cut her off, “I’m sorry. I have to be going.”
Hefting his backpack and rifle, he walked to his pickup and tossed his gear into the truck bed. The driver side door creaked alarmingly as Randall yanked it open. Stowing the rifle on the gun rack behind the truck seat, the hunter climbed into the pickup, stuck the key into the ignition, and turned it. Nothing happened.
“Seems it isn’t just me that doesn’t want you to go hunting,” said a smug Mrs. Cassidy.
“Funny,” muttered Randall.
Silently counting to ten, he tried the key again. After a false start, the truck roared to life, belching blue smoke from its tail pipe. Randall reached out and closed the driver side door. As the hunter began to drive off he said, “See you later, Mrs. Cassidy.”
An odd glint in her eyes, she replied, “I expect you will, Mr. Beck, I expect you will.” She stood watching Randall drive away as her husband, Herb, joined her.
“Off on a hunt is he?”
Pushing back a stray lock of his gray hair, Margaret replied “Yes dear, I’m afraid so.”
Randall arrived at the hunting grounds full of energy and determination. He would bag himself the biggest bear around. He drove his truck to a secluded spot and shut off the engine. The pickup rattled for a moment and then gave a dying gasp. Leaping out of the truck, he snatched up his rifle and backpack, and strolled into the woods.
After an hour of walking, he picked up the trail of a bear, its tracks pressed into in the soft soil. The hunter found other obvious signs along the trail: A worn spot on a tree where the bear had stopped to scratch itself, bear droppings and broken branches. The scat was fresh, which meant the animal could not be that far from Randall. Closer inspection revealed human footprints among the bear tracks. Damn he thought someone is ahead of me.
A short while later, Randall edged into a clearing and stopped. Before him sat the biggest bear he had ever seen, especially for the normally small black bear. Upwind and its back to the hunter, the bear sat oblivious to its imminent danger. Slowly Randall raised his rifle, taking careful aim at the blue-black furred creature. A sound to his left attracted his attention, barely giving Randall enough warning. Trying to avoid a swipe of a bear’s claw, the hunter raised his rifle as a shield.
The hunter stumbled as he backtracked, the bear ripping the rifle from Randall’s loose grasp. A roar erupted from the bear. Randall could see that this second bear was even bigger than the first. Forgetting his rifle, the hunter turned and fled through the woods, all hunting knowledge lost in the moments of terror. He had never been so close to a wild animal.
Tree branches scratched at his face and hands as the hunter ran for the truck, followed closely by not one but two black bears. Randall tossed his backpack down, hoping the food contained within would distract the bears. A glance showed the bears still chasing after him. Reaching his truck, the hunter scrambled to get the diver side door open, but it resisted his attempt. Randall kicked at the door, just as the bears came into view. With a frantic tug and a protesting squeal, the door finally opened and the he practically dove into the driver’s seat.
Randall jerked the truck door shut, fumbled the key into the ignition and turned the key but nothing happened. Panic welled up inside the hunter, who pounded his fist on the dashboard. Suddenly, the passenger side window exploded inward, showering Randall with glass. The hunter screamed in terror as the blue-black bear attempted to reach in and grab Randall. The truck rocked back and forth as the other bear pushed on the passenger side.
The hunter tried the key again and this time was rewarded with a sputtering engine cough and a blue plume of smoke. Slamming his foot on the accelerator, Randall drove away, his worn tires sliding on the loose soil. The truck fishtailed as the hunter fought to regain control. Coming around a bend, Randall overcompensated and the truck slid off the road into a gnarled oak tree. His head bounced off the steering wheel, opening a gash over his left eye. The truck's exhaust belched blue smoke once more, as the engine sounded a death rattle and shut down.
Randall groaned as he sat back, wiping the blood from his eye, trying to clear his vision. The hunter attempted to start the heavily damaged pickup, but the engine refused to cooperate. With no other options available, Randall shouldered open the driver-side door and stumbled out of the vehicle. Not wanting to wait around to see if the bears were still in pursuit, Randall ran for the main road.
Two minutes later found the hunter gasping for breath and standing on the blacktop. A lone vehicle approached, slowing down as Randall, waving his arms stepped into it the car’s path. The weary hunter shambled to the passenger side door of the stopped vehicle and climbed in.
“Thank you,” he croaked.
The driver studied Randall for a moment then responded, “You don’t look so good. Are you okay?”
Rubbing his forehead, Randall said, “I’ll live, I just had an accident.” For the first time the hunter looked at the driver, a flicker of recognition danced in his head. Suddenly it came to him, “You’re that reporter, Angelina Uri-something.”
“Urisdae. Yes I am,” she replied and then asked, “And you are?”
As she put the car in gear, the driver said, “Judging by your wardrobe, I would guess that you were out hunting.”
Randall snorted. Here we go he thought. “Listen, I saw your report this morning and I am not in the mood for some bleeding heart conservative crap.”
Angelina did not respond as she steered the car off the main road onto a rut filled side road. Randall, too frustrated to hold a conversation, sat silent until the driver stopped the car at what appeared to be a hunter’s lodge. “Where are we?” Randall asked.
“Family home,” replied the driver.
The driver and her passenger exited the vehicle and walked to the front porch. Before mounting the steps, Angelina halted and turned to face the hunter. “One question Mr. Beck, do you believe that it is okay to hunt living creatures just for the sake of hunting?”
Randall hesitated. Something in the tone of her voice indicated that there was a right and wrong answer. “I, uh-
A rustling noise interrupted him before he could finish the sentence. Looking over his shoulder, Randall’s mouth dropped open as his neighbor Margaret Cassidy stepped from the surrounding woods, followed by her husband Herb.
“Hi mom, hi dad,” Angelina said.
“Mom? Dad?” A stunned Randall asked.
“Yes, Urisdae is our original family name. My parents wanted to fit in when we came to America, so they changed it.”
An icy finger of fear caressed Randall’s spine. “What’s going on here?”
“My guess is that my parents are here to join the rest of the bear hunters,” Angelina said.
“That’s ridiculous; your mother is against hunting. In fact she tried to stop me from hunting today.”
A wicked grin appeared on Angelina’s face. “You should have taken her advice.”
“Wha-What are you talking about?”
The door to the lodge opened, spilling forth several men and women, each with a look of disdain etched upon their faces.
“When I say bear hunters, I mean bears that will be doing the hunting," Angelina said.
Randall licked suddenly dry lips, his heartbeat increasing. "Hun- Hunting what?"
"Not what, whom and that sir would be you."
“Here’s a little lesson in Latin for you; the Black Bear is of the family Urisdae, order Carnivora.”
The would be hunter stepped back as the flesh on Angelina’s face began to undulate, her nose and jaw elongating, with dark black fur erupting along her arms. Margaret and Herb dropped to all fours, their bodies contorting, loosing howls of pain and rage. The other people tore at their clothing, stripping down and exposing heavily muscled torso's thickening quickly with coarse black hair.
Randall turned and fled, pursued by large and angry black bears.
Thomas James is an aspiring writer with interests in Web Design, Art, Weight Training,
Fitness Instruction and Horror stories, novels and movies. His favorite and
inspirational authors are H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Po, Brian Lumely and Stephen King, and on occasion Shakespeare which he finds truly scary. Thomas James currently resides year-round in Monmouth County, New Jersey, mostly
because he cannot afford to move to Hawaii.