Patreon reward, and second half to the Bear With Me Story. After bonding with the bear Spirit Sara experiences a few changes.
Bear With Me
‘So we need to talk about what you’re eating.’
“What’s wrong with my lunch?” Sara was on her lunch break at work when she suddenly heard Bear’s voice again. It was still a little jarring. Since she took in his spirit he would just suddenly speak up out of the blue sometimes. Other times there would be long periods of silence as if he were asleep or something… Still, at least he had been telling the truth and hadn’t tried to steal her body or anything.
‘Just you don’t eat anything with a lot of flavor… You had those dry things this morning…’
“Cereal is a practical breakfast!” Sara objected. As she did, she noticed a few coworkers look up from their own meals as their table. She really had to be more careful. With no one else able to hear bear they were likely to think she was talking to herself. She tried to at least speak in a whisper. “It’s something I can make fast and be out the door.”
‘I can understand that… But now you’re eating leaves?” Bear seemed confused. “Are humans herbivores?”
“Not exactly…” Sara responded. “But salads are still good for us.” This was mostly a line Sara used to justify packing a salad each day. In truth, she didn’t care about any health benefits it provided. It was just something easy to make and pack that at least looked slightly less lazy than a sandwich.
‘Doesn’t seem like it’d give you a lot of energy…’ Bear whined. ‘And it tastes so bland.’
“Wait, you can taste what I eat?” Sara nearly dropped her fork.
‘I was surprised too!’ Bear explained. “But… I can taste, feel, hear, smell and even see what you see! Well… I was always able to see but… Now I see a lot more colors than I used to!’
“Okay, not going to lie, that’s a little weird…” Sara slowly sat down her fork. She had lost her appetite.
‘You think it’s weird? Imagine having never seen the color red in your life and then suddenly… Bam! That’s weird.’
“I see…” Sara would concede the point. She wouldn’t be able to imagine what it would be like to suddenly discover a new color she had never noticed before. “But… The salad is fine. It gets me through the day.”
‘I’d go for something more exciting if I were you.’ Bear seemed downtrodden. ‘I hadn’t been able to taste anything sense dying. Never realized how much I’d miss eating even if I didn’t need to. But… This isn’t quite the same.’
“Is that so?” Again Sara felt pity for the poor thing. It didn’t sound like being dead was a pleasant experience. She was already letting it hitch a ride with her… But maybe she could try to do something nice for him. “And… If I were to ask what you miss eating the most what would you answer.”
‘Fish!’ Even without an actual body Sara could feel the smile through his voice. ‘Fresh right from the river! You just open your mouth and they jump right in!’ His eagerness got a giggle from Sara… Though she was forced to silence herself as she got more stares.
“Alright, alright, I’ll stop by a seafood place for dinner tonight.” Sara whispered. “It won’t be fresh right out of the river… But you’ll get to taste it again.”
‘R-really!? Just… Oh my gosh!’ This was followed by the sound of a grown grizzly bear squeeing in Sara’s head. It was exactly as surreal as it sounded.
After lunch Sara returned to work. Bear seemed to have some difficulty comprehending what she actually did, other than that she did it on a computer. In the end just to get him to calm down and let her work she simply told him that her job related to web design. The same explanation she usually gave to family members who asked when she didn’t feel like explaining in details. She supposed that made Bear roughly as technologically savvy as her father.
Sara was prepared to leave for the day when she suddenly had a large stack of papers dropped on her desk. She looked up to see the grinning face of her senior coworker Dave as he dropped a large folder of papers on her desk.
“Hey… Sara I gotta run, the kids have practice you know how it is.” He smiled. “But we’ve got a deadline and the client is really breathing down our necks to get this done on time. It’s not going to get done unless someone stays late the next couple of nights… And well like I said I can’t stay tonight…”
“I’m not on this project…” Sara looked at the folder. “I’m not even sure if I have access to the system.”
“I’ll just leave my computer logged in!” Dave grinned as he placed a hand on her shoulder. Sara flinched at this. “We gotta do what we gotta do.” And then without waiting for a response he walked off.
‘What was that?’ Bear asked.
“Dave.” Sara sighed.
‘You should bite him.’
“We don’t bite people.” Sara sighed. “And looks like we’re staying late tonight…”
‘Maybe you should start biting people.’ Bear gave a weary sigh. ‘I only followed half of that… But it sounds a lot like you’re doing his work so he can go home.’
“Pretty much…” Sara muttered through gritted teeth.
“Because…” Sara knew plenty of reasons she shouldn’t be doing it. But… “If I refused I wouldn’t be a team player. I’d be someone who only looked out for themselves, someone who isn’t trustworthy or caring. And that makes it harder to move up… Let alone get through the day.”
‘But… He’s not being a team player…’ Bear protested.
“Welcome to human life.” Sara opened the folder and began to read over it. Then she headed over to Dave’s computer to see what had been done already. It wasn’t much. This was going to take more than one night.
‘Doesn’t seem fair…”
“It’s not.” Sara really didn’t want to go into an explanation on this right now and everything surrounding it… Or the fact that this wasn’t the first time or the only person to do this to her. For now she tried to just focus on getting this done.
By the time it was half past eight Sara judged she had done enough. It wasn’t done… But putting in three extra hours should at least help out. She mostly wanted to go home and collapse now… But she remembered she had promised Bear that fish. Well… She probably shouldn’t be skipping dinner anyway. She’d head to the restaurant first.
‘FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISH!’ Bear’s childlike reaction couldn’t help but make her smile when she had sat down and been served. An almost complete grilled mackerel lay on the plate before her. She didn’t know if it was Bear’s influence or if she was just that hungry… But even she found the scent intoxicating. ‘But why’s it look and smell so weird?’
“It’s cooked.” Sara explained in a hushed voice as she started to cut a piece of it off.
‘Cooked!?’ It took Bear a moment to process this. Whatever form of spiritual osmosis gave him access to knowledge didn’t seem to be instantaneous. ‘Why would you throw perfectly good fish into a fire!?’
“To make it safer to eat for starters.” Sara explained. “Look choices were this or sushi, and I figured you’d rather have the larger portion.”
‘But… It was perfect as…’ Bear paused mid sentence as Sara took a bite. It seemed to take him several moments before he recovered. Then all he managed was a meek, ‘More please.’
Sara started to feel better as she ate herself. She hadn’t realized how hungry she must have been… But it was as strength was flowing into her now. She felt more awake, not just physically but mentally as well. As if all of her senses were suddenly sharpened. She didn’t put much thought into it. Instead, she finished her meal, paid and headed home. Tomorrow would likely be another long day. She headed to the bathroom to wash up but froze.
Something was there… In the bathroom some kind of animal was staring back at her from within the darkness. Except… No. Sara blinked and realized she was staring at the bathroom mirror… But she could clearly see an animal…
She turned on the lights. With the room lit up all she saw in the bathroom was her own reflection. She stared at it for a few moments before turning the lights off. It was still her reflection, she could recognize it now…. But it looked bigger, more bestial… Like a bear.
‘Okay that is freaky.’ Bear chimed in. ‘I did not know we did that.’
“So… That’s a side effect of being possessed?” Sara gave a nervous laugh. “Almost like some kind of reverse vampire thing.”
‘But I don’t suck blood.’
“Reverse Bear like-“
‘I don’t cough it up either…’
“Oh my gosh Bear please…” Sara put a hand over her face. He knew what vampires were apparently… His ability to know things gave him that… But it didn’t seem to grant him any actual understanding. “I was referring to the mirror things. You can’t see vampires in the mirror. But I can see you. It’s not that hard.”
‘Oh.’ Bear thought about this. ‘But I still don’t suck or spit blood.’
“Get over the blood thing Bear. It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m going to bed.” Sara grabbed her toothbrush as she prepared for bed. Hopefully Bear would forget about the vampire thing by morning.
Sara woke up early the next morning, and yet she felt strangely refreshed. As if she had the best sleep of her night. She started getting ready for work again, but paused when it came time to make her lunch. She considered Bear’s reaction yesterday and decided she’d go out during the lunch hour today. She could grab some grocery store sushi pretty fast… And while it wouldn’t be the best quality it’d probably make him happy. Besides… As she thought about it, salad was starting to seem a little bland.
Bear was silent for most of the workday this time. If Sara had to guess the monotony of the task had worn out his curiosity. He probably went back to sleep or whatever it was he did when he wasn’t talking. It almost felt like everything was back to normal.
And then in the evening Dave showed up again.
“Heeeey Sara, thanks for last night.” Dave smiled. “But… It’s not done yet, and I reaaaaaaally need you to stay again. I’m really happy you don’t mind, but the kids have practice tonight and it’d break their hearts if I-“
“I thought they had practice last night?” Sara cut him off with a curt tone.
“Did I say that?” Dave looked sheepish. “Sorry slip of the tongue… Last night was the parent teacher’s conference! You know how it is…. Kids always keeping you busy.”
“Isn’t school out for the summer?” Sara asked.
“… It is.” Dave responded. “But… You know they’re in advanced classes and-“
“What sport is there practice for tonight?” Sara asked with a smile.
“Ummm…” Dave hesitated for a moment before replying. “Baseball!”
“Huh funny, thought the youth legal on that ended last month.” Sara paused for a moment wondering how she knew that.
“Sara, you okay, what’s with you giving me the third degree?” Dave gave a transparently fake smile. “I’m just trying to be there for my kids.”
“What are their names?” Sara asked.
“Just… You’ve told me you had to take off for your kids several times.” Sara’s face changed to a predatory grin. “And yet, you’ve never told me their names. And you don’t have any pictures of them on your desk. It’s kind of strange don’t you think? You’re so dedicated to them, and yet I don’t know anything about them. I’d love to know more about them…”
“Well there’s um… Jack… and Jill…” Dave started.
“Who went up the hill.” Sara rolled her eyes. “Kind of weird you struggle to remember your own kid’s names.”
“Look, I don’t know what your problem is.” Dave grabbed Sara by the shoulder. “I’m just trying to be their for my family and make sure the work gets done.”
“If you do not remove your hand right now I may bite it right off your arm.” Sara growled. It was a low menacing noise that reverted deep within her body. She had no idea she could do that.
“E-excuse me?” Dave flinched.
“Did I stutter?” Sara took a step forward. David pulled his hand back and took a step back.
“Sara, you’re being very unprofessional. As your senior I’d hate to have to tell the manager that we failed to meet a deadline because you were being uncooperative.”
“Go try that, let me know how it works out.” Sara replied as she crossed her arms. “Please, tell me how the big boys upstairs react once they find out you not only neglected your work, but gave someone else not even on the project unauthorized access on your protected account to do it for you.”
“You can’t prove any of that…” Dave started.
“Actually, I can very easily. Everything we do is logged. You don’t think they’re not going to notice your account was logged in for several hours after you left for the day?” Sara asked. “But… For the sake for of argument let’s say I can’t. What’s your plan? Are you going to go report me for not working on a project I didn’t have access to? And how will you explain why you had so little of it done?”
“Well um…” David was sweating. “What do you expect me to do?”
“Stay late tonight. And tomorrow, and the night after.” Sara replied. “Put in the crunch time you need to get it done. And in the future, maybe consider actually doing your work during the day like everyone else.”
“I can’t just stay late every night, it’s too much for me to-“ David objected.
“You can, you will, and you’ll do more.” Sara smiled. “Because when you’re done, and you will get it done as I assume you want to keep your job. As they’re patting you on the back and telling you what a great job you did, you’re going to remember to tell them that you came to me for advice. You’ll tell them how helpful I was, and how I really motivated you to get it done and had some great ideas. Really drive it home how much of a team player I was.”
“You’ve clearly lost it.” David laughed nervously. “Why would I even do that?”
“Because it’s a convenient cover story.” Sara’s smile grew wider and David flinched as he could have sworn her teeth looked far too sharp. “Because I’ll be telling the same story… And if yours doesn’t match up they’re going to wonder how I know so much about a proprietary project I wasn’t on. And I’ll be honest David… Lying is not your strong suit. Jack and Jill? The nursery rhyme? That was your first go to. Trust me, you’re better off just getting this done and keeping your head down.”
“Y- you…” Dave stammered.
“Now if you’ll excuse me. I have my own plans to attend too.” With the predatory smile still present Sara spun in place and strode out of the room. She didn’t look back once.
‘I still say you should have bit him.’ Bear chimed in as she reached her car.
“How long have you been-“ Sara sighed. “People don’t bite each other.”
‘And yet you threatened him.’
“But didn’t actually do it.” Sara got into the car. “Still… I don’t know what came over me… I just… Suddenly I just felt stronger… More confident. I saw him for the sniveling thing he was and I realized… I’m better than that! I mean I felt like…”
‘A bear?” The answer gave Sara pause.
“Did… You make that happen?” Sara asked.
‘I… Don’t think so. I mean, kind of but no?” Bear replied in an uncertain voice. ‘But… What little I know about spirits… I think we were called on for wisdom and strength. I don’t think that would influence your behavior but… If you felt stronger.’
“Then I might speak my mind…” Sara understood. “I need to think on this…”She started up her car and drove out of the parking lot. Rather than head for home she was heading to her meditation spot, the same park that she met Bear.
This time of day it was abandoned like it usually was. Sara sat herself down on the edge of a hill and just let herself breath and reflect on what had happened. All the things she had said… Those had certainly been from her… Yet she had never dared speak it before. And during the conversation she just suddenly knew things for certain that she had only suspected. It was like how Bear seemed to suddenly know things when he needed to.
There was no question about it. She was responsible for those actions. But… She wouldn’t have been able to do them without Bear. Something about this connection just made her more confident and assertive. After taking a bit of time to think about this she slowly got up to leave but was stopped.
‘Hey… I wanna try something.’ Bear’s voice had a curious edge to it.
“Try what?” Sara asked.
‘A hunch but… What if… You didn’t just have the strength of a bear… But were a bear?’ He asked.
“I don’t think I want to spend my life as a bear, sorry.” Sara shook her head.
‘Not your entire life! Probably!’ Bear interrupted. ‘I think. Look, wherever I know things from it’s a bit spotty on spirit stuff! But… Ever since I joined you I feel like I’ve been waking up and getting ideas and… I think… It’s crazy but I think you might be able to turn into a bear.’
“That is crazy. Like having a talking dead bear living inside my head crazy.” Sara responded.
‘I’m not that-‘ Bear paused. ‘Oh! I see what you did there. Just… It was a thought. And you might like roaming the forest! I wouldn’t mind being able to feel that again.’
“Okay… Let’s say I give it a go. How?” Sara asked.
‘Concentrate?’ Bear suggested. ‘I’m mostly acting on hunches here.’
“… I’ll try…” Sara closed her eyes and tried to picture what she’d look like as a bear, but abruptly snapped her eyes open as a thought occurred. “Hey… What’ll happen to my clothes when I change?”
‘Probably nothing.’ Bear replied.
“So… What will happen to them when I’m suddenly twice as tall and four times a heavy? In them?”
‘Oh yeah, that’d probably wreck them huh?’ Bear seemed to laugh. ‘But bears don’t wear clothes so it’s not a worry.’
“But humans do… And when I change back I still need to go home, preferably without getting arrested for indecent exposure.” Sara crossed her arms.
‘Oh… I ok, I see the problem now.’ Bear seemed uncertain.
“… Let’s… Do this somewhere more private…” Sara walked from the park into the woods it backed into. She didn’t want to be near any prying eyes when attempting this… For a multitude of reasons.
About an hour later Sara was standing naked at a point she judged far enough into the woods not to run into anyone.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this…” She replied trying not to think about how vulnerable she felt.
‘Just try to focus!’ Bear was encouraging.
“Doing that…” Sara closed her eyes and she tried to focus again on the idea of herself as a bear. At first nothing seemed to be happening… And then suddenly she realized she no longer felt a wind chill.
It was a quick and painless process that only lasted a few seconds. Thick brown fur erupted all over Sara’s body at once as she suddenly grew much taller. Pounds of muscles formed along her entire body as she dropped onto all fours. She let out a snarl as her face pushed out into a muzzle and her hands and feet formed into paws with sharp claws.
“Groooawrl.” Sara tried to speak, but no words came out. But… This was what being a bear was. She felt so strong.
‘You did it!” Bear could still talk. That wasn’t fair! ‘And I just had a hunch about it!”
“Groooooaaawwwl!” Sara managed to shrug her entire body in annoyance.
‘Huhh… Weird… I…. Don’t speak Bear. That’s… weird… Really weird.” Bear seemed confused by the fact he couldn’t understand Sara. ‘I guess maybe it’s cause we don’t really have a language? But… If you want to change back I think it should work the same way… But… Before you do… Could we maybe… Just go for a walk through the woods? I mean… Still as a bear?”
Sara thought about it then shrugged. She had already come this far… It wouldn’t hurt anything to try out this body for a while. She’d just have to be careful not to get lost and forget where her clothes had been stashed.
She slowly began to walk forward, getting used to the feeling of moving on four legs. She was also taking the time to adapt to her senses improving even further. She could tell the entire forest was alive in ways she never could have understood.
Perhaps… She had found an activity to replace her evening meditation.
For now she took her first few steps into the woods as a bear.