This is the story about a girl who discovers the spirit of a dead bear. Apparently long ago people used to bond with animal spirits for their strength and wisdom… But it’s not been done in so long that Bear is a bit clueless about how it goes.
Bear With Me: Part 1
‘Hey… Human. Can you hear me?’
“What?” Sara jumped to her feet in an instant as she heard the voice. She looked around in confusion as to where it had come from… She had been sitting on a grassy hill that was part of a public park outside the city. Other than herself, a few decaying picnic tables beneath a gazebo and spilled over trash can there didn’t seem to be anyone around. “Is someone there?” She looked around nervously. At five nothing and barely more than a hundred pounds Sara didn’t make for the most imposing of persons… A fact she was very hyper aware of and so made her all the more nervous that someone had apparently snuck up on her.
‘You can hear me?’ The voice was barely more than a whisper. The strange thing was it didn’t seem to be coming from any specific direction. It was just… There. ‘Most people can’t! You’re the first one to ever respond.’
“Okay, seriously, what’s going on?” Sara was spinning in place, her brown ponytail whipping to the side, as she tried to figure out where the voice was coming from. “Who are you?”
‘I’m Bear.’ There was a moment of hesitation as it spoke this. ‘Or a bear. Either work.’
“What?” That reply was strange enough to stop Sara in place.
‘Oh… Dang, I’m not very good at this. To tell the truth this isn’t really done anymore. And most of the spirits who could tell me how this is supposed to go have moved on by now. I hope I didn’t alarm you! Just so few humans actually connect to spirits these days…’
“I’m hearing voices…” That was the only conclusion Sara could reach. There didn’t appear to be anyone else around… And there weren’t exactly any good hiding places for anyone who was playing a prank. That left only one possibility.
‘Well yes I mean, that is correct.’ There was a note of confusion in Bear’s voice. ‘You are hearing my voice.’ Apparently he didn’t get the other meaning of Sara’s words.
“I’ve finally snapped.” Sara rubbed her face. “All those hours at the office actually did drive me insane.”
‘Is that how this is happening?’ Bear asked. ‘I had heard being a little crazy made it easier to contact a human… But I always thought that was just a cruel rumor.’
“You’re not going to stop talking huh?” Sara addressed the voice directly as she sat down in the grass.
‘I’ve had no one to talk to for a very long time.’ Bear replied. ‘Humans can’t hear me, animals aren’t great conversationalist, and most spirits have either moved on or become dormant since no one interacts with us anymore.’
“Okay, I’ll bite.” Sara gave a hefty sigh. “Who are you?”
‘I’m Bear!’ Bear replied.
“Okay, got that part… But what are you?” Sara was starting to consider the possibility that the voice might be real. If it was a figment of her own shattered mind she’d like to think that it would have been less dense.
‘I’m just Bear!’ Bear pleaded. ‘That’s about all I know! I mean… I guess my full name would be Grizzly Bear? I wasn’t exactly given any explanations when this happened.’
“When what happened?” Sara raised an eyebrow.
‘I think… I died?” Bear seemed hesitant. ‘I know I’m what’s called a spirit now. Just… One day I was alive. The next I was dead, and I no longer had a body… But suddenly I could think! I was self-aware! That was a new experience. I don’t know how humans manage being like that their entire lives. I have so many thoughts and questions running through my non-existent head about what I am and why this is happening all the time I don’t think I could manage basic functions.’
“Heh, we call it existential dread.” Sara couldn’t help but laugh. “Welcome to human 101. So… Animals become spirits when they die?”
‘Yes! I mean… No!’ There was moment of silence as a nearby tree began to sway in the wind. ‘I don’t really know. I did… But if every one of us became a spirit then there’d be a lot more of us around. I… Don’t really know how it works. Most spirits don’t stick around these days. I was lucky enough to find a couple that were willing to tell me we were spirits before they departed.’
“Departed to where?” Sara asked.
‘I don’t know! No one will tell me!’ There was a sense of urgency in Bear’s voice. “Maybe some kind of afterlife? Maybe they reincarnated? Maybe they become one with the universe. No one will tell me what or how. I only know they left because the humans don’t talk to them anymore. So… I thought the best way to find out more was…’
“To talk to a human?” Sara figured out his logic. If Bear was in fact real and she wasn’t crazy… She couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. It had to be pretty rough being dead… And having no explanation to being a ghost.
‘Right! I found out a little bit! Apparently, humans used to meditate and call on us for strength and wisdom.’ Bear didn’t have a body, but Sara couldn’t escape the feeling he was nodding at her. ‘I’ve been trying for weeks, you’re the first person to respond.’
“Huh…” Sara considered it for a moment. She had been here to meditate… It wasn’t for any spiritual reason or something as noble as that… It was just a way for her to calm herself down after a day at work. Could that have been the reason? There wasn’t a way to know for sure. “I don’t really know anything more than you do. Sorry.”
‘I see…” Bear sounded disappointed. He took a few seconds to consider what to do next. ‘Well… Then would it be alright if I came with you?’
“What… exactly would that entail?” Sara felt a sense of caution rising up within her. Assuming she wasn’t crazy, she was for all intents and purposes talking to a ghost. And she wasn’t sure she should be granting permission to a ghost without fully understanding what that meant. She was pretty sure there had to be some kind of folklore about that.
‘Well I don’t have a lot to go on with that.’ Bear was reluctant to admit just how little he knew. ‘But I know it means I can come with you… And then I guess you’re supposed to be stronger as a result? Again, the spirits that could explain this to me are gone, so we are how do you say… Winging it?’
“Huh, you know idioms.” Sara chuckled as she brushed her hair aside. “Wouldn’t have expected that from bear.”
‘An idiom? What’s a-“ Bear paused. Then what followed could best be described as a shouted whisper. ‘OH MY TOTEMS I KNOW WHAT IDIOM MEANS!’ There was another paused. ‘AND I KNOW HOW TO USE THEM!” And one final pause. ‘How do I know that!?’
“Maybe you pick up some knowledge through some form of spiritual osmosis?” Sara suggested.
‘What does chemistry have to do with… Oh wait, you meant the unconscious assimilation of ideas and knowledge.’ There was a very long pause as Bear realized exactly what he had just said. ‘Apparently yes? That is how it works?’ He seemed very surprised.
“But it doesn’t tell you anything about how spirits work huh?” Sara asked as she stared accusingly. She wasn’t sure where to stare, so mostly just stared into the air.
‘I don’t really know what to say…’ Bear seemed downtrodden. ‘I didn’t even know I was doing that! I guess… It explains a few things. I mean, how do I even know what words are to talk with you.’ Bear was silent as he was thoughtful for a few minutes. ‘Maybe I only have information about your world?’
“Hmmmmmm.” Sara would hate to admit it… But there was a certain logic to that line of thought. Whatever process made them become spirits… They’d need information to actually interact with the human world, otherwise they’d just be confused growling messes after they died. Any human that talked to them would just be speaking gibberish. And come to think of it… Weren’t spirits called on for their wisdom? She was fairly confident that was a thing. So maybe they had some kind of supernatural source of knowledge about the world… It was just a shame it didn’t include anything about spirits. Did that imply maybe that knowledge wasn’t on this world anymore? There were far too many unanswered questions here and it left Sara with quite the dilemma.
For the sake of moving forward, she was accepting that this was really happening. There was a ghost bear floating somewhere around her that wanted to go with her. That sounded a lot like possession in her book. But ghost bear made it sound more like people used to do it to call on animal strengths or something… Implying the human was left in control. So… If the ghost bear was telling the truth it didn’t seem there was any harm… But of course he could be lying. Assuming ghosts were real and possessions were possible, maybe it needed permission to take her… In that case the whole thing could be one big act. So… Which was it? Was he a malevolent ghost, or really just a confused spirit who had finally found someone to talk to?
That part hit Sara hard. Apparently, if Bear was just floating out here by himself this entire time he was completely isolated, unable to communicate with anyone. If she left him would he just be trapped like this for all eternity? Just watching the world go by unable to ever interact with it? Something like that… It was cruel, worse than death even. If he really was a spirit like he claimed and she refused… That’s the fate she would be leaving him too…
And Sara didn’t think she could do that to anyone.
“Ah… Dang it. This better not be a mistake.” Sara slowly stood up and turned around. Again she wasn’t sure where to look, but she sort of imagined the bear just standing behind her in the grass the entire time.
‘I’m sorry?’ Bear asked. ‘Is something wrong.’
“Just…” Sara had made her decision but it was still hard getting the nerve to actually do it. It’s not like she was getting a new roommate or something… She was fairly certain she was inviting a ghost bear to come live inside her own body. Even if it… He… Was benevolent. That had all kinds of weird implications.
‘You’re breathing really hard…’ Bear muttered.
Ah forget it.
“I give you permission to come with me.” Sara spoke out loud.
To be Continued