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A Sense of Beauty

“What’s up with that bear, Samantha?” Steven grunted, puffing on his half-burned cigarette.

It was early morning, the rising sun cresting over the horizon oh-so slowly, engulfing the gaps of the forest with its light. Slowly but surely, the day’s warmth was piercing the nightly spring air, the barks of the trees illuminated in a gorgeous brown. All seemed right as Steven absent-mindedly tapped a chunk of ash onto the ground, leaning over the edge of the cabin balcony. All except the presence of a single, grown bear, leant back against a particularly thick tree trunk in a strangely casual pose, its face calm and neutral as it stared blankly across the vista.

“Oh, that’s Suzy!” Samantha cooed as she hurried outside in her dressing gown, her fiery red hair subdued in a comfortable knot atop her head. She joined her husband at his side, watching the bear intently. “She was the one I saw before, sniffing her way across the river.”

“Funny name for a bear.” Steven muttered. A slight breeze was picking up, the cool air blowing pleasantly across his stubbled chin. “She must’ve been looking for fish.”

“Yeah, well, she didn’t find any,” Samantha spoke, a little sadly. “I tossed her those uneaten leftovers we had in the fridge from a few days ago, so she doesn’t starve. They seemed to tide her over.”

“Shouldn’t have done that. Bears are smart creatures. Keep feeding them and they’ll keep coming back for more.”

“I mean, we’re in no shortage of foo-

“It’s not just that.” Steven interrupted, fidgeting with his lighter. The couple’s conversation had eluded them of the sudden silencing of the forest, the birdsongs diminishing and the crickets’ chirps dying down to a steady silence. “It interferes with the natural order. In nature, only the strongest are meant to survive. Outside help disrupts that principle.”

Samantha raised an eyebrow. “Well, Mr. Darwin,” She spoke, in a mocking tone, “How interesting it is to hear your hypothesis – but I doubt feeding one stray bear will cause any major damage to bear-kind as a whole.”

Steven shrugged. “One bear won’t do much. But if more and more people started feeding them…”

He kept his eyes focused on Suzy’s unmoving face, her dark eyes reflecting the morning’s glow. A wet cracking sound shot into his left ear, and he swore, just for a second, he could see an unfathomable mass obscured within the forest, its limbs heaving and scraping against the damp soil.

“Eh, forget it.” He spoke, as the sight was elbowed out of his brain by some unnatural force. “What I want to know is; what is it doing right now?”

Samantha adjusted her glasses and squinted, making out the furry figure still sat just as it was, leant against a tree trunk with its paws by its sides and its legs lay out across the grass.

“It’s not sleeping. The only thing I can think of is that it’s scratching its back,” Steven continued. “And even then, it would be standing for that, and bouncing up and down. I’ve seen it on those documentaries.”

“It’s appreciating the view.”

Steven scoffed. “As if!”

“No, it really is! I read about it online! It’s a behaviour that’s observed all the time!”

“Bullshit. What purpose would that serve? Nature’s a constant battle for survival. It’s probably just conserving energy or something.”

“Maybe that’s part of it, but it’s like you said, bears are smart.” Samantha explained. “Some of the smartest animals out there, actually. They have an eye for aesthetic landscapes. A sense of beauty, even.”

“Yeah, right. And kangaroos can write poetry. And moose can paint portraits. And wolves can-

On and on their conversation went, as Suzy stared unblinkingly at the thing in the forest. Suzy. Soo-zee. She had no-concept of words, let alone names, but she understood it was something that had been given to her, some kind of strange, yet comforting noise made only when she was nearby. That, and the pile of food dropped from above when she was starving made two things she’d been given. And though she barely knew why, she felt she could at least do something in return for the pink, fleshy creatures that had already done so much for her, that had treated her so well.

Somehow she knew. She knew that if she took her eyes off the thing in the forest, it would destroy those pink, fleshy creatures. It would unfreeze itself and carry onward, and it would harm those that had helped her. She couldn’t allow that to happen, so there she lay, gaze unmoving. And though it had no eyes, nor fur, nor mouth, Suzy could tell that the thing in the forest was looking right at her, too. Waiting, though it couldn’t wait for long. Suzy felt the hunger it radiated burning in her belly, the need to consume so strong, it would surely have to move on soon, to seek different prey.

But Suzy had time. And so, she waited.

“Hey, look, she stopped!” Samantha exclaimed.

A quiet rustling of foliage could be heard moving away from the cabin. The pair watched as Suzy pulled herself onto all fours and slinked away into the forest, casting one final look toward them before disappearing out of sight.

“Weird.” said Steven, extinguishing his cigarette in a coarse, brown ashtray.

Written by Cornconic
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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