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Untitled Contest Entry[]

(note: my prompt was to write a story "in the format of a conversation")

“What’s up with her, Sammy?” Steven grunted, puffing on his half-burned cigarette.

It was early morning, the rising sun cresting the horizon and engulfing the gaps of the forest with its light. Slowly but surely, the day’s warmth was chasing away the nightly spring air, the tree leaves illuminated in their gorgeous, silky green. All seemed right as Steven absent-mindedly tapped a chunk of ash onto the ground, leaning over the edge of the cabin balcony. From across the sparkling river that curled past their remote home sat a single bear, reclined against a thick tree trunk.

“Oh, that’s Suzy!” Samantha cooed as she hurried outside in her dressing gown, her fiery red hair subdued in a knot atop her head. She joined her husband at his side, watching the bear intently. “She was the one I saw before, sniffing 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. “Doesn’t look like she’s eaten for weeks. I tossed her those leftovers we had in the fridge, 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 distracted 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 saving one stray bear will make a whole lot of difference.”

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

He glanced at Samantha’s smiling face, her dark pupils reflecting the dawn’s glow. A wet cracking sound shot into his left ear, and he swore, just for a second, he could see some unfathomable mass obscured within the forest, its limbs heaving and scraping against the damp soil as it slithered towards the cabin. He took a sharp breath, as if to shout or scream, but let it go as the sight was elbowed out of his mind by some unnatural force.

“Eh, forget it,” he spoke, unconsciously turning his head away. “Just remember not to get too close. It may look all cute and cuddly, but that thing right there is a killing machine. Top of the food chain. Would rip you apart if you looked at it the wrong way. Used to be dozens of ‘disappearances’ round this part of the woods, back when it was all still being mapped out. Whose fault do you think they were, hmm? The salmons’?”

“…I suppose you’re right.”

The couple continued to stare at the animal. It was sat just as it was before, backed up against a tree trunk with its paws by its sides and its legs lay out on the grass. A calm, neutral expression hung upon its face.

“What do you think it’s doing?” Samantha queried.

Steven squinted. “That’s what I was gonna ask you. I mean…it’s been sat like that for a while now. It can’t be sleeping, ‘cus its eyes are open. I know that much. Maybe it’s scratching its back. But then again, it would be standing for that, and bouncing up and down. I’ve seen it on those documentaries.”

“I think it’s appreciating the view.”

Steven scoffed. “As if!”

“No, it really might be! I read about it online! It’s a behaviour that’s observed all the time in bears.”

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

“Well, maybe that’s part of it, but it’s like you said, bears are smart. 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 sat, gaze unmoving. And though it had no eyes, nor face, nor any real semblance of a body, 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 soon have to move on, to seek different prey.

But Suzy had time. And so, she waited.

“Hey, look, she’s moving!” 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 the couple before disappearing out of sight.

“Weird.” said Steven, extinguishing his cigarette.

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Kolpik (talk) 06:42, 25 April 2022 (UTC)[]

Assuming this is a first draft, I'd say it's pretty well executed. I loved the bear's perspective. I struggle with writing for non-human characters, mainly because I have a hard time finding an appropriate "voice" for something that doesn't talk or even think like we do. How did you handle that issue? Well, you kept it short and simple. Nice choice there.

I also appreciate the way you take "Don't feed the bears" and turn it on its head. We humans often think we have all the answers, don't we?

Here are a few bits I'd like to highlight.

--The couple’s conversation had distracted them of the sudden silencing of the forest, the birdsongs diminishing and the crickets’ chirps dying down to a steady silence.-- I get what you're trying to say here, but it could be clearer. Also, it might work better as two sentences.

--Samantha raised an eyebrow. “Well, Mr. Darwin,” she spoke, in a mocking tone, “How interesting it is to hear your hypothesis – but I doubt saving one stray bear will make a whole lot of difference.”-- I like Samantha and this part exhibits her well. It's a nice little showcase of who she is. Although, mentioning her mocking tone seems a bit redundant when her words do a good job of conveying that on their own.

--He took a sharp breath, as if to shout or scream, but let it go as the sight was elbowed out of his mind by some unnatural force.-- Are you alluding to the "hulking undergrowth" (that's what I'm calling it) having some sort of ability to affect people's perceptions or thoughts? It's vague, but that's what I'm getting from this. Like some sort of "psychic camouflage." If that was your aim then you either need to make it clearer or come to grips with the chance not everyone will catch that. I personally would keep it vague. Actually, I probably wouldn't touch that paragraph at all if this were my story. Of course, I do like to keep my readers guessing.

--A calm, neutral expression hung upon its face.-- Seems to me like this line contrasts with Suzy's earnestness to protect "the pink, fleshy creatures" (love that bit) and her intuitive understanding of the hulking undergrowth's intent.

All in all, I enjoyed this and hope to read the final draft in the future. I also got the "conversation challenge." Good luck in the contest and I hope this helps.

Creepy Thomas O. (talk) 15:07, 27 April 2022 (UTC)[]

The relationship between the bear and the people seems a bit flimsy/underdeveloped. From what I can tell she was only fed one time by Samantha, and that was only after she appeared to be starving. So does that mean Suzy was protecting the people even before she was fed by them? I do like the idea of the bear intrinsically feeling the need to protect, but I think there needs to be more of a developed relationship first.

The, "hey look she's moving" part comes on a little abruptly, because just one sentence earlier you established that the bear was going to wait as long as it took, but then the next thing we know the bear's like, "Peace, out!" It seems like you're implying that the threat has moved on, and that these people had no idea how close they'd come to disaster, but it just too quick of an ending.

Lastly, I respectfully disagree with Kolpic about not changing the "hulking undergrowth" paragraph. This is a story that's supposed to be told through conversation, and I feel you're missing an opportunity by not having Steven begin to explain what he's seeing, and then having him alter his description to something more mundane mid-sentence as the entity's hold on him takes over. It would be a tough bit of writing, but could move this story to the next level if you can pull it off. Good luck.