Reopening The Orchard :: N2W 220513

Inspired by KL Caley’s #WRITEPHOTO Challenge to write a
short story about her May 12, 2022, photo prompt.

Jake swallowed his fear yet again and continued his walk towards the wall gate. Someone there would throw open the door, stand back to let him pass then lock it shut to keep the evil inside from coming out.

So many, if only scenarios, he thought as he rounded the final corner and could see the gate. If only the bear had settled elsewhere. If only the town had not walled in all the fruit trees which the bear now treated as his own. If only someone thought up a better plan to solve the problem. If only someone other than me had lost the lottery to be the bait for this solution.

Other solutions had been attempted but had only resulted in additional lives lost.  The bear was winning each battle and there were no more fighters willing to try.  At least this idea is different and might work.

A young man met him at the gate. Jake paused to draw his sword; one he’d not used in years. I’m too old for this, he thought. If it comes down to any one-on-one fighting, I’m a dead man. The young man met his eyes, nodded, and pulled the gate open. The green orchard grass and the smell of the fragrant flowers poured out through the door.

He struggled to keep moving; can’t keep the door open for any longer than to let me in. He nodded back and stepped through, and quickly heard the heavy wood slam shut and the lock engaged with a heavy click.

Now, it was just him and the grand plan against the bear.

The orchard looked peaceful enough, but that couldn’t last long. That bear has become territorial about this place. He’ll be along soon enough. I just must get to the clearing before being seen or smelled.

It was only a few feet to the east and he arrived with only bird songs to listen to.  The clearing was still as clean as a park.  Was it really just a few weeks ago this clearing would have had families with their children enjoying the orchard, its smells, its fruit — its peace? Instead, here I stand alone against . . .

From somewhere nearby, a deep growl shook him like an audible earthquake. He could feel the sweat bursting from his brow and his sword hand was suddenly wet and slippery.

With his sword up, he spun – looking for the bear – screaming as loud as he could to prevent panic from causing him to run and ruin the plan. “COME ON – YOU BASTARD MONSTER!“

Another turn and he spotted the beast walking towards him. No, he thought, my back is toward the wall.  I need him facing me, but perpendicular to the wall. I need to draw him closer and turn him sideways. I can’t outrun him, but if I don’t turn him, I might join him in the trap.

The only play that could work took mental shape, so he engaged it with no further thought.  Now only focus and timing mattered. With his legs spread, facing the beast, he waved his sword menacingly – knowing full well that he might as well have not brought it as he stood no chance against the strength and speed of this creature.  The bear continued his approach, knowing this man — this single man was no real threat. “COME ON – COME ON! “

He glanced back at the wall, estimating distance and the time he’d need.  This will be very close. 

He took a few steps backwards, watching every step the bear made. When bear was only a few feet away, he thought, now!

He turned his back to the bear and ran to the wall, hearing the bear behind picking up his pace. At the wall, he stopped himself with his free hand and pushed himself to the right and ran as fast as he could along the wall for only ten steps before turning to continue running but at an angle away from the wall that actually brought him closer to the bear – who followed and thus turned his side to the wall.

Now, Jake thought, it’s got to be now guys or I’m dead.

The air was instantly alive with the swooshing sounds of dozens of arrows. The bear howled in anger, stumbled, and stopped to face these unseen attackers atop the wall who were stepping aside to allow a second line of archers to step into position and continue the hailstorm of missiles into the bear’s exposed flank.

Jake knew that they only had two lines of archers. The first line would be rearming but if the bear chose, he likely could turn on Jake and tear him in half. Is he still standing? He knew better than to pause to turn and look back, but again he changed his course to further get behind the bear. As he turned, the bear came into view and, damn! The bear was still on his feet, but one side was full of arrows and the bear was clawing at them, trying to stop the pain. The bear spun trying to bite at the arrows in his side as the second wave of arrows found him, beginning a new frenzy of howling anger.

Jake stopped running and considered his next steps. The bear was wounded but was still on his feet. The first wave of archers will be in position in a few more seconds. The bear is not chasing me but is fighting the arrows. He could still give up and come after me.

The first line of archers was back, watching.  “No!” he shouted, “Hit him again! Keep firing!” The air was again alive with the swooshing of a third wave of arrows. This brought the bear to his knees, howling in pain and struggling between breaths. Has someone’s arrow struck a lung?

The second line had reloaded and were stepping up, adding more arrows into the bears body but suddenly — the arrows stopped. They’ve run out of arrows, Jake thought.

He kept his sword up, pointed at the bear as he walked carefully back. He slowly circled close enough to smell the hot bloody breath of the dying creature. He could hear the giant lungs struggling for each breath. He angled to get behind the animal to avoid making eye contact and provoking a last stand attack that he would certainly lose.

He considered what he could do to end this, I’d never find his heart but if I did, I’d have to chop my way through his ribs. Not a good idea. I could let him bleed out, but we have no idea how bad his injuries are.  If he crawled off – who knows how that would end. No, I need to end this now.  His throat is the only real option.

Jake stood back for a few moments to consider the bear’s breathing, labored but steady.

Shaking his head, knowing what he had to do, he stepped behind the bear, considered where the bear’s windpipe would be relative to his spine, raised his sword and swung it down with everything he could muster and quickly jumped back as the bears neck opened with blood gushing under pressure.

Cheers went up from on top the wall, but Jake knew that it might yet not be over.

Except — it was.

The bear managed two more breaths. The blood stopped gushing only seconds later and the great bear stopping struggling and silence dropped on the orchard like a heavy stone.

Exhausted but drunk on adrenaline, Jake collapsed just out of reach from the now silent monster quietly lying in a red pool. Could he possibly still be alive?

As his own heart calmed, he realized that they were going to be able to reopen the orchard but now he wasn’t sure he ever wanted to come here again.

Will it ever not smell from the blood of this bear again?

mount-grace-priory-doorways

Photo credit: KL Caley


GW bio card 4

12 thoughts on “Reopening The Orchard :: N2W 220513

    1. Hi Geoff
      Thanks for checking it out and for the great feedback. Now I just hope KL doesn’t put me on timeout for messing up her fictional stage.
      This story got a bit out of hand. . .

      Like

  1. Oh gosh, what a terrifying adventure. You captured it so well. Although strangely, I did feel a bit sorry for the bear too. Thank you so much for a brilliant contribution to this weeks #writephoto, Gary. KL ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi KL,
      This story did feel a tad brutal for this venue, but I decided to let you guide me as I likely still can claim a few more weeks of being the new guy and have some history of sharing less bloody stories. I really don’t do these very often but one should be able to do them when needed – right?
      I thought too of softening the blow to the bear, but really wanted a more brutal backdrop rather than a more modern take on such things.
      I’m so glad, even relieved, that you liked it.
      🙂

      Like

  2. Based on the picture for the prompt, I did not expect a sad story about the bear. Speaking of bears, when I was planning for camping, I wondered if we were going to see a bear. My kid has a stuffed bear, I hope later on she understands that real bears are nothing like plushies. They’re territorial.

    Liked by 1 person

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