Bear Alert

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash
Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash
This was not her first hike through a National Protected forest. She had been hiking every year since her twenty-first birthday. She lived alone and hiked alone. She did most things alone because she had been born with an hereditary condition that made her, practically, allergic to humans and, inexplicably, to domestic animals, too.

Her self-imposed goal was to hike through every National Protected forest in the world.

This hike was unique in that the forest was the only Compact Forest known in the world. It was hundreds of square miles in area.

In a Compact Forest the trees grow so close to one another that no animal higher than a hare can move through them. The sad thing is that the Government decided to make a narrow pedestrian path through this up-to-then virgin forest in order for humans to experience hiking through the one-of-a-kind jungle.

The Compact Forest assured the hike trail was free of large wild predator animals; most of the time. Since there were no breaks in the Compact Forest along the trail for the entire hundreds of miles, it was forever a mystery how the occasional large wild animal, carnivore or herbivore, got onto the hike trail: deer, wolf, bear, cougar.

It was never a crisis for herbivores because they could graze on the tree leaves and young branches at the side of the trail. Carnivores on he trail were trapped, and in a while grew ferocious in their hunger and thirst.

Whenever Forest Management came to know about carnivores on the trail, helicopter crews were dispatched to tranquilize the animals and to transport them to be released beyond the forest.

She had researched Compact Forest in detail on the Internet. Although she had no intent to leave the trail to enter the forest, she adhered meticulously to the clothing suggested on the Internet sites. Long tight sleeves and denim long trousers. And indestructible army boots.

The tourist brochure suggested a holstered cannister of bear spray. She was equipped with that, too.

She turned a corner and saw a hiker sitting on the ground at the side of the trail. His backpack was on the ground beside him. She stopped.

Her first thought in the circumstances was to be wary of criminals. She looked around slowly, scrutinizing for signs of other persons in hiding. She recalled the brochure's note that bear spray did not work on humans.

He greeted her. Hi. Please don't mind me. Keep on your way passed me. I have texted the Tourist Station. Someone is on the way to help me.

What happened?

A small animal attacked me. I got out of its way, but I tripped and sprained my ankle. It dashed out from the trees. I hope it was not rabid. Please, carry on.

If you wish, I can stay with you until they get here.

Thank you. I mustn't spoil your hike. Please; I will be okay.

She walked by him, not letting her guard down. Once past him, she quickened her pace. As she increased the distance between them, she heard him speaking on his phone. She walked on, faster.

She wore a bear spray cannister in a holster, but she knew the label stated the spray was ineffective against a human attacker. When she turned a corner and was out of his sight, she picked up her pace to a slow run.

After a few hundred yards, she sat on the ground to rest. She unslung her backpack. She drank water from a bottle, and ate a chocolate bar. After a few minutes, she felt refreshed. She resumed her hike.

This forest was proving to be like none other she had hiked through. There was no breeze. No birds. For long stretches, shade from the trees made the trail as dark as on a moonless night. This was a little unnerving because the silence was total. Not even the slightest breeze to rustle the forest leaves. It wasn't all her imagining that she could hear her heart beating.

She was shocked to see a full-grown black bear ambling toward her out of a night stretch on the trail ahead. Had she not rested earlier on, she would have encountered that black beast in that night-dark stretch.

She was an experienced wild-trail hiker. Even as her instinct catapulted into overdrive, she clearly and instantly recalled the guidelines in the brochure handout.

Her hand automatically went for her holster, but she desisted when she was blasted in the face by a sudden
gust of wind. What? Where did that come from? The massive oncoming rushing predator was gusting up a wind? The brochure cautioned that a spray was to be used only when a beast was downwind.

She turned around to run. She thought of that injured hiker; that if she led the bear to him, he would be doomed. She had no choice; she had to tempt the bear to chase her into the forest. She hoped the bear did not know how difficult it would be to follow her among the trees in a Compact Forest.

As she ran, she unslung her backpack. Only if she held it in her hands would she be able to squeeze it and herself through the trees. The brochure said to not consider climbing a tree. It was virtually impossible to climb any tree in the Compact Forest, even when not pursued by a hungry carnivore; even when not wearing a backpack. It helped considerably to know that the bear would find it more difficult than she would to push through the trees.

As she ran she looked for a likely spot to enter the forest. She hadn't found one by the time she heard the bear getting closer. She stopped looking for a likely spot. She dashed into the forest, violently thrusting her way through between the trees.

That bear was smart. It plunged in, following her in the path she made. The bear's larger size gave the hiker a clear advantage. Whereas her increasing fear gave her increasing strength to fight her way faster through the entangled web of tree branches and boles, the bear's larger size too soon slowed it down to a stop. The bear roared its anger and frustration as it became stuck in a standstill.

A main reason she was able to increase her progress, was that she had instantly abandoned her backpack without a moment's hesitation when it snagged between trees; her bear spray holster, too.

She struggled along for a while even after she could not hear the bear.

She stopped. Total silence in total darkness. She felt weak and frightened. It was a relief she did not have to try to be upright; she was so tightly wedged among sturdy tree boles and branches.

She was an experienced wild-trail hiker. She felt confidence calmly and steadily building up. She recalled that her phone was in one of her pockets; not in her backpack.
She had to struggle in uncomfortable twists and squeezes and pushes and pulls to eventually locate and retrieve her phone.

She paused. She had to be careful to not let the phone slip out of her hands down to the ground in all that forest total darkness.

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