In her dream she had killed him. Moaning and anxious, shaking her great head, she shook off the strange heavy sleep. Bright daylight showed through the slattings over the shuttered window, spun the dust past her searching eyes.
She saw him. She lumbered over creaking floorboards, to the bed and the boy laid in it, very still under the blanket coloured like the ground. He appeared dead. She snuffled his small face – snorted softly as she caught a taste of his breathing.
She would not ever allow herself to be so angry again: she did not know how, but she would stop herself, somehow – because stupidly she would have ripped apart this little man’s nuisance – and only he could make her herself again.
She who had killed Bear Killer had left her here in this human’s place. The she-bear trembled, lowing as when she was scared as a child. She understood the room’s small door – recalled clearly enough she came in through it last night and on two legs – and that small door would not stand her crashing out it when she decided to escape. And she would take this boy – carrying him by the scruff of his neck like a cub if she had to.
But she had wounded him; and because he also smelled of blood, she took the blanket in her teeth, dragged it from him. Found the wound she understood, the knick under his chin: began to lick and lick, as her mother had her when she was little and hurt, the only thing she could think to do for this troublesome boy.
Deer tasted sweet. Even after the long hot chase. And salmon. In one more moon’s time, she could see herself already – splashing after the red fish that would fill the shallows – a place she had won by fighting all her’s in the forest; and contented as only a summer put her, fattening on her favourite, the brains. She wanted only some way to take last night’s berry wine with her under her big tree: Perhaps even to share it with those other bears over winter; or perhaps not.
But the boy tasted unexpectedly different. Were she hungry enough, she accepted, she would eat him, because a bear did need to eat. His flavour familiar: like any meat. But, something like an after-taste, and distinctly odd. She sensed it in her belly first. Then, dizziness – as if she’d eaten something bad, much worse than old deer hidden away too long. Perhaps the human was so unnatural a thing that it was not made to be eaten. And she stopped licking the boy.
He had no more the scent of blood. No mark under his chin. She snorted in his face, but this frustrating human’s boy would not wake.
Wagging her broad head, because it hurt, like she was sick suddenly, she imagined already the panic below – those people screaming and some possibly ready with bear-killing sticks – if she did crash down among them, and the boy carried in her mouth. Sunny day still bright in that tiny window shuttered like a barricade. So very long until the night, the change, and she could walk away on two legs.
And that instant, just as she wished it, the change swept her great bear’s body. Her head throbbed, but she understood all this was because of the boy’s blood, and puffing her laughter she stood on her two legs, and stretched slender arms high.
Still the boy would not wake, not even when she rolled him on his face, because he lay on her shredded woman clothes. Still she was jubilant, even though she would have to carry him, and she dressed in her tatters. Away from this place, away from his people, deep inside her forest, she would compel him to make her properly herself again.
Because she remembered how the Bear Killer had carried this boy, she could do the same. Only the man rubbing cups with a cloth looked at her leaving the Pig and Bee, and the boy in her arms.
“Boy sick,” said the beargirl.