- Updated: 30 July 2011
- Published: 30 July 2011
- Hits: 485
The warm liquid running over my eyes is oddly comforting. The mauling has all but stopped as the bear tries to crush my skull in his powerful jaws. His breath smells like carrion and copper. I have lost the will to fight; death is eminent— and overdue.
The bear stops chewing my head and begins to lick it, much like my dog licks my hand in order to get every last morsel of chicken grease. His tongue feels smooth and rubbery as he works from side to side, back to front. My eyes clench tighter as I feel his tongue on my forehead. I hold my breath waiting for the crushing blows that will end my life. Instead, I sense that the bear has looked away. He is listening to something in the distance, something inaudible to me. He stands up, woofs, then bounds over me and is gone.
The contents of my pack are strewn about the clearing as evidence of the attack. My bow is near to hand, arrows hanging askew from the quiver. I remember thrusting it at his face to fend him off. The arrows must have been dislodged when he batted it from my hand. The dispute had been over a dead deer. A bad shot resulted in a long guilt-ridden morning, often on hands and knees to work out the trail. I can see her white belly stained red just across the clearing. The bear found her first and laid claim. I was the interloper.
Emily’s due in a week. I wanted to get one last hunt in before the baby came and kept me close. We wouldn’t allow the doctor to tell us if we had boy or a girl, now I may never know. I want to call her, to tell her how much I love her but my cell phone died hours ago. Trailing the wounded deer has brought me over the mountain and into unfamiliar territory. I don’t know where I am and my friends won’t know where to find me. I am far from help, far from where I told them I would be — not so far from dying.
My torn scalp flops around like a loose hat whenever I turn my head. It’s bloody but of no immediate concern. The real problem is my right leg. The thigh muscle has been ripped open and is hinged on a flap of skin. I can see my femoral artery pulsing like a diesel engine at idle beside the blue white bone. A millimeter more and this would already be over. Emily is not going to raise our child alone. I’m not going to die on this mountain, not today. I can just reach my half empty pack with the tip of my bow and fish it towards me.
The effort is exhausting, but I take stock of what I have to work with. A small first aid kit with band aids and ointment, fifty feet of parachute cord, a little brass compass and mirror, some trail mix, a plastic bag with a whistle, lighter and fire starter inside, a folding limb saw, knife and a grunt call. I can see my jacket and water bottle on the other side of the clearing along with a clean rag that I use for wiping my hands, and my camouflaged hat.
It’s up to me, what do I do now?