“I’m so happy that I have decided to retire as King of the Forest and become a bear that lives not in a forest but in a humble home among all the other fun loving humans of this world,” Mr. Bear said as he stood on his front doorstep, looking out at the wonderful world before him. Every day for the past year, Mr. Bear would say this to himself as he took a whiff of that fresh suburban air, regardless of the circumstances.
Even when someone rudely sped past him in their motor vehicle, sending a puddle cascading upon him, drenching his fur, he would say it.
Even when no one came to his birthday party he had thrown for himself, he would say it.
Even when he had tripped on a patch of ice on his door step and fell upon his face and cried for five hours, he would say it. In fact, he would say it more-so than usual for whenever Mr. Bear cried, he would rock and back on his haunches and repeat that verbal tick of his to himself over and over again.
Mr. Bear would always say it. Every experience in this new world was an experience worth having.
Even the sad ones.
Oh God, I killed them all, he thought as he looked at some deer meat at the butcher.
Is something wrong, Mr. Bear? the butcher asked with a note of concern.
His paws. His big, terrible, monstrous, paws…
“Haha, it’s so fun being the bear that I am!” Mr. Bear decreed as he skipped down the steps, shovel in hand. “Is there anything better than that in this world? I think not, haha!”
Mr. Bear scooped up a shovelful of snow off of the path and tossed it to the side, laughing merrily.
“Ahem,” a nasally voice spoke to Mr. Bear’s left. Mr. Bear turned to find himself face to face with a stag in an overcoat. The stag’s hooves were neatly folded together, his eyes closed. “Are you Mr. Bear?”
“Ah yes, the trouble with that question is that I have known myself my whole life as a bear. Upon entering the human world, it became appropriate to choose a name. But I knew no name beyond Bear of course for what was I but a carnivorous Ursus arctos,” Mr. Bear explained, frowning from the heaviness of the history that weighed down on him.
“I think—” the Stag began but Mr. Bear cut him off.
“You need to understand, Stag,” Mr. Bear pleaded. “You may look at me now and think that I am a civilized bear and you would be right, but a year ago I was just like the rest. I was a killer, y’see and I gave nary a thought to my existence beyond Bear.”
“I don’t think you—” the Stag tried to fit in between Mr. Bear’s breaths but it was of no use.
“I don’t think any bear that’s ever chosen my path could even think to come up with a better name than Mr. Bear. I’m sure there are many Mr. Bears out there,” Mr. Bear said, tears trickling down his snout. He didn’t like thinking about the harsh reality that he was as big of a monster as the rest of them.
“Are you done?” the Stag beckoned.
“No, but—the tears in my eyes—prevent me from speaking more of this issue,” Mr. Bear sniveled.
“Okay, good, then I am here to tell you that two years prior to this very day that we stand here talking, I rammed your rear end with my antlers as a joke,” the Stag lamented, walking past Mr. Bear without even chancing a look into his sparkling eyes.
“I remember that,” Mr. Bear mused. “And I tried to kill you. And failed I suppose, seeing you, The Stag that Rammed My Rear End With Your Antlers as a Joke, standing here before me.”
“Yes, and you killed my entire family in an act of vengeance,” the Stag said glumly.
Mr. Bear’s brow furrowed. “Justice.”
“No. Vengeance,” the Stag said, his voice becoming thinner and sharper with every passing second. “You ate them alive before me, Mr. Bear.”
Mr. Bear, always keen to throw his two cents in when striking up a conversation, stayed quiet here.
“I ran away,” the Stag explained, shaking. “I thought you were going to come for me. And two years later, I realized that I am done running. I am here to confront you, Mr. Bear.”
The Stag turned to face Mr. Bear, bending his head down, exposing his antlers.
“No more running,” the Stag cooed. “For me, or for you.”
Mr. Bear looked at the Stag for a long time.
“Neither can live,” Mr. Bear offered thoughtfully. “While the other survives.”
“You could say that, yes,” the Stag bleated.
Mr. Bear rolled his paw up against his chin. This was a conundrum.
Mr. Bear stepped out of his home and took in a whiff of the fresh air.
““I’m so happy that I have decided to retire as King of the Forest and become a bear that…th-that…that…”
Mr. Bear froze and looked down at his paws. His Big. Terrible. Monstrous. Paws.
And then Mr. Bear fell to his knees and cried. Cried for all of the blood he had shed, for all of the families that he had torn to pieces both figuratively and literally, for all the trauma he had caused.
Mr. Bear cried for days, saying Hail Mary after Hail Mary instead of his usual spiel.
But it mattered not. Mr. Bear had murdered one too many stags in cold blood.
He was going straight to Hell for what he did.
And when Mr. Bear eventually found his way to Hell, he found the Stag waiting there for him.
“Wait—what—how come you’re in here you old so-and-so?” Mr. Bear asked, scratching his head.
The Stag took in a deep breath, and looked at Mr. Bear with his cold dead eyes.
“Upon my death, which of course was at your hand, due mostly to my miscalculation of the durability of my antlers, which as you recall, you snapped in your hands and then gouged my eyes out with.”
“Haha, what a lark!” Mr. Bear chuckled, holding his belly as he did so. “One of my finest! But why are you in Hell, Stag?”
“Oh. God has a problem with Stags who Ram Their Antlers into the Rear Ends of Bears as a Joke.”
Mr. Bear sized up the Stag, thinking about what it was like to live as the Stag that accidentally got their family murdered by a bear due to his foolhardy prank, how it must have felt to see that bear become benign in his wonder years, and finally, to be the cause that dragged them both to Hell.
“Tough break, kid.”
Liked Mr. Bear? Here’s some other stories that feature him.
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