After the events of "IICY?", Doug Thompson takes his family into the bosom of Mother Nature. The latter, unfortunately, has other ideas and plans... Rated "R" for violence and deaths.
Kevin and others are a part of "Daria" cast, MTV and Noggin. Anyone else is mine as much as anyone else's. For comments and criticisms write to Bacner atOlgak531@rogers.com
Survival of the fittest?
After watching the helicopter depart, Doug Thompson smiled and winked at his wife Charlene, who was trying to find her weather-proof jacket in the pile of odds and ends that lay on the ground. "All's alright, Charlene! All has gone just like I said!"
Doug couldn't hide his own happiness- the route, which was approved after so many arguments with the state's manager, wasn't really allowed to the public. And all knew it. But Doug himself felt like he really needed to go here to perk-up the sagging spirits of his son Kevin. A small sum of money that had exchanged hands under the table did its job - the management finally allowed the Thompsons to camp here, although forbidding them to disclose this info to other campers.
"And just what's up with this kid?" Doug Thompson thought. "So what's the big deal that some girl told him off? There will be other girls in his life, no doubt about it..."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" he asked Kevin. "Let's get the boat into the water. We won't camp here, the nearest spring is only in 10 km, we'll put camp there."
"Why couldn't we get there by the helicopter?" Carlene asked.
"We wouldn't be able to land there - it's an unbroken stretch of the forest," Doug replied. "We were lucky that I persuaded the pilots to land at lea here on this spot near the river, or we'd had to settle in some tundra, and pull the boat on our backs through the forest."
The going was more than just very good, the weather was excellent, the shore-view was fine, for hunting - there plenty of ducks, grouses, and the river itself was full of fish. They didn't even have to use the fishing net - even if does bring a good catch, but the fuss!: untangle, add the floats with the sinkers, find a quiet creek, to avoid accidental debris in the water, and prevent ruptures, and then it has to be taken out of the water to be dried... While here, Kevin, using only a fishing rod, on each dusk got up to ten large perches and other fish, that took every bait - from macaroni and bread, to horseflies and other biting flies that were also found in abundance. Doug, managing the outboard motor, expertly avoided the semi-sunk trees and found utter pleasure in the manoeuvrability and speed. His wife Charlene was hiding under tarpaulin in the middle of boat to avoid getting splashed, while Kevin re-positioned himself on the front of the boat with a gun, seeking to get a larger game than fish for the supper.
The boat was going quick, because their utilities were quite compact - since Doug planned to go through two hundred km of the river through two weeks of the vacation. So far, they were surpassing his time-table by a day. That was important - they were to be picked-up by a helicopter at the end of the trip...
Stopping at yet another spring, Kevin turned to his dad and shouted loudly over the motor: "Dad, take a look - there's a moose in the river, get it before it gets to the shore..."
"Just where do you see it?" Doug rose from his seat.
"Why, he's over there... See the hump and the head above the water."
"Eh, no, that's just some underwater snag..."
"What snag? It is crossing the river. Hurry up. It'll soon be on the shore... It'll escape... It's too far."
Doug pushed the handle of the motor to the limit, and the motorboat sped towards the strange dark bump, that rose above the water and clearly not carried by the current. Kevin, meanwhile, hurriedly re-loaded the gun with the bigger bullets. The animal by now was close to the shore, overgrown with heavy shrubbery, while Kevin, with his fowling-piece, was still too far for a sure shot. And Kevin's nerve broke, he fired, and, apparently, hit the animal's nape that stuck above the water. Almost immediately the second shot sounded. The other bullet bounced off the head and sunk, raising a high fountain. The boat came closer, when the animal jumped from the water and immediately raced into the shrubs. But it was no moose, but an actual grizzly bear!
Doug silenced the motor, and on the slowest speed possible came to the shore, on which the bear had vanished. The sand clearly showed its' tracks and the large, bright red drops of blood.
"Damnit, it had escape..." Kevin muttered. "Such a prize had escaped. Dad, maybe you'll stop? I'll look around, after all, I hit it, the bear couldn't have gone far..."
Charlene looked at her husband, worry and disparagement at her son's actions evident in her gaze.
"Don't even think about it," Doug replied, "who do you think you are - a renown bear hunter, maybe? What if it gets you instead, what your mother and I shall do then?"
"You indeed shot in vain," Charlene added, "Oh, boys, I am scared that that wounded beast will follow us..."
"Relax," Doug pacified her. "Although I agree, we will not break camp here. But don't worry - at the next spring the bear won't get us - it's too far. Basically, we could break camp on the other shore, but it is too risky. I dare say, son, you were in too much of a hurry. You could've waited for it to get completely out of the water first."
Through the bushes, the bear watched the intruders of his territory. The bullet-ripped nape hurt, and the head was smarting, but an even bigger pain was caused by mosquitoes and horseflies, who instantly gathered on the smell of fresh blood. But nonetheless, the bear patiently watched. It had met earlier the tracks of these creatures that smelled unpleasantly of smoke, but they always left by themselves, never stopping in its' domain, never aspiring to his prey, and in return the bear avoided their stays.
But today, in the very centre of his territory, that was won in fair fights with other bears, the humans dared to actually attack it! These creatures, so weak at the first glance, could strike from afar and very painfully.
Until today, the bear feared no one, but now, they... The pain was gradually muffled by the boiling fury. How dare those invaders hunt it - the righteous master? And what if they will like its' territory? There's not enough game to sustain them all.
The worst fears of the bear were confirmed: the humans, with a deafening roar, went to the opposite shore of the river and landed there, to stay here forever.
The bear shook its' head, chasing away the pesky horseflies, and again the pain pierced its' back. Emitting a dull roar, the beast hurried down river, planning to cross to the other shore unobserved, to startle the competition.
The next stop was passed very quickly: almost at run the Thompsons came to the marked spots of fresh water and berries; Charlene was more worried about the bushes around her than the berry bushes, Kevin carried the camera and the tripod not on the shoulder as usual, but pointing the tripod's sharp steep points forward, while Doug carried the rifle more professionally than any cowboy, immediately aiming at any source of any noise.
As soon as the boat departed, the mood broke, as the family laughed over the experienced fear.
"Hey, honey, just how have you blasted that crow when it croaked overhead?" Charlene giggled. "The bear couldn't have fitted on such a thin tree! And they can't croak like that either! And you've missed all the same!"
"Speak for yourself! Are you practising for the Olympics? Just how many feet were in that channel that you have jumped over without any running start? Over ten feet?" countered Doug. "Our son wouldn't have been able to pull it off."
"Hey the camera was in the way, or I would've," Kevin spoke up.
"Ah, keep quiet, son. It was when you were breaking through the bushes, and she thought it was the bear, and so she jumped."
The bear watched the boat depart. It was full of contradictory plans: on one hand it wanted to know - just what the invaders were hunting, on the other - they must not get away unnoticed, if they were hunting it. When the boat vanished behind a bend, caution took over, and the bear slowly began to move through the overgrown shore down the river, orienting on the far-reaching sound of the boat. The acute back pain had dulled to a burning, and only at sharp, abrupt movements the head lumbago caused to slow-down a bit. When the motor sounds became completely weak, the bear went back into the river and followed the current. Due to its latest experience it knew, that it was very dangerous to be in the water with humans around, but the icy water took away the pain and chased the completely rabid horseflies. Plus, swimming was much faster than walking.
The barely heard sound vanished completely, and the bear grew worried - what if the humans caught-on to their pursuit? What if they lay an ambush somewhere? The beast, took a sniff, raising the muzzle above the water and immediately smelled the unpleasant smell of ashes, although the blue-grey smoke that trailed over the water was completely dispersed. Through the fuel stench barely came through the familiar smells of the forest, the various herbs, the shore life.
Pacified a bit, the bear came ashore - hunger made itself felt, and the smells spoke that there was prey nearby. The bear got lucky, a large brood of grouses was travelling on foot through a wall of willow bushes on the river's shore, to fill their crops with gravel - birds' "teeth" - to grind the pecked-up seeds. Noticing the predator, the flock scattered, but the deep shrubs prevented them from getting airborne, while not hindering the bear in any way. With a single jump it smashed both the shrubs and the most foolish and clumsy member of the flock, that got stuck in deep branches.
After the meal, the bear stood for a long time on the river shore, in hesitation, and, possibly, would've turned back, but at that very moment it heard a sound of a gunshot in the distance.
At the arrival of the dusk the sounds get carried through the river over great distances, and the bear knew it. The bear also knew, that the lands of its' neighbour - another bear also start very close, and it'll be very displeased over the arrival of the uninvited guest.
But nonetheless... This sound... This gunshot re-started the diminished flame of the fury. And the bear entered the water.
In the evening, already in their sleeping bags, Charlene turned to her husband:
"Still, this whole story with the bear was stupid."
" Relax," Doug replied, "Everything in life comes from mistakes. Even the continuation of the human race! After all the majority of people get born from an elementary accident. The reasons for that can differ - mistakes of the youth, drunken stupor, ... in general, from anything, but not as a result of comprehensive and determined work in that direction. You disbelieve me? - just ask your parents. Ask our friends, if you want to, they also went camping, and even invited us though we declined - they never asked any kids when suddenly... One doesn't feel quite at home to go to an abort clinic, does one? As a result the society increases by one more member - that's all."
"Hah... That's a funny idea..."
"You want more proof," sensing his wife's curiosity, Doug began to develop the theme, "practically all more or less important things in life we do exclusively by accident, without any calculations or plans for the future. Take any of those big-wig scientists, each of whom are proud of some achievement which he considers to be his finest hour. In days of yore, I asked some of them about the conditions under which that masterpiece occurred. I even asked the rector, who was a member of some academy. And all, can you believe it, all! - after a pause, responded: 'It was in my youth... a mistake'. Or remember our course - who came there from simple curiosity? Only me! Even you came there to keep your girl-friend company! She failed the preliminaries, and you didn't... As kids we're "young and stupid", at our first job - "young and stupid", ask about any marriage - the answer's still the same. In youth indeed there's plenty of stupidity, and little of sober calculation. And therefore in that period of life the main events and non-trivial achievements occur. And what's left to the adults, who had gained some life experience? Thus the stupidity is our head weapon! Got it? Thus relax and go to sleep. The bear's far enough from us by now."
"I know that it is far from us. I pity it - with a bullet in the back it may not survive, only die a painful death..." Charlene said.
"Oh, it'll survive, the bears are a hardy breed".
The bear swam, following the smell. The bonfire's smoke and the fuel stench that filled the nostrils awoke fear, and the beast frequently thought - maybe it should turn back? But whenever the paws touched the shore, the stinging pain woke in the neck, formerly numbed by icy water. And again the fury caused to turn to the depths and follow the current.
The orange tents on the background of the dusky black-green forest had been noticed by the bear from afar, and now it climbed ashore despite the pain. It circled through the forest and the bushes, far away from the tents, found the windward side, and began to quietly stalk the strangers. They weren't seen from behind the trees, but the nose and the ears provided excellent information about where to go and how far: not only the strange sounds, but the barely heard rustles were excellently heard in the quiet nocturnal forest. The bear itself moved completely noiselessly - not one branch cracked, not one leaf moved.
When they landed, the taught nerves made themselves know by the dryness in the mouth, and Kevin drank three full mugs of tea, and now, lying in the tent, he cursed that tea - he had to get out of them warm sleeping bag, get fully dressed or get eaten by mosquitoes, and then with a candle again catch and squash all those pests that would immediately get inside - if the zipper of the tent would get unzipped however slightly... Just how many of them buzzed on other side of the tent - thousands, millions?
Maybe he should wait till the morning? No, he couldn't sleep.
When he could no longer lie, Kevin put the swamp boots onto his feet, pulled on the quilted jacket and quickly jumped outside, instantly shutting the "door". He rushed to the river - there are less blood-suckers on the shore, and in the same temp he began to do his deed, jumped and swatting with the other hand a dozen or two of the flying vampires that already managed to bite his bare legs.
Once he finished, he turned to hurry back... And froze, after barely two footsteps. In the dusk he clearly saw the bear, standing between him and the tent. The first animal idea was to flee back down to the river, but then the mind re-asserted itself, and Kevin understood that running wouldn't save him that it's all the same where the bear will catch him.
With an edge of an eye Kevin noticed the axe, abandoned near the river, where he had used that very axe to cut the driftwood for the fire. Slowly, so that the animal would not be provoked, the youth reached for the axe. With some sixth sense he felt a shore ledge behind him. He didn't fall - just slowly reached the axe.
The beast too, advanced slowly, looking with great attention at the each movement of the human. The whole body was tense, ready for an instance lunge in any direction - to attack the enemy or to flee into the bushes, vanished even the pain in the neck, bothering the beast no more. The bear clearly sensed the waves of fear, emanating from the human and understood - this one, at least - this one, right now will not be able to strike afar as before, and a certain certainty spread through its body: the bear sensed, that roles of the hunter and prey switched sides.
Suddenly Kevin bent and raised the axe; this movement was sufficient, to break the silent and motionless opposition.
With a single lunge the bear covered the distance between them, and stood up to grab the human, but he managed to duck leaving only a piece of the absorbing cotton wool from the ripped-open jacket on the beast's claws.
Kevin, knocked down with a mighty blow, jumped-up immediately, and yelling loudly, fled from the shore into the shrubs.
"Bear! Bear! Dad! Get up, get the gun! Bear! Argh!"
Once again, with a single jump the bear got to the bushes, and this time he didn't fully get up on the rear paws, but just slightly raised itself on three of the legs, slammed the freed forepaw onto the yeller's head. The hair, complete with the skin, fell onto the face. The shot drowned and the man fell into the shrubs, still holding the now-useless axe.
Sensing fresh blood, the bear bit through the throat of the still-living body, hurriedly gulped from the gushing, hot, salty fountain and went back to the tents. From there came some suspicious fuss and the bear with its beastly senses felt the new danger.
The second man, who jumped from the tent with some long stick he saw first and reacted faster, immediately jumping into the bushes. And the man, namely Doug Thompson, having jumped out with a gun, got lost on the spot. The dusk of the northern night: the river and everything on it can be seen very clearly, but what is happening in the bushes or behind the densely grown trees is hard to see even during the clear day. Also, roused from the sleep, he still couldn't believe, that an animal could appear at a camp, where a fire was still burning, even though the fire was almost burned down. And if it wasn't for Charlene, and that shout of Kevin's...
So where's the animal? Is this some sort of a joke? Why, the mosquitoes and other midges will give a body a full work-out... Doug decided to take a look at his son's ten. 'If he's safe and sound and actually grins at my dances with mosquitoes... I'll kill him' - thought he.
"You brat," Doug leaned to the entrance of Kevin's tent, "you understand that is no joke? You've scared your poor mother to near death. Hey, don't try to pretend that you're sleeping, you hear?.."
Suddenly, he was grabbed by two paws from behind, and a terrible strength squeezed at the waist, and the beast's teeth began to rip the quilted jacket on the back, trying to reach the neck.
Unbending, Doug, pointed his gun behind, over the shoulder and fired at random. The grasp grew slack and very sharp black claws ripped the quilted jacket apart, sometimes alongside with living flesh.
Doug got out of the bear hug, leaving only pieces of the absorbing cotton wool from the lining to the beast and again fired at random from the second barrel. Apparently, the first shot only scared the bear, while the second hit flesh - the beast staggered back and growled for the first time.
Doug, following the habit rather than common sense, pulled-out the shot shells from the gun... And the other bullets remained in the rags of the jacket under the animal.
As soon as he regretted about the unavailability of the bullets, as he fell from the blow of the paw on the head.
The bear broke his neck, as it broke necks of deer and moose, and didn't even approach the fallen enemy. It sensed a new danger - someone else was moving in the strange multi-coloured hide-out - either trying to get out, or on contrary - to hide...
Without thinking, the bear lunged onto the structure. The hide-out proved to be very fragile - the crack of the ripping cloth, the creaks of the bending aluminium piping and the shout of the living being, on whom a bit less than half a tonne of live, furry weight had fallen...
All was over. The bear understood that at once. And instantly the pain in the neck and the new pain in the thigh re-started with a new strength.
For the next few days the bear couldn't even walk from the received wounds - it lay in the same bushes and ate he soft parts of the so hard-gotten prey. Most of all it feared to meet the local bear master, as so, as soon as the wounds began to heal, he examined the neighbourhood and found a hide-out at the river itself, for it still couldn't return to its' territory - it still was took weak.
At the appointed time, at the appointed place, the helicopter came. Failing to see any people, the pilots flew upstream, hoping to see the boat or the people. After covering a significant distance - noticed the orange spots of the tents on the shore...
The camping centre was seething.
"Did you hear? Doug Thompson was eaten by a bear!"
"We heard something... That's why we were pulled off the route. Yes, Doug was a good man, and a good hunter. And who was with him?"
"Well, naturally - Charlene, his wife..."
"Pretty Charlene? Oh my... She was such a woman...She hasn't been here for a while..."
"And a kid of theirs. I think his name was Kevin, but I'm not sure..."
"Still, that's no less sad. A trio at any case. So now what?"
"What do you mean? The police and the persecutors are there, and we are onto the helicopters and onwards. We need to kill the man killer. Until we finish it - nobody shall go into forest."
"And what about leasing the pilots on the account of the budget?"
"And what about... Oh, damn... Possibly, I won't get enough money for the third route..."
"Well, talk about that with the boss. Got the bullets? Go to Stephen - he is given everyone their fill. And hurry up, we're off to the airport in an hour."
"Here it is!" the pilot shouted.
The passengers looked into the viewing ports. The helicopter lowered itself, barely above the tops of the fir trees, bent by the cold breath of permafrost from below. Through them a big grizzly bear was galloping. The door opened, the helicopter made a steep turn, presenting a best position to shoot the animal, and immediately the shooting began.
Each gunner, after firing a shot, instantly retreating into the saloon to reload the weapon, and a new man fired from his spot. Due to the strong vibration and the turmoil at the door, it was hard to aim, but nonetheless the bear soon fell onto the ground. Not immediately, but eventually, the pilot found a spot in about one hundred and fifty feet away from the toppled animal, and the wheels didn't even quite touch the ground when the geologists, gabbing the guns, jumped outside and in a united crowd ran to the fall animal.
From afar, everyone fired one more shot into the blackening carcass: the body twitched somewhat from the bullets' impact, but the bear didn't show any signs of life. Then the gang grew braver, one of them separated, and rapidly ripped-off the holed hide, while the others exchanged jokes, surrounding the animal. After cutting-out the choicest pieces of the meat, the geologists abandoned everything on the spot and just as quickly hurried back to the helicopter: the helicopters weren't loaned cheap.
And after three days our man-eater came onto the smell. Carefully, looking around and smelling the surrounding woods, spiralling, it approached the pile of the reeking meat. It wasn't his land - but of his neighbour, and at any moment the aforementioned master could appear, with whom exactly now, with still stinging and hurting neck, the fighting was so undesirable. On the second or even third circle the man-eater suddenly understood, that before him lay his neighbour and opponent, the very same master of the forest. And immediately tranquillity and satisfaction spread through its body. The bear didn't eat his brethren. What for? After all, now his hunting grounds, doubled in size without any struggle, and he slowly wandered off to examine and mark his new territories.