Authors: Darrell Bain,Robyn Pass
Tags: #Science Fiction
Copyright © 2014 Darrell Bain and Robyn Pass
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in Canada by Double Dragon eBooks, a division of Double Dragon Publishing Inc. of Markham Ontario, Canada.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from Double Dragon Publishing Inc.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Double Dragon eBooks
PO Box 54016 1-5762 Highway 7 East
Markham, Ontario L3P 7Y4 Canada
Cover art by Deron Douglas
First Edition June 19, 2014
By Darrell Bain and Robyn Pass
Dedication, from Darrell Bain :
To Betty, my wife and my one true love.
Dedication, from Robyn Pass:
For my parents and for my Adam, who
Inspires and challenges me.
Elaine Douglas was getting tired. She flicked the fly rod one more time, then decided to call it quits. She secured the line and waited until she caught her husband's attention. He was fishing farther downstream. When he looked her way, she waved, then turned to point toward the shore to show him she was through for the day. That's when she saw the grizzly bear on the bank of the stream. It was sitting, much like a human might do with its rear legs splayed out in front of it. Her ten year old daughter was propped on one massive leg and pulling down on one of the bear's huge extended front legs. She was laughing.
"Oh my God! Ron!" Elaine screamed. "Come quick! Ronnnaallllddd! Hurry!"
Samantha Douglas hung on to the huge bear's paw and glanced toward the stream at the sound of her mother's voice. She laughed and stood up on the bear's back leg and wrapped her arms around a front one. "Look, Mom!" she shouted gleefully as the bear slowly raised its front leg and lifted her into the air, then set her back down as carefully as a mother placing a baby in its cradle.
Elaine Douglas stared at the scene in horror. Her throat constricted, leaving her unable to utter another word. At the same time Ronald Douglas saw what was happening. At first he couldn't believe it. He was farther away from Samantha and her mother but close enough to see a curly lock of Samantha's auburn-colored hair fall across her face as the bear raised her up and down. Her hair and the brown pants and blouse she was wearing blended in with the massive grizzly bear's similarly colored pelt. He had a fleeting hope he wasn't seeing his daughter with the bear but then she brushed the hair away from her face and became plainly visible. His heart jumped in his chest.
"Sammie! Get away from that bear!" His voice came out high and shrill, fraught with fear. He dropped his fly rod and began splashing toward the shore, his progress impeded by the heavy waders and thigh-deep water. As he ran, he fumbled for a grasp on the .38 caliber revolver holstered at his chest. He struggled toward his daughter while his thoughts skittered wildly, wondering what effect his pistol would have on a bear weighing a thousand pounds, and whether he would have time to find out before the grizzly killed Samantha.
"Sammie, get away!" he screamed again. He was scared to death that any moment the bear would hug Samantha to its chest and mangle her as easily as him wadding up a piece of scrap paper.
Samantha was an obedient child. She looked up at the bear's huge head, with its mouth open and tongue lolling. It looked funny with one normal ear and one shortened and notched from an encounter with a bad tempered wolverine. Whoofluff had told her it happened when he was a cub. She spoke some words to the beast's good ear, then jumped off its leg. The bear made a deep snuffling noise at her as it got to its feet and ambled away. It had a peculiar gait to its walk from two missing toes on a back paw, courtesy of the same wolverine that had mangled its ear. A moment later Samantha was almost being crushed in the embrace of both her parents.
"Sammie, don't you
go near a bear again, ever, ever, ever!" Elaine Douglas admonished shrilly once she could speak coherently again.
"But Mom, he wasn't going to hurt me. He said he'd be careful."
"Oh Lord, not that again," Ronald Douglas said. He noticed his hands were still trembling, but the bear was already out of sight and he could feel his pulse slowing down. He saw that he was still holding his pistol and quickly re-holstered it. "Sammie, animals can't talk. I've told you that over and over. Why don't you listen to me?"
"I know Daddy, they can't talk like us but they understand me all the same, and I know what they're saying when they talk to me. It's not really talking like we do but I can tell what they mean. I can hear it plainly. Whoofluff just wanted to play with me. He said so."
"That's his name. He said he'll be back again sometime soon. He likes to play with me."
"Well, you're not to play with him again, do you understand!" Mrs. Douglas almost screamed at her daughter, horrified at what might have happened. In Alaska there were numerous stories of humans being killed and eaten by the big grizzlies.
"But Mom, he... "
"I don't want to hear it! It was bad enough when you brought that pair of raccoons home. Wild animals are dangerous, Samantha! Don't you understand that?"
Samantha hung her head and didn't answer. She didn't know
to answer. No one believed her when she told them animals talked or that she could talk to them in turn. The bears wouldn't hurt her, not the ones she played with, like Whoofluff, or Loosmuff and her cubs, Soomum and Kolpumf, which Mom and Dad hadn't seen her with.
"Do you understand, young lady?!" Elaine gripped Samantha by her upper arms. She was so emotionally wrought that she couldn't decide whether to shake her daughter's teeth loose or hug her to death.
"Yes'm," Samantha said. Neither parent noticed she had one hand behind her back, fingers crossed.
Samantha couldn't remember when she first began talking with animals, just as she couldn't remember when she began to read. At first it was just an occasional thing, since one or both her parents were almost always with her until she began school in the first grade. She was six years old then and allowed to play outside so long as she stayed close to the house. The Douglas family lived at the end of a short dirt road that fed from a gravel road, which in turn led into the small rural town of Wikluk, Alaska. They had a garden during the summer that was rich with vegetables. There was an apple tree and a patch of salmon berries near the garden. She began saying hello to the rabbits and other small animals that came up to the fence surrounding the garden, drawn by the smell of what to them seemed like a delicious banquet, unfortunately guarded by an impenetrable fence. The rabbits answered her greeting once they got over the surprise of the strange human who spoke to them and understood when they talked to her. For a while it was fun but the rabbits had a very limited vocabulary. And for a while Mom and Dad thought it was funny that she was pretending she could talk to rabbits. Samantha became exasperated when she insisted she was really talking to them, but her parents still thought she was pretending. They believed she was using the rabbits for friends since no children her age lived near.
One morning a fox wandered by while Samantha was outside playing.
"Hello, Mr. Fox," She said. "I'm Samantha. What's your name?"
The fox with its gold and reddish pelt was a handsome creature. It cocked its head and looked at Samantha.
I am Froxer. You talk! How?
"I don't know, Froxer. I just can, that's all. I guess I could talk to just about any animal. What are you doing?"
Look for rabbits or mice or voles. Feed my young. What you eat?
"Oh, we have vegetables from the garden and we have meat from my Dad hunting."
I hunt, too. Good-bye.
She waved. "Good-bye, Froxer. Come back when you have more time to talk."
And the fox did come back, intrigued by the young human who could talk to animals. If anyone had been watching and listening they wouldn't have heard Samantha making sounds like a fox. She spoke normally but her words were mostly decipherable to the fox, who in turn made animal noises that meant nothing to anyone except Samantha. She understood them perfectly as Froxer's way of speaking. Each animal was different and she could talk to them all.
Unfortunately, her parents still didn't believe she could do anything of the sort.
"You're in school now, Sammie," her mother said. "You have friends at school you can talk to. You don't have to pretend you can talk to animals anymore."
talk to them, Mom! I can!"
Ronald remembered watching Samantha sitting inside of their fence in the yard and making noises at a passing fox one day and doing the same to a wolf that ambled by on another. On both occasions the animals stopped for a while. His daughter and the nominally wild mammals appeared to get along fine with each other. He knew it was very unusual for those animals to come so close to humans. It was even more remarkable for them to stay as long as they did, as if they had come for a visit.
"I think Sammie just has a way with animals," he said. "Some people do, you know. Animals seem to like her."
"That's all well and good but she can't talk to them and she shouldn't say she can. People will think she's weird. You wouldn't want your friends to think you're strange, would you, honey?" her mother said imploringly.
"Good. Then stop pretending and
tell people you can talk to animals. They won't understand that you were lonely and just pretending, like most children pretend to have imaginary friends."
"Yes, ma'am." Samantha decided it was best to just not talk about her strange talent, and not to get into prolonged conversations with animals when others were nearby. For the next three or four years that policy served her well, other than occasional episodes where she got caught talking to a moose by the back fence and a half-grown skunk that wandered into the schoolyard one day. Fortunately, it wasn't old enough to stink up the place and left when Samantha asked it to. Of all the animals, skunks were one species she had no interest in at all, especially grown skunks! On the other hand she did occasionally meet Whoofluff, the friendly bear a few times each year when it foraged in the area.
Whoofluff was disappointed when the little ten year old human cub wasn't by the stream when he stopped to drink. He had encountered a few humans before, but she was the only one he knew who could talk to him and wasn't afraid to come near. She was one of his few interests in life besides food and drink and female bears at the proper time. He had looked forward to seeing her this year after waking from hibernation. He decided to see if he could find her again. He snuffled around the ground by the stream where she and the grown humans had been recently until he found their scent. He followed it slowly until he was sure of the direction, then speeded up, heading toward the place where he knew the human herd lived.