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Thanks to Erulisse (one L) for beta-reading. *hugs*
Last week he turned thirteen; he became a teenager. In most things, he was just like all other teenagers: computers, games, social networks, cell phone – he had fun with all that, and spent a lot of time with them all.
Still, unlike many teenagers, he liked nature a lot. Life on the outskirts of a town in the Alps gave him many opportunities to dwell in it: all it took was a few minutes by bike, and he'd find himself on the slopes of the mountains, away from civilization. Then he'd leave his bike next to the road and enjoy walking in the forest.
His father died when he was only three, so in the past, it was his mother who took him on trips to the forest. During many trips with her, and also later – when he started going on his own, about a year ago – he sometimes saw forest animals: a rabbit, a fox, or a deer. He knew the rules for avoiding dangerous animals – his mother made sure he learned them well. "Do not stray from defined paths. Be loud. And always have a pepper-spray at hand, in case you do see a dangerous animal." He had heard those warnings many times.
He stuck to those rules... mostly. However, sometimes he just couldn't resist, and on those occasions, he'd leave the path and wander into the woods, enjoying the true wilderness; he simply felt that he had to do that. He'd close his eyes, breathe forest's scents, listen to its sounds – and in those moments it seemed to him that right there he was happier than anywhere else.
It was a nice Saturday in spring. Homework was already done. Evening and night were already reserved for gaming and internet. He just had to spend this afternoon outside. It was one of those days when the call of the forest was stronger than everything else. He took his bike right after lunch and headed towards the forest. His mother's greeting and warning words to be careful remained in the air behind him, and he didn't hear her. He was already pedalling, smiling and seeing nothing but his objective – the woods.
Five minutes later, the road was behind him, and he was surrounded by trees, bushes and forest creatures. He first walked for a while on the path he crossed many times, but then he left it and started exploring a new direction. After about a quarter of an hour, he found a small glade. Its central part was somewhat elevated – it looked like a small hill – so he couldn't see its rear part. He looked around, and on the branches of a tree on the edge of the glade, he saw an interesting bird – a species that was new to him. He decided to take a photo, so that he could later search and find out which one it was.
In order not to scare the bird away, he took off his backpack very slowly. Taking his cell phone, he carefully started walking towards it. Click! He took the first photo from afar, and despite using the zoom, the photo was not so good; of course, he wanted the better one. Trying to walk as quiet as possible, he came a little closer. Click! The bird observed him from the safety of its branch, obviously still not scared by the big creature that approached her. Silently he made three more steps. Click!
He checked the photo-gallery on his cell phone; he saw the last one was perfect, and it would be easy to make a research.
Then he heard the sounds from behind him.
He quickly turned around, facing the edge of the glade, where the sounds were coming from. Behind it, centimetre by centimetre, a bear's head appeared.
"Even dangerous animals like wolves or bears most often avoid contact with humans. All you have to do is to be noisy and let them know that you are near," he heard his mother's voice in his head. Despite knowing better, now he acted completely the opposite: because of his wish not to frighten the bird, he remained in position and completely silent.
His heart started pounding. Alert!!!, screamed the adrenalin in him.
But everything could still go fine, his reason replied, trying to suppress panic – knowing that nothing good would come out of fear. Maybe it will simply continue on its way.
The bear continued to lumber towards him, and soon, the whole figure of the animal came into his sight; and what he saw next paralyzed him. Behind her – because it became obvious it was a she – there were two cubs.
In an instant, he was overwhelmed with fear – much stronger than when he had first seen her. The probability that this animal would simply continue on its way suddenly shrank to zero. His quiet sneaking had surprised a mother with cubs, and he knew that she saw him as a threat. A threat that had to be eliminated.
The bear made her first step towards him. He cast a quick glance towards his backpack, left abandoned on the edge of the glade. The backpack where he kept his pepper-spray.
She made the second step. He estimated the distance to the backpack. What were his chances to reach it before she grabbed him?
She had moved closer, apparently in no hurry; but despite her easy gait, he realized his chances were minimal. Already she was closer than his backpack. Even if he tried to run, she'd catch up with him in an instant.
She made one more step towards him. She was now quite close. Should he play dead? Maybe try to hit her sensitive nose? He had no idea what to do; he had forgotten all the instructions he had ever heard. His heart beat like a drum – hard and very fast. He held his breath, clenched his fists and teeth, and looked her in the eyes.
Two meters. One meter. Half a meter.
All the time while approaching, she was returning the gaze.
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