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Her eyes were dark brown. She looked at him, and while he stared into her deep, intelligent eyes – and while he thought, scared to death, that these were his last moments – suddenly everything calmed. She stopped and sat down. She was still watching him, and astonished, he realized that there wasn't even a slightest trace of aggression in her posture. She came very close, but she didn't growl, didn't bare her teeth, didn't make a single move that would hurt him.
What is happening?!
She continued to observe him – neither of them turned their gaze even for a moment – and it seemed to him that the whole world ceased to exist. The forest faded out, and there were only two of them here.
Then she moved again, but very slowly – as if she didn't want to scare him. She made a small step and crossed that final short distance that separated them, and her big shaggy head was next to his chest. She lifted her head, and very gently, her muzzle touched his chin and she licked his face.
She then sat again, close to him, and his eyes were wide open in shock.
What's happening?!, he asked the same question one more time. Why did this bear behave so unusual? So... non-bearlike? Some people sometimes said that animals could feel if a person meant them harm or good. But something in his subconscious knew it was not the right answer. Maybe that statement could apply to pets, who were living with humans from the moment they were born; but this was a wild animal, and moreover, it was a mother protecting her young. She was supposed to kill him immediately.
He looked into her eyes, searching for the answers to his questions. He didn't find them, but...
...but suddenly he had a feeling that he was looking at a relative. It was as if he looked into the eyes of a friend – of someone he knew for a long time.
Whatever was happening, it was very strange. Very very strange. He stared and stared, not understanding. His heart was still pounding – now not in fear any more, but of amazement. With every next moment, he had more questions.
Could I...? He didn't even formulate his thought properly; it was too crazy. But still... He slowly raised his somewhat shaky hand towards her – only for a few centimetres. Then a few more. And more. His movements were slow, as he wanted to give her time to realize his intentions. Finally, he lifted his hand to her nose, and he gently toucher her fur.
It was coarse, but also warm. His hand moved a little bit more, and he started caressing this shaggy head in front of hm. Her response was lifting her head. While a storm of different emotions mixed in him – excitement, surprise, and disbelief – he lowered his head and leaned his forehead next to hers. As he was standing like that, he became aware of a new feeling emerging in him. A feeling of serenity. It was incredible, because a very short time ago he was completely distraught, thinking he would die. But now he felt completely different – now he was calm.
She licked his face again, very gently, and he giggled. Looking into her eyes, he could swear that he saw mirth in them too.
Impossible, he thought. Bears couldn't have emotions like humans.
Nevertheless, he was sure of what he saw.
The cubs didn't show any interest in the high thin figure standing next to their mother. Much more fun was their wrestling, and the two furry balls joined into one and rolled around the glade. He turned his attention to them and observed their playing for a few moments; watching them, he wished he could be careless just like them, not having to worry about school and grades. I'd like to be like them.
Just how many times did important things happen because of a mere chance? No one could say that. And this was one of such moments. Right words, said just in the right time and in the right way, in circumstances that were just as they should be.
I want to be like them, he thought again. In that moment, he didn't think of anything else, but only about that.
Right circumstances – just as they should be.
Seemingly, a very simple thought. Merry and relaxed. I want to be like them. He closed his eyes, and all other thoughts vanished. I want to be like them. Suddenly, this was the only thing he was aware of. To be like them. He shivered and blinked. His eyes opened, but he didn't see anything around him.
I want to be like them.
The sentence echoed in his head one more time, and he shivered again, this time stronger. It seemed that the sentence repeated without the influence of his will. But it did repeat – louder and louder.
I want to be like them.
To be. Like. Them.
His head was filled with those words, echoing in his mind again and again. The glade and trees disappeared, and his whole sight was a figure of a bear – that was the only thing that he saw. His body started to vibrate, and it felt like electric power was going all through his skin. He couldn't stop shaking.
Like them... like them...
He fell to his knees. He wasn't capable of thinking any more – his whole body was pulsating, and waves of pain spread all the way to his fingertips. Suddenly it seemed his skin was too tight and that it would explode.
Like them... to be... like... to be... them.
That was the only sentence, the only thought that remained in his head and filled his whole being.
To be... them...
The image of the bear.
To be... the... bear.
He fell on the ground. His body was still shaking uncontrollably, his head was pounding, and his skin was pierced by thousands of needles all at once.
The image grew and grew, and finally filled the entire world. He heard and saw nothing else, and he didn't have any sense of time. He shivered, it hurt, and all he could focus on was the next breath.
And then the pain finally started to fade a little, while at the same time new strength started to fill him.
To be. The Bear.
The pain stopped, and everything was still.
He was laying prone on the ground for a few more moments, and then opened his eyes.
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