Inside, I’m a bear. The instinct of the beast drives me into darkness for the winter. I crawl on all fours when overcome; I’m a lengthening shadow. I’m drawn in, my head hanging with exhaustion. It’s difficult to carry myself, and yet, I know if I continue–if my claws slip and scratch over the mine dust and sunset-toned rock–I’ll find that inner place, where a wall of hallowed earth blocks further entry. There, I’ll drop and curl in on myself and fall into a relentless sleep.
The deeper in, the darker it is. It’s the darkness that’s relentless. It yawns in front of me. Sadly, the child that often hides in the mineshaft is afraid to confront me. You see how she hides from me? I don’t blame you if you miss her. She’s camouflaged herself in the colors of the cave to your left. The bear is weary, the child afraid. Somehow, they’re resigned to a lengthy sleep. That’s how it works. That’s how I catch myself crawling down the shaft in the first place. I force the weariness to drag me down so that all thoughts of fighting back are lost. It’s time for hibernation whether I like it or not.
Waking is bound to happen, though. Did you honestly believe the spirit of the bear could sleep forever? She opens one eye, and the light is a blur. It’s painful, too. It stabs me, right through the retina, stimulating the optic nerve, and, further, agitating the mind. The bear is awake, which means I’m awake. I don’t immediately desire to rise up on two feet and rush into the world, my strength let loose. I’m made weak from savage hunger, for a start. I exist. My stomach tells me so. For a few minutes, I concentrate on the weight of my body, still heavy from sleep.
Eventually, my instincts force me up and out. A life lived awake is a life of priorities, and the mind–even the sleep-groggy one–collates by importance what must be accomplished before the light seeps down between the curve of the hills. First, I rise and search the horizon. The air is brisk and cold. The world is eerily still, as though holding its breath, waiting. Time waits at the earthen altars.
The bear doesn’t. She’s furious. Hungry. Thirsty. Aching. The water she finds is still frozen, but she discovers its source, where it has burst free from its pipes.
The bear sleeps; the bear awakes. What else must I write, but a warning? When she stands on two legs, back away.