The bear led Aiden to a small cave at the base of a cliff. Bones from fish and other small game were scattered around the perimeter, remains from former meals. Aiden climbed off the bear’s back and tossed his stick onto the ground. The wind was getting chilly. He pulled his arms into his shirt, rubbing his chest. The empty sleeves waved like flags. He looked at the cave and said the first thing that came to his mind.
“Looks like a butt.”
With its rounded exterior and identifiable crack running up from the top of the cave, one could say it looked like a butt. As a matter of fact, one did say.
Aiden followed the bear inside and sat down on a damp rock. His clothes were ruined. His shoes were caked in mud. Scratches covered his legs, along with bug bites. His hair was a ragged bush full of leaves and sticks. His eyes were tired and bloodshot.
“Bear, it’s cold,” Aiden said, rubbing his chest harder. He did not feel his own long nails digging into his skin, cutting him.
The bear was at the mouth of the cave, standing watch. When the first drops of rain started to fall, the bear stayed put. Soon, it was pouring. The rain was so thick that Aiden could not see any of the droplets. It was just one large wall of water coming straight down. Water began to seep into the cave and form pools at all the low points. Aiden smacked the bottoms of his shoes in the pools, making a game out of seeing who would make the biggest splash. As the sole player of this game, he always won.
“Bear, look,” he said. The bear did not look. Nothing could interrupt its watch—not a torrential downpour or a restless boy splashing puddles in a cave. Nothing.
Aiden began to worry. If it was raining here, then it was probably raining at the car where his mom was sleeping. Some of the windows on the car were broken. Would the rain get inside? Would the area around the car begin to flood? Hard things for a young boy to ponder, but even harder when your internal temperature is dropping and you do not have the slightest clue where you are. He started to cry.
“I wish that the car didn’t go over the cliff,” he said. “I wish that my mom wasn’t sleeping. I wish …” He put his arms back in the sleeves. He ran his arm under his nose, the go-to Kleenex for every congested five-year-old. “I wish it would stop raining. Make it stop, bear!”
This time, the bear came over to Aiden. Maybe it was because Aiden was being too loud. Predators might have been nearby, looking for shelter during the rain. Aiden would never believe that. He knew that the reason the bear came over to him was because it was concerned.
“How much longer until we find the Good People?” Aiden said. “How much longer, bear?”
The bear mumbled something akin to an answer, but Aiden did not understand. He rested his back on the uncomfortable cave wall and cried. This was his breaking point. The last twenty-four hours had happened so fast that he did not have the proper time to understand it, to feel it.
The bear lay down next to Aiden, pointing its nose toward the entrance to the cave. The rain was still coming down hard. Aiden let the monotonous sound soothe his troubled soul. He crawled down from his rock and lay next to the bear, using its thick fur as a sort of chair to lean up against. The bear’s stomach rumbled (or had it purred?) when Aiden placed his head on top. It smelled like wet dog, but Aiden paid no mind. He did not smell the greatest either after walking through the woods. He desperately wanted to continue his search, until his legs and arms fell off, but like always, nighttime had other plans. Somewhere deep in the forest, where man had not yet stamped his footprint, a boy and a bear slept in a cave.