I Need My Bear

"Help!" calls a small voice in the darkness, "Someone! Help me, please!"

This is one of those moments where you have to decide whether you're going to be of assistance… or if you're going to ignore the problem. Anything could be happening to the owner of that sobbing little voice. Anything.

"Please!" a shrill, desperate cry rings out.

Moving carefully though the darkness, toward the woods, you are careful when choosing your steps. When possible, you travel under street lights… wary eyes peeled, ears alert to any sound of danger.

"Isn't anybody out there?" comes the voice.

It's a little girl.

You come to the edge of an overgrown wasteland, some vacant lot, and that's where you find the weeping child. She's dirty. Bedraggled. Her once soft and colorful dress is torn and muddy. Her bright red hair is wild and flecked with small leaves.

This is a child who may have once had a loving home, but now it seems as if she’s on her own.

"You have to help!" she turns to you, perhaps with hope in those dark eyes. Tears glisten in what little light is cast here.

You can barely make out her form, save for these few details. She's standing close to the weeds, as if she's just come from the chaotic suburban wilderness beyond.

"My bear!" she insists, pointing to the overgrowth, "I need my bear!!"

Now it's all starting to make something remotely close to "sense". You're about to tell the girl that it's far too late to be out, especially in this neighborhood, when you think back to your own prized childhood possession.

Can you really deny the child even a small sliver of time spent finding something that clearly means the world to her?

The weeds are only waist high, after all, and they're not as imposing when you're an adult. Wading into the thick mess of stems and thorns, you follow the small path the girl left just moments before.

If you trace her steps, you're sure to find the object of her torment.

It appears the little thing walked quite a distance. She must have been traveling blind through the miniature forest. It's not long before the street lights are twinkling blurs in the mist and your increasingly foolish quest is guided solely by moonlight.

If only it were a dog. You could call out to it. You could listen for barking or whining.

Finally, right when you consider giving up the chase, you stumble upon something brown and fuzzy in the freshly turned soil. The area is clear, as if it was just tilled. An old, grimy plastic pink tea set lies in the dirt along with a crusty tiara missing most of its faux jewels.

Your odd surroundings barely register, however, as you take stock of the bear that lies before you.

It rests in a crumpled heap, like a man whose bones have been pulverized. It's the size of a man, too. its eyeless head lolls to one side, a dowdy little down-turned mouth just below its wet-looking black nose.

Most disconcerting, though, is the opening in its stomach and chest. A large, vertical, yawning abyss of slick crimson resides there, as if this "bear" were nothing more than a moldy old costume.

There is no zipper.

Instead, there are two long rows of pearly white teeth.

Run! Run! That's the only action that crosses your mind as a single bear paw suddenly clenches, then limply drags itself toward you.

You almost make it out of the abandoned lot. Almost. You can see the little girl standing at the edge, as sweet and harmless as can be, hands folded at her chest.

She's moved under the lights, now, allowing you a glimpse of her dirty-tan skin… her fabric skin… and the thick thread work that holds her together.

Her black, button eyes shift slightly, watching expectantly as you fall. Something has a hold of your feet… of your calves… of your belt…

You never make it back out of the wasteland. Instead, the girl comes to you. She smiles a stitch smile and tilts her rag-doll head at you.

"There's my Mr. Bear!" she coos.

The girl leads you back toward the clearing, small hand wrapped around one of your thick claws.

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