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Mystery of Bear Creek
The sun was setting in the evening of what had been a dreary summer day. As the light in the sky faded away, a multitude of colors mixed and mingled, creating a breathtakingly beautiful collage of pinks, oranges, reds, blues, and gold. In the distance, a crow cawed, breaking the silence of the dusk, followed by the rustling of leaves and tree branches caused by birds leaving their nests and taking flight. One crow became ten crows, those ten crows multiplied into an ominous cloud of black feathers and beating wings, hovering over a quiet forest.
Maeve gazed out of the window of her uncle’s cottage by Bear Creek, mystified by what she had just seen. She would have called her older twin brother Ciar over from the living room to show him, but she knew what he would say, and Maeve decided to keep the spectacular sight all to herself. It was such an odd thing so see, she did not know that crows flew in murders that large, nor that they hovered for so long before plunging back into the depths of the forest. In all of the summers she had spent with her Uncle Avery, she had never seen such a site, as a matter of fact, she had hardly seen anything at all besides dead fish that washed up on the banks of the creek. She took an apple from the fruit bowl in the middle of the table, a bright green apple that was a tad misshaped and bit into it. She grimaced, for it was so sour, it almost made her gag. She took a different one from the bowl, a bit annoyed that an apple had distracted her from her watch. This one was different. It was red, perfectly round with no bumps or soft spots, and tasted sweet.
She heard the television being turned off, it being very old made static noises before going silent, then heard Ciar approaching from behind. He flicked the back of her exposed neck (her light blonde hair was pulled back into a pony tail), and stole her apple.
Ciar cackled, biting the apple. He made a face, as if the apple had been a foul piece of garbage that just happened to look like fruit. He thrust it back to her and picked an ugly looking green one from the bowl, which quite resembled a mango itself.
“Unnle Avwey wans us oo go ou’side,” he told her, through a mouthful of mashed up fruit.
Though they were only several minutes apart, Maeve always thought that she was years beyond him (maturity being the most significant). She heaved herself up from her little perch on the window seat in Uncle Avery’s tiny breakfast nook and followed her brother, ruffling his scruffy, unkempt black hair behind him.
The cottage was so small, Maeve could see her uncle from the living room. He was a tall, burly man with red hair and a straggly red beard. He always wore suspenders on his pants and there were never sleeves on his plaid shirts, even in the winter when it was bitterly cold. “I keep my muscles out for the ladies,” he always said.
He was holding something that caused her heart to drop to where she thought her stomach should be, but it was already so twisted into knots that her heart could not reach it.
“Cool,” breathed Ciar, eying the hunting riffle with a mischievous grin.
Maeve looked upon its thin, metal barrel and wooden handle, thinking that such skilled crafting should be used to create, not create tools to destroy. She loathed it.
“Do we get to use it?” asked Ciar, eagerly.
Before Uncle Avery was able to complete his response, Ciar jumped zealously into the air and made to take the gun from his uncle, but Uncle Avery slapped his hand away.
“Don’t even think abou’ touchin’ this here riffle before ya hear wha’ I’ve got ter say!” he warned Ciar, whose enthusiasm had shriveled into nothing. “Alls ye’v got ter shoot is some gooses, ya hear me? Just some gooses! Not nothin’ else but three gooses!”
“Alright, gooses, got it,” said Ciar, lunging for the gun again, but tripping over an above ground tree root. He stumbled back into his place next to his sister, his cheeks flushed.
“Maeve gets the gun,” said Uncle Avery, sternly, his eyes locked onto Ciar with fire in his stare. “Don’t think I trust you with this here gun.”
Maeve’s stomach did a somersault.
GUN?! Me with the gun?! He’s nuttier than a squirrel if he thinks I’m taking that thing!
“Yeh don’t gotta shoot it,” Uncle Avery told her, noticing the frightened look on her face. “Yeh just gotta carry it till yeh finds a goose. Ciar can shoot it and do the rest. I don’t trust him to shoot just the gooses yeh see?”
Ciar stepped forward and opened his mouth to argue, but Uncle Avery cocked the gun, threateningly, and he sunk back into his place.
“Here,” he said, thrusting the cold metal weapon into Maeve’s hands. She did not even like the feel of it, but Uncle Avery took no note of this, as he was too preoccupied lecturing Ciar. “Now listen you yeh little bugger, none of yer shenanigans, yeh hear me? Absolutely none! If yeh even think about doin’ somthin’ yeh know yer not supposed ta do, don’t do!”
“I got it! I got it!”
He stormed off, kicking twigs and dead leaves with his anger, then stubbing his toe on a tree stump.
As Ciar howled in pain, Uncle Avery turned to Maeve, gave her an apologetic glance, and nudged her forward towards the woods.
The fallen twigs and leaves crunched beneath their feet as they tramped through the not too heavily treed forest. The riffle’s end touched the forest floor as it slithered across, making an eerie sound at Maeve’s side. She looked up into the darkening sky, hoping to see the crows again, but did not.
“Where’re we supposed to ‘find us some gooses’?” she asked her brother.
“I dunno, I’m not a goose,” he shrugged. “Our best bet would’ve been the sky, but they’re not going to fly out at dusk.”
Dusk it surely was. The light was beginning to fade, it would soon be dark. Mosquitoes were swarming all around them and cricket chirps could be heard among the din made by other forest life. Maeve simply avoided the clouds of insects, but Ciar began to swat them away. At first glance, he appeared to be doing some sort of strange dance ritual, but began to cry “Get off! Get off!” and Maeve snickered to herself.
He danced farther and farther into the shadows, and eventually, Maeve could only hear his shouts, and they were beginning to fade away. She was alone in the woods with a gun she did not want and it grew darker by the second, but she did not mind. The peaceful sounds of cricket chirps, the low hooting of owls, the sounds of squirrels scampering about the forest floor, and the soft trickling of water dribbling down Bear Creek lulled her into a state of bliss.
“Who needs gooses when I’ve got this?” she said to herself, wondering if Uncle Avery had ever enjoyed such beauty.
Then, all of a sudden, the shrill, almost painful sounding, caw of a crow in the distance rang out like gun fire, breaking Maeve’s relaxed state and silencing the creatures around her. It was so terrifyingly cold and painful, it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up, and for a moment, she thought that the creek had frozen over.
She looked over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of a massive creature with shaggy black hair. It was running from something, but she could not see what it was. What she was able to see was the murder of crows from before. They were no longer cloud like, but a spiraling vortex of bleak blackness hovering inches above the ground, singing a chorus of caws. Between the mass of black feathers, Maeve could see a small, injured creature lying on the fallen leaves, its chest heaving up and down, desperately trying to cling to its life.
Without a thought or hesitation, Maeve pushed through the swarm of crows to aid the fallen animal. It was a young fawn, a doe perhaps, with cream colored fur on its underside and a light brown on its back that was speckled with white. One of its legs was bent at odd ankle and Maeve assumed that it was broken. She gingerly brushed her fingers along the fawn’s back. It stirred, its dark brown eyes staring up at her with a such purity it was humbling,but was surprisingly calm. Maeve had never been this close to a deer, as they usually ran away when approached by people, and the fawns were typically with their mothers, but this one was all alone.
The crows began to close in on them and the circle they formed became constricting and caused Maeve’s heart to beat faster and faster.
What do they want? Why are they here? Do they expect it to die?!
Maeve could not let that happen though, she refused to let the fawn die! How could she help it though? She knew nothing about mending human injuries, let alone a deer’s! Then it donned on her.
Uncle Avery! He’d know what to do!
Maeve assessed the deer and decided that it was small enough for her to carry and that if she held it around its middle, then she would be able to move the fawn and not cause more damaged to the broken leg.
In her haste to the deer, Maeve had dropped the riffle outside of the circle of crows, and, until she had heard it being cocked behind her, she had completely forgotten about it.
“Get away from dinner!”
The blast from the gun knocked Ciar off his feet and scarred the crows away. Maeve had thrown herself over the fawn to protect it from the braches that had been knocked from their trees by the bullet.
“What’d you do that for?!” Ciar demanded, angrily.
“You can’t hurt it!” shouted Maeve cried.
“Who cares? It’s about to die anyway!” reasoned Ciar, hoisting himself to his feet and brushing the dirt and leaves from his shirt.
“No, it’s just a broken leg! Please, just let me take it to Uncle Avery,” pleaded Maeve, her eyes darting between her brother and the riffle lying on the ground. It almost looked harmless just lying on the forest floor.
“Get out of the way Maeve!”
Out of nowhere, an enormous black bear came bounding into the clearing straight at Ciar. It slammed its massive body into him, knocking several feet backwards. He landed with a loud thud and a sickening crunch. He rolled onto his back clutching his side, one of the ribs on his left side had been broken and there was a heavy flow of crimson pouring from his nose and his shirt had been torn, revealing a deep gash on his right shoulder. The bear roared such a fierce roar that it shook the very earth it was standing on. It approached the spot where Ciar was writhing and moaning in pain, menacingly, baring its sharp, jagged teeth.
“NO! Please! He didn’t mean it!” Maeve called to the bear, although it would typically seem useless, for how could a great Black bear possible know what she was saying?
To her upmost surprise, the bear turned to face her. It stared directly into her eyes, its big black eyes connected with hers in a way that she could not understand, it was almost assuring. Her heart pounded so hard against her chest it might have burst through her skin as the bear came closer and closer until, finally, the very tip of its snout touched her nose. With just that gentle nudge, her fear was pushed away. She reached out and stroked its head, now knowing that she was not in danger, and it grumbled softly. They stood there for a moment, Maeve connected to the bear, but her mind had gone completely blank. She had no idea what was happening to her or the bear. It turned away from her, beckoned to the little fawn who had watched the ordeal, curiously, and it wobbled to its feet, its broken leg not touching the ground. The bear exited the clearing, with the fawn hobbling behind it. They disappeared behind a large tree trunk, but not before the fawn looked back at her, and bowed its head gratefully.
Maeve’s brain reconnected with the rest of her body, and she chased after them. They had ducked behind the vast tree trunk, but had not appeared on the other side, nor had they gone straight for she would have seen them, but they were not there. The bear and fawn, an unlikely pair, had disappeared into thin air.
That night they gathered around the kitchen table for a small meal, as Maeve and Ciar had failed to find any geese hidden within the woods. Uncle Avery had been quite upset that they had found nothing, but once he had seen Ciar’s blood stained shirt and face, he was more concerned for him that dinner. He had lied and said that he tripped over a tree root onto a pile of rocks and sustained the injuries that way. Only he and Maeve knew the truth.
They had meandered silently through the forest. Ciar was too angry with Maeve for letting their dinner escape with a bear “who most likely would have eaten it anyway”, but Maeve knew better. In her heart, she could sense that the bear would never harm that little fawn, not ever. She wracked her brain, attempting to explain why a fawn would ever trust a great black bear, but in the end, she decided that some mysteries were better left unsolved, for that was the true magic of Bear Creek.