THIRD BEAR EXCERPT
I think this scene, or the intent of this scene, is likely to go into the scrap heap, but I kinda like bits of it, so am posting it for preserving purposes.
In the deep woods, in a silence so profound he could hear the ringing of his ears like the roar of a river, Horley hunted the third bear. Horley didn't really know what he'd do when he found the third bear. He just tried to focus on the spring of loam beneath his boots, the clean, dark smell of bark and earth and air. Surviving forty-seven years in the harsh conditions of the village had made him appreciate simple things.
After much wandering, he came to a hill that might have been a cairn made by his ancestors. A stream flowed down it and puddled at his feet. The stream was red and carried with it gristle and bits of marrow. It smelled like black pudding frying. The blood mixed with the deep green of the moss and turned it purple. Horley watched the blood ripple at the edges of his boots for a moment, and then he slowly walked up the hill.
In the cave, surrounded by all that Clem had seen and more, Horley disturbed the theeber at his work. Horley's spear had long since slipped through numb fingers. He'd pulled off his helmet because it itched and because he was sweating so much. He'd had to rip his tunic and hold the cloth against his mouth.
He'd not meant to have a conversation; he'd meant to kill the beast. But now that he was there, now that he saw, all he had left were words.
Horley's boot crunched against half-soggy bone. Theeber didn't flinch. Theeber already knew. Theeber kept licking the fluid out of the skull in his hairy hand.
Theeber did look a little like a bear. Horley could see that. But no bear was that tall or that wide or looked as much like a man as a beast.
"This painting," Horley began in a thin, stretched voice. "These heads. How many do you need?"
Theeber turned its bloodshot gaze on Horley, body swiveling as if made of air, not muscle and bone.
"How do you know not to be afraid?" Horley asked. Shaking. Piss running down his leg.
Theeber approached. It stank of mud and offal and rain. It made a continual sound like the rumble of thunder mixed with a cat's purr. It had paws but it had thumbs.
Horley stared up into its eyes. They stood there, silent, for a long moment. Horley trying with everything he had to read some comprehension, some understanding into that face. Those eyes. The muzzle wet with carrion.
"Why us? Why this village?" Horley asked.
Theeber tore Horley's head from his body. Let the rest crumple to the dirt floor.
Horley's body lay there for a good long while.
Evil: I think they would like some The Situation, dude.
I also decided to visit my personnel file in the basement. The elevator down was sleek and efficient and had not been used for any company experiments, which was a relief. When I got to the records department, an attendant led me to my personnel records: a man-sized box stacked amongst thousands of other such boxes of various sizes, all studded with small breathing holes.
Although the attendant was at least seven feet tall and made of muscle and steel, he grunted with the effort of bringing the box to me and putting it on the table.
It had been six months since I had visited my personnel file. At that time, I had taken it for a walk on the little hill and given it some treats. I remembered it as one of the last times I had enjoyed myself.
I opened up the box.
Inside was the unrecognizable corpse of a large mammal. Rotting. I could see white maggots curling through the masses of intestines, organs, sinew, and soft tissue with the mindless motion of a baby’s fingers.
“Do you still want to take it out—or, perhaps, look through it?” the attendant asked, offering me a pair of gloves.
“No,” I said. “There’s no need.”
Everything was very clear.