Status: this is an INCOMPLETE FIRST DRAFT, and has only undergone minor edits. if something seems weird just leave it be


The Chase

The dead man ran for his life. A great hulking shape thundered through the forest behind him. He didn’t have much time before it would reach him, and close its jaws around his neck and tear him to threads with the massive claws on its massive feet. He had to think, and think fast.
No time to think, fool. Two trees up ahead had grown very close to each other. He couldn’t tell from his distance, but the opening seemed too small for the bear. It was his only shot.
He yelled, all but jumping through the opening. He landed awkwardly and his ankle gave out. The dead man tumbled through the leaves, kicking up whole clouds of them in his frantic scrambling back to his feet.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, foolish, stupid, foolish, foolish, stupid. The steady stream of words in his head beat out a fast cadence for his feet to follow. He had been right in his judgment about the opening between the trees, for as he turned his head to check on the bear, he saw briefly that it had stopped in front of the trees. And then it moved to round them.
But it had bought the dead man time. The bear had come to a full stop in front of the trees and while it was a powerful creature and he hadn’t nearly outrun it far enough, it would take it a few moments to build up to the speed it had pursued with earlier.
He watched the ground for roots or sticks or anything he could trip over. If he took another tumble, he was dead. A root stuck up directly in his path and with another yell he launched himself over it, this time landing on his good foot and picking up the pace immediately.
The bear roared behind him. He had heard stories, of course. Read them. Bears were fierce mothers, he had been taught, easily capable of killing humans for approaching their young. He hadn’t seen them. He had just wanted food, and had unwittingly wandered into bear territory. He had noticed his mistake far too late.
Blessedly, the panic and the running brought him an incredible lucidity considering he hadn’t eaten in days. His heart threatened to stop beating and his breath came in short, painful bursts, but he was alive yet and he intend to stay so as long as he could.
He turned his head. The mother bear was gaining on him. I’m sorry, he thought. I didn’t see your kids. I’m sorry.
But the thought of dying out here all alone after all this time he had spent surviving, hanging on by the barest thread fueled him. No, he thought. Not today. He thought for a moment he had even sped up as the words came through his head, but his lucidity was fading fast. There was only so much you could get when you were so starved and feverish already. He had to think fast.
The bear was still gaining on him, her great shape lumbering after him like a bullet from his gun. His gun! He fumbled around for it at his belt, but he was moving too fast, too erratically to get a good grip on it. His fingers found the snap that opened the holster and flipped it open, but his foot caught on a rock. He keeled face-first into the dirt, his pistol flying out of its holster and landing who knew where.
Shit! Shit shit shit shit.
He had lost his last line of defense, and with how fatigued his body realized it was once it had hit the ground, even his frenetic scrambling about wouldn’t save him now.
Calm down. Calm. Stop. Think while you still can.
He had a few precious seconds left. There was a fallen branch, thicker than his arm in some places and longer than one of his legs lying next to him. He picked it up and held it out in front of him with both hands just in time.
Thirty billion tons of bear slammed into him. Her great paws hit the ground on either side of his head, and her mouth made for his neck. He could feel her breath, hot and smelling of half rotten things, through those enormous teeth of hers.
The dead man brought the branch up to hit her in the forehead, then swung it back down to hit her in the stomach. He pushed on it with all his might, succeeding in sliding out from under a few feet. The bear roared in pain and he knew he’d fucked up.
He scrambled to a kneeling position, bringing the branch up in time to block a powerful blow from her paw. It hit one of the thinner weak spots on the branch and shattered it in two, leaving him with no substantial length and a sharp jagged edge. He discarded the longer half, flipping the other one into his hand like a club as he stood up.
The bear rushed him again and he swung with all the strength he had in him. And he missed, the force behind his swing taking him down to the ground again. He landed so hard on the side of his head that he tasted blood in his mouth. He had kept his grip on the club, as if desperately hoping it would hang in the air and help him keep his balance.
Stupid. Foolish.
Pain flared bright and angry at the bottom of his right leg. The bear’s jaws had closed around his ankle, teeth sinking into his flesh. Dark spots swam at the edge of his vision. It was over. Really, truly over.
No! the back of his mind screamed at him. Get up!
The dead man pushed himself to his hands and one knee, desperately trying to pull himself away from his own death even as it had him in its clutches. The bear noticed, setting a paw on his foot to weigh him down. But the dead man kept pulling, a desperate rage flooding him with a strength he didn’t know he possessed.
He would not die like this.
And that was when he saw it. The club had dropped from his hands when he’d pushed himself up, but its wicked splinters stared him down a few inches away from his elbow. He picked it up even as the white hot pain in his leg swelled. It was too much to bear, he knew. He had to end this quickly, otherwise he would die.
He thought he could feel his flesh being shorn in two by their struggle, like a canvas beginning to tear from being stretched too far.
He picked up the club in both his weak, grimy hands, gripping it tightly it by its blunter end, and turned to face the bear. With one last savagely ragged scream ripping from his throat, he drove the sharp splintered end of the branch into the bear’s neck as hard as he could.
She recoiled, roaring in pain with her jaws still half closed around his foot.
And she ripped it off even as she died.
The dead man screamed in pain and everything went black.