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Flashback Friday: The Little Bear

This story was originally posted on May 30, 2017. I like the idea of bears with magic living in clans. How will the little bear earn the chance to truly be a bear? Will there be a quest? Tasks?

Rufus was patrolling the boundaries of the clan’s territory when he found him.   There, in a spot where their territory overlapped the human territory, a small bear was lying on his side in a patch of sunlight. Rufus felt that unnatural calm that precedes a battle as he charged forward, bellowing to warn away any attackers.

He couldn’t see any attackers, and the little bear didn’t move. Rufus towered over the little cub. He nudged at him with his nose. The little guy didn’t smell right. His eyes were glassy and his fur was an odd color.   When Rufus picked him up in his paws, the little bear’s legs flopped as though there were no bones. He was obviously under some sort of terrible human spell.

Rufus rushed the little guy straight to the clan elders. “I need some help,” he said, as he charged into the hidden cave. “It’s terrible. A spell has been cast on this little cub.”

The elders rushed forward, with the clan mage in the lead. “Put him on the floor here and let me examine him,” the healer said. “I can determine if there has been a spell cast or not.”

Rufus laid the little bear down on the ground. He backed up and the elders crowded closer. The healer stepped forward and listened to the cub’s chest and lifted and dropped one of his legs. He peered closely into his eyes. “Is it a spell?” Rufus asked.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the healer said, looking closely at the cub’s ears. “Where did you find him?”

“At the edge of the human territory.” Rufus nodded back towards the cave entrance. “He was lying on the ground. I picked him up and brought him straight here.”

“Did you see anything on the ground around him?” The healer looked up at Rufus.   “Was there anything unusual in the area?”

“I don’t think so,” Rufus said. “I didn’t look very closely. I was really worried about the cub.” He began to pace at the edge of the circle of elders, watching the cub.

“Of course,” the healer said. “Rightly so. Well, this is beyond my skill.”   He nodded to the clan mage and stepped back.

The clan mage conjured a ball of light and let it dance over the little bear.   “Hmmmm.”

“What does that mean?” Rufus stopped pacing. “Can you help him?”

“I’m not sure.” The mage raised his paw and the light paused above the cub’s forehead. “I don’t know who he was or what was done to him. All I can safely say is that he is currently not a bear.”

“What do you mean?” the clan eldest asked. “We can all see that this is definitely a bear. What else could he be?”

“He does not have the bones of a bear. He does not have the skin or hair of a bear. He does not have the insides of a bear. He only has the shape of a bear,” the mage said. He huffed and the light blinked out.

Rufus looked around the circle at the clan elders. “Can’t we help him?”

“There is an old spell,” the mage said. He paused and looked up at the ceiling of the cave.

Rufus waited. The mage continued to look up. Rufus coughed. The mage didn’t glance his way.   Finally Rufus couldn’t wait any longer.   “What does the spell do?” he asked.

The mage looked down again and glanced around the circle. “I cannot make something that is not-bear into a bear.   However, I can give him the chance to earn the form himself.”

“What do you mean?” the clan eldest asked. “How could he earn the chance to be a bear?”

“He will awaken and have the chance to live and learn and choose. If he chooses to truly be a bear, then he will be one.” The mage picked up the little cub and held him up.

“What will he be before then?” The clan eldest looked down at the cub.

“A not-yet-bear.” The mage tapped the bear’s forehead with a claw.

“Can’t you do anything else?” Rufus asked.

“This is the best I can do,” the mage said. He laid the cub down again, head towards the cave entrance, feet towards the heart of the cave.

The clan eldest stepped back. “Then perform the spell.” The rest of the circle stepped back, leaving the mage standing by the little cub.

The mage’s voice rumbled and echoed through the cave. The little bear glowed. The bears blinked, and the light was gone. The mage looked over at the clan eldest. “It is done. It is now up to him.”

The little bear blinked and stretched. The clan eldest stepped forward. “He is waking up. I will explain this to him.”

Rufus followed the other clan elders out of the cave. “What happens now?” he asked.

The clan mage glanced back at the cave and huffed. “I don’t know.”

The Little Bear

Rufus was patrolling the boundaries of the clan’s territory when he found him.   There, in a spot where their territory overlapped the human territory, a small bear was lying on his side in a patch of sunlight. Rufus felt that unnatural calm that precedes a battle as he charged forward, bellowing to warn away any attackers.

He couldn’t see any attackers, and the little bear didn’t move. Rufus towered over the little cub. He nudged at him with his nose. The little guy didn’t smell right. His eyes were glassy and his fur was an odd color.   When Rufus picked him up in his paws, the little bear’s legs flopped as though there were no bones. He was obviously under some sort of terrible human spell.

Rufus rushed the little guy straight to the clan elders. “I need some help,” he said, as he charged into the hidden cave. “It’s terrible. A spell has been cast on this little cub.”

The elders rushed forward, with the clan mage in the lead. “Put him on the floor here and let me examine him,” the healer said. “I can determine if there has been a spell cast or not.”

Rufus laid the little bear down on the ground. He backed up and the elders crowded closer. The healer stepped forward and listened to the cub’s chest and lifted and dropped one of his legs. He peered closely into his eyes. “Is it a spell?” Rufus asked.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the healer said. “Where did you find him?”

“At the edge of the human territory,” Rufus said. “He was lying on the ground. I picked him up and brought him straight here.”

“Did you see anything on the ground around him?” the healer asked.   “Was there anything unusual in the area?”

“I don’t think so,” Rufus said. “I didn’t look very closely. I was really worried about the cub.”

“Of course,” the healer said. “Rightly so. Well, this is beyond my skill.”   He nodded to the clan mage and stepped back.

The clan mage conjured a ball of light and let it dance over the little bear.   “Hmmmm,” he said.

“What does that mean?” Rufus asked. “Can you help him?”

“I’m not sure,” the mage said. “I don’t know who he was or what was done to him. All I can safely say is that he is currently not a bear.”

“What do you mean?” the clan eldest asked. “We can all see that this is definitely a bear. What else could he be?”

“He does not have the bones of a bear. He does not have the skin or hair of a bear. He does not have the insides of a bear. He only has the shape of a bear,” the mage said. He huffed and the light blinked out.

“Can’t we help him?” Rufus asked.

“There is an old spell,” the mage said. He paused and looked up at the ceiling of the cave.

Rufus waited. The mage continued to look up. Rufus coughed. The mage didn’t glance his way.   Finally Rufus couldn’t wait any longer.   “What does the spell do?” he asked.

The mage looked down again and glanced around the circle. “I cannot make something that is not-bear into a bear.   However, I can give him the chance to earn the form himself.”

“What do you mean?” the clan eldest asked. “How could he earn the chance to be a bear?”

“He will awaken and have the chance to live and learn and choose. If he chooses to truly be a bear, then he will be one,” the mage said.

“What will he be before then?” the clan eldest asked.

“A not-yet-bear,” the mage said.

“Can’t you do anything else?” Rufus asked.

“This is the best I can do,” the mage said.

“Then perform the spell,” the clan eldest said.

The mage’s voice rumbled and echoed through the cave. The little bear glowed. The bears blinked, and the light was gone. “It is done. It is now up to him,” the mage said.

The little bear blinked and stretched. “He is waking up. I will explain this to him,” the clan eldest said.

Rufus followed the other clan elders out of the cave. “What happens now?’ he asked.

“I don’t know,” the clan mage said.

 

The Three Little Pigs Go to Grandma’s House

Once upon a time there were three little piglets who often got into trouble because they didn’t do what they were told. They liked to play tricks on the other animals, and so their mom dressed them in bright red cloaks to warn others they were coming. There were many of their neighbors who appreciated the warning.

One day, they were racing around the house climbing on furniture and yelling loudly. Their mother, tired of scolding them, called them into the kitchen. She gave them each a treat and handed them a basket to take to their grandmother’s house on the other side of the forest. “Make sure she reads the note inside,” she added.

“What does it say?” the oldest pig asked.

“It says that you are allowed to spend the night, and there are cookies for you all to share for after dinner. Leave them be, and don’t talk to strangers.”

The little pigs, thrilled with the idea of an adventure, easily agreed. They put on their bright red cloaks and made the youngest pig carry the heavy basket. They set out, too excited about the road ahead to even remember to look back and wave goodbye to their mother.

She was not surprised, but waved goodbye until they were out of sight anyway.

The youngest piglet was soon complaining about the weight of the basket. “Why do I have to carry it?” he asked. “You are both older and stronger. I shouldn’t have to carry it at all.”

“We’re older, so we’re in charge,” said the oldest piglet. “Besides, I need to have my hands free to fight off pirates. See, I’ve already found a good stick to use as a sword.”

“Maybe we could take turns,” the middle piglet said. “I’ll carry it on the way home.”

“But it will be empty then. That’s not fair!” The youngest piglet began to squeal in anger, but then he paused. “It would be lighter if we ate some of the cookies now.”

“There isn’t much difference between eating them now or later,” the oldest pig agreed.

“They’re our cookies, and we can eat them when we want to. They’ll be better now when we’re hungry than after dinner when we’re full,” the middle pig said.

The three little pigs opened the basket and ate every cookie, leaving none for their grandmother. At the bottom of the box there was a note. The oldest pig read it out loud to his brothers:

“Here are some cookies for after dinner. Thank you for agreeing to keep the boys for the night.”

The oldest pig let pulled a pen from the pocket of his cloak. “I’ll just cross out ‘here are’ and write ‘we need’, and we’ll have cookies for the walk home tomorrow.” The younger piglets cheered. Feeling full of goodwill, he passed the empty basket to the middle pig to carry, and they continued on their way.

Further on the path, they met a wolf. He smiled sharply and complimented their cloaks. Figuring that meant he was a good guy and not a pirate, they stopped to talk. “Where are you going?” the wolf asked.

“To grandma’s house,” the youngest pig said.

“Where does she live?”

“Three miles south in a large cave,” the middle pig said. This was not true, but the little pigs liked to play tricks on people.

While the others were describing the imaginary cave, the oldest pig pulled a small bottle of dye from a pocket in his cloak and poured it all over the wolf’s bushy tail. The wolf didn’t notice, and soon darted off into the underbrush.

The three little pigs laughed and continued their journey to their grandmother’s house. The squirrels and rabbits darted away at their approach, and so they didn’t get another chance to play any tricks or talk to strangers. They smacked the underbrush with their stick-swords and pretended to see pirates instead. It took them quite a while to arrive at the little brick cottage on the other side of the forest.

The youngest pig, once again holding the basket, handed it to his grandmother without any explanation. She brushed crumbs off the note and read it with a sigh. “You ate the cookies on the way here, didn’t you?”

The oldest pig frowned. “Didn’t you read the note? Mom said to make sure you read it.”

His grandmother raised an eyebrow and looked at him and then his brothers. The youngest hunched his shoulders. “They were for us anyway. We were hungry. It was a long walk, and they made me carry the basket almost the whole way,” he whined. The older piglets scowled at him, but it was too late.

“I think you don’t need anymore sweets tonight then,” their grandmother said. She sent them to go play while she finished bringing in the laundry. When she found them less than an hour later, they were cutting up her wool caps to make pirate beards and scrawling funny faces on the mirrors with marker. She wasn’t sure where they’d found the scissors or the markers.

She gave them rags to wash the mirrors and went to start dinner. When she opened the cupboards to make dinner and had a bowl of flour fall on her head, she called the little pigs in and scolded them. She fed them oatmeal for dinner and sent them to bed early for breaking so many rules. Consequently, they missed all the excitement that happened next.

Over a breakfast of leftover oatmeal, their grandmother told them a strange story of a wolf who visited late in the evening, demanding to be let in or he’d blow the house down.

“With dynamite?” the middle pig asked, looking interested.

“No, by breathing on it,” his grandmother said.

The older two piglets laughed. The youngest looked confused. “But this is a brick house. That wouldn’t work.”

“Of course not,” the oldest piglet said. “He didn’t know anything about anything.”

The youngest pig shrugged and turned back to their grandmother. “What did you do?”

“A local woodsman passed by and chased him away. He said the wolf had an oddly colored tail so he’d recognize it if he saw it again, and he’d keep an eye out for it.”

The three little piglets looked at each other and didn’t say anything.

The grandmother set the piglets to clearing the table and washing and drying the dishes. She gave them each a treat, and then she insisted they put on their red cloaks. She handed the basket to the oldest piglet. “You will take turns holding the basket, and you will not look inside until you get home. Make sure your mom reads the note, and do not talk to strangers.”

When they got home, the youngest piglet handed their mom a basket empty except for a note covered in crumbs. She read the note and sighed. Then she asked them about their visit to see their grandmother. They talked about oatmeal and early bedtimes and didn’t mention the cookies or the wolf or pirate beards or markers or flour at all.

Their mother somehow knew about it anyway. She scolded them for breaking rules, hugged them, and after an evening of their pranks she gave them cabbage soup for dinner and an early bedtime. The next morning they woke up early, well-rested and ready for a new adventure. Their mother made sure they wore their red cloaks to give the neighbors plenty of warning. The little piglets made sure to fill the pockets with useful things.

They lived happily ever after.

Little Lost Goldibot

Once, or maybe someday, there was a little factory sitting nearly abandoned at the edge of the woods. It was nearly abandoned by people, because the Gold Standard Cleaning Supplies factory was nearly fully automated. The robots did most of the work themselves, and only really needed people to pick up their neatly boxed supplies to deliver them elsewhere.

Unfortunately for the Gold Standard Cleaning Supplies company, one day one of the delivery people was in a hurry. He stacked the boxes higher than normal so that he could take fewer trips. This meant that he propped the door open so that he didn’t need to try to open and close it while his arms were over-full.

He did not notice the cleaning robot making its way around the perimeter of the factory. He did not see it follow the trail of his muddy footprints out the door. And when he locked up and left, he did not count to see if any robots were missing.

The little lost gold standard cleaning supplies industrial janitorial robot, goldibot, would not be missed for months and months and months. That’s how long it would take for the deliveryman to notice that the factory floor was unusually dusty. It would take many more months for him to remember to report it to his supervisor. By that time, goldibot was long gone, and they never knew what happened to it.

They never knew that goldibot followed the dirty footprints out to a dirty parking lot, where the footprints became lost in the general grime. Following the perimeter of the lot, the little robot began sweeping up dirt and fallen leaves and pine needles and leaving them in tiny compact cubes. Normally, goldibot would pick these up in its next pass around the perimeter and drop them in the incinerator.

However, the perimeter wasn’t clearly defined, and goldibot didn’t come around again. Instead, the robot soon wandered into the woods, clearing a path as it went. Occasionally there was a tree in its path, and goldibot paused to clean off all the moss and scrub the bark. Boulders received similar treatment. The robot cleaned with pressurized air and sonic waves, so it was in no danger of running out of cleaning supplies.

The next morning, goldibot wandered into a dark, messy cave. This was not just any cave. This was the home of three bears, who were out for a walk to patrol the edge of their territory.

Goldibot quickly swept up the nuts, seeds, and berries left in the hollows of the rock and left them behind, squished into tiny cubes. It rolled further into the cave, clearing boulders of moss and stacking them neatly out of the way.

The next room was full of mounds of pine needles and soft grass that kept goldibot very busy sweeping and compacting. In fact, goldibot was still cleaning up when the bears returned home. Goldibot didn’t know that the bears were there, of course.

But the bears knew that goldibot was there. When they stepped into the cave, ready to sit down to breakfast, they noticed right away that something was different. “Something has happened to my breakfast,” Papa Bear roared.

“Something happened to my breakfast, too,” Mama Bear replied.

Baby bear inspected the tiny cubes and tasted one. “I think this is breakfast,” he said.

After some grumbling, the bears quickly gobbled up the tiny cubes and went to sit in their living room. But their comfy moss-covered boulders were gone. “Someone has stolen my chair,” Papa Bear roared.

“Someone stole my chair, too,” Mama Bear replied.

Baby bear sniffed at the tiny green cubes and followed them to the neat stack of clean boulders along the far wall. “Here they are,” he said.

“We can’t use them like that,” Papa Bear said. “They don’t look at all comfortable. Someone has broken our living room.”

“This is all so distressing,” Mama Bear said. “I need a nap.”

“Me too,” Papa Bear said.

Baby Bear followed them to the bedroom. The bedroom looked strange, too. Something was missing.

“Somebody stole my bed,” Papa Bear roared.

“Someone stole mine too,” Mama Bear said.

“Someone is still stealing my bed,” Baby Bear said. “And there he is.” They all looked at the silver something as it scooped up the last bit of Baby Bear’s bed. It spat out a tiny cube, made a scary hissing noise, and zoomed away.

The bears cleaned up the mess and remade their furniture. They never saw the scary silver thing again. But they heard from the foxes and wolves that it was still out there, causing trouble. The animals still tell their children about it on dark nights when the moon is full and no one can sleep.

And the little lost goldibot continued to clean everything in its path for years and years and years.

The Three Little Witches

Once upon a time there were three witches who were going out into the world to seek their fortune.  “Watch out for the terrible humans,” their mother said.  “Especially the children.  Remember what I’ve taught you and you will be safe and happy witches.”

“We will, mother,” they said.

“Well, go on then,” their mother said.  “If you stay any longer I’ll cry, and then I’d start to melt.  We don’t want that.”

So the witches left.  On the first day, they passed a dark, scary forest.  “Perfect,” the youngest witch said.  “I’ll build a house here out of candy and gingerbread.  That will keep the children away.”

“While I agree that sounds rather awful, I thought that children liked sweet things,” the oldest witch said.

“But mother said that they’re taught to never take candy from strangers.  It’s a fool proof plan,” the youngest witch said.

“Wow, that’s pretty smart,” the middle witch said.

“I know.  Good luck with your houses.  Send me a message by candle to tell me where you end up,” the youngest witch said.  They said their goodbyes and the older two departed.

The next day, they passed an empty plain, filled with tall grasses that rippled as the wind blew through.  “This is perfect,” the middle sister said.  “I’ll build a tall tower so that I can see the humans coming and a high wall to keep them out.  Then I’ll plant all my favorite vegetables in the garden.  Children are frightened of vegetables.  Mother said so.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” the oldest sister said.  “Let’s light a candle and tell our sister.”  They let the youngest sister know where the middle sister settled, and then they said their goodbyes.

The oldest sister traveled for another day into the mountains.  She built a tall castle out of the mountain stone and surrounded it with giant briar bushes.  She lit a candle and told her sisters about her new home.

Life for the oldest sister was mostly peaceful.   A little rabbit moved into the briar bushes and used them often as an escape from a persistent fox and bear.  But no children came.  Her sisters weren’t as lucky.

One day, the youngest sister showed up at the middle sister’s tower.  She flew right into the tower window on her broom.  “They’re going to kill me,” she said.

“Who?” asked the middle sister, looking around.

“The awful children,” the youngest witch said.  “They started eating my house.  When I asked them to stop, they said they were thirsty and asked for a drink of water.  I went into the kitchen, and I heard them whispering about shoving me into the oven and then claiming it was in self-defense.”

“Who would believe that?” the middle sister asked.

“They said that everyone knows that witches eat children.”

The middle sister made a face.  “Ew, gross.”

“Exactly.  They obviously didn’t believe it though.  They just wanted to steal my house.  Well, they can have it.  Smelling all that sugar all the time was making me sick,” the youngest sister said.

“Well, I’m happy to have you stay here with me.  In fact, your timing is excellent.  The vegetables will be ready to harvest soon,” the middle sister said.

So the youngest sister moved in with the middle sister, and they had a great time caring for the vegetables.  A week or so later, they looked out the tower window, and saw some adult humans stealing vegetables from the garden.

“How rude,” the middle sister said.  “I’m going to go tell them to stop.  They should grow their own vegetables.”

She grabbed her broom and flew down.  She came back a few minutes later, looking upset.  “What happened?” the youngest sister asked.

“We have to leave,” the middle sister said.  “Right now.”

“Why?” the youngest sister asked.

“They want to give me their baby to make up for stealing my vegetables,” the middle sister said.

“Are they crazy?” the youngest sister asked.

“They must be,” the middle sister said.  “They were saying all this nonsense about how I could grow the baby’s hair long so that I can climb her hair to get into my tower.  What do they think my broom is for?  Sweeping?”

“Let’s go.   Our oldest sister has plenty of room in her castle,” the youngest sister said.  “Should we take the vegetables with us?”

“Leave them.  I don’t want to risk running into those crazy humans again.  We can grow more,” the middle sister said.  They left to visit their oldest sister that evening.

The oldest sister welcomed them in and was horrified by their stories.  She was glad they’d escaped and were safe.  The younger sisters picked out their rooms and unpacked and were soon happily eating cabbage soup with their oldest sister.

Just then, there was a knock on the door.  The younger sisters looked confused.  “I thought the only way to your castle was by broom,” the middle sister said.  “Isn’t that what the briars are for?”

“It’s probably the rabbit,” the oldest sister said.  “He’s always coming by, trying to interest me in his terrible schemes.”

She opened the door.  There stood the rabbit.  “How do you do?” he asked.

“Fine, now go away,” the oldest sister said.  She started to close the door.

“Wait,” the rabbit said.  “I bring you important news from a kingdom not far from here.”  The oldest sister stopped trying to close the door.  The rabbit grinned.  “The king and queen have a new baby daughter, and it came to my attention that you weren’t invited to the baby blessing.  Now I have a great idea for how you could get back at them…”

The oldest sister closed the door in his face and never answered again when he knocked.  The three little witches lived happily ever after.

Three Little Witches

 

Real Bears

Goldilocks ran all the way home from the bears’ house. She ran inside and closed and locked the door. Then she found her mom.

“There you are,” Mom said. “You are just in time for lunch.”

“I ate at the bears’ house,” Goldilocks said. “I ate up all their breakfast.”

“I think you’d better explain,” Mom said, “because I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I found a house in the woods. I knocked on the door. No one answered, so I went in,” Goldilocks said.

“That was a bad choice,” Mom said.

“Why?” Goldilocks asked.

“You aren’t supposed to go into the woods alone. You don’t visit people on your own. And if no one says come in, you don’t go into someone else’s house.”

“Oh,” Goldilocks said.

“What happened next?” Mom asked.

“There was no one there, but they’d left their porridge on the table. I like porridge, and I didn’t want it to be wasted. So, I ate it all up. Except the porridge that was too hot or too cold. That’s yucky.” Goldilocks made a face.

“That was a bad choice. It was stealing,” mom said.

“Okay,” Goldilocks said. “I accidentally broke a chair, and then I fell asleep on one of the beds, and when I woke up there were bears, and I ran home.”

“Goldilocks,” Mom said.

“I told you it was an accident,” Goldilocks said.

“And you shouldn’t call them bears,” Mom said. “Real bears don’t live in houses. Even if they seem hairy and grumpy, they aren’t real bears.”

“Yes they were,” Goldilocks said.

“We’ll have to bring them cookies and offer to pay for the chair,” Mom said. “After lunch go to your room and write an apology note.”

“But I don’t want to apologize,” Goldilocks said.

“Growing up means learning to do hard things,” Mom said.

After Dad got home from work, Goldilocks led her parents to the bears’ house. They walked through meadows of flowers and past several surprisingly tiny cottages. Goldilocks stopped in front of a white wooden fence with a gate that opened up on a small tidy yard in front of a charming cottage. She insisted on staying by the gate while her parents went to the door.

They knocked and the door creaked open. Mom and Dad yelled in surprise. Mom dropped the cookies and note and they both ran. Dad scooped up Goldilocks on the way past. They ran home.

The bears stood in the doorway for a moment, feeling shocked. “What just happened?” Baby Bear asked.

“Oh look, they brought us cookies,” Mama Bear said. “It’s a good thing they wrapped them up so well. And an apology note too, how nice.”

“Those were obviously her parents. They looked a lot like her,” Papa Bear said.

“They yelled and ran away like her too,” Baby Bear said.

“I guess it runs in the family,” Mama Bear said. “I wonder if we’ll ever see them again.”

They never did. They did find a little chair on their doorstep one morning, though.

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