Ashley’s Challenge

Name: Jess
Setting: Waterfall in the forest
Object: A spoon
Emotion: Fear

He was having a hard time catching his breath. But that’s because he was finding zero opportunities to stop or even slow down. What was supposed to be a simple hiking trip that led into a simple camping trip had become a slightly more complicated fight for his own life.

Jess had departed from the man made hiking trail maybe two hours before. He really wasn’t sure how long ago he’d veered into the overgrown forest since he wasn’t wearing a watch and had not had the chance to dig his phone out of his backpack. Without being able to look at his phone, he had no sense of time and was unable to get a sense of direction, either. The GPS would have really come in handy about now.

As it was, he pushed through more shrubbery, hoping that his ears were not deceiving him. He thought he could hear a roaring river nearby. That, or it was a busy highway. Either option, he hoped, would provide him with some respite. His ears could also detect the sound of his pursuer’s deep bellows. It was a sound that frightened him to his very core.

He may have only been on the run from the grizzly bear for 15 minutes. It could have been an hour. Jess was only certain of the fact that he had accidentally encroached on the great beast’s territory and it was not in the mood for visitors. His only hope was that he could outrun the bear and that it would eventually lose interest in him. So far, that didn’t seem to be the case.

Continuing to push forward, Jess finally caught sight of the river he’d been listening to for the last few minutes. The way the water was rushing, he could only assume that yesterday’s rain had caused this surge. He knew it would be far too dangerous to try and cross, at least not at this location, so he began moving downstream, hoping the water would get calmer the further he moved along.

Unfortunately, the roar of the rapids drowned out the roar of the approaching bear. Jess didn’t even have time to register what hit him as the enormous grizzly took a swipe at his back, knocking him headlong into the quickly moving river. His mind was a jumble of confusion as he fought against the current that desperately seemed to want to drag him along the riverbed.

Jess was a strong swimmer and was suddenly thankful for all those childhood years when his father pushed him to be on the community swim team. He knew how to hold his breath for a long time. He also knew not to panic in a situation like this and managed to pull himself to the surface before his lungs caught fire.

He chanced a look back as the river carried him further away from where he fell in. He couldn’t even see where he’d come from, much less the bear that caused him to take a dive.

At least it can’t get any worse! thought Jess as he continued floating along rapidly. But then he saw what was coming. In the few seconds it took him to reach the edge of the waterfall, he had no chance of making his way to either bank and had no way of knowing just how far he would fall or what would be waiting for him when he hit bottom.

Jess couldn’t even hear himself scream over the sound of the rushing water as he dropped more than 50 feet.

He couldn’t believe his luck when he plunged into a deep, calm pool. Exhausted, he swam to the edge of the water and dragged himself onto dry land. Jess lay there, ready to pass out, breathing heavily and silently offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God that he had been able to survive this ordeal.

Once he caught his breath, he pulled himself into a sitting position and tried to reach around to examine his obviously injured back. That’s when he felt his torn backpack and realized that the bear had never actually touched him when it took its swipe. The grizzly’s long claws had ripped apart his backpack, but had left him personally unscathed.

Jess decided to take stock of his supplies, though he was almost sure anything that had been inside the backpack was strewn across the riverbed above the waterfall. Digging around the ruined pack, he came across his cell phone, which would never work again. Next, he found his pack of matches, which were foolishly not the waterproof variety. Finally, he grabbed a small flashlight and a spoon.

A spoon? he thought, Well, this will come in handy if I come across another bear.

Looking up, he noticed that it was starting to get dark. He was soaked to the bone. He had no shelter. He had no idea where he really was. He had no way to call for help. And he suddenly wished he had taken his friends’ warnings seriously. They told him not to go alone. They told him to keep his eyes peeled for bears or mountain lions, since both had been spotted in the area lately.

But Jess was young and felt invincible. He could handle a hike and a night or two sleeping under the stars. Well, I could handle it if I had something more than a spoon to keep me company.

Suddenly, he wasn’t afraid of the bear that had spent the afternoon chasing him. He was afraid that he might not last the night without the necessary provisions. He could see it now, “This week on Unsolved Mysteries, the arrogant hiker who went for a weekend camping trip and was never seen again.”

Not that he planned to just give in and throw himself to the next predator that came along. He figured his best bet was to remove his wet clothes and try to let them dry while he attempted to do the same. “This week on Naked and Afraid…” Jess laughed to himself as he stood up to explore his immediate surroundings.

Looking back at the waterfall, he decided it was kind of beautiful now that it wasn’t threatening his life. That’s when he noticed the opening in the rock behind the water. He was able to easily reach this newfound shelter, deciding his luck may be turning around. Jess laid out his clothes in the cave, hoping they would eventually dry, before stretching out on the cave floor in an attempt to make himself as comfortable as possible.

Soon enough, Jess had drifted off to sleep. But while it was still dark, he was awakened by an all too familiar sound. Confused and nearly blind by his sleep, he knew he could make out the silhouette of a huge bear. And he knew he had nowhere to go.

For five seconds, he allowed his fear to wash over him. Then he grabbed the only weapon he had, the spoon, and he stood his ground.

Thanks to Ashley for this week’s challenge! Head over to her blog and check out what she’s up to! I’m still planning to keep this up each week, so if you haven’t submitted your challenge, you can still click here and leave something for me in the comments.

Feature Photo by Daniel Öberg on Unsplash


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