“Well hey again! What a surprise, I didn’t think I’d see you again! Did you bring your silly head friend with you? I’ve really missed him especially.”
Once again, I found myself speechless, and this time I found myself with nowhere to run.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked.
Again, no answer from me.
“No one knows your here.”
That sounded more like a statement than a question. Like he knew already.
Fear built up inside of me, and for some reason, the shock I think, I found myself shaking my head, agreeing with his statement. It was more of a confirmation to myself that to him.
“Well, how about you camp here with us, and I’ll take you home tomorrow. You’ll have so much fun! Isn’t that right, kids?”
The kids immediately froze, looking at the Bear, as though waiting for some kind of cue.
“Right, kids?” he asked again, this time with a certain tone to his voice, one that sounded much more firm than his usual friendly mumble. They all immediately started agreeing with him, almost in a panic.
“See? It’ll be fun! Now, are you hungry? Or thirsty?”
I shook my head no, still looking at the kids who were now back to being motionless, their eyes fixed on the Bear again. The Bear insisted however, and walked towards the coolers. About half way there he stopped and turned towards the kids. “Why aren’t we playing?” he said, in his firm voice again. They all started playing again, just as when I first arrived.
The Bear went to the coolers, pulled out a juice box and a sandwich, and gave them to me, before inviting me to sit on a log with him. I sat with him, afraid to say no, and started to force feed the sandwich and drink. I felt sick at first, but quickly realized I hadn’t eaten or drank anything for hours, and quickly became ravenous. I finished my sandwich, and killed off the last of my juice, before managing to mutter a weak “thank you…” The Bear simply said “you’re welcome,” in his friendly tone, and looked back towards the kids. He didn’t say anything else, or do anything, he just stared at them. I was afraid to go play with them too, I didn’t even know if I was allowed, so I just sat there with the Bear, wondering what was going to happen next. Part of me was questioning if the Bear was even a bad person.
It wasn’t long after finishing my ‘dinner’ that I noticed I was starting to get tired. This wasn’t regular sleepiness, it was coming on much faster than it had ever done so before. I rubbed my eyes, sat up straight, and tried to force myself to stay awake. I had to fight it, something was telling me I shouldn’t go to sleep out here. Minutes ticked by slowly as I started losing the battle. The Bear must have noticed, because he leaned closer to me and whispered “Don’t fight it.” The fear rushed back into my body as i slowly slid from the log to the ground, unable to stay awake. Right before I fell asleep I felt myself being lifted up by somebody.
I woke up, thinking about everything that had happened the night before, when a realization slowly creeped up on me- I didn’t remember going home last night. I jerked up from the bed i was laying in, frantically looking around. I was in a small room, with only one other bed in it, which was empty. The walls were bare, and the paint was peeling. More than anything I remember the smell, a musky odor with a touch of sour. It was so strong you could almost taste it, yet so subtle that it’s origin remained a mystery to me. It came in waves, making it almost impossible to get used to.
I slowly got out of the bed, and lifted back the curtain that was over the bed- there was no window. It was just a curtain, on a rod and everything, put there for what seemed like decoration. There were no windows in this room I quickly figured out, and there was only one door. I walked as quietly as I could, and made my way to the door. I reached for the knob, and jiggled it very quietly, only to find it was locked. I had just turned around when the door flew open.
“Well goodmorning buddy! Did you have good dreams? You were such a silly sleepy head last night!”
The Bear was standing in the doorway, it was like he was waiting for me to get up and knew I just did somehow.
This time, my speech was actually working. “I want to go home.” I said. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Well, don’t you see? This is going to be your home from now on, isn’t that exciting! We’ll get to play all day, eat all the candy you want, and you never have to go to school again! I know you–”
“I want to go home, NOW.” I interrupted.
This, I quickly came to realize, was a very bad move. The Bear immediately became violent, he started slamming and opening the door repeatedly, with excessive force, screaming “NO INTERRUPTING! BAD KIDS INTERRUPT! DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO BAD KIDS?!” I didn’t know, and really didn’t want to know, so I immediately sat back on the bed, watching in terror as the Bear unleashed his fury upon the door. I just hoped I wasn’t next. Apparently me sitting down caused attention I wasn’t looking for, as he flung the door shut one last time, and quickly came towards me.
He jerked me up before I could react, and slammed me into the wall. I can still feel his icy grip on my small shoulder blades, cold to the touch, even with the suit on. This was the first and last time I heard what I can only describe to be Mr. Bear’s (as i would come to know him) real voice.
I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could tell his stare was burning into me, and pressed the face of his costume into mine, so hard that I could feel his breath warming the suit as it smothered me.
“No one has ever come looking for me before. Not kids, not adults, and certainly not the f*****g cops. Now, that makes you different from the rest. I didn’t seek you out, you came looking for me. You’re a special case, and I think that deserves special treatment, but if you would prefer, I can treat you like the other kids.”
He drew his face back away from mine a little bit, allowing me to gasp for air. Now, at the time, I had no idea what that meant, but i still knew I probably didn’t want to be treated like the rest, so i simply shook my head no.
“I’ll be good.” I choked, still trying to catch my breath..
And like a switch had been flipped, the Bear immediately shifted back to his friendly self again.
“Well, good then! I’d hate to have to put you in time out like the other bad kids. Now, what’s you’re name, silly head?”
Once again, I didn’t know if giving my name was smart. However, if he already knew my name, and this was a test, it would be very, very, bad to lie to him. So, I decided to give him my name…kind of. I went with my middle name, figuring if he called me out I could cover myself, or if he didn’t know my name then at least he never would.
“William. My friends call me will.”
He remained silent for a moment, looking at me it seemed, before starting to leave the room, speaking to me on the way out.
“Well nice to meet you Will, my name is Mr. Bear! I’m sure we’ll be the bestest friends!”
As he went to close the door behind him, he said one more thing.
“Oh, and Benjamin- only bad kids lie.”
What little bit that was left of my world rapidly started crashing around me. If he knows my real name, what else does he know? Would I be punished for this? Was it too late to cover myself like planned? Probably, he’s sure to know that I don’t actually go by my middle name. I was just making things worse on myself.
Hours had gone by before I saw Mr. Bear again. He came in as abruptly as before, throwing another sandwich at me, and this time with a water instead of juice.
“Knock on the door when you’re done eating, and hurry up- we have a show to make! Everybody’s already waiting! Ohhhhh I’m so excited!! I love making new episodes.”