The Boy Who Turned Into a Bear – Tim Jamieson

The boy sat in the dark, surrounded by loneliness and bolted doors. Locked from inside and checked like clockwork through the night. Not so much a boy as a young man. A young man crippled by the fear of the world outside. Parents at a loss and resigned to a life of care they did not desire but accepted as their duty. But for now, he was alone. Alone and waiting for their return. The house was quiet, still.

He sat, mesmerised by the sliver of light painting the wall across from his chair. He stood and looked out from his window into the forest. The wash of the early morning sun made him wince. Mist coiled up from the damp grass outside his window. He shuddered and stepped back into the dark, his head turning to shadow.

Floorboards creaked and pipes groaned.

He walked downstairs. Slow and deliberate. Taking each step with practised care. He went into the kitchen, bare feet on soft wood. On the table, a note. Five tablets and an empty glass reminding him to take his medication.

The glass moaned along marble. He filled it from the tap, drank, and filled it again.

His hand shook. His chest closed on itself and the walls moved in to crush him into infinity. He picked up the pills in one hand, the glass in the other. Shaking. His whole body was shaking. The light from the sky, tips of bushes and trunks of trees outside the window filled his vision. Branches swayed and groaned and roots cracked and snapped at the kitchen door.

The window rattled and the door handle turned. He dropped the glass. It smashed into a thousand pieces without a sound. He looked down. His hand was empty, the pills gone.

The house loomed around him.

The walls moved and creaked and retreated. He gulped at the air, famished of breath and doubled over in pain and tears. This is the end.

Not the end. The beginning.

Clutching at a wrist and groping at his chest, he screamed. A low pitched, guttural roar. His skin pinched. Hair sprouted from his arms, his legs. He grew tall and hulking. His back arched and eyes wide in terror. His face transformed, a snout of snarling fury and dripping saliva.

Fur and claws and power. Anger.

He erupted. Turning over chairs, shattering glasses, plates. His arms, dark and brown and thick with hair, thundered down on the table, splitting it in half. Floorboards littered with thin splinters of pine and shredded clothing.

He destroyed everything.

Finally, the doors. The doors to the garden he ripped from their hinges, inwards like they were made of paper, painted with windows of watercolour. His chest heaved. He stopped. Stretching up on hind legs he sniffed at the air with curiosity.

He ran.

Arms before legs and then legs before arms. Across the grass and into the woods. Crashing through the trees. Leaves and twigs and light raining down upon the beast who snarled and slashed out into the open. Green grass. A river. The rising sun streaking the sky with golden orange. Birds soaring and singing and fish flashing silver in the streaming water.

The boy, now a bear, sniffed at the breeze. The grass under his paws and the sun dazzling his eyes, he stepped one tentative step into the unknown. And then another. Forward into freedom.

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