Bear With Me

by Katherine Phelps
Copyright © 1995

The transformation took Anabel by surprise, but not so much as one would have thought. Anabel lived a pleasant well ordered life where she had to be pleasant all day to customers who may or may not be pleasant in return. She worked five days a week, eight and a half hours a day with some overtime and a paid two week vacation every year. If it were a sunny day out with the flowers at the peak of their vibrancy and aroma, she could only acknowledge it passingly during a lunch break, then get back to work. If the beauty of a light rain enticed her to go out and splash in puddles, she could only fleetingly imagine what it would be like to go out and enjoy it. Evenings and weekends were just as ordered and humdrum. She would come home so tired from being pleasant that she could only manage to fix herself dinner, do the cleaning up, watch a little TV, then go to bed. Weekends involved a quiet Saturday reading or sketching (she had pretentions of becoming an artist) and Sunday taking care of the major chores. So when the transformation came it did not frighten her, rather it fell under the heading of "a change is as good as a holiday."

She didn't notice at first when it began. She got home from a particularly unpleasant pleasant day and though she could see the hair growing on the backs of her hands, pouring from her skin like a golden brown waterfall, she hardly remarked upon it. It wasn't until her fangs got salad caught on them such that the dressing went dribbling down her chin that she came to any realisation that something strange was happening to her. She went into the bathroom to dislodge a rather large leaf, when gazing in the mirror she saw her ears slide up her head, grow round and start sprouting fur. In deep amazement she watched her face distend and her nose reshape itself into that cute little upturned thing she had always wished it could be, only in this case it was black and wet. Anabel was turning into a bear.

"Well, just when I thought I had my life under control, I go and turn into a bear," thought Anabel. "This is a fine state of affairs." She could feel herself getting bulkier and furrier and thought she had better go outside before she started shedding on the carpet. What she hadn't thought about is that bears have a difficult time coping with door handles. As soon as she left the house her hands and feet fully transformed themselves into paws and she was locked out of her house as surely as if she had taken a key to the keyhole. She wasn't certain if she should laugh or cry, but upon trying to make any noise a deep and resonant roar bellowed forth from her lungs. It was a grand sound, a sound full of wildness and self-assured power, a sound so wonderful that she tried it again to her great satisfaction. She gazed up at the stars as if for the first time. "What a beautiful night," she thought. "I think I shall take myself for a walk." So Anabel walked out to the edge of town and into the surrounding woodland.

The next morning Anabel found herself in bed. She couldn't remember how she got there, but she could remember the evening's escapades and felt terrific. She literally bounded off to work. Her co-workers noticed that day she was not only pleasant, but positively cheerful. As the days went on this trend continued. Anabel found that she was not subject to a full moon or some arcane conjunction of the planets in order to become a bear. She could become a bear any time she liked and she liked becoming a bear a lot. At first as Anabel the bear she would roam around the forest roaring and knocking over trees. However, before long she found pleasure in simply foraging for berries or lying on a rock in the sun. Spawning season was great fun, swacking huge silvery fish from the river and just eating them on the spot. From her experiences as a bear she found the courage to try new things. She started taking up art classes in the evenings. She even asked a gentleman out to a rave one night.

Anabel could have happily kept her secret life to herself, but the universe conspired to turn events otherwise. It was a particularly balmy evening and looking out at the verging dusk Anabel decided that she wanted to see the golds and purples of a majestic sunset from atop Mount Baldy. She casually allowed her soft furry coat to wrap her body in its comforting warmth when unexpectedly the doorbell rang. It had never occurred to her to worry about such an eventuality. She had been too caught up in her animal experience. She had never tried to stop her transformation midway and she couldn't really hang around waiting for the caller to go away, since she might get stuck inside for the night. So she threw on a large housecoat, wrapped her head in a towel and answered the door.

It was her friend Sally, awash in tears. She had just had another fight with her boyfriend, Max, and didn't know what to do. Anabel feeling her body already stretching the limits of the housecoat was in a quandary. She swiftly fixed Sally some instant coffee in her microwave and hoped that a few kind words would cure the situation, and then she could be off. "There, there, it can't be that bad" started Anabel, but before long she was telling Sally that if she wasn't happy with Max as a boyfriend, she could continue to love him as a friend instead, and get on with her life. This was unprecedented for Anabel who used to only take, or suggest taking, the safe route through life. The richness and confidence of Anabel's increasingly deepening voice, nevertheless, convinced Sally that Anabel was speaking the truth. So Sally dried her tears and looked up into the sympathetic eyes of a bear.

Sally screamed.

"I'm awfully sorry," managed Anabel who had very little human left about her. Miraculously, something happened and Sally started becoming a bear too. However, she wasn't as circumspect about it as Anabel had been.

"You've turned into a bear!" said Sally stating the obvious. She then looked down as her high heel shoes burst and two lovely big paws emerged. "Oh my God! I'm turning into a bear," she cried. She then rushed to the bathroom breaking various objects in the dash. A longer more drawn out scream echoed throughout the house. Anabel thought she had better take Sally outside before she did any more damage to her belongings. So she knocked in the bathroom door, grabbed Sally by the scruff of the neck and took her out into the backyard. By then Sally had totally transformed into a bear and was making winsome yowlps. Anabel lead her from the yard and through the back streets to the forest. From there she took Sally up to Mount Baldy to see the sunset.

At first Sally was too upset to calm down and wonder at the beauty that Anabel so savoured. Eventually she realised that the best thing she could do in her circumstances was to take her lead from Anabel. She sat back on her haunches and watched the sunset. Then she watched the evening star rising in the darkness and shining like a glass button. Anabel introduced her to the joys of rubbing your back on a solid barksome tree, or feeling the mud ooze up between the pads of your feet, or eating the bugs you find under rocks. As a human Sally might have found these things repulsive, but as a bear she was willing to let go and just experience. She too became seduced by the opportunity to go wild, free to be whatever she happened to be in the moment, free to feel and express that feeling however she liked. It was exhilirating. She could hardly contain herself. She found herself bellowing at the top of her lungs. Anabel was pleased to find she now had a companion with whom to share her bear world.

The next morning Anabel and Sally found themselves human once more and huddled together on Anabel's couch. "That was absolutely outrageous!" said Sally over breakfast. "I've never felt so fabulous in all my life." She then quizzed Anabel about the particulars of this condition. "This is too good to keep to ourselves. We've got to give others the opportunity to become bears as well." Anabel had no desire to press it upon anyone, but if people really wanted to join them she was happy to allow it.

That fateful night created a wave of changes in many people's lives. Eventually Sally broke up with her boyfriend, but before they parted she helped him to transform into a bear. He enjoyed himself thoroughly and vowed to remain friends with Sally. Before long they found other partners who also learned the joys of bearhood. The condition spread quickly and by the time anyone found out who might object, half the town had become werebears. For the first times in their lives they allowed themselves to live freely and to enjoy life as it is.

Anabel soon quit her job to become a graphic artist. In fact everyone who had gone through this transformation suddenly became open to other transformations and were happier for it. Those who weren't ready for such a life change, simply moved and everyone wished them well. Who would have thought that turning into such a fiercesome beast could bring such happiness? In the end they renamed their town to Bearville.