Outside, hail’s first spits battered down to the tar-covered roads ; dawn howled on the two story houses of the high street. Inside, Florence scrambled around the abandoned home, searching through caved in boxes and cupboards. She spotted cedar chairs leaning still against the brick floor, flowers endlessly sprouting from the walls and cobwebs scattered in corners of the room. To Florence’s dismay, the door she came through was the only way out. There was nowhere to run.
Behind her the murderous group of men stood silently in the doorway, a jagged axe in one of the men’s hands. Florence turned, a small shriek echoed down the hall leading to the abandoned house…
… But in that moment of time, something roared louder than an earthquake. Out of the smothered shadows not one but two dove eyes emerged. What was that thing? A blast of brunette and yellowish teeth. Whatever it was flashed past Florence and arranged itself in between her and the men. Florence glanced around the mysterious creature, the three men’s eyes bulged from their sockets.
It was massive! Massive and umber. Florence ascertained that she was standing beside a huge bear. It hurled back its bushy head slightly and yowled. At that moment, the men had fled. She stood anchored to the earthy floor, paralysed by horror.
The bear bowed down in front of Florence, resting its head on the flooring ( Which was covered in shattered glass, dead vines that were decomposing, and layers of dust from years without attention.)
She could see the bear was wounded – a slash of velvet dripped down his side. She had never been so close to such a beautiful creature before. Florence couldn’t believe this. She could smell a clean, natural scent and watched his pelt of hazel fur wrinkle across its back.
They stared attentively at one another and Florence felt that It was sizing her up, seeing deeper and deeper into her very being. But, her fear began to disintegrate as she held out her scarred hand. It inclined Its head forwards and sniffed. Then he licked her mousy skin with Its rough, rose-coloured tongue. His eyes shone as if covered in a layer of ash, he could see happiness as well as a deep pit of sorrow.
It was then it spoke. A deep, raspy voice that seemed to rumble the earth itself. It was a voice of mountains, wind and mud. “ I need your assistance now.” He sorrowfully stated, “ We must find the gateway.”
Florence stared back, her head nodding like she understood. She knew that in that moment she would protect that animal from anything and anyone. “They will return.” answered the creature, “ So I must hide.”
A few minutes later, Florence and the bear had slunk through the lanes, down to the ancient Inn near River Ouse. No one ever dared to venture there. Someone had spread a rumour that the ghosts of people lost to see haunted the building that once was a place to enjoy a meal with your friends. That Autumn, Florence had made an entry. She often sat inside reading old books that rested on dusty shelves. The bear curled up in a shadowy corner and slept. Florence watched the slow breaths of the bear and he slept.