Short Story Semi-Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020
Seizure by Chris Alleyne
The bear’s throaty roar echoed through the forest, shattering the icy stillness and giving his feet wings.
He ran. He knew they say you shouldn’t, but he had not seen the creature, and he hoped it had not seen him. He flew down the slope, or as close to ‘flew’ as he could in 10 inches of powdery snow. Leaping, twisting, sliding, falling down the steep mountainside.
The man couldn’t think why he was here. Or even where ‘here’ was.
There was a chuffing sound behind him and, stupidly, he threw a quick glance behind him. The animal was standing on its back legs, all nine feet of it, paws outstretched almost as wide as it was high, each digit on each paw tipped with a claw that was longer than his fingers.
He knew nothing of bear gender; only that it was half again as tall as him, and it must have weighed more than half a ton. It started down the slope behind him. He could picture it cleanly removing his head with one swipe. He fell; hard against a snow-covered stone about the size of a basketball. Turned over on his back, just in time to see its open jaws, dripping spittle onto the lower half of his right leg.
It bit down. Hard. His right calf exploded into a flash of putrescent green pain, tinged with red from the muscles along the front of his shin.
And opened his eyes; screamed again. No bear. Just the open door of his bathroom at the foot of the bed.
And the intense pain which gripped his right calf as the toe pointed in agony, calf as solid as a rock, in the grip of one of the worse cramps he had ever experienced.
For the last twenty-five years of his life, the man had been susceptible to leg cramp—particularly during the night—and it defied description. Tonight, in the spirit of ‘know your enemy’ he decided to try to put it to words. Oh, and colors. The pain from the cramp always came in waves of color; usually a putrescent olive green to start, mixed with various shades of cobalt turquoise, deep blues and—the worst—an almost iridescent red. Then there was the black. That only came along afterwards, usually just before he passed out. He looked forward to the black.
Usually, it wasn’t accompanied by dreams, just an incandescent flash of color and the pain that launched him into wakefulness, fighting to get his toes onto the floor and put enough weight on them to force his ankle to bend, forcing the circulation to start again.
At first, the ankle just refused to bend. The pain slowly turned blue, even worse than when it had started. On a scale of one to ten, he put it at an eight. Then slowly, putting all his focus on the idea of relaxing his calf, the ankle slowly started to give way, almost straight now.
The pain turned turquoise as it started to ease, to green and then fading—suddenly to strike again. it flashed immediately to dark indigo blue again, this time the cramp was in the muscle down the outside of his right fibula, one that often reacts to this maneuver to relieve the calf. Now, he must shift his foot to the right, while simultaneously leaning left to rotate the ankle and put as much stretch as possible into the muscle. Everything flashed red for a second, and then settled back to a pale green; it was almost done.
The man reached for the container of salt next to his bed, shook some into the palm of his hand, and tossed it onto his tongue. Sometimes this helped, but less and less so as time has gone on. His mouth went dry; like a once verdant garden struck suddenly by a withering blast of hot, dry air as the salt immediately took control of all the saliva available.
He reached for his flask, took a swig of cold water. It didn’t seem to make any significant difference. He remembered a time when he used to feel the cramp start to ease as soon as he tasted the salt. No more.
‘Ah, well,’ he thought. ‘Another of those nights.’ He knew it would be back.
He leant back on his bed, rolled to the left and bent his left knee, starting to settle in to find what sleep he could.
And suddenly his left thigh locked up, just behind and above the knee. This pain is intense. Red and dripping. Or at least that’s what it was in his mind.
He put his pillow over his face and screamed into its softness. For almost 5 minutes he was unable to straighten his leg. Eventually it all faded to the marvelous black of oblivion. He didn’t know if he had passed out from the pain, or if it faded until he eventually went back to sleep.
It felt like hours when he next opened his eyes. It was cold; seemed much colder than when he went to sleep. He blearily opened one eye and looked out the window over the snow-covered landscape, the heavily burdened trees creaking under the weight of the snow. And he froze. A few things started to sink in; he lived in the tropics - It should be warm, and his windows were covered by blackout curtains to keep out the light of streetlights and neighbors. He looked around. It was as if he was in a log cabin somewhere in the dead stillness of a winter’s night. The walls were logs; the roof was logs. Where was he? And how did he get here? He pinched his leg. It hurt, but nothing else happened.
He was in a one-room cabin. The bed was in one corner of a 15 x 20-foot room. He could vaguely make out the features of the room. A Pot-bellied stove sat diagonally across the room at the end of a counter that appeared to house a hand-operated pump and perhaps an icebox.
At the end of the bed, he could make out the shape of a small table with two chairs. There was a curtained-off corner to the left of where he was lying, and it looked like a bathroom area. He could see the door dimly outlined between the table and the stove.
The questions remained ‘Where the hell was he?’ and, more importantly ‘How did he get back?’
Then a heavy body crashed into the door.
And the bear roared.