ENTER, PURSUED BY A BEAR • by Ray Bradnock

Antigonus: Look, you’ve been following me for ages now. Isn’t it time to give up?

Bear: Chasing. I’ve been chasing — not following — you for ages, and I am not giving up in the slightest.

Antigonus: Well, is that the fastest you go? Am I about to be “ambled” to death over several years?

Bear: Listen, my friend, it’s not easy being a bear. Especially in winter. I’m supposed to be asleep now. My bedtime is a thing of distant memory. Can’t you just stand still and we’ll get this over with?

Antigonus: Here’s an idea: how about we take a break? You stop following — I mean chasing — me, and I’ll stop strolling — I mean running — away?

Bear: Sounds like a plan. Where shall we sit? Near some food perhaps? At least find somewhere comfortable.

Antigonus: Look, there’s a nice mossy bank over there. After you?

Bear: Many thanks. (Sigh!…) Do you know that my heart really isn’t in this game anymore? For the last several hundred years all I’ve done is exited. I never seem to be getting anywhere. The times I’ve wished that, just once, I could enter somewhere. I think I’d feel a real sense of achievement if that happened. Progress. Something to look forward to.

Antigonus: It’s not really that great to be honest with you. One entrance is much the same as the next. They all become boring after a while.

Bear: I’d love to be bored with entrances. New boredom every day! Fantastic!

Antigonus: Careful what you wish for. Some places you enter are not very welcoming. It can be terrible if you are not where you should be. People become uncomfortable with things they do not expect or agree with. They feel themselves entitled to be at ease in their chosen environments. Do not upset the status quo.

Bear: I can see how that might turn out. I ran into a bloke a few years ago on a previous exit, and he was not happy. Seemed he was off to see his mates Vladimir and Estragon, but kept exiting to the wrong place, never getting entrance to where he wanted to be. Poor Godot, he seemed so confused. At his behest I ate him to relieve his pain. I still wonder if his mates ever went home, or are still just hanging around?

Antigonus: That rings a bell, actually. This time we spend exiting is draining, I admit. What could we do if we were sent in a different direction? Play? Write? Sing? Love?

Bear: No time for any of those. All I think about is food and hunting. My in-bred feelings tell me that the world is better with more bears and fewer humans. My rumbling stomach confirms this regularly.

Antigonus: Stomachs and gut feelings are never what they seem. Bad system to rely on for hard facts.

Bear: That’s okay for you to say, but I’ve got a lot of hibernating to catch up on after all these years.

Antigonus: You seem to be looking at me a little differently. Has this rest affected you adversely?

Bear: Not in the slightest. I feel it is time for us to return to our main activities. Enough rest for both of us. Let us return to ambling and strolling.

Antigonus: Okay, are you ready? Do you want to give me a start, or should I put some real effort in to build up a lead?

Bear: Don’t get smart with me, sunshine; I may feel a surge of trotting coming on.

Antigonus: Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset the status quo. Shall we go?

Bear: I’ll be right behind you. What’s that over there?

Antigonus: It seems to be a way out. A signpost. What does it say?

Bear: Hiroshima.

(Exit, for a final time, pursued by a bear…)

Ray Bradnock lives near Birmingham in the UK. He enjoys writing novels, shorts, poetry — all of them with a wry twist.

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