In January, 2019, 3 yr Casey Hathaway went missing from his backyard in Craven County. The entire area quickly mobilised to search for him.

     Thankfully, after 3 days he was found,  but strangely in an area that had already been searched. He was healthy and in good spirits despite the freezing wet weather. 

     When questioned he had told rescuers he had spent two days "hanging out with a bear"... but was it a bear?

     This story speculatively explores what MAY have happened from the "bear's" perspective...

CRAVEN COUNTY, 2019

     The female Sasquatch watched the children play.

     Their excited breath frosted the cold winter air as they played in the small house yard that backed into the forest.

     She had heard the laughter and shouting some time earlier, while making her way through the thick forest that ran through the patchwork of farms that covered this flat country. She knew travel was dangerous in the bright light of day with so many Hairless dwellings about, but thought she should be safe enough this time of year.

     The worst of Winter had passed and there was no snow on the ground but it was still very cold and few Hairless Ones left the warmth of their shelters even in the warmth of day.

     Most of the country she was passing through was cropland or regrowth that had been cleared a generation or two ago, which meant it was now thick and dense, more than adequate to hide her from any Hairless Ones who might venture into the forest to hunt the plentiful deer.

     Needless to say, she kept well clear of the houses that were dotted along the roads, staying deep in the trees as much as possible… that is, until she had heard the shouting and laughter of the children.

     Immediately past visions of her own children had flooded her mind and she felt her heart break at the memories. Before she knew what she was doing she had followed the sounds towards the road and the high roof of a house that she soon glimpsed through the tall trees.

     She was confident the children would not see her. Hairless Ones seemed blind to everything but movement so as long as she stayed still she knew she was safe. 

     Only her eyelids moved, blinking away her tears as she watched the three Hairless children play. They were very young, their excited breath leaving small clouds in the cold air as they shouted and ran, chasing each other around and around in their strange skins.

     An almost-forgotten yearning pulled at her heart. It had been many long moons since she had watched her own children play. For many seasons now she had been wandering the world alone. It was harder to hunt without her mate, but she had persisted and survived, despite the heaviness of her heart.

      Hearing these small Hairless Ones play, the old memories stirred afresh and she questioned herself for the first time.

     What was she doing? Wandering aimlessly until her bones grew too old to walk and her teeth too worn to eat? Her life suddenly seemed without purpose, and her heart felt as if it would break but she continued to stay still… her heavy heart lifted by the children’s playful laughter.

     But then the children stopped playing. The brief warmth of noon had passed and the sun was beginning to lower behind the tops of the trees bordering the western side of the small yard. Two of the children started to walk towards the house, rubbing their arms against the chilly winter air and her heart skipped. She did not want them to go!

     The third and smallest however stayed behind, protesting loudly at having to go inside. He pointed towards the trees and shouted, trying to interest the others in a new game, but they ignored him and continued inside, the door slamming behind them.

     The smaller one kicked at the ground, but he did not follow his friends. Instead, he ran over to the trees he had been pointing at, flapping his arms and making cawing sounds like he was a bird.

     The female Sasquatch watched him disappear into the trees.

     She looked back towards the house, no movement came from the windows. Slipping back deeper into the woods, she made her way around in a curve towards where the little one had disappeared.

     She soon found it, running and jumping from behind one tree to the next, playing some sort of game all by itself. It would stop behind one tree, look around it and jump out, holding a stick in front of its face and making strange noises with its mouth. She realised it was playing at hunting, pretending the stick was one of the weapons the adult Hairless Ones used to kill from a distance.

     It seemed completely unaware that its game was taking it deeper and deeper into the woods. And in its youth seemed also unaware of the darkening sky. Night was coming and it would soon get very cold for one such as he. The female Sasquatch followed, staying just out of sight three or four trees behind. Her heart still ached, but now she was also concerned. If the Little One did not stop playing and turn back soon it would get very cold, very fast.

     Finally, it stopped and looked all around, holding its arms across its body. For the first time she saw worry on its face and her heart ached even more for this small innocent one now so far from its home.

     It looked confused, as if it did not know which direction to go.

     Finally making its mind up it headed off, but deeper into the woods in the wrong direction. The female Sasquatch was conflicted. Hairless Ones were to be left alone at all costs, yet if she did not interfere this one would surely die in the cold of the fast-approaching night.

     Perhaps it was her resurrected motherly instinct, perhaps it was her loneliness, but she then did something she never thought she would do… she stepped out from behind the tree she was behind and cooed softly.

     The small Hairless One stopped and turned around to look at her. But ti did not run off screaming as she half-expected. With obvious relief washing away the worried look on its face it smiled and spoke some sounds.

     She cooed again and it started walking towards her, still uttering those sounds from its mouth.

     It reached out a hand and she extended her own, enveloping its bald, cold hand with her own. She turned and started making her way back towards its home, the little one’s tiny hand already growing warm inside her grip.

     At first it continued to talk as they walked through the trees. But soon the chattering voice was replaced with chattering teeth and she looked down to see its pale face looking very cold and tired. The poor thing had been running about madly for hours. It had no energy left with which to fight the increasingly cold air. It was almost asleep on its feet and they were still a long way from its home, so she did the second thing she never thought she would ever do… she picked it up and held it close to her chest, wrapping her thick, hairy arms around it like a blanket. It looked up at her with tired eyes and smiled before closing them again and drifting into sleep. 

     Now with the little one in her arms she could finally make good time and slid through the dark trees with ease, her night eyes easily retracing their steps.

     But before she could get close to the house where it lived loud sounds stopped her movements.

     It was Hairless Ones shouting!

     The hair lifted on her body from instant fear. They must be looking for the little one!

     If she moved closer she risked being seen. Through the trees ahead she could make out a handful of lights sweeping back and forth.

     Bending low, she lowered the little one to the ground but it did not wake. She prodded it and cooed, trying to wake it up but it refused to open its eyes. Instead it immediately started shivering with cold. Her heart broke. She could not leave it here, it might freeze.  But she dared not approach the lights either. What if they had guns?

     Hairless Ones were blind in the night, they might walk right past without even seeing their lost young one! It would die in the cold night!

    She made her mind up. Scooping it back into her thick, warm arms she backed away into the dark forest. It immediately stopped shivering again. She would keep it warm until dawn, then come back and leave it where the Hairless Ones could find it in the light.

     Not even stopping to look for food she swiftly made her way deep into the forest to find a hidden spot to bed down.

     Eventually she found where a large old tree had fallen near a small trickling stream. Gathering a pile of bracken with one hand she made a quick nest under the trunk and lay the little Hairless One down into it. Then she went to the stream and took a long, deep drink.

     By the time she returned to the nest it was already shivering again so she lay down and once again wrapped her hairy arms around it. 

     It warmed up quickly and she placated the worst of her hunger with the bulbs of the ferns she had pulled. They were rich in starch and helped ease her grumbling, empty stomach enough to get some sleep herself.

     With the rising sun came rain… cold, drenching rain that chilled even a Sasquatch’s massive body. Her plans on returning the little Hairless One to its family would have to wait until the rain eased. The fallen tree provided some shelter and the Little One stayed close, refusing to let go of her as it shivered and shook from the cold. She was not much better herself. All she had eaten to fuel herself was the few bulbs from the ferns the night before and going fossicking for more would mean getting drenched. Together they huddled close, trying to stay warm as the morning passed.

     Finally, the rain eased and the afternoon sun tried to seep some warmth through the clouds. 

     The Little One followed her to the creek and took a long drink before relieving itself against a bush.

     The female Sasquatch looked at the sky. It would be dark again soon and they both needed food. There would be not enough time to return the child this day. Instead she pulled some more ferns from a slope nearby. The Little One watched her intently as she munched on the tiny bulbs on their roots. She passed a couple to him and it followed her lead, screwing its face up as it chewed. She laughed, a soft, woofing sound that widened its eyes in surprise. Then the Little One laughed too, echoing the sounds that had drawn her near the previous day.

     The fern bulbs were not enough so she returned to the creek and followed it upstream until it formed into a larger pool. Squatting at the edge she felt around under the bank until eventually she felt a fish stir against her skin.  Immediately she grabbed it and triumphantly pulled it clear of the cold water, the fish struggling uselessly to get free from her grasp. She bit its head off and joyfully crunched down on its bones, feeling its juicy, protein-rich eyes pop under her strong teeth.

     The Little One gasped and looked at her with wide, shocked eyes. She offered it the fish but it furiously shook its head, the skin on its face paling even more as it did so. Oh well, more for her. In a few more crunches of her strong teeth it was gone and her hunger was at least partially satisfied.

     Her belly already warming from the protein she looked down at the Little One. The sun was rapidly lowering again and it was already shivering. She had to get it back to its kind. It would die out here if she did not. She had heard of other Sasquatch taking Hairless children and trying to care for them as if they were their own. They were weak and never survived long. And the Hairless Ones would never stop looking for it. Just then, as if her thoughts had called it a roaring filled the trees and she looked up to see a giant metal wasp fly overhead. It passed on, then turned and crossed again further to the east before it faded away.

     There was not enough time to return the Little One today. Night would soon fall again and the cold would come. Hopefully in the morning it would not be raining and she could return it then. Shivering harder as the sun lowered,  the Little One followed her back to the nest for another night huddled into her massive warm body.

     As she watched it sleep the night away the female Sasquatch felt an almost-forgotten warmth fill her old heart. While wandering alone she had been too busy trying to survive but now, with this Little One huddled close she realised how lonely she had actually been since burying her mate. Together they had raised three young to go off and make their own troops in the world. She wondered now where they might be. Hopefully all were well and happy somewhere, deep in the mountains to the west, far away from this flat, farm splattered country.

     Maybe she could try to find them?

     For a long while she considered taking this Little One with her. She smiled as she thought of the looks she would get approaching a troop with a Hairless child in tow.

     Looking again at its soft skin and the strange skins it wore to protect itself she shook her head. It would never survive in her world.

     She looked to the east where the sky was beginning to finally lighten and she set her heart. Today she would take it back. Once it was safely with its kind she would turn west and make her way into the mountains again.

     She waited for the sun to rise high enough to filter some warmth into the forest before gently waking the Little One. Together they drank from the creek and munched on some more fern bulbs before heading back towards where she knew its home to be.

     Often they had to stop while the angry metal wasp flew low overhead. She decided to move in a large circle, making their way north and hopefully around behind the teams of searching Hairless Ones she knew must be roaming the forest. That way she could leave it near a road where it would be sure to be found and give herself plenty of time to get away.

     Finally, just as the cold afternoon was beginning to fall once again she came across a small waterway not too far from the house it lived in. A low, tree-less briar patch bordered the water’s edge and on the other side was a road in clear view. Being careful there were no Hairless Ones coming down it she took the Little One into the open where even a Hairless One could not miss it.

     It looked at her confused as she backed away, keeping a watchful eye on the road. Thankfully none were about.

     It tried to follow her but the briars caught on its strange skins.

     She motioned for it to stay and backed into some thick trees that stood nearby.

     Just in time, for a Hairless One suddenly appeared, walking down the road with a dog on a leash.

     She whistled and it turned to look in her direction.

     Even from well into the trees she saw its eyes widen when it saw the Little One in the briar patch. Immediately it took something from its pocket and prodded at it before holding it up to its ear, all the time waving and pointing across the water and shouting excitedly.

     In no time at all a car pulled up and some more Hairless Ones got out.

     She watched as they waded across the water to the Little One and picked it up, huge smiles on their faces.

     As they carried it to the road it looked back at her in the shadows of the trees. She moved a little so it would see her and the Little One smiled and waved. She waved back, once, before melting away deeper into the safety of the forest. 

     Wiping away a tear she set her eyes towards the northwest where she knew the mountains were. She strode off. She had some kin to find.

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