I sat across the table from the brown bear. She offered me a cup of tea.
“Would you like honey or sugar?” she asked.
I took a sip of my tea. “Sugar, please,” I replied.
She placed a spoonful of honey in my cup.
The brown bear stood, stretching her furry limbs in grizzly fashion, claws and teeth shining in the twilight. She stared down at me. Her dark eyes bore into my soul, reflecting my face and the surrounding woods.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
I didn’t know where I was going. “Anywhere but where I came from, I suppose.” My response was half-hearted. I wanted to go nowhere.
The brown bear blinked and cocked her head. “Why are you going at all?”
“There are men with guns after me,” I said. “I don’t know why they’re chasing me, but I feel as though I must run from them without question.”
“Protect what is yours at whatever cost,” the brown bear said. She sat back down and daintily drank her tea.
“Protège ce qui t’appartient à tout prix,” she repeated, this time in French.
Then again in Spanish, “Protégé lo que es tuyo a cualquier costo.”
Once more in Latin, “Ista pecunia quidquid tutantur.”
Her voice grew louder as footsteps of many men began to stomp through the detritus.
Turning towards the sound, I saw dark figures accented with orange rise from the ground like many neon suns. I spun back around, and the brown bear was gone. The table and chairs and teapot had vanished. All that remained was a cracked teacup, lying pathetically at my feet.
Those feet began to move. Running, running, running. Trees became brushstrokes of greens and brown, the sky a blue paint spill growing larger and larger as I pressed forward and out of the woods.
The land ran out. I stood there, panting on all fours, cornered on a jagged cliff. The men rose from the earth once again, the horizon still allowing them passage.
The barrel of a gun rose to my heart.
“Protect what is yours at whatever cost,” I said to myself.
A flash and a bang were too late to catch me.
I sailed down into an abyss. When I opened my eyes, I was sitting by a small tea table, myself on the other side. My paw was outstretched, a teacup hooked on one claw. “Would you like honey or sugar?” I asked.