Arctic Adventure

Stephen Trussel

Bam! The gun exploded with a roar, slamming the telescopic sight into the rim of my glasses. Blood poured into my eye from the cut on my eyebrow, temporarily blinding me. "Shoot him again, he's coming towards us, shoot, shoot!" "I can't see," I cried, "look at my face, am I alright?" "Yes, yes, it's nothing, shoot him again!" my wife stammered frantically.

The bear rolled down the hill, straight towards us, regained his balance and started to get up. I pulled back the bolt, ejected the cartridge, and lined up the cross-hairs below his shoulder once more.

Blood still flowing into my eye, I fired the second round. He fell, coming to a stop a few yards in front of us. "The other one, the other one, get the other one!" she cried. The second bear raced along the side of the steep hill, unbelievably fast. Again I fired. He stumbled, got back up, continued running. We heard him crashing through the woods.

And then, suddenly, once more there was silence, only the sound of our panting breaking the stillness of the Arctic morning. The first bear lay dead, the second not far off, badly wounded, dying. We sat down in shock, speechless for minutes. We hadn't wanted to take that rifle. It was old and heavy, World War II vintage, and we had had no intention of doing any hunting. But our friend had insisted on us carrying it. "What if you run into a grizzly?" was the line that had finally convinced us.

But these bears weren't grizzlies, they were young black bears. We'd had the misfortune to set up camp near one of their trails, and they had quickly discovered our cache of food, returning every morning to tear open our tree-top larder and gorge themselves until they got sick. This time we had stood a nervous vigil in the dusk-like summer night, waiting for their return. There was no way to sleep peacefully knowing they would be back at any time, and our food supply was rapidly dwindling. Now it was over. We had used the big gun, and two great animals lay dead and dying in the wilderness.

We sat quietly, dazed, a mixture of disbelief, relief, and disgust confusing our minds. This wasn't what we had come for, not what we had imagined. We were the intruders, not the bears. It was their neighborhood we had rudely invaded. They had probably never seen a human being in their lives. And when they did, it had killed them.

The more we thought about it the surer we became. It was time for us return to civilization, to leave the wilderness to the wild and beautiful beasts. Our Arctic adventure was over.