Chapter 4- The Giant Golden Grizzly
“Were you scared?” asked Emily.
“Very, I was worried they would find out that I really couldn’t talk to animals.”
“Well, we all piled into a tiny little car and drove up the street to an open field, you know, the one that Mr. Andrews keeps his old swayback horse in?”
“The one with the real rusty gate?”
“That’s the one. So, we all got out and stood in the middle of the field, my mom was holding my hand, she looked scared. My father was behind me with his hands on my shoulders, holding me a little too tight.
I also remember whispering to the professor again that I don’t think I can speak to animals and I’m afraid I can’t do what they’re asking of me. She knelt in front of me and said something that I’ll never forget…”
“Have you ever sensed something strange when you walked through the woods, down to the store or even around the yard. Something you couldn’t quite understand or put your finger on, but knew it was there? Have you noticed how there always seems to be an animal close by? Maybe a deer looking a little too long in your direction? Or a squirrel or rabbit in the yard staring at the window you’re looking out of? Or maybe, a hawk watching you from a limb in a tree you happen to be sitting under?”
“For some reason I suddenly remembered all those times I DID see something. All those memories came rushing back. All those things she mentioned had happened to me! Even at night, lying in bed, I had the feeling something was there, that an animal was always close by but, the strange thing was, I was never afraid. It was actually comforting knowing they were out there; it was like they were protecting me.”
The words flew from her grandmother’s mouth the same way her memories must have flooded her head that night.
“I even remembered that I thought I heard voices, like they were trying to talk to me. That part did scare me because it kind of made me feel like I was crazy, so I tried to block it out when it happened. I told the professor about that, and she said it was true, they were trying to talk to me, and I could talk back to them, or not, it was up to me. She said I had a special gift that allowed me to understand them, and they could understand me. I didn’t have to use words all the time either, sometimes a conversation could take place in my head without saying any words.”
Emily’s eyes lit up. “Like what happened with me and the heron! Like I told you I thought he was talking to me! That was real?”
“Yes dear, exactly. You see, you have the same gift I do. You can talk to any animal if you open yourself up to them.”
“Wow, that’s cool… right?”
“Yes, it’s very cool.”
“But what happened with you and the Giant Golden Grizzly and why didn’t your parents talk to it instead of you?”
“They didn’t have the ability.”
“I see.” She thought for a second, “What about my mom and dad? Can they talk to them?”
“No, they can’t either.”
“Oh, so, it skips a generation?”
“Yes, sometimes. It can even skip more or none at all, it’s very inconsistent.”
“But my parents know about it, so, they know, that I know, now, right?”
Her grandmother looked up and said slowly, using her finger as an aid, “Um, they know…that I know…now. Yes, exactly, that’s why I’m telling you this and not them because they thought it would be easier coming from someone with the ability.”
She patted the seat. “Okay, have a seat. So, where was I?”
“You’re all in the field.”
“Right, so, we’re standing in the middle of the field…”
Chapter 5- First, I Need Some of Your Spit
Qbit said, “Okay, Mom and Dad, this is as far as you can go. Kaya, the professor, and I are going to take you through the gate we were talking about. But first I need some of your spit.”
Kaya looked at him with a puzzled face. “Spit?”
He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out something and unfolded it. “This tablet can recognize you and let you through with us.”
“Oh! The spit’s for DNA identification?”
“Exactly!” He handed her a cotton swap which she used to swirl around the inside of her cheeks. She handed it back to him and he stuck it into the machine. It took a second then the machine beeped. Qbit opened a compartment on the back and took out a pill, he handed it to Kaya.
“Nano markers?” she asked.
“Right again! How do you know all this stuff?”
“My parents are biologists and they’re working on a project that uses this same sort of stuff.”
“I’m very impressed.” He leaned in close to her and whispered, “I think you and I would make perfect lab partners, but don’t tell the professor I said that.”
She smiled and whispered back, “I won’t.”
Kaya swallowed the pill and asked, “What next?”
“We head to the gate.” He called over to the professor. “We’re all ready, how about you?”
“Coming!” She turned to her parents and repeated, “She’ll be fine, I promise.”
“Be careful!” yelled her dad. Her mom bit her lower lip and waved.
Kaya yelled back, “I will, see you in a bit!”
The professor walked over to Qbit and Kaya, “Okay, any questions before we go?”
Kaya looked past them and asked, “Where’s the gate?”
Qbit turned to the right and pointed, “It’s right over there.”
She looked to where he was pointing and said, “I don’t see anything.”
“That’s because it’s hard to see. Here, I’ll show you.” Qbit took her hand and led her a few yards away. Once they were close enough, she could make out something that looked like a slight, oval shimmer in the air.
“That’s a gate? How does it work.?
“We go through it, like this.” He stuck his hand into the shimmer, it disappeared. He pulled it out and it was back.”
“That’s incredible! Can I try?”
She stuck her fingers in and watched them disappear then pulled them back out quickly. She checked to make sure they were all there. She looked at Qbit with a smile then plunged her whole arm in, letting it stay in there for a couple of seconds. Suddenly a look of concern came over her face and she pulled it back quickly.”
“What’s the matter?” asked the professor.
“Where did that part of my arm, uh, go?”
She said, “Into a rain forest.”
“Cool! A rainforest!” She paused for a second then asked. “If something was standing on the other side, it would see my arm suddenly appear out of nowhere, right?
“Then how do I know there isn’t some sort of wild animal in the middle of a huge yawn when I stick my arm in, or for that matter, my head?
Qbit laughed and said, “Well, if it wasn’t for this thing (he waved the tablet he used to scan her spit) you could possibly end up doing that! But this can read the density of the area surrounding the other gate. It can also give us a thermal image so between the two we can be pretty certain what’s on the other side.” He looked at his watch again and said, “We better get going.”
The three of them stood next to each other in front of the shimmer. Qbit said, “Okay, here we go.” They all turned towards Kaya’s parents, waved, then stepped through.
Chapter 6- Bioluminescence
“Where did you end up?” asked Emily.
“We were in a rain forest! There were tall trees all around and it smelled of dead leaves and soil. You could hear the drops of water dripping onto the leaves from above, it was beautiful.”
Emily scrunched up her face, “So, how far away was it? A little way or far away? How does that gate work?”
“We didn’t have a lot of time to discuss that, plus, I think you’re going to find out for yourself at Arcadia and they’ll probably do a better job, than I can, of describing how it works. So how about we leave it at that?”
“I can tell you that it was only a short walk to the cave the bear had run into. We followed a narrow path through the trees. There were deep paw and claw prints, and I mean big claw prints, in the soft soil and plenty of broken branches and ripped leaves. You could tell that something huge had run through there. We stopped when the trail ran out at an entrance to a large cave. I knew that this was the place because I could feel something. Something I’ve felt before”
Emily sat quietly, listening intently as Nee Nee looked up and put her hand out in front of her like she must have done way back then.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It… it was just there. I felt it not just in my head, but, throughout my whole body. It felt, um…”
“Yes, exactly. You know, then?”
“Yeah. I felt it once when I was watching the heron standing in the pond by your house. Everything else kind of melted away. There was only me and him. Plus, it was like he knew I was there, and it didn’t matter. It felt like I could feel what he was feeling, the more I relaxed the more I felt it. I mean, my feet felt cool even though I wasn’t in the water, and I could feel the wind on my face even though I was hidden in the trees. After a bit, I wondered if he could do the same thing; feel what I felt, so I pinched my right forearm to see what would happen. As soon as I did his head snapped toward me and he shook his right wing!”
Nee Nee laughed.
“I could have sworn I heard him say, ‘Yes, of course I felt that’, in my head, no words! Then he spread his wings and jumped into the air. It was the most glorious feeling. I closed my eyes and felt myself become lighter as the wind blew across my face. It lasted for a few seconds then it was gone.”
They both sat there for a second remembering.
Emily broke the silence. “You said Qbit mentioned something about someone else was with the bear, who was that?”
“It was Pippy, she’s the other person who had tried to make a connection with the bear. She told me a little about him and why he was in there…”
Pippy said, “You need to tell him it’s okay to come with us. We want to help him and bring him to safety.”
Kaya leaned forward to peer inside the cave, squinting her eyes. “Do I have to go all the way inside?”
“Maybe not, you can try connecting from here if you want. You feel him now, don’t you?”
She looked back at her, “Yeah, I can, a little. You can too, right?”
“Not anymore, he kind of lost his trust in me.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Well, it’s because of me he’s hurt. I should’ve been more careful.”
“I see.” She paused for a second, looking at the cave then back to Pippy. “I’m not really sure how to do this. It’s my first time really trying.”
“I know, it’s okay. The way I do it is I concentrate on the feeling. Let everything else go.”
“I’ll try.” Kaya closed her eyes and dropped her head. She tried to block everything else out…the connection came quickly, startling her. She jerked up her head, and said, “Woah!”
“Everything okay?” asked Pippy.
She looked at her and said,” Yeah, it came really strong, the connection I mean. I kinda expected it to be harder.”
“It happens that way, sometimes. Try again.”
This time, Kaya looked into the cave and closed her eyes. The connection was quick, but she expected it, so it wasn’t as bad. “He’s hurt and scared. Plus, he’s still angry at you. He says you lied to him, he trusted you and you lied.” She looked at Pippy. “He said he doesn’t want you listening.” She could see that Pippy was hurt by this. “You didn’t lie to him, did you?”
She looked toward the cave. “I told him everything was going to be okay. I had no idea there were others coming to hurt him. They tried to catch him, but I was able to get us to safety and hide him. While we were running, I think he was shot in the leg.”
“Shot? Like, with a gun?”
“Yes…Can you please tell him I didn’t know”. She looked at Kaya and repeated, “Really, I didn’t know.”
Kaya could see that she was very upset, she said, “I’ll try.” She turned back toward the cave and opened herself up. The feeling came back stronger and with it, a sharp pain in her right leg.” She reached down to rub it.
The Giant Golden Grizzly said, “I don’t feel her anymore. Is she still here?”
“Yes, but she’s not listening anymore, like you asked. She wanted me to tell you that she’s very sorry and it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know about the others. She’s very upset that you’re hurt. She wants you to believe that.”
“Do you believe her”
“I think so, yes.”
“I would find it easier to believe it if my leg didn’t hurt so much.”
“I know, I can feel it. Even so, if she didn’t know maybe you could forgive her. You need to trust her.”
“I did once and now look where I am.”
“Hmm, you’ve got me there.”
The bear made a sound that resembled a laugh. “You’re honest but I still feel that you’re scared of me.”
“Yes, very. To be totally honest, this is my first time, and I don’t want to mess it up.”
“Ahh, I see. You’re young, too, just a cub.”
“Yes, I’m twelve, if that’s the age of a cub, I don’t know.”
“I would like you to come in. I want to see you, up close.”
“First, can I ask you a question?”
“Ask it and I’ll see if I want to answer.”
“Okay, is it always this easy to talk to an, um, animal? I thought it would be hard to understand you, like, you wouldn’t know a lot of human words.”
“I thought the same thing when I first started talking to you guys. I mean, how am I going to understand your grunts, groans, and other stuff. But, I guess, however this works, we can always understand each other no matter what language we speak. Have you spoken to anyone else?”
“No, not really. I think I connected with a heron once.
“How’d that go?”
“Well, I really wasn’t sure if we were, ya know, connected, so I pinched my arm to find out. It turns out he felt it.”
The bear made that laughing sound so hard that not only did she hear it in her head, but she also heard the echo come from the cave.
“HA, HA, HA, that’s a good one! I never thought of trying that. Here…”
Suddenly she felt a pinch in her arm. It was hard enough for her to yelp in pain. “Owww, hey that hurt!”
“HA, HA, HA! It works!
“Oh my, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, thank you!”
“You’re welcome, I think. Is it alright if I come in?”
“Sure, sure, I definitely need to meet you!”
Kaya moved toward the cave entrance and peered in. She looked down at the rocky ground and slowly made her way inside by jumping from rock to rock.
The grizzly said, “You’re unsure and scared and you still don’t trust me.”
Carefully picking her way over the rocks, she said, “I don’t know if it’s about trust. It’s about not knowing what’s going to happen. I don’t know anything about you, really, and I have been thrown into something I have never experienced before. Plus, I’m thinking about my parents waiting for me to come back. What if I don’t, they’ll feel terrible.”
“Hmm, then why did you come if you’re so unsure?
“I don’t know. I just knew I had to.”
“I think that’s a brave thing to do.”
“I don’t know about that; I just want to help.”
The cave got darker as she went further in. It became difficult to find her way safely.
“It’s getting too dark in here; I can’t see anything.”
“Here, let me help you.”
The cave was suddenly flooded with a blue light. It seemed to be coming from directly in front and above her. What she had thought was the darkness of the cave ahead, turned out to be the Grizzly’s body; it filled the width of the cave. She slowly looked up, she could see his chest move in and out with each breath he took. She gulped and continued up. It was when she reached his head that she could see that the light was coming from his eyes.
She froze for a second then said the first thing that came into her head, “Bioluminescence.”
He looked down at her, “What? What did you just call me?”
“I didn’t call you anything. I said, Bioluminescence, it’s how your eyes glow. Creatures under the water use it for mating.”
“Really? You’re not scared of an animal that has glowing blue eyes and out-weighs you by about a thousand pounds?”
“Well, when I get scared, for some reason I freeze then say the first thing that comes into my head. But, most importantly, I feel I can… trust you.”
“Hmm, good answer kid.” The grizzly folded his wings and sat back down, favoring his left leg.
Kaya watched his wings disappear behind him. “Thank you. Can I ask you something else?”
“What’s your wingspan?”
He glanced behind him and said, “I don’t know, about thirty feet.”
She sat down on a rock and said, “Ha, he was wrong.”
“Who was wrong?”
“Qbit, he said it was twenty feet.”
“Qbit, I know about him. I can’t connect though. I don’t think he can do what we can do.”
“Unlike Pippy, right?”
He sighed. “I guess.”
She pointed toward his leg. “I really don’t think she did any of this on purpose.”
He touched it gently and winced. “Yeah, I suppose.”
“Maybe you could forgive her, just this time.”
“Yeah, I suppose that too. She has been a good friend.”
They sat for a second.
“I have one more question?”
“I told you were like a cub; full of questions.”
“I didn’t get your name.”
“That’s not a question but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s Misabe Mukwa.”
She stuck out her hand and said, “Hello Misabe Mukwa, my name is Kaya.”
He stuck out his paw, Kaya backed away a little as five huge claws stopped just inches from her. She reached out to grasp one of them, then shook it. She smiled up at him.
“So, what happens now?” she asked.
He looked at her and said, “I think it’s time to get out of here (he scrunched up his muzzle) ‘cause it stinks like bat poop in here.”
“Plus, maybe you miss Pippy.”
“Yeah, maybe that too.”
“I thought bears would be used to that smell.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know, I thought all bears live in caves.”
“That’s a bit stereotypical, isn’t it?
“I guess so, sorry. So where does a thousand-pound flying bear live?”
“Anywhere I want Kaya, anywhere I want.”
He pushed himself up and led the two of them towards the front of the cave. Just before they headed out Kaya said, “Hold on a second Mayuk. What are you going to tell them when we get out there?”
He stopped and turned around to look at her, “About what?”
“Me. I kind of think this was a test. A test to see if I could, you know, connect with you.”
“Hm, if it was, they didn’t say anything to me about it.” He thought for a second then said, “I’ll tell them, that any kid that walks into a dark cave to connect with a thousand-pound flying grizzly bear and gives him a biology lesson about biolumiah, bibliolum…”
“A lesson about bioluminescence, and the mating habits of underwater fish deserves to pass.”
She smiled at him and together they turned and walked out into the bright sunlight.