Most of the day had passed without incident or success. The sunlight was fading quickly and the first hints of the night fog were starting to form along the forest floor. Ben was starving. The constant foaming in his mouth was making him crazy. He was getting so angry and frustrated at the entire ordeal that he was wishing Larry was around so he could tear him to pieces with his bare hands.
Exhausted and broken, Ben sat down on a large rock formation and rested his head in his hands. It must have been at least two hours that he had passed out because when he was startled awake, darkness surrounded him. The forest was very old, the trees were tall and thick and blocked out the majority of the moonlight.
He had heard countless noises while he trekked around the woods that day, but this was different. Something very large was moving about, shaking bushes and snapping twigs as it went. Ben climbed to the top of the rocks, about four feet off the ground, and peered around. To his surprise, both of his eyes were wide open and they were adjusting remarkably quickly to the low light.
He didn’t need his full vision to see what was coming. An enormous grizzly bear sauntered forward through the trees and into the opening in front of the rocks. It must not have picked up his scent right away because the bear seemed just as startled to see Ben. It stood up on its hind legs and with its arms stretched wide it roared.
Even when the gun was pointed at his head the night before, Ben had not been as scared or intimidated as he was now, crouched down in front of this huge, fierce beast. He tried to think of all the movies and documentaries he had ever seen in his life but drew a blank.
“Run? Play dead? Don’t stare it in the eyes? Be aggressive?” Ben contemplated under his breath. The big bear dropped down onto its front legs and then stood back up and unleashed an even louder roar.
Ben’s heart was racing and he was beginning to pant as the saliva dripped from the sides of his mouth. “I can’t believe that after all of this I’m going to die to a damn bear” he snarled.
The bear stood on its hind legs and tilted its head side to side as if sizing Ben up, daring him to make a move. A terrible pain began in Ben’s upper back, as if his body was expanding beyond the limits of his skin. “Ahhh…” Ben wailed as he rocked back and forth on his knees and the grizzly responded with its loudest and angriest growl yet.
The pain started up in his arms as well. Ben knelt there, staring at his forearms as the veins under the skin pulsed and throbbed. His arms were bulging so much, and the veins pressed so firmly into his skin, that he was sure they would be pushed through. Each second that passed, it became more painful and disturbing. The knuckles in his fingers cracked and crunched as his hands not only swelled but stretched. His middle finger was easily five inches long and his nails jutted out another inch and were thick and razor-sharp.