The Nortang Bears

By Erin Pringle

Up in the high mountains live the Nortang bears. They come down in Spring when mountain climbers are fished from the rivers, and they return in Autumn when the mountain climbers fall like leaves of red and gold. The bears have sharp teeth and claws, and their coats are as ragged as the clouds people see after a bad dream has brought them onto the porch. Where they wait in the dark. As though good dreams are just past how far they can see—if they look further.

The Nortang bears are older than trees, and their paw pads are as hard as the rocks under the streams where the dead lay, like the first fish a Nortang bear catches and leaves gutted. The dead watch each other between the streams and rocks. The wind that hardly moves them throws bees from flowers while they wait for the bears to come down the mountain, or go up it, or eat.

Originally published in Sand Journal in Berlin