A Cry For Help by Deb Jennifer

For several years, my partner Drea and I lived way out in the woods.  I have many strange and wonderful animal stories from these days, but this is my favorite.

It was summer.  Mid-afternoon.  Drea and I were in the clearing where our house stood,  building a door which was up on sawhorses.  I had a hammer in my hand.  The radio was cranked up on an oldies station.  The sun was out.  The world was good.  Until we heard the noise. 

It came from deep in the woods — a voice, calling over and over. 

“Do you hear that?” I asked.  Drea nodded.  I switched off the radio.  We listened.  The calling continued. 

Drea thought it sounded like someone had lost their dog and was in the woods, calling – screaming really, furious that the dog had run away – “Ralph!” over and over. 

“No,” I told her, a sick feeling sweeping over me.  “Listen.  It’s someone yelling, ‘Help!’” 

As we argued about what it was the person was yelling, the gravelly voice got more desperate.   Drea soon agreed that the voice was calling for help.

It didn’t help that Drea and I had seen The Blair Witch Project a few days before.  And it scared the hell out of us, living in our tiny cabin way out in the middle of the woods.  As we heard the voice calling, we both thought that it was like something straight from the movie.  Too much like it.  Maybe it was one of our twisted friends messing with us?  We discussed this possibility for a few minutes, wondering which of them would do such a thing, such a strange, sadistic, elaborate prank (this was before I knew Deb Eileen).  Meanwhile, the calls for help got ever more insistent, desperate. 

I became completely convinced there was an old man in the woods and something terrible was happening to him.  Drea was still skeptical, but not skeptical enough to risk leaving someone alone in the woods to suffer.  So, hammer in hand, terrified, I led us into the woods towards the voice.  As we got closer, and I got even more terrified, I suggested we turn back, drive to the neighbors for help.  Wouldn’t we be better off going into the woods in a large group?  But there wasn’t time.  Whoever this was, whatever was happening to him, he needed us right away. 

Scenarios went through our minds and we discussed them as we made our way towards the voice: a man trapped under a fallen tree, stuck in a leg-hold trap, being mauled by a wild animal, or tortured by a roving band of Satanists.   Or, of course, Satanists setting a trap for us, luring us into the woods for unspeakable reasons. 

The calls for help seemed clearer.  The voice was old.  Raspy.  Desperate with panic.  An old man in terrible pain. 

We called back:  “We’re coming!  Where are you?  What’s happened?”

All we got in response was another series of cries, “Help, help, HEEE-LLLLP!” interspersed with little moans.

The woods were thick, dark and cool, and it was slow going.  Saplings snapped at our faces.  We tripped on deadfalls.  It was like the forest itself was trying to hold us back. 

We were close.  The sound was just over a little hill.  As we climbed the hill, we heard a snarling growl.  Drea and I froze.  Stared at each other in sheer terrror.   I now understood what was happening.  I knew that when we crested the hill, we’d look down and see a man being eaten, probably half eviscerated by a wild animal, a catamount maybe.  The hammer suddenly felt very small and stupid in my sweaty hand.  For the first time in my life, I wished I was carrying a gun.

We crept up the hill slowly, trying to be quiet.  Drea was clinging to my shirt, twisting the fabric – or maybe it was the other way around.

As soon as we got to the top, we saw it – a brown bear at the base of a tree.  She saw us, growled again, took a couple of swaying steps back. 

But where was the person?  In the tangled underbrush, no one could be seen.  Then, we heard the call again and looked up. 

There, in the spindly birch tree, was a baby bear.  He’d climbed up and couldn’t seem to get back down.  He’d wiggle, then slip, cry out, cling tighter and go higher.  And his cries sounded exactly — uncannily — like an old man saying help.  Of course, if he (not to mention mom) had been scared at first, he was now in paroxysms of terror after listening to us crashing through the woods, closer and closer, yelling threatening gibberish for the past 15 minutes.  Finally laying eyes on us, even more horrible than he’d imagined, made him jump.  He made it gracelessly to the ground, and he and mom beat a hasty retreat.

So, a happy ending, and good stories for both us and the bears to tell for many a year. 

10 thoughts on “A Cry For Help by Deb Jennifer

  1. How creepy that he sounded so human. You and Drea are brave (and lucky the mother didn’t take her frustrations out on you!).

  2. You realize of course- now I want to fly out there and live a creepy stick person outside your house. You mention a few silly childhood pranks and then next thing you know you have a reputation.

  3. Eek! Too scary!

    My sister used to live waaaay out in the middle of nowhere — no neighbors for a mile. One completely dark night, with nothing but the fire as light, we distinctly heard a human voice talking inside the house.

    We were SO scared until we realized it was the answering machine, ha.

  4. Katie, what a great story! Too funny. Your mind definitely plays tricks on you when you’re way out in the woods.

    And Eileen, if I find any stick figures now, I’ll know just who to blame. My brother actually left a few around our little house just after we’d seen the movie and he was one of the suspects during the bear episode — but he lived four hours away so we figured it was unlikely.

    And I was incorrect when I said it was a brown bear — it was a black bear. They rarely hurt people. But, as Tish pointed out, you still don’t want to piss a mother bear off!

    Aprilyne, I’m glad I gave your day an amusing start!

  5. There was a bird in my chiminey yesterday. THAT freaked me out.

    Not like a bear would have though, great story!

  6. That a great story. I’m glad you didn’t get hurt! It is amazing how the mind can play tricks on you.

  7. Since I’m late today, this is almost my scary bedtime story. Gosh, don’t you wish it was possible to talk to the animals or — at least — understand them? Otoh, maybe not black bears…. You’re brave, Jennifer!

  8. I shouldn’t have read this post so late at night – I’m going to be dreaming about the gravelly voice, with cut-ins from The Blair Witch Project. Then, right as I’m about to let out a scream, a little baby bear will probably come toddling along and snap me right out of it …

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