Friday, December 24, 2021

Microstory 1785: Through the Vela

I reach out and shake the baby bear’s little paw. He smiles wider, and looks a bit relieved. The old man tells me as much. People are often so reluctant and unsympathetic when they meet him. They’re too afraid. They just came through something called the Vela, and still think they’re about to wake up from a bad dream. It’s not a dream. It’s all real. The man built this cabin near Big Bear Lake deliberately because it happens to be some kind of focal point of instantaneous travel. People from all over the world spontaneously wake up here having never transited the space in between. Every night someone new arrives somewhere in a kilometer radius of this cabin. For some reason, I showed up earlier than usual, which is why mama bear wasn’t ready for me. She’s normally tasked with going out, and nudging the arrivals to the cabin. She’s not as smart as her son, but she knows that she can convince people to go this direction simply by placing herself on the other side of them. She was probably pretty surprised that I wasn’t scared of her, and was able to pass by her with none of her usual form of coercion. Very rarely, two people will show up on one night, so she continues to patrol until morning. That’s why she didn’t come back with me. When I ask the man what happens next, he tells me that the Vela chooses people using whatever parameters it’s decided upon, if it’s even sentient. He doesn’t know. He only knows it’s my job to find my own exit, but only after new clothes and hot tea. I’m not sure I’m going to go look for an exit point. It might be nice, renting a car, and driving back myself. It’s not like I have anywhere better to be. I don’t have to work until Monday, and my parents will be okay on their own for now. Anyway, I don’t have to decide anything right away. I’ll just sit and enjoy my tea.

A half hour later, the mother returns, but she’s not alone. A woman about my age is accompanying her. She doesn’t appear to be scared of the beast either, nor worried about where she is, or what the hell is going on. She too is naked, and isn’t even shivering. I didn’t think there was anyone else in the world who likes the cold as much as I do. She asks the same questions, and the man answers them again. She asks a couple more, like how the bears are so smart. The mom had her own Vela experience while she was pregnant, and it changed the both of them. Brown bears aren’t even native to this area, but they chose to stick around so they could help the humans. This calling has been passed down the old man’s family for generations, but the incidents became more and more frequent, and he never found the time to meet someone, so the bloodline ends with him. When he dies, people are just going to have to deal with their situation themselves. The woman and I exchange a look. Little bear nuzzles her knee, so she pets him. All my life I’ve been trying to figure out whether I had some kind of purpose. Folding clothes, and returning them to their tables surely isn’t it. I’m sure my sister can take care of our parents on her own. She prefers it, and I’ve never been much help anyway. Perhaps this is what I’ve been looking for this whole time. This old man needs to retire, and the lost souls who pass through here need a way to return home. I tell him this, and he thanks me. He doesn’t even try to argue, or talk me out of it. He’s obviously been hoping for a replacement for awhile now, but he’s never known how to go about asking. The woman stands and informs him that now he has two to take his place. We all smile, even me.

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