Maker-of-Ghosts bellowed. Thick saliva blew from its muzzle, gleamed wet on its countless yellow fangs. Half of Pa’haana’s spear still protruded from the shaggy brown fur at the brute’s left shoulder, causing pain but no injury, serving but to fuel the beast’s rage.
Maker-of-Ghosts stood above Pa’haana for many years. Each heartbeat lasted the duration of a season. Pa’haana thought he could hear someone shouting. Tobazhi, maybe, although he could not be certain. He could not hear well. His ears had filled with water. At last, the bear fell upon him. Pa’haana watched a paw larger than his head descending towards him. He could count each of the curving yellow claws. He thought of the elk, with its skull cracked and jawbone gone. The blow would without doubt kill him.
Pa’haana locked his hands together. Using both arms, he knocked the bear’s paw to the side. It felt like hitting the trunk of a tree. The bones of his left forearm must not have broken, but felt as if they had. Pa’haana heard someone scream. He recognized the voice this time as his own.
The bear’s jaws gaped. Pa’haana could see down its throat. Hot breath blew into Pa’haana’s face. It stank of something dead in the heat of summer. Drops of spittle swarmed around Pa’haana’s head like blowflies.
Pa’haana grabbed the bear’s thick purple tongue, grabbed it hard. Maker-of-Ghosts’ head, wide as Pa’haana’s shoulders, jerked back. The jaws could have bitten off the hand with ease, yet did not. Instead, Maker-of-Ghosts shook his head from side to side, seeking to break Pa’haana’s grasp. Pa’haana held on.
Maker-of-Ghosts sank claws into Pa’haana’s chest and raked downward. Pa’haana watched as, over time, the flesh was peeled from his ribs. The claws sank deeper into his abdomen. Pa’haana wondered that his arm still hurt him, when he could feel little of the wound to his torso.
*Make it let go.*
Pa’haana, with his free hand, pulled the bear’s paw away from his stomach. He watched his skin stretch as the hooked claws tore free. Then the beast’s other paw fell across Pa’haana’s shoulder and he lost his grip on the tongue. His left arm fell limp at his side, useless, his shoulder broken.
Someone he did not recognize struck the bear in the side of the head with a stick. “Get off him!” the stranger shouted.
Maker-of-Ghosts turned and reared up on its hind legs a second time. He roared. The earth beneath Pa’haana vibrated. He could not even see the other man, his view blocked by the bear’s girth. The other man. Tobazhi. “Little fool,” Pa’haana said, although he did not think his mouth moved. He wanted to sleep, then. Just close his eyes and sleep.