On Hiatus!

Pacific Northwest Native American-style artistic rendering of a bear eating a cell phone.

“ONHI ATE US.”

By Jeffrey Bishop

We haven’t updated as often as we’d like, of late.  Maybe because we’re only just now back from on hiatus.

Tell Time: 6 minutes
Scare Rating: 1/5 Ghosts

Rick backed the family van slowly out of the driveway of the Dunsford family’s suburban homestead, lest he bottom out at the street.  Even though it was just going to be a week-long trip to the family’s lake house in the woods, only a couple of hours to the north, the vehicle was fully ladened with every modern convenience — most of them electronic, except for the highly processed foodstuffs they’d also packed — they might ever need.

He was embarrassed at the notion of such an encumbered trip to the woods, and was thankful that his father, “Rest his soul,” wasn’t there to see the sight of the modern version of roughing it.  “Same stuff, different GPS coordinates,” Rick muttered to himself.  But even though the idea of relaxation to the other members of his family came from the warm glow of a tiny screen, the hard-working father knew that the next few days was a necessary hiatus that he needed from the stresses of his work-a-day life.

“Say hi to Onhi,” shouted out Randall, the Dunsford’s next-door-neighbor, who was watering his hydrangeas at the corner where their yards met.

“Huh?” muttered Rick.  His full attention was on what he could — or rather, couldn’t — see through the blocked rear window.

“You know, Onhi, that big black bear that always comes around the cabin looking for food scraps.,” explained Marta Dunsford. She leaned across her husband to wave and shout back to their well-intentioned neighbor. “We will — we’ll give him your best wishes!”

Rick recalled the bear.  He also remembered how Randall Cranston had named the beast during his first — and last — visit to the Dunsford retreat. The entire Cranston clan had an annoying knack for knowing everything about everything, and had no governor on their speech about it all.

“How can it be a vacation if we bring that doofus and his doofy family with us?” Rick had protested. While the trivia snippets were tolerable over-the-shrubbery pratter on the block, Rick had found it downright torturous over a full weekend.

“Did you know that the range of the black bear is all of Canada, but only the most mountainous and wooded parts of the United States?” asked June, the youngest Cranston, when they’d warned that bears were known to wander on to the property from time to time.

“The leading cause of death to bears is human trash,” said Randy Jr., Randall’s son, when they’d first spotted the large animal snooping around the shoreline for anything left after the day’s fishing.  “The easy pickins’ of our trash brings them around to civilized areas, and then when they attack people, they have to be killed off.

“And they usually only attack if a momma or a poppa bear think that their cubs or they are bring threatened,” he added.

“We should call him Onhi, suggested Randall one morning, coffee cup in hand, as he watched the bear from the safety of the kitchen window.  “Onhi means ‘Dangerous Brother’ in the dialect of the local Native American tribes.”

How Randall knew something like that, Rick couldn’t fathom, but he had little choice but to believe it, because indeed, as Randy Jr. had told them, the brute was in fact a dumpster diver, and doing so presently had brought him fairly close — too close for Rick’s comfort — to the family cabin.

“I think we should call him ‘Matt,'” said Rick, as he grabbed his shotgun off the wall,  “as in, bear-skin-rug matt.”  But the sudden swarm of kids that attacked his legs or that broke into tears for “that poor creature,” compelled Rick to stand down.  Instead, all morning the family peered through the second floor windows at the bear, while mom made dad shoot it with a camera instead, from the cabin windows.

Hiding his mild annoyance, Rick smiled, waved in his most cheerfully neighborly way, then quickly rolled up his window and completed the most dangerous part of the drive — backing from their driveway.  All bad things behind him, Rick and family set forward for a fun and relaxing weekend together.

~

Where’s Rick?” asked Mack, the general manager of the factory where Rick worked as operations officer.  It was 9:42 Monday morning, and Mack’s dependable, reliable — and most importantly, punctual — manager hadn’t yet shown for his 7 a.m. shift. “I had a funny email from him when I came in this morning that said he’s on hiatus.”

“I got the same message in a text from him,” said Eddie, Rick’s floor superintendent.  “I got it Sunday morning; it said, ‘On hiatus!’  Of course he was; we all knew he was on vacation.  And it’s been pretty crazy around here lately, but surely he didn’t mean permanent hiatus?”

“I don’t think so,” said Mack.  “That’s not like him.  Let’s give him until noon, then send someone over to his house and check on him.  In the meantime, you’re in charge of the floor.”

Noon came and Rick was still absent.  Eddie was so worried that he sent himself to his boss’s house.  He pulled his care into the driveway and sprang on to the covered porch.  When ringing the bell didn’t work, he pounded his big fist against the door — heavy thuds that could have awakened the dead, had anyone been there to hear them.

“Can I help you?” called a man’s voice from the adjacent yard.

“Maybe,” replied Eddie.  He quickly lumbered down the porch steps and over to the low flowering shrub that created a border between Rick’s yard and the yard next door. “Lookin’ for my boss, Rick.  Seen him?”

“Not since Saturday, when they left for their cabin in the woods,” said Randall.  “He didn’t tell me his plans; when were they due back?”

Eddie’s brow furrowed deeply.

“Rick was supposed to be back to work this morning,” he said. “He wasn’t.  All we have are some messages from him that said he’s on hiatus.”

“On hiatus?” inquired Randall.  Now his brow creased.  “On … hiatus?” he repeated, then burst forth, “Oh my God!”

~

The park rangers found a scene at the cabin very similar to what Randall had told them to look for.  The door was standing wide open, and inside, at one end of the cabin’s main open room, four bodies laid dead and bloodied.

A once-sturdy man lay face-down near his family.  In one hand was the shotgun; in his other hand, investigators found his phone.

Two messages were on the phone; the first was in the sent folder.  It read “On hiatus!” and was the message that Rick’s co-workers — indeed, all of his contacts — had received via email or text.

The second, a plea in similar language but unblemished by computer-aided autocorrect — and tragically, unsent — had clearly lasted longer as evidence of what truly had happened than the man had lasted long enough to send it for help.

The unsent-but-correct message read:

ONHI ATE US!

THE END

Copyright 2013

Postscript:  Life imitates art; thankfully, none were hurt:

Two Brown Bears Make House Call in California

~ by The Ghost Writer on February 18, 2013.

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