Animals are just so straight-up and understandable. Well not on a communicative level, but we know what they want; Mostly food and to be left alone. But we always try and make "friends" with them, make them into "pets". We are supposed to help them, help raise them in consciousness and intelligence, yes, but we also have to keep them in check. They will kill you for a single full stomach, just like we still do to them.
He was on his usual type of walk through the wooded area just to the north of his little property. He kept it up, his property, mowing the lawns and always making sure the birds had seed, along with the offerings of bread and nuts he’d leave for the squirrels as well.
Most people try to keep squirrels out of the birdseed, setting up complex traps or tricks on their feeders, but he had found that they left it alone so long as you gave them their own treats.
The forgotten path that he had stumbled upon today was sure to have an adventure, out only a few miles from his own house in the Pacific Northwestern woods. He didn’t tell anyone where he was heading, not that they cared.
He lived alone, the forest and its animals he counted as his only friends. An old recluse, his wrinkled eyes and hands showing the sort of weathering that only comes with age and loss. At this point, the one thing he counted as a blessing was his full head of gray hair.
Sprinkling a few handfuls of crushed walnuts for some squirrels that he saw leap from treetop to treetop, he saw a man-made, brown protrusion sticking out the ground in the middle of a tiny meadow.
None of the trees or brush that surrounded the ten foot circle had grown within, a small little patch of overgrown green grass in the woods. The indians called them fairy wells, the old man had been told by a friend long ago.
As he approached the strange brown solid object sticking out of the fairy well, a spring snapped and steel hinges creaked for the first time in over a hundred years. They clamped fast, snapping his tibia and fibula bones and instantly crimping the old man. He gave a brief scream of pain, fell to the leafy ground, and frantically looked at his left leg.
He had walked into a forgotten grizzly bear trap.
He panicked and tried to pry it open, the rusted siding cutting into his frail hands. But as much he pulled and grunted, crying out with expletives and rage, the old man couldn’t even make them budge an inch.
Noticing the blood, he took his jacket off and wrapped his leg caught in the teeth of the massive trap. He had seen traps before, mostly in books and museums, but he had never seen one as big as the one clamped around his left leg at the moment. This was meant for catching the biggest carnivorous beast man still faced on land, the grizzly bear.
Grizzly bear were, at one time, the prominent predator along the west coast of America. Californian hills were thick of them, one every five miles, according to some miners. Years of hunting and traps, like the one the old man found himself in, showed their effectiveness as there are no more grizzly bears in California. Only remnants, such as this trap, testified to the grizzly’s immense size and one-time dominance in the area.
The old man next tried to crawl away and was painfully halted by the trap, pulling on a heavy chain connected to the brown protrusion. It was a stake to hold the trap in place. It had done its job faithfully even through a change of its target demographic in the general area.
But now it, a chain, and a trap held an old man who liked to explore the woods and feed the various herbivores within.
He tried reasoning with God, the universe, whoever would listen and hear his cries. He mostly hoped it would catch the attention of another person who could actually help.
A rustle was heard down at his good foot, the right one, and he saw the bag of nuts and bread he had brought as gifts was being tugged on, the plastic bag crinkling in resistance.
The old man pushed himself up to see, spotting a gray, bushy tail poking from behind the bag of special bread and nut treats. A squirrel was trying to take the whole bag, piece by piece, into its mouth.
The old man allowed himself a contented smile. At least the reason he had come out here, to feed his furry friends such as this self-stuffing squirrel, was being fulfilled.
“Go get help, boy!” The old man called out, mimicking the old TV show from his younger years. He knew a squirrel couldn’t get help, but he thought it was funny and worth a shot. The squirrel gave an alert head up and then darted off into the woods and up into a tree, roaring out little squirrel squeaks that echoed off the bark and branches.
The old man spent that first night sleeping, the loss of blood and exersuision from trying to pry and pull the trap to let him free making him fall fast asleep as soon as the sun set in the quickly darkened woods. He only woke once, groggily taking his bloodied jacket off his wounds and back onto him.
The chipper call of a male squirrel broke his slumber, the morning frost-filled and cold. He was barely able to get himself moving before the sun blessed its warming rays on his aching bones and body. The blood had stopped flowing at his wounds, both a good and a bad sign. The grass was soaked in blackened red, still thawing in the morning light.
He tried again to pull the trap open. No luck. Then he went over to the large pole and tried to pull it up and out, something forgotten of in yesterday’s panic and adrenaline. He desperately gave it his all, with every ounce of strength left in him and his night weathered old body spent trying to pull that rod out of the earth. It didn’t budge.
Crying tears of anger and frustration, he yelled out with ferocious desperation for the next three hours, hoping that anyone would hear him and help him out of this fairy well in the forest he had become trapped inside of.
The squirrels had been picking up in activity since that morning, and the evening seemed to bring even more and more of them to keep him company. He was delighted to have them, and would occasional toss a bit of the bread and nuts out into the outlying brush. The feed was unedible in age for people, but fine for his furry rodent friends.
The second night was much worse than the first. He spent most of it shivering, struggling to stay warm with only one good leg. His hands hurt from all the cuts and he was beyond hungry and thirsty. The only pause of pain and misery came in with the familiar rustle in the trees of the squirrels, his only true friends throughout this entire endeavor.
Still, the temperature drop was becoming unbearable. His body felt like pins and needles, pricked right to his very bones. The only place he couldn’t feel pain was his left leg, still caught and becoming bloated in the trap. Flies had also began gathering in large numbers around his wound, his occasional waves of the hand doing little to stop the inevitable progress of flies eating and laying eggs on rotting flesh.
He began wishing for death.
The next morning he was already awake, in a sense. He did not move, he didn’t have the strength. It took almost everything to simply breath and think. He did not want to die, but he knew he was going to. No one had even noticed him missing, and it would be weeks until they did. And only then from missed bills and an unclipped lawn.
Squirrels were jumping from the tree branches again, almost a circular pattern around the old man in the meadow. He could hear their high-pitched calls, their chipper chatter, echoing all around.
Trying to free his leg once more, the old man could do naught but break open old, pussing wounds, the maggots swimming around freely in between. If he could vomit, he would of, instead only giving a few dry heaves. That was it.
“Come,” He weakly rasped. “Come my friends and embrace me.”
He took the last of the bread and nuts he had save out of his pocket and spread the contents all over his body and tossing a few crumbs in the direction of the frantically paced squirrels.
A single squirrel, probably his first friend that found the bag, the old man thought, came and grabbed up a few crumbs in its mouth. Soon more and more squirrels followed the first one’s intrepid lead and followed the trail of crumbs up to and on the old man.
Furry bodies began clawing around his body, eating the few remaining pieces of bread that had fallen down in his shirt. A dozen or so squirrels had found the maggots around his wounds on the trap and began digging in and gorging themselves on the plump, white little squiglies.
The old man wasn’t shocked or disgusted, instead feeling happy. Happy that his friends were here. After three days, he had finally been rescued. He was being freed by these gray squirrels, currently scratching at and digging into his wounds around the rusted steel teeth. They were doing what he could not: they were cutting his leg from the trap.
He began to laugh. He was going to be free.
No one ever did find the old man, a single skeletal foot sticking out of a sprung grizzly bear trap in the middle of a fairy well meadow was the only proof that he was ever there. The rest of his bones were never found, scattered to the wild.
Above the meadow and trap, a skull held two baby squirrels sleeping in each eye socket, a squirrels’ nest placed high in the trees by his little furry friends.