The old bear lumbered slowly along the tree line, his body tired and sore from the many battles that ensured his royalty. The sun barely warmed his exhausted soul anymore as he lay in the daylight between the branches.
He closed his one good eye for the briefest of moments. In the world he lived in, domination often meant sacrificing pieces of himself for each victory. His broken left leg that healed bent and awkward. The claws ripped from each paw. The long scar on his hindquarter. Then his eye last year when that big brown attempted to wrest his reign.
In fitful slumber he was always on guard. He knew it was coming. Another spring and the matured cubs would be once again challenging his rule. At stake would be his extensive kingdom and his right to mate. Only the strongest mate. The cubs from their loins are the only ones to survive in the kingdom. Many lives were at stake should he fail.
At twenty years old he was in his last years. It had been a long reign. He remembered his moment 18 years ago when he took down the old king. It was a masterful fight by two great grizzlies, each fighting for supremacy and the right to lead. The loser doomed for a solitary life on the edges of the world he once knew.
His heart beat faster as he lifted his bulky body onto his ancient legs. He turned his head fully to look behind him. He was still there. The young brown had been following him for three days. Watching him. Eyeing his weaknesses. Snorting to mock him and test his patience. He was a big male. The biggest yet.
In the beginning he welcomed the challenges. Examples had to be made. The loyalty of the females demanded it. His offspring lived because of his many victories. Yet always he knew his time would end. Each faceoff left him closer to that day.
Would it be today? Is this big male the one to end his reign? Take away everything that he was? There was no sorrow or regret in what they did. In their life it was always all or nothing. Survival of the strongest was the only rule. Yet it isn’t only brute force that makes you strong. The old bear knew that.
His broken down old body would never withstand a long brutal assault. Too young. Too strong. Too much on the line for the youngster. All the old bear had left is one bite. He would have to sustain the assault until the right moment. Only one. It had to count for something. For everything. In the end it was all that mattered. Making his bite count for something.
His leg aching, the old bear turns to face the young beast. He paws the earth with his remaining claws and stares straight ahead with his one good eye. The big bear rears on his back legs and stands his full nine feet plus of muscle and rippers. One bite. It would be one bite neither of them would ever forget. It was time. Would this be the day it ends?
I throw the sheets off and drag my tired old body into the bathroom. A vessel of better days now just transports what’s left of heart and mind. The face in the mirror stares back at me like it has every day of my life. One bite left. I think of the old bear and whisper, “No. This will not be the day.”