Synopsis of the last episode: Bearnacle Bear was led by the sea monster to the other side of the island, where he discovered his first mate alive and well. "Bearnacle! Come with me! You will love it here!" the first mate exclaimed. He did tend to speak in dramatic exclamations.
I wondered if I was dead and experiencing some sort of afterlife. After all, the seasick sailor could not have survived falling into the swirling sea.
Or could he?
"You fell into the sea during a tempest," I said, as we walked into the cave. The cave walls were decorated with faded paintings that I could barely make out. The colors were mainly light browns and yellows and reds. I thought that there had been blues and greens and purples at one point, but these colors were gone. The paintings must have been very old. I wondered who the artist was. I spent so much time looking at and trying to understand the paintings that I did not hear anything that the first mate said. I decided that, since his words did not penetrate my ears, he was probably a ghost.
"Are you a ghost?" I asked.
"Oh no. I am as real as you are," the first mate said happily. I thought that he was going to break into song. In a musical play, this would be a good spot for someone to sing a heartfelt solo about the beauty of caves. But no. He didn't sing. The first mate actually had a lovely singing voice, just like his uncle, the famous Luke ("Lucky") Bearvarotti. All of the lady bears were in love with the magnificent tenor voice of my uncle and, when he died, they were heartbroken. There was much weeping and wailing at Lucky's funeral, which was done in silence because Lucky's children fought with the quartet that was supposed to sing at the funeral. They all stomped out of the church in disgust and said that no one was to speak to them like that.
But that was a long time ago, when I myself was a mere cub.
The first mate told me that the paintings were made by the ancestors of the humans. I could feel the hair standing on end all over my body. I hated the humans for what they did to me in their prison. Seeing the first mate standing in the cave, looking well-fed and happy, I began to wonder how long it had been since the ship was lost.
"How long have you been here?" I asked the first mate.
"Oh about a year, give or take a few days. We tell time by the sun. We live a peaceful, natural life, and we have healed from our disaster," the first mate said calmly. My hair was still standing on end, as I remembered the human guards taunting me, telling me that I would soon be in the zoo and that I would never see the sea again. It was then that I learned hate. I had never hated anyone before. I was always a happy bear who loved everything and everyone. This was true no more.
"Who are 'we'?" I asked the first mate.
And then, as we walked deeper into the cave, I saw my whole crew. Before I knew it, I was on the bottom of a pile of hugging, happy bears. Unseen by the other bears, I wept bitter tears because I was no longer a loving, happy bear.
My mind and my heart were filled with a chaotic jumble of things and images. It was almost as if I were living on the bottom of the sea.
I then noticed that there were small bear cubs amidst my crew. Apparently, they really had been in the cave long enough to have little families.
The bears had a giant feast to celebrate the return of their captain.
After that, I slept soundly for many hours.
When I awoke, I saw...
(to be continued)