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Breath of the Bear

The Great Bear ambled slowly along, enormous muscles rolling in a mountain of fur. Slowing, slowing, she stopped. She stood there, head hanging low, breathing hoarsely, heavily.

Between breaths there was silence.

Breath by breath the silence lengthened, until finally the Great Bear lay down and rested her head softly on her paws. Her chest lifted gently and gently fell and then was still. Still and silent.

A Fall breeze blew. A fly landed on the bear's body, and then so did another. Hundreds of shiny green and shiny blue flies covered the bear, intermittently taking flight all at once in crescendos of buzzing.

Beetles arrived -- carrion beetles, outfitted in purple elytra and sunflower carapaces. They ate fly larvae and laid beetle eggs. Tiny mites crawled off their backs and feasted on egg of fly, even as thousands of new flies emerged from the bear's body and flew away. Rove beetles with massive jaws crawled under the bear's heavy mantle. The mantle sagged and dropped. I…