Series 1: War Grizzly
It flies low over the thick shrubs and erratically through the tall pine trees, landing on a branch to rest. It jumps into the air again flying aimlessly on its calling to migrate. The fat cicada bug buzzes onward towards the road. Moments later, a glowing orb of light appears over the hill approaching quickly toward the pest. The light engulfs the bug and it’s splattered all over Shane’s Chopper’s headlights.
Shane continued on ripping down the curvy backroads, twisting the throttle into the turns. The sky held a golden hue as the sun dipped behind the tall North Carolina pine trees. The dark silhouette of the treetops looked like speartips jabbing the sky. Where they met, it streaked blood red.
Shane rounded the corner, and damnit he always catches the same fucking red light. Down-shifting, the motor roared as he braked hard coming up fast to the intersection. He comes to a full stop and up-shifts his bike to neutral.
Shane stood out in North Carolina like a bull in a china shop. With his Irish white skin, tattoos, and constant swearing, he was hard to miss in the south. He adjusted his air pods, jamming them deeper into his thick cauliflower ears as far as they’d allow; and that wasn’t very far. Metallica blared out:
“This thorn in my side
This thorn in my side is from the tree
This thorn in my side is from the tree I’ve planted
It tears me and I bleed
And I bleed”
He sings along, careless of who’s around to hear. Tapping his fingers to the beat on the handle bars, he notices. ‘Fuck,’ he still had tape on his fingers. He must look like a psycho to the family in the minivan that just pulled up to the light next to him. He looks over and sees a kid staring at him, mouth agape, with a chicken nugget in hand frozen before his mouth. Through the tinted windows of the minivan, Shane gives the kid the shaka fingers and smiles. The kid quickly returned his attention forward and popped the nugget into his mouth.
He’s a singing lunatic with tape on his fingers, hideous ears, and arms covered in tattoos. If the kid could only smell the wet gi fermenting in his backpack. That would be the cherry on top. Shane smirks to himself and begins to unwind the tape from around his index fingers. It was a good night of rolling. He probably should have gone a little easier on the new musclehead in class, but the 20 something year old came at him hard. Shane could have made the gentle art a little more gentle, but he deserved a good smashing and he got one. Maybe not the best way to attract new students…
Shane’s whole body ached. His neck was kinked so he tried rolling it out as it let out a satisfying crunch, like boots on gravel. He’s getting kind of old to be teaching and rolling 6 days a week for 2.5 hours a night. They all want to kill the black belt. He flicked a piece of the tape to the ground, as the song blared on.
“Caught under wheels roll
I take that leech I’m bleeding me
Can’t stop to save my soul
I take the leash that’s leading me
I’m bleeding me
I can’t take it
Caught under wheels roll
Oh, the bleeding of me
The bleeding of me”
The light is about to turn green. Shane pulls in the clutch and engages the motor with a down-click of his toe. He revved the throttle in anticipation as the pipes blapped. His mind stopped wandering and he suddenly became ultra-focused and aware. He could feel something almost calling him to look to the left. This strange urge that he couldn’t help resist.
Across the intersection, from the treeline emerges… ‘Is that a fucking moose? And there’s somebody riding it! Is that a big axe he’s holding? How the fuck aren’t people flipping out?’
Dumbfounded, Shane frantically looked around him for any form of reassurance. However there was none. No one seemed to notice this giant beast-moose thing!
‘Why isn’t anyone pulling out their phones? You’d figure the chicken-mcnuggets kid’s mother would be quick in whipping out her camera. Is this some kind of circus? Instead of that axe, shouldn’t he be spinning a sign that says “Welcome to Larry’s Travelling Freak Show”? And isn’t that axe illegal? Shouldn’t there be cops surrounding that, or maybe I should call them?’ So many questions darted across his mind.
‘Jesus Christ that can’t be real, maybe I’m just too dehydrated from rolling that I’m imagining things. It could just be an old lady walking her poodle, and my dried up, shriveled brain is reading it as a nut with an axe on a moose.’
He squinted his eyes and leaned closer, trying to get a better view of what was going on. ‘Holy shit. It looks like a viking! There is a Toyota and a plumbing work truck right next to this bizarre show, and the guy driving the truck looked as though he was looking down at his phone, completely unaware of the giant moose 10 feet away from him! There is no way this guy can’t see it.’
The light had turned green and the impatient car behind Shane gave their horn a quick toot, snapping him out of his cycle of endless questions. He pulled his bike forward all the while looking back at the moose and the rider who seemed to be wearing all sorts of metals and chains and furs. Strangely enough, the viking and moose were already watching him. Riding through the intersection, their eyes were locked until Shane had to redirect his eyes to the road ahead of him. Maybe it was just his loud Chopper grabbing their attention. But it didn’t feel that way. Oddly enough, it felt as though they were there for him.
“Caught under wheels roll
I take that leech
I’m bleeding me
Can’t stop to save my soul
I take the leash that’s leading me
Well, a shower, Tylenol, and some dinner and he’ll be good. He up-shifted his bike to fourth, twisting the throttle. The blat of the pipes were almost in tune with the song. ‘This will be a fun story to tell the kids at class tomorrow,’ he thought to himself. ‘Maybe the circus is in town or some weird travelling freak show. All of it was so weird and no one seemed to even see it!’
Shane rides over the winding roads, knowing them like the back of his hands. His favorite corner is approaching; he gooses the throttle. His headlights reflect off the diamond warning sign wedged into the side of the road. To Shane it’s not a warning, but an invitation to see how fast he can round the corner. He lays his Harley into the apex of the turning point as far as it will allow. His pipes just kiss the cement sending sparks. Shane’s just starting to straighten out of the blind corner. Metallica screams in his ears, when suddenly everything is halted to a stop. Agonizing pain at lightning speeds sweeps over his body. He begins tumbling like a rag doll across the gravelly road, that’s scraping against his skin leaving streaks of blood across the cement. Once rolling to a stop, he can just barely open his eyes enough to see his bike sliding forward, sending sparks and ruining the new Ground Shark school logo he had just got painted onto the side of his tank. It ceased then, reaching what looked like a very large hoof. Shane went in and out of consciousness. His heart was pounding through his chest, and his ears began ringing at a deafening volume. He tried moving but was unable. Shane was paralyzed there, splayed out across the road, blood pooling around him. As he regained consciousness he began to hear loud, heavy footsteps growing near. Praying it was help, he again tried lifting his head but it proved impossible. He began coughing up blood. Seriously injured and in survival mode, his mind was dazed and he had a difficult time grasping onto reality. He was frozen, his heart pounded louder now, so fast it could burst out of his chest. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking into focus, when his heart completely stopped. A large shadowy figure loomed over him. Shane had expected to see the frantic dialling of 911 and the desperate calls for help. But what he saw instead was the giant horned-helmet figure he saw earlier riding the moose. Shane lost all hope as he wasn’t calling an ambulance, but instead raising his giant axe above his head. Shane’s world went black.
Shane tilts his head up to the air and sniffs. Mixed with a thick scent of smoke from the fires surrounding him, he could also detect a threat approaching. He inhaled deeply again, his scarred nose twitching upward, and there it was. A predator like none he’s faced tonight. It was faint, but growing stronger. Not only could he smell it, but his whole body could sense it. The hackles on his neck that weren’t matted with blood and dirt, rose. A deep, low growl started in the back of his throat. He focused his fierce, black eyes upon the only opening of the woods that led to the circle of bloodshed. The seven fires surrounding the battleground shot out embers into the inky black sky. War drums echoed throughout the clearing, reverberating back to the circle, in preparation of battle. Leaves rustled ominously around the battle ring, as gusty winds blew through the clearing. They were like a whispering audience, anticipating the impending battle.
Six shadowy figures surrounded the clearing, stationed in their own positions, each carrying their own weapons and armour native to their lands. Only their silhouettes could be made out from afar. And just outside the ring, was a pile of dead carcasses; ones that Shane had just brutally disposed of. The heavy beat of the war drums ended abruptly. There was a long silence. The Gods stood silent and stoic, unaffected by the imminent threat drawing near in the woods. A deep, low guttural growl emerged from the blackness. Shane’s eyes couldn’t quite pierce through the flickering orange flames of the fires before him. But that menacing growl spoke of power, primal savagery, and a bloody battle soon to come. The Grizzly immediately returned the growl with his own bone-shattering roar that sent crows flying from their perch miles away. He rose now to his full height, standing 9 feet tall. The Grizzly only knows one thing now: forward. No matter what steps out of the darkness, the Grizzly will defeat it. His massive weight, a monstrous 700 lbs, united with his height will be hard to beat.
A flash of memories quickly darted through the Grizzly’s mind just then. He was on his motorcycle, cruising down the backroads. Another life when he was smaller and weaker. But now Odin has made him into what he was always meant to be: the War Grizzly. The Grizzly roughly shook his head, as if to permanently clear these weak delusions from entering his mind. But there he was again, at the intersection, remembering the viking and moose he had seen. Then he was on the side of the road, in some sort of accident, in excruciating pain. The Grizzly began blinking back into existence. His beady black eyes had quickly held a human gaze that displayed a look of alarm and terror. But only for a split second, as they immediately restored to their jet black, sharp, malicious, inhuman appearance. He violently sways his head, banishing these weak memories of the human within him. The animal instincts were quickly overtaking any trace of human quality he had left. His only impulse now is to fight. To dominate. To kill.
Stepping into the circle of battleground appears the Tiger. The Grizzly’s fur raises, bloodied and scarred, he chuffs blood and begins to paw at the ground with his mighty claws. The Tiger’s ears rotated and laid back as he let out a snarling roar, his nose wrinkling and his eyes narrowing in on the Grizzly. Shattering the stiffness and tension of the windy night, the Grizzly let out his own petrifying roar, baring his sharp teeth stained with blood. They began circling each other, ready to engage. The Grizzly will see Valhalla…but not today. Who you got?