“Porridge is ready!” Mommy Bear called up the stairs. Daddy Bear waddled into the kitchen, tucking his newspaper under his arm. “Will you tell him, love? I’m sick of shouting myself hoarse.”
“He’ll have that music on, I expect,” said Daddy Bear. “Bloody racket. In my day, it was proper tunes and words you could hear properly. Not this shouty rubbish.” He threw back his head and roared.
In his room, their son Teenage Bear lifted his headphones off one ear.
“I’m coming!” he roared back, embarrassed by the little squeak his voice made at the end.
He shut down his laptop and left his room, taking care to lock the door behind him. Having reached a certain age, Teenage Bear valued his privacy.
The porridge was just right – that was one thing his mother could do: make decent porridge although Dad always complained about the temperature, and by the time Mom had sorted him out, hers had gone cold.
“We’re going for a walk in the woods later,” she looked at her son with hope in her eyes. “Perhaps you’d like to come too.”
Teenage Bear sneered. “Got homework,” he said. It was his all-purpose excuse for getting out of family things.
“Perhaps the weekend then,” said Mommy Bear sadly, stung by his rejection. What had happened to the joyful bundle of fur he used to be?
“Actually, love,” said Daddy Bear, “I’ve got some things to sort out in the shed. Lend me a paw, Junior?”
“Oh, but Dad! I’ve got homework!”
“This won’t take five minutes. Come on.” Daddy Bear stared at his son. Junior was growing up fast but he was still no match for his old man. With a theatrical sigh, Teenage Bear capitulated.
“Come on then,” he pushed away from the table. “But only five minutes.”
He followed his father out to the shed at the bottom of the garden.
As soon as they were out of the house, Mommy Bear hurried upstairs. With one swipe of her mighty paws she dashed the lock from the door. She went into Teenage Bear’s room for the first time in years.
Her nose was assaulted by a wall of smells: the usual teenager stuff like forgotten socks and mouldy plates but there was something else… It did not take much snuffling to find it out.
At the foot of the bed was an ottoman. It had been used as a toy box when he had been a baby but now… With trepidation, Mommy Bear lifted the lid and peered inside.
Her scream could be heard at the bottom of the garden.
“What the hell?” said Teenage Bear. His father shoved him roughly to the floor then sprang outside and locked the door.
Daddy Bear tore across the lawn and into the cottage. He bounded up the stairs to find his wife, gasping in horror and pointing at the box at the foot of their son’s bed.
Daddy Bear saw for himself.
Bent double, beneath some old comics and football kit, was the rotting corpse of a human child, a female with curly blonde hair.