Every evening, Saul watched the news with his 12-year-old son, Mike. They lived in a one-story house, where Saul grew up and now worked as a lawyer. The man loved his job and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps.
It was a typical winter evening when Saul and Mike sat on the couch talking about their day. The lawyer was changing the TV channel while his son recounted how his best friend, Jaime, had lied to their English teacher.
Jaime was a year older than Mike, but Saul knew he had influence over his son. As a father, he always listened to him patiently, trying to gain his trust, and at the same time told him what was right and wrong without outright forbidding him many things.
“I’m sure you know that lying to your teacher is not the best thing to do, Mike,” Saul said. “What Jaime did sounds funny, but it’s not morally right.”
“I know, Dad,” Mike replied. “I know Jaime was just having fun. His lie was harmless.”
Saul nodded, patted his son’s back, and flipped the channel again until an unusual image on the screen caught his attention.
“Oh my God!” he exclaimed and turned up the volume as Mike looked at his father with wide eyes. The boy had no idea why he cared so much.
“According to the NamUs database, 600,000 people are reported missing each year,” the voice of a news anchor echoed in the room. “The U.S. Forest Service is warning visitors to national forests that bears are getting alarmingly close to humans.”
“Bears?” exclaimed Mike. His eyes lit up when he saw a video of a grizzly bear sitting in bushes. “Wow, that’s funny!”
Alarmed, Saul turned to Mike and looked him in the eye.
“Didn’t you hear what the reporter said?” Saul pointed toward the television. “There’s nothing funny about bears approaching humans, Mike. This is dangerous. We have to be careful.”
“Listen to me, Mike,” Saul gently put his arms around his son’s shoulders. “I don’t want you to get in trouble, okay? I know how tempting it is to visit the woods, but you shouldn’t do it. Don’t ever go to the forest, even if your friends tell you what a great adventure it would be. It’s not worth risking your life.”
Mike could feel the fear in his father’s voice. He could see his worried eyes telling him to get to safety.
“I won’t go there, Dad. I promise.” He wrapped his arms around his body and rested his head on his chest.
A week later, Mike visited Jaime’s house to study for his upcoming science test. They were barely opening the books when Sam, Jaime’s 16-year-old brother, walked into the room.
“Hey guys!” he said and climbed onto the bed. “Are you guys really studying?”.
“Yeah, we were studying before you barged in,” Jaime replied sarcastically.
“Well, I have an idea,” Sam shifted his gaze from his brother to Mike. “I have the perfect plan for an adventure. An adventure in the woods.”
“What?” exclaimed Mike. “You want to take us into the woods?”
“Ignore him, Mike,” said Jaime. “He’s up to no good.”
Sam closed the science book that lay on the bed and told the boys his plan. He said he knew the way into the woods, making sure they wouldn’t get lost.
“Look at the weather!”. Sam averted his gaze to the window. “It’s cloudy, and calls for an adventure. Nobody studies when it’s such nice weather outside.”
“Stop it, Sam,” Jaime frowned. “We don’t want to go.”
At that moment, Mike remembered the promise he had made to his father.
“I can’t break my promise,” he thought, but he was tempted to go for a walk in the woods with the boys.
“Come on!” exclaimed Mike as he shifted his gaze from Jaime to Sam.
Since his friend had already agreed, Jaime joined the plan. But before Mike could go, he had to ask Saul’s permission.
“Hi, Dad,” Mike said over the phone. “Jaime and I have planned to go to the amusement park with Sam. I wanted to ask you if I could go with him. I’ll be back before dinnertime, I promise.”
“What about the science test?” his father asked, concerned.
“We’re done studying, Dad,” Mike lied. “We’ve covered all the topics.”
“Okay,” Saul paused. “Be back before dinner time, okay?”.
“Thanks, Dad!” exclaimed Mike before hanging up.
Soon, the three boys wandered into the woods, unaware of what awaited them there.
Sam was using his phone to find his way through the forest. Everything was going fine until it started to rain and his cell phone lost reception.
“Oh, no!” said Sam. “No! No! No! No!”
“What’s wrong?” asked Mike. “Is everything all right?”
“My phone…” Sam raised his phone in the air, hoping it would pick up some signal. “There’s no network. And I can’t recognize the way back…”. Panic crept into his voice.
“But you said you knew the way out.” Jaime looked at his brother as he shielded his eyes with his hand from the raindrops. “Are you saying we’re lost?”
Sam looked at his brother, his eyes wild with fear. Fear was the last thing Mike and Jaime wanted to experience in the middle of an unfamiliar forest, but it was what they were all feeling at the moment.
The boys kept walking in another direction, hoping it would lead them out of the woods. Meanwhile, Sam was trying his best to get his phone to work, with no luck. The boys were trapped in a place they didn’t know.
As they tried to find their way out, Jaime suddenly pointed toward a bear cave.
“Look!” he exclaimed before they ran toward it.
“Hey, slow down! What if there’s a bear inside?” said Mike in a trembling voice.
The news reporter’s words suddenly echoed in his mind, and he told Jaime and Sam.
“We have to be very careful here. The bear could hurt us.”
Since Sam was already feeling guilty because it had been his idea to visit the forest, he volunteered to approach the cave and see if there was a bear inside. Feeling frightened, he tiptoed toward the cave, trying not to make a sound.
When he reached the entrance, he turned his head and looked at the other two boys.
“I’m fine!” he whispered before turning back toward the cave.
Suddenly, the three heard a female voice from inside the cave. Mike and Jaime’s hands went to their mouths, while Sam froze.
“Who’s there?” the woman asked.
Mike and Jaime ran over to Sam and debated whether they should go in. Drenched in sweat, the three boys took a few short steps into the cave and saw an old woman sitting down.
“Help us, please!” pleaded Sam. “We’re lost and it’s almost dark outside. We need to get home as soon as possible.”
“Calm down, I can help you,” the woman said before slowly getting up. “Come on. Follow me. I’ll take you back the way you came.”
At this point, none of the boys tried to find out anything about the woman. Although they were surprised to see her inside the abandoned bear pit, no one dared to ask her any questions. They followed her in silence until they found their way home.
When Mike arrived home and joined his father at the dinner table, he felt guilty for not keeping his promise.
“Dad, I want to confess something to you,” he said as he looked down at his plate.
“What’s that about?” Saul looked at his son and held the spoon on the plate. “Is everything okay?”
“I broke my promise, Dad,” Mike said as tears slipped down his cheeks. “I went into the woods with Jaime and Sam. I’m so sorry.”
Saul shook his head and put his hand on his son’s shoulder.
“Calm down, son. Tell me everything. Are you all right? What happened back there?”
When Mike realized that his father wasn’t angry, he told him everything that had happened in the woods.
“We met an old woman in a bear den, Dad! She helped us find our way back,” he said, as he wiped away tears.
“You found a woman inside a bear den?”. Saul was surprised. “What was she doing there alone?”
After the conversation with his son, Saul wanted to know more about the woman. The next day, he visited the forest and searched the den with Mike.
“Hello!” said Saul when he saw the old lady sitting inside.
At first, she was surprised, but she immediately recognized Mike and realized that he had brought his father there.
“What brings you here?” she asked Saul.
“I just wanted to thank you for saving my son and his friends,” Saul smiled.
“It was nothing,” she replied with a slight smile.
“I’m a lawyer. My name is Saul,” he sat down next to the woman. “I was wondering if you needed help. I mean, why are you living in a cave?”
When the woman learned of Saul’s profession, she perked up and told him her life story.
“My name is Amanda,” she said. “My husband and I were hikers. We loved to roam the wilderness, whether it was forests, deserts or mountains.”
“Where is your husband?” asked Saul curiously.
“We came a few months ago, but he got lost,” she replied. “I have no idea where he is now. I don’t even know if he’s alive. I tried to find him, but I couldn’t.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Saul expressed as Mike listened intently to Amanda’s story. “Why didn’t you ask for help?”.
“I was so sad, son,” she replied as tears welled up in her eyes. “I had no idea what to do. I stayed here, trying my best to find him. I looked for him everywhere, but I couldn’t locate him.”
“A few months later, I came home and discovered something I had never imagined could happen,” she continued. “My son had hired someone to make false documents and sold my property in my name.”
“He argued that I could not take care of my property because I was mentally incapacitated. I never expected him to act so selfishly. He betrayed my trust.”
“That’s too bad,” Saul replied. “But I think I could help you. If he really did file false documents, then I can help you get your house back, Amanda.”
“What would I do with my house now? I’m used to living here,” Amanda averted her gaze to the light coming in through the cave entrance. “Since I had nowhere else to go, I came back to this cave and made it my home. I know how to get food and I’ve learned how to keep myself safe from bears.”
“I’m glad you’ve learned to survive here, Amanda,” Saul said. “But I’d still like to help you. I can take you back to town and get your home back.”
“Thank you very much, son,” Amanda smiled. “But I’m fine here. I want to live here until the last day of my life.”
After again thanking the woman for leading Mike out of the forest, Saul left the cave with his son. As they walked toward the exit, along a shortcut he knew, they heard the growl of a bear.
“Oh, no!” whispered Saul and pulled his son behind him, shielding him from the bear. “Don’t move, Mike. Stay calm.”
Even though the bear wasn’t too close to them, Saul still felt afraid. All he knew was that he had to stay calm because he had read somewhere that bears attack people who try to escape.
A few seconds later, Saul heard the rattle of metal cans in the distance and the bear’s voice began to fade. It seemed that someone was trying to chase it away and had succeeded.
Curious, Saul took a few steps forward and saw a man holding a stick with cans dangling from it. It looked like he had dealt with bears before, because he had stood up to the wild animal without fearing for his life.
Once out of danger, Saul approached him and thanked him for saving his life.
“I had no idea you were here with your son. I haven’t bumped into any humans on this road in months,” the man replied.
When Saul heard the man say “months,” it dawned on him. He could be Amanda’s long-lost husband. Immediately, he mentioned the woman’s name and discovered that his suspicions were true. He was indeed the old woman’s missing husband.
Saul spent the next few months trying to straighten out the couple’s life. He managed to get Amanda’s house back and soon the couple began working as forest guides. They knew their way through the thick forest and were not afraid to face wild bears. They had the perfect skills and experience to guide others.
For his part, Mike decided that he would never again lie to his father or break his promises. From that day on, he would always share everything with him and listen to his advice.