Working at the Wayside View Inn had its fair share of perks, but lodging with his fellow employees meant that unlike living at home, Regan couldn’t worm his way out of doing chores. Taking out the trash was never one of his favorites, especially after dinner when his stomach was full and he was ready to spend the rest of the night smoking, watching He-Man and losing at video games. True, it was his fault for putting it off, but Regan was happy to overlook that fact.

He heaved the large, black garbage bag over his shoulder with a grunt, his small-ish stature buckling under its bulging weight. Regan picked his way across the grounds, heading towards a small clutch of dumpsters in the barren lot behind the building. In a fit of inverted snobbery, the owner had given the establishment its quaint little name, but in reality, the “Inn” was a large resort-style hotel. Apparently, rich people really liked going to the mountains.

He teetered as he rounded the corner of the first dumpster and dropped the bag with a slack, wet ‘plop’. Groaning, Regan braced his hands on the small of his back and arched his spine, his head of unruly brown hair aimed at the night sky. The milky, hazy glow of the innumerable stars above him and the vastness of the sky itself was overwhelming. Regan was so caught up in his reverie that he almost didn’t hear the rustle and clank of someone--or something rooting through the dumpsters. His eyes (cat-like in shape and shade) snapped back down to Earth in time to see a large, pale head peer around the garbage bin in front of him.

Regan had seen bears on TV, but all the Nature shows in the world couldn’t have prepared him for the one that came loping from behind a dumpster. The bear reared up on its hind legs, reaching a standing height of at least seven feet. Regan froze in terror. Vaguely, he remembered being stoned and watching an Animal Planet special on bears. Were you supposed to play dead with a grizzly and fight with a black bear or was it the other way around? Seeing as how this particular bear was a ghostly white-blond, Regan suspected it wouldn’t have made a difference if he remembered, anyway.

“Don’t mind me.” The bear said in a dry monotone. “Just going through your garbage.”

Regan exhaled a grating, rasping breath that he didn’t realize he’d been holding. His watery, trembling knees were scarcely able to support his weight and his pulse roared in his ears.

“I have got to stop smoking so much weed.” Regan’s voice, when he found it, came out as a squeak. The bear turned his gaze towards the dizzying stars that seemed to swarm and swirl above them with a twitch of his pink-ish nose.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” He asked as if he hadn’t heard Regan speak. “Kind of makes you feel insignificant.”

“I guess so.” Evidently, Regan wasn’t the type to wax poetic about the cosmos. Suddenly, the bear soundly rested one of his massive, weighty paws on Regan’s shoulder, causing the brunette to grimace uncomfortably and hiss in pain.

“You are the hero of your own story, Regan.” The bear told him, effecting the tone used by countless sages and teachers in movies and TV shows whenever they imparted their wisdom.

“...Your claws are digging into my back.”

“Sorry.” To Regan’s relief, the pressure of the paw was lifted and the pain blooming across his shoulder dulled. The bear’s glittering black eyes fixated on the trash bag at his sneakered feet. “Hey, can I see that? Smells like there’s chicken in there or something.”

“It’s from the curry.” Regan said as he stooped to pick the bag up and hand it over, having decided that conversing with a bear with the voice of H. Jon Benjamin wasn‘t the weirdest--or even the scariest--thing to happen to him. “...So you aren’t going to eat me?”

“That’s anti-bear propaganda.” The bear replied, absently scratching his furry chest before picking apart the bag’s knotted plastic drawstrings with a surprising amount of gingerness.

The laughing stars loomed over the two of them as Regan looked on in disbelief.

“I might, though.”