By September, Mary Ann had accumulated enough resources to relocate. She went south, to Georgia, where the bigotry wasn't as rampant, or at least she suspected as much. Plus the climate was better, which would make it easier for her to sleep outdoors if she had to, considering she knew no one and would be on her own for a while. Despite her youth and beauty, she wouldn't dare disgrace herself by shacking up with some man, all so he could feel like a hero for taking advantage of her. Anyway, she prefered natures embrace over that of any man's arms. It would suit her better being outdoors, or so she thought.
On her arrival to Georgia, she realized that it wasn't as inviting as she once thought. The people were a little nicer, she noticed. But the weather was harsh, and she was all alone. Despite the kindness of strangers, who would occasionally take pity on her enough to feed her or give her a little money, she wasn't getting by. She began to wonder if she should have stayed in Massachusetts, but was too proud to return no matter what.
After a while, the winter weather had caught up to the southern state, and she was still homeless and alone. She was in the forest one evening, shivering and lonesome, when she began to think about Len. She hadn't a fire, only darkness cold. He was her only light, her only warmth. She started to cry, reminiscing about the memories they'd had. She wished he could have been there for her at that moment.
All of a sudden, a bolt of lightning crashed down from heaven very near her. She saw it blazing down. She ran over to where it struck, and found a large tree smouldering on the ground. She nurtured the embers, and let them grow to a fire. She was suddenly happy, thanking mother nature for her kindness. She looked to the sky and smiled.
Later in the evening, or morning rather, she awoke to the sound of footsteps. It was a group of 3 men from the nearest village, the village where she did trade with what little she could, which was usually scavenged. She heard their voices, knew they'd be upon her soon. They were drunk, and out to do harm.
"Hey, a fire!" she heard one of them yell in a slurred grumble.
"Yeah, let's go see what it's all about," said another.
She was growing more and more uncomfortable, knowing how cruel men could be, especially the kinds who wonder vacant woods at night, especially after the death of her friend. They found her there in fear and alone. They were, in fact, cruel men, intent to do harm.
"Hey, ain't that the homeless broad who comes to town? Whatchya doin all alone out here?"
"I'm resting. What are you men doing out here so late?"
Another answered, but was very rude, much more so than his accomplice.
"Tryinta stay away from dumb broads, but we failed tonight, looks like."
And with that, the man went and began to urinate on the fire that she had so lovingly prepared for herself, putting it almost entirely out. She was devastated.
"Stop! Stop what you're doing right this second!" she exclaimed, but it was no use. He did his business and laughed at her.
"What's the matter, cheeks, scared of a little dark? Have no fear, us men are here. Hyugh hyugh hyugh."
His drunken laugh sickened her, and she wanted to lash out. But her inner peace took control, and she just laughed with him.
"Hey, did I say somethin' funny to ya?"
"You are a walking joke! How can I do anything but laugh?"
And with that, the man backhanded her. She fell to the ground. The other men just laughed and watched, circling her like a pack of vultures.
Suddenly, footsteps could be heard in the distance, and everyone grew silent. They were heavy steps, and menacing too, more menacing than any of the men. It was the sound of something big, and it was heading straight towards the camp. They waited in silence and darkness, with no moonlight to satisfy them.
"Let's get out of here, I ain't got a good feelin' about this," whispered the first coward.
"What's the matter? Scared of a little dark?" Mary Ann said mockingly. She began to laugh, disregarding the footsteps. Whoever or whatever it was, it couldn't make her evening any worse.
As the footsteps were almost upon them, the men were silent and still, consumed with fear. This gave Mary Ann pleasure, and she began to laugh and dance, outraging them. Just as the worthless drunk who had hit her the first time closed his fist to strike again, a bear lunged from the woods and struck him, clawing and biting him until he was too dead to scream anymore. The other men tried to run, but were too drunk and slow to get away. The bear killed the other two as well, and it was a shocking and vicious site. But Mary Ann enjoyed it all the same. When it was over, the bear returned to her, and she was not afraid. She hoped the bear would kill her too, and knelt before the beast.
"My life is in your hands. Do what thou will."
And with that, the bear rose on two legs and started to walk backwards. It began to radiate light from its mouth, eyes, and nose. She couldn't believe the site as she watched in awe.
Suddenly, the bear began to change. It transformed its shape and size, light now radiating from its whole being. When it finally finished its transformation, she realized that it was her beloved friend Len. He was dressed entirely in white, having the appearance of an angel. She began to weep tears of joy at the sight, and stood to engage him. She hugged him tightly, thanking him for his vigilance and wondering how it was all possible.
"How can this be? I buried you months ago. Are you still confined to this realm, in spite of your death?"
"I am, but this realm is vast, and much is unseen. I manifested myself as lightning when I saw you needed fire, and I manifested myself as a bear when I saw you were in danger. I manifest in my original form now, to tell you that I have been with you since my death, and will stay with you forever, until you become like me. When that day arrives, you will understand."
"Do not question how. Accept what is."
"But what are you now? What is this form you've taken, all in white and glowing? Are you an angel?"
"I'm not an angel. I am the grateful dead. You have given me peace, and I will never forget that."
When it was all said and done, Mary Ann was satisfied, and she lived the rest of her life in peace. From that day forth, whenver she thought of Len, she never cried, but only smiled.