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Last week the number one movie was Cocaine Bear, a horror comedy about a rampaging black bear,

that became addicted to kilos of coke dropped from a plane.

Over a decade though, Peter Farris author of books like Last Call For The Living and his latest, The Devil Himself, wrote a about a group of friends facing off a pack of bears high on meth. The story grabbed me and about anybody else that read it.

As fellow rural noir bad ass, Eryk Pruitt says, "Cocaine Bears are for pussies. Peter knows how to CRANK it to eleven."

Peter was kind enough to allow The Hard Word to post the story with a small stroll down memory lane with it.

THE HARD WORD: Where you inspired by the same 1985 story about the bear discovering a dropped shipment of cocaine

PETER FARRIS: No, I'd never even heard of it. The story was inspired by a trip to the Tennessee/Virginia

state line for a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway. My (now) wife and some dear friends spent the race weekend in a picturesque mountain cabin...and on our way we passed the fairly fresh burnt-out husk of a home we could only assume to have been a meth lab explosion. This was in March 2010 IIRC (Jimmie Johnson won the race btw). During our stay I had a notion: "What if the proprietor of our cabin rental ran a local meth syndicate and we stumbled upon it...and what if the local wildlife got into the supply and went on a rampage?"

I wrote the story after that NASCAR trip in April 2010. and published it sometime in March 2011 when I started a blog in advance of the release of my first novel "Last Call for the Living" (published by Forge Books on May 22, 2012). A few writers loved it, Matthew McBride and Joe Clifford come to mind. The piece was originally titled "Attack of the Meth Monsters" and I changed it to "Bears" before posting it online...really as a lark, just to share content and get some writing out there ahead of my debut novel. The blog was originally called The Sentence Salvo and lived at

HW: I Know your inspired by film as well as literature. Were there any horror movies in your mind while you were writing it?

PF:None come to mind, except the 1976 film "Grizzly" which I'd seen as an adolescent. I haven't watched it in decades but as a kid I found it to be pretty terrifying, part of that 70's - 80's wild fish & game horror genre. I was mostly enamored with the work of splatterpunk legends David J. Schow & Joe Lansdale. Rereading the story I don't even recognize this writer anymore. I was clearly still trying to find a voice, playing around with form and obviously it's a juvenile, absurd and intentionally silly piece of writing.

HW: What do you think is the biggest difference between a meth bear to a cocaine bera?

PF: Teeth, gum and fur health. I imagine they both would be insufferable to hang around...assuming the bears didn't want to eat you. A meth bear would probably want to take your Roku apart while a Coke bear would want to blather about his brilliant ideas for a new season of The White Lotus.

HW:. What was your reaction when you saw the Cocaine Bear poster or trailer?

PFI thought it looked dumb as hell. And reminded me of the equally dumb story I wrote about black bears ingesting Schedule II narcotics back in 2010.

And without further adieu,

Attack of the Meth Bears

"This is going to be the best. Weekend. Ever."

That's what my girlfriend Sarah said. We were driving the switchbacks of the Daniel Boone Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. We meaning me and Sarah and my pal Bo and his wife Sonja. I really wanted to believe Sarah, too. The view from up there was breathtaking, save for the lack of guard rails and the five hundred-foot drops. Like a moving postcard. Pine forests in every direction. Creeper trails. Feral homes. Old barns and shacks. Creeks, brooks, deer watching the road like an infant might eye a wall socket. East Tennessee is right beautiful, especially on the last day of winter. Plenty of sunshine, temps in the low 60's. I mean, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

There was potential, I had to admit. The possibility of the perfect weekend.

But when my girlfriend says shit like that, I just cringe. I'm always assuming the worst, expecting the food to be poisoned or the tornado to find our house or ninja monkeys to fall from the sky and cut our fucking throats with hedge clippers.

Sarah is the type of person who sees life as one big birthday cake. She is the living embodiment of that REM song, "Shiny Happy People." The kind of person who dots her i's with little hearts.

I think she's personally keeping Hallmark in business.

Don't get me wrong, I love her to death. Might even pop the question one day. But the girl needs some perspective. Life is not a box of chocolates.

Giving me shit for bringing my handgun? Rather have it and not need it, I always tell her. Sarah just wrinkles her nose at me like you can just Christmas card your way out of any sticky situation.

Sticky didn't begin to describe what was waiting for us on the other side of the mountain.

Bo and I had been planning the trip for a year. Three nights up in the mountains, with a visit to Bristol Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race on Sunday. No internet. No cell phones. Just a whole lot of beer and laziness, a combination I have to admit wasn't too much different from my regular, non-vacationing life.

We were hoping the women would cook and clean for us, too. And as a reward we might roll over on them late at night and slip it in. Give 'em a good beer belly humpin'. We were pigs, I know.

He found the place online. Considering it was race weekend I was shocked at the rates. Most places, hotels and such, gouge the ever-loving-shit out of race fans but this place was reasonable, if not downright cheap.

"What's the catch? Is the cabin next to a nudist colony for people with eczema?" I asked him.

"Dunno, man," Bo said. "Place even has a hot tub. Did you check out the pictures?"

And I had. The cabin—a little modular deal they deliver in a box and set down wherever you want it—didn't look bad at all. Full kitchen, satellite TV, two cozy bedrooms and a big living room with lots of taxidermy mounted on the wall.

My kind of place.

So Bo called the proprietor, Alonzo Crumpley. When I first heard the name I assumed the guy was a blues musician and older than dirt, somebody with a record out on Fat Possum. Well, I am the king of making an ass out of U and ME if you get my drift and I was surprised as a pregnant hooker when we drove up the steep gravel drive of Alonzo's thirty acres and found a white guy younger than us, tidying up the front porch. An ATV was parked out front, a Can-Am Outlander to be exact. Those bad boys did not come cheap.

Bo parked his pickup and we spilled out, happy to stretch our legs after the six hour drive. Sarah and Sonja were already giggling like victims in the first five minutes of a horror movie. At least that's what I was thinking. Alonzo leaned a broom against one of the porch's wooden posts. A dog came around the corner, woofed once, then wagged its tail when the girls called him over.

Friendly dog. Good sign.

"How y'all doin'?" Alonzo said.

He was a slender guy, late-20's, clean cut, nothing remarkable about his features but there was that subtle Appalachian thing going on. The eyes set wide apart, his cheek bones hanging low, just something extraterrestrial about him. Alonzo had one of those faces where there was no mystery to how it'd look in forty years.

We shook hands. Introduced the ladies. He smiled softly at us. He had the kind of laconic drawl that could keep your coffee warm. I could tell by the way he carried himself, the clothes he wore, that Alonzo knew how to do a lot of things and knew how to do them well.

We found out a couple things. The dog's name was "Raisin" and she was "sweet as pie". We learned how to operate the hot tub, where to find scrap wood for the fire pit. There were hiking trails that led to a pond, a good spot for fishing if we were keen to. There was a timber farm on the adjacent hilltop. His house was over "yonder" but from Black Bear Getaway but you couldn't see anything but trees and more trees, at least from where we were standing. He mentioned the propane space heaters, suggested ideal settings, including a brief tutorial for the Amish fireplace we'd seen infomercials for on TV. He explained checkout procedures, where to put the used linens and towels, where to leave the key. Then he mentioned how he usually had renters about one or two weekends a month, but during the races at Bristol or a little further away in Martinsville, Virginia, he started getting reservations three months in advance.

Bo was lucky, we discovered. Right after he booked the place Alonzo had fielded a dozen inquiries.

We found out, in the natural course of our friendly chat, that he was a Sheriff's Deputy in Johnson County. Planned to build a new house for his family on the property. He explained how the land had belonged to Crumpley's for five generations, the cabin had helped pay his way through ETSU and he was using the extra income as a college fund for his little girl. And that lucky girl had a brand new swing set he was fixing to put together.

"Y'all just call me if you need anything," Crumpley said.

We shook hands. He had a supreme but quiet confidence about him. A walking, talking Hank Williams, Jr. song. Raised to hunt and fish, to work the land and be self-sufficient. The kind of knowledge, common sense really, that most city folks paid other people to have.

Crumpley loaded a trash bag onto the cargo rack of his Outlander and bid us a good weekend. I watched him go, noticing for the first time the scar on the back of his neck. The tissue raised and thick as manilla rope.

Bo noticed as well. "What the hell you think did that?" he said.

"Beats me? Looks like something tried to hack his head off. You like that Cam-Am of his?"

"What would one of those run you? Ten thousand?"

"At least," I said.

We were amusing ourselves more than anything when Sonja walked by carrying a box full of beef jerky and granola bars. She gave Bo a good kick in the ass for good measure, noticing we'd been at the cabin five minutes and we were already were showing signs of complete and utter uselessness.

Indeed, we had groceries to unload, folding chairs to unfold, a deck to sit on, and a sunset to watch.

Sarah and I took the smaller of the two bedrooms. I put my Glock on the nightstand, next to my wallet and cell phone.

Our vacation was officially underway.


The second night at the cabin was when it all went to hell.

Bo and I and Sarah spent the day hiking while Sonja prepped dinner and did a little sunbathing. The woods surrounding the cabin were pretty thick in places, with game trails contouring down the wooded mountainside. There was a pond, but none of us had brought bait and tackle and I was an ignorant angler to begin with.

Honestly, it sounded like work to me.

We turned back, taking a path that looked days old, as though it'd just been bushwacked. It led into a pasture. There was deer scat everywhere. Tracks. Someone had left a reel of barb wire. It looked like maybe Alonzo or his family had kept livestock at one point, a few cows or hogs maybe. At the center of the clearing a long-neglected deer blind stood, the rickety log structure looked a few termites short of turning into mulch.

We saw a couple of chairs inside, discarded netting and camouflage, a metal cot on the floor so you could lay flat and take your shots. The whole thing was overrun with kudzu and looked like it hadn't been used in decades. Must have been fun, I thought. Sit there all day, a Remington bolt action in your lap, cooler of beer at your feet.

I counted six different mounts adorning the walls of the cabin, including a kingly 10-point buck.

On the other side of the pasture Bo and I stopped and lit cigarettes. Sarah frowned but didn't say anything. Started walking up, a muddy path with rocks and branches strewn about. We watched her, smoking, Bo and I favoring each other with smiles as Sarah's stellar ass got smaller and smaller. She had one of those rear ends that should throw off fireworks when she walked.

I miss that ass dearly now.

I remember I could barely see her when she waved to us from the top of the path.

"Hey, guys! Get a load of this!"

Bo and I started walking. I flicked out my cigarette and pocketed the butt. Certainly didn't want to start a brush fire, burn up Alonzo's land.

Part of me now wishes that I had.

Sarah was pointing to the tree farm on the adjacent hillside when we joined her. There were rows and rows of evergreens and a huge greenhouse on a bald patch at the center of the hilltop. We skirted the edge of the farm. Sarah took a few pictures. For a moment Bo thought he saw someone watching us from a driveway. We heard a dog barking. I suggested we turn back. It was nice and cool, sunny, chamber of commerce weather. Then Sarah, walking ahead about fifteen feet, stopped at what looked like a burn barrel with a lid.

"What's in there, do you think?"

"I don't know, sweetie. You ever heard of trash?"

She ignored my sarcasm. Pulled the lid off the barrel.

We all looked. There were probably five hundred empty boxes of Sudafed.

"Holy cow!" Sarah said. "They must really get bad allergies up this way."

Bo and I looked at each other. He was about to say something but I shook my head. Instead and I put my hand on Sarah's and returned the lid to the top of the barrel.

"Come on, darling. We got some steaks to grill and some beer to drink."

We walked the two miles or so back to the cabin. It wasn't exactly a surprise that someone might be cooking meth out here. It was damn near epidemic in the rural south, but as far as I was concerned, it was none of our business. We'd seen a brick home on the way to the Crumpley cabin, burnt to the ground, a few people wearing face masks trying to salvage whatever they could from the charred carcass of the house. Bo had made a comment first.

"What's the difference between a tweaker and a junky?"

" What?" Sonja said.

"They'll both steal your stuff, but in the morning the tweaker will help you look for it."

We all laughed except for Sarah. I don't think she really believed anyone could do drugs to the point it ruined their lives. She was so naive. So sheltered. When I told her meth labs explode all the time because of the chemicals the cooks use Sarah just looked at me like I had a racoon crawling out of my ear. She had somehow made it through life untainted, surrounded by a well-adjusted family of considerable means. She did yoga six mornings a week. Her idea of getting wasted was nursing a Bud Light with Lime for four hours. Her naiveté toward the big brutal world at large was astounding at times.

Later that afternoon Bo and I sucked down cold Pabst and watched the sunset from the porch. Sonja was busy cooking, with Sarah as her sous-chef. It was damn picturesque, I must say. To watch the gloaming, as my Daddy called it. Occasionally we heard the report from a hunting rifle, gunfire part of the natural ambience of the place. Or Raisin the sweetheart dog barking as she flushed a host of sparrows from their nest. Willie Nelson on my iPod sang Sad Songs and Waltzes.

Neither of us said anything about the burn barrel, the Sudafed, what could really be going over at that greenhouse.

I figured a Deputy Sheriff with an education around here could really turn a buck. Between the connections, the isolation, someone to cook the stuff up, ol' Alonzo could make a small fortune. Build that new house he was talking about. Send that little girl to Knoxville for college. I entertained some unsavory scenarios. What if someone saw us walking around up there? Saw Sarah lift the lid on that barrel? Alonzo never told us where we couldn't walk. Almost forty acres of land. Hell, maybe he didn't even know? But if he did, and he caught wind of our snooping, as the local law he could really make our lives miserable. I tried to block it from my mind. Couldn't let my overactive imagination ruin another good time.

If only I could have seen this coming.

That evening we retreated to the hot tub. Bo was about half in the bag and I could tell he and Sonja were making "fuck me" eyes at one another, so I got out, toweled off, and walked across the deck to the sliding glass doors that led to the master bedroom. Sarah was not far behind, a little tipsy, looking outrageously sexy in a yellow bikini swimsuit. I thought I'd get another beer, maybe make a fire on the wood stove, see how lucky I might get.

That's when I heard it.

It sounded gross. Full of phlegm and throaty. Like a gorilla was trying to snort a pan of lasagna up its nose. I heard something climb the deck, the planks moaning under its weight.

"Baby?" Sarah said. "Did you hear that?"

I cocked my head. The master bedroom was dark, Bo and Sonja's stuff scattered across the floor. Sarah was a few feet away, staring at the moonlit mountain peaks. She craned her neck down the length of the deck when a black bear the size of Toyota Prius walked by. She gasped. The bear turned its head and that's when I got a good look at it.

"Shut that door, Sarah!"

She screamed. The bear snorted again. Then it opened its mouth. Just by looking at that animal, I knew one thing for sure…

This animal was sick.

I grabbed Sarah by her hair and yanked. The bear raised a paw and stuck it in the gap of the sliding door. It sneezed.

Like it had a cold or something.

By that point I sure hoped Bo was making it a quickie in the hot tub. I had to get to my handgun. I pulled Sarah out of the master bedroom and around the corner. I slammed the door. Hit the lights. I could hear Bo in the hot tub, grunting like a pre-teen humping a couch cushion.

A second door led from our room to the patio. I hopped over the bed, locked it, grabbed my Glock, and drew the blinds. The Jacuzzi was right outside.

By then the bears were on them.

Bo had Sonja bent over the edge of the tub when one of black bears brought down a paw and took half her face off. I screamed. Sarah screamed. Bo yelled: "What the fuck?"

Another bear appeared from the darkness. I fired twice through the window, missing wildly. Bo turned and looked at me like I was way out of line. The bear charged the hot tub, swung at Bo, then got an arm and a leg over the side and fell in with him.

He was really shrieking now, wrestling the animal. I never heard him make sounds like that. Never thought my friend, a master mechanic built like a brick shithouse, could scream with such terror. The water turned red. The bear sunk its jaws into Bo's neck and started twisting back and forth, shaking him like a dog would a chew toy. The water was still bubbling, the jets on high. Lights illuminated the surface from the bottom.

And what floated on the surface made my stomach turn. The Jacuzzi was filled with gore. Bo stopped moving. The bear splashed around. It couldn't get out.

Another bear dragged Sonja over the lip of the hot tub by her head. I heard something above me and looked up at the skylight. There was one on the goddamn roof. Sarah was really losing it now. We could hear a couple more out in the kitchen, the master bedroom, the living room, tearing the place apart.

T hey didn't look like normal bears, either. And besides, those things were supposed to be terrified of people. Never had I heard of an American black bear being so aggressive. And in packs? I thought they were solitary, save for a mother and her cubs?

We were under fucking siege.

There must have been ten of them now. Sunken faces. All of them mangy, emaciated, exposed skin scratched raw. The teeth that weren’t missing were rotted. Glassy eyes looked around wildly.

At first I laughed out loud when the idea popped into my head. Sarah must have thought I was nuts.

What if the bears had gotten into the crank? What if these animals were hooked? Christ almighty, could they really?

Tweaker bears? Smokey the meth head?

I was losing my shit.

Meanwhile, the whole house was coming apart. Sarah and I huddled together on the floor of the guest bedroom, both of us shaking and wet. I swung the pistol from the roof to the door to the window where the Jacuzzi bubbled over with chum.

We heard a sniff.

A shadow appeared along the sill. I pushed Sarah to the opposite door, told her to undo the deadbolt when I said so. We could leap from the deck and make a run for it. Probably our only chance.

We had a moment to brace ourselves when a terrible noise came from somewhere inside the cabin. It sounded like a Great Dane getting gang raped by a herd of buffalo.

Then the door shattered into pieces. The first thing I saw was a bear with no hair on its head. A few teeth left in its skull, but the few that were left looked more than adequate for chomping my ass to pieces. I squeezed the trigger of my .45, firing twice, hitting the bear right between the eyes. Its mouth clicked shut, a ropy drool swinging from its chin as the body slumped to the ground.

Sarah didn't wait. She slid back the deadbolt, swung open the door and hurled herself off the deck. I kept firing because there must have been a dozen drug-addled bears fighting to get at me. Then I turned and leapt over the railing.

They roared in pursuit. Just imagine a dozen irritable, stinking, paranoid American black bears chasing you through the darkness of an Appalachian forest.

I'm pretty sure that was piss all over my legs.

I shouted Sarah's name a couple of times, too, but between my panicky breaths and the heavy footfalls I didn't hear a thing. I still don't know what happened to her or if she's even alive.

Yet somehow I'm still alive.

In the mad dash down the hillside, I almost managed to knock myself unconscious running into the trunk of an enormous white elm. I scurried up the tree, finding the branches near the ground especially helpful.

Then it occurred to me. Bears can climb fucking trees, too. Way better than my ass.

I was already committed though. I kept climbing, higher and higher.

I heard bears growling all around me. Meth bears.

Hours passed. By the time the sun peeked over the mountain range to the east I got a good look at my pursuers.

They've been circling the tree for a few hours now. A few of them have tried to get at me, climbing the branches near the base but clearly not in any shape to make it all the way. I've got a few rounds left in the Glock, but no spare magazine. Fortunately I grabbed my fancy new cell phone before the bears laid siege to our cabin.

Of course, I don't have any signal up here. But at least I can document my ordeal. I've taken a few pictures. Typed up this account you're reading. If only I could log on to Facebook and share it with the world.

Because right now nobody knows I'm up here. Except my friends—all presumed dead at the moment.

The meth bears are persistent. I’ve counted seventeen but more keep joining. An awful stench rises from their mouths. Occasionally one of them looks up, regarding me with an eerie intelligence in its eyes.

They've started to make this strange grunting noise. One fell into convulsions and never got up.

But the meth bears keep circling.

I can barely see from my perch the roof of the cabin. I'm guessing it's about six in the morning. Looks to be another gorgeous day. I thought I heard a police siren earlier. Tires on gravel. Gun shots. The sound of a little girl crying.

And the meth bears and I are thinking the exact same thing.

I wonder how long he can stay up there?

Peter Farris' novel The Devil, Himself made my top ten of last year. You can order it from The Bosslight Bookstore -


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