"On the other hand, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen again." The old man heard Alf's voice. He had gone over to the shelves of wildlife cameras with the customer. "No matter how much it might look like a teddy bear, all carnivores kill. So yes, you should definitely get a camera so you can figure out if it's settled down somewhere near your cabin or if it was just passing through. And now's the time brown bears emerge from hibernation, and they're starving. Set up a camera where you found the droppings, or somewhere close to the cabin."
"So the camera's inside that little bird box?"
"The bird box, as you call it, protects the camera from the elements and any animals that get too close. This one's a simple, reasonably priced camera. It's got a Fresnel lens that registers the infrared radiation from the heat animals, humans and everything else give off. When the level deviates from the norm, the camera automatically starts to record."
The old man was half listening to the conversation, but something else had caught his attention. Something that was happening on the television screen. He couldn't see what it was, but the green darkness had taken on a lighter shimmer.
"Recordings are stored on a memory card inside the camera—you can play it back on your PC afterwards."
"Now that's fantastic."
"Yes, but you do have to physically go and check the camera to see if it's recorded anything. If you go for this slightly more expensive model, you'll get a text message every time it's recorded anything. Or there's this one, the most advanced model, which still has a memory card but will also send any recordings directly to your phone or email. You can sit inside your cabin and only have to go back to the camera to change the battery every so often."
"What if the bear comes at night?"
"The camera has black-light LEDs as well as white. Invisible light that means the animal doesn't get frightened off."
Light. The old man could see it now. A beam of light coming from upriver, off to the right. It pushed through the green water, found the dress, and for a chilling moment it made him think of a girl coming back to life at last and dancing with joy.
"That's proper science fiction, that is!"
The old man opened his mouth when he saw a spaceship come into the picture. It was lit up from within and was hovering a metre and a half off the riverbed. The current knocked it against a large rock, and, almost in slow motion, it spun round until the light from the front of it swept across the riverbed and for a moment blinded the old man when it hit the camera lens. Then the hovering spaceship was caught by the thick branches of the pine tree and stopped moving. The old man felt his heart thudding in his chest. It was a car. The interior light was on, and he could see that the inside was full of water, almost up to the roof. There was someone in there. Someone half sitting, half standing on the driver's seat as he desperately pressed his head up to the roof, obviously trying to get air. One of the rotten branches holding the car snapped and drifted off in the current.
"You don't get the same clarity and focus as daylight, and it's black and white. But as long as there's no condensation on the lens or anything in the way, you should certainly be able to see your bear."
The old man stamped on the floor in an attempt to attract Alf's attention. The man in the car looked like he was taking a deep breath before ducking under again. His short, bristly hair was swaying, and his cheeks were puffed out. He hit both hands against the side window facing the camera, but the water inside the car leached the force from the blows. The old man had put his hands on the armrests and was trying to get up from his chair, but his muscles wouldn't do what he told them to. He noticed that the middle finger on one of the man's hands was a greyish colour. The man stopped banging and butted the glass with his head. It looked like he was giving up. Another branch snapped and the current tugged and strained to pull the car free, but the pine wasn't ready to let go just yet. The old man stared at the anguished face pressed against the inside of the car window. Bulging blue eyes. A scar in a liver-coloured arc from one corner of his mouth up towards his ear. The old man had managed to get out of his chair and took two unsteady steps towards the shelves of cameras.