They came from the dark warmth of our mothers’ wombs, held tight in our little arms as we slipped into the world. A knot of fluff and claws no bigger than a peach. Doctors were confused, nurses shocked. Some of our fathers fainted when they saw the yawning jaws of the mammals held close to our new-born bodies. Skin to fur. But our mothers were never afraid. They knew somehow, as only mothers know, that we would never be alone.
At first the world hummed with the news. In the big universities, old men wrote thesis statements and shy academics with bold letters after their names proclaimed science. Religious leaders scratched hairless heads and tugged at beards, unsure in the depths of their hearts if a bear was a god-friendly thing.
Soon it was normal, girl and bear became synonymous. They grew as we grew, playing rough in the sandpits and roaring out of trees. Many were worried about the dangers, of course. And the additional cost of food. But the bears were soft as lambs, and good as dogs. Better, in fact; where a dog will follow you and eat your scraps a bear will look you in the eye and eat everything that you do, and more. For the first time in many years, girls everywhere ate and ate, and were not shamed.
We learned that the bears had many interesting uses. Their ursine bulk was ideal for lifting heavy things, they could climb even to the highest shelf, and their paws – oh, their paws – were just perfect for opening jars. At night they slept on our beds or beneath them, or up in the branches, or out in the garden with the potted plants. And always we would sleep in their arms. When our blood came the bears smelled it first, and held our bodies tighter as the cramps crippled us, easing the pain away with soft kisses from muzzles built for honey. It was then the world began to understand everything would soon be different.
The bears could not talk, of course. They were bears. But still they told us stories. Stories of what a woman was. What a woman can be. They conjured claws, sharp as mountains, and pelts, thick as forests. They grinned about how it felt to walk the streets freely at any hour of the day or night. They rumbled about never knowing cold, or fear, or panic attacks in a crowded supermarket. A bear does not bruise like a peach. Their fur spoke of secrets, the deepest and sweetest secrets, written in places only a woman can read. Their massive tongues and pointed teeth spelled out what love was. What it can be.
And then they vanished.
Nobody knew where or why, but it happened fast. One day they were there as normal, pacing the carpet or curled in middle of the kitchen, and the next they were gone. Perhaps slipped into the bushes or the closest stream, to swim to a cave on another shore.
Some said it was for the best, that a wild animal would always be wild, and should never be kept. Others were sad, and wished the bears would return, but none were too sad for too long. The bears had disappeared the same way they had been born, without reason or explanation, but the story they told made perfect sense. And even though they had gone, we knew, somewhere deep in our depths, that we would never be alone again.
About The Author
Philip Webb Gregg is a dyslexic writer and a lisping poet. He enjoys the contraction of two impossible things which inevitably enable each other. He is an editor for the Dark Mountain Project and makes his living as a general scribbler. He lives in Cambridge, UK, where everything is nice, and he hates it.
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