I was hiking up over the local hill the other afternoon and I came across this bear. Or at least I thought he was a bear. He was sitting on a rock wrestling with his foot. He noticed me standing there watching him.
“Grrr”, he said.
I was about to pull the camera out of my backpack.
“If you’re not going to run away then could you help me?”, he says.
“Damn zipper’s stuck”.
“You’re not really a bear are you?”
“Did you run away from a circus?”
“Do you work for a promotions company?”
“I give up then.”
“I’m from the next world.”
“Wow…. y’know I’m no way near as curious as some people. I guess I’ll just find out when I get there, or so I’ve always thought. But since you’re here, and since I’ve thought of it right now instead of next week or something … what’s it like? The afterlife I mean.”
He stood up slowly and had a bit of a scratch of the back of his fake-fur covered neck with his fake-fur covered paw/hand. There was little black fuzzy-felt triangles at the end that must’ve been claws. He stretched, slightly bending this way, that way, and I could tell he was kind of chuffed about playing the expert.
“It’s a lot like here really.”
“Yep. Well actually it’s not as good as here.”
“Oh pffft, get outta here!”
Yeah. Sure it’s cleaner but you walk around the streets and think ‘Where’s all the people?’ It’s cold most of the time and the lunch and dinner menus are limited, and by limited I mean limited. Mostly it’s pulse based, and that grain, what’s that grain … ?“
”I’m sure I don’t know.“
”No one gets much of a say in anything.“
I was looking into the small square of meshed netting below the protruding, patent leather bear nose. I was 8/10ths sure it was a normal human face in there, but then a couple of times I saw some pin-points of odd, gold glow.
”Listen can you take a look at this zip. I think something’s caught in it.“
The zip attaching the headpiece of the bear suit was well and truly stuffed and I said as much.
”Why are you wearing this now anyway?“
”We’re not supposed to leave. It’s against the rules. But man, now and then, I get this thing for raw fish and there’s this joint in the Downtown that does it just right. The only way to get out is to get disguised as an animal.“
Sometimes when I’m tasked with something I get carried away at wanting to succeed. I yanked at the zipper a few more times and muttered under my breath about how they should’ve used Velcro fasteners.
”I reckon I can get it off but the method might be a bit unconventional okay?“
”Please. I’m boiling in here.“
I grabbed ahold of his fake fur bear ears and yanked but the guy or whatever was almost as tall as me so I couldn’t get enough leverage. I got him to bow forward and I put a foot on his shoulder for purchase. For the sake of warning as to what was coming I called out, ”1, 2, 3, Heave!”
The stitching on the ears was not great by any means and it came clean away. The rest of the bear costume, and what was in it, went barrelling backward over the edge of an unfortunately close ledge. I scrabbled carefully to the edge, bear ears still clamped in my hands, and had a look over. It wasn’t that far down — 10 or 15 metres maybe but he landed on a pointy rock that’d snapped his spine backwards quite nastily.
So I guess he ended up going back to where he came from.
It wasn’t my fault, I swear.