Essay by an anonymous survivor, as provided by Christos Callow, Jr.
Illustration by Katie Nyborg
Ever heard of auto-cloning?
You must have. Everyone knows what it is, though most learned the hard way. I used to know one of the scientists who worked on the project. He died, though, in the process. He died quite a horrible death. He was devoured by a bear.
That is, before bears were tamed. The poor man was part of a larger group of scientists determined to find the solution to all of life’s problems. Or, at least, try. They called themselves The Herbert Easters, after the famous re-animator–-also because they were all either named Herbert or born during the Easter, or at least some of them were and the others were not. Maybe no-one was and some of them lied about it. No-one knows.
The original plan was to create a chemical formula that would instantly tame wild animals. The purpose was to remove violence from the animal kingdom at first, and then from humanity. The first few experiments were total failures. Animals died in the process. Some of the scientists too, including the one I mentioned. Bears that grew too powerful and too aggressive had been created accidentally, and then, at the cost of quite a few lives and quite a lot of money, they were tracked down, killed, and replaced.
These bears were incredibly hard to kill. Their skin was harder than that of a normal bear, and they had increased resistance to pain. They were faster, stronger, and fiercer than they were before the experiments. The Herberts studied their corpses with most interest. They weren’t anywhere nearer their original goal, but they now had new ideas to add to the project. They had almost discovered how to make the bear’s skin impenetrable. They imagined they could do the same with humans. They were more excited than ever. They thought they could discover a way to make both humans and animals immortal. That is, at the expense of fertility, of course. In their utopia there would be no death, but no birth either, and the number of existences would always be the ideal. But first, before changing the entire society, they had to succeed in changing the bears.
Through cloning, they managed to keep some of the bear’s behavioural characteristics out of the clone, and through splicing, they combined bears and pandas. The result was a mutated bear-like creature, calmer than the ordinary, resembling pandas more than bears in everything but the shape and the size. They were black and white in colour, like pandas, and fluffy, and comfortable to sit on. Literally, the scientists would sit on them, tickle them, play with their food, annoy them in any way possible, and the new bears would accept it. They were almost without personality, as their natural aggression had been chemically removed.
There was no way they’d survive in their natural environment. They were tamed pets, dependant on their human masters, yet they were expressionless, indifferent, neutral. The cost of the experiment was the bear’s motivation for life. This new bear did nothing but occupy space. It wouldn’t eat much, as it felt no hunger. It had to be fed, once every day and only a little. It would drink water not for pleasure but in order to not die of dehydration. It was a meaningless mass of meat, sad to look at. Alas, was that the future of the animal that once was the glorious bear?
The Herberts continued their experimenting on the hybrid. Their next objective was to make it self-sufficient, so that it could live without any water or food. I don’t know how they did it. I know it took them little more than a year. I know in the end they made it. The outcome was an Ursus Aeternus-–the immortal bear.
It was a miracle, or so it seemed. The greatest achievement of mankind. The Buddha Bear, as the scientists named it, that was indifferent to the universe as the universe was indifferent to it, that had nothing to do but doing the Nothing, that had no reason to live but life. It needn’t feed, it needn’t drink, it needn’t worry. There was no violence in it, because there was no desire. The bear’s mind was empty as the Buddha’s. The bear itself was in constant meditation. As its skin was impenetrable, and its strong muscular body was immune to pain, there was nothing really that could upset its eternal silence.
During the tests, the scientists stabbed one of the bears. No reaction. No blood. The knife just bent. They shot the bear. Nothing. No bullet could get past it. It didn’t even disturb it. The bear didn’t even move. Then, at last, they put dynamite in the bear’s mouth. That, the bear noticed. The explosion however had no result other than to make it open its eyes for a moment, look around indifferently and close them again, to continue its meditation. Its teeth weren’t harmed. Its tongue was so hard it could lift a panzer tank. This was, you may say, one god of a bear.
It was everything they had aimed for: peaceful, self-sufficient, undying. The men of the future would be like this bear, the scientists thought. The men of the future would know no death, no suffering, no hunger or thirst. Now all that the scientists had to do was one last experiment: to make a society of these bears, in order to see what kind of socializing they were capable of and if indeed their utopian vision could work. To achieve this, they had to make more bears like it. They would all be clones of this bear, the Buddha Bear, who was their triumph, their great success.
It seemed too good to be true, as everything kept going according to plan. But what the scientists hadn’t realized at the time was the mutated bear’s ability to reproduce at will, which it had developed while being cloned. And while they struggled with their outdated cloning machines, the cage where the bear was held, had now two bears, the one a copy of the other-–a clone of the other, to be precise.
It was as though the gods of science has heard their deepest prayers.
This advanced new species, the scientists came to realize, had the ability to clone themselves. One of the scientists called it auto-cloning, as it would happen automatically, and at a steady pace.
The result was that there now were two bears.
Needless to say, the two bears soon auto-cloned themselves, becoming four bears, which auto-cloned themselves and became eight bears, which auto-cloned themselves and became sixteen bears. By the end of the day, there was no room in the laboratory for any more bears, yet the bears kept cloning themselves at a steady tempo, ignoring everything that surrounded them. As they were indestructible creatures, the walls of the laboratory fell under the pressure of their bodies and the rest of the laboratory as well was soon ruins underneath them, as they kept multiplying from sixty four to a hundred twenty four and from five hundred twelve to a thousand twenty four. And they kept multiplying. By the end of the week, hundreds of thousands halfway into the month, and would soon be more than a million.
What used to be a laboratory was no more. It wasn’t even visible, as some thousands of heavy immortal bear bodies were indifferently resting upon it, motionless, forming hills of bears at first, then whole mountains of them. The bears were now visible from space–-they would eventually, the scientists feared, be visible from the nearby cities even-–for god’s sake, the cities would eventually collapse under them, the way they kept multiplying.
Was there no way to stop them? Was there nothing to be done to save mankind from a flood of Buddha Bears? The scientists could discover a cure or at least a way to put an end to the auto-cloning, but all their notes and equipment were buried deep under the Bear Mountain and as the mass of bears kept spreading, it was getting harder and harder to get anywhere near the place. Of course, the bears themselves were not dangerous. They wouldn’t attack any more than they would do anything else. They barely moved. They did nothing but breathing and whether they were also thinking or not, you couldn’t tell.
One of the bravest–-and with the guiltiest of consciences–-scientists attempted to reach the laboratory. He climbed over one of the harmless bears during the silent hours between two auto-clonings, and kept climbing until eventually he reached the peak of the Buddha Bear Mountain. We never heard of him again, nor do we know what he did afterwards, if he attempted to push between the bear bodies and dive inside the mountain, or if he decided never to come back and continue his life up there, with the bears.
Since the others had by now realized they were unable to prevent the growth of the Bear society, they took photos and a video of the horrible auto-cloning, and rushed to the nearest city to warn its inhabitants of the coming danger. By the time they arrived, the Bear Mountain had grown as big as to be visible to the city folk, who were already packing their stuff and running away, as to escape from an apocalypse.
The news spread quicker than the bears. Soon, the army decided to intervene. But the bears were immune to bullets, as they were to rockets, bombs, and the kamikaze pilots who flew their aircraft down on them.
The deathless, meditating, auto-multiplying, self-sufficient, ever-tolerant Buddha Bears were indeed, as the newest movement of doom-prophets predicted, the society of the future, and the coming race, the one whose coming would be the end of mankind.
Within days, the city was ruins. Within weeks, it was overrun by bears. Within a month, no part of it was visible under the tons of bear body. The nearest cities and villages and towns were already half-emptied by then, and the rest of the inhabitants were either preparing to leave or had decided to die under the physical flood of bears–-with the exception of the sceptics, those who were determined that what was going on made no sense and, thus, was not going on, regardless of what the physical senses of their fellow humans had been perceiving as a “fact.”
Soon, the day came that the country was literally overrun by bears. There was no space for anything else as the now uncountable masses of bears were occupying the whole place. What used to be grass, streets, buildings, cars, trees, other animals, humans, sand, rivers, and everything else that used to “form” the country was now buried under tons of tons of tons of bears.
The survivors of this first destroyed country were the ones who could move faster than the expanding mass of bears. Needless to say, no pedestrians survived, with the exception of those who climbed over the bears and went missing. Their fate was, at the time, unknown to the rest of mankind.
They probably died during the atomic bombings though, if they had survived suffocation under the Bear Mountains. These bombings were the last and most desperate attempt to stop the bears. It failed of course. It didn’t even upset their formation, as the Buddha Bears-–now certainly more in number than all human creatures and the rest of the animals combined‑‑were not willing to be moved by any explosion and for any reason.
Whole countries were being evacuated when the first of the great earthquakes occurred. The burden of the bears was too much for the ground to hold and soon there came the greatest earthquake that ever shook the earth–-actually, it was the first global earthquake, one that literally shook the entire earth.
The planet didn’t expect such a thing to happen, not any more than anyone else, and was not prepared to deal with such a catastrophe. Yet eventually it adapted, as the bears, in their harmonious and steady auto-cloning, were carefully picking the spaces their clones would inhabit, and the weight was equally shared in all ends of the Great Bear Country-–it was now definitely a country, and would soon be a continent too, if nothing stopped it.
Just imagine that every time an auto-cloning happened, the size of the Bear Country doubled, since each and every one of the bears created a new clone of itself. Of course, there were quite a few hours before each new cloning, but that was no relief now that the time the people of the neighbouring countries had to run away-–by car or train-–or even to fly away, was not enough to escape the new wave of bear clones.
Inevitably, more and more of these people accepted their fate and refused to move. Like the bears, they stayed in their place and waited. Eventually, they too would become part of the Great Bear Country. A living part or a dead part, nobody knew at that time.
The people at the other end of the world seemed the luckiest and yet were the most unlucky. Their hours of waiting seemed fewer and fewer as time passed, as the Bear Country was already as big as Australia and would be twice as big after the next wave. The people at the other end of the world had less than a week–-a week, at most. What’s more, they, unlike the rest of humanity, had nowhere to go to, as they were as far away as humanly possible already. They were facing quite a serious existential crisis while they were running around like rats, trying to survive the eternal earthquake. There was no hope of course of escaping into space–-all big buildings, including space stations, had already collapsed during the great earthquake.
A few days later, the nightmare was there. The people at the other end of the world were surrounded. They stopped running, the earthquake had stopped, the earth had almost been conquered by the Buddha Bear Society and in the next few hours, the last free country of mankind would be history.
Of the people at the other end of the world, many killed themselves and their own, others simply closed their eyes and waited, and others were driven mad and didn’t know where they were, what they were doing, and why they could no longer see the sun. And, as always, there were those brave enough to attempt to climb the bears and possibly live a little longer–-not that they knew what for, they just knew, thanks to a strong instinct for survival deeply rooted in man and every other species, that they had to, somehow, stay alive.
I was one of them.
Earth was now hidden from the Sun and the other way round, as Earth was the new underground, and the bodies of the Bears were the planet now.
Oceans, mountains, everything was under them. And since they were known for their harmonious expansion, there was not a single bear’s body placed higher than the rest, and so Earth–or Bearth, as I called it–-was now, in its roundness, completely flat. By this, I mean not that the shape of the planet had changed–-what I mean is that there was no such thing as a mountain or a hill, a valley or a cave, or anything anywhere in between, but the Bear Country was perfectly flat, slightly curving only to fit the round planet, as a great giant palm of fur holding the planet tight, determined never ever to let go.
Thankfully, the expansion of the bears had stopped, or so it seemed. Even if they were still spreading, it wasn’t noticeable anymore. We weren’t–-by “we” I refer to us, the survivors–-anywhere nearer the moon, at least not for the time being, and the air was still breathable, though not as pleasant.
It seemed Nature had adapted to the present situation and that as we were now living literally on the backs of bears, our own organisms had started to adapt as well. I know little about science and thus can only say that if anything changed in us, the radiation must have played some part. I’m guessing that if there really was radiation, it had come either from some secret power plant destroyed by the bear expansion, or from the trillions–-or were they more?–-of breaths of the bears that were forming a new atmosphere within our own. Whether these mutant clones were radiated, I don’t know for sure. I know that for the time being, it seemed that we, the remaining humans, had survived the apocalypse, and that for the next few days at least we would probably remain alive.
There was nothing to do at first, but sit comfortably on the bear underneath us–-and who-knows-how-many bears underneath it–-and wait while thinking or perhaps think while waiting, depending on which of the conditions of being includes the other. One thing was certain: as long as the moon wasn’t moving towards us, we weren’t moving towards it, and that meant Peace.
At first, we mourned for our beloved ones. Then for the rest of mankind. And for home, for our countries, and memories, and for the little things and the great things and all things, really. But most importantly we mourned for our future, probably buried under the bears as well, along with our past.
Crossing fields of endless bear fur–-thinking we might die while wandering across the Fur Desert, some might have died, I don’t know–-we tried to communicate with each other, if we were lucky enough to find at least one other.
None of the people I met in my journeys spoke any of the languages I spoke–-but all were friendly and as eager to learn my language as I was to learn theirs. I should note at this point that I survived mostly on air, just like the bears, though I did occasionally come across an animal, and with the help of my new friends, captured it and ate it raw. There were quite a few animals that had survived the apocalypse of the bears, mostly birds–-though these couldn’t fly very high and were easy prey, as long as you had something to throw at them–-I had my shoes–-provided of course, you’d get them.
I regret to say that piss was the substitute for water, though we later found we could also drink milk from the breast of female bears, which was much tastier and the bears never ran out of it. We realized we needed nothing other than this mutated milk for our survival.
Now that we had the means to stay alive and since the moon was still at the same distance, we felt somewhat relieved. It wasn’t that bad, if that had indeed been the apocalypse and it was over. Plus, as I believe I mentioned before, sitting on these bears was very comfortable. And so was lying on them, and sleeping on them. And as for pissing or pooping, we had no trouble with that as it all went down the innumerable gaps between the bear bodies–-and, without wanting to sound disgusting, we’d wipe our bottoms on bear fur until they were clean. The bears didn’t mind. They were buddhas.
We felt no shame for each other, and soon threw away our clothes. Like Adams and Eves, we wandered around naked, without even noticing each other’s genitals, not any more than we were noticing the bears underneath us–-and at this point, we’d spent hours of our lives forgetting we were sitting on bears, as they had become our new natural environment. Our minds had already adapted to the new reality, whether we were conscious of this adaptation or not.
I felt nothing but love for my fellow survivors and I’m sure they felt the same. Our former homes, buried under the great bear country, were almost forgotten. We felt at home anywhere we were. Nor were we aware which country we were on top of, as there was no way of telling what was under the bears.
We soon began making love on bears. My first time on a bear was the greatest experience of my life. It’s much better than making love on a bed, because the bear is fluffier, and most importantly, alive. The animal’s presence made the sex much more passionate.
I instantly fell in love with the woman I made love with. I couldn’t get her name at first, as neither of us could understand the other’s language at the time, and when I did learn it, it didn’t matter. I will be referring to her as “Her,” “She,” and “the Woman.” I loved her. I still do.
This world was truly a Utopia. The presence of the enlightened bears that constituted the new Earth, or Bearth, under our feet, was creating a holy atmosphere. Wherever you were, it was holy ground, as it probably was a Buddha Bear’s back.
What’s more, we soon saw that each of us was self-sufficient, just like the bears. Thus, we each picked our partner and left the others as, though we did love them, we had no need for their company and they had no need for ours. I was in the company of Her, the Woman with whom I had been making love on the bears and Hers was all the company I needed. I believe She felt the same. We all did.
What need was there for a community of more than two anyway, and what use? There was nothing going on that we ourselves didn’t do and there wasn’t much we could do but love and be loved and live in harmony.
Me and Her and the bears, this was the ideal society, a paradise on Earth–-sorry, a paradise on Bearth–-the one the prophets preached or something like it. All of us were so lucky to be the Noahs of this Apocalyptic Bear Flood, and wished the bears would never go away, as this new society was much better than any we used to have before. Indeed, to everyone’s surprise, the Post-Apocalyptic world seemed actually much better than the Pre-Apocalyptic one. The catastrophe was, we all agreed, the best thing to ever have happened to us.
Living on top of the Buddha Bears had somehow given us the impression that we were like those bears ourselves. We believed we were immortal, and happy, and healthy, and that possibly we could even clone ourselves out of thin air. Of course, we had no such ability.
One day I questioned the meaning of my perfect life. I’m sure She did, as well, but can never be certain whether we began doubting at the same time. I know I was the first to openly express my fears, and that She was prepared for them. By that time we had been wondering, among other things, why She wasn’t getting pregnant after our many attempts, and then we realized. Not only were we undying, physically strong, and of perfect health, we were also sterile.
We realized we weren’t feeling as we used to about each other or even about ourselves. What’s more, we were suddenly disgusted by the bears. We could no longer sleep on them. We’d stay awake for three or four days and then collapse and faint and wake up and try to stay awake again, weaker this time, but would manage to stay without sleep for at least a day, then faint again, then again wake up, even weaker than the last time, and so on, and so on. We had the most horrible nightmares, all of them taking place in the same place as we were living, and so we were no longer in the position to tell when we were in a dream or awake, as everything seemed perfectly normal at first both in real life and in the dream, but soon after something crazy would happen–-in life? In the dream? Who could tell?–-not that it would get much crazier than what had happened already, the Great Flood of Bears, I mean, and so everything was pretty possible, I guess, or at least we felt that way. We were ready to believe in anything.
Within months, we started to seriously consider the possibility that the world had always been like this. Were our minds fucking with us or were the bears’ minds telepathically fucking with ours or were the two simply trying to communicate? I don’t know, She believed the world was always Fluffy and Bear-skinned, and She still defended this opinion last time I saw Her.
We started looking for other people. We never found any. We were desperate.
In the end, She and I separated. Not because we were not attracted to each other anymore, but because we had become too dangerous for each other. We both realized we craved for meat, we both feared the other now, we both decided it would be better, in case either of us grew mad and attacked the other, if that other was as far away as possible. Thus, we abandoned and were abandoned.
I was on my own now, wandering on that Nightmarish Desert of Bears’ Backs and Buttocks. Too often I attempted to bite the impenetrable bear skin, too often I hurt my teeth and ambitions in the process. I had grown sick of bear milk, although I knew it was the next best thing to the Divine Nectar of the gods. But you have to be a god to appreciate the treasures of the gods, or a Buddha Bear, at least, to fully taste the essence of a Buddha Bear’s Milk.
But this liquid Utopia was unknown to me, and so was the utopian state of mind that the Buddha Bears seemed to be enjoying. At this point, I found it both intolerable and unacceptable, and refused to see the Bear’s decision to live the Eternal Psychical Immobility as a utopia or a nirvana. But what did I know, I who had not been there but as an observer, I who was but the survivor of the apocalypse, not its creator or its prophet or at least, some human, bear, or other creature that could be proud of somehow participating. No. I just couldn’t know.
The next person I met in my wanderings was dead. A body rotten on top of a bear’s back, the body’s head conveniently placed on top of the bear’s butt, though the bear wouldn’t fart or by any other means show disrespect to the dead person. I could not know the gender of the person, as it must have been lying there for days and was almost dust by the time I got there–-nor was I ever such an expert of human anatomy as to be able to tell a man from a woman by simply looking at their bones. And frankly, I wasn’t willing to get anywhere near the body. I just looked the other way and kept moving. Slightly faster than before.
That was the last person I encountered and it must be weeks ago. I haven’t seen any edible animals either. Yesterday, I looked up and saw the moon was closer. I’m either getting mad or Bearth is growing bigger and bigger every day, counter to my initial beliefs, and we’re going to crush with the moon eventually.
If such a thing is possible. I know little of the laws of physics other than the law of gravity which I believe means that, simply, you throw something up, it’s gonna fall down. Naturally though, I would think that if we were–-“we” as a planet, me and the bears and whoever else has survived–-if we were indeed getting closer to the moon, that would mean I couldn’t be alive. However I am, so that means…
I really would like to get some meat. Last time I tried to drink Bear milk I realized I couldn’t. I literally mean that there was no milk. It’s like the only source of life I had left had gone dry. I tried another bear. And another. To this day, I keep trying. I really would like to get some meat. If I meet another human being–-one with flesh on him or her–-I fear I won’t be able to resist. I fear the wild bear inside me will awake and attack.
I’m very hungry. If I don’t eat something soon, I will die.
The narrator of this story was the last survivor of the bear-apocalypse. A diarist and an old friend of Professor H. P. East of the Herbert Easters, he was one of the “people at the other end of the world” during the apocalypse and witnessed the transformation of Earth to Bearth and the creation of the One-world, free-love, return-to-nature Utopia that was founded on top of the Buddha Bears’ backs and buttocks. Little is known of what became of him, other than that living in the world which the pre-apocalypse people dreamed about drove him to insanity.
Christos Callow Jr. has a BA in Acting, an MA in Playwriting and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln (UK), for which he is researching Utopian/Dystopian fiction and is writing a collection of short stories, exploring utopias of perception such as the Buddhist Nirvana, the Christian “Kingdom Within” and the Lovecraftian Dreamlands.”
Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at http://katiedoesartthings.tumblr.com/