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Bear Of Con City - Excerpt One

Once upon a time, deep in the forest south of Greenwell in Con County, the most dangerous plot of land in the Republic of North America, lived a bear. His name was Manny. It said so in large friendly letters on a sign next to the entrance of his cave. It also said, `Subject 327,' but Manny did not understand the meaning of the mystical numbers. All he knew was that the nice people in white coats always called him Manny, and he liked his name.

He also liked the thick steel bars protecting his cave. At night, he could hear strange voices in the distance, gurgles, screams, produced by some mysterious monster or another. The bars that kept his cave sealed were at least four inches thick and Manny felt good knowing that no monster could possibly get to him. He felt endlessly grateful to the White Coats for building him such a secure home.

Manny lived in the safety of his humble abode, day after day, as the White Coats came to him a couple of times a day with raspberry pudding, and showed him loads of books full of colorful pictures about the world. Sometimes they would send some people without white coats into his cave whom he could play with. The game was called `find the honey,' and all Manny had to do was find the honey hidden in one of the secret pockets of his playmates. He wondered why the game was called `find the honey,' when all he ever found was raspberry pudding, hidden deep inside the secret pockets in their tummies.

He had no luck with the other hidden pockets, either, not even the ones hidden behind his playmates' faces. Sometimes he thought he was playing the game wrong, but the White Coats always nodded in satisfaction while they took notes of how he played, so he figured he must have been doing something right. His playmates must have been happy, too, because they always yelled at the top of their lungs during the games, like they were very excited to play. Every time he found the raspberry pudding, they would stop yelling, and stop trying to push his paws away from their tummies. Then Manny would retreat to the back of the cave with the raspberry pudding while the White Coats would help his exhausted playmate out, and then leave him to consume his just reward.

Manny sometimes wondered why none of his playmates ever came to play with him twice. Perhaps so many people wanted to play that they had to wait for their turn to come again for a very long time. But he wasn't certain, and no one would tell him. Manny wished the White Coats would teach him how to speak their funny language, so he could ask questions. They had taught him to read just fine, with the words scribbled in their picture books, so surely they could teach him how to write, at least.

Such was the life of Manny: calmly enjoying peace in his cozy cave, eating raspberry pudding, and playing `find the honey' every couple of days. Until one night, he woke to the sound of his cave door swinging open.

He raised his head and looked beyond the entrance. None of the White Coats stood beside the bars. Manny jumped to his feet. He felt his legs shaking, and his heart started to beat rapidly. Why was the barred door open? Where were the nice people in white coats? Had the monsters eaten them all?

Manny retreated to the darkest corner of his cave and curled into a ball. Roughly a minute later he realized that he couldn't hear any disturbing sounds from outside the cave. It was so quiet he could hear his teeth clattering. The silence got him thinking. Was everyone gone? The White Coats \textit{and} the monsters? Then he had no reason to be afraid.

He waited until his heartbeat slowed back down to normal and his teeth stopped clattering, then he stood up and slowly approached the door. He stuck his nose out and sniffed the air, but found nothing wrong.

Then it occurred to him that he had never been outside his cave before. Perhaps long ago, when he had been a cub, before he came to live with the White Coats, but he could not remember that any more.

A strong curiosity took hold of him. He stared at the dark passages outside his cave and wondered what he should do. Should he just wait for the White Coats? Or should he go and explore the world he'd learned so much about from the White Coats' books?

He thought a small peek wouldn't hurt. He stepped out of his cave and proceeded to walk into the darkness.

He walked past several other caves, all of them protected by barred doors, but he could see no one inside any of them. At the end of the passage he found another barred door, and like that of his own cave, it was wide open. He walked through and sniffed the air. He could smell something new to the left, so he turned that way and kept walking.

A short way down the new passage he found a large cavern. It was filled with desks and computer screens. He recognized them from one of the illustrated books the White Coats had shown him. He had always wanted to see one of those shiny things, perhaps even touch them. He started to walk to one of the desks when he heard a machine start up across the cave.

It was a white device the size of Manny's head, connected to a computer screen. It was spitting out a sheet of paper. A printer, Manny recalled. Curious what was on the paper, he approached the machine.

He was half way there when a man stood up from the chair in front of the computer screen. Manny had not noticed him before in the dark, but now he could see that it was not one of the White Coats. Rather, it was a man in a black coat. He was about to reach for the paper when he noticed Manny.

`Holy fucking shit!' the man yelled, and he jumped backwards. He knocked over the computer screen and nearly fell over. He grabbed the edge of the table with both hands and stared at Manny with his eyes wide.

At that moment, pure joy filled Manny's entire being. The man had yelled in the exact same excitement as his playmates used to do. He had never played `find the honey' at night, and especially not outside his cave. Perhaps this was a new game. Perhaps the White Coats wanted him to look for the honey outside the safe confines of his home this time. Manny decided to make the nice people proud by finally finding the honey. He ran towards his new playmate.

The Black Coat pushed himself away from the table and turned, then started to run. He tripped over a cable and crashed into the floor. Manny caught him before he could stand up, and gave him the friendly tap the nice people in white coats had taught him. Raspberry juice sprayed from some hidden pocket on the back of his new playmate, and he yelled as loud as all of Manny's previous playmates used to do. Manny stepped on the man's back and used his teeth to try and find the hidden pocket at the back of his playmate's neck.

In just a few short seconds the raspberry pudding was between Manny's jaws, while his new playmate was whimpering. Manny stepped off him and turned him onto his back so he could open up the hidden pocket in the man's tummy. His claws found the large hidden compartment with ease, but as he opened it up he felt nothing but disappointment. Once again, all he found was raspberry pudding. The man stopped whimpering, shook himself a few times, and then ceased to move, indicating that the game was over. Manny lowered his head and turned away. His failure to find the honey took away his appetite.

In his disappointment, he first thought to walk back to his cave. But as he walked past the printer, he caught sight of the sheet of paper that had come out when he had arrived in the big cavern. His curiosity took hold of him once more. He picked up the sheet of paper and looked at it.


For more, please proceed to the novel Bear Of Con City.