I was asleep when the bears came. They took me unawares, the bears, down the hill, and beyond there was a convoy waiting. There were other women there, like me, frightened, and resigned. The men were killed. Pain does, ha, it does something to you, after a while. It doesn’t dull, or wane, but always feels the same, as sharp and deep and discouraging as the first time. The same shivers shudder and the neurons fire and deliver the same damn message. Listen to me, they cry. Listen to your body. But these operatives on the inside of the body aren’t aware of my outside reality, not in the same way, when pain is delivered. The messages clearly expect my body to react and cease its pain-inducing exploits. They think that my body has control.

I have no control. I can’t remember if I ever did. I would eat sheep, if I could. Taste the meat, my favourite, but it is far away from the food they force into us here. Aha! I do have control over one thing, my mouth. I can use it to shout out, for all the ones that want to listen. The bears don’t care, don’t need to plug my gob with anything but the grey-blue dribble of their miscellaneous gruel. I can bite my nails, and if that fails, the skin from my knuckles, or my cheeks. I chew on it like gum and it even tastes like that sometimes. It’s better really, because nothing ends up in my stomach, you see?

Down there, the tube goes in, not into my stomach, but close, and it’s better I don’t eat too much. The cavity stings and burns at the same time. Mortality cuts into me every second that I’m alive and I don’t know what sort of person I could ever be again. I used to panic and cry against the bars of my crush-cage, indents along my back. Now it holds me together, like a shell I could burst from, if it was taken away. My legs, I’m sure, will not work. Out there, amongst the other cages, set free, I would flollup around like a drunken clown, ha, what a joke, I’d be. I’d have enough time though, yes I would. I’d have enough time, to be a human being for a few more seconds. I could do what needed to be done, and take as many of these others with me. Sweet suicidal peace, without the never-ending pain and ache and the boredom with that pain, though it continues to sting and throb.

What is this thing the bears do? What can they need my fluids for? Nothing restorative can come from a pain like this. I cannot believe that healing is derived from suffering like mine, with no End.
*The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) states that over 12,000 bears are currently suffering in Asia’s bear farms. Their bile is extracted for use in some traditional Asian medicines. Calls for a change to the inhumane conditions of its extraction, resulting in terrible pain and gross confinement, have produced some legislation but no enforcement or change, even when the chemical properties of bear bile are now easily synthesised.

Éanna Cullen

Éanna Cullen is an Irish novelist. To date he is the author of three novels, Misbeliever, Dark Pupils, and An Egg-Maniac’s Guide (to suicide), but is interested in every form of prose, short, long, or otherwise. Éanna spent his formative years travelling the world from Kumasi to Papeete, learning to speak human. Forget charms and good fortune. Read something, it’ll do you good. Visit Éanna at

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