The Man and the Bear had a baby.
They weren’t entirely sure how it happened, but there it was one morning right in the center of their living room rug, gurgling happily in a violently purple bassinet that had definitely not been there the night before. They huddled together in the hallway at the foot of the stairs and peered warily at the hideous lacy hunk of furniture in the room beyond, whispering so the child could not hear them. Neither being entirely sure of what traits a baby might posses.
“What do you suppose it is?” Asked the Man.
The Bear leaned into his Man, finding comfort in the pressure of the Man’s soft, pink flesh ruffling against his thick fur coat. “I don’t know. At least now we know what the ruckus was last night.” The Man nodded in agreement, settling his hand onto the Bear’s shoulders.
Indeed, late the night before as they slept, cuddled together in the pile of furs they called their bed, both had woken roughly to the sound of clanging and banging on their roof. The fine slate tiles, while superior to the thatching of most village homes, was rather loud to walk on, and echoed distinctly in through the open windows of the upper floors. After nervously cuddling closer, they had decided together that it would be best to ignore the noises. Witches were common in these parts during the winter months, and everyone knew it was best to leave witches to their devices. They imagined her noisily dragging her broom and collecting abandoned bird nests or some such. Witches being such odd creatures. They’d pretended all was well and had gone back to sleep with the stubborn ignorance of gentlemen.
The Bear settled back on his haunches and huffed a sigh. “Do you suppose we ought to see what it wants?”
The Man held tighter to his Bear, hiding the trembling of his hands in the Bear’s beautiful, brown coat. “I don’t suppose it will simply leave? If we just leave it alone?”
The Bear grunted, considering this. “I do not know. I’ve never known a baby.” He huffed again, rising to his feet. “Stay here. I will see what it has to say for itself.”
The Man said nothing, but scowled and wrung his hands against his pale nightshirt, watching as his Bear ambled carefully into the living room, massive paws light on the heavy rungs that filled their house. The Man admired his Bear’s movements, and thought how lucky he was to have such a brave and gentle husband.
The Bear moved slowly, determined, though his heart raced. It seemed to take forever to cross the little room, though he knew it had been only a dozen steps, the same dozen steps it took every day. Finally, he turned to face the bassinet, and raised himself on two legs to better see into the cradle. He tilted his head sideways, trying to understand.
The tiny shape gurgled laughter at the Bear, kicking the lacy purple coverings from it’s many limbs. It’s tiny black horns shone in the light that streamed through the window, orange-ish skin seeming to glitter in contrast. The Bear blinked in surprise as the baby blinked it’s three black eyes and laughed again, four tiny hands reaching for him, to no avail.
The Bear cleared his throat, ignoring the babies cooing. “What do you want?” The baby squealed and laughed in response, limbs flailing. The Bear looked up at his Man, still cowering in the hallway and shrugged. He cleared his throat again and spoke louder, clearly pronouncing each word. “Hello, baby. What. Do. You. Want?”
The baby screamed in laughter again and squirmed, seeming unable to rise from it’s back.
The Bear held his hand out to the Man. “Dear, I think it’s safe.” The Man crossed swiftly to the Bear’s side, resting his hands against his Bear’s arm. Staring with uncertainty down at the tiny creature that had invaded their home.
“But what do you think it wants? How did it even get here?” The Man jumped and hid behind his Bear as the baby reached for him.
“It’s okay dear, look, it cannot rise from it’s back.” The Man watched as the baby flailed and failed, still, to move. The Bear huffed. “I honestly have no idea. Have you ever seen a baby?”
The Man shook his head, staring dumbly as the baby chewed on many sets of fingers at once. “Do you think they normally look like that? It has so many limbs.”
The Bear shrugged his massive shoulders and sat back on his rump. “I have no idea.”
“But what do we do with it?”
The house shuddered around them and they cowered, huddling together in fear, certain that the baby would crush them both in their own home, but then the shuddering stopped and a spark of light flashed above the bassinet. A scroll falling slowly, like a feather on the breeze. They watched as it drifted toward the baby, who was now trying desperately to catch it. The Man snatched it at the last second, keeping it from the baby’s slimy grip. The baby did not mind and resumed chewing it’s fingers in disinterest.
The Man’s hands trembled as he unrolled the scroll, he cleared his throat and read it aloud, for his Bear could not read without his glasses which he always kept in the kitchen. “This baby is now yours. Raise him well.” The man turned to face his Bear. “That’s all it says. Raise it well.”
“What does that mean? ‘Raise’ it?”
The Man blinked. “Isn’t that a form of cooking? Perhaps babies are for eating.”
“No, no, dear. That’s braising.”
“Oh.” The Man was not a very good cook, and so he took his Bear’s words for true. “Well then, what do we do with it?”
The Bear sighed again and wrapped his massive arm around his tiny husband’s waist. “I suppose we will have to keep it.” The Bear did not say what he was thinking, which was that clearly a witch had sent this creature to disrupt their happy home.
“Like a pet.” Said the Man, warming to the idea, though still distrustful of the baby, thinking also that witches were surely behind this. He kept his thoughts to himself though. They both knew not to speak too often of witches. They had a tendency to turn up if you did, and they were very difficult house guests. “I suppose it won’t be so bad. We could get a cage for it, like a bird.”
“And perhaps a harness so we can leash it up for walks.” The Bear responded, not liking the idea of walks any more then he did witches.
“I suppose we should name it.” The Bear said after a moment. “Baby is such a gross word.”
“It really is.” The Man agreed, shivering. The baby cooed and sang and flailed, happy enough, even as it ignored the couple at it’s feet. The Man watched the baby for a while, trying to imagine how they were going to explain it to the neighbors. “How about Sez?” He asked.
The Man shrugged. “There was a river near where my godmother once lived called the Sezsestratrix. There were these weird little frogs there with black horns all down their backs.” The Man smiled as he remembered the frogs, though they were terrifying in person, much like this strange orange-ish creature and it’s purple nest.
The Bear huffed and shrugged. “Why not? Sez it is.”
“Hello Sez.” The Man smiled down at the baby and it yawned. “You’re going to live with us now.”
The Bear huffed and moved on all fours once more, ambling toward the kitchen. “I’ll go make us breakfast. Try and get it to tell you what it eats while you’re at it.”
The Man nodded but was too afraid to get closer to the baby. “Sez.” He smiled again and watched as it fall asleep.