One day, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a messed up world. Killer earthquakes, heat waves, doom, pollution, tea parties, stagnation, ice, tsunamis, floods, oil wars, nuclear ambitions, pervert priest cover-ups, and corporate greed tarnished all of earth and brought distant lands close together in weird ways. Hawaii got really close to the Antarctic, for example. The North Pole, the original habitat of the polar bears, suffered massive depletion—global warming was real! A sad couple of unsustainable icebergs had left dozens of bears to tread murky water.
It was fortunate that another series of erratic earthquakes and shifting plates had caused the nearly extinct North Pole to travel and annex the dramatically less diminished terrain of the South Pole continent. For a while, the polar bears took over Antarctica like native pros, establishing fine fisheries, and the flimsy penguins abandoned ship or were eaten hungrily by the bears.
Meanwhile, Medusa, once an exile, slithered out of her Mediterranean cave (that whole storied part of the world had moved around as well) into the snowy land of the polar bears and the blimp-like whales. Africa and Mexico also buttressed the icebergs and glaciers. So it was no surprise that tigers, scorpions and piranhas of all sorts were starting to compete for dominance in the ice world that was now their home.
Medusa was a mistress of snakes and science. Particularly, she had long been studying the impact and uses of acid rain. It was easy for her to manipulate the corrosive liquid since so much pollution had clouded both land and sea and the rain came constantly. She was not inherently evil beyond her death-sculpting glances and crown of vipers. In fact, as she messed around in her new igloo lab with the acid rain, she often looked out and smiled to see baby polar bears playing with their moms and dads in the dirty water, looking so gay with their mouths full of mercury-infused salmon. But science had a stronger, crueler will than Medusa had, and she could not help but submit finally to her love for science, for its apparent objectivity, not to mention the pay it afforded from the several mutated government agencies and private institutions clustered throughout the ice. If science had no heart, why must she have one?
She knew that the true uses of acid rain would only be discovered through experimentation, through tests and trials, employing the polar animals and the deranged, cold landscape as her guinea pigs. She first placed ads in the local newspapers, looking for test participants. No one, however, stepped forward. The animals were suspicious of her, given her reputation for shocking the living into stone poses of death just by looking at them. She had big thick eyebrows that sat high on her forehead and wide eyes so that whenever she talked to someone, no matter what she said, she looked dead serious. Thus, no soul answered her ad, and she feared losing funding for her research and one of the only high-paying jobs in the wintry waste.
So many a night, out of desperation, she and her snakes would steal into the fishing villages and capture fresh bear meat, babies, mothers, fathers, elders, anyone vulnerable or ill or drunk or slow or fat or thin. She clubbed them hard and carted them back to her lair. She donned her scientific white coat and began dripping annoying tears of acid into the blinking eyes of the beasts. The snakes would twist and tie the subjects down to the slab of ice that was like a bed. Some bears fought back, ripping open the throats of several snakes. However, many were just too weak. The acid ate away at pupils and caused icicled white fur to burn black and fall off the shivering bearskins.
Then, as if all that was not enough, she had adopted the ridiculously heartless and humiliating habit of selling those bears that she had accidentally turned to stone by her look as concrete ornaments to those faux posh and menacing tigers—those royal assholes, as the polar bears termed them.
Reports of the abusive activities soon made the rounds throughout the Antarctic domain. There was an uproar among the bears, but there was also a depressing feeling of absolute defeat. You got to understand that these polar bears were mostly poor and underfed. Their happy industries had not held up in such a changeful climate. They were more and more challenged by the dwindling supply and trade of fish. Acid rain was melting all the ice, and the water was getting hot, sticky, oily and smelly. Additionally, a ton of whales had died off because of crappy practices such as offshore drilling. And the schools of fish available in the water were bastardized, poisonous, piranha-fanged fish. The bears were sick of it all.
Who was this Medusa bitch kicking them while they were down? She came in with the recession—they knew that much. And she didn’t seem to be suffering along with everyone else. She had a job, a high and mighty science job. She was an opportunist, the old polar bears grunted. And she was hell-bent on killing them to keep her job—catering to those leprous, two-timing tigers.
Thus they turned to passionate outbursts like these, to gossip, myth and song as a sort of comfort. And then, of course, the elders and the young cubs still dreamed of the arrival of the One with Translucent Hair, a courageous, handsome polar bear, a truly angelic figure, who predictably would come in on a horse or something and vanquish Medusa and her snakes, clean up the mess, restore jobs and get the fishing towns back on their padded little feet. It would be grand. But such a bear had yet to arrive or be born.
However, at the far end of one town, excited talk arose about the remarkable coat of fur on a newly born cub. It was a real stir, and a few gossipy bears speculated that the boy could not possibly have been born of the frumpy mother and the drunk, mentally slow father. His fur, though still short, had the shine and translucence of ice, and so it got everyone stirred up thinking. "Who are his real father and mother?" some disbelievers asked. "This one’s going to be something." The bear was already so playful, really strong with his silly limbs and coming claws. This little bear could roll and run and flip and swim. All the other animals watched him with open mouths. They knew soon enough, however, that they had to shut their mouths. Word of him could never reach Medusa or she would snatch him up for sure.
So the elders, beseeching his ostensible parents, decided that it was prudent to send the boy on a journey with several of the more muscled and experienced bears, the hunting legends of the area, and with a few of the learned old grizzly bears to ensure that the cub would know what was best when challenges arose. One old mother, whose son had recently died at the hands of Medusa and her snakes, knew that love was also such a key component of a strong bear’s development. So with her long frozen arm she pushed her shy daughter, not much older than the boy, out from behind her mound of fur and volunteered the girl as a fit companion for the young cub on his voyage of learning. The cub examined the girl cub, sniffing her pleasant salmon-glossed lips and nose. She bit him not exactly gently. She was going to teach him so much, she knew.
When the hunters were satisfied with their band of travelers for the voyage, they set out running across the ice as a close, warm pack. Upon the mountainous horizon under the icy sun, a group of tigers snickered and joked about how best to skin such a bright little bear. Medusa was not clueless of this development, this potential plot against her. One of her trusted snakes had witnessed the scenes of worship lately about this queer little cub. He licked his lips mechanically as he lisped and ratted out the polar adventurers. Medusa was pissed.
"Get the acid rain missiles ready. We’ll burn the pride off their backs." Deep down, her stomach was full of fear and conflicts. She still thought back to nights when she too had loved to look on the little bears with a mother’s instinct. She had no kids of her own, just the envious and attention-starved rattlesnakes. Also, she could not avoid a train of gruesome imaginings: a ruthless band of polar bears one day ganging up on her and beheading her. She saw an image in her mind of a bear biting her head off and then kicking it like a football into the sea. That was not the way to go. So she muscled up in her own way and screamed at her snakes.
"Get the fucking acid ready, you numbskulls."
We end this introduction with our wintry stage set and Medusa's rage looming large and booming. Poral Bails is a story of love among the ruins and of salvation through love and courage. We may leave off with an image of the young love that soon got underway between our brave and destined savior cubs, a boy and girl adventuring.
See them wrestling on a cliff, licking each other from head to toe, oblivious of the first tiger watching them, whom they will soon pound mercilessly in a test of their combined strength, their commitment to protecting each other at all costs. They are on a quest, and the following free, downloadable album by Baltimore’s Fridge A will take you on that quest through song. Listen, run and swim along with the polar bears, and we hope you enjoy the experience.
Features (March 30th, 2010)
Tags: album, Fridge A, Baltimore, music, fiction, Jared T. Fischer