Creative Nonfiction Funny Speculative

Deep in the heart of San Francisco, an alarm clock is echoing throughout the small confines of a fourth-floor apartment. A man, abruptly awoken from his glazed-over stupor,  stumbles about in frantic disarray. Clothes, trash, and ort are littered across every dimension of the apartment; creating a jungle of garbage where the vines are unwashed tube socks and the humid, tropical climate is from the stench of leftover food scraps and trash. The man is late for his first day back at work and desperately trying to find any clean article of clothing as they have frustratingly all vanished from existence. “Shit, Shit, Shit, I am so screwed. The boss is gonna kill me. How could I have messed up my first day back in months? I had so much time to get my shit together…” his mouth keeps moving but his thoughts trail off to admire the evolutionary beauty of the humble bear; the master of hibernation. They had the cycles of waking, sleeping, and preparing ingrained like clockwork to their circadian rhythms. It was truly an amazing biological adaption that has evolved to perfection over centuries of the bear lineage.

March 15th, 2020 was a seemingly regular Sunday for the man. The harsh winter of the Bay Area was transitioning into a delightful spring. After a few hard months, he was finally finding his flow on his first job out of college and really meshing with his co-workers. His job was hard; both physically and mentally challenging. Work was great but, it had taken its toll and he was in desperate need of some quality rest and relaxation. The man and his co-workers almost never left their work. They were route setters at the local climbing gym and when they weren’t on the job doing glorified construction, they were in their facilities; training and climbing like chain smokers puffing cigarettes. It was quite a paradox; being constantly tired and physically beat down but too addicted to the fun of climbing to ever take a break. Some called it a problem, others simply called it life.

The man was enjoying a nice training session with one of his supervisors.  He couldn’t quite tell why but, his supervisor seemed very distant; distracted by seemingly endless phone notifications. He sensed a presence of potential calamity was in the air but due to his own ignorance, he was also rather oblivious to the actuality of the situation. So, he didn’t think much of it. Perhaps there was a new trending Instagram post from a 22-year-old influencer that was blowing up or one of those cat memes was going around again. But, then came the chime, ping, or ring type notification that caused the world to come crumbling down:

“Hey dude, bad news… we won’t be working for a bit,” The supervisor said with dread.

“What do you mean? We get fired?” The man jokingly replied in a vain effort to release some tension.

“Nah beast, that Coronavirus is no joke and the entire state is shutting down. We are about to be locked down, quarantined, straight zombie-Esque pandemic type shit.”

The man was baffled it had actually come to this. The crew of route setters had never been much for words so like an awkward high school prom proposal the man just said, “well shit, I guess I’ll see ya when I see ya dude.”

“Word man, stay safe,” replied the supervisor. And that was that.

Looming in the background of that fine spring Sunday was the question of another round of winter, a long round of winter, and the harshest winter in years. A novel coronavirus was spreading across the globe like a viral meme on an influencers Twitter feed. This meme was no laughing matter: no “Bad Luck Brians” or “Grumpy Cats” but, a highly infectious new disease that had every country scared to the bone.

There are in fact five official stages of a bear’s hibernation cycle:

  • Phase one is the stage most of us know: the hibernation phase marked by a time period of continuous dormancy or, a very long, lazy Sunday.
  • Phase two is a brief period of waking up. This can be thought of like the longest morning stretch and yawn, to greet the new day after being in a coma for months.
  • Phase three is the normal phase, going about life, eating salmon from the stream, and doing bear things, like warning the public about wildfires.
  • Phase four is the feeding stage: Stocking up on extra calories to survive through the hibernation phase. A bear’s freshman fifteen or fifty.
  • The last phase is the cleansing phase. In a sense, detoxing the body as much as possible before sleeping for a very long time or, the last pee break before a long car ride.

And with an awkward goodbye, the man and his supervisor parted ways for an unknown amount of time. It was a long walk home that day; plodding along lost in thought, nervous, anxious, scared, but also a bit relieved. On the one hand, the man really needed some rest from the long, arduous hours of work and was looking forward to some much-needed recovery. On the other hand, he was going to greatly miss his job and co-workers. He loved his job and hoped to return as soon as possible. So, with idiotic optimism, he thought this whole virus scandal would be old news in a few weeks… a month tops. His optimism took off in full force and he was ecstatic for a few weeks of complete rest, refeeding, and sleep. His gluttony could finally be satisfied, without guilt, just like a bear, he was going to hibernate and he was going to relish in this brief period of torpidity. 

He realized that he potentially had just a mere month at his disposal to Netflix and chill until he would resume his job. The man had to be strategic, plan out his weeks down to the last detail to maximize this brief relaxation period. Like any sensible person, he made a schedule, to take full advantage of this rare unicorn life opportunity. He was essentially given a free pass on life to do absolutely nothing for a few weeks. No pressure to work or be any form of a decent human being. He was going to dive headfirst into being a literal piece of shit with no shame because he knew most people were thinking the same exact thing! A break from life, a break from work, when would an opportunity like this arise again? 

The man had been so consumed with his new job for the past six months that he realized how far behind he was on all the important Netflix shows that people were raving about. He desperately hoped he had enough time to get through all of these crucial pieces of American culture he had been missing. He also hadn’t had junk food or splurged on desserts since he began the job. For work, he had to keep his body fueled as healthily as possible to be able to keep up with the taxing physical labor. Oh, the foods he craved: pizza, mac, and cheese, ice cream, candy, donuts, he had to carbo-load to the utmost to be completely rested for work when they were called back to return. The last variable he had to factor into his tight schedule for the next month was sleep. Since his job began it was up at 4:30 am for a morning training session, work from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, evening training session until 7:00 pm, and finally, return to eat dinner and collapse in utter exhaustion only to repeat again. He loved the grind but he was euphoric at the idea of some long, deep sleep.  

After going through a thorough analysis of all the variables(food, rest, and entertainment) he felt ready to implement his new, detailed, and precise schedule to achieve maximal rest and relaxation during his first and only hibernation. Each day would follow approximately the same schedule. First, he would wake up to no alarm, fully natural, using his biological rhythm to dictate his sleeping and waking cycles. Second, he would proceed to binge-watch one show after another throughout the day to catch up on culture. Third, he would take occasional, brief, five-minute-long breaks to grab appropriate snacks and beverages to fuel his rigorous television program streaming. Finally, when he couldn’t take any more of it, he would go to bed but, not without watching one or two more episodes before falling asleep. Drawn out on a whiteboard this man took one final look over his proposed experiment with a grin of pride. 

“Nailed it,” he thought, “Utterly nailed it.”

Now, with his waking phase of the hibernation cycle concluded, it was time for him to prepare for his sleep by foraging for food and entertainment to occupy his time during the hibernation. From Safeway to Trader Joe’s the man hunted and foraged far and wide to stalk up on snacks, food, beer, and toilet paper for the month ahead. The competition out there, in the wild, was tough: the Twinkies were scarce, the beer even scarcer, and the toilet paper… he was just too late for that one. It was a long strenuous excursion but he returned to his den with a bountiful harvest nonetheless. His next step was of the utmost importance; the endless sifting of entertainment options. Endless hours were spent browsing Netflix; adding only the necessities to his ‘My List’. Quality made media like Tiger King, The Great British Baking Show, The Office as a rewatch for the third time and a host of other classics. Why limit himself to just one streaming service though? If he was going to hibernate he was going to do it big and do it right. Netflix was so limited and with haste, he purchased Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Disney Plus all for a price that some would call outrageous. His supplies were stocked and was left facing his final task before retreating from the world. He had to build his den. He gathered every blanket and pillow he could scavenge in the wilds of his apartment and laid them out accordingly; in a haphazard way thrown about on his couch, “This will do”, he thought, “this will do just fine.” Finally, he replaced his jeans, shoes, and underwear for his winter coat: pajamas, fuzzy socks, and a hoodie; the underwear was still in question to be necessary or not. He closed the blinds, slid a Digiorno pizza into the oven at 425℉, and turned on the TV. He let out a sigh and burrowed deep into the nest of blankets; absolutely ready to not do shit for the next month.

A bear’s internal clock for its hibernation cycle is just astounding. Solely relying on centuries of evolutionary biology and seasonal patterns, it emerges from its slumber right on time year after year. With the first glance out of its den it slowly awakens and begins to activate its normal biological rhythms. Facing, yet again,  another beautiful spring season filled with foraging, feeding on wild salmon, and other bear activities.  Spring, Summer, and Fall are a joyous time and the humble bear re-enters the world head-on.

As the novel coronavirus persisted in continually upending humanity’s reality and bringing our societies to a screeching stop, the man’s hibernation persisted. The month turned into a couple, which extended to a couple more, plus a few on top of that. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter came and went for 2020. Societies were forced into their dens, and humanity had entered a long winter of hibernation. The bears kept to their instincts and continued on with their traditional hibernation cycles; unaware and unperturbed by the chaos and disarray around them. 

A whole year has passed and the man is awoken from the hazy, glazed over stupor of his non-stop, mind-numbing, entertainment streaming. A faint glow emerges from his phone displaying an email from his employer. He rubs away the sleep from his bloodshot eyes in a vain attempt to focus on the notification before him. The message reads:

“Greetings route setters, we are excited to let you know that you can expect to be back to work in a week…”

The man almost can’t believe what he is reading; has it really come to an end? Am I really going back to work? His lips rise up into a smile as he realizes the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight. He is returning to work! At long last it was finally time to enter the next phase of hibernation; it was time to start waking up! Then, the reality of his situation began to fully set in; Oh shit, it was time to start waking up. Work was a mere two days away and he hadn’t emerged from his den in months. Not to mention the legitimate disregard for all physical activity and care for his body. His skin was pale, his muscles atrophied, and his gut pronounced. Without a minute to lose, he had to finish Game of Thrones this weekend or he would be doomed. With a final push on this long journey, he emerged from his nest a final time for his final snack run. He took the long seven steps to the kitchen to retrieve his rations. The man, now 30lbs heavier, extremely sleep deprived due to the long hours of Netflix, and horrendously grotesque from changing his underpants once every two weeks was unprepared to emerge from his hibernation. 

An alarm is echoing through the small confines of a fourth-floor apartment as a man in complete chaos is frantically attempting to get ready for his first day back to work. Hibernation is a beautiful cycle that has been mastered by bears after years of evolution.

March 25, 2021 23:16

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