He was first reported as a small item in the online journal of the Paranormal Society of the Baden-Württemberg Region (subscribers reduced now to 500). Of more impact was the article of 250 words that appeared in the local paper, and so up through tried and tested avenues of gradually more prestigious publications, the sightings of the Mann made their way to respectability. The report was still the same; a man of ape-like appearance, height estimated at one metre, sighted deep within the Black Forest.
The sightings could be dismissed variously as: a shaggy long-haired bear, an escapee from a zoo, or a hoax. The Yeti of Feldberg. Stern men with guns and night vision binoculars went out to look for it. Odd footprints and long black hairs were credited as evidence of the existence of Hairy Mann, as he became known.
The woodsmen of the Black Forest with their axes (these days turned to chainsaws) travelled most often into the deeper reaches of the forest. One pair of such strong-armed fellows ventured late one afternoon down an old unused track. They spotted a footprint in the mud, and joked with one another that it could be ‘Hairy Mann’.
They passed by broken branches and the footprints reappeared. The woodsmen surveyed the area, assessing the woodstock, and marked the trees for felling. They turned and began to walk back towards more familiar ground.
The evening dusk started to fall, sweeping through the trees. Suddenly, on the path, they came across an animal, in the form of a man crouching on his haunches. Covered in hair. Its coat shone, highlighted by the last rays of the setting sun. It was a smooth coat, tangled but not bristly, of very dark long strands of hair. In the woodsmen’s imagination, the Hairy Mann had been as big as the largest brown bear, but the little one before them came up to no more than waist height at most. The first shock wore off as they saw it move its feet. Its foot soles were black with dirt.
A chainsaw is a heavy implement well suited at the motor end for knocking someone unconscious when wielded with accuracy.
They were rough with the little Hairy Mann and carried him slung from a branch, using his hair as a strap to secure the bundle of his body. The woodsmen lugged their prize back in triumph.
* * *
They locked it in their wooden lodge in the forest. They gave it food. Dog food, the same they fed their Alsatian on. The Alsatian was barking all the night when first the Hairy Mann arrived, not liking the new smell in its house (if not out of annoyance as well, at having to share its rations).
* * *
The Hairy Mann woke and stared about at the room. It explored by poking at things with its fingers, putting them in its mouth afterwards as if to test the taste. It was covered in hair, long all over. Eyes of brown stared out of its face. Almost, its keepers thought with surprise, as if the eyes were bemused to find themselves in their hair-encircled situation.
The creature, the woodsmen found, was not too difficult to look after, apart from the scratching. Warmed by the woodsmen’s fire – the Hairy Mann was pleased to have this good feeling of no longer being cold; and by some instinct or perhaps past learnt knowledge Hairy knew not to put his hairy hands into the flames.
The woodsmen’s dramatic capture of the Black Forest Yeti (the BFY), soon toured round as the hot gossip in the area. They charged visitors to look in through the window to see him. They also set up a camera in the room, which they posted as a live feed on the internet. Charging for access, of course. This continued as a nice little earner. But then animal rights people started digging around, searching for Hairy Mann, with the intention of releasing it back into the wild. The woodsmen got a whiff of this. They decided they could not continue to keep the Hairy Mann, and auctioned him off on the internet. The woodsmen left the Alsatian on guard while they scoured the forest for a position to pick up a mobile signal, to keep track of the bids that were coming in thick and fast. The bids went up to half a million euros.
Collectors are particular people, and the more cloistered and reclusive the Collector, the odder and more interesting the exhibits. One Collector, a big stakeholder in pharmaceutical companies, was unsurprisingly a Collector of biological specimens and medical apparatus of the more bizarre kind. Through numerous contacts, some legitimate, others dodgy, this Collector had managed to locate the woodsmen of Hairy Mann fame.
The bargain was struck rapidly, as the animal rights activists were hot on Hairy’s scent (though not, of course, using real bloodhounds). The woodsmen took the new owner’s emissaries to Hairy Mann in his wooden pen. The emissaries had come prepared and took out tranquilizer guns to subdue the monster. The woodsmen were quite impressed by this professionalism.
* * *
Whispers and murmurings of Hairy being the missing link in evolution abounded. Official bodies requested evidence, but no one could provide any definitive proof of Hairy Mann’s existence. All those web cam pics could have easily been faked by a few men in sheds.
Every conceivable angle on the Hairy Mann story was taken. Letters to the press, respected scientific journals, debates in all media outlets; every opinion possible was expressed as well as opinions impossible (these from the nutter class), but no one came to any conclusion. Fake interviews with people in gorilla costumes did the rounds of all the varieties of chat show. Ape jokes became de rigueur in that passing moment.
Creationists became very exercised and kicked up a storm at even the suggestion that Hairy Mann could help prove human evolution. The atheists knew just which buttons to press to have the creationists whipped up into a frenzy, hyperventilating with rage. They should all have taken lessons from Hairy Mann in self-control. It remained remarkably placid throughout its capture by the woodsmen, apart from inflicting a few scratches. After all, he had no reason to complain. He had never been so warm or well fed in his whole life.
* * *
The Hairy Mann was delivered, without invoice, to a remote house, in the depths of a valley, where turrets sprouted out of the castle, just like those in a fairy tale. There was a room prepared for Hairy Mann actually in the castle itself. The little creature was unaware that this was a great honour, bestowed by the whim of the Collector. He had no way of knowing how easily the Collector tired of his playthings.
In this Alpine castle, the Collector indulged his obsession, amassing the rarer breeds of mammals and depositing them in his private zoo. He had collected snow leopards, white rhinos and monkeys shipped straight from Borneo.
* * *
The Collector’s sister was staying when Hairy Mann arrived. And at this time, feeling isolated and alienated from the rest of the world, she was immediately full of sympathy for the little ape, and took him to herself as a surrogate child. The growing love and care she felt for the creature helped her to bear the pain and grief for the one she had lost. She pleaded with her brother to be allowed to feed him.
The Hairy boy-child had fleeting glimpses of remembrance as the Collector’s sister cared for him; memories of being washed by other hands, of being clothed in more than hair.
The Collector looked in at the Hairy Mann through the glass window of his cage-room. He was quite docile, but the Collector found that if you tapped on the glass repetitively it sent Hairy into a frenzy.
The sister loved to go in and brush Hairy’s hair. She even put in little plaits to keep the hair out of his eyes. The Collector, though fascinated by Hairy’s existence, could not remain in its presence for long, as he was unaccountably unsettled by the animal’s stare. He had the feeling it was watching him.
He had tried to dismiss it as paranoia. The thing was an ape for goodness sakes. Yet the Collector would catch Hairy looking out at him, fixing him with those eyes of gold-brown.
* * *
The boy-ape lived this way for six months unobserved except by the two siblings and a handful of household staff. He was allowed out at times to crawl or half-stoop in a fenced off enclosure. But then action began to occur in the life of Hairy. The Collector overcame his paranoia about Hairy and buried it under an intense investigation of the animal. He invited, to the castle, his favourite biologists and evolutionists, whom he patronized with the lavish indulgence of unfettered access to his collection – if they in turn kept mum about its existence. A bunch of scientists from many countries came to view Hairy. They took photos, and subjected Hairy to rigorous scientific analysis; of weighing and measuring, all of the minor indignities that ordinary humans undergo at birth, and which smaller rarer mammals like dormice endure much more frequently.
The scientists reviewed their findings. Then they massaged, chivvied, hit, and then shaved, filed and chopped down the facts they had found to fit their own pet theories, which many had spent their whole careers nurturing. Their theories shot off at acute angles away from any actual truths about Hairy that they had observed.
The theories: the alien…the subhuman…the regressive gene syndrome…or had the specimen or its female progenitor imbibed of certain non-toxic chemicals triggering a DNA mutation? (This the Jekyll and Hyde theory.) While others proposed that Hairy was an evolutional off-shoot. Evolution has not stopped – one scientist expounded in his paper – surely under certain conditions – Great Apes could start exhibiting human-like characteristics? (This being the ‘Planet of the Apes’ hypothesis).
DNA was taken from the Ape-Man – surely this would provide all the answers? But the scientists couldn’t find what they wanted in Hairy’s DNA and the highly intelligent scientists, piqued, declared the DNA tests inconclusive. They would have to rely on more old school methods of species identification.
All this investigation led to photos and data about the Hairy Mann again seeping into the public domain. The evidence the scientists excitedly wrote about pointed decisively to the Hairy Mann being the missing link between ape and homo sapiens. They had to undo the plaits and mess up Hairy’s hair which the Collector’s sister had so meticulously brushed, to give him a more wild, untamed look in the photos.
Howls of protest again resounded upwards from the animal rights and extremist religious groups.
Hairy was now confined to his room in order to prevent his discovery. The Collector decided to move Hairy to South America, which could be considered a little ironic, since he had devoted a fortune in money and effort towards removing the rarer mammalian inhabitants from that continent.
* * *
His sister was shaken by Hairy’s sudden planned relocation. She knew she wouldn’t be going with him. Her brother was preoccupied by the complex logistics and excitement of smuggling Hairy out of the country. If he had been more open to noticing her withdrawn nature, he would have realized the gap that Hairy was now filling in her life.
She had always intended to leave anyway, but now she was determined to take Hairy with her. Recently she found she had stopped being so reclusive, and had started going out and meeting her friends again. She had wondered at first, how she could do this, and had gradually realized, she could go out once more, because she had Hairy to come back to.
* * *
She had a little red Volvo of her own. She packed it full of her stuff. Her brother took no more notice of her than of a rapidly departing train which he was not boarding.
She took Hairy out of his room and no comment was made. So she led him by the hand and took him to her car. He sat down on the seat and tried to sit cross-legged. Firmly but gently she moved the Hairy boy’s feet off the seat. Hairy then put up a playful resistance, refusing to be belted in. She panicked that someone would come out and spot them at any moment. She pressed home her advantage of height and strength, and won the struggle. She snapped his seat-belt into place. She slammed the door shut and strapped herself in, and drove with such ferocious concentration, that all that occupied her mind was every dip and bump and turn in the road.
* * *
She went with Hairy to stay with a girl friend. Her brother was no more privy to her address book than he was her state of mind. They decided to wash him and afterwards, to cut his hair. They chopped, and cut and shaved him; a thick carpet of his hair grew beneath their feet. They ended sat on the bathroom floor with a naked, but stubble covered, human boy.
They took pleasure in dressing him in little boy’s clothes and then took him to a doctor. As the animal child submitted to the doctor’s firm but gentle medical examination, the little one felt for and clasped tight the hand of the Collector’s sister. She felt stronger by the trust in that touch. Hand in hand they waited for the doctor’s verdict. Sitting back, the doctor pronounced his diagnosis. It was: that this little hairy man was just a very hairy human child. Medically speaking a severe case of hirsutism. As the child held on to the Collector’s sister, as he was carried by her, clasped close in her arms, into her ear he made long unused but dimly remembered sounds. His tongue worked and strained – flicks, air gasps and gurgles all combined to construct the sound of one word which he whispered to her:
And the small hairy child held on to her, never meaning to let go.
Charlotte E. Edwards asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work