If you’re a filmmaker or TV producer, here’s a pitch for you. Zombies are all the rage at the moment. The Walking Dead is one of the biggest shows on television. Even Brad Pitt fell in love with Max Brooks’ awesome zombie book World War Z. Admittedly, having seen the trailer for the movie, he seems to have chosen to express that love by making a film that squats from a great height before taking a hot, watery shit directly into Max Brooks’ horrified eyes, but that’s beside the point. Zombies are hot right now, because they are awesome and they eat brains.
How can you improve on a monster that eats brains?
Make it a fucking bear/hyena crossbreed instead.
The Nandi Bear is one of the most enduring cryptids in east African folklore, having been putting the unholy shits up the natives for centuries. Described as lion-sized with sloping shoulders and the distinctive stubby face of a bear, it’s said to hunt at night and attack humans under moonlight, opting to avoid the delicious bits like the knackers and buttocks and head straight for the brain instead.
It’s particularly unpopular with the Nandi tribe from which it takes its name, among whom it’s seen as a man-like demon prone to snatching children from huts before popping their skulls open to form gooey offal-based Pez dispensers. Oh, all the while howling, screaming and jabbering in the manner of a hyena.
I hate hyenas. I cannot express enough just how much I fucking hate them. You’d hate them too if you’d been plagued by a recurring nightmare as a child in which you stumbled around a deserted trainyard with ash and embers coating every surface and falling from the sky pursued by eight-foot tall skinless glistening ones with glowing eyes but I DIGRESS…
The Nandi Bear was spotted a lot by Western explorers in the early part of the 19th century, including by workers on the Madadi Railway, who found unknown canine-like tracks and ran into the creature a few times. During those sightings the Nandi Bear admittedly did very little brain-eating and a lot more scurrying off like a big fuzzy pussy:
“It was short and thickset in the body, with high withers, and had a short neck and stumpy nose. It did not turn to look at me, but loped off–running with its forelegs and with both hind legs rising at the same time. As I got alongside it, it was about forty or fifty yards away and I noticed it was very broad across the rump, had very short ears, and had no tail that I could see. As its hind legs came out of the grass I noticed the legs were very shaggy right down to the feet, and that the feet seemed large…”
Because of its size and the fact there are thought to be no bears in modern Africa it’s been a tricky cryptid to explain. Some have tried to pass off Nandi sightings as simple misidentifications of honey badgers or hyenas – an explanation which actually turned out to fit perfectly well for the farmer Cara Buxton in 1919, who lost close to sixty animals to an unknown brain-eating carnivore. The locals eventually tracked and killed the culprit, which turned out to be an unnaturally large common spotted hyena. An unnaturally large common spotted hyena which for no reason at all had suddenly decided to just start eating animal brains and leaving everything else.
The common hyena theory doesn’t explain some of the more characteristic aspects of the Nandi Bear’s appearance, however – chiefly, the stubby bear-like face, the bear-like movement and ability to stand on two legs, and the sheer horror-cunting size of the damn thing. If it’s a prehistoric creature that’s somehow survived its thus-far presumed extinction, however, there are a couple of cool possibilities, the Chalicothere being the first and infinitely more preferable:
I say ‘preferable’ because as well as looking bizarrely like a wise old horse-man-aardvark that could give you an awesome neck rub, the Chalicothere was also a committed herbivore that definitely didn’t eat brains or tear out my spleen in my darkest nightmares. Unfortunately option number 2 seems more likely. Seeing as it’s a fucking massive bear-faced hyena that fits the description of the Nandi Bear exactly.
Meet the giant short-faced hyena. Thankfully, this terrifying demon has been presumed extinct for about 500,000 years, so there’s no chance it still exists.
Oh, except the Coelocanth was thought to have been extinct for a bit longer, at 65 million years. Until fishermen started catching them in 1938.
You’ll have to excuse me if I avoid east Africa for the rest of my natural fucking life.