Today, August 8, is International Cat Day (opens in new tab), and to celebrate the moment GSC Game World has released concept art for a “bayun,” which is essentially the Stalker 2 (opens in new tab) version of a cat. As you might imagine, it is horrific.
You think I’m kidding? Feast your eyes:
“A very stealthy and nimble mutant,” the image says. “For years, stories about it were regarded as mere fables. Bayun takes its name from its throat sacs, which allow the beast to imitate all kinds of sounds, including human speech.”
The bayun is emaciated, denuded, oozing through open sores, has glowing green eyes (when it has eyes, that is), and yellowed fangs bared in a hideous grimace. What promises to make it really terrifying, though, are those throat sacs, and the mimicry they enable. Veterans of the Zone may remember the sound of a baby softly crying in the dark recesses of an abandoned underground laboratory, and how that ultimately worked out (opens in new tab). I won’t get into details, but I will admit—with not a trace of shame, because that shit was awful—that I squealed like a litter of frightened piglets when that whole thing went down.
The fact that it’s a cat makes the bayun even worse. People who don’t own cats may not realize this but they are capable of an incredible range of vocalizations. My own cat has a gut-curdling howl she busts out a couple times a month when playing with her favorite toy (which is doubly strange because otherwise, she hardly makes any noise at all), and for those of you unfamiliar with the Oh Long Johnson meme, get a load of this:
So imagine that, but irradiated, hungry, angry, and probably about the size of a large dog, and that’s the bayun. It’s possible that they won’t actually appear in the game: This might be just a bit of gag concept art, and frankly I’d be fine with that because there are already enough problems to deal with in the Zone. But cats have previously appeared in the Stalker series, after a fashion: The Stalker fan wiki (opens in new tab) notes that they appeared as a mounted animal in Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky, and that textures and sound files for “real” in-game cats are present as well.
Bayun, by the way, is not Russian for cat: That would be “koshka.” Bayun is a specific cat from Russian fairy tales, who according to the Russian folklore blog Lukomorye (opens in new tab) has a powerful voice that can lull the unwary to sleep—forever! But those who can resist and are able to capture the cat are richly rewarded, for his voice can also cure injuries and diseases of all kinds.
He’s a creepy looking bugger too:
Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine (opens in new tab), where GSC Game World is based, work on Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl has continued after a brief pause (opens in new tab), albeit at a slower pace: It’s currently expected to be out sometime in 2023.