Authors: Carrie Harris
We set off into the great unknown on a search for yeti-related awesomeness.
We found the yeti sitting on one of the rare benches that lined the walking trails. I’m no expert on cryptid body language, but the creature looked depressed. It was sitting with its enormous claw-tipped feet dragging in the dirt, its shaggy head in its hands. Next to me, Europa let out a wordless sound of pity. It was barely audible, but the yeti reacted like we’d sounded a bullhorn. It leapt to its feet, shoulders hunched like it expected something to pop out at any second and hit it, or maybe pelt it with eggs and drop a tarp full of feathers on its head.
Maybe my reputation had preceded me.
I had to stop it before it ran off again. Eventually, the lazy chaperones were going to notice that they had extra ramen packets, which meant missing LARPers, which meant they would actually have to
—and I didn’t want to find out what that something was. Plus, I was hungry, and all I had in my bandolier was an old granola bar. Ideally, this adventure would be over by lunchtime.
“It’s okay,” I said, dropping my sword and bandolier on the ground and taking a step forward with my hands held out. “We’re here to help.”
The yeti’s head swiveled toward me, but I couldn’t see its eyes this time. As I took
another step forward, its nostrils flared, catching my scent.
“My name is Jonah. Do you speak? Do you have a name?”
It hunched over farther and farther as I got closer, like it had delusions of turtle-ness and might try to pop its head back inside its body. I barely came up to its waist, but for some strange reason, the yeti was afraid of me. And now that I was closer, I could see raw, red rings of flesh around its wrists. I recognized the marks immediately because I’d worn mine with pride for weeks after the whole zombie incident. The yeti had been cuffed.
“Did someone hurt you?” I demanded. Now I was pissed. Yetis were a thing to be cherished, and if someone had hurt this one, I was going to go medieval on his ass. The thought alone made me furious enough to hit something.
Was that why he’d fallen onto the tent? Had he been running from something? Had he jumped from a plane that was taking him to the mad scientist’s secret lair, where they were going to perform horrible experiments on him? If so, I hoped the lair was somewhere close so I could go there and put them out of business. No one messes with yeti when Jonah Grable is around.
The yeti took one look at the fury on my face and let out a pitiful whimper. I felt like a total jerk.
“Is he hurt?” Europa exclaimed, and within seconds, she’d shouldered me aside and was cooing over the yeti’s injuries. “Oh, you poor thing. Let me help. It’s okay.” And slowly but surely, she coaxed the giant beast to sit back down, and he let her touch his shoulder, his arm, and finally his huge claw-tipped paws. She cleaned and bandaged his wounds, talking quietly to him the whole time. I couldn’t even feel jealous that she was the first one to make physical contact. After what he’d been through, he deserved a little TLC.
Finally, Europa finished and turned to look at me. “This isn’t a costume, Jonah.”
I nodded as the importance of what we’d found started to dawn on me. I was going to be the guy who’d caught a real live yeti. Kate had been on CNN after she’d cured the zombies; she didn’t make much use of her fame, but she could if she wanted to. Taking Kiki to homecoming had helped my status, but I still got swirlied every once in a while. That wouldn’t ever happen
again if I brought in the yeti.
Everyone was watching me, waiting to see what I’d do. Even the yeti. It was the kind of situation I’d always play-acted but never lived, the kind that really mattered.
“Hey, big guy,” I said, moving cautiously toward the shaggy, hulking beast. “It’s okay; we’re not going to hurt you. You’re safe now.”
The yeti shrank away as I drew closer, and I held up my hands to show how harmless I was.
“Seriously, dude. It’s okay. I’m a good guy.” I tapped myself on the chest, and the beast stared at my tunic like it might manifest teeth and go on the attack. “Oh, don’t worry about the outfit. I’m just wearing these funny clothes for a game.”
The yeti huffed.
“Where did you come from?” I said. “Did someone hurt you?”
The creature snuffled and wiped its nose with the back of a paw. Then it gently grabbed my arm. The tips of its claws punctured the thin fabric, scratching me a little, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t washing this arm until I got Kate to swab it. For all I knew, I had yeti DNA on my skin. Which was so freaking cool.
“What are you trying to tell me?” I asked.
The beast stood up (and up and up) and tugged me down the trail a couple of steps into the underbrush. I scrambled to match its long strides, feeling like a toddler being dragged around by a very hairy mother.
“Come on!” I exclaimed wildly, even though the girls were right behind us. “Let’s see what the yeti wants to show us.”
“He really is insane,” Amethyst muttered to Calamity, just loud enough for me to hear.
“Yeah,” Cal replied. “But we love him anyway.”
I grinned back at them as the yeti towed me into the woods.
I lost track of how long we walked, mostly because I had to struggle to keep up with the yeti lest I be dragged along the forest floor on my face. Pretty soon, I was huffing and puffing and tripping over my own feet. The yeti finally realized that his stride was about three times bigger than mine. He looked down at me with a sheepish expression and released my arm.
He wasn’t even out of breath, but I couldn’t stop gasping as I took in our surroundings. Nothing looked familiar, but the area wasn’t exactly bursting with landmarks. There were trees and rocks and dirt, all of which looked no different to me than the trees, rocks, and dirt we’d just left. I couldn’t even see a path, and I really hoped the yeti knew where he was going, because if he didn’t, we were totally screwed.
The girls had fallen far behind us. I sat on a log trying to catch my breath while we waited for them. Finally, they appeared in the clearing.
“Where are we going?” Amethyst asked, vaulting a fallen tree branch and brushing her hands off on her thighs. “I’m all for equal yeti rights or whatever, but I’m not sure this is the wisest thing we’ve ever done. We need to be able to find our way back, you know. And I’d still like to LARP some too.”
“I’ve got a compass,” I said, patting my bandolier and trying to sound more confident than I felt. I couldn’t expect the girls to follow my lead if I didn’t at least make an attempt at bravery under pressure. “It’ll be okay. We’ll make it back in time.”
“Reassuring, but I repeat—
where are we going?
It’s been almost a half hour, and it’ll be lunchtime soon. I don’t think we’re even in the Scout camp anymore.”
I looked up at the yeti. He seemed to understand us, so I figured I should at least ask. “Is it a lot farther, big guy?”
The yeti shook its shaggy head and gestured up the path. All I could see were more trees.
“I’m sticking with him,” I said after a moment of consideration. “I’m not going to come
this far only to turn around, but if you want to go back, I understand. You can take the compass if you need one.”
The girls exchanged glances. “Five more minutes?” Europa asked.
Amethyst nodded. “Seems fair.”
I turned to the yeti. “You heard them, dude. Think we can get there in five?”
The beast nodded, chuffing eagerly, and we took off again at a slightly more manageable pace. We went over a rise and around a bend and down a slope, and then we were on a road. Roads aren’t the most exciting things in the world, but this one made my heart beat like crazy. For one thing, it was a sign that we hadn’t slipped off the grid entirely, and that was a major relief. There was a big khaki-colored windowless building up ahead, and I was so relieved to have found a sign of civilization that I was tempted to run up and kiss it. A sign outside still bore the outline of letters that had long since been removed
—PUPTOPIA PET BOARDING
On the north side of the mystery building was a dingy trailer home propped up on cinder blocks. A row of pens ran along the south side. There was a yeti in one pen and what looked like a freaking
in another. It was huge, bigger than the lions at the zoo, anyway, with tiger stripes and the big, blunt head and mane of a lion. Out of all the creatures in the world, both real and imaginary, I’d always wanted a liger. In Jonah math, lion plus tiger equals awesome.
I was still gaping at the liger when our yeti let out a bellowing cry of sadness at the sight of its friends in the cages. It probably would have attracted a lot of attention if there wasn’t already a guy standing at the trailer door, pointing a rifle at us.
We stopped and stared at him. He stared back, but he didn’t lower the gun. The dangerous end was drifting toward the yeti, and I felt both relieved and guilty that it wasn’t pointed at me or the girls.
The yeti hunched over like it was trying to hide. It looked terrified, and I couldn’t blame it. That gun had me feeling a little sick to my stomach, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I had the crazy urge to break out into song and try to distract the guy so we could make a run for it, but I couldn’t make my mouth work.
“Freeze!” the guy yelled.
“We’re not moving, dumbass!” Calamity said.
“Step away from the yeti!” he demanded.
I couldn’t help it. I started giggling. I was so scared; it was either that or pee my pants. And once I started, it was impossible to stop. It spread to the girls too, even Calamity, and pretty soon we were all laughing hysterically.
“Stop that!” the guy shouted, waving the gun around like it was a mind-control device.
It worked. We stopped laughing.
“Who do you work for?” he snapped.
“Nightdark Clan,” I said automatically. Then I realized that smart-assery wasn’t exactly wise in the face of firearms. “Uh, I mean, we’re high school students.”
“Who do you work for?” he repeated. “Altagene? Morphologix?”
We stared at each other. The guy was clearly one conspiracy theory away from the nuthouse, and I really wanted to get as far from him as possible. But I didn’t want to leave the yeti behind. It had clearly run away for a reason, and now it looked like it was trying to do the turtle thing again. The yeti was scared of this dude, and that meant I should probably tread lightly. After all, I had the rest of my team to protect.
“I’m sorry, sir,” I said, putting on my best suck-up face. “We really don’t know what you’re talking about. We were just following the yeti.”
“Yeah,” Europa added helpfully. “He crashed our Scout camp. Like, literally.”
The guy looked us over again. “What the hell are you wearing?”
“Costumes.” I shrugged disarmingly, but my usual charm wasn’t working on this guy. He frowned at me like he had a serious thing against costumes and our wearing them in his presence was almost enough to make him start shooting. For all I knew, that might actually have been true.
“Whatever,” he said. “You’re trespassing on private property. I could have you arrested.”
“Private schmivate,” Calamity said. “My dad is a lawyer, and I didn’t see any signs or a
fence. How were we supposed to know we were trespassing? Were we supposed to use our psychic powers?”
I nudged her. “Dude, don’t make jokes about psychic powers. They cage yeti here.”
“Look, young lady,” the guy said, frowning furiously and shouldering the rifle. He produced a pair of handcuffs and grabbed the yeti by the arm. It could have resisted. Heck, I bet it could have torn the dude’s head off. But it just looked at its friend in the cage and let out another whimper. I was beginning to think the other yeti was a cryptozoological hostage. That pissed me off. I was liking this guy less and less with every passing second. And I hadn’t really liked him from moment one, what with the gun and all.
I needed to critically evaluate my enemy if I was going to get my team out of here unscathed, yeti included. This guy looked like every fantasy movie villain rolled into one convenient package—pointy goatee, scary eyebrows, and cheekbones that could cut holes in bank vaults. He was wearing a khaki jumpsuit with no name tag, which was going to make it very difficult to report him to the authorities later. Although I knew very little about modern weapons, I was pretty sure it wasn’t legal to point one at high school kids, and I fully intended to tell on him.
He tugged the yeti toward the cages, and the creature shuffled along behind him. En route, the guy waved his hand at us dismissively. “You don’t belong here. Just tell me who sent you, and I’ll let you go home.”
“No one sent us. Are you nuts?” I said, and then I snapped my mouth shut. Taunting the guy with the gun didn’t seem like such a bright idea, but it was too late to take it back.
Now he’d stopped and was looking at us a little more closely. The gun came off his shoulder again. He didn’t point it at us this time, but I was sure he would imminently. I’d stared down the business end of a firearm before and lived to tell the tale. So far, at least. I wasn’t sure if I should be whooping or puking. I felt like doing a little of both.
“On second thought,” the guy said, “how about this. Let me get this creature into a cage, and then why don’t you just come inside and we’ll call your parents and get you home?”
“Don’t you dare put him in a cage!” I yelled.
“No one tells me what to do!” he shrieked, wild-eyed.
Now he did swing the gun on me, and only me. The barrel looked enormous; everything else faded into nothingness. I dimly heard the girls whimpering, but they sounded miles away while I stood there staring death in the face. At least if I died, I could be proud that I was standing up for something important. I hated bullies. And if I lived, this one was totally going down.
“Inside,” said the guy, jerking the tip of the gun toward the trailer. This time none of us argued.
He shut the door behind us, and I heard the rasp of metal as he padlocked us in. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the inside of the trailer—would it look like a mad scientist’s lair? It didn’t. There were piles of paper and books on every available surface of the living room, but they were old Western paperbacks and yellowed stacks of bills. The furniture was old and plaid and smelled like the inside of my sneakers. The kitchenette was piled with dirty glasses and empty TV dinner trays. The windows were minuscule and grime-covered. A dimly lit hallway led to the back of the trailer.