Mel’s Subaru went backwards over the guardrail and she felt the vehicle go airborne. The only thing she could do was clutch the steering wheel and scream in abject terror. The last thing she saw as the weight of the car and gravity took over was the creature peering in at her through the windshield. Its eyes were wide in alarm and its teeth were bared. Then she saw only the moon above her in the starry sky, and all the breath left her lungs as the car dropped like a rock.
She hung onto the steering wheel in dread as the little car scraped through the branches of a tall fir tree. Mel couldn’t hear the noise the Subaru was making as it fell through the tree, but she could feel the impact as the vehicle shuddered, glancing off a particularly stout limb, and fell free again. The car landed on the ground with a jolt and started rolling. Now the car was facing downhill and Mel screamed again, grabbing frantically at the door handle as she spied what lay ahead of her.
A relatively flat expanse of ground ran for about fifty feet, interrupted only by a gigantic snow covered boulder. Beyond that lay a rocky out-cropping, a cliff, and then a steep two thousand-foot drop into the valley below. She yanked on the door handle, slamming her left shoulder against the door, but it remained closed. Twice more she rammed the car door with her body, but gave up and tried to steer the careening car toward the boulder instead of the vast nothing the alternative route offered.
The tires seemed to have a mind of their own though. The car was gaining momentum, sideways now instead of forward. Would the front end of the car hit the rock and send her cartwheeling over the cliff, or would she slam against the rock like a bug on a windshield? She squeezed her eyes shut and prayed.
Suddenly, she slammed forward in her shoulder harness with a grunt. The car had stopped and seemed to be hanging in mid-air. Its headlights were pointing straight down and illuminating the base of the boulder like laser beams. Mel felt the back of the little car settle on the ground and the twin cones of light stared out over the cliff. She turned and gasped as a large shape moved around the back of the car and headed toward the driver’s side. She fumbled for the locking mechanism, cringing when the creature tried to open the door.
The door was jammed into the frame but a mighty heave wrenched it open and off the car. Mel cried out in fear as the creature bent low and peered in at her. It gestured at her, glancing past her at the hillside above her car. She tried to wriggle backward, away from the beast, but the console and gearshift got in her way. The creature said something, gesturing at her again, but of course the only thing she could hear was her own damaged ear canals and the high tides that rushed through them.
The man-beast looked frightened. His eyes were open wide and Mel could clearly see the fear in them as he tried to communicate…something. Finally, with a very human looking shrug, he reached in and picked her up. Melody howled and fought as hard as she could, but to no avail. He lifted her in his arms and headed toward the edge of the cliff. She moaned as she realized he was preparing to jump over the edge!
“No…,” she whimpered, wondering if she was about to plunge to her death in the arms of a suicidal sasquatch.
If it wasn’t so terrifying, she would have laughed. Just before her captor leapt over the edge of the abyss she looked over his shoulder. If she’d been able to hear, she would have known why the monster was so upset. It looked to her as if the whole mountain range had shrugged, sending every inch of snow, ice and rock directly down on her and the creature who grasped her in his mighty arms. Before she could do much more than open her mouth to shriek, the beast jumped.
Mel buried her face in his shoulder and trembled. She felt the icy winter wind press her hair up and outward, and wondered how long it would take before she was smashed flat by the fall. She thought of her mother and the long, lonely life that most likely lay ahead of her, and felt a sort of peace…an acceptance of her fate. Then the creature landed on his two feet. She felt more than heard his grunt of pain at the impact, and looking up she saw him open his mouth and shout in triumph.
He set her down on a ledge and held her back with one huge hand. Still laughing, he pointed at the enormous cascade of snow that had followed them over the cliff. She stood still and stared at what would have pulverized any human being. Now that she had a moment to think, she realized the beast had jumped over the guardrail and had somehow outrun the car as it careened down the mountain’s slope. He had clutched the bumper to keep the vehicle from going over the cliff, and finally, impossible as it seemed, he had raced an avalanche and won. She studied his profile as he stared out at the falling ice and snow. His teeth were bared in joy and defiance.
Mel realized that the still photographs and drawings of the mythical sasquatch were correct in some ways, but mostly ill conceived. Sure, they were huge and hairy, but that was where any resemblance ended. The creature that stood in front of her shaking his fist at nature’s fury was well proportioned and handsome. His long, fine fur seemed to change color with every move he made, like a chameleon. Although he had rather long and sharp-looking canine teeth, his mouth and lips were finely formed. He looked like an especially large and hairy hippie.
Finally, the man-beast seemed to quiet and turned to face her. In her shock and terror, she had forgotten to be afraid of him, but now she backed away in fear. She felt frozen shrubbery at her back and knew there was no escaping the thing that stalked her. Mel strained her neck to look up at his face. His eyes were beautiful, and searched hers with an intensity she could barely endure.
Her body sank into the frozen bushes and vines that hugged the cliff face. The beast kept coming toward her and she held her hands up, begging him not to hurt her…kill her. She stared in shock as he grinned, reached out, and gave her chest a small push. Suddenly she was sliding backwards into a crevasse.
Mel stumbled and fell in a heap on the ground. Warm air stirred her hair and caressed her face. She was in a cavern where there appeared to be a small fire burning toward the back of the cave, and tiny flames flickered here and there on the stone walls.
The beast stared down at her for a moment and then moved toward the fire, gesturing for her to follow. Now that the heat licked at her cheeks and hands, Mel realized that she was freezing. She had taken off her parka in the car for the ride home. Her sweater was damp, and some parts of the material were stiff with ice. She shivered and stood up. Watching the monster warily, she stood next to the fire.
As though sensing her unease the sasquatch moved even further into the cave, knelt down, and began rummaging in a sack on the floor. After a minute he stood up and walked back, holding something in his hand. He stopped and handed Mel a piece of meat. She studied the offering for a moment and shrugged. It looked like some sort of jerky and the sight of it made her stomach cramp painfully with hunger. Mel realized that she hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast the previous morning.
She took a bite and the creature smiled at her. His teeth seemed very white and Mel understood then, somehow, that the beast was very young. She wasn’t sure how she knew it, but a frank curiosity and an innocent joy were in its eyes that seemed unmistakably child-like. She smiled back.
As though it had just received an engraved invitation the beast grinned, took one giant step around the fire, and laid its huge paw on Mel’s forehead. She opened her mouth to scream, but suddenly her whole world changed. The incessant roaring in her ears ceased and a voice spoke.
“Hello….” It seemed very far away, but the word was clear in her mind. Mel’s eyes grew huge. She stared up at the monster with her mouth open in shock.
His eyes, now that she could see them in the fire’s glow, were a sort of mossy brown, like wood glimpsed through leaves. They studied her in a way that was so personal she squirmed in embarrassment. He smelled like wood too, and green things, flowers and smoke.
Staring into her eyes he spoke again. “My name is Onio…First Son. Are you hurt?”
Mel shook her head, and muttered, “No, but how is this possible?”
Onio frowned, biting his lip in concentration. “The soul song.” He touched a finger to his own forehead and then gently touched hers. “My people use these words when silence is needed,” he added.
Mel realized that her mouth was still hanging open in shock. She closed her lips with a snap, her heart pinched, and then she was sobbing. Great gasping waves of emotion filled her, swamping her in waves of sorrow, joy, fear and awe. She had never heard the spoken word before now, and it was beautiful beyond imagining.
She wailed at the thought that she had never heard her mother’s words of comfort or love. She had never heard the words of a joke. Although she could sense the humor in written or signed words, the emotional impact was missing. The creature had given her a gift that was so soul shattering she didn’t think she could live without it, now that she understood what hearing was really like. She fell to her knees in shock.
Onio stepped back in alarm. He wrung his hands, thinking that somehow he had harmed the human with his hasty touch, causing her terrible pain. He had waited so long to find one of these creatures…now he worried that he had wounded it.
Mel looked up at him from where she huddled on the ground, and smiled through trembling lips. “Tha…thank you,” she gasped.
Onio stared at her in confusion. “Did Onio hurt your head?”
Mel saw that his lips did not move yet still his words conveyed fear and anxiety. She shook her head and concentrated. Speaking out-loud was hard for her…maybe she could speak to the beast with HER soul. “No. I’m not hurt,” she said, watching his eyes to see if he understood.
He smiled and nodded, but still looked bewildered as to why the human was sobbing her guts out on the floor at his feet.
Mel sighed and added, “I can’t hear…yours are the first words I’ve ever heard.” Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks and she buried her face in her arms, gulping back her grief. She felt something land next to her legs and looked up in time to see Onio lift her hair up and peer at her right ear.
“Ears don’t work?” he asked, while tracing the shell of her lobe gently with one giant finger.
She giggled slightly at the tickle of it, but shook her head in sorrow. “Ears don’t work,” she agreed.
He sat back on his haunches. Staring into her eyes he said, “Ears don’t matter so much here. Eyes though…eyes are important.” He reached over and pulled her right eyelid open wide. “Your eyes work good?” he asked.
“Ow! Sheesh…my eyes work fine!” Mel exclaimed.
Without warning, Onio picked her up off the ground. Drawing her very close, he put one large finger over her lips in the universal sign for silence. Then he placed her behind his back. Turning toward the back of the deep cavern, he stood and faced whatever approached from deep within the bowels of the mountain.
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Genre – Fantasy/Romance
Rating – PG13