By Shaun Stevenson
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Dean crept up silently behind the big armchair in front of the fire place. His younger brother Matthew <I>had</I> to be hiding in the chair. He had searched nearly the whole rest of the lodge and couldn't find him, so this had to be it.
He leaned around the side of the chair with his arm out, ready to grab Matthew. The fire crackled angrily as Dean braced for the jump. Three... two... one--
He jumped out around the armchair and grabbed onto an arm. A hairy arm. Dean looked up and saw a dark face looking back at him. That's when he screamed and tried to jump back, but the old man in the chair was too quick. He snarled and flicked his hand down to grab onto Dean.
“What are you doing, boy?”
Dean's eyes had gone wide. “I-I'm sorry, sir.”
“Sorry?” The man stood and edged closer to the fire, almost pushing Dean right into the flames. “You will be sorry!”
Dean could feel the heat crawling up his back and making him sweat. “Please, sir! I didn't mean it! I thought you were my brother! I didn't-”
The man shoved a hand over Dean's mouth. He put a finger up toward the direction of the window, and slowly pulled them both backward until they stood in the shadows just behind the fireplace.
Dean slowly turned his head to look out the window. It was all frosted and dark outside, and he could just barely see a few stars twinkling off in the distance. And he could hear rustling right outside the wall, scratching its way closer. <I>Scratch... scratch... scraaape.</I>
The sounds stopped and Dean held his breath. His brain said to get away, but all he could do was stare at that window as five huge black claws scraped across it, digging into the glass.
Dean gasped into the old man's hand. Two yellow eyes pulled up next to the claw and narrowed down to slits just before the dark thing threw back its head and roared into the starry night. Dean tried to scream, but his mouth had gone completely dry.
The thing disappeared from the window and it must have been a full minute before the old man would let him go.
“Do you know what that was?” he hissed in Dean's ear.
Dean shook his head.
“That...” He turned Dean to face him. Dean shuddered as he looked into the dark eyes of the old man, who gripped both of Dean's shoulders so hard that he thought they would pop. “That was the Yeti. He wanders around these snowy mountains and waits for the warm-blooded to come. Then he takes them to his icy lair... and <I>they</I> are never seen again. Most have never seen his eyes... and lived.” He paused and drew in a deep breath.
Dean swallowed the lumps in his throat and said, “Where did it go?”
The old man finally let go of Dean and slowly limped over toward the window, peering into the darkness outside. He stood there for a full minute as they listened to the fire crackle in the place, and then the old man turned his head back around. “Its lair.”
Dean watched the window and the old man, wondering who he was. He wore a very wide hat that was round and pointed in the very middle. And he had two huge long whiskers that fell almost to his knees.
A hand grabbed Dean's shoulder. He gasped and whipped around to see Matthew falling to the floor and laughing. “What were you scared?” He said when he could finally get up and wiggle his fingers in front of Dean's face.
“Shh! Don't-” He turned to look back toward the window, but the old man was gone.
Dean shook his head. “Never mind. Where were you anyway?”
“Hiding,” Matthew said. “Duh. Anyway, Mom wants us to go to bed now. Come on! She said the earlier we go to sleep, the earlier we can get up tomorrow.”
With one last glance at the window, Dean hurried up the stairs toward their room.
The snow nearly sparkled in the bright sunlight the next day. Dean and Matthew had both gotten up really early, grabbed their snowboards and headed up the slopes of the mountain. Dean had to admit, the Alps were a pretty fun place to visit, and it had been a really long time since his family had taken a vacation like this one.
They boarded the ski lift together, holding their boards tightly as they went up. Only a few other people were on the lift with them.
“Let's go up to the highest one!” Matthew said, leaning forward in the ski lift to look at the trees and snow passing beneath them.
“The highest one? I dunno...”
Matthew rolled his eyes. “What? Are you too freaked out or something? Not still scared from last night, are you?”
“No,” Dean said. “No way. You just didn't see what I saw, that's all.”
“What'd you see?”
Dean didn't know if he even wanted to describe it. It had been too horrible. And all night, he had rolled in his bed, thinking about those claws and the eyes and the old man and everything. It was all just a little too scary for him. <I>God, help me not to be afraid. Thanks.</I>
Matthew bumped him. “Come on, this is where we get off!”
They jumped off the ski lift and onto the packed snow. The beginning of the ski run was a little trudge through the snow. Once they reached the start, Matthew slapped his board on the snow and hooked his feet into the clamps.
“Ready?” He yelled, pulling on a pair of huge snow goggles. “Set! Go!”
“Wait! I'm not-”
But Matthew was already boarding down the slope. Dean sighed and hurried to strap on his own board. He pushed off the snow and began after Matthew.
The run was a lot harder than it looked. Dean kept having to swerve to stay on the trail as he went down, going faster and faster toward the bottom. He struggled to keep his balance as he went over bump after bump in the snow.
Dean caught a glimpse of his brother's orange snow jacket. It looked like he was out of control and sliding all over the place. Dean quickly swerved his board back and forth to try and gain some speed.
Matthew slipped between some trees up ahead, and Dean had to put both hands in front of his face as branches slapped him, leaving scratch marks on his cheek.
“Matthew! Matthew! Where are you!”
Just ahead, Dean could see a huge tree coming straight at him. He swerved to the left, just barely making it around the trunk. And then he saw Matthew, crumpled up at the foot of another tree, his board broken in half beside him. Dean turned sideways and leaned against the snow, trying to slow down. He braked just in time to stop in front of his brother. Quickly, he unstrapped his board and bent down to look at Matthew's leg, which was all twisted funny.
“Are you okay?” Dean asked, pulling off his snow goggles.
Matthew could only moan.
“Matthew!” He shook on his brother's shoulder, and watched his eyelids flicker slightly and then shut.
Dean stood up and reached into his deep pants pocket. He always tried to be prepared, and his dad had made him bring along a flare gun. He had taught Dean all about how to use it and only in emergencies. And this was definitely an emergency.
Tree branches stretched all above him. He'd never be able to get off a clear shot. He had to get out in the open.
“I'll be right back.”
Dean trudged through the snow and finally made it to a clearing in the trees. He pointed the flare gun straight up, squinched his eyes closed and then pulled the trigger. The gun let off a loud whistling noise as the flare shot into the sky and exploded in red sparks. <I>God, please let somebody see that. And help Matthew to be okay.</I>
Dean hurried back through the snow as fast as he could. Hopefully someone would come soon. Matthew's leg was probably broken or something. Dean came around the last tree and back to where Matthew would be.
He gasped. Only Matthew's broken board lay against the tree. Matthew was gone.
And right where Matthew had been, there were huge drag marks in the snow leading off into the trees and toward a rockier section of the mountain. And beside the drag marks, Dean could see prints. Paws or hands with huge claws on the end of them. The Yeti. And it had Matthew.
He took a deep breath. Fear began to build inside his stomach, making him want to fall over. <I>That thing from last night... has my brother...</I> What could he do? The Yeti had probably taken Matthew to its lair and the old man had said no one ever comes back from the lair.
Light snow began to fall onto the ground. Somehow, clouds had formed overhead. If Dean didn't follow the tracks now to see where they went, the snow would cover them up and he wouldn't be able to ever find the Yeti's lair. But if he did follow now, then he might meet the snow monster and...
He swallowed and prayed, <I>Okay, Jesus. Please be with me. Help me not to be afraid. Amen.</I>
And then it was almost like a little voice whispered right in his ear, “Don't be afraid... I'm with you always...”
Dean sucked in another big breath and stepped forward, breaking little branches in the trees to mark his trail.
A dark hole was in the rocky mountainside ahead. The trees almost hid the entrance, but Dean could see the tracks leading right between them and into the darkness.
Carefully, he crept up toward the hole and slowly leaned around to look inside. The cave wasn't very big, and against the back wall, he saw something orange. He ran inside and onto the icy floor of the cave. Matthew lay sprawled against the back of the cave wall, his orange jacket right beside him. Matthew was shivering, his eyes wide open with fear.
“D-Dean... it grabbed me... it grabbed me...” Tears were coming down his cheeks now.
Dean looked into his brother's eyes. “Matthew, it's going to be okay. It is. Jesus is with us.”
He reached a hand under Matthew's armpit and helped him up. Matthew leaned on his good leg and together they started to limp toward the cave entrance. They were going to make it. They were going to escape, and--
Dean heard a rustling noise. A scraping noise just like the one he had heard last night. The Yeti was coming.
“Hurry!” He whispered in Matthew's ear.
They limped faster, and just as they came to the cave entrance, a huge white paw with black claws reached around the edge of the icy rock.
“It's back!” Matthew whimpered. “It's back!”
The head came around the side – a huge long snout with a dark black nose on the tip. The mouth was curled up to show huge white fangs inside. And the yellow eyes. The same yellow eyes that Dean had seen through the window last night.
“What do we do?” Matthew cried as the thing stared at them, narrowing its eyes.
“Get out of the way!”
The white beast charged into the cavern, claws swinging toward them. Dean dived to the side with Matthew, barely missing the thing's claws. The beast crashed into the back wall, ice chunks falling from the ceiling onto its head. It swiped at the ice above it and growled.
“Hurry!” Dean helped Matthew limp back toward the entrance. They just barely made it outside as the thing howled behind them.
“It's going to get us! It is! It is!” Matthew screamed.
Dean bit his lip and helped Matthew through the snow – and right into the barrel of a shotgun. Dean looked up to see the old man with the long whiskers standing in front of them.
“Move out of the way!” He yelled shoving them aside. The old man crept up toward the cave entrance, gun pointed straight ahead.
“No!” Dean yelled. “Don't! It'll get you!”
But the old man didn't listen, he just kept stepping forward, shotgun in hand. The thing howled again from inside the cave, and Matthew shuddered. It stepped out the blackness, standing tall above the old man, and growling.
Just as the beast was about to swipe its claws at him, the old man aimed right for the beast's neck and shot. There was a loud bang and Dean and Matthew watched as the beast tried to claw at a long dart stuck into its neck. But it was too late. It started to look dizzy, and after a second more of growling, the thing fell to the snow with a loud <I>thud.</I>
Dean stood up from the snow and walked slowly toward the old man's side. He looked at the beast and then it hit him. This thing looked strangely familiar.
Matthew was leaning up, looking too, his bad leg out in front of him. “Is that what I think it is?”
Dean turned back and nodded. “Yeah, it's a polar bear.” He looked back at the old man, who was almost half-smiling.
“Yes,” he bowed his head twice, first at Dean, then at Matthew. “This is what I have been hunting. And you two have found it for me. For that, I owe you great thanks. But now is not the time for them. Now is the time for us to get your brother back to the lodge.”
“I think he has a broken leg, sir,” Dean said, pointing at the leg.
“Ah, yes.” The old man hobbled over to Matthew and scooped him up.
As they trudged back through the snow, Dean couldn't help asking the old man, “But won't the bear wake up? That was just a tranquilizer dart you shot at him.”
The old man turned to Dean and winked. “That... is because... I need him still.”
But the old man wouldn't answer. He only took them both back to the lodge and into the arms of their worried mom and dad. And finally, Dean could take a deep breath. <I>Thank You, God, for being with us – even when we were afraid.</I> And then he watched the old man disappear back into the snowy woods. But just before he went out of sight, he turned around and waved.
(c) 2007. Shaun Stevenson.
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