Authors: Chrissy Peebles
She slapped his arm. “I’m afraid you mistook that reaction. It was fright.”
He smiled at her as he snaked his arms around her. “More like awe.”
Oh, he has some nerve, this one.
“Listen, I don’t need you breathing down my neck, okay? This isn’t a joke. I take my research very seriously,” Sarah said, breaking herself free from his smothering embrace. She sat down by the fire and scanned all eight cameras. “If you don’t mind, I have work to do.”
He kicked off his leather boots and grinned. “Mind if I kick back for a while? I had to hike miles and miles through the forest to find you.”
She shot him a glare. “There are some twenty-five to thirty other researchers and scientists you can bother. Take your pick of them or go out there and try your dumb luck in the woods, but just leave me alone.”
He winked. “Yeah, but those other campers aren’t as cute as you.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh brother. What are you up to anyway? Dreaming up articles on how to discredit my work even more?”
“I only give my honest, professional opinion. I thought that’s what you loved about me. Anyway, listen, Sarah; let’s not dwell on the past. We’ve both made mistakes. I should’ve taken your research more seriously.”
Her eyes stayed focused on the screen, and she saw a mysterious shadow flit across it. “Whoa! Did you see that? Something just moved on Camera 2!” She leaned in, not believing what she was seeing. “Right there, left of the boulders. See it?”
Maybe this is the real deal. Hunters claimed to see this beast only yesterday, right here in this vicinity.
“Where?” Frank asked.
She pointed to the left side of the monitor. “Look! It’s right there.” Her voice grew in intensity. “Something just moved on Camera 3. There…right over there. Do you see it?”
“Yes, but need I remind you that we’re in the middle of the wilderness? In case you might have forgotten, plenty of squirrels, rabbits, bears, and deer live out here.”
Sarah turned the knob to give more clarity to the screen. “This is me ignoring you.”
“You know, I think you’d be more into me if I stunk, had long hair, and gave off pheromones like a gorilla.”
“Who said you don’t?” She picked up the radio, her voice urgent. “Base camp to Adam. I got a shadow on the south side of the forest, Camera 3. I need Team 7 to check it out pronto. Over.”
“Roger that. What was that creepy howl?”
The radio crackled. “Amy to base camp.”
“Go ahead,” Sarah said.
“Bait’s gone by Cameras 1 and 2.”
“Any other teams experiencing anything unusual?” questioned Sarah into the radio.
“Team 6, by the river. Nothing unusual to report here.”
Static crackled. “Team 3 reporting. We heard some rustling in the bushes. It stopped, but something’s definitely out there. Could just be local wildlife, but we’re not sure.”
Another voice crackled over the walkie-talkie. “Team 9 reporting. We got some rock- and log-throwing, but it’s too dark to make anything out. Thermal’s not picking up anything.”
“Got a visual?” Sarah asked into the mouthpiece, ignoring her uninvited guest who didn’t believe it was anything more than a bear.
“No. We’re moving forward.”
She wasn’t comfortable with their plan. For a moment, she hesitated, considering other options, even though she knew there were none. “Okay. Get a visual, but stay safe.”
“This is Team 4. FLIR’s lighting up like fire,” Beth said. “We got a huge biped crawling low in the brush. Get over here NOW!”
“I’m on my way.” Sarah’s heart pounded as she put on a pair of night-vision goggles and began adjusting the straps. They weren’t as helpful as actual daylight, but even with that fluorescent green hue, they sure beat tripping. Everything sharpened into focus as she blinked, her view illuminated in neon from the high-tech gadget. She grabbed her 35mm, the FLIR, and clipped her radio on her belt. Without another look at Frank, she darted through the giant trees, swatting away at the brush and ferns as she went.
“Wait! I’m coming!” Frank yelled.
Sarah rolled her eyes and didn’t even bother looking back at him. She raced through the trees and thickets of brush, trying not to slip on the wet leaves. Finally, she made her way into a clearing and ran in the direction of Sabrino Cave.
Out of the darkness, a voice called out her name, and a beam of light shone in her direction. “Sarah? Is that you?” Adam called out.
Adam waved a flashlight around. “Is that…why is Frank still here? I thought you got rid of that joker.”
Frank took a step forward, but Sarah jerked his arm. “Listen, buddy, we don’t have time for any nonsense. Capisce?”
started it,” he whined, pointing at Adam.
“What are you, like five?” She then shot a glance at Adam. “Look, just don’t start your crap, okay? I didn’t invite him, but he’s here, and we don’t have time for any drama.”
“Fine,” Adam said.
“Where’re the others?” she asked between breaths.
“Rob, Beth, and the camera dude, uh, Steven, are around here somewhere,” Adam said glancing around.
Just then, a figure burst through the towering ferns. “I’m so glad you’re here! Oh, man, you should’ve seen it,” Beth shouted. “I swear I almost pissed my pants.”
“No way! You
it? With your own eyes?” Sarah met her gaze, gasping for air, her mind unable to comprehend just yet. “Where?”
“Over there!” Beth pointed behind her. “It took off to the north, and we chased it into the cave.”
A cold shudder ran down Sarah’s spine as she realized someone had actually
the object of her obsession.
We’re so close! We can’t afford any mistakes now.
“This is Sarah calling all members.” She cleared her throat before she continued into her radio, her voice gaining urgency with every word. “Be on alert. We’ve got a visual on something huge walking around. We believe the creature is hiding in Sabrino Cave. Keep your eyes and ears open, people. Proceed with extreme caution.”
“What’s your position?” a voice crackled back.
“I’m a half-mile north of base camp, on my way to Sabrino Cave now. All teams report to Sabrino immediately.” She tapped Adam’s arm. “Let’s go.” Sarah jumped over the logs, ferns, and rocks scattered along the forest floor, her heartbeat thudding in her ears. Just ahead, she squinted at a large black mass of rock; the cave entrance came into view. Sarah stopped and peered into the dark hole. She pinched her nose shut, trying to prevent the pungent smell from penetrating her nostrils. “Pee-yew! I think somebody forgot to take out the garbage…like all week.”
“I saw this thing on the FLIR,” Beth said. “It’s at least eight feet tall. Man, it’s huge! I wonder if it’s still in the cave.”
“Well, let’s track it!” Sarah ordered, inching closer to the jagged opening.
“Or we can just follow the stench,” Beth said. “I say we get out our tranquilizer guns, just in case it charges us.”
Sarah nodded. “Good thinking.” She glanced at her cameraman, Steven, the bright camera light blinding her eyes in the blackness. “Are you getting this? Everything?”
“Yeah, man, but do you think cornering Crypto Guy is such a great idea?”
Sarah shoved her goggles to the top of her head. Glancing around, she took a few steps forward. “Look, you were hired to film this. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen, and we’ll find someone who can. Who knows when we’ll ever get another chance to be this close again? Surely you want to be part of this.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Steven uttered.
Sarah turned to Adam. “Now, did we get those shrieking calls on audio?”
“Sure did,” Adam said.
Frank shook her shoulder. “Are you crazy? Messing around with the local wildlife is beyond dangerous. I’m sure it’s just a bear or a big cat or—”
She brushed his hand off. “Look, Frank, you’ve done nothing but shoot down all my research on television, in your newspaper and magazine articles, and in your new book. If you’re so sure this is fake, some kind of staged crap, or that it’s just some nature show, why don’t you go in and see for yourself?”
Frank took a step back. “All you’ve got here is a trapped wild animal. Sure, I was hoping to get my shirt ripped off when I came looking for you, but not by a bear.”
Sarah ignored him and grabbed a tuft of coarse, dark hair from the cavern entrance. She squinted to get a good look at it in the darkness. “This isn’t from a bear, and whatever it is, I’m going to capture the thing on film. Adam, please bag this.”
“You got it, boss.”
Sarah opened up the lens on her camera and adjusted the settings. “People, we’re about to solve one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the twenty-first century.”
Beth kneeled, her eyes wide. “Look, Sarah. We got prints.”
Large humanoid footprints were clear in the mud, and the sight of them sent a shiver down Sarah’s spine. It wasn’t human, ape, gorilla or chimpanzee unless they came in XXL. “Get measurements of these. Steven, swing that camera over here and get them on film.”
Beth stretched out a tape measure next to one of the fresh tracks indented in the mud.
“Some tracks in the mud? C’mon, Sarah. You know as well as I do that this doesn’t mean anything,” Frank muttered.
Sarah shook her head. “Anyone here wear a Size 20 shoe?” The footprints appeared to be roughly nineteen inches long and eight inches wide with a long stride and five discernible toes.
Who’d go running around barefoot in ice-cold mud?
“No one step on these prints. They’re the evidence we need. I’ll cast them in a minute.” She focused and snapped her camera. “Frank, myths don’t leave tracks,” she spat at him. “Wish me luck, people,” she said, turning her gaze toward the cave entrance. “I’m going in.”
“You’re really gonna risk your life just to prove me wrong?” Frank asked.
“Well, skeptics do tend to piss me off,” Sarah said. “For all these years, you’ve claimed my work is worthless, and that there’s nothing scientific about what we’re doing out here. You said that science needed to validate the existence of Bigfoot with a live or dead specimen. You said I’d need bones, teeth, or blood. But really, this has nothing to do with you. I am willing to risk my life to prove me right, and this is the perfect opportunity to get all the proof I need. I’m not waiting another second.”
Frank laughed. “Do you really think tomorrow’s headlines are gonna read, ‘I Just Found Bigfoot’? No way! If anything, the papers are gonna say, ‘Bigfoot Researchers Torn to Shreds by Bear’.”
She shrugged. “Well, you can think whatever you want, but at this point, I’ll take whatever fate throws at me. I have to see for myself, one way or the other.”
“All fate’s going to deliver is a million stitches and a trip to the emergency room,” Frank said. “These things don’t exist. I’ve told you that how many times?”
“I don’t care what you told me. Those tracks are real, that fur is real, and that’s solid enough evidence for me to take a closer look.”
Frank cleared his throat. “Evidence? Sure. Everything but the creature itself.”
“Well, Mr. Skeptic, then go in there and prove me wrong.”
He took off his hat and ran a hand through his unruly hair. “If I do this and I’m right, you owe me dinner—even if I’m in a full-body cast when that grizzly in there mauls me half to death.”
“Dinner? Sure. So man up.” She whipped out her tranquilizer gun and handed it to him.
He smiled, pointed the weapon with both hands, and walked through the entrance.
Sarah followed, her smile vanishing. A scream pierced the air, and it took her only a moment to realize it was her own.
Sarah scrambled to her feet, staring straight ahead. Harsh and unexpected light blared through the cavern entrance, forcing her to instinctively cover her eyes. Squinting, she raced outside and looked up: no stars, no moon, no darkness. Instead, the sun shone brightly through the trees, saturating the green leaves with its golden glow. The last time she’d checked, it had been midnight. All she could assume was that she’d hit her head in the fall and passed out for a good eight hours.
Why hasn’t my team come to help me?
She couldn’t help but wonder.
Sure, they’d leave Frank to his own fate, but surely they’d come looking for me.
“What the heck is going on? Where is everybody?” she asked aloud to no one in particular.
Groaning, Frank approached and rubbed his head. “What happened? Did I black out or something?”
Sarah hesitated for a moment, unsure. “I think we both did. It looks like morning.” She nervously fingered the black strap from her hanging 35mm Nikon. Reaching into her pocket, she let out a sigh of relief; the FLIR hadn’t fallen out in whatever skirmish had happened in the dark.
“Are you okay, babe?” He put a hand on her shoulder. “You hurt?”
She swatted his hand away. “Don’t call me ‘babe’! I could use some Motrin, but I needed that the second you showed up. You look like crap, by the way.”