A production issue caused us to flip the recording of stories #4 & 5. As a result, we’re switching the order they’re being posted in. But, since they’re all self-contained tales, this shouldn’t cause any issues as you read along and enjoy them.
ATOMIC TALES #5 Snow Monster
“Never mind the UFO sightings, Mr. Agent, sir,” the park ranger said. “You think they did this?” She indicated the small destroyed trail cabin nearby. It looked like a tornado had hit it. A mass of splintered timbers and rubble lay under a few inches of very early snow.
“Avalanche, maybe,” Agent Four suggested, eyeing the nearby glacier. The three of us stood near the base of the Never Summer Mountains, and they got their name for a reason.
“Nossir,” the ranger insisted. “Not lights in the sky nor avalanche. It was the snow monster.”
Agent Four and I exchanged a skeptical glance.
The ranger scowled at us. “Don’t you two smarty-pants federal agents look at me like that. I’m not crazy, and neither are the folks the thing’s been terrorizing for the past weeks.”
“A bear, maybe?” I offered.
“Do I look like a ranger who doesn’t know a bear from her backside?”
“So you’ve seen it,” I said.
“Well… No,” she admitted. “But some pretty reliable people have—experienced hikers. A couple of ’em were nearly scared to death. They said it was huge, with long shaggy fur, glowing red eyes, and fangs as long as your hand.”
“Nice,” Four commented.
“And I’ve seen tracks—bare footprints as big as a snowshoe,” the woman ranger continued. “Not a lot of hikers coming through here since the monster rumors got out.”
I rubbed my chin. “So, these sightings began at the same time as the flying saucer reports?”
“I guess…” the ranger mused, “…now that you mention it. Do you think the two are connected?”
Agent Four flashed her his best lady-killer smile. “Don’t worry,” he said. “The US Science Bureau is here now. We’ll figure it out.”
“Remind me again what I’m doing here, Agent One,” Agent Four complained as we trudged across the rocky, snow-dappled slopes.
“I thought you were ‘figuring it out’ for the pretty ranger,” I replied.
Alec “Boom Boom” Murphy rolled his blue eyes. Clearly the allure of the local girl had worn off during our long, sweaty hike in the chilly mountain air.
“I mean,” he continued, ignoring my riposte, “the army’s got a line on another giant ant nest. I should be with them, blowing up bugs. Instead, we’re on some yeti snipe hunt. Why didn’t they send Agent Seven with you? She actually digs UFOs and weird monsters.”
“Seven’s with Agent Eight, looking into that fisheries situation off the California coast,” I replied. “Besides, all of us go where the Teragons and the Bureau tell us. Right now, that’s here.”
“On a God-forsaken slope in a mountain range where it snows even during the summer, looking for either flying saucers that don’t exist or a monster that is most likely a mangy bear.”
“That’s about the size of it.”
Four scowled. He truly was most at home on short assignments where he got to blow things up. But ever since my encounter with a giant ant in the desert, the Bureau had rules about agents only working in pairs, and Agent Zero had Four’s number at the top of the duty roster for this assignment.
Four extricated his binoculars from his overloaded backpack—he always brought more gear than anybody really needed—and scanned the nearby slopes. “I wish we could leave the UFOs to the Blue Book boys,” he griped.
“No can do. Too many strange objects in the sky associated with our bug problem.”
“Yeah. I know. Ever since your fireflies.” He let his field glasses down and pointed. “Do those look like tracks to you?”
I trained my binoculars toward the snow field he indicated. “Could be,” I agreed.
“It’s close to one of the sightings the ranger marked,” he observed, checking our map.
“UFO or yeti?”
I checked my sidearm, and he did the same.
“Let’s go take a look,” I said.
It took us the better part of an hour to hike to the slope we’d seen from afar. The snowy terrain was rough, and the air was thin here. Neither of us had acclimated to the altitude, so we were both pretty winded by the time we located the tracks.
We’d passed another small cabin, nearly hidden under the recent snowfall, on our way. Unlike the one where we’d met the ranger, this shelter remained intact.
“Bear?” Four asked, peering at the huge prints.
I shook my head. “Snow’s too melted to tell for sure. Weird they’re in a straight line, though.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Almost like the animal was walking on two feet. I suppose we have to follow these.”
“I suppose we do.”
“Looks like they’re heading onto that high glacier.”
I leaned up against a nearby tree. We were still below the tree line but were rapidly running out of forest as the glacier loomed ahead of us. “No law that says we can’t catch a breather before we go.”
Four nodded and lit a cigar—not my idea of a “breather,” but… I’ve never been sure if he actually liked the things or if he just liked playing with fire. Fire often came in handy in Four’s line of work.
A short smoke and a bit of a hike later, we passed the last of the trees and trudged onto the glacier. The late afternoon air smelled clean but was cold enough to make my sinuses ache. The tracks seemed to head straight up toward the mountaintop, which remained hidden in shadow as the sun crept into the west.
We kept going, slogging through the snow and ice. I wished we’d brought snowshoes instead of sturdy hiking boots.
“We don’t have a lot of daylight left,” Four noted. “Might have to shelter in that cabin we passed.”
“That’s what they’re there for,” I replied. “Wait a minute… Is that blood?”
“Sure looks like it.”
We hadn’t noticed it before, but big, dark red blotches now stained the snow near the snowshoe-sized footprints. The tracks were far bigger than any man, or even any bear, I’d heard of—though snow melt has been known to enlarge spoor.
We loosened our guns in their holsters.
Four pointed. “Look! Some kind of carcass!”
The rib bones of a large animal poked out of the snow a few hundred yards upslope, near an outcrop of shadowy rock. The bones still had chunks of flesh clinging to them, and they glistened red in the retreating sunlight.
Just then, the wind shifted, and the smell hit us: awful… gamey… like rotting meat mixed with matted wet fur.
“Ugh!” I gasped, trying to wave the scent away from my nose. “Elk, do you think?”
Four stopped in his tracks. “Ray, those ribs… There’s steam rising from them… They’re fresh!”
An ear-splitting howl echoed across the mountainside as something… some thing… leapt out from behind the rocks and bounded downhill toward us.
It was huge, almost twice as big as a man. Shaggy stone-gray fur covered its dirty hide. Fury blazed in its red eyes, and steaming saliva dripped from its gleaming yellow fangs. It stank like a herd of skunks that had been run over by a half-track. The thing lumbered toward us at a frightening clip, running almost like a human being. One thing for sure: this was no bear.
“Yeti!” Four blurted.
“Shoot!” I yelled.
Both of us fired, but the shots didn’t even slow the beast down.
“Run!” I commanded, but both of us were doing it anyway. We needed to put some distance between us and the rapidly advancing snow monster.
We kept shooting as we went, barely slowing thanks to our years of combat training and practice.
Most of the shots did no good, though nearly all of them slammed into the ape-like thing’s furry carcass. Then I got lucky and clipped the yeti near its glowing red eyes,
That made the monster pause a moment, and its cry of rage rattled both our bones and the snowy mountainside itself.
“C’mon, Alec!” I cried, noticing Agent Four had slowed. “If we can reach that cabin, we can hold it off.”
Four shook his head as he shrugged out of his heavy pack. “We’ll never make it unless I can slow this thing down. You keep going, Ray! I’ll catch up.”
I knew better than to argue. In the Bureau, you have to trust your teammates, even if what they’re doing seems damn crazy.
Despite that, I did manage to pump three more shots into the beast as I went.
The snow monster paused just long enough to chuck a couple of ice boulders at me.
I barely managed to duck the frozen missiles as they crashed into the trees nearby, but at least I’d bought Agent Four another few seconds.
I reached the trees with Alec—much lighter now without his pack—sprinting close behind.
The creature came barreling down on us like a runaway train.
“Ray, take cover!” Four shouted.
I barely had time to shelter behind a thick copse of trees as the whole mountainside trembled.
A rumble like the worst storm ever shook me to my bones as an avalanche thundered downslope.
The monster wailed in pain and terror as tons of snow, ice, and cascading rock engulfed it and swept the thing over the side of the mountain into a deep glacial ravine hundreds of feet below.
I leaned against the trees and caught my breath. Happily, I spotted Alec doing the same behind a nearby boulder. The snowslide had almost buried us, as well as the monster, but we’d made it.
“Just can’t resist blowing things to hell, can you?” I kidded.
Agent Four grinned. “Gotta earn my nickname somehow.”
“Nice job, ‘Boom Boom.’”
He nodded, as sweaty and worn out as I was. “Thanks for keeping that thing off me. Did you notice the color of its blood?”
“Yeah. Green.” The blood had glowed, too, like the firefly I’d killed at the start of the bug invasion.
“What’s it mean?”
I shrugged. “It means the doc’s gonna be ticked that we’re not bringing back samples.”
Four laughed as he lit a fresh cigar. “If Doctor Shannon Teragon wants a piece of that snow monster,” he said, “she can come here and dig it out herself.”
ABOUT “SNOW MONSTER”
People who follow my books and stories probably won’t be surprised that there’s a “master arc” behind Atomic Tales: Strange Invaders. Why have a series title with a subtitle if there wasn’t? Even though these yarns are being released monthly, there will still be a Big Story tying it all together by the time this weird-sci-fi epic ends.
Hopefully, that makes it more fun for my readers and listeners, and it sure makes it more challenging for me.
Because of that, Strange Invaders needs to hit certain “landmarks” so that revelations to come later in the series will make logical sense—at least as much sense as 1950s sci-fi needs. (Well, okay, maybe it’s me that needs it rather than the genre, but I think modern consumers expect more from a tale than did those in the time I’m writing about.)
So, I can’t just write and release the random handful of AT:SI ideas I’ve had floating around my commonplace book for years in the order they occurred to me.
The trick is to set out logical steps taking this story of giant bugs and flying saucers where I want to go, while still keeping everything related to the genre as a whole. Which brings us to this story…
Recently, filmmaker (and creator of the audio version of these stories) Christopher R. Mihm and I were talking about the fact that there aren’t really any good yeti movies. We discussed a bunch of ideas for what might make such a flick work. Perhaps one day we’ll even do that film together, or maybe Chris will do it on his own.
Probably that’s what put the notion for “Snow Monster” into my head as an “in between” story while I’ve been hammering out the longer Atomic Tales arc.
The story wasn’t in my initial notes, but it definitely helps get me where I’m going in the end.
Exactly how it all ties together, you’ll have to keep reading and/or listening to find out…
You can listen to this story produced by Christopher R. Mihm from SaintEuphoria.com!
TM & © 2021 Stephen D. Sullivan