Deep in a recess on a remote salient of the Altai Mountains, a large, hairy creature sauntered to the opening of the cave in which it lived. Large snowflakes swirled as an angry blizzard howled and covered the ground in deep drifts. A blue-gray sky filtered through dense clouds, caused the landscape to appear as if viewed through a blue filter. Except for the wind screeching outside the cave, no other sound echoed in the mountains. The towering hulk stood in the opening and stared into the muted world beyond. A thick vapor belched from its maw while its eyes glowed deep red, flickering as it looked around.
After a long moment, it stretched out its huge, muscular arms and shrieked a shattering growl. Then it stepped from the cave, ambled through the deep snow, and disappeared into the mist.
In the small village of Tenduk, located atop a high plateau in the mountainous Altai region of Mongolia, the Buddhist monastery was the center of daily activities. Most of the village merchants earned their meager living by selling their wares to the monks who worked and prayed in the ancient cloister. Roofed with terra cotta tiles, the monastery was a large multi-storied affair with many smaller living quarters terraced around the main temple building. The buildings--interconnected through a series of steps and stairways made of rocks and a few rickety wooden bridges--enabled the monks to pass easily between the various levels. The main stone-and-mortar structure was in the form of a stepped pyramid of three rectangular stories, three circular terraces, and a central pagoda forming the summit.
The plateau was part of a valley in the Altai Mountain range, its rugged, snow-capped peaks providing shelter from bitter winter storms. The steppe, as the plateau was called, formed part of the Mongolian-Manchurian grassland, covered over a quarter million square miles, and forged a crescent around the Gobi Desert. Its dominant flora consisted of medium to tall grasses, monopolized by feather grass. The steppe was where Mongolian nomads grazed their herds of camels, goats, and yaks, where they had done so for generations.
The formation of Altai mountainous region began almost two hundred millions years ago. During this period, the earth’s crust was extremely unstable and fluid so the area formed the bottom of a deep sea where numerous layers of sediment accumulated. From about 150 million years ago the region experienced a process of denudation. As a result of the active tectonic processes which took place during the Paleozoic period and which were accompanied by violent volcanic activity, the sea disappeared from the area and the land rose in height. Mainly, the tectonic process, with its vault lifting, formed the modern structure of the Altai region. The most up-thrust occurred in central Altai with a maximum rise of three to four thousand meters.
Traditional Mongols worshipped heaven or the clear blue sky and their ancestors. They followed ancient northern Asian practices of shamanism, where human intermediaries placed themselves in a trance then spoke to some of the numerous infinities of spirits responsible for human luck or misfortune. In 1578, Altan Khan, a Mongol military leader with ambitions to unite the Mongols and to emulate the career of Chinggis, invited the head of the rising Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism to a summit. They formed an alliance that gave Altan legitimacy and religious sanction for his imperial pretensions and that provided the Buddhist sect with protection and patronage. Altan gave the Tibetan leader the title of Dalai Lama, which his successors still hold. Altan died soon after, but in the next century the Yellow Sect spread throughout Mongolia, aided in part by the efforts of contending Mongol aristocrats to win religious sanction and mass support for their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to unite all Mongols in a single state. Monasteries were built across Mongolia, often sited at the juncture of trade and migration routes or at summer pastures, where large numbers of herders would congregate for shamanistic rituals and sacrifices. Buddhist monks carried out a protracted struggle with the indigenous shamans and succeeded, to some extent, in taking over their functions and fees as healers and diviners and in pushing the shamans to the religious and cultural fringes of Mongolian culture.
Abbot Bo Zhing greeted the new day as he had for years--sitting in his favorite chair on a ledge, his face pointed toward the rising sun. A deep rugged valley dropped away from his perch, its vegetation dappled in hues of gold and yellow. It was a brisk morning, in spite of the sun’s warming rays on his kashaya, his brown robe of Tibetan origin. He sat under a small pagoda, arms folded, chanting his morning prayer.
“I am a link in Lord Buddha’s golden chain of love
that stretches around the world.
I must keep my link bright and strong.
I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing,
and protect all who are weaker than myself.
I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts,
to say pure and beautiful words, and to do pure and
beautiful deeds, knowing that on what
I do now depends my happiness and misery.
May every link in Lord Buddha’s golden chain
of love become bright and strong
and may we all attain perfect peace.”
His prayers completed, Abbot Zhing rose and walked with measured steps to the small dining hall where he would greet his fellow monks. There was much excitement among the men the past few days for there had been a sighting of a strange beast higher in the mountains. Ever since the American scientific expedition earlier in the year, speculation mounted that a family of large creatures lived in the remote mountains near the monastery.
Zhing remembered well the overcast day when a small group of scientists from the expedition arrived, their leader inquiring about an ancient skull they heard was kept there. The skull was an artifact that the monks had kept in a deep secure vault for generations. What it was, exactly, no one seemed to know. There were rumors, of course. Zhing had heard them during his many years as a monk in Tenduk. This part of Mongolia was rife with stories of strange creatures that roamed the mountains. Proof of their existence was always vague, inconsistent.
Hesitant at first, Zhing finally acquiesced and showed the skull to the leader of the expedition, Dr. Harry Olson. The man and his small party said they were a team of scientists, digging for early human fossils in the Altai Mountains and had unearthed a group of bones that were neither human nor animal. He hoped the skull might shed light on the mystery. The doctor and his colleagues were very polite, took measurements of the skull, and left.
Then tragedy struck.
Four evil men, one with a long scar on his face, pursued the expedition team to the Tenduk monastery, demanding the whereabouts of the scientists. They murdered the senior abbot, Lama Yang. Why, Zhing did not know, but it was a brutal and senseless killing. Much later, he learned that one of the female scientists was taken captive by a large animal and dragged deep into its mountain lair. With the help of the Mongolian Police, it took the all the expedition could muster to effect her eventual rescue.
Zhing knew it was the Yeti of his youth.
Before the scientists left Mongolia, Zhing talked by phone with the expedition leader, Dr. Olson. He promised the scientist to notify him if and when he or his fellow monks came by any information of creatures lurking in the mountains. The scientist needed the information for his research, and Zhing liked the man’s easy manner, his seemingly genuine pursuit of knowledge.
For decades there had been rumors and supposed sightings of the famous Yeti, a large, hairy, shy beast that roamed the remote regions of the Altai. According to legend, the animals lived in caves in the high altitudes and ventured to the lower altitudes in search of food, mostly vegetation growing in the valleys. Through the years, sightings were common but the physical evidence of such a creature was never found.
The Yeti were reputed to be six-foot-tall, bipedal creatures, covered in reddish brown fur, with anthropomorphic facial features, including pronounced brow ridges, flat noses, and no chin. And, unlike the Himalayan Abominable Snowman, their behavior was considered far more human than ape-like. They were said to inhabit the mountains of central Asia and the Altai Mountains of southern Mongolia. Modern accounts documenting footprints, as well as native traditions dating back hundreds of years, attested to the existence of the Yeti, including the exchange of trade goods between remote Mongolian villages and the creatures. Drawings of Yeti also appeared in an ancient Tibetan apothecary handbook, with the following comment:
The book contains thousands of illustrations of various classes of animals including reptiles, mammals and amphibia, but not one single mythological animal, like its medieval European counterparts, which often listed many fantastic animals in its medical books. Being that every creature in the Tibetan medicinal book are well-documented actual species, with the exception of the Yeti, gives some validity to the creature’s existence.
Speculation that Yeti may be something other than legendary creatures was based on purported eyewitness accounts, alleged footprint finds, and interpretations of long-standing native traditions, which had been anthropologically collected.
Now, there was talk. Excited talk. Even whispers among the monks. Zhing needed to know if this talk could be substantiated with sightings and facts or was all just idle chatter. Today in the dining hall he would find out.
He strolled into a large, brightly lit room filled with wooden tables and straight back chairs. The buzz from the monks gradually diminished at their seeing him standing at the head of the tables.
“Namasta, my brothers,” Zhing said.
“Namasta,” was the uniform reply from the men seated at their tables.
“Brothers,” Zhing began, “I have heard talk recently of the Yeti. I am here to learn if the talk is founded in fact. Have any of you actually seen such a creature?”
No one ventured a raised hand.
“Have any of you talked with someone who claims having seen such an animal?”
The dining hall erupted in one continuous buzz, everyone speaking at once and raising hands.
Zhing spent the better part of an hour listening to his brother monks describe their experiences and, in the end, decided that there was enough credible evidence to call Dr. Olson. Later, he walked down to the village butcher shop to use the region’s only phone.
Dixie was near panic. Sobbing, her tears mixing with the dust caked on her face, turned the mess into a dried-mud facial. It was difficult to open her mouth with the dried mud, and the dust choked her--breathing was difficult. It was surreal being in this place. Like a dream. No, a nightmare.
She knew she was going to die.
At first, when the large creature grabbed her and carried her off, she put up a fight, but its strength easily overpowered her. Its hot, fetid breath, smelling of rotten garbage, quickly overwhelmed her senses, while its eyes, piercing, red, glowing, were like embers in a dying campfire. Most of all, she remembered its fangs, long, pointed, and stained yellow and brown.
At first, she waited in fear for the beast to sink those long canines into her neck and was surprised when the monster only dragged her to a cave and deposited her in a small room. Later, it tied her to the wall, using crude straps made of dried vines, and there she hung, like a piece of crude art. The monster knew what it was doing, acting almost human.
Imprisoned and in a state of exhaustion, she watched the creature and its comrades...was that the right word?...come and go in silence. Was it a hallucination that they seemed to be an extended family? One male creature appeared dominant over the others, acting as their leader, while a smaller female was never far from his side. In her tortured mind, she thought they completed a family unit, although the exact nature she could not say. But they did appear to be some sort of primate unit, for they knew each other and worked together. They grunted some sort of language that only they understood and, to her surprise, seemed to show affection for each other. At one time, she thought she saw the male caress his mate.
The creatures came and went without paying her much attention. They seemed content to have her confined and helpless, hanging there. They gave her no food or water. As the hours dragged on, she weakened to the point of losing consciousness, and it was as if she were in a dream, looking down upon her body. But then, one of the hairy beasts would amble into the little room, shove its ugly face into hers, and snarl, its hot breath smelling of rancid meat. But not one of them harmed her. It was as if they were studying her, like in the movie, Planet Of The Apes. Or, maybe, she was just a piece of art, stuck on the wall for them to enjoy.
Nearing total collapse, she lost her fear of being devoured and accepted her predicament. She remembered the moment she realized she would not survive, because no one in the expedition had the faintest idea where she was. When the end came, she hoped it would be quick. She thought of her parents, her dead brother, and Harry. She would miss Harry and realized she was in love with him. Not overtly religious, but spiritual in her own way, she felt that there was some sort of soul’s existence after death, although exactly what it was she couldn’t say. But she knew it would be a good existence--of that she had no doubt.
That and Harry were the only thoughts that gave her any comfort.
By the second day of her imprisonment, the creatures hardly noticed her as they came and went. The excruciating pain in her arms was replaced by a numbness, a fact for which she was grateful. Sometimes the large male sauntered up to her, stared for a moment or two, then turned and left. He didn’t snarl anymore. None of them touched her, except one of the young females did feel her breasts, as if they were something she had not seen.
By the third day, she developed frank hallucinations. Dehydrated and weak, she was near collapse with only short lucid periods interspersed with those of unconsciousness. At one point, there were bug-eyed snakes spewing from the cracks between the rocks and their tongues flicked at her, mouths hissing. When a tongue touched her, it burned and left a mark. She tried reciting the twenty-third Psalm but couldn’t remember the words...
Dixie woke with a start, gasping for breath, pulse pounding.
It was the nightmare again. The nightmare that would not go away. That time as prisoner of a group of Yeti deep in a Mongolian mountain cave now served as the womb of her sordid dreams, birthing nightmares that visited on a regular basis.
She reached out and noticed Harry was not beside her. The clock read two a.m. She sat on the edge of the bed, filled a glass of water from the carafe, took a deep breath, and tried to quell her racing heart. Since returning from the ill-fated Mongolian expedition, she had finished her doctorate in anthropology, after which she and Harry were married. Harry had been her professor and mentor at California Pacific University. Now, she was an assistant professor in her own right, a position her new husband secured for her.
Sitting in the dark bedroom, she noticed a small shaft of light emanating from their study on the far side of the house. She donned her robe and sauntered down the hall ,where she found Harry bent over his desk, a cluster of papers spread out before him. At the sound of her approach, he turned and smiled.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he said. He sat in his pajamas, held out a tanned hand, took hers, and pulled her to him. “Did I wake you? I tried to not make any noise.”
“No, you didn’t. It was the nightmare again,” she said, running a hand through her tussled hair. “I must look a sight.”
Harry pulled her onto his lap and laughed. “You look marvelous, honey.” He kissed her on the cheek and smiled. “I love the way you look. Now, it was the nightmare again?”
“Of course. It’s always the same. I’m back in that damned mountain cave and those creatures have strung me up and are pawing over me. I can see their eyes--like glowing coals--and smell their breath. The smell of rotting flesh and death.”
“Baby,” Harry said, brushing a strand of blonde hair from Dixie’s cheek, “you had a horrific experience and were close to death. It’s no wonder you’re having nightmares. It’s called post-traumatic stress. But I think it will get better with time. I really do.”
“You don’t think I’m losing my mind?” Dixie climbed off Harry’s lap and sat in a chair near the desk. It was quiet in the house, except for the ticking of the old grandfather clock in the hallway.
“Absolutely not,” Harry said. “If I thought that, I’d have had you examined by a psychiatrist. No, Dixie, no. What you’re going through is a perfectly normal reaction, given all that happened.”
“But it’s been almost a year,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. She didn’t want to break down and cry or become hysterical.
“But the nightmares aren’t nearly as frequent. You’ve said so yourself. That speaks volumes.”
“I hope so. I sure wish Professor was here.”
“Me too,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair, the concern on his face relaxing. “His sudden death was quite a shock to everyone. I couldn’t believe it when it happened. The man was like a father to me.”
“And me,” Dixie said. “I didn’t realize I could miss him as much as I have.”
“His heart attack was completely unexpected. But I guess, when you’re older, anything can happen. I was glad that he was able to see us married. I know that made him happy.”
Doctor Julius Kesler had been chairman of the Anthropology Department at California Pacific University and Harry’s boss. He was the lead scientist of the expedition, led by Harry, into the Altai Mountains of Mongolia in search of hominid fossils. Dixie had been Harry’s chief assistant. Dr. Kesler, or Professor, as his associates affectionately called him, took Harry under his wing, and Harry responded to the man’s tutoring by becoming a rising paleoanthropologist and heir-apparent to Professor’s position whenever the man decided to retire.
But the expedition was interrupted and prematurely ended when a ruthless relic hunter and his band of armed security forces arrived on scene, intent on stealing what the team uncovered. However, everyone’s plans did an about face with the appearance of large creatures known previously only through legends. In the end, they turned out to be Yeti, akin to the Abominable Snowman, Almas, or Bigfoot, and terrorized anyone who came close to their habitat.
The fate of their expedition made international news and catapulted Harry’s reputation into the stratosphere. Early one morning, one of the Yeti seized Dixie and carried her to their lair deep within a system of mountain caves, where they kept her bound and imprisoned. In a desperate bid to find and rescue Dixie, Harry, along with aid from the Mongolian Police forces, tracked the Yeti to the cave system. After fending off several attacks by the large creatures, Harry and the police found and rescued Dixie and began their exit from the large underground cave.
But the Yeti followed.
In a daring escape that involved blowing up part of the cave system, Harry and Dixie made their way to the surface. The final, violent confrontation with their pursuers ended with one man dead and their leader arrested.
Back in the States, Harry’s fame spread through academic circles. He appeared on talk shows, lectured at various universities, wrote a paper with Dr. Kesler. Amidst all the hoopla, he and Dixie were married and she finished her doctorate. After a honeymoon and some much-needed rest, Dr. Kesler argued that they should return to the Altai and bring back tangible evidence of the Yeti’s existence. After receiving a call from the monastery abbot, informing them of the Yeti’s whereabouts, they once again mounted an expedition to locate them.
They were successful beyond their wildest dreams. Not only were they able to find a group of the creatures, with the help of local labor, they managed to capture a pair of Yeti. They returned to the States with a male and a female, which they kept at a special facility in the Nevada mountains. It had been dangerous work but sedating the two animals, using tranquilizer darts, made the work easier and somewhat safer. They secured cages and placed the Yeti on a freighter going to San Francisco. Sadly, a few months later, Professor Kesler succumbed to a fatal heart attack while working in his university office. Harry and Dixie were stunned.
“He was a great man,” Dixie said, her voice near a whisper. “And a good man.”
“One thing is for sure,” Harry said, “it won’t be easy to replace a man like him. He was a giant in our field. And so well liked. With all the competition, that’s unusual in academia.”
“I remember him as a kind person, always patient with students and faculty alike. I miss him, honey.”
The couple sat in silence for a few moments, then Dixie sighed. “I tell you this, sweetie, two trips to the Altai are about all my nerves can stand. I’m not sure I’m up for another. I couldn’t believe Professor left you his house here in San Mateo. It was unbelievable.”
“Yes, it was. I was overcome. I never suspected anything like this and Professor never spoke about it.”
“He had no other family?”
“Not that I am aware of,” Harry said. “He spoke once of a lost love but he never married. Never had any children.”
“No brothers or sisters?”
“I guess not. If he did, they have died, quite possibly. What little money he had accumulated he left to the university.”
“It’s such a lovely house,” Dixie said. “I love the view of the bay.”
“More than I ever could afford.”
“Well, now that you are chairman of the department, you deserve a house like this. I’m glad the president followed Professor’s wishes and made you chairman. You’ve worked hard for a lot of years.”
“I never expected to get the job under these conditions--with him dying, I mean. It’s an honor, to be sure, but I’m finding out that there’s a lot of work involved. And internal politics.”
“Yeah, that new archeologist wants his own lab. What’s his name?”
“Bernard Wickingham. That’s Dr. Wickingham, excuse me.”
“He does seem to be eaten up with self-importance,” Dixie said, now offering a smile. “Pretty stuck on himself, I’ve noticed.”
“I’ve told him time and again that there’s no available space for a lab. And being the newest faculty member, there’s no money either. I’ve told him, ‘get a grant and we’ll see.’ But he doesn’t seem to understand.”
“Well, honey, he’s new. Time may mellow him. It did you.”
Dixie laughed and winked at her husband. She loved poking the bear now and then.
“Very funny, my dear. Very funny.”
But she could see the corners of his mouth turn up in a faint smile. She stood. “Coming to bed soon?”
“Yeah, in a little bit. I’m about finished here.”
Dixie bent over his chair and peered over his shoulder. She put a hand on the back of his neck and massaged his tense muscles. “What’s all this?”
“Something I found in Kesler’s files,” Harry said. “Something profoundly unusual.”
“It has to do with the Primate Research Facility. You know how Professor and the woman who is the head of the DNA lab, what’s her name?”
“Dr. Rawlings,” Dixie said. “Chloe Rawlings.”
“Yes. Professor and Dr. Rawlings took on a long-term project to decipher the Yeti’s complete genome. It was one of a number of things we were studying with the animals.”
“So?” Dixie said, leaning farther over his shoulder to study the papers on the desk.
“If I’m reading these notes correctly, they may have discovered a segment of mitochondrial DNA identical to that found in humans.”
“Harry, are you serious?” Dixie’s tone was now clipped with an anxious edge.
“I can’t be for sure, but I need to speak with Dr. Rawlings then make a trip to the facility and check it out. It’s been over a month since we’ve been up there.”
“You’re saying that there is a segment of Yeti DNA in our own genome?”
Harry nodded. “I don’t know. These notes aren’t that obvious. It seems that there are two identical segments of DNA, one in the Yeti and the other in the human genome.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What would that mean?”
“I’m no genetics expert, honey, but it might mean we are related to the Yeti in some way. Similar to the way humans and Neanderthals interbred thousands of years ago.”
“Wow,” was all Dixie could say.
“That’s why I need to get up to the research facility soon.”
“Well, when you do, I want to go along. I want to look at our Yeti again.”
“I would have thought--”
“I need to, honey,” Dixie interrupted. “Each time it gets easier. It’s just in my dreams that they come for me, that they take me away.”
Harry turned in his chair, pulled her onto his lap, and caressed her cheek with his hand. Her blonde hair fell in tussled curls above her shoulders and her dark eyes were moist.
“I understand, sweetie. Let’s go to bed.”
He turned off the desk lamp, and Dixie followed him into to their bedroom where she fell into his arms and a contented sleep.
© 2017 by Richard Edde