By Tara Roberts
She glances out. “Please don’t let it be another angry moose,” she says, and when she sees it’s not, she shrugs. “Must be skiers or something.”
“No, look. Next to the tent.”
“The dog? What about it?”
“That’s not a dog,” I say. I’m sure it’s not. It’s curled up on the ground, but not the way a dog would be, nose on paws. It’s lying on its side, its furry back to us, the clear shape of shoulders and tucked head.
Jamie doesn’t speak, just veers away from the creek we’ve been following and starts through the trees toward the camp. I follow.
As we approach I see the creature is sleeping, its chest gently rising and falling. It reminds me of how my son sleeps, tucked up in a little ball. A small blue blanket pads the creature from the snow, but it hasn’t covered itself from the biting cold. It is covered in silky, coffee-brown hair.
Jamie turns to me, her eyebrows scrunched together in something between concern and fear. “Someone brought a chimp into the forest?”
A hideous smell reaches us then — sour and sharp, like sick dogs in a hot car. It doesn’t seem to be coming from the creature, but surrounding the whole camp in a cloud. I gag and Jamie claps her hands over her mouth.
“Something is wrong about this,” she says, her voice muffled by mittens. “Everything is wrong about this.”
I hesitate — it still feels strange to intrude on someone’s camp — but Jamie steps closer. About 10 feet from the creature she freezes and waves frantically. When I reach her, I can see why.
It’s not a chimp. It — he — is not anything I’ve ever seen before. Not in a zoo, not in pictures. He’s a primate, with short, knobby fingers and toes. The thick hair covers his body, even the tops of his feet and his face, except for the wide mouth and closed eyes. He cradles a corner of the blanket against his rounded stomach. He sighs in his sleep.
Jamie and I stare at each other. Neither of us care anymore about the stench or the cold, or anything but the creature. Sasquatch. Bigfoot. A baby.
I notice, then, the thin chain tangled in the hair on his neck. It wraps around the tree, fastened with a thick lock.
“Whoever’s camp this is, they must be coming back soon,” Jamie says.
I nod, unable to stop watching the Sasquatch. “Are you going to record? Take pictures?”
She pauses, and I realize she’s already holding her phone in her hand. “I don’t know.”
I understand. The story of the century is curled at our feet, but it’s so vulnerable. So small.
“One picture,” I say. “With the camp in the background. Make sure it’s clear.”
Jamie nods. Whatever we decide on later, for now we have to document what we’ve found before we do what I know we have to do.
To be continued next week …
Roberts is a writer and mom who lives and works in Moscow and is very slowly pursuing her master’s degree in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.