“But surely it’s not unreasonable to suppose a yeti can be taught to operate an automobile,” Henry Graybill fumed against the frosted windshield. The cheap Daihatsu wasn’t doing so well this high in the Himalayas. It’d been this way since he’d visited his brother Richard only to find the “Gone Preachin’” sign hung on his door. If only his brother hadn’t fraternized with those damn monks. They’d distorted his rational faculties. He’d heard how they’d even dowsed their naked bodies in cold water and sat out under freezing skies to meditate, their body temperatures rising to keep pace with the falling thermometer. What spiritual lesson had Richard possibly found in that?
The furry creature beside him in the driver’s seat was obviously intelligent, sympathetic even, but he was hopeless when it came to manual transmission. And hygiene. And Henry’s broken leg wasn’t healing itself.
It was hard on the eve of Whitsuntide, yet this high in the mountains Henry still felt the lingering drudgery of winter. He couldn’t blame the abominable snowman for having difficulty navigating these deeply rutted mountain roads—tracks, more like. Henry knew gangrene remained a serious danger in a situation like this, and the mythical beast in the driver’s seat was his only hope of not losing the leg—or his life—altogether. “Depress the clutch with your left foot,” he articulated slowly. “Check to ensure you’ve selected the proper gear.” The oversized hand on the negligible gearshift was perhaps part of the problem. Could the monster comprehend the schematic printed on the ball?
Why couldn’t Richard remain as loyal as when they were children? Brothers owe that to one another. The strain of constantly attempting to lure his brother back to reason had proved the most wearying experience of Henry’s adulthood. Lessons others learned while at university Richard seemed to have rejected. Becoming a preacher in an age of science placed Richard high in their mother’s esteem, but now that she needed his spiritual counsel he was nowhere to be found.
Not to spite her, Henry hoped.
Now that mother required them both, Henry had made the trip to Kathmandu and beyond to locate his high-minded sibling. It was Henry’s attempt to please her that led to this strange turn of events.
“Let the clutch out slowly as you depress the accelerator with your right foot.” He reached over and twisted the key again, stretching across the vast hairy shape wedged into the driver’s seat, the dirty fur pressing into his face. The wind fulminated outside. “Try it again.”
The Daihatsu choked threateningly. The accelerator pushed to the floor, the engine raced. The yeti slipped the clutch. With a sickening, violent lurch, the car stalled. Again. “Slowly!” Henry cried. “Release the clutch slowly!” He was never going to get off this mountain alive. Where was Richard, anyway? There was nothing for it but to try again.
The worst part of all was that Henry didn’t believe in the paranormal. Yetis, he knew, were a combination of mis-reported bears and tracks in the snow that had melted and refrozen into larger parodies of themselves. How this one had found him, had known to lift him into the vehicle, he couldn’t fathom. The pain had mercifully blacked him out. Shock is nature’s own opioid. He awoke surrounded by a musty smell somewhere between a wet dog and freshly broken fungus, strapped into the passenger seat. The looming, white, furry presence beside him.
How they eventually got down below the tree line, Henry could not comprehend. Yeti had probably popped the clutch and it’d jolted the car forward enough to get it rolling downhill. His monstrous friend was helpless with standard transmission, but steering was something anyone could do. When he opened his eyes they were near a smoky village nestled in the shelter of the mountain.
“How do you nurse your own mother?” he asked the beast filling the space beside him, knowing he couldn’t comprehend. “Parents—they live so long these days and the economy obstructs their children caring for them. Is it the same in yeti civilization? Or have you advanced beyond us? I’m here because I need to locate my irresponsible brother, seeking his own spiritual enlightenment. How selfish can one be?”
Henry swung open the door and almost tried to stand on his broken limb before he recalled he was immobile, fainting with pain. Yeti sensed these kinds of things and had soon scooped him up in noisome but warm fur and shuffled off toward the hamlet. The stench of his own leg wound reminded him that he was in no place to judge the washing habits of this impossible primate. A sudden crack like concentrated thunder stopped yeti in his tracks. Henry could hear the large heart thumping like a kettledrum build-up in the massive chest. “It’s only a rifle discharge,” he mumbled. “Nothing for a person to fear, my friend.” Yet yeti stood, as if lost in thought. As the reverberations from the report died down, Henry winced in pain. Yeti, concerned, plodded on toward the human habitation.
The room in which Henry awoke couldn’t be termed a proper hospital. Clearly it was intended as a place of care. His right leg, now splinted, ached dully. He recognized the somnambulant effects of opium, minimally administered. The memories of finding his brother gone, the sickening snap of bone as he slipped from the steep trail that led to Richard’s isolated hovel, forced themselves upon him. His foot wedging into the cleft of jagged rock as his body continued downward at gravity’s command. Fifty years of manhood sliding out of control. He heard the break before he felt it. Awaking in his hired car next to a creature he knew couldn’t exist. The yeti, he was certain, had saved his life. It couldn’t drive worth a damn, but it was as real as this wooden splint now strapped to his throbbing leg.
A wizened woman looked in on him. Struggling to make himself understood, he tried to ask about the yeti that had shown such kindness. His feverish head swam. The woman, warmly bundled in the peasant garb of the region, fussed about his immobile leg, not understanding his gibberish. What was the word they used here? What did they call the abominable snowman? His thoughts flailed here and there. Finally they stumbled upon a phrase. “Meh-Teh,” he muttered. The woman stopped her ministrations, eyes opened wide. “Meh-Teh,” he repeated, nodding his head. She quickly quitted the room. Henry lapsed into and out of sleep.
The sound of feet awoke him. Yeti, he thought, had returned. Instead his weary eyes revealed an aged Englishman, stooped but sincere. “Yeti,” Henry moaned.
“You must be still,” the old man responded. “I am Rev. Murphy, a missionary on this mountain for thirty years. I gather from your identification that you are related to Richard Graybill.”
“Brother,” Henry managed.
“So I had assumed. I know Richard. He came here as a missionary, like myself. Local culture has overwhelmed him, however. He’s gone his own way. Rest, my son. Aanchal will take care of you. She’s the local healer. Rest.” The missionary departed.
What kind of brother, Henry wondered in the delirium of half-sleep, absconded with family responsibility? Left an aging mother alone while he pursued his own self-fulfillment? And he called himself a religious man! Under the warm blanket of the village healer, his thoughts wandered back to the yeti. How had it known to help him? He’d been told it was a killer. A man-eater. Instead, its warmth and care had saved his life. Even brought him dangerously close to human habitation. Like a brother should. Where was Richard?
When Henry next opened his eyes, the hut seemed even more humble than before. The smoke from a constant fire made the air close, if warm. Curious locals could be espied through the small, clouded window. They seemed to be pointing at him. Their excited voices could be heard, but not understood. Henry strained his ears. Aanchal looked in and saw him wakeful. Some time later Rev. Murphy shuffled back in, heavy parka hiding his dangling cross. “How do you feel, my son?”
“My brother?” Henry asked.
“Ah. I had supposed you might be curious once the opium wore off. He’s become a village leader. Quite a celebrity, actually. Gave up the ministry long ago.”
“The locals read no English, my son. The use of the sign on his cabin door had been ironic from the beginning. He traded in his Bible for a Remington years ago. Leads hunting expeditions now. Still calls it ‘preaching.’ Leaves the sign up when he’s out on a hunt. Snow leopard’s found at these altitudes. Himalayan musk deer. Other exotics.”
Henry struggled to express his thoughts. The missionary didn’t understand him. The old man encouraged him to rest. The crack of a rifle jolted Henry back to consciousness.
“Don’t worry, my son,” soothed the cleric. “You’re safe here. Aanchal warned the villagers you’d been attacked by Meh-Teh, the yeti. Yes, we know they’re real. You mustn’t worry. Your brother has returned. He’s organizing a search party even now. Perhaps that shot we’ve just heard felled the horrid beast.”
Henry strained to object. Aanchal hurried in with her medication. As his eyes grew heavy under opium he heard the locals shouting with jubilation.
“Ah,” the minister smiled, gazing out the small window. “It seems they have destroyed the troublesome Meh-Teh after all.”
Henry bolted upright in his bed, tears exploding from his eyes. “My brother!” he screamed into the gathering darkness.