Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Strange Prisoner - short story

Dak and the Strange Prisoner

Dak had been riding his dirt bike, Dr. Zuk, on Forest Service roads all afternoon, looking for a good place to put a deer stand in the fall. Late afternoon he headed home. The phone was ringing as he walked in the door.

"Hey Dak, this is Uncle Jim speaking. I have a little adventure planned if you're interested."

"If it's adventure, you know I'm interested. What is it?"

"Come by my office first thing in the morning and I'll tell ya."

"I'll be there," Dak said and hung up, wondering what Uncle Jim had in mind. Uncle Jim was the head Game and Fish agent for the region.

Dak was waiting on the steps of Uncle Jim's office when he arrived the next morning.

"Kinda anxious aren't ya," Uncle Jim greeted.

"Curious anyway," Dak replied.

"Okay, come on in while I make a pot of coffee, and I'll fill you in on the details."

Jim poured them each a cup of coffee and leaned back in his chair. "I've built up a real backlog of vacation time and if I don't take some of it, I'm gonna lose it."

"As you know, we're trying to re-establish the black bear population around here. I've been talking to some of the game management people in British Columbia. It seems they have a large bear population up there and I'd like to talk to them in person and see it for myself."

"So," said Dak, "where's the adventure?"

"Well, it's about 6,000 miles round trip. So, I'm thinkin what I'd like to do is take the Suzuki Vstrom with the sidecar and make it a month long camping trip. And, if I take the hack, it would be kinda nice to have a monkey in it."

"So, your inviting me along to be your hack monkey?"

"That's it. You willing to go?"

"You betcha. When are we leaving?"

"How does the first of July sound? That way we can miss a month of the hot Ozark weather."

"Let's see, that'll be in about six weeks. Sounds good to me," Dak said as he headed out of the office to tell all his friends, knowing they would be jealous.

By the time July first rolled around, Dak had outfitted himself with a new sleeping bag and tent. He already had a good helmet he used when riding Dr. Zuk, but he bought a new set of raingear. He'd read that Western British Columbia was a rain forest. He packed a couple pairs of jeans and a half dozen pairs of shorts, socks, and undershirts. He also took along some tee shirts, sweatshirts and a light jacket. He was ready to go.

The guys packed their gear the night before, and Dak was waiting in Jim's driveway for Jim to wake up the next morning. They pulled out of the driveway at 8 o'clock sharp. Jim's plan was to head straight north to Winnipeg and then take the Trans-Canada Highway west to B.C.

It was already 80 degrees when they left, though Dak was wearing his leathers for protection; he had all four of his jacket vents open so a breeze could pass through and keep him cool. It was going to feel good to escape the summer heat for a month.

Dak had only been out of Stone and Baxter counties twice in his life: once to go to Little Rock and once to go to Fayetteville. He had heard in a joke somewhere that Canadian women were either hookers or hockey players and was eager to learn a little about hockey.

Jim planned to make 500 miles a day and they managed to stay on schedule. But, for a boy from the Ozarks, the drive through the prairie states and provinces was pretty boring. But, by the end of the fourth day the Canadian Rockies appeared in the west and by the fifth day they were in them.

Dak sucked in his breath as he gazed at the mountains, his mouth wide open. "Wow," was all he could say. They had pulled into a rest stop.

"Pretty amazing for a boy from the Ozarks," Jim said.

"Ya," said Dak. "What are they called?"

"The Rockies."

"How high are they?"

"I read that in the Canadian Rockies there are 50 peaks over 11,000 feet."

"Just for comparison, what's the highest peak in Arkansas,?" Dak asked.

"Mount Magazine at 2,753 feet," Jim responded, "and we'd better push on."

While riding through Kicking Horse Pass, Jim pulled up in front of a sign that read "Continental Divide" so he could take a picture of the sign and his rig.

"What's the Continental Divide?" Dak asked.

"It means if you pee on that side of the sign, your pee will wind up in the Atlantic Ocean," Jim said. "Pee on the other side and it will wind up in the Pacific, but don't do it now. Just on the other side of the Divide is the town of Field and Yoho National Park where we're going to camp for the night. Never pee uphill from your camp."

They pulled into the park and found a welcome camp site. Dak climbed out of the hack and stared at the mountains. "Just look at it," was all
he could say.

Jim got out his map and travel guide. It says we're camped at the foot of 10,496 foot Mount Stephens."

"Wow, that's two miles high," Dak said.

"Ya, but that's starting from sea level. The pass we just went through was 5,300 feet high so you're only seeing a mile high or so from here. Pretty spectacular, huh!"

"Sure is! I'll race ya to the top."

Jim just laughed and went about setting up camp. It was still early afternoon so they took the rig into Field for a little sight seeing. While Jim was talking to the lady at the counter of the visitor center, Dak browsed the books on display about British Columbia. He jumped back as if something was about to bite him when he spotted the title Sasquatch of British Columbia. He picked up the book and thumbed through it.

"Let's go," he heard Jim say.

"Just a second; I've gotta buy this book."

Back at the camp Jim cooked some supper and he and Dak sat down to eat. "What was the book you bought?" Jim asked.

"Sasquatch of British Columbia," Dak replied.

"Why the interest in Sasquatch?"

"I don't know. I was just surprised they've been spotted up here."

"I was talking to your grandpa the other day and he tells me you claim to have seen one up around the caverns a while back."

"Not the caverns. It was up on Green Road."

"Up where you found the panther?"

"Ya. Up in that area."

"Why do I get the feeling there's more to the panther story than you're telling me?"
"Probably because there is."

"So, when are you going to tell me?"

"I'm not, Uncle Jim. You're an officier of the law and if I told you, you'd have to do something about it. The only thing that would be accomplished would be to mess up somebody's life that doesn't deserve it."

"Why don't you just let me be the judge?"

"I trust you Uncle Jim, but you're just gonna have to take my word that the panther story had a happy ending. Let's just leave it at that."

"I guess I'll have to if you're not talking.”

The next day Dak and Jim pulled into Williams Lake. “I think we will make this town our headquarters for a few days,” Jim said. “The provincial foresters work out of a regional office here as well as First Nation biologists.”

“What do you mean First Nation?”

“The Indians. They don’t like to be called Indians. Besides, it’s confusing when there are so many people from India who have immigrated here.”
Since it was going to be home for a few days, they searched around until they found a great campground, one with good showers, a rec room, and access to a computer.

The next morning Jim and Dak rode to the Fish and Wildlife branch office where Jim met up with biologist Sean O’Daly and Ivan Loonsong, a forester with First Nation.

“So you’re trying to re-establish a black bear population in Arkansas,” Sean commented. “You’ve come at a good time. Ivan and I are beginning a new field study on the Chilcotin Plateau and you can get a first hand look for the next week.”

“That’s fine for you Uncle Jim,” Dak said, “but I’m not really interested in black bears.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Ivan said. “I’ll introduce you to my son, Alex. He’s sixteen. Jim won’t need the motorcycle while he’s with us, so you and Alex can explore the plateau and he can show you some of the sights around here. Maybe he’ll take you down THE HILL to Bella Coola.

Next morning Jim and Dak met up with the other guys at the Fish and Wildlife branch office. Jim, Sean, and Ivan loaded their gear in a government suburban and drove off. “I guess that’s the last we’ll see of them for a week,” Dak said to Alex. “Let’s take the rig over to Tim Hortons for some coffee and donut holes and make some plans.”

They got their donut holes and coffee and settled down at a table. Dak asked, “What are we gonna do for the next week?”

“Well,” Alex said, “Your visit won’t be complete until you’ve gone down THE HILL to Bella Coola. It’s about eleven miles long with grades up to 18 per cent. It’s a gravel road with narrow one lane sections and it descends 4,000 feel into the valley.”

“Sounds like a great motorcycle road,” Dak said. “I’ve been reading about Sasquatch in British Columbia. Have there been any sightings in the area where we’re going?”

As soon as he asked the question, Dak could tell he shouldn’t have. Alex looked surprised and then wouldn’t look Dak in the eye anymore. He took a long time thinking about his answer before he spoke. And, when he answered, his voice was barely over an embarrassed whisper.

“First Nation people don’t like to talk to white man about Sasquatch. We believe in them and many of my people have seen them, but the whites don’t and they make fun of us when we talk about them.”

“Oh no! I’m not making fun,” Dak said. “I’ve had a personal encounter with a Sasquatch and I want to learn more about them.”

“Really?” Alex said. “You’re not joking.”

“No, I’m not joking,” Dak said, knowing it wasn’t quite the truth.

“Well,” Alex began reluctantly, “I’ll tell you what I know and then we’ll decide what to do.”

“To begin with, my people don’t need a lot of proof about Sasquatch, we just believe they exist. But, we have seen so much evidence. My ancestors have reported hundreds of sightings and even several of my friends and neighbors have seen them. Aside from the sightings, many footprints have been seen and casts have been made of them.”

“Why do you think so many have been seen by your people?” Dak asked.

“Because we believe in them. So when we see one, we don’t try to explain it as something else. Also, I believe we are on a Sasquatch migration route.”

Why a migration route?” Dak asked.

“Well, some of us believe they live in the earth. There’s an entrance into the earth somewhere in the Arctic. They often come to the surface in search of food and adventure and they migrate down the coastal areas.”

“With all these sightings, why hasn’t anyone shot or captured one by now?”

“To begin with, why would we want to kill or capture one? No wonder white men don’t get to see them very often.”

“You talk like getting to see one is a privilege.”

“It is. Some of my people have even seen whole families of ‘em. But, the real reason they have never been captured is because they walk in two worlds, the physical and the spiritual. They can transform themselves into other world beings when they sense danger.”

“Very interesting,” Dak said. “They are sighted occasionally in Arkansas. My grandpa said he thinks they are just feral people, people who went off in the wild to live and that I just happened to see one by chance. However, I like your explanation better. Anyway, we’re not gonna see anything sittin’ here. Let’s get our gear and head out.”

The guys climbed on the rig, Dak on the bike and Alex in the sidecar and drove to the RV park to get Dak’s stuff. “Where do you live?” Dak asked.

“West of Williams Lake at Riske Creek. We can stop there on our way.” A quick stop at Riske Creek and they were on their way.

“How far is it to Bella Coola?” Dak asked.

“About 420 kilometers. Two hundred and sixty miles in your language.”

“Is that all? We should easily be there by late afternoon. Have you ever ridden in a sidecar rig?”

“Not lately.”

“It’s neither a car nor a motorcycle. When we go around corners, try to shift your weight to the inside of the curve.”

With that, the guys were off, heading west on Highway 20 across the Chilcotin Plateau. Late afternoon, they came to the end of pavement and the crest of THE HILL. As if the rapid downward slope of the road weren’t warning enough, there was a sign claiming 18 per cent grades.

“Wow!” thought Dak, “in the states a sign of nine per cent grade warns trucker to use lower gears. Quickly he realized there were no guard rails to keep them from skidding over the three or four hundred foot drop on the left side and to certain death. Even so, he couldn’t resist the thrill of turning the hill into an amusement park ride. As they entered a hairpin curve to the right, the road narrowed until it was barely a lane wide. The two of them were laughing and screaming as the car wheel began to rise off the roadway. Dak grabbed the front brake which brought the wheel back to the ground and sent the back and side wheels into a slide. The rig came to a stop with the sidecar wheel at the edge of the road with Alex nearly hanging over the drop off.

In spite of shaking hands and weak knees, the guys laughed as Dak engaged the clutch and headed the rig down hill. They were on the way again, this time a bit slower, but not much. They soon reached the bottom of the hill and were again back on pavement.

“Wow,” was all Dak could say as he caught his breath. “That was some ride. Shall we try it again?”

“I think we’d better head on to Bella Coola,” Alex said, “but it sure was fun.”

It was late afternoon as they registered for a campsite at the Bella Coola Motel and RV Park and got their camp set up.

“There’s a little restaurant over on MacKenzie street. Let’s walk over there for supper, Alex said. “We might run into someone I know. Most of the people here are First Nation.”

They had hardly started eating when Alex’s friend, Ned, came in. “Alex, what are you doing in town?” Ned asked.

“Showing my friend from Arkansas the sights around the Plateau,” Alex said. “This is my friend Dak. Dak, this is Ned.”

“Please to meet you,” Dak greeted. “Why don’t you sit down and join us?”

“Sounds good,” Ned said as he took a seat at the table. “So, where are ya staying?”

“Over at the RV Park. We’re camping,” Alex said.

“What are ya gonna do tomorrow?”

“Haven’t decided yet,” Alex said. “Any suggestions?”

“If you’re looking for adventure, you might go over to the old Talleo Cannery across the Arm.”

“What’s over there?”

“Don’t know. I’ve seen strange lights over there the past few nights. It’s supposed to be abandoned.”

“Sounds interesting. How are we gonna get over there? It’s a long walk around the end of the arm.”

“There’s a high tide this evening. I’ve got an old row boat tied up down at the dock. Row over there, spend the night, and come back on the high tide tomorrow.”

“Is anybody living over there?” Alex asked.

“Sometimes. There’s a fella who ran an inn over there for a few years, but he closed ‘er down a couple of years ago. Sometimes he’s there but mostly not. He’s been gone for the past few weeks, so there shouldn’t be any activity over there.”

That evening, Dak and Alex loaded their camping gear in Ned’s boat and started across the inlet. It was growing dark by the time they got to Tallheo Cannery. They rowed the boat under one of the abandoned warehouses built on pilings out over the water.

Darkness settled in by the time Dak and Alex had set up a camp inside the warehouse. Through a crack between the boards in the warehouse wall, they could see a light coming from an old cabin on the shore. “Looks like we have company,” Alex said.

“Ya. I guess we came over here to find out who it might be. What do you say we slip over there and sneak a peek in that window?”

It was a quiet night as the guys stumbled through the darkness. They squatted behind a tree near the cabin and waited a few moments as they calmed themselves and let their eyes adjust to the night light. Dak was the first to peek in as they sneaked up to the window. “Holy mackerel!” he exclaimed. in a whisper as he motioned Alex to take a look.

“I can’t believe it,” Alex said.

In one corner of the room squatted a Sasquatch, looking very much like a huge gorilla taken captive. He was covered with a net which was locked tight. Two heavily bearded men sat at a table playing cards and passing a bottle of whisky back and forth. A Doberman was stretched out on the floor dozing and there were two guns leaning against the wall in the corner.

Dak and Alex quietly crawled away from the window. “I thought you said a Sasquatch couldn’t be caught because it could transform itself into a spirit being,” Dak said.

“They can. Maybe this one is sick or something. What are we gonna do? We can’t leave it there, but those two guys are armed and look pretty dangerous. And, there’s that dog. He’s gonna be a problem.”

“Let’s sneak back up to the window and see if we can hear ‘em talk. Maybe we’ll learn something,” Dak said.

They crept back and crouched under the window. There were cracks in the old walls and the building lacked any insulation. They put their ears next to the boards and listened intently.

“So, you finally got yourself a Sasquatch. Just what do you propose we do with it, sell it on Ebay?” The first one said as he laid down his cards.

“Not exactly,” the other one replied, “but there are plenty of people waitin’ to find proof that they exist. He put up one heck of a fight. I’m just hopin’ I don’t have to shoot him just to get him out of here.”

“When Rick comes in on the high tide tomorrow, he might not want the thing on his boat alive. He might not even want the thing on his boat dead. It stinks pretty bad.”

“We’ll see when he gets here. I’ll shoot it if I have to, but I don’t like the idea. If some scientist classifies him as a sub-human or even a human species, we could be up for murder.”

“Self defense. Who’ll know the difference.”

Dak and Alex slowly worked their way back to the warehouse. “We’ve got to set that Sasquatch free,” Alex said.

“I agree, but we need a plan and quick. Those two look real dangerous and I think they’d kill us too.”

“Ya, but we have to risk it. It would be very bad luck for this whole valley to have Sasquatch blood spilled here,” Alex said. “And, I’d never be able to live with myself.”

“Okay Alex, I think I’ve got a plan. It looks to me like they are gonna play cards and drink that whole bottle of whisky.”

“Ya, I think you’re right.”

“We’ll watch for their light to go out and then we’ll give ‘em a half hour. I don’t imagine they lock the door, so we’ll slip in. The dog will attack, so let me go in first and take care of him while you grab the guns in the corner. Did you notice what kind of guns they were?”

“They were just a couple of pump action shotguns.”

“Do you know how to shoot ‘em?”


“Good, then we’ll take a chance they’re loaded. While you keep a shotgun on the two men, I’ll cut the Sasquatch out of the net.”

“Okay, but what are you gonna do with the dog?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of him.”

The fellows packed all their gear and put it back in the boat for a quick get away and then watched the light. It went out shortly after midnight. By then the Milky Way and moon glowed softly in the night and there was plenty of light as Dak and Alex made their way back to the cabin.

As they approached the cabin, Dak signaled to stop and listen. “I don’t hear the dog fussing and he surely knows we’re out here. That’s a bad sign,” Dak said.


“It means he’s a trained guard dog. He’s probably waiting right behind that door. As soon as we open it even a crack, he’ll be on us, so be prepared. Let me open the door and you rush past me as soon as the dog and I tangle.”

The fellows eased their way around to the front of the house and up onto the porch. Dak turned the door knob and as the door opened, a black shadowy form made a leap at him. Dak was ready. He had the fingers on his right hand extended flat and his thumb stretch out as far as he could extend it, making a nice web between the thumb and fingers. He jammed the webbing as far into the dogs open mouth as he could and wrapped his thumb and fingers around the hound’s lower jaw. He grabbed the dog’s nose with his other hand, moving the nose and lower jaw in opposite directions, separating the animal’s upper and lower jaw. He heard a loud crack as the dog’s jaws broke apart and the hound ran from the cabin letting out painful yelps, its lower jaw dangling useless.

The critter had extracted a price though. Dak’s hand was bloody and hurting, but he was right behind Alex who had side stepped the struggle and was running into the house.

“We got trouble,” Dak yelled. “There’s plenty of booze left in that bottle.”

“We have even bigger problems,” Alex said, as he pulled the pump back on the shotgun. “The guns aren’t loaded.”

The two men were stumbling out of bed. Dak was on the net with his knife, cutting as fast as he could. The first man out of bed made a move for Alex. Alex grabbed the gun by the barrel and swung it like a club. The stock caught the man square on both shins and he crumpled to the floor in pain.

The second man rushed Dak . Dak saw him coming and ducked as the man leaped at him. From the corner of his eye he saw a hairy fist slam into the man’s jaw hard enough to knock him out. Dak got back to his feet and kept cutting until there was a hole big enough for the beast to crawl through.

The Sasquatch climbed from his prison and ran for the door with Dak and Alex right behind him. They could hear the two men jacking shells into their shotguns as they followed the Sasquatch across an open field and into the woods. They heard a couple of rounds go off and could hear buckshot whistle past as any thoughts about getting to their boat were abandoned.

It was tough keeping up with the beast, but he had led them to a trail. It was steep as they climbed the bluff behind the cannery. A couple of times the Sasquatch turned and reached back to pull them up. Finally, the trail leveled off a bit and the Sasquatch stopped to let the boys catch their breath.

They were safe now. They could hear the two men far below. They had given up the chase and turned back, concerned about their dog.

After Dak and Alex caught their breath, the Sasquatch stuck out his hand like he wanted to shake. The guys shook hands with him. He then pointed down the trail, as if to say, “go that way.” He then turned and started through the brush in the opposite direction. Just before he disappeared into the night, he turned and waved to the guys. Dak and Alex returned the wave and then turned and started down the trail.

“We’ll, I guess you got to see your Sasquatch,” Alex said.

“I guess I did,” Dak replied. “Just one thing puzzles me.”

“What’s that?

“If he walks in two worlds, why didn’t he just disappear before those two thugs took him prisoner?”

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