Read Joko Online

Authors: Karl Kofoed


BOOK: Joko
8.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Karl Kofoed


Karl Kafoed

FACT: 1884. US Newspapers report the capture of Bigfoot by a train crew. They call the Sasquatch Jacko and say: "He resembles a human being with one exception; his entire body, apart from his hands and feet, is covered in hair. He possesses extraordinary strength."

FACT: 1884. Bigfoot mysteriously disappears, presumably back into the wild.

FACT: 1880s. James Gilchrist Swan, one of the most distinguished pioneers of the American North West, spends much time in the wilderness and records Native American folklore and mysteries in his journal.

FACT: There is still a $1,000,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Bigfoot.

: In 19th Century America, young railroad hand Johnny and best friend Joko are on the run - from all mankind. Because the price on Joko's head is higher than that for the capture of any Wild West outlaw. He's Sasquatch; one of the last surviving members of the legendary and elusive Bigfoot race . a goldmine for unscrupulous circus and freak show owners. For a while, Johnny evades their relentless hunters by protecting Joko in civilization by passing him off as a moonstruck teenage boy. But when their stalkers get too close for comfort, the desperate runaways take to the wilds, where their roles are reversed, as Joko becomes Johnny's protector. In the wilderness, they meet the famous frontiersman James G. Swan, who takes them under his wing. But can a cunning disguise and modern education prepare the young Bigfoot for a place in the human race? Much more than a spellbinding adventure for readers of all ages: master story-teller Karl Kofoed seamlessly blends fact and myth to look at the world from two vastly different points of view and examine what it really means to be 'human'.

© Karl Kofoed 2006

Cover © Karl Kofoed 2006

The right of Karl Kofoed to be identified as the author has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN-10: 1-905202-63-6

ISBN-13: 978-1-905202-63-8

Electronic Version by Baen Books

eISBN: 978-1-62579-235-8

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s consent in any form other than this current form and without a similar condition being imposed upon a subsequent purchaser.

Any similarity between the characters and situations within its pages and places or persons, living or dead, is unintentional and co-incidental


For Janet; my true and abiding love.

About the Author

Karl Kofoed is a graphic artist with over 30 years of commercial experience. Karl describes himself as wearing two professional ‘hats ’. He is owner of Kofoed Design, specializing in graphic design, illustration, photo retouching and restoration. Deep Ice was Karl’s first venture into the world of traditional prose.

His other professional ‘hat’ is that of a science fiction illustrator and writer. He is well known to the SF community and has done scores of book covers and interior book and magazine illustrations.

Karl’s Galactic Geographic © feature ( appears in
Heavy Metal
magazine. Using his Macintosh computer he has single handedly designed, written, illustrated, and produced the
Galactic Geographic Annual 3003
, which he describes as “a coffee table book from the future”. Published by Chrysalis/Paper Tiger Books, it is now available at book stores everywhere.

Karl and his wife Janet, a popular jewelry designer, live in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, USA; a suburb of Philadelphia. They each have a daughter named Lisa, from previous marriages.


Part I

1878 Sumer

JOKO writ to rember

writ story

wake ferst time

sun rocks

big thing on 2 paths

make big snake sounds.

men see jokoo

joko climb rocks.

pain on head


joko in bear box

hate men

men with fire see joko

joko hate fire

johny there

Johnny Tilbury was a coalman on the British Columbia railroad’s daily run from Lytton to Yale. Used primarily for hauling timber, the train also carried mail, supplies, and a few passengers in the caboose. He worked the route after school for two summers and he loved it. But it wasn’t the train that captivated him.

The wilderness enfolded the train the moment it left the station. Soon, Johnny’s worries were behind him; replaced by the music of the engine and the rails; changing tone and timbre as the train rolled over gravel bed, bridge, or through a tunnel.

Shoveling coal into a firebox was hard and dirty work, but it afforded frequent breaks. When he had the chance, Johnny would watch the forest. With each turn of the track, even though Johnny knew it by heart, something unexpected always caught his eye; a deer, a grizzly, a new rock slide, or a fallen pine. This was mountain country, and in spite of the rail line that followed the mighty Fraser River, it was still wild, and anything could happen.

Johnny often thought of the men who had laid the track through the mountains. What must their lives have been like?

The Yale Sentinel sometimes told their stories; tales of giant bears, Indian attacks, mountain men, and legendary monsters. Johnny read them all. When he watched the forest, he would look deep into the shadows for those monsters, imagining they were watching him pass by, as curious about him as he was about them.

But Johnny never saw monsters. He saw all the animals, though; owls and eagles, deer, elk, moose, beaver, and bear.

Occasionally, if luck was on his side, he’d catch sight of an elusive bobcat or cougar, peering out at the iron monster as it cut through its land. Johnny’s sharp eyes had spotted them all and wondered what they thought of him, the intruder in their kingdom. Somehow, Johnny knew that most people feared the wild, and they showed it by calling its animals monsters.

People said the wilderness called to Johnny. Maybe it did.

He often wondered if the fabled sasquatch – the hairy men of the north – weren’t just the usual creatures of the woods seen by frightened people; people who thought nature should be tamed. Johnny thought humans, always hungry for land and riches, were the true monsters in the woods.

Johnny hated cruelty and greed because as a boy he had seen more than enough of both. As soon as he could leave home he did so. Now his mom was gone. Dead of consumption, the doctor had said. Dead of loneliness and disillusionment, said his aunt.

Killed by a monster
, thought Johnny.
A father and husband who’d been lured by gold

But on the sunny afternoon, late in June of the year 1876, Johnny wasn’t watching for monsters. He was thinking about vacation. He had two days coming to him and figured to spend it in Yale. The town where his aunt lived was going to have its first Fair with games, celebrations and even fireworks. Some of the locals were surprised at the hoopla.

After all, Yale was a former Gold Rush town whose miners now worked for the expanding railroad.

The train worked its way up the Old Fork grade. The steam locomotive was working hard to make the grade. As it reached the top and turned a bend a steam valve blew and the train slowed.

Ned Austin, the assistant engineer, growled angrily.

“Goddam thing. I knew it would pop again. It happens every cursed time.” He closed the throttle and applied the brake.

Johnny straightened up and put down his shovel. As he quickly scanned the surroundings his eye caught something dark at the foot of a bluff about a hundred feet ahead. “Hey, Ned, what’s that?”

“The damn valve,” answered Ned in disgust.

“No,” said Johnny. “Near the tracks, by the bluff.”

Ned peered in the direction Johnny was pointing. There was no doubt. Something was lying a few feet from the tracks.

“Might have fallen,” said Ned. “A bear or somethin’?”

As the train came to a stop, Ned gave the whistle a couple of quick toots thinking he might wake up whoever or whatever was lying by the tracks. He was going to tell Johnny to run back and tell the conductor about the valve but Johnny was already out of the cab and on the ground trotting toward the thing on the tracks.

On the ground it was hard for Johnny to see the outline of the animal and the bright sun made it even harder. Johnny squinted at the dark lump as he stepped carefully forward trying hard to step quietly on the gravel bed. Johnny mumbled quietly to himself, “What are you?”

“Careful, Johnny,” Ned called out, still in the engine cab.

“Bears are mean if they’re hurt.”

It wasn’t a bear. It was shaped more like a man. It lay fa ce down in the sand by the tracks, its head obscured by a patch of weeds. The body was covered with short black fur.

Johnny had seen pictures of apes, and he knew this was no ape. He could see the animal’s chest rise and fall as it breathed.

Johnny heard footsteps approaching from behind. It was Ned and three crewmen trudging noisily forward. He noticed the conductor, J. C. Craig, carried a rifle at the ready.

Johnny put a finger to his mouth. “Quiet. You’ll spook it.”

“What the hell is it? Some kind of ape?” asked Ned, peering past Johnny. Ned’s eyes widened and he grabbed Johnny’s arm and pulled him away from the animal. “Look out,” Ned whispered. “I think it’s awake!”

Johnny turned to see the animal crouched on all fours looking at him, its strangely human face looking bewildered and in pain. It turned its head and looked up the bluff while rubbing the side of its head. Then, with great effort, it rose up and stood on its hind legs. It remained standing twenty yards away from Johnny, swaying slightly, apparently not sure of what to do.

It was half man and half ape. The face seemed almost human.

And behind the eyes,
thought Johnny,
there was definitely somebody home.
Johnny was sure they had before them a bonafide original – a new animal.

Although it swayed in apparent pain, it stood solidly on two legs, like a man.

It stood over five feet tall and its coarse black fur glistened with red highlights. The short hair covered its body completely like a thin suit of clothes, except for its face, which looked almost comical. Ned said it looked like a man in a gorilla suit.

Suddenly, the race was on. The creature bolted up the bluff and in an amazingly short time was halfway to the top.

But as it desperately scrambled up the loose rocks, a cloud of dirt and rock tore loose under it and the animal fell over backward. With astonishing agility it flipped in the air and managed to cling to the cliff face.

Bill Costerson, a railroad agent, had positioned himself near the edge of the rock outcropping and was quick to react when the creature began its climb. Costerson had an easier path to the top of the bluff, and in a few seconds he was at the top, looking down at the creature, a pistol in his hand.

Below him the creature squatted, trapped. There was no way up the bluff. Considering a retreat, it looked down at Johnny. Again, Johnny looked into the animal’s eyes, and again came the feeling he was looking at a human. Suddenly he became more concerned for its welfare.

As Johnny feared, Craig had his rifle aimed and was about to shoot. Johnny shouted at him, waving his arms frantically. “No! We should take it alive! Don’t fire, J. C.”

Craig lowered his gun. “Yeah? Who’s gonna do that?”

But before Johnny could answer he noticed Costerson poised twenty feet above the creature holding a large rock.

Without hesitation he let the rock fall.

The frightened beast never saw Costerson. The rock hit him squarely on the back of the head and he slid back down the bluff, ending up almost exactly where Johnny had first spotted him.

“Bagged him!” called Costerson in triumph.

Before the train pulled into Yale, the four men had a meeting over the trussed and bound creature they had stowed in the mail car. They had decided to keep everything quiet for a while. In a town as small as Yale it’s nearly impossible to hide anything. News of ‘Jocko’, as Costerson had taken to calling the creature, would spread quickly. Ned, the engineer, was quick to point out they were ahead of schedule when they stopped at the bluff so when they arrived in Yale they would be right on time. They all grinned.

“That should give us an edge,” said Craig.

Johnny remained quiet through the meeting. He was the youngest of the group and held no rank. The other three did most of the talking.

“Then it’s agreed,” said Cos terson. “As soon as we get to Yale we wrap ol’ Jocko, here, in a tarp and take him to Doc Hannington’s.”

It had been almost an hour since Jocko had been hit by the rock. As far as Johnny knew the beast might never wake up. He had watched helplessly, nearly calling out, when the rock fell; stood by uselessly as the other men tied their catch up and dumped it among the mailbags.

When the train stopped in Yale, Costerson and Craig kept prying eyes from the baggage car while Johnny and Ned toted Jocko into a s hed full of sacks of potatoes.

Following orders, Johnny ran to fetch Dr Hannington. It took no more than fifteen minutes for Johnny to locate the doctor having lunch at Mitzie’s Saloon and Eatery.

The doctor recognized Johnny instantly. “Johnny Tilbury.

Some trouble on the train or a more personal malady?”

“Not exactly,” said Johnny quietly. “I need to talk to you.”

“Well,” said the doctor with a broad smile, “no fee for a consultation, but can’t this wait ’till I’m done eating?” he pointed a fork toward the kitchen. “Mitzie promised me some salmonberry cobbler.”

“Sorry to disturb you like this, Doctor Hannington, but you’re needed right away.”

The doctor took a napkin from his collar and tossed it next to his dinner plate. “Well now,” he said sternly. “An emergency? Why didn’t you say so? Mitzie,” he called out toward the kitchen. “Hold my cobbler for later, if you don’t mind. I’ve got to see to young Tilbury’s needs.”

Mitzie’s melodious voice acknowledged the doctor as he and Johnny left the cafe. The doctor made a quick stop at his office to pick up his bag then he and Johnny headed toward the rail yard.

By the time they got to the shed Johnny had told the doctor all about the mysterious creature. Johnny opened the weathered wooden door and Ned’s voice invited the doctor inside.

The shed was very dark and streamers of white light spilled into it. “There’s no light in here, gents,” said the doctor.

“How do you expect a body to see?”

Ned, Costerson, and Craig were standing in a half circle with a dark figure lying at their feet.

“What have you got there, Ned?” Doc Hannington stepped forward and nodded politely to each of the men, though his attention remained focused on the animal. Johnny stood close behind Hannington, eager to see what the doctor would make of the creature. Ned didn’t answer. He seemed a little sad as watched the unconscious animal.

“What, indeed.” The doctor took off his hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “It looks like you gents might need a veterinarian, not a doctor.”

“Maybe so,” said Costerson. “But right now you’re all we got.”

“What do you make of it, Doc?” asked Ned.

The doctor knelt beside the figure and cautiously reached out to touch it. He could feel blood caked in the fur on the back of the beast’s head. He was quiet for several seconds as he continued his examination of the creature. Then he stood up, his back creaking a bit as he rose. The doctor looked shaken as he examined the faces of everyone in the room. He knew everyone but Costerson, who stood as far from the creature as possible, trying to look casual as he smoked a cheroot and fingered his sidearm. The doctor squinted at Costerson for a moment.

“Railroad agent,” he said, nodding to the doctor.

“Costerson’s the name. I bagged the thing.”

“Tell me everything,” said Hannington.

Jocko opened his eyes and didn’t understand what he saw.

He was in a cage that had been the recent home of a pregnant grizzly bear. Jocko didn’t know the grizzly by name but he knew the animal and how it smelled. His senses felt it was there, with him in the cage. Its emotions, fear and pain, had leached into the cage, and Jocko felt them with every contact he had with the iron bars and the wooden frame. He tried to remember how he got there. Then his head throbbed with pain and it all came back to him. He recalled the bluff and the men.

Jocko peered at the interior of the shed through a mist of pain and confusion. There were five men in the shed with him and they had put him in the cage. He could smell it as he began examining the human faces that stared at him. One by one, he remembered … and looked squarely into Johnny’s eyes.

Jocko looked Johnny over, trying to see details in the darkness of the strange structure that surrounded them. Was he in a human lair? Fear rose in Jocko’s heart as he looked around the cage, then around the room. The last rays of orange light told him that the day had ended. He thought of his family, roaming the deep woods. Where had they gone?

Where they also trapped by men? Then he remembered falling from the bluff.

Jocko remembered falling. Being hit from behind.

Suddenly, he knew he was alone and at the mercy of humans. He let out a moan. And it grew louder and louder until the boards of the shed began to shake.

“Damnation!” cried Costerson. “That heathen sound. I’ve heard it before … long ago.”

“Well, shut it up,” shouted Craig. “We don’t want the whole town comin’ here!”

Jocko closed his eyes and tears rolled down his cheeks.

He curled into a ball and seemed to vanish in the shadows of the cage.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Johnny turned and left the shed. The doctor and the other three men watched him leave.

BOOK: Joko
8.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Sentinel Mage by Gee, Emily
Alone by Kate L. Mary
Forever Yours by Boudreaux, Marci
My Soul Keeper by Ker Dukey
The Bookie's Daughter by Heather Abraham
Paterson (Revised Edition) by William Carlos Williams
The Vampiric Housewife by Kristen Marquette
Hawke's Tor by Thompson, E. V.