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Authors: Linell Jeppsen

Onio

BOOK: Onio
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Onio

 

By

 

Linell Jeppsen

 

 

World Castle Publishing

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

WCP

World Castle Publishing

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright
© Linell Jeppsen 2012

ISBN:
9781938961557

First
Edition World Castle Publishing December 1, 2012

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Licensing Notes

All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in articles and reviews.

Cover:
Joyce Bond

Editor:
Maxine Bringenberg

Acknowledgement

 

I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude
to Paul Everett Diener (Lt. Col U.S. Army) Retired and Robert Showers (U.S.M.C.
Staff Sgt.) Retired. For their generous help, knowledge, and advice in all
things military (and very much real) in the otherwise purely fantastical world
of Onio!

Chapter 1

 

Melody
Carver stood under the flickering sodium light and lit a cigarette with shaking
fingers. Other tobacco refugees stood in the shadows, murmuring softly and
staring out at the falling snow. It was 12:35 in the morning…forty-five minutes
after the death of her mother from lung cancer.

Mel
sighed in disgust and ground the butt in the ashtray before heading back inside
Deaconess Hospital to make final arrangements for her mom, Angela Carver. She
was assured that the body would make its way safely back home to Republic, if
she would only sign here… and here.

The
lights in the cancer ward hurt her eyes. Mel suddenly felt frightened by the
shadowed glimpses of patients on the ward, and the erratic lightning strikes on
the monitors that helped keep the stricken patients alive and kicking for
another dose of chemo or radiation therapy.

Frightened,
she acknowledged, and angry too. Those same modern, medical miracles of
technology had failed her mother. Although she was happy…truly grateful…that
many of these people would survive their ordeal with the big C, Mel resented
the fact that her own mom had not.
And why
? she raved, walking into the
patient room to gather up the meager belongings left behind by Angela’s
passing.

Her
mother had never smoked (well, except for a little pot when she was younger),
didn’t drink alcohol, and ate only the most healthy foods. She had worked out
regularly, stating that the body was God’s temple and should be treated as
such. Her mom was the picture of health and glowed like a Madonna fresco: that is,
until lung cancer robbed her of all vitality, and eventually her life, at the
age of forty-five.

Mel
grabbed her mom’s backpack and stuffed it full of nighties, underwear, a
toothbrush, and a couple of books and magazines. She looked around and found
some hand lotion, talcum powder, and a discarded earring. Grabbing the two Get
Well cards off the windowsill, Mel paused, swallowing the tears that threatened
to swamp her in grief.

Angela
Carver was the light of Mel’s life, her best friend and most loyal fan. They
had never had much money, and after Mel’s father left, stating that he had
neither the time nor patience for a handicapped child, they were mostly left
alone. Angela was an only child…both of her parents had perished in an
automobile accident.

So
it had been a team of two, and for the most part Mel was happy with the
arrangement. Looking at the two lonely get well cards though—one of which was
brought in by Mel herself, and the other by one of Mel’s case-workers—brought
home just how alone in the world they really were.

A
soft touch made her jump and gasp aloud.

“It’s
for the best, honey,” Mrs. Gilford croaked. “Your mamma is at peace now.” Those
few words sent the old woman into a fit of deep, rasping coughs. Mel cringed.
She could not hear the coughing noises, but she could see the tears that
streamed from Ada’s eyes and how red her face had become. Mel picked up the
call button, ready to signal a nurse, but Ada shook her head.

“I
shouldn’t try and talk so loud. I just wanted you to know…to understand.”

Mel
watched the old woman’s mouth and nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered, hoping
that she got the words right.

A
high fever in infancy had damaged Melody Carver’s ear canals. She was
considered legally deaf, although she could hear things…sort of. It sounded to
her as though all the oceans of the world were roaring through her ears all of
the time. The spoken voice blared like a car horn and the tiniest whisper
boomed back at her like a trumpet. Now she wore hearing aids to drown out the
constant cacophony, and was more comfortable with complete silence than trying
to decipher the incessant howl of the world around her.

Her
mom had taught her to read lips, but even though Mel was great at signing,
talking out loud was difficult. No matter how hard she tried, she mangled the
words together into a hash of indecipherable syllables, earning her scorn and
painful pinches when she was a child and a certain pitiable disregard from her
peers as she grew into adulthood. She was introverted to begin with, and eventually
her disability drove her into a cocoon of solitude, enlivened only by her
beloved mother and the occasional caseworker that specialized in the hearing
impaired.

***

Mel
had no way of knowing that as Ada Gilford stared up at the grief stricken young
woman, she thought that if she was lucky enough to ride the wings of angels as
she flew on her last passage to the heavens above, those angels would probably
look like Melody Carver. Her long blond hair glowed like a halo around a thin
face and hauntingly beautiful gray eyes. Her smile was infrequent but dazzling,
like the sun breaking through the clouds on a stormy day.

She
felt sorry for the painfully shy young woman, and knew that the loss of her
mother would not only retard her growth in the “hearing” world, but also stifle
any confidence she might have gained in her maturity. Knowing that there was no
family to help ease the girl’s burden, Ada simply held frail arms up for a hug,
and closed her eyes as Mel crept from the room.

***

Mel
rode the elevator down to the parking garage and got in her car to drive home.
She drove around and down until she reached ground level, and was taken by
surprise when a snowplow plunged past her on the access road. She gripped the
steering wheel tightly and stared in shock at the blizzard in front of her
windshield. The snow whirled in dizzying eddies and settled in hillocks on the road.

Gulping,
Mel fumbled for another cigarette. She wasn’t accustomed to driving, and had only
done it since her mother had grown too ill to drive herself back and forth to
the hospital for treatments. Now she had an eighty-mile drive back home in a
snowstorm to deal with. She briefly considered spending the night in the
hospital waiting room (she didn’t think that the nursing staff would kick her
out just because their patient had expired) but disregarded the notion
immediately. She just wanted to go home, curl up on the couch and sleep for a
week. Staring into the maelstrom of winter, Mel gritted her teeth and turned
left on to the road that led home.

Two
hours later, she coasted to a stop by the side of the road, trembling with
nerves and fatigue. After following the snowplow for almost thirty miles, as
long as she didn’t go too fast she felt fairly confident that her mom’s old
Subaru was up to the task. Then the plow pulled sharply to the right, flipped a
U-turn and headed back the way it came, leaving her alone at the foot of
Sherman Pass. Mel was now at the Stevens-Ferry County line, the snow had
tapered off, and Mel could see the wan, pale face of the full moon staring down
at her from the ragged sky.

Forty
miles and she would be home, but the miles between where she sat and her home
encompassed one of the highest and most treacherous mountain passes in
Washington State. One more smoke, she decided…just one more, and she would quit
smoking forever.

She
lit up and poured the last of the coffee from her thermos into a cup. The moon
was bright now, painting the rising hills in shades of gray, silver and black. It
was beautiful, and right now, deadly. The thermometer on the dash said that the
outside temperature was fourteen degrees. Mel could see shiny rivers of light
reflecting off the tire tracks on the road. It reminded her of the silent,
silver tear tracks that lined her mother’s cheeks in the moments of her death.

She
finished her coffee, butted her cigarette, sucked in a deep breath and took
off. For a moment, she thought she might be stuck, but the little car heaved
itself out of the snow and settled into the plow marks on the highway.

Twice
in the first leg up the pass headlights approached, both of them set high off
the ground…log trucks coming from the high hills to drop their loads at the
closest mill in Kettle Falls. Mel gripped the steering wheel tightly and held
on as the big rigs sprayed her car with clouds of blowing snow and ice. Then
she was alone.

It
was 4:45 a.m. when she reached the summit. Heaving a sigh of relief, she
grinned. It was smooth sailing now. Soon she should be catching up with the
snowplows for Ferry County. Staring down the road, she felt the emotions of the
long sad night and the tension of the drive home dissolve into a fugue of
fatigue. Like magic, her eyes began to feel gritty and her fingers twitched in
a spasm on the wheel.

She
shook her head and thought,
Hold on…only twenty miles to go and you’re home
!

A
sudden movement caught her eye. Her first thought was that a deer was crossing
the road, but it was too far in the distance and she was driving too slowly for
a deer to cause her alarm. But when she forced her tired eyes to focus, she
caught her breath in surprise.

It
was a man…or a bear standing upright. Her first thought couldn’t be right,
because first, what man would be standing stock-still on a deserted mountain
pass at five o’clock in the morning in the middle of January, in freezing
temperatures? Also, the shape of the creature was far too large and bulky to be
human.

But
then again, shouldn’t the bears be hibernating? Mel knew that sometimes a male
bear would roam during a balmy winter season, preying on rabbits, deer and
coyotes. But it had been a long, cold winter, and this kind of season would
drive even the most restless bear to den. Besides, since when did a bear stand
upright for such a long time? She had been approaching slowly for maybe thirty
seconds. Most bears would have been long gone at the first glimpse of the
headlights.

Mel
started to brake as the creature was bathed in light. Her eyes grew wide in
shock, and she gasped as she saw clearly what her mind tried to process in
terms she could understand and accept.

The
creature that stood upright on the road in front of her was huge, nearly eight
feet tall, and was covered from head to toe in mottled dark fur. He wore a sort
of loincloth and carried a large sack in his left hand. As Mel watched he set
the sack down on the side of the road and lifted his hand to shade his eyes
from the glare of the headlights.

His
face was humanoid and distinctly handsome. Although his features were heavy,
with a dark, slashing brow line and thick, finely etched lips, it was his eyes
that mesmerized Mel’s dazzled senses. They were huge, intelligent, humorous and
knowing. The creature’s eyes met Mel’s and in an instant a connection was made.
Although Mel’s conscious mind screamed in disbelief and denial, her emotional
core understood that she had just been touched, probed…deeply, by something she
had only ever read about in shock rags and books on mythology. She was driving
up on, and about to run over, a sasquatch!

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