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Authors: Linell Jeppsen

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BOOK: Onio
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She
watched the creatures eyes widen as she gripped the steering wheel hard,
turning it sharply to the left to avoid hitting the thing in her path. It was instinct,
pure and simple, but she had forgotten about the snow and ice on the road.

Now
her back wheels lost traction and her front tires spun uselessly. The little
car skewed violently back and forth across the road. Everything she had ever
learned about driving on ice flew out of her mind as the car, carried out of
control by its own momentum, went into a full spin. Once…twice…three times the
car spun around, painting the trees, cliffs and rocks on either side of the
road in strobe-like flashes.

Screaming
inarticulately, the last thing Melody Carver saw before her car climbed the
railing and sailed over the trees was the creature as it ran toward her, faster
than any human was able to run, faster even than the eye could follow.

Chapter 2

 

Mel’s
Subaru went backwards over the guardrail and she felt the vehicle go airborne.
The only thing she could do was clutch the steering wheel and scream in abject
terror. The last thing she saw as the weight of the car and gravity took over
was the creature peering in at her through the windshield. Its eyes were wide
in alarm and its teeth were bared. Then she saw only the moon above her in the
starry sky, and all the breath left her lungs as the car dropped like a rock.

She
hung onto the steering wheel in dread as the little car scraped through the
branches of a tall fir tree. Mel couldn’t hear the noise the Subaru was making
as it fell through the tree, but she could feel the impact as the vehicle
shuddered, glancing off a particularly stout limb, and fell free again. The car
landed on the ground with a jolt and started rolling. Now the car was facing
downhill and Mel screamed again, grabbing frantically at the door handle as she
spied what lay ahead of her.

A
relatively flat expanse of ground ran for about fifty feet, interrupted only by
a gigantic snow covered boulder. Beyond that lay a rocky out-cropping, a cliff,
and then a steep two thousand-foot drop into the valley below. She yanked on
the door handle, slamming her left shoulder against the door, but it remained closed.
Twice more she rammed the car door with her body, but gave up and tried to
steer the careening car toward the boulder instead of the vast nothing the
alternative route offered.

The
tires seemed to have a mind of their own though. The car was gaining momentum,
sideways now instead of forward. Would the front end of the car hit the rock
and send her cartwheeling over the cliff, or would she slam against the rock
like a bug on a windshield? She squeezed her eyes shut and prayed.

Suddenly,
she slammed forward in her shoulder harness with a grunt. The car had stopped
and seemed to be hanging in mid-air. Its headlights were pointing straight down
and illuminating the base of the boulder like laser beams. Mel felt the back of
the little car settle on the ground and the twin cones of light stared out over
the cliff. She turned and gasped as a large shape moved around the back of the
car and headed toward the driver’s side. She fumbled for the locking mechanism,
cringing when the creature tried to open the door.

The
door was jammed into the frame but a mighty heave wrenched it open and off the
car. Mel cried out in fear as the creature bent low and peered in at her. It
gestured at her, glancing past her at the hillside above her car. She tried to
wriggle backward, away from the beast, but the console and gearshift got in her
way. The creature said something, gesturing at her again, but of course the
only thing she could hear was her own damaged ear canals and the high tides
that rushed through them.

The
man-beast looked frightened. His eyes were open wide and Mel could clearly see
the fear in them as he tried to communicate…something. Finally, with a very
human looking shrug, he reached in and picked her up. Melody howled and fought
as hard as she could, but to no avail. He lifted her in his arms and headed
toward the edge of the cliff. She moaned as she realized he was preparing to
jump over the edge!

“No…,”
she whimpered, wondering if she was about to plunge to her death in the arms of
a suicidal sasquatch.

If
it wasn’t so terrifying, she would have laughed. Just before her captor leapt
over the edge of the abyss she looked over his shoulder. If she’d been able to
hear, she would have known why the monster was so upset. It looked to her as if
the whole mountain range had shrugged, sending every inch of snow, ice and rock
directly down on her and the creature who grasped her in his mighty arms.
Before she could do much more than open her mouth to shriek, the beast jumped.

Mel
buried her face in his shoulder and trembled. She felt the icy winter wind
press her hair up and outward, and wondered how long it would take before she
was smashed flat by the fall. She thought of her mother and the long, lonely
life that most likely lay ahead of her, and felt a sort of peace…an acceptance
of her fate. Then the creature landed on his two feet. She felt more than heard
his grunt of pain at the impact, and looking up she saw him open his mouth and
shout in triumph.

He
set her down on a ledge and held her back with one huge hand. Still laughing,
he pointed at the enormous cascade of snow that had followed them over the
cliff. She stood still and stared at what would have pulverized any human
being. Now that she had a moment to think, she realized the beast had jumped
over the guardrail and had somehow outrun the car as it careened down the
mountain’s slope. He had clutched the bumper to keep the vehicle from going
over the cliff, and finally, impossible as it seemed, he had raced an avalanche
and won. She studied his profile as he stared out at the falling ice and snow.
His teeth were bared in joy and defiance.

Mel
realized that the still photographs and drawings of the mythical sasquatch were
correct in some ways, but mostly ill conceived. Sure, they were huge and hairy,
but that was where any resemblance ended. The creature that stood in front of
her shaking his fist at nature’s fury was well proportioned and handsome. His
long, fine fur seemed to change color with every move he made, like a
chameleon. Although he had rather long and sharp-looking canine teeth, his
mouth and lips were finely formed. He looked like an especially large and hairy
hippie.

Finally,
the man-beast seemed to quiet and turned to face her. In her shock and terror,
she had forgotten to be afraid of him, but now she backed away in fear. She
felt frozen shrubbery at her back and knew there was no escaping the thing that
stalked her. Mel strained her neck to look up at his face. His eyes were
beautiful, and searched hers with an intensity she could barely endure.

Her
body sank into the frozen bushes and vines that hugged the cliff face. The
beast kept coming toward her and she held her hands up, begging him not to hurt
her…kill her. She stared in shock as he grinned, reached out, and gave her
chest a small push. Suddenly she was sliding backwards into a crevasse.

Mel
stumbled and fell in a heap on the ground. Warm air stirred her hair and
caressed her face. She was in a cavern where there appeared to be a small fire
burning toward the back of the cave, and tiny flames flickered here and there
on the stone walls.

The
beast stared down at her for a moment and then moved toward the fire, gesturing
for her to follow. Now that the heat licked at her cheeks and hands, Mel
realized that she was freezing. She had taken off her parka in the car for the
ride home. Her sweater was damp, and some parts of the material were stiff with
ice. She shivered and stood up. Watching the monster warily, she stood next to
the fire.

As
though sensing her unease the sasquatch moved even further into the cave, knelt
down, and began rummaging in a sack on the floor. After a minute he stood up
and walked back, holding something in his hand. He stopped and handed Mel a
piece of meat. She studied the offering for a moment and shrugged. It looked like
some sort of jerky and the sight of it made her stomach cramp painfully with
hunger. Mel realized that she hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast the previous
morning.

She
took a bite and the creature smiled at her. His teeth seemed very white and Mel
understood then, somehow, that the beast was very young. She wasn’t sure how
she knew it, but a frank curiosity and an innocent joy were in its eyes that seemed
unmistakably child-like. She smiled back.

As
though it had just received an engraved invitation the beast grinned, took one
giant step around the fire, and laid its huge paw on Mel’s forehead. She opened
her mouth to scream, but suddenly her whole world changed. The incessant
roaring in her ears ceased and a voice spoke.


Hello
….”
It seemed very far away, but the word was clear in her mind. Mel’s eyes grew
huge. She stared up at the monster with her mouth open in shock.

His
eyes, now that she could see them in the fire’s glow, were a sort of mossy
brown, like wood glimpsed through leaves. They studied her in a way that was so
personal she squirmed in embarrassment. He smelled like wood too, and green
things, flowers and smoke.

Staring
into her eyes he spoke again. “My name is Onio…First Son. Are you hurt?”

Mel
shook her head, and muttered, “No, but how is this possible?”

Onio
frowned, biting his lip in concentration. “The soul song.” He touched a finger
to his own forehead and then gently touched hers. “My people use these words
when silence is needed,” he added.

Mel
realized that her mouth was still hanging open in shock. She closed her lips
with a snap, her heart pinched, and then she was sobbing. Great gasping waves
of emotion filled her, swamping her in waves of sorrow, joy, fear and awe. She
had never heard the spoken word before now, and it was beautiful beyond
imagining.

She
wailed at the thought that she had never heard her mother’s words of comfort or
love. She had never heard the words of a joke. Although she could sense the
humor in written or signed words, the emotional impact was missing. The
creature had given her a gift that was so soul shattering she didn’t think she
could live without it, now that she understood what hearing was really like.
She fell to her knees in shock.

Onio
stepped back in alarm. He wrung his hands, thinking that somehow he had harmed
the human with his hasty touch, causing her terrible pain. He had waited so
long to find one of these creatures…now he worried that he had wounded it.

Mel
looked up at him from where she huddled on the ground, and smiled through
trembling lips. “Tha…thank you,” she gasped.

Onio
stared at her in confusion. “Did Onio hurt your head?”

Mel
saw that his lips did not move yet still his words conveyed fear and anxiety. She
shook her head and concentrated. Speaking out-loud was hard for her…maybe she
could speak to the beast with HER soul. “No. I’m not hurt,” she said, watching
his eyes to see if he understood.

He
smiled and nodded, but still looked bewildered as to why the human was sobbing
her guts out on the floor at his feet.

Mel
sighed and added, “I can’t hear…yours are the first words I’ve ever heard.” Fresh
tears rolled down her cheeks and she buried her face in her arms, gulping back
her grief. She felt something land next to her legs and looked up in time to
see Onio lift her hair up and peer at her right ear.

“Ears
don’t work?” he asked, while tracing the shell of her lobe gently with one
giant finger.

She
giggled slightly at the tickle of it, but shook her head in sorrow. “Ears don’t
work,” she agreed.

He
sat back on his haunches. Staring into her eyes he said, “Ears don’t matter so
much here. Eyes though…eyes are important.” He reached over and pulled her
right eyelid open wide. “Your eyes work good?” he asked.

“Ow!
Sheesh...my eyes work fine!” Mel exclaimed.

Without
warning, Onio picked her up off the ground. Drawing her very close, he put one
large finger over her lips in the universal sign for silence. Then he placed
her behind his back. Turning toward the back of the deep cavern, he stood and
faced whatever approached from deep within the bowels of the mountain.

Chapter 3

 

The
first thing Melody Carver saw as she peered around Onio’s wide back was the
cavern filling with light. Then horrifying shadows cast their silhouettes. Long,
pointed ears and fang-filled muzzles stretched and writhed across the stone
walls. It looked as though a band of demons was approaching.

Mel
cringed in terror as the shadows resolved into the real thing. A pack of
snarling, snapping dogs surrounded her and the sasquatch. The pack leader, a
particularly large, grizzled looking German shepherd, got so close Mel could
feel the spittle from its lips as it lunged at her. She screamed, hunching over
defensively.

She
saw Onio gesture and all the dogs sat down at once. He took her arm, placing
her in front of where he stood. Melody looked at the dogs sitting in a
semi-circle in front of them and marveled. There were shepherds and poodles,
coyotes and dachshunds…it looked like all the cast-offs of dog society had
ended up here. They stared back at her with varying degrees of carefully
controlled emotions…fear, anxiety and excitement.

BOOK: Onio
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