The last thing I could remember was taking the I – 5 North to the Mount Shasta exit. I parked and hiked up the mountain until I could hike no more. On a rock ledge, I sat down and did my thing with a liter of vodka, a bottle of pills, and a sharp knife. I had read it in a novel once and thought, if I ever have to do it, I want to do it this way, not dying in hospital bed with tubes sticking out of me. With stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I was actually looking forward to it.
As I began to fade out I could feel the snow falling and caressing my face. Winter was coming, I lay back and embraced it. “They won’t find me now ’till springtime.”
Waking up in some dark hole of a place, not the place I lay down to die. My head was pounding like someone beat me with a rock. Blood was caked dry to my skin and clothes and I had a large open wound on the inside of my left forearm. I was weak as a bled pig.
As in life, so in death…I made a mess, but where am I? What the hell is that smell? That’s not me, couldn’t be! A crack of light came from above to light the space around with ghostlike shadows in some chamber of the dead. I was in a cave with rocks, dead leaves, evergreen branches, something shiny…bright white: Bones? “Oh, dear God,” and skulls; animals, no human bones that I could tell. Then it hit me, I’m dead and waking up in hell. My head was spinning, I faint, and wake up again, still in hell.
I heard a noise…Something comes. I try to hide beneath the bones and branches. Footsteps…heavy, but quiet too. Peeking out, yes! There be a monster there. It’s huge, at least seven foot tall…upright, apelike creature. It’s Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti…all of them in one. It’s carrying something big and hairy under one arm. It scoops away the bones and branches and stares down at me, deep set eyes, golden brown, alive and sparkling. It drops it’s load beside me; the whole back end of a deer, looked like it had been torn in half, poor thing. The creature sat down beside me like we were old friends sitting on the veranda, ready for a barbecue. All we needed was the beer.
W sat there not moving. After some minutes, maybe hours, it poked me with a long, fat finger, looked like a bratwurst sausage with hair on it and pointed to the venison.
“Do you know how to make fire,” I ask timidly. “That’s alright, I learned it in summer camp. I like my meat rare, but not raw. I have a knife, we can skin it.” No reply; the quiet, silent type. I was liking it.
The creature reached out a giant hand and took my wounded arm to it’s mouth. “Oh no, it’s going to eat me!” But it only began to lick the wound; to clean it, to heal it. It was then I noticed the mammary glands beneath the long hair, swinging back and fro…It’s a female. That makes sense; caring and loving for a child in distress. Slowly, I began to realize, in my weakness and my stupor, this is not hell…this is my salvation. I reached over to take her hand with my good hand and she bent down her face to mine and smelled my breath. She pulled away to stare at me. “Bad breath! I know, but you ain’t smelling like a rose either baby.” She stared at me for a full minute until it came to me, she could smell it..the cancer…she knew, even as I myself, had temporarily forgotten.
She got up then and left. I thought she left me for good, but she returned some hours later with a hollowed out horn of a big-horn sheep. She also had juniper branches and some other leaves and grasses I did not recognize, and a piece of blue streaked crystallized rock. With a bigger rock, she pulverized the whole mess into little bits and stuffed it in the horn. Then she pissed in it, filled it up with her own urine. It sat there for three days and started to stink, that’s when she held my head back and made me drink it. I gagged at first, but she persisted. She did that every three days. By the seventh time, I had begun to like it, and that’s when she stopped.
“Long winter coming,” she said with those beautiful eyes. “ I will care for you, I will bring you food. I will protect you from predators.” I do believe I was falling in love.
And so it went for one long winter and into spring, until one day she went out to hunt and never came back. I waited days and nights and weeks until I could wait no more. The loneliness and starvation brought me down the mountain. They found me there, wrapped in raw deer hide, smelling ripe as rotten meat.
At the hospital, I told them about my cancer, asked them how long do I have left? “What cancer? We can’t find any cancer.” I was cancer free.
It was good to be back with my own kind, but no one would believe my story, until I found the club: The Sasquatch Club, my people now, we all share our stories and our lives, because our stories are our lives.
John O’Donovan is retired and lives in Southern California with his wife and two dogs. His short stories have appeared in The Chamber Magazine, Bear Creek Gazette and Brief Wilderness Press.