How a man found truth by chasing a myth.
JOURNAL ENTRY 45 – Tarnished
“Stop you guys, we’re here.” Amanda pointed to a large, one-story cabin about a hundred yards away. Through my binoculars I saw a wooden plank hanging from the porch. The sign read Siberian Wildlife Preservation League. A small tiger was carved at the bottom.
“You two hang back, but stay out in the open. I don’t want this to look like some kind of ambush,” said Amanda.
“I don’t like you going up there by yourself,” I protested.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Amanda. “It’s better if I go alone.”
I knew she was right. “Alright. Just give me a thumbs up if everything’s okay, and…wave or something if it’s going south.”
“How about I just flip you off?” said Amanda, turning away from me without waiting for a response. She pulled back the hood on the bright orange parka she had picked up in Yakutsk. It reflected a citrus glow onto her pale skin and gold curls.
Noticing my apprehension, Bat put his hand on my shoulder to reassure me as Amanda walked toward the cabin. “She wouldn’t be doing this if she expected danger.”
I tried injecting my troubled thoughts with silver linings. I had been so focused on our efforts failing, I hadn’t given much thought to the slim possibility of success. If we managed to verify the existence of the Yeti, people would undoubtedly pay thousands for interviews or information about the animals’ habitat–maybe hundreds of thousands. Garnering such obscene amounts of money would carry a caveat–once the word got out about our find, the world would get smaller and more dangerous by the second. There were plenty of ignoble people who’d gladly trade our lives for the pelt and the map if they smelled a profit. Our simple goal of saving the wilderness would not come easy, even in the best of circumstances. The silver linings were tarnished.
Amanda knocked on the cabin’s door and it opened almost immediately. A tall, slim man in his late 30s stood in the frame. His short, messy hair was a mirror image of his beard. Even from a distance, I could sense the man’s tension as he pushed up his wire frame glasses. I wouldn’t have found him menacing in the slightest had he not been holding a large rifle.
I couldn’t hear a thing where Bat and I were standing. As Amanda talked to her “friend,” her body language became more pronounced. He was starting to back away, when he looked over at us with surprise on his face. Somehow, he hadn’t noticed us shivering in the distance.
All I could hear was a emphatic “NO” as the man closed the door in Amanda’s face. Her head dropped as she turned slowly away from the cabin. The man’s gun apparently wasn’t a credible threat. I breathed as sigh of relief.
Amanda made her way back over to us, looking dejected. Bat trudged closer to her. “What? What did the man say?”
Amanda shrugged. “I think Henry feels blindsided. Keep in mind, I’ve never actually met the guy face to face. He never suspected someone had railroaded him off his job. I think he’s in shock.”
“I understand the feeling,” I said.
Amanda shook her head slowly. “I explained who I was–in the vaguest of terms–and told him we needed his help to locate the biggest scientific find of the century. I offered to split 50 percent of the exhibition profits with him.”
“50 percent?” Bat looked deflated.
“It was a Hail Mary!” said Amanda. “It’s not like I have a lot of bargaining chips.”
“Will that come from your half of the publicity tour profits, or the half you’re leaving us?” I asked. I couldn’t help myself.
Bat looked like he might pass out. “Zail!”
“I would take it from my 50%… and yes, I think it’s fair, Bat!” Amanda was nearly jumping up and down in frustration. “Anyway, it hardly matters now…no one is getting jack shit!” She kicked a lump of snow and sent it sailing into a thousand sparkling particles.
Bat bumped right against Amanda’s chest and puffed himself up–although not to the terrifying degree I had witnessed earlier. “Surely, I want to save the land, but Bat deserves something for his part in all this!”
Amanda seemed unconcerned. “Save your bluster. It’s a moot point, you moron. Henry isn’t interested in helping us.”
I put my temple in my fingertips and groaned. “Bat, if this somehow works out, I’ll make sure you’re well-compensated. Fighting over invisible money is ridiculous.”
Bat threw his hands in the air. “Feh! Boovon tolgoi! You are the leader, eh? No matter, I have no need for this stinking pelt money. I will do as I promised, but I am done with you both! Khongordzy Batsukh already has riches you cannot fathom.”
Amanda pushed her finger in Bat’s chest then spouted some angry Khalkhan at him. She broke back into English without warning. “Listen one more time. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Henry said no. I’m sorry we’ve wasted all this time and energy but we’re just going to have to–”
“Come over here!” someone shouted. Henry was waving to us from the porch. The gun was nowhere in sight, which I took as a good sign. “All of you, it’s alright. Come on over and get some coffee.”
To be continued:
Artwork by Skinner
Used with permission. © 2017 Skinner
Underneath its pulpy trappings, Siberian Waste is a story about conservation. Consider donating to one of the following Earth-friendly organizations:
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
Environmental Working Goup: www.ewg.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org