Yeti urine smells worse than surstromming, thought Sven. He tightened the hood of his parka against his face. His fingers held little feeling despite thick dragon-hide gloves. The chill seeped into his boots. He shuffled forward a few steps.
“Just a thousand more meters,”
said Ulrich, shouting over the wind.
Sven twisted to look at
him. Ulrich’s three-meter frame supported
swathes of fabric from multiple civilizations.
The iris of his single eye glowed through the snow. It flickered, seeming gold or green in turn.
Sven’s foot struck something
that felt like stone. He crouched down
to feel the contours of the object. It
felt round at one end. The other dipped
in several places. Sven jerked it from
the snow bank. “Ulrich, I found a
skull. It must be from that Russian centaur
who went missing up here. The idiot
tried to climb Mt. Everest with hooves.”
Ulrich chuckled, a low rumble. “The yeti must have gotten him.”
The permanent storm escalated
to a blizzard. It howled, forcing Sven’s
hands to his ears. He stumbled forward.
A patch of snow beside him was
colored dark red. Two horseshoes stuck
out of the mound.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sven saw
Ulrich’s jaw drop. “Did you hear that
grunting?” Ulrich asked.
Sven cocked his ear toward his
A thud resonated as Ulrich fell
to a patch of ice. Sven jerked his head
around, squinting all around him. “Clumsy
me,” Ulrich said. His teeth chattered.
Sven let out a deep sigh. He forced his eyes to stay on the pathway
dictated by the mountain ridge.
Everything looked the same, a blanket of white, save the grey stone
A rise in the snow coverage uphill
evaporated with a gust. The cold bit
Sven’s skin despite his parka. He forced
in a gulp of air. The next breath was
thin and haggard.
Ulrich paused to set up his
oxygen tank beside him. “You should put
yours on,” he said.
Sven shook his head. “I’ll
live. I want to reach the top
unaided. I’ll use it on the descent.” His lungs gave a tiny dissatisfied spasm.
The summit came into
view. It looked very much like the snapshots
Sven studied for hours down at the base camps.
A figure crouched in the corner of his mental photograph. “That wasn’t in the pictures,” he muttered.
A roar tore through the
screeching gale. Sven glanced over at Ulrich. His face was even paler than last he’d
seen. The sound could not possibly have
come from behind his clenched jaw.
Ulrich slid down the slope
backward. A primate, covered in dense
white fur, fell with him. Red dyed the
back of his hands.
“Ulrich,” Sven shouted. His head bobbed, first to the summit, then to
his comrade. It settled on the latter.
The yeti swung its paws across
Ulrich’s throat. Blood splattered,
mixing with the snowflakes. Ulrich moved
his feet as if to stand, but it threw itself into him, keeping him down.
Sven pulled a climber’s pick
from his belt and held it aloft. The yeti
twisted to look at him. His eyes held
Letting go a heavy breath,
Sven charged forward. He plunged his
pick into the yeti’s shoulder. It
lurched back and cut into his stomach.
He grabbed at his wound with one hand, lashing out with the other. The yeti tripped to the edge of the cliff.
Time slowed. The yeti clawed to stay on the mountain. Its feet slipped. Sven gasped in relief. The rest of its body squirmed down. It disappeared, leaving behind a strangled
Sven took a step toward the