Adventure Contemporary Fiction

Deep in the wilderness of northern Alaska, a float plane descended toward a barely visible snow-covered field. It landed, leaving twin tracks behind it that were already being covered by new snow. On either side of them stood stretches of evergreen forest. Above, the dark sky was filled with stars and the green curtain of the Aurora Borealis.

“Welcome to the Northern Slope,” the pilot told their two bundled-up passengers. “If you get lost,” he added, pointing upward, “that brightest star is the North Star.”

“Where is the cabin?” one passenger asked, looking around.

“About twenty miles that way,” the pilot said, pointing ahead of the float plane.

“And how are we supposed to get there?” the other passenger asked.

“Your ground transport is already here,” the pilot said. “Inuit dogsled.”

Waiting about ten feet away from the float plane's starboard side was a dogsled, human at one end, dogs at the other.

The pilot helped them transfer their luggage from the plane to the dogsled. “I hope it'll be worth all this traveling and expense. It's not the most forgiving of terrain or wildlife. Safe journey.”

They watched him as he climbed back inside the plane, shut the door, and started the plane's engine. It coughed a few times and then roared into life. The float plane raced across the snow-covered field, gaining speed. It rose into the air, turned to port, and headed back to its base.

The Inuit sled driver showed them where and how to sit in the sled. Then he yelled something at the dogs. The sled suddenly leapt into motion, its speed increasing. The dogs barked as they charged across the uneven snow-covered terrain.


When they reached it, the cabin's roof was covered with snow. Large icicles, like stalactites, grew down from the roof edges to the ground. A curl of smoke rose from the chimney. The front window was lit from within.

The Inuit helped them unload their luggage and carry it inside the cabin. He accepted their thanks and waved as he and his dogsled raced away.

Once inside, they saw that the only light came from a kerosene lamp on a table in what was a mixture of dining and living room. Chairs were pushed partly under the table. Elsewhere on this level was a simple kitchen, a fireplace, a couch, and a half-filled bookcase. The bedroom lay on the narrow upper level, opposite the fireplace.

They took off their outer layers of clothing and hung them near the fireplace to dry them. They also took off their boots and placed those on the floor nearby.

The man was about six feet tall, built more like an artist or dancer, short brown hair damp and ruffled, and gray eyes. The woman was almost as tall, built like a downhill skier, medium-length blond hair also damp and ruffled, and dark eyes. Both were dressed casually in plaid shirts, jeans, and thick socks.

“Hungry, Pan?” the man asked.

The woman shook her head. “Do you really think it's out here, Shiga?” she asked.

“It prefers a habitat as remote as possible,” he said. “Like its cousin in the Himalayas.”

“If only it preferred warmer climes,” she said.

“You're probably just tired, Pan,” he said. “Get warmed up in front of the fire. I'll see what there is to drink.”

“Some wine would be nice,” she said as she walked over to the fireplace. She turned her back to it and enjoyed the waves of heat bathing her from head to toe. “If it hasn't turned into vinegar since someone last stayed here.”

“Coming right up,” he said and began his search of the kitchen. “I wonder if there's a cellar. The travel agency didn't mention one, though.”

“Why would they need a cellar out in the middle of nowhere?” Pan asked.

“For cold storage,” Shiga said. “Before refrigeration was invented, people used cellars to keep things cool.”

“In places that were inhabited on a fairly regular basis,” she said. “This cabin has been unoccupied for over a year.”

He pushed aside a small carpet covering the center of the kitchen floor. She watched as he knelt and rapped his knuckles on something that sounded like solid wood.

“Maybe someone needs to update the travel agency's information,” he said. “This is definitely a trapdoor of some kind. I bet there's a cellar beneath it.”

Shiga pulled a metal ring out of its circular groove and lifted upwards. The trapdoor sounded tired and disused. He looked down into the darkness.

“See anything?” she asked.

He shook his head. “There has to be a flashlight somewhere.”

There was one in a kitchen drawer and tested it. Not as bright as he would've preferred, but bright enough.

Shiga pointed the flashlight down into the cellar. Someone had thoughtfully made a ladder and left it where it could be used. He carefully climbed down. At the bottom, he shined the flashlight all around him.

“A regular jam closet down here,” he called upward.

Pan walked over to the opening, crouched, and looked down at him. “Anything besides jam?”

“I'll check,” he said. “It's kind of –” He coughed a few times and sneezed twice. “– dusty down here. But there do seem to be some frozen slabs of what's probably reindeer meat. Not sure how edible it is, but might be worth a try. And a few bottles. Can't tell whether it's Scotch or white wine.” He wiped away the dust covering the exterior of one bottle and stared at it. “Hundred-year-old Cognac? What in the world is it doing in this cellar?”

“Maybe the cabin was originally designed and built by someone wealthy,” Pan suggested.

“And they just left it here, unopened?” he asked. “That doesn't seem too likely.”

“Maybe they died before they had a chance to drink it,” she suggested.

“Don't be morbid,” Shiga said. “Next thing I know you'll say there are dead bodies buried down here.”

“Are there?” she asked.

“Haven't seen any yet,” he said.

“Imagine my relief,” Pan said. “Just lift things up one at a time and I'll put them on the kitchen counter. Who knows – maybe I'm getting hungry after all.”

“Mama-san used to say: There's nothing like a mystery to whet the appetite,” Shiga said.

“What did your father say?” Pan asked as she took item after item from where he stood on the ladder.

“Papa-san said that she had an overactive imagination,” he said.

“Did she?” she asked.

“She thought that the koi in our backyard pond could explode,” he said as they finished moving the items from the cellar to the kitchen. He climbed up the ladder and stepped out of the opening. “She read about it somewhere and thought it was true. I guess she didn't understand that it was a joke for the gullible.”

Together, they lowered the trapdoor back into place. The metal ring fell back into its circular groove.

“The koi never exploded?” Pan asked.

“Not even one of them,” he said. “I think we have enough here for a small feast. And some Cognac to top it off.”


As they ate, she asked, “What if it turns out that this snow monster is nothing more than a myth?”

“Then at least we've had an all-expenses-paid trip to northern Alaska,” Shiga said. “What if it turns out to be true?”

“I hope that it isn't fast on its feet, because I'll be running in the opposite direction,” Pan said.

“The yeti, while bipedal, isn't known for its speed,” he said. “The same is true for Bigfoot.”

“But this isn't either of those,” she reminded him. “It may be related, but it also might be an improvement over them.”

“Scared?” he teased.

She made a face. “I'm trying to be sensible and practical. We receive reports every day about all sorts of monsters, most of which turned out to be either hoaxes or myths. This one may be something else entirely.”

“In which case, we may end up making an important scientific discovery,” Shiga said.

“Even if we're laughed at,” Pan said.

“It's a risk all researchers face,” he said. “Either report your findings or bury them where no one will find them.” He lifted the bottle of Cognac, removed its lid, and poured a small amount into two glasses. He handed one to her and sniffed at the other.

“Tolerable?” she asked.

“More than tolerable,” he said. “A toast? To a scientific discovery that will stun the world's scientists. It may even win us the Nobel Peace Prize.”

“Wishful thinking,” she said and took a sip. She smiled as the alcohol spread its warmth through her body. “I'm glad this is real.”

He took a sip. “So am I.”


They sat on the couch, a blanket covering their laps and legs. On a small nearby table, the corked bottle of Cognac was still three-fourths full. It was tempting to finish it off, but Shiga suggested that perhaps they should ration it so that there was still some left on the day they headed back to civilization and Pan agreed.

If it weren't for the clock on the mantelpiece, they would've found it difficult to know what time it was. Darkness twenty-four hours a day for half the year, and daylight twenty-four hours a day for the other half of the year.

“It must be strange living here,” she said. “Six months of night, six months of daylight.”

“The Inuit don't seem to have a problem with it,” he said.

“And our elusive mythical quarry?” Pan asked. “It could be out there right now, looking at this cabin, and wondering about us, just as we wonder about it.”

“Or maybe it's sheltering in a cave,” he suggested.

“Unless it's hungry and hunting for food,” she suggested in return. “Or drawn to light sources like our lamp.”

“It would have to find a way into this cabin first,” Shiga said. “Last time I checked, both yeti and Bigfoot don't come equipped with a locksmith's tools.”

“Don't be so sure,” Pan said. “Sometimes brute force is enough.”

“Depends on how its applied,” he said. “For instance, a battering ram can be quite effective. But probably not against battleship armor.”

“We're not inside a battleship, last time I checked,” she said and yawned. “I think I'm going to go to bed. What about you?”

“Not yet,” Shiga said.

“Up to you,” she said and stood up. “I just hope I don't have nightmares here.”

“I thought that nightmares were mythical,” he teased.

“Yours might be, but mine aren't,” she said.

He smiled and watched as she climbed up to the upper level and got into bed. “Mama-san would've enjoyed talking with you.”


The sound of something shattering woke Pan out of her sleep. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, and looked around.

“Shiga?” she called. “Are you okay?”

“Stay up there!” he called back.

“What's going on?” she asked.

“Stay up there!” he repeated.

Something roared. Things were hurled about, metal and ceramics crashing into walls or onto the floor.

What had broken into their cabin? A polar bear? Or something even worse? Though, if it was worse than a polar bear, it was likely neither of them would survive.

Shiga cried out in pain. Had something attacked him? Whatever it was, it roared again.

Pan saw the kerosene lamp nearby. She lit it and suddenly could see what was happening on the lower level.

Shiga was standing with his back to the wall next to the fireplace. The fire had shrunk until it was mostly embers. Something large, furry, white, and standing on its hind legs stood facing him. As far as she could tell, it wasn't a polar bear.

The table and chairs were hurled aside and she could feel cold winds blowing into the cabin. Snow was falling inside the cabin, through the smashed front window, and piling up quickly on any horizontal surface. The inside temperature was falling rapidly.

She looked at Shiga again. He had a gash on his chest and was holding his left arm, as if his right hand was a sling.

Yell all he might, he needed help.

Pan looked at the kerosene lamp, nodded, and threw it as hard as she could at the monster attacking Shiga. The lamp smashed into the monster's back, setting it on fire.

This time it didn't roar. It sounded more like a scream of pain. Or maybe anger. It turned around to see what was burning it.

This gave Shiga the chance to reach with his good hand for the fireplace tongs. He shook the remains of the logs in the fireplace. Sparks and flames shot upward. He used the tongs to throw one burning log at the monster's feet.

Howling now, it lost interest in both humans as it tried to escape the fire covering its back and its feet. It rushed at the smashed front window and leapt through it. There were loud hissing noises as the snow put out the fires. But the monster didn't make another attack on the cabin's occupants. It apparently had had quite enough and fled, quickly disappearing from view.

Shiga ran into the kitchen, filled a pan with water, and doused the burning log with the water. He kicked the log back into the fireplace, where it hissed and sputtered before it started burning again.

Pan quickly descended to the main level and ran to Shiga, where he leaned against a wall, his eyes closed, holding his left arm with his right hand again.

“Is it broken?” she asked.

“I – I don't know,” he said. “It just hurts so much.”

“Can you sit on the couch?” she asked.

Shiga nodded.

“You do that and I'll see if there's a first aid kit,” Pan said.

“What about the front window?” he asked.

“You first, window second,” she said. She searched both the bathroom and the kitchen and finally found a red plastic box about the size of a lunchbox. She opened, swore, and removed what might help him the most.

“I didn't know you could nurse,” he said as she went to work on him.

“All women know how to,” Pan said. “It's how our bodies are built.”

“I meant, as in first aid,” he said.

“Oh,” she said. “I took a Health class in high school and my parents taught me some basic first aid. I just never thought I'd need to use any of it.” She improvised a sling around his neck and supporting his left arm. He didn't seem to hurt as much now, but he did wince sometimes.

Domo arigato,” Shiga said.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Thank you very much,” he said.

“You're welcome,” Pan said. “Now. Do you think you can help me cover up what's left of the front window?”

“I'll do my best,” he said.


When morning came, still dark as night outside, they were lying side by side in bed, careful not to bump or move Shiga's left arm or hand. They could both hear the crackling of the fire in the fireplace and feel the warm flowing from it.

“I wonder if I should mention this in our research paper,” he said softly.

She smiled and shook her head. “It's not anyone's business but our own.”

“I meant the monster's attack, silly,” he said, gently tapping her on the tip of her nose.

“We don't have any photographic proof,” she said. “And it's unlikely that it left any fur samples behind. Ergo, our report of it is nothing more than hearsay.”

Shiga made a face. “I wonder if it's worth staying another day here, then.”

“If the float plane can't reach the pick-up location, then I guess we're stuck here for the time being,” she said. “I'm going to get breakfast started.”

“Again, thank you for saving my life,” he said.

“I just hope I don't have to do it again anytime soon,” Pan said.

“You mean you don't want to go up the Amazon River or Congo River with me?” he teased.

“Let's just say that it's not exactly tempting,” she said.

He watched as she climbed down from the upper level. Then she paused. “Is everything okay, Pan?”

“More than okay, I think,” she said. “I found something. Something fairly substantial, actually.”

“Oh?” he asked, and tried to move until he could see her.

She held up a roughly rectangular piece of slightly burnt white fur about the size of her forearm. “Do you think this will convince them?”

“It might,” he said with a smile. “It just might.”


Back in the laboratory at the National History Museum in Washington, D.C., the technician asked, “And you found this in the area where your cabin was?”

Pan and Shiga nodded.

“It's definitely not from a polar bear,” the technician said. “Its DNA doesn't exactly match any polar bear DNA samples we have.”

“What do you think it might be?” Shiga asked.

“Some sort of hybrid,” the technician said. “Part-humanoid, part-bear. But no such thing exists.”

“Unless you believe in things like the yeti and Bigfoot,” Pan said.

“Those are just myths,” the technician protested.

“Unlike this,” Shiga said. “It did its best to break my arm and eat me.”

“Good thing you survived, then,” the technician said.

Shiga smiled at Pan, who smiled back. “It sure is,” the former said.

January 17, 2021 23:52

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Valerie June
05:48 Apr 22, 2021

Oh wow, this was fantastic! I saw that you made a sequel for this, so I needed to go back to the beginning. I loved how you never heavily info dumped things onto the readers, but instead you slowly slide in hints through the dialogue, setting, etc. I’m so excited to read the next part! (P.S. I’m going to read your “Tree in the Garden” story soon. You said that it was inspired by one of your poems. You shared that one with me, and I loved it.)


Philip Clayberg
04:36 Apr 24, 2021

Glad you liked it. The original poem is about 970 words long. I added about another 900 or so words in the short story adaptation of it. If you want to read the original poem, here it is: A TREE IN THE GARDEN There's a tree in the garden, A tall, beautiful tree, Its leaves are big and bright green Most of the year and then In the Fall its leaves turn red And fall, like butterfly wings, Only to turn brown and the wind Blows them away, “clearing the table” So that the tree is ready for New leaves in Springtime. This tree was planted by m...


Valerie June
06:38 Apr 24, 2021

Every time I read that poem it awakens something positive inside of me. I've had stories turn out darker than usual, too. My writing often leads me to introduce people and/or places when I least expect it. I kind of write "on the fly." I always have a vague idea when I start out with, but then it builds onto things that I'd never thought would be in my story. That's not the best strategy when it comes to writing but it works. Sometimes a character comes along with a mind of its own. I can't change what's going to happen to that character be...


Philip Clayberg
07:23 Apr 24, 2021

It's hard for me to believe that I wrote the "Tree" poem as just one poem out of the ones I wrote that year. Never knowing how much it would affect others until much much later. Neil Gaiman said it's like baking a cake: "Sometimes it falls flat; sometimes it turns out better than you could've expected. But at the end of the day, you shrug your shoulders, and you go on to the next thing." I think I told Nainika on this website that it's like a mixture of building a house and going on a journey. You want the "house" to be built as well a...


Valerie June
16:55 Apr 24, 2021

That's a great way to explain the process of writing. Agreed. For some people it's hard to stare at a notebook/screen in silence thinking about what to write about. Waiting for a character to "speak" to them can be a nearly impossible task. I took a break from my novel since everything went blank. The juices stopped flowing. I'll probably give it a shot again this week and try my luck. Sometimes, I come up with my *decent* ideas in the nighttime. It's kind of annoying because I have to write that idea down before I forget it. Then I'll stay...


Philip Clayberg
18:04 Apr 24, 2021

Distractions can be great for creativity. In the past (and sometimes still in the present), I found that if I couldn't think creatively, I would go do something else. Usually, the ideas would start coming in the middle of whatever else I was doing (including paid work). I'd either type or write as much as I could and as quickly as I could and then go back to what I was doing. That way I'd have *something* to refer to when I had time to be creative again, rather than trying to just remember what came to me. I don't have eidetic memory, s...


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Such a great story Philip!


Philip Clayberg
00:00 Feb 03, 2021

Thanks. Glad you liked it. Btw, the "cousin" to the Yeti of the Himalayas doesn't exist in northern Alaska (at least not that I'm aware of). I'm not starting a myth here. I wanted to write a story different from what I usually write about. I did try to write a sequel to it, but I'm not that happy with it. I was thinking that the company that Shiga and Pan (short for Pandora) work for might be like the TV series "Warehouse 13", except that they're sent to investigate reports of mysterious/mythical/legendary animals or humanoids in diffe...


No problem! Yeah, the cousin probably doesn't. Hmm, I suggest you should rewrite the sequel! :)


Philip Clayberg
20:20 Feb 04, 2021

I'll try to go back and reread it. I liked the idea of a company that investigates reports of possible strange creatures (two-legged, many-legged, or no legs) to see if they're for real or just another hoax, urban legend, etc. Could be dangerous sometimes, though (as Shiga and Pan found out in northern Alaska). Not all strange creatures are exactly thrilled about being discovered and eager to be studied. Sometimes they just want to be left alone or (if they're hungry) permitted to hunt as they please. It's possible that the northern Ala...


Me too, I like that idea of the possible strange creatures! :)


Philip Clayberg
18:02 Feb 07, 2021

I'll see what I can do with it, provided there's a story prompt that inspires a sequel (or two or three or however many). Unfortunately, there are already other stories (some with sequels, some without) that I've written that I haven't added to yet. They've been very patient with me, and I keep hoping I'll be able to add sequels to them. ----- (change of topic) I'm also still trying to think of a better title instead of "A Warning Shot Across the Bows" (the 6th sequel to "Breaking with Tradition"). "Nocturnal Transition" seems rather b...


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