A Far Distant Sound

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Start your story with an unusual sound being heard.... view prompt


Fantasy Speculative Happy

It had moved mountains. That is what you could truly say about the earthquake that had caused the unclimbable ring of giants to shift the position that they had held for a few thousand years. As a geologist who had done work in the area when he had been a graduate student, Frank could not be more pleased by the acceptance of his research proposal to investigate the effects of the motion that had disturbed their long rest. What would make it especially interesting was that the mountain chain had been in a tight circle, now with an opening that had not existed before. When his wife, Nancy, with her PhD in biology, with a specialization in goats, suggested that there could be a new (to humans) species of goats in the area never trod by humans, he had included her in the proposal. For the first time they could work together on a project that involved both their areas of expertise. It promised to be fun for the two of them. The only bad part was that they would not see their much-loved four-year old granddaughter Marnia (their daughter had thought about calling her Narnia) for two months. They would miss playing together with the figurines they had given her: the mythical characters that all three would animate with the voices they thought each would have, especially Charles the centaur (like a horse only with words and a man’s deep voice), the Olivia the orc (like a raven with lots of attitude) and Unice the unicorn (the way that Marnia spelled it). There was no agreement yet as to what voice would be appropriate. For some reason Marnia did not want Unice to neigh like a horse, but that she would sound more distinctive and exciting. There were no other good ideas that they could come up with. Someday maybe.

In the Mountains

It took Frank and Nancy two flights to get to the country, and a long dusty train ride to arrive in the nearest town. Their host, a fellow scientist who could speak some English, greeted them there at the train station. He provided them with a car, and directions to what he called his ‘country home’ and wished them luck. He showed a greater interest in Nancy’s work than in Frank’s, which they thought odd, as he was a geologist. Maybe he just liked goats. He did have a long beard.

It was not long before Frank and Nancy could see the mountains ahead of them in the distance. It is a cliché (and alliteration) to call mountains ‘majestic’, but they felt that there was something distinguished, even royal about them. They appeared to rule over the flatlands that surrounded them.

The ‘country home’ turned out to be an updated servant’s quarters in front of the ruin of what appeared to have once been a castle. The electrical power came by means of a generator that had been installed not so very long before. The plumbing was linked to a river that ran close by, the toilet to a septic tank. Frank and Nancy didn’t sleep much that first night, because they were so excited about beginning their research. They got up, ate breakfast while standing, and had prepared all their gear the night before. So they were soon out the door and headed towards the mountains as the sun rose.

It was easier than they thought it would be to get inside the ring of the circling mountains. They spent much of the day just walking around and taking pictures. Frank chipped away at some interesting looking rocks to put in his sample bag. Nancy found hoof prints that were a little different from what she had encountered before with mountain goats. She believed it highly possible that they could have been made by some species of goat that she had never encountered before. As the discoverer, she might get to give it its species name. She laughed almost silently to herself as she thought of calling the new species Capra frankus. Fortunately, Frank was too far away to hear that laugh, and ask her what she was laughing at, as he so often did when she appeared to be chuckling at nothing.

It was late in the afternoon, the sun beginning to set, when they experienced something that was barely within the realm of awareness, stepping nearly in the land of imagination. There was a strange sound that echoed through the hills, a sound like no other they had ever heard. It was haunting like a wolf’s howl, but it was definitely not coming from any wolf, unless it had squired a wild horse. But it was getting quite dark, so they could not pursue the source of the sound. They would just have to wait until the next day. Definitely they would be there early in the morning.

The Next Day

The next day they arrived to hear the strange sound again. In fact, they heard it coming from two different directions. They split up to pursue the two sources of the cries, hoping that at least one of them would see what was making the sound. Frank heard something rustling in the bushes but did not get a good look at what kind of beast made that or the louder sound heard earlier. Nancy was more fortunate. She could move a little faster than her husband could. He had a tendency to fall when he moved too quickly on uneven terrain. She claimed that happened because he couldn’t see the ground for his beard. Nancy was able to catch a momentary glimpse of the back end of the beast before it disappeared into the bushes. What she saw was goat-like in a few ways, being four-legged and hairy, but it still was different. It was a little taller than the mountain goats that she had encountered before. The tail was long and hung downwards, unlike any goat’s tail she had ever seen. She asked herself, ‘If this isn’t a goat, what can it possibly be?’ She had no answer for that question, not even a guess.

Through the course of the day, while Frank chipped off rock samples, Nancy collected samples of her own. She had written and published a rather lengthy paper on what mountain goats eat, so she had prepared herself by packing bags for her research here. It took her a while, but she began to find several poop samples of what she still called Capra frankus.

That evening they wondered out loud what it was that was making the sound. Nancy told Frank that there was no way that it was a goat. Neither of them was familiar enough with the wildlife of the area to come up with an alternative four-legged, hairy, long-tailed creature. The sound it made was the most baffling aspect of the beast. And with no Wi-Fi where they were staying, they could not Google search animal sounds.

The Next Morning

The next morning they left and arrived at their destination while it was still dark. This was a first. They planned to spend the early morning seeking out the animal that made the far distant sound. Nancy’s cell-phone had a top-of-the-line audio recorder app. Frank didn’t, as he was not as computer friendly as his wife. He referred to apps as a-pain-in-the-petuti, just like he called updates, up-yours-dates, for changing things with which he was familiar and comfortable. He did, however, bring his strongest binoculars, which came with no app for filming, just good vision for seeing in the distance. They sat on a rock in the centre of the ring of mountains and waited. They did not have to sit there long. Again, they heard the magical sound from two directions, this time from higher up in the mountains. Nancy was just beginning to record it when Frank shouted something that was more a sound that it was word. He passed his binoculars on to Nancy. She saw the animals that Frank had been so loud about. She uttered her own version of the sound that Frank had previously made.

They then looked at each other, and all they could say was ‘it’s Unice’. They had found the sound for Eunice. Their granddaughter would be so happy. They were silent for a few seconds, and Nancy then asked a very difficult question, “Do we let the world know that unicorns are not totally mythical, but are actually real, with an ivory white horn, mane and tail?” Frank’s struggled for an answer, merely saying, “For now let’s just tell Marnia, and play the recording for her.” Nancy nodded.

November 09, 2021 13:27

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