The Invisible Footprints

Submitted into Contest #77 in response to: Write about two people going sledding for the first time in many years.... view prompt

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Crime Fiction Horror

Dad is a die-hard, never-give-up person brimming with positivity. Still, the rigours and worries of the past six months have taken a toll on him. The fit and energetic person is slowly reducing to a mass of despair. The search for Yeti has hit him hard. I try my best to help him in every new search mission we undertake, but he doesn’t listen to me. He ignores me because I'm still a girl. He believes, I'm misdirecting him towards some wrong path. He thinks, I'm leading him towards a nice little snow dune that I can slide down as much as I want to. There’s nothing much I can do. 

*******

    It was the first wintry morning of the season that we woke up to. The trees had emptied all their green outfits and stood like empty wardrobes in all hues of brown; their arms sticking out like slender limbs as they slept. I was excited. The weather prediction mentioned a snow storm late in the afternoon, but with the sunny rays breaking through the clouds, right then seemed the perfect time for a walk in the woods. I finished breakfast sooner than expected and donning my jacket, gloves and boots ventured out to enjoy the first day of winter.

*******

    It’s snowing today. The ground outside already wears a thick blanket of snow. The predictions tell us to expect more snow as the day progresses. Infact, it predicts heavy snowfall. It says - - “venture out with caution.” We get ready to leave. Dad is layered in extra warm clothing. He doesn’t want to risk falling sick. I am determined as ever to help him today with his search. It’s high time he finds Yeti.

*******

    I scooped up handfuls of snow, rolled them into snow balls and flung them at dad as I bid him bye. I hopped in joy over the bald heads of smooth rocks that lay buried in inches of snow. It reminded me of the game I played on my console, hopping over such rocks, manning the joy stick. I chanced upon the almost frozen stream but for a thin trickle of still flowing water. I removed my right glove and dipped my forefinger in the water. Oh! It stung me with its ice-cold touch. I flicked my hand up and down to ease the pain sliding it again into my leather glove.

*******

    It already looks like a blizzard. Not a good sign. But dad is determined. He studies the route he’s to take today. He slings his ski kit like a backpack over his shoulders, just in case he needs them later. He eyes the snowmobile with second thoughts about leaving it behind. He stops for a moment and thinks again. Looking at the weather predictions and the time it will take to make the journey on foot, he decides to ride the snowmobile today. He checks for the amount of gas still left in its belly. It’s enough he reckons for today's journey.

*******

    I saw the furry tail of a squirrel sticking out of a hollow in the tree trunk. I stopped to watch expecting him to show his face. Ah! So cute! He nibbled an acorn nut he held, giving me an occasional glimpse of his pearly-white buck teeth. I was reminded of my friend Lucy and her buck teeth. But she had braces then to correct her misaligned teeth. I walked further and to my surprise found an unfinished snowman sitting smug in the snow. I guessed some kids probably ran out of time to finish it. I went down on my knees smoothening and shaping its belly.

******* 

    Taking out the snowmobile has become a tough choice for dad lately. The running costs are a bit too high for him. The search for Yeti has cost him a lot and his savings are running low. I sit behind dad with my arms secure around him. Dad adjusts his goggles over his eyes and the thick woollen scarf around his neck. He pushes the self-start button with his right thumb. The mobile sputters to life with a loud 'vroom.' He vrooms it for a few seconds before shifting the gear. We accelerate into the woods with snowflakes accumulating on our faces.

*******

I completed the snowman's belly. I stood back a few inches to check my artistry. I then went a full circle around him. He was round and smooth all around. I began working on his face. I scooped handfuls of snow patting it on the top-centre of the snowman's belly-body. I was breathing heavy from the effort. My warm breath came out as foggy steams from my mouth and nostrils. I made a victory sign with my right hand and held it to my lips, blowing through the gaps of my fore and middle fingers. Ah! I was smoking as I saw the foggy air rise up. Amused, I jumped up and down in the snow. I wasn’t allowed to smoke yet, though I'd smoked a couple of times on the sly.

*******

    We pass the stream and suddenly dad halts. He studies the map in his hand. He looks to his left and then to his right. He runs his finger along some lines on the map. He folds it and stuffs it back carefully into his jacket pocket. We go left. I pat dad on his shoulders to tell him we should go right. But as always, he simply ignores.

*******

    I'd finished my snowman's body. I went looking for twigs and nuts to fix as snowman’s limbs, nose and eyes. I stumbled upon huge footprints in the snow. Very huge. I had fit my feet in what seemed like the narrow heel end of the huge footprint. I remembered the story of Yeti I'd read and heard about as well. I was amazed and at the same time scared too. I stepped out of the footprint and followed the footprint trail in the snow.

*******

    Dad stops as he sees the huge footprints once again. Despite going left instead of right, we've circled back to the right path. He parks his snow mobile and follows the footprints. They end at the frozen lake. Dad doesn’t know which way to go. He sits with his elbows on his knees and his forehead resting in his palms. He looks up in my direction. I animatedly tell him this way, pointing towards the woods bordering the banks of the lake. But he pays no heed. I'm after all still a girl. When did adults take children seriously?

*******

    I'd left footprints in the snow next to Yeti's. Light small ones trailing beside the huge deep ones. But the snowstorm had partly spared some of the huge deep ones. They did not look like Yeti's footprints anymore. Mine lay buried below the fresh snowfall. I'd tried telling them all I knew about Yeti. Yet, they all walked away ignoring my Yeti story except for dad who's still searching for him.

*******

    I can see Lucy standing at a distance. I pull dad's hands. He doesn’t budge. This is the first time we’ve come so close to finding Yeti. I walk determined, expecting him to follow. As usual, he doesn't. Lucy's smiling and is calling me to play.

    If only dad follows me just once, he will be amazed like me and Lucy to find Yeti with his changing feet. Lucy has her playhouse next to mine. There are other playhouses too. I'm still making friends. She wants to show her dad her playhouse too. Maybe uncle John will join dad next time around? 

    I’ve had my playhouse for 6 months. I've even got a few of my favourite toys from home in my playhouse. Lucy joined the playhouse next to mine 4 days ago. She's still filling it with her favourite toys from home. I’m glad that she's my neighbour.

    We walk hand in hand. We reach our destination - - our playhouse that’s a few metres away from the trap door. The Yeti lives underground in a wood cabin that’s an attic. He wears his Yeti shoes when he walks to the lake. He then wears his tear drop snow shoes while walking back home. He looks more like a man. But still for us, he’s Yeti for he can change the size of his feet.

   The Yeti has many pictures of me and other girls as well - - without our frocks. We love our playhouse - - the pits below the snow that Yeti dug for us, where he buried us forever. I'm cross that dad ignored me once more. He didn't see me or my footprints in the snow. Next time - - will he?! maybe?!

January 20, 2021 11:53

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