Story-A-Day May #15: The Cryptid Conundrum

We’re halfway through the Story-A-Day May challenge, and fittingly the challenge prompt of the day is to write about a character who’s at a halfway point (of any sort).

This time I wrote an adventure story, starring a cryptozoologist having the best, and worst, day of her life.

***

The Cryptid Conundrum

Sasquatch was real, and Zoey could prove it — assuming she survived long enough to get her film developed. At the moment, her odds weren’t looking good.

She currently braced herself in the middle of a swaying, rope bridge, over a bottomless chasm. The sasquatch eyed her from the western cliff, tentatively testing the structural integrity of the nearest wooden board. If he spoke the Queen’s English, she would have gladly informed him it wasn’t good. Not good at all. Her own mud-splattered boots had already crashed through a half-dozen rotten planks.

Most cryptozoologists went their whole lives without personally encountering a single cryptid, and Zoey really didn’t want to seem ungrateful for meeting two in one day. But…

An Almas blocked her way, on the eastern side of the bridge.

Most casual observers would mistakenly assume these two hairy, man-shaped creatures were of the same species. Nothing could be further from the truth! The trained eye of a cryptozoologist noted the differences in height and fur coloration.

Zoey’s camera whirred and clicked as she plotted her escape. The Almas was shorter, true, but lighter and nimbler. It was better suited to safely traverse the bridge, as it appeared eager to do, making ape noises and hopping about. On the other hand, there might not be enough room to squeeze past the Sasquatch, even if she could avoid its grasp. Unless she could lure it to its doom? But to engineer the death of a cryptid, only moments after first confirming its existence… She’d most likely be cast out of the Royal Cryptozoologist Society, and certainly become a pariah at social events.

She let her camera hang loosely from its strap, removed her hat, and wiped her brow. Now that she’d caught her breath, she did feel lucky. Any cryptozoologist worth her salt would kill for hard evidence of a cryptid’s existence, and a few of them had. They got invited to all the best parties.

Zoey herself had been involved in a handful of tragic accidents on this expedition, but she accepted no responsibility. It was a known cost of doing business. They — that is, cryptozoologists — said this was the world’s most dangerous profession. Flamboyant archaeologists and tomb robbers be damned; those show-offs had it too easy. At least they knew the treasures they sought existed, somewhere. In fact, this was exactly the sort of situation where some hotshot adventurer would take out her whip — like Zoey did now — wrap it around a tree branch, and swing to freedom.

Firstly, that was not how physics worked, not remotely, and Zoey scoffed at the very notion. Secondly, she didn’t spot any branches within reach.

If the bridge’s boards began to crumble, though, the whip could give her a chance to hold on. If its ropes snapped… the crack of the whip might drown out any unladylike screams during her prolonged plummet. If she was the first human these cryptids had met — regardless of their present hostility — the least she could do was make a good impression.

The Almas made the first bold move, snorting and shuffling out onto the creaking bridge. Its bared teeth glinted in the sun as it let out a guttural cry.

Zoey nodded to herself. It was time to learn if these cryptids were more black bear or grizzly bear. Was their aggression just for show, and would they back down if repaid in kind? Or was she about to become a cryptid’s meal? A historically significant achievement, but one she could do without.

She stood tall, feet spread, and cracked her whip at the Almas. The cryptid did blink, and grumble, and slow its pace.

However, behind her back, there came a full-blown roar. Zoey looked over her shoulder in time to see the Sasquatch beat its chest and lumber onto the bridge, causing it to sway wildly side to side, and bounce up and down.

Zoey and the Almas both grasped for the nearest rope, holding on for dear life. She gazed into the bottomless chasm and its wicked, jagged rocks. But she had no intention of taking the plunge. Not on this day.

Regaining her footing, Zoey spun the opposite direction to stare down the charging Sasquatch. Her whip went off like a gunshot. The cryptid didn’t even blink.

Behind her back again, the Almas made a piercing whine and resumed its advance. This situation was rapidly spiralling out of her control. Now she snapped her whip side to side, without hesitation. Without rest. It barely slowed the two cryptids who converged on her position.

Perhaps if she hooked her whip around the bridge, and swung over the side? But that would only make her an easier target. Besides, it was already too late.

On her left, the Sasquatch reached out with its massive, hairy hands. On her right, the Almas did likewise.

Trapped in the middle, Zoey squeezed her eyes shut and crouched.

A brush of fur tickled her ears. It was followed by the soft breeze of massive objects whooshing by.

At last, she dared to peek. The cryptids had completely ignored her, and were now fiercely wrestling one another. Neither one seemed to have gained the advantage. Though they bared their teeth, they didn’t bite, yet.

This was a very peculiar grappling contest, and-

Oh.

Oh dear.

Her supposition that they were two different species had been cast into doubt. They were, quite visibly, male and female. And compatible.

Zoey averted her eyes, and quickly made her exit. It didn’t seem right to take any further pictures. Not right at all.

Her purposeful stride hastened into an unsteady run when the cryptids started making… noises.

Naturally, as a serious, sober-minded scientist, she was overjoyed by her discovery. Not to mention the prospect that cryptid species would be perpetuated for future generations. Much debate took place in the cryptozoologist community over methods of reproduction, or potential immortality of these singular organisms. And her account would certainly cause a stir.

But really! If civilization were to make any impact upon these cryptids — beyond the destruction of their natural habitats — it should impart the concept of getting a room.

***

Thanks for reading!

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