Am I So Abominable?
by Eric Ellert
forum: Am I So Abominable?
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Am I So Abominable?


        Martin Porter came too lying in powdery snow near evergreens. His crew dumped him wounded and unconscious out of his B-29, strapped to a stretcher because of his wounds. They'd been flying the Hump. He must be somewhere East of the Himalayas.

        The parachute dragged him until the stretcher pulled halfway off and his broken leg twisted. He wore warm weather shorts and got a glimpse of the bone sticking out of the flesh. He screamed.

        Branches in the treeline cracked.

        The Yeti found him. It smelled like wet horse. It crouched in a defensive position then scurried over. It went through his pockets. "Bear ourselves to our duties."

        The parachute pulled him along the snow drifts, then up into the tree line.

        Its hairy hand grabbed his mouth. It pulled out a curved knife and cut the chute's lines free. It poured alcohol onto the gash on Martin's hand then took his dog tags, his rations, his pistol. Its long canine teeth looked made for fighting. Martin was sure it would eat him.

        A dog barked in the distance. A bell rang.

        They pointed the Webley at the barking. Its fur looked reddish-brown in the dawn light, its chest deep. Its arms were over long, as were its fingers. It seemed, all in all, a misshapen man. It made a yipping sound like a toy dog, moved into the fog and disappeared.

        Two Sherpas came from the other direction and pulled their dogs off Martin. They dragged him to a forgotten looking town at the base of a sheer cliff. People ducked into houses.

* * *

        Another time and place he would have called it a miserable hut but the bedding was soft and the fire warm. They prodded his leg. They held him down, took his wings, his dog tags and his booties. He questioned them. If they spoke English, they chose not to answer.

        "Bear down," one of them said as he left.

        A nurse, Martin supposed, entered the room, dropping her cloak to the floor and arriving by his cot as if dancing across the room. She dosed him with morphine. She mustn't have liked the look of the leg because her businesslike face put on a smile he supposed she reserved for the dying.

        "Where am I?"

        "We have an infirmary up at the mission. They'll bring you up there in the morning." She sang her words as if she'd relearned English in a finishing school.

        It had to be trauma and the morphine but Martin felt he had stared at that face many times before, and many times before it had stared back.

        They carried him up shallow stairs leading up to the cliff. The mission, as she called it, was a tall stone building with its back to the mountain. A compound of lesser buildings surrounded it. Smaller buildings followed the path. A long, narrow rimed bell sat at the cliff's edge. They laid him down in a makeshift sickroom.

        A French pilot offered him a cigarette.

        "Anyone else make it?"

        The pilot shook his head, smiling, as if glad about it and rolled over.

        "Leave him alone." The nurse said, "My name is Ms. Karty. Katherine Karty."

        "May I call you Katie?"

        "No." She lifted his blanket and examined the leg. "We'll do our best." That awful smile returned.

        "Do you have a radio?"

        She had him held down and yanked the leg back in place. She gave him something to make him sleep. He thought she'd left him conscious for spite. He didn't care for the presence of doctors and nurses. They touched death too often; it made one easier to find.

* * *

        After, she sat by his bedside. She wore no makeup; there were blood spatters on her blouse. "As for your questions. We did have a radio. Now we don't."

        "There's a war going on," Martin said. "Everybody has a radio."

        "I heard about it. People find you have a radio, they get to thinking you're talking to people about their airplanes and such. They don't like it. Get it in their heads to try to bomb you. I wouldn't like that. Would you, Mr. Porter?"

        "It's Captain."

        "I'm sure it is." She punched him lightly on the arm. "You rest and don't worry, once you're better, we'll have lots for you to do and yes, you will get better."

        The Frenchman had been trying to get a word in. "There's a bullet in your chest. She can't get it out." He leaned over and whispered, "And she doesn't know much at all. Just your luck, Captain. I say you're going to die."

* * *

        Weeks later Martin was hopping around on a cane. People ran around with an efficiency he didn't expect to find here. He was escorted to Katie's office. She read a file on him, not looking up until he was uncomfortable. "Sorry." She pushed a box of cigars at him. "Take a few. They fall from the sky."

        "Thanks." The tobacco tasted like turds but its magical powers took away his cravings. "Name, rank and serial number?"

        "Pardon me, oh, no, Lieutenant."

        "It's Captain, but you can call me Martin."

        "You're among friends."

        Katie hid here like a gargoyle. Had her peers been so lacking? "You missionaries?"

        "Of a sort."

        "Now I'll never play professional baseball," Martin said.

        "Doubt you'll fly, either."

        "About that."

        "Sorry. You'd like to return to your unit. Commendable, but not possible until spring."

        "How about guides?" Martin asked. "The Allies would pay."

        "And I should risk their lives, yours, and leave us understaffed?"

        Before he could ask, she placed a postcard with a narrow letter box on the desk, the kind censors found easy to read. "Write home."

        "Will it get there?"

        "Would it hurt you?"

        "I saw this thing out there."

        "The Abominable Snowman is the Leprechaun of these parts."

        "Yeah, but I saw it."

        "Did it bite?"

        "No," Martin said.

        "Then what's the problem?"

* * *

        They gave him crutches. He could get around well enough, but the leg seemed an inch shorter. Every time he heard a plane's engine, he tried to figure out a way home. He entered Katie's office. She was loading paper into a ticker tape machine. "You look like a fella who could use something to do."

        "You read my mind."

        "Katie Karty," she said, shaking his hand, reintroducing herself, lighting a cigarette she wanted no one to witness. "A bit cartoonish."

        "Better'n Betty Boop."

        Katie had a nervous habit of playing with the key around her neck. A vase with a four-inch diameter lay on the desk. When she tired of playing with the key, she forced it inside the jar like a piggy bank, all the while her eyes were on the ticker tape.

        "One would think you a spy," Martin said.

        "Bear to control, there are planes in the sky. They will land 900 miles away, hurry, get 'em."

        "Know any good stocks?"

        "I have superiors, duties. We all just can't fall out of the sky and lay about in the sun."

        "I like to read maps. Got any?"

        "As I said, you look like a fella 'could use something to do."

* * *

        They walked along tall hallways. Frescoes of blue warriors lined the chipped up plaster. Birds rested in the rafters. A whistle blew. Local kids ran down the hall, free for the day.

        When they got to the outside door, she handed him a long fur coat. He swore he felt fleas nipping him. He helped her on with hers.

        They skidded like skaters on the icy path. She smiled just for a moment. They stopped at the bell. The clear, thin air distorted the distance and made the evergreen valley below seem closer and sharp. The Himalayas stood in the distance as if holding up the roof of the world.

        "A warlord kept his maidens in this compound," Katie said. "It was less out of the way in those days."

        Vapor trails from a B-29 passed overhead, so high the engines were quiet. He took her hand, tapped the long bell as if to move and ring it.

        "Do not do that."

        He leaned over the edge, testing her anger.

        "Don't do that either."

        The rail stopped at the bell. The ground was covered with Marsden Matting, as if you might off-load a truck here at the end of the world.

        Martin peeked over the edge and slipped. Katie rushed forward and grabbed him. She was warm against his chest; her perfume smelled of strawberries. She set her hair in Kirkman's soap and beer, not so unusual at home. "Coney Island pilots."

        "What do you know about—"

        "Did you think I was born in these towers? My dad's nickname was 88 keys. When my brother was born, they called him 44. We started out in Brighton Beach, moved up to Seagate when things got better. Need a key to get in there. Some say you need a key to get out."

        Her chest was covered by a blue silk blouse. The collar was decorated with metallic stitching like a Napoleonic uniform. Snow fell on their shoulders. She seemed about to share a secret, then broke the spell and led him along the path.

        The out buildings were clean, but the plaster work was cracked and the roofs sagged, as if held up by cardboard beams. What prosperity had built the place had lagged.

        "It falls like this, the snow," Katie said as they walked arm in arm. "The clouds come fast then disappear. People like to say the mountains breathe them in and out." She walked faster. "Have you seen our greenhouse? It's the best in the town."

* * *

        The greenhouse's panes were all smashed in by falling rocks. They tiptoed on the glass. Gray stems clung to round red pots. Designs of running Yetti covered all the pottery.

        "We make these," Katie said.

        "Pots or the flowers?"

        "No, that's your job. Thought you might put it back together. We sell some flowers down in the town. It pays for bandages and such."

        Martin lit a cigar. "I was walking last night. I met a Frenchman, an English flyer from the European campaign, two Koreans. How's this possible?"

        "Martin, you must not go out there at night."

        "Why not?"

        "We are run on a military model. The order has rules. One could fall," Katie said, as if some had.

        "Servicemen tend to fall for their nurses, thinking there's—"

        "There's something."

        They kissed.

* * *

        It took weeks, but he replaced the missing panes and started planting. He still limped, but he could put some weight on the leg. Katie, with her lack of bedside manner, had told him he always would.

        It was a half-ass mission; the builders had been too dull to put the bell up in a tower. There was always another roof to patch, always a flower to fatten up for slaughter, always a generator part to jury rig. He wondered why they needed it. Katie usually sat with wind whipped candles, too cheap to wear out a light bulb. He'd built a receiver he hid in his cane. The clever work had kept his mind occupied, but the nasty mountains gave him static in return.

        However, on the plus side, there was Katie, not Katie of the ticker tape with the dull brown hair, who chewed her fingernails worrying over how long to reuse the coffee grinds. No, he liked the Katie of the evenings, the one who sneaked a cigarette and a couple of whiskeys, who knew all the card games, who had a brass laugh all that polish hid for ten or twelve hours a day. The wilder Katie who'd walk with him down the cliff-side stairs, fog covering their feet, risking a missed step that could kill them. That Katie, the one who just might let him go, and just might leave with him.

        Martin hated to admit it, but he was comfortable here. People were friendly and nobody pried. There were rules, but they were enforced gently enough. Still, being locked in at night, even gently, made him wish to go out. He thought to sneak a tool back to his room and chip his way out through the roof.

        His room was clean, large and austere, decorated in a lacquered, Asian kind of way. The entire wing had been emptied as guests were transferred. Where, he didn't know. They appeared to be dying, then, all of a sudden, they disappeared and he was told they were well.

        That night he lay in bed unable to sleep. His door shook with the pressure drop as the building's outside door was kicked in. Cold air crept under the doorjamb; that terrible stink filled the room.

        It shook the door. Martin had never noticed before but the room held no sharp objects, all soft edges, even the furnishings.

        "It's me, Hoppy. Help me," it said.

        Sergeant Hoppy, one of his crewmen. The thing must be trying to kill him.

        Shouts came from the courtyard. The Yeti huffed and yelled and ran away on flappy feet.

        Hard boots came down the hall after it.

        The bell rang.

        Marty tried to force the door but it was made of thick wood and iron straps The hinges were stamped with a rusty design. At first he had thought it had looked like the blue warriors on the walls; now they looked like Yetis in evening wear.

        He smashed the vase Katie had given him and pulled her key from the shards. He'd been hesitant to use it before. It fit the lock and he was out. When he got outside, the Sherpas were struggling with the Yeti. It broke away and ran on all fours back towards its forest.

        "Hoppy. Hoppy, where are you?" Martin called.

        The bell kept ringing as if it was electric, one long tone growing louder.

        Katie appeared from her office, still in her robe, big fur boots on her feet. The disappointed scowl on her face became an indulgent smile when she noticed him. "One of my handlers, I mean instructors, once told me that the best way to keep them in was to let them out." She smoothed his shirt collar, something of the jailer in her demeanor. "Come on, soldier."

        Katie led him past the last building. A flimsy gate blocked the path; beyond it, naked cherry trees grew with their bows touching.

        The path fed into a wide mouthed cave. The cave contained a classroom with old fashioned school desks with inkwells in the corners. Behind each inkwell sat a Yeti. A woman dressed like Kate in a blue silk uniform had them practice their French lesson again but not before they stood up and said, "Good evening, Mister Porter."

        One offered him its seat. The odor made Martin feel like he was being hunted. He took a few steps back then ran from the room. They laughed like powerful children.

        He made it out to the bell before Katie caught up to him.

        "Silly Martin, told you to stay put. Just so you know, the town is there to guard the mission. Not the other way around."

        A light shone in the sky, moving fast over the forest below the cliff. The yellow ball of light did a fast z pattern and disappeared over the horizon. It didn't seem to surprise Katie.

        Guards were absent. Martin ran to town, bumping into the rocks on his right to avoid falling off the cliff's edge on his left. There was a war on and he'd been living inside a dream.

        His feet were ripped by the time he knocked on the first empty house. He pushed in a few doors. No one was about; nothing seemed lived in. His feet were freezing at the edges, bloodied in the soles.

        A light came on at a dilapidated, half-story barn. He pulled the side door open. Warm air and the smell of strawberries and cigars came out.

        Katie sat at a desk much like the one in her office. No, it was her office. He peeked out the door, which now faced the cliff bell just a few yards away.

        He sat down and took a cigar without asking.

        The ticker tape poured out news that ran across Katie's fingers and onto the floor. She barely acknowledged him as she pulled off certain phrases she needed and taped them into a binder.

        "I should have guessed that a ticker tape presupposed a land line, not to mention everything else wrong with the place."

        "I'm sorry. It's more than a hospital. It's a place for soldiers to rest. They are sent here wounded and sent out into the world to heal. Wounded also in their minds, you see."

        "Nurse Doolittle talks to the animals and I'm crazy. I woulda settled for an explanation of the talking monkeys."

        "You, Lt. Martin Porter, and don't correct me on the rank, were sent out into the world to rest, then recalled here."

        "No, I'm Marty from Shelton, Connecticut. I have two sisters. They help out at the USO. They're told not to wear tight sweaters when they go dancing with the lads. In summers, I used to lifeguard at the Fairfield beach. I have pictures. You got to know somebody to get to be a county lifeguard. See, I know people."

        Katie gave her smile for the dying. "Why won't you heal?"

        "The leg's good enough, you get me outta here. Don't you turn me into no flying monkey. You care about me."

        A Pagonia sat on her desk. She pressed a beat up, push button light switch built into the pot. The plant turned into a blue Gardenia. She pressed the switch again; it turned into a Tiger Lilly. "Will that suffice?" She pressed it once more. It withered and died, missing only a sigh.

        Martin made it to the door.

        "Please." Katie brushed her hand towards her chest.

        He almost laughed, just thinking how monkey-like people were.

* * *

        They walked arm in arm towards the edge of the compound, staying in the shadows close to the buildings.

        Guards pushed the Yeti to the edge of the cliff. There had been nothing before it, then a hatch appeared, a room opened, mechanical noise poured out where there had just been silence.

        Blue-gray Yeti in formal uniforms came out of the craft and escorted it inside gently, though they seemed just on the edge of violence.

        Martin backed against the wall. "I have to tell someone about this, about you." He touched her shoulders. "Japs or Jerrys?"

        "I'm Betty Boop from Coney Island. I did spend time on their planet, being trained."

        The scent of lye boiling in soap cauldrons drifted up from the town. Donkey carts brought cans of lardy gruel rations up the hill. If the Yeti had come from the stars, surely they could have found a beach to settle near.

        "Trained by these monsters, to conquer us?"

        "No. This is a hospital. You'll understand. The therapy will bring you along."

        "You'll never let me go," Martin said.

        "Spring comes in two weeks. I'll take you home myself."

        "How did you know my name when we met?" How far could he get? He looked for a direction to run. "I know about them. They could bring me back here anytime they wanted to, couldn't they? You with your tickertape."

        The craft lifted off, turned bright in the distance and flew straight up into the clouds.

        "I'll never forgive you," Marty said.

        "For being what you are?" She tried to take his hand. He pulled away.

        He went back to his room. No one came to lock the door. No one had to. He could run into the forest and in the forest he would freeze. He still wore the leather booties he'd bailed out in.

* * *

        Spring came, though one couldn't call it a tender spring. They moved the hot house flowers into the garden. Every inch of the grounds was planted, clipped and shaped. It looked like an English mizmaze garden all bunched up.

        Martin sat around some evenings drinking Kava Kava with the Yeti they'd captured. He pressed them, but they did not care to talk of the war.

        He'd been cordial but cool to Katie; with everything blooming, it seemed petty of him. She had those rough hands and that lonely face.

        Smudge pots burned near the bell, always being relit for the rain. Heavy snow had become too heavy rain, patiently pulling the mission's foundations away, grain by grain what had been so patiently hauled up here rock by rock. Chickens were always underfoot, trying to beat you into an open door. Maybe the wild Katie was just hiding 'neath the ticker tape Katie.

        He surprised her in her office one sunset, shortly before curfew. If she could sleep, it would seem she chose not to. His room had a thick, soapy window. He often watched the light at her office long into the night.

        Her hands were bloody. Her ticker tape machine lay on the floor. Its glass bell was smashed. It spit out numbers still.

        He wrapped her hand in his shirt. She was trembling. Lately, he didn't think her blood was warm enough for it. "Schoolmarm lady, what's wrong?"

        "It's nothing, just an accident."

        "I was going to bring you flowers but you have that way with them. Guess you could make your own."

        She smiled. Her canine teeth were overlong. She leaned her head on his chest. The loneliness poured through her into him, then into the cold slate floor.

        "Schoolmarm like you would live in a house made of blackboards."

        "I'm just over busy. You know how I got here? I was sitting on the top deck of a ferry, stuck in the fog, waiting to head into Sheepshead Bay. The top deck rolled. It takes talent to hold a cup of coffee steady. A yeti ship appeared like a light in the sky. They whisked me away. I was fourteen. And now I'm here. The 'de-sickening' of the wounded, that's what I do here. I'm just not so good at it."

        "I don't mind staying here," Martin said, "if leaving in spring will get you into trouble."

        "Did you pack two packs like I told you? Did you hide 'em in the town?"

        "I did better—I built us a balloon."

        "I'm not kidding. Tomorrow, go into the forest, where we first found you. There's a clearing. Tomorrow night, no matter the weather, I'll come for you, Martin."

        The bell rang, then squealed as if a mike was being sound checked. "Prisoners, line up for inspection."

        Katie lost her breath. Her chest heaved. She popped two pills. "They work us to death in this place."

        She recovered and smiled as if embarrassed for her lapse. "Just a turn of phrase." Even now she couldn't help straightening out her desk. "The Yeti in the forest will take us to the rail line, fifteen, maybe twenty miles, but they'll guide us." She pulled out a pair of boots from her desk drawer, tossed them over and poured them drinks. She handed him the Webley the Yeti had taken from him. "They're losing the war. They're changing the rules."

        "Whose war?" Martin asked.

        "They're going to kill you. They are so far from home. They can't use you. They won't waste the supplies on you. You're not good enough to trade."

        "For what?"

        "Marty, this is a POW hospital. You're the enemy. I told you to take the classes, to get well, to regrow your fur, to change your aspect, to remember. When I showed you the flower. I wasn't doing parlor tricks. It's all part of a process."

        She opened her desk and pulled his photo from a file. The Yeti in the photo had his features. "Don't you see? Didn't you wonder how we make the flowers grow in this climate? How the Yeti accepted you as one of their own?"

        For just a moment, if the bell had been nearer, he'd have jumped off the cliff. "What do we do?"

        "We run. We find your Connecticut and we forget."

* * *

        They made it to the forest edge. They had a view of the aircraft that hovered by the bell. MP types in dress uniforms took some Yeti aboard and tossed others over the cliff, the Frenchman he'd first met among them.

        A Yeti with ribbons on his chest called Martin's name over a loudspeaker. "No one will harm you."

* * *

        Katie and Martin traveled fast like a dog pack with the renegade Yeti.

        They came upon Martin's plane. At first it seemed they had tried to land in the frozen river, but by the way the trees were broken, it looked as if the B29 had been pulled straight down from the sky.

        The crew lay dead inside. Two of them were Yeti.

        "Fix this, Katie."

        "We can change things but not like clay. If you stay human too long the body sets that way. Thing is, whether you remember it or not, you chose to stay away, to live like a savage. Some aspect of your mind was misshapen. You are a deserter and a criminal."

        "Help me bury them."

        "We haven't the time. You're an embarrassment to them."

        They took the parachutes to sell the silk, the small arms, the emergency rations, the maps.

        "You were a pilot for them," Katie said. "You were dropped on Earth to heal, to rest."

        "I know who I am."

        Martin poked around the plane's carcass, although they had as much gear as they could carry. "They shouldn't have tossed me out. Why'd they do that?" He wondered what it would take for some of the scattered ordinance to go off.

        "I'm sorry, Marty, but we can't wait. We can't bury them."

        "Why are they so cruel, to let me dream so?"

        "They are wild men. Not backwards, just wild. It would be a waste of resources to retrain you. Think of the cost of every can of Spam you ship across the Pacific. How much more would it cost to bring it from another star? You're too dumb to feed. Everything is dear, Martin, except your life. We couldn't send you back damaged in the prisoner exchange. Better to say you died."

        "Why are these Yeti helping us?"

        "I promised I could change them."

* * *

        They settled in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Two happy years had passed. Their red house sat near a cliff overlooking the bay. Fog came over the lawn; one had to be careful not to fall off. A ship's bell hung down by the edge, near a break in the rail.

        America had won her war. Had the others? Martin couldn't say. He'd grown a beard. Katie preferred it. They had two kids. She was reasonably sure she was from Coney Island, but then again, he'd been reasonably sure of his life in Connecticut. If the Yeti could alter bodies, why not minds? Still, they nicknamed the kids 22 and 11 keys respectively.

        There were sisters with the last name of Porter in Connecticut, but they didn't know him. Their Martin Porter was MIA in Europe.

        Katie brought him a whiskey. She wore a red plaid kilt as the tourists did.

        "Are you my wife or my nurse?" Martin asked. "Are we escaping or is this an annex of your infirmary?"

        "You just have to believe me."

        "And if I told the Airforce about Foo?"

        "About Foo and what he do? I wouldn't advise it."

        They kissed, but there was some magic missing. The dentist had filed down Katie's canines. Her teeth were Yeti thick.

        "Am I so abominable, Martin, that things between us can't be fixed?"

        "When the war between the Gray Yeti and the Red does end, there's sure to be some scores to settle. They'll come after us for spite."

        "Maybe we're not that important."

        He put his arm around her as the fog covered their view of the rocky beach. Since they'd gotten married, he didn't care to talk overmuch.






copyright 2007 Eric Ellert.

Eric Ellert:

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Looking for a publisher or agent for my latest novel, A Certain Soldier's Daughter.

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