I was heading out to my secret cabin near Salcha in heavy ice fog at -48F. Salcha, by the way, is not a real town. It's a sprinkling of houses and cabins along the Richardson Highway and the Salcha River, 40 miles south of Fairbanks and 10 miles south of Eielson Airforce Base. I had inspected the cabin at the beginning of winter, with a view to renting. I decided to stay in Fairbanks, but retained a copy of a key to the minimalist dry cabin. Nobody went there. Now it was frozen solid, buried in deep snow, at the end of a long driveway set way back from a gravel road. It was the perfect base for my nocturnal activities.

I turned off the gravel road and nosed into the unplowed driveway, which still bore tire imprints from my last visit. A lot of fresh snow had piled up since then, and I wondered if my 4 wheel drive was up to plowing a path to the cabin, invisible in the ice fog ahead. I judged it was doable. I exited the pickup and fiddled with the carabiner that held a wire cable across the drive. I pulled the cable free of the snow and managed to undo the carabiner before my hands froze inside my bulky gloves. Then I got back in the truck and proceeded slowly down the drive in first gear.

The birch and aspen on either side of the drive hovered in the ice fog. Two thin straight white birch up ahead glowed in my headlights with an unnatural sheen. I continued slowly forward, careful not to hesitate at a rut. I noticed with unease that the Check Engine light was illuminated- when did that come on? I shifted to second and felt my tires spin, then catch. I must be approaching that dip in the drive where the snow would be deepest. I noticed that I had not overtaken those two glowing birch, which inexplicably remained at the same distance ahead of me, despite my progress down the drive. Suddenly my truck dropped into the dip, and sank into snow that was deeper than anticipated. The engine died. I started again in first, but the truck was going nowhere. I got out to assess the situation, and found that I was buried in snow up to my axle. Luckily I had a shovel on board.

As I turned to look for the shovel, I noticed that those two birch, if anything, looked closer now. Were they actually moving toward me? Almost like legs on stilts. Or maybe just very long legs. I continued to watch the approach of the birch, and could not deny that something quite tall was walking toward me and the marooned truck. I looked upward as a thin, metallic torso with swinging arms came into view. A large angular head bobbed slightly with each step. I knew of the Hairy Man, Bethel's answer to Sasquatch, who was known to locals for generations. But this creature was neither hairy, nor, as near as I could tell, a man. Its surface was smooth and reflective, and I discerned no external genitalia. It moved like a dancer whose command of the choreography was technically perfect, but lacked interpretive artistry. When it halted and swung its big head in my direction, I broke into a sweat underneath my layers of down and wool.

to be continued

© 2017 Moe Dey - 2/17/17

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