The Sasquatch watches me from across the flooded forest, from between grim-dark tree trunks and spreading cypress limbs as dark as its fur. Its two eyes are unblinking and as golden as my firelight. A night egret calls. Wind ripples shallow waves over drowned roots. I hold my heart in my hand and offer it to the beast.
Slosh. Starlight glimmers through racing clouds, reflected in the moon-pool below. The lake is a monument to human interference and yet it has endured. The Sasquatch who’s approaching, quiet ripples of its footsteps reaching me above the fire’s crackle: it knows. Oil and ferries, industry and husbandry, all have tried to tame the water. Conservation has brought back some few fauna. Enough for an ape, perhaps.
Enough for a journalist to tempt it with fresh meat.
The wind’s fierce whisper rises, shaking needles to a mouldy grave. I’m waiting for the creature, camera feed bouncing invisibly to satellite, to my watching viewer. They see as much as I, and more: my eyesight is compromised by the flames. But I cannot relinquish this slim safety, not yet. My shaking hand touches play on my speaker and a throaty call abrades the air. It is metallic, rotten, deep; it strikes my spine with fear and my lungs with gravel. Three seconds of horror. I play it again.
The beast accelerates. The cypress bathwater parts easily to its paws; I imagine thick mud oozing between curl-clawed toes, fish darting fast away, weed clinging spurs to wretched fur. I see its eyes again: two embers in the dark. Yet a moment later it trips, splash, and then it is gone.
I am frozen, waiting for my end, waiting for its jaws and my proof and… the Sasquatch disappoints me.
I wait until dawn.
When the sky turns purple-pink with bloated rays of self-importance, only then I dare to move. The fire is low, gnats biting. I rise on creaking knees, pick up a tent spike and tread over the short, squelching ground to the lake’s edge. Check the bait: still hanging.
Then, ten metres out: a disturbance. “What’s that?” urges the viewer in my earpiece.
Could be an alligator, a heron, something else. I know what I’m betting on.
The dinghy is flat-bottomed and old. I steer it out, still streaming to the feed. No commentary necessary; my viewer is holding their breath, same as I.
A gleam beneath the surface. I use the boat hook to grasp it. Pull it in. On its end, a human-like bone-white skull leers drunkenly, weed for hair, molluscs in its eyes. I drop it to the deck.
“Un-freaking-believable.” Another whisper.
I pull the boat back in and manage not to vomit from the smell until after the police arrive.
My viewer—my sponsor—agrees to pay for next month’s trip. They want to know if the Skunk Ape is real. Or, at least, not entirely dead.
This story’s first version appeared on Reddit/WritingPrompts in response to a constrained writing exercise focusing on location. Thanks for reading, and if you’re ever in Texas, happy hunting…