The Abominable Snowkitten
Chapter 2: The Hunt For The Missing Yak
Conceived by Berman in Boston
“How long has it been, ma?” asked Harold the snowkitten, peering out the kitchen window.
“Two days and counting, dear, and no sign of him yet,” his mother replied.
Harold frowned. It just wasn’t like Frankie to disappear like this. Harold been best friends with the yak since they were little--well, since Harold was little. Yaks are pretty gigantic, even the baby ones.
“Harold, be honest with me,” his mother said. “Do you know where Frankie is?”
“I really don’t, mama.” And for once in his life, Harold was being honest.
“Well, do you have any idea where he might be?”
Harold thought this over. He and Frankie did have a few favorite hiding spots in the Himalayas--three, to be exact.
“He could be in one of our secret hideouts, I guess.”
“I see. And where are these secret hideouts?”
“If I told you, they wouldn’t be secret. Duh.” Technically, Harold was still being honest with his mother. Annoying, but honest.
Against her better judgment, his mother decided to play along. This was an emergency, and if anyone could find the missing yak, it was Harold.
“If I let you check those secret hiding spots on your own, can you promise not to get in any trouble?”
“Oh yes, mama. I promise.” Suffice it to say, Harold’s honesty streak was over.
“Well, alright then,” his mother said. “Just be back before--”
Harold bounded out of the house. He had three hideouts to check, and no time to waste discussing details. He’d start with his and Frankie’s favorite spot in all of the Himalayas: the tip-top point of Vertigo Peak.
Fortunately, Harold had an adventurers' constitution and a head for heights, and never fell victim to the vertigo said peak promised. This had proven valuable more times than he could count, especially when Frankie tried to switch places during Hide & Seek.
The icy path to Vertigo Peak twisted up the mountain. Harold made a game of the climb, hopping from rock to rock and pretending each one was sinking beneath him. If his paws touched the ground, he would be frozen in an abominable kittencicle.
A loud, excited voice called out to Harold. Harold, frantic, swung his little abominable head back and forth, trying to figure out where the high-pitched greeting was coming from.
The voice belonged to a black kitten, standing on one of the rocks. The kitten was smaller than Harold, with one exception: his tail was irregularly long. The kitten bounded towards Harold, tripping over his exceptionally long tail on the way.
"My name's Oliver," said the kitten, "What's yours?"
"I'm Harold, and I'm an abominable snow kitten!" Harold growled as ferociously as he could, though it came out as more of a small yelp.
Oliver giggled. "You don't seem very abominable to me. You're silly!"
"Listen, Oliver," said Harold. "I don't have time for this. I'm headed to the top of Vertigo Peak, to look for my friend, Frankie."
Oliver furrowed his brow.
"Wait a minute," said Oliver. "This friend of yours, Frankie, is he a yak?"
Harold eyed the little black kitten suspiciously.
"I suppose he might be. Why? Do you know where he is?"
"I might know where he is," said Oliver. "But it'll cost you."
Oliver had, by this time, done the math. When a kitty is out of pocket, far from home, and in the snow, he has to rely on his quick wits to meet his needs. Harold seemed like an easy mark, and probably a good way to make a quick buck. He paused and provocatively raised an eyebrow before continuing.
"You see, I saw your yak friend in a very hard-to-reach place. A place even steeper than Vertigo Peak. It's a place that's much safer to traverse when two people are around, but since I'm very prone to tripping over my tail, I'm not gonna follow you unless I get... fifty snow-coins."
Harold gaped. "F-f-fifty? That's... probably the cost of a house!"
"Which is exactly what I would buy with that sort of money," said Oliver, "Also, probably some candy. There's this great Himalayan candy shop down by the Frozen Lake. I hear that it sells stuff so good you'll think snowflakes are talking to you!" Oliver saw that he was losing Harold's interest, so he trailed off and cleared his throat.
"Fifty snow-coins," he said, "We got a deal?"
If Harold was being honest with himself, which he was slightly more than he was honest with his mother, he would have to admit that he considered rejecting Oliver's offer. Frankie was great and all, but fifty snow-coins great? Fifteen, for sure. Probably, thirty even. But fifty? Oliver flicked his long tail back and forth across the snow to show his growing impatience.
"All right," Harold said, "It's a deal, but I don't have the coins on me now. I'll have to pay you when we get back down the mountain."
"It's a deal," Oliver said. They shook on the deal, with Oliver thinking about the surprise he had in store at the top of the next peak, and Harold thinking just about the same thing.
Harold scampered away. Oliver stayed in the same place to think about the deal.
He glanced at the small so-called abominable snowkitten, hoping he was as trustworthy as he was gullible. What if they adventured to the peak and never found Frankie? Would Harold still pay what he owes?
Oliver would have to think about that later because at that very moment an icy wind began to pick up, sending a shiver down Oliver’s back; a storm was coming, and Oliver knew that if they wanted to make it up the peak, they’d have to hurry. He ran to catch up with Harold, shouting after him,
“I hope your nails are sharp! They say Crystal Lake is the iciest and most treacherous its been in decades.”
Oliver was referring to the first obstacle standing between them and Frankie.
Now, before we continue, some background on the Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake was one of the many frozen lakes found in the Himalayas. It was a very unique lake, because a very large and turbulent storm had hit it just before it first froze over, icing in place the large, jagged waves.
Over the years, the lake went through thawing and freezing periods, creating new, more dangerous waves and getting rid of the old ones.
Thankfully, everyone knew this, so everyone was extra careful when crossing the lake.
Unfortunately, there was one thing about this lake that nobody knew.
The lake was home to several piranhas. These piranhas were kind of grumpy, what with being frozen in place every few years. They survived by shaving off ice chips with their sharp teeth and eating them, which brought them closer to the surface.
This year, the piranhas were especially close to the surface. They were almost completely to the top.
So close, in fact, that even the claws of a Himalayan kitten could pierce through and set the creatures free.
Harold looked across the water.
"Should we be worried about those fish under the ice?" he asked.
"Don't be ridiculous," said Oliver, "They've probably frozen, anyway."
The Snowkitten ran as fast as it could, but didn't up.
He heard someone singing, "Here, kitty kitty. Here, kitty kitty." The voice was so close to him his skin bristled, but when he picked up his pace across the ice the voice did too. It was only then that he realized the bubbling call was coming from beneath his feet.
He was terrified, but he kept scrambling across the ice.
"Here, kitty kitty. Here, kitty kitty," the sing-song voice continued.
"Oliver," said Harold, "Are you hearing this?"
"Yeah," said Oliver. Oliver was trying to hide his terror, but Harold could see a slight tremor go through his body.
"What in the world is making that noise?" asked Harold. He dared a peak downward. His gaze was met by an open-mouthed piranha, trapped under the ice.
"Holy hailstorms!" said Harold, "There's a fanged fish under the ice!"
"Wh- what?" said Oliver, "A fish? But the lake is frozen! How is that p-"
Oliver stepped on the ice above another piranha, freeing it from its icy prison. Oliver jumped backward as the piranha jumped upward, screaming "I'm free! I'm free!" The crack in the ice spread through the entire lake, and suddenly it was filled with jumping piranhas doing somersaults in the air, trying to bite anything in sight.
"This isn't good," said Harold.
"Not at all," said Oliver, trying to swat a piranha that had nipped at his tail.
Suddenly, a piranha leaped through the ice and landed on Harold's back. He screamed at the top of his lungs as he felt its fingernails clawing at his fur. "Help me!" he shouted at Oliver.
Oliver scrambled towards Harold as the piranha dragged him into the freezing water. Harold gasped for air and held his outstretched paw out for Oliver.
This was a piranha like none Oliver had ever heard off: it had hands, it had fingernails, it had Harold! Oliver skidded on the ice, reaching desperately for Harold. Even his padded paws couldn't keep traction. He slid right past, headed for the icy water and more grasping piranha hands.
The piranhas grabbed him and dragged him under the water. Oliver thought that all was lost...
...until a large paw pulled them out of the water. The piranhas seemed frightened of whoever it was that freed the kittens, because they were swimming down into the murky depths, making watery noises that sounded like screams.
"Come with me," said the stranger, "I know a shortcut through the salt mines."
"Wh-who are you?" asked Harold.
"Excellent question," said the stranger, "but I'm going to have to explain later. For now, we have to hurry. There was a yak-napping around these parts, and we don't have much time before the ones responsible make there way over here."
The two shivered in agreement and attempted to blade the freezing water from their fur with the edges of their paws. They stumbled after the stranger, their gaze fixed on the large, warm lantern held at the end of his extravagant and pendulating tail. It sat full and hypnotic among rings of keys and an ancient, braided bandolier.
“You'll want to keep up,” he announced. He sent the cats an edgewise glance over the neck of his coat and across the lake's windy dark.
Harold and Oliver trembled together against the arctic rush and hopped as a pair to each of the stranger's footfalls in the snow as he left them behind. Ahead of them, a range began to loom more clearly, its peaks and ridges acting as an underscoring bar of black ink at the base of night.
“Are those the mines?”
Harold could barely hear the start of his own shouted question over the night's howl, but lowered his voice as the wind calmed at the foot of the mountain. The stranger turned in his jacket and brought the lantern to the young cats.
“Quickly, follow me.”
Harold and Oliver braced themselves against the cold. It was going to be a long night. But suddenly, a voice called out in the distance.
"Harold!" It was almost too faint to hear, over the screaming Himalayan winds. Harold's ears perked up slightly.
"Did you hear that?" Harold looked to Oliver and the stranger, frightened.
"HAROLD!" The voice was getting closer. The stranger lifted his lamp toward a cluster of evergreens.
"Over there," whispered the stranger.
"HAAAAROOOOOLD!" The voice was screaming now, and the sound was unmistakeable. Frankie the Yak burst out of the woods.
"Harold! Thank goodness you found me," said Frankie. "I was trying to get across Crystal Lake, when I was yak-napped by a whole bunch of piranhas. They only let me go when they realized that yaks can't swim."
Harold hugged his friend tightly.
"We were almost cat-napped by the exact same piranhas. But then this man saved us."
"Man, what man?" Frankie looked at the two cats, confused.
The mysterious stranger had disappeared, leaving no footprints behind him.
"But he..." Harold's voice trailed off. This was a mystery best left for another day. "Just forget it. Come on, Frankie and Oliver, let's go home."
Harold led the way home, his oldest friend and newest friend by his side.