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Author Topic: PC015: The Yeti Behind You  (Read 15372 times)
Heradel
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« on: July 09, 2008, 02:29:37 PM »

PC015: The Yeti Behind You

By Jeremiah Tolbert
Read by Elie Hirschman
First appeared in Fantasy (Prime Books)

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Michael takes frequent coffee breaks, even though the caffeine makes him jittery and he finds the taste too bitter. He doesn’t recognize many of the animals, but Google knows all, and identifying the animals is time consuming but not terribly difficult. At lunch, the employee parking lot is full of sauropods and Pleistocene mammals that are too large to squeeze inside the building. A Triceratops, his favorite dinosaur when he was a boy, mingles with a giant sloth and something resembling a nine foot tall carnivorous duck with a bill shaped like an axe. Moas, looking like shaggy-dog ostriches, roam the halls of the office. Marsupial lions and miniature horses guard the entrances to cubicles.

The observers are all members of an extinct species. At first, Michael thought that his own yeti might be an exception–being that a yeti is a mythological creature, not an extinct one—but then he discovered __Gigantopithecus blacki__ on a primatologist’s website. The males weighed twelve hundred pounds and stood ten feet tall, but the females were smaller. Michael believes that his silent observer is a female. He considers the name of __Gigantopithecus__, but ultimately discards it. Yeti is easier to remember.

He finds an interesting quote that he prints out, nervously pacing around the laser printer as it warms up and finally prints. Hibbets would pitch a fit if he found anyone using the printers for personal reasons.

Michael snatches up the printout and reads it once aloud. “An old Sherpa once observed: ‘There is a yeti in the back of everyone’s mind; only the blessed are not haunted by it.’” He stares at the paper for a few moments after speaking the words aloud, then crumples the sheet into a ball and stuffs it into his pocket before returning to his desk.


Rated PG. Contains strong feelings of ambiguity.

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Elie Hirschman’s podcasting links:
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http://www.darkerprojects.com



Listen to this week’s Pod Castle!
« Last Edit: July 11, 2008, 11:47:58 PM by Heradel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2008, 03:32:28 PM »

  I normally really enjoy fantasy set in modern day, but this one really didn't do it for me. It was cute and entertaining enough, but nothing was ever really explained (or at least not simply enough for me to understand it). I wasn't bored or unfocused like I was with "Barren's Dance", instead I was left feeling unsatisfied, like having just one Lay's potato chip.

  The one thing I really did not get was why did seemingly everyone except Michael's wife have an imaginary extinct animal? I didn't buy the whole "I guess it's ours" thing at the end, not when everyone seemed to have their own.

  What exactly did the animals represent anyway? My guess is that they are these people's self doubt and fear, but for this to be true it would mean that Michael's wife had no self doubt or fear. I don't think that is the case since her conversations with Michael indicate to me that she has a number of doubts and fears about him and the baby at the very least.

  I hope we continue to see more of the modern stuff, as this is the first modern era story that didn't grab me, but it would also be nice to see some different kinds. Maybe some cyberpunk fantasy a la "Shadowrun" or "Metamor City"....
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2008, 04:17:13 PM »

And another "Meh" from me.  The human story was alright, but I failed to see how the extinct critters really related to it.  They followed humans around to see the moments that they can't have anymore (being dead)?  Extinct crabs that want to see human babies get born?  I don't buy it.  If the larger message was "live now, it's the only chance you get" - the message was drowned in the details. 

Might have made a better story without the fantasy elements at all, though I suppose then nothing much happens.  Still, the characters were good.  And I really appreciated the husband's honest admittance that he was scared and felt trapped.  Too often people hide those emotions from their partners, since they feel they "shouldn't" be having them.  But hiding your feelings only leads to distance between you, and the feelings don't go away.
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2008, 05:44:52 PM »

Blah.  The reading was decent, but the story was every stereotypical piece of a husband's mind in the wife's late pregnancy that you find in fiction (and yes, I know, not every man is like that, which is why I said "stereotypical").  If it weren't for the extinct animals, this wouldn't have been out of place in your average women's magazine.  As it was, the fantasy part -- that is, the extinct animals -- could've been much more interesting.  Michael took it pretty much in stride that he had a yeti hanging around, and that other people had their own extinct animals.  He wasn't terribly developed, and Beth was even more stereotypical than her husband's character.  As a father who's been through the part of pregnancy that Michael's been through, I was unable to identify with him as a character in any way except as a caricature, and if that happens to someone who's been in the protagonist's situation, I can only wonder how it resonated (or didn't) with anyone else.

Long enough paragraph for you?  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2008, 07:42:35 AM »

I think I'll depart from the "Meh" crowd a bit.  I liked "The Yeti Behind You" and found it good.  I do wonder, however, how much of my like of it is due to my circumstances.  Perhaps someone can tell me.

Having just gotten back from nearly a week at the Minnesota SF Convention, CONvergence (where I was very pleased to meet "The Grand Cheat" and "Run of the Firey Horse"'s Hillary Moon Murphy), my thoughts have been flowing over all things creative and fantastic.  I've written a little, myself, and found great new inspirations bubbling to the surface of my mind as tiny snippets of scenes, clever turns of phrase, and seemingly disjointed ideas following me like an extinct animal wishing to be a part of my life.

As a forty-year-old gay man, I've resigned myself to never having children.  It isn't that I have never wanted them; to the contrary, my desire to be a father and teach the lessons of my life to someone else -to nurture and guide a young life towards the future- has always been strong.  Realisticaly, though, it's just not in the cards.  My stories and fantasies have become my children.  In that, I could identify with the strange and surreal idea of trilobites crawling around while a giant sloth lumbers near an account executive.

"The Yeti Behind You" postulates that these beings follow us to experience the things they never will be able to, again.  If I have a creature behind me, like -say- a Tasmanian Wolf, I hope it's not terribly bored.  That said, for each of our invisible shadows this story entreats us to experience what we can:  fearfully or otherwise ... mundane or fantastic.  "Life is for the living"; that's what I got out of this story.  After a fashion, "The Yeti Behind You" is a form of ghost story.

The simple depiction of the protagonists' lives drew me in.  The tumultuous transition from human being to parent is something I'll never know save through proxy towards my darling nieces and nephew.  But "The Yeti Behind You" managed to depict it well enough that I definitely could feel it.  I do wonder if the simple story of a reluctant father- and mother-to-be would have drawn me in without the phantasms following them around.  I doubt it.  But, that said, this story accomplished it and I'm grateful.

A very solid story.

Thank you!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2008, 09:01:15 AM »

I'll throw in a vote with the 'meh' crowd.  The story seemed to be meandering a bit, and I really had a hard time seeing the fantasy part of it.  As it is, I wouldn't be surprised to see this story in Reader's Digest, or, as someone else said, any number of women's magazines.

I was rather surprised that the protagonist wasn't surprised to see that his wife (or even their unborn baby) didn't have a yeti.  It would have been nice for some kind of parallel to be drawn between each person's yeti and their station in society or their personality traits.  Heck, I would've liked the yetis to have more of a function in everyday life; perhaps giving little nudges that people didn't really acknowledge in their conscious minds, kind of like the protagonist's yeti gave to him a couple times.

But, in the end, it didn't cause me pain, and it was a more pleasant diversion than trying to strike up a conversation with the cute girl sitting across from me on the bus ride to work this morning.  That's good, right?
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2008, 09:50:29 AM »

Completely unmemorable.  I drifted off a couple of times while listening during breakfast this morning but wasn't inclined to spool back and hear what I missed.

Really, just pointless.  Which is a shame because I like the title and thought it had potential.
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« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2008, 11:10:41 AM »

I liked this story, but I feel it could have been more. 

I appreciate the feelings of the first-time father.  It was a little different for me.  We adopted our first two children.  So we got a call one day and two (maybe three) weeks later, we were parents.  I didn’t have doubts that I wanted to be a father, but after meeting with the birth mother briefly, my wife and I brought our daughter back to a hotel room.  As I was holding her, and looking in her eyes, the urgency and responsibility of fatherhood hit me sharply.

Back to the story:
There were many questions that were left hanging.  Why was only Michael able to see his extinct creature?  If everyone had one, were they just unaware?  Was he attempting to get rid of his Yeti by going to the mountains or did he want to communicate with it?  If the creatures didn’t do much more than follow people, what was their purpose?  Yes, the Yeti helped Michael go back and force the doctors to check his wife again, but Michael was able to see it.  No one else seemed to.  I expected the Yeti to go away after the crisis was resolved and Michael was able to come to terms with his feelings.  Also, more specifics about the pregnancy complications would have helped.  At one point the doctors didn’t know if the baby would survive and then all of a sudden they were heading home and everything seemed fine with the baby.  Did I miss something?

I think the metaphor of the extinct creatures is left up for the readers to determine, but to me, the creatures represented the invisible emotional baggage that we carry with us.

The more I think about this story and analyze it, the more I like it.  However I can understand the reactions of those who were left cold.  So I guess what I’m saying is that I like the story; I like where the author was going with it; but it could have carried more punch.

P.S.  There is a coolness factor.  I want a Yeti…or an elephant bird…or a pterodactyl (especially if it can shoot lasers like the one on the Herculoids)…
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« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2008, 11:50:50 AM »

As a father who's been through the part of pregnancy that Michael's been through, I was unable to identify with him as a character in any way except as a caricature, and if that happens to someone who's been in the protagonist's situation, I can only wonder how it resonated (or didn't) with anyone else.
I totally agree with not being able to identify with Michael's character. Of course, when my wife got pregnant, we were actively trying to get pregnant, and that didn't seem to be the case for these two. Still, it was hard for me to relate to him being so terrified. I suppose that some guys may feel this way, but i would have a tough time not judging them to be shallow.

Still, i didn't hate this story. If 'meh' was a 4 on a scale of 1 to 7, i'd give it a 5 because i liked the imagery and the humor (particularly the 'scene' where he peeks around the dodo while looking for the nuts... for some reason i just got a vivid picture of it and it made me chuckle).
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« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2008, 12:11:43 PM »

If the creatures didn’t do much more than follow people, what was their purpose?  Yes, the Yeti helped Michael go back and force the doctors to check his wife again, but Michael was able to see it.

  I've been thinking about this myself, and one thought I came up with now is maybe they are a sort of guardian angel? It did help him find the walnuts as well (although I personally would have looked in the baking aisle first). This still doesn't explain why Beth did not have one though.

  I suppose the most obvious thing would be that he was hallucinating the animals.
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« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2008, 12:24:01 PM »

As a father who's been through the part of pregnancy that Michael's been through, I was unable to identify with him as a character in any way except as a caricature, and if that happens to someone who's been in the protagonist's situation, I can only wonder how it resonated (or didn't) with anyone else.

Well, when it's insinuated that the pregnancy was unplanned, my first thought was "you know, there are ways you could have kept this from happening."

Really, in this day and age there's no excuse for unplanned pregnancy except the rare case of birth control failure.
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2008, 12:28:41 PM »

I have to agree with the "mehs" on this one.

The biggest barrier keeping me from enjoying this story more was my complete inability to sympathize with Michael's angst. Sorry Michael, its really not all about you, now get your head out of your ass and start enjoying life! For me, it took Michael way too long to come to this realization.

As for the fantasy, the idea of the extinct animals was a cool one, but it was left too undeveloped for my taste. At first I thought Michael could see the yeti because of his state of internal conflict which put his soul in turmoil (something akin to not being "the blessed" alluded to on the paper that Michael crumbled up and put in his pocket). Yet if this were the case Michael would have no longer been able to see the Yeti after his conflict was resolved, and also most people would be familiar with this phenomenon, having been in turmoil at some point in their lives as well. "Seeing the extinct, Michael? We've all been there. Why don't you take a few days off work until you pull yourself together..."

The idea that the extinct animals are all there to relive life in some way, as Dave said earlier a sort of ghost story, has some appeal (and of course is stated in the story), and explains why Michael could see the extinct animals (because he needed to learn the lesson of live life now!), but doesn't explain why his wife was able to see the yeti at the end.

Of course, the yeti could simply have been the elephant, err, gigantopithicus, in the room. and/or been some sort of alter-ego for the unborn child, reaching out to Dave to try to keep him in her life (it was a female gigantopithicus, after all), and later to save the mother and itself. But then what's up with the other extinct animals?

Some interesting ideas here, though, which is good to see, and I do like the inclusion of modern fantasy.

[I take way too long typing these posts - two new replies posted while I was writing and now another while I checked the new posts...]
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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2008, 06:18:02 PM »

I enjoyed this story very much.  The various extinct creatures following people around and in Michael's case helping him out made me think of shamanism.  In many shamanic practices the shaman will see a spirit that looks like an animal but has knowledge far beyond that of a normal member of it's species.  The yeti seemed to be there because Michael needed it to be.

Just because we didn't see anyone else acknowledge there spirit observer doesn't mean they couldn't see them.  Michael spent most of his time pretending his wasn't there, what if other people were doing the same?

Also, just because a lot of other people had spirit observer's doesn't mean that everyone except Beth has one.  If everyone had one except Beth, then he would likely have commented on it.  It might even be normal for couples to share a spirit observer but from the shortness of the story we didn't see this with any other couples.
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2008, 09:27:23 PM »

I enjoyed this story. The whole yeti thing didn't make a whole lot of sense even with the sudden explanation at the end, but it wasn't nonsensical in a confusing way. Having a five week old baby, much of this story resonated with me. I'm glad I was able to make it through without requiring seeing a yeti.

@Rachel = I'm not sure if you can ever be 'ready' to have kids. All I do know for sure is certain things only work if you actually use them, and I learned that lesson and I got a baby as a reminder. {:0D
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« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2008, 07:06:42 AM »

Yeah, it just seemed flat to me, plus I think I missed a couple of details - why did he leave the hospital, for example?

It started off well, but then nothing happened to some pretty boring characters, who just happened to have a yeti follow them around.
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« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2008, 07:57:40 AM »

I loved it untill the ending, as somebody who doesnt want children i find myself in the minority in a world that thinks small ugly poop machines are the cutest thing ever and need to talk about them constantly. It is not that i hate kids, not at all but at first the story seemed right up my alley, finally a fictional character i could relate to, but then it turned real sobby what with the Yeti giving him nudges and him deciding that babies are the greatest thing in the world. Just a bit to romantic and PC for me, but still good story
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« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2008, 09:53:30 AM »

As the father of two I really empathized with this one! It's hard not to say that I didn't feel some of the things that this daddy-to-be did.  The Yeti for me would represent the weight of responsibility, though my term for it was my "800 Pound Gorilla".
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« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2008, 04:26:19 AM »

I'm usually not this dense, but I came away wondering what, exactly, happened at the hospital?  At first I thought she'd lost the baby, and then she was okay.  Maybe she had the baby?  But then Michael came back and made the doctor go back in and find ... something he hadn't noticed before and then everything was okay.

Yeah.  That's what I got out of it.
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« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2008, 09:19:52 AM »

I'm usually not this dense, but I came away wondering what, exactly, happened at the hospital?  At first I thought she'd lost the baby, and then she was okay.  Maybe she had the baby?  But then Michael came back and made the doctor go back in and find ... something he hadn't noticed before and then everything was okay.

Having read a shelf of baby books longer then I am tall and attending parenting classes and a whole host of other things I can tell you there's a million things that can go wrong in a pregnancy, so it's probably pointless to speculate what the exact problem was.  Though the impression I got was that it was one of those things that's not difficult to treat but would have been devastating if left alone.

1. The doctor misses the problem on the first examination.
2. Michael goes back and says check again.
3. Doctor finds serious problem with fairly minor treatment.
4. Everyone goes home.

That's my best guess at it anyway.
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« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2008, 03:31:52 PM »

I liked this one, I think.

I don't have a lot else to add...

However was it ever made clear if they could interact with anything (other than maybe who they followed), or did I just miss that bit.  As if it was, his avoiding them in the car park looking like a lunatic seems a little strange... though it would explain car park driving the world over...

The story was interesting, and I wondered a lot about it.  For a while I wondered if there was anymore that could be told in this universe, but other than tedious everyday stuff with only just covered metaphors and symbolism I didn't see a lot of other places to go with it... unless the animal actually ment something.


but it just occured to me that the Yeti may not have been his, it would have been his wifes.  He is the one without an animal, and his wifes worry about him and the baby caused it to follow him.  Due to him not having one, somewhow he was now able to see them.  Once the conflict was resolved to a degree, she could also see it...

Or he's now nuttier than ever and he imagines what she is saying.
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« Reply #20 on: July 14, 2008, 07:26:40 PM »

This story fell flat for me. Maybe it's the cliche'd situation and characters, maybe it's the rather arbitrary moral, but I found it barely kept my attention.
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« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2010, 12:53:21 PM »

Interesting idea, and I listened to the whole thing, but in the end the premise was much more intersting than the story.  I spent most of the time speculating about these strange extinct creatures.  Is there only one of each type of creature, one ambassador so to speak.  If so, how are there enough of them to go around?  If not, what decides which members of the extinct species get to come back?  If humans go extinct, will some of us be sent back to follow around creatures living their everyday lives?  Will the follower be an actual dead member of the species or a newborn soul or some amalgamation of many souls or other?  Why do humans get these creature followers?  Do any other animals get them, like squirrels or gorrillas get them or just us?  Why did he have one and his wife didn't?  What's so special about extinct species instead of just dead members of an existing species?  What was their purpose--the Yeti helped him out once or twice but only because he could see the yeti, it seems that most people can't in which case the species is just wasting their time.

So, with all these questions running through my head it was hard to pay attention.  Which is good in that it made me think, but bad because the premise drew me in more than the events.
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« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2013, 02:55:43 PM »

I'm usually not this dense, but I came away wondering what, exactly, happened at the hospital?  At first I thought she'd lost the baby, and then she was okay.  Maybe she had the baby?  But then Michael came back and made the doctor go back in and find ... something he hadn't noticed before and then everything was okay.

Having read a shelf of baby books longer then I am tall and attending parenting classes and a whole host of other things I can tell you there's a million things that can go wrong in a pregnancy, so it's probably pointless to speculate what the exact problem was.  Though the impression I got was that it was one of those things that's not difficult to treat but would have been devastating if left alone.

1. The doctor misses the problem on the first examination.
2. Michael goes back and says check again.
3. Doctor finds serious problem with fairly minor treatment.
4. Everyone goes home.

That's my best guess at it anyway.

This guess is clearer than what the story gave us. I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one who was left guessing at the resolution to the conflict. It almost feels like a chunk of the story is missing. I was invested until that point, and then it lost me.
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