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.

Featured Intro Links:
Dr. Roundbottom, at clockpunk.com.

Elie Hirschman’s podcasting links:

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums. 

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19 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Tom said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 11:51 am

    There seems to be a problem with the link to clockpunk.com if you click on it it takes you to Clownpunk.com instead. Might want to fix that.

  2. 2

    New Podcast: The Yeti Behind You | JeremiahTolbert.com said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

    […] My story from the Fantasy sampler has gone live on Podcastle. Go check it out! […]

  3. 3

    Rachel said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

    Fixed — thanks!

  4. 4

    Tom said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

    No problem.

    I enjoyed this story. It reminds me of when i was a kid and had an imaginary friend.

  5. 5

    Ragtime said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

    As there does not appear to be a discussion board thread yet . . .

    My first thought was, “Wow, this guy wrote the most cliche’d woman ever,” but then I stopped and thought about it, and realized that he simply wrote really, really bad dialogue. It only seemed like Beth was a cliche because all of her lines came out in dialogue, while the husband Michael got to alternate between cliche’d dialogue and much more original and flesh-out interior monologue and point-of-view narration.

    The overall story gets a 5, but that’s +7 for the idea and description, and a -2 for the combined impact of the she saids and he saids.

  6. 6

    scatterbrain said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

    Remind me of that short film at Well Told Tales.

  7. 7

    Travis said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

    I hate to say it, but I really didn’t care for this story.
    Besides the fact that I found the reader’s attempt at a feminine voice to be irritating, the wife’s character seemed rather two-dimensional. She seems to be the only person who not only has no imaginary observer of her own, but also cannot see those of the people around her. At least not until after her hospitalization when she finally sees the Yeti. At that point the husband says the Yeti belongs to both of them as an observer, so again, why couldn’t the wife see it before? -And if the Yeti was “their” observer, then why had it been following just the husband around up until then?
    The only other Podcastle story I found so thoroughly uninteresting was Wysteria, but at least that one was read in such an amazing way that it still captured my attention.
    Sorry for being negative, I just think you’ve already managed to set a higher standard for yourselves.

  8. 8

    Derksen said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

    I loved this story when it was originally published in Dark Fantasy, and have eagerly anticipated its reproduction here. I loved it because of its protagonist’s nervous and tentative struggle to accept responsibility for what he and his partner had wrought, and the ambiguity of his terror. His fears and inadequacies, only hinted at – feel genuine. His flight into escapism, both in his fantastic visions of creatures long gone – and to run any errand that takes him away from the reality of his impending child – also ring true. There is real emotion here to tug upon the heartstrings of any expecting father, and Mr. Tolbert has done an excellent job of capturing that sentiment.

    I wonder if something was lost in the reading? When I first read the tale, I heard it in a slower, more paced voice – full of the calm but steady advance of inevitability. Mr. Hirschman’s read, while clear, felt like a hasty rush towards the conclusion. I also felt that the final protagonist’s acknowledgment, “What about my baby?”, should have placed the emphasis on Michael’s ownership of the situation… but these are personal interpretations of mine before an otherwise well-done read.

  9. 9

    Matt’s Bookosphere 7/09/08 « Enter the Octopus said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    […] Podcast of “The Yeti Behind You” by Jeremiah Tolbert available for download! […]

  10. 10

    LittleLotus said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

    I’m not sure if I like this one or not. I loved the idea of our own special “guide” through life, but other than the occasional push in the right direction what was the point? This story reminded me of the Dark Materials series (The Golden Compas, The Subtle Knife, and the Amber Spyglass) but without the interaction between ghost guide and humans. I did, however, enjoy the underlying story line; is anyone truly ready to bring a child into the world? Great reading as always!

  11. 11

    Lane said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

    I remember reading this back when it showed up on Fantasy. Even though the reading didn’t exactly mesh well with my own internal voice, it stood out for me more this time. Of course, at the time, I didn’t have a pregnant wife like I do now. As an expectant father, I’d say everything rings pretty true. My wife doesn’t crave anything as random as walnuts, and I’ve got a giant land sloth following me around, but otherwise I could totally relate.

  12. 12

    Anna said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 12:28 am

    While this wasn’t my favorite story as of yet, I did find the connection between the humans and their extinct/mythical followers very interesting.

    It seemed to me that the Yeti was a concrete representation of the worry and burden of impending fatherhood that Michael feels alone for most of the story. The Yeti followed him, and affected his everyday life. His wife’s eyes were opened to the Yeti after the close call in the hospital, and the realization of this life altering event became a startling reality.

    Now that i ponder this, I wonder what kind of mythical creature would be stalking me in Michael’s universe… Maybe a do-do bird…

  13. 13

    Archie said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 3:30 am

    Well this was surreal in the extreme. I have always felt that surreal is fine as long as there is some logical explanation at the end. This story broke that rule and for some reason I didn’t mind a bit.

    I would agree that the wife’s dialogue was particularly unrealistic and annoying.

    I would have liked more explanation of connection between the types of animals and the people but maybe that’s just the logical part of me trying to make sense of the story.

    Certainly very well read.

  14. 14

    Spork said,

    July 28, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

    This didn’t make a lick of sense. None.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. All flash and style, but the substance was nowhere to be found.

    WHY was he seeing these things? WHAT did it have to do with his lame inability to accept responsibility? Where were the sensory descriptions?

  15. 15

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: July 2008 said,

    August 16, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

    […] “The Yeti Behind You” by Jeremiah Tolbert, a couple are expecting a baby, but it’s not clear how happy they […]

  16. 16

    V said,

    August 25, 2008 @ 6:12 pm

    Like Magificent Pigs, quite good. More like this!

  17. 17

    Bookmarks about Males said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

    […] – bookmarked by 2 members originally found by lgbraddock on 2008-08-30 PC015: The Yeti Behind You http://podcastle.org/2008/07/09/pc015-the-yeti-behind-you/ – bookmarked by 5 members originally […]

  18. 18

    Rachel Swirsky’s Novelette Recommendations, 2012 | Alas, a Blog said,

    February 11, 2013 @ 2:34 am

    […] journey that is classically the domain of literary fiction. But I loved it. (Tolbert’s “The Yeti Behind You” which I published in PodCastle explores a similar thematic link between extinction and […]

  19. 19

    Short Story Podcast Reviews: Feb-May 2012 | Fyrefly's Book Blog said,

    May 3, 2015 @ 1:30 pm

    […] bad, but it also didn’t really speak to me… perhaps because I’m not a parent? Listen to it | Read […]

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