The Great White Beast
Butch’s heart nearly leaped out of his chest when he found out that he was going to Antarctica. He was going to be filming a documentary about Antarctic life, he was a camera man. Not very many people got the privilege to do something like this. He bragged to all of his drinking buddies about it all day before he left. He and a lot of other people who would be helping to make the documentary boarded a boat that would be taking them there, Butch became sea sick the first day he spent on it. He figured he would get used to it but after three weeks on the boat he started to think otherwise. He had cramped sleeping quarters, the only food that they had with them was canned tuna, which starts to taste very nasty after having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner three days in a row. Butch left all of his drinking buddies at home and had nobody to socialize with. More so, he thought he had nobody to socialize with. Even though he was on a very big ship carrying an entire filming crew, he felt like he was in a one person canoe in the middle of the pacific ocean. He felt like there was nobody to talk with but there was a certain red headed biologist onboard the boat who was a little more outgoing than most. Her name was Dianna. She often tried to talk to Butch, but anytime she asked him a question, he would always answer in a way that made it hard to keep the conversation going. Butch was very uncomfortable being on a big boat with a hundred other people that he didn’t know. When they finally reached Antarctica, Butch found out that he was going to be working inland to take footage of predatory birds. He was not very pleased with this. He and four other crew members had to pick up an armload of equipment and hike to the other side of a mountain to set up a hut made of non insulated plywood. The only contact they had with the rest of the crew was one unreliable battery powered radio.
Butch’s hands were numb when he stepped into the little wooden hut he had set up. The plywood didn’t insulate heat from the icy environment very well, so being in the hut only kept the wind off of him. Butch lit a fire in a little aluminum coffee can, took off his gloves, and thawed his hands over the open flame. Not five minutes later, a voice rang through the radio. “Hello?” Butch recognized that voice, it was Dianna. Dianna was always kind toward Butch but he didn’t really notice because he was too occupied loathing his job. “What is it, Dianna?” he apathetically answered through the microphone. “Oh, hello, Butch.” Just then, the other four workers strode into the little wooden hut. “Who’s on the radio?” one of them asked. “Hello.” Dianna said. The other worker took the microphone from Butch and started talking to Dianna. “Hey, Dianna, something you need?” Nobody knew everybody’s names, but Dianna was one of the only girls on the expedition so mostly everyone knew her name. “Yeah, we need some extra cameras over here, so do you think you could bring some of yours over?” Dianna asked. “Yeah, sure, we’ll be there in a little bit.” The four workers started packing up the equipment. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to, Butch.” Butch ignored him and stayed put. He didn’t care about this documentary, it was pointless anyway. He didn’t care and he didn’t care that everybody else cared. Why should he have? For three weeks he had to climb a mountain in the middle of nowhere in subzero temperatures just to get a few lousy videos and pictures of predatory birds. Butch stayed in the hut while the others left to go help with filming on the shoreline. Butch stayed in the hut and tried to get some more feeling back into his hands. Dianna kept talking over the radio. “So, how’s it going?” She asked. Butch bluntly told her “It’s alright.” “Kind of boring?” “Yeah.” Dianna stopped, falling short of anything more to talk about. “… Well, I guess I’ll talk to you later.” She said. “Okay, bye.” Butch said. Dianna hung up the radio. Butch roasted his frozen hands over the fire until he could feel his fingers again, then he put his
gloves back on and relaxed for a bit. Butch thought about how he was tricked into this. The guy that offered him the job made it seem like it was going to be such a blast. ‘I got screwed.’ He thought. ‘I got screwed big time.’ He moped in his self sorrow until something in the corner of the cabin caught his eye. He saw a midsized cardboard box with the word ‘TAPES’ scribbled on the side of it with a permanent marker. Butch got out of the chair and went to the box, he opened it and saw that the blank tapes were still inside. He realized that the other crew members were carrying empty cameras. Their efforts would be wasted when they got to the shoreline. Butch ignored the accident and went back to sitting in his chair. Why should he have cared about it anyway? He had the privilege of freezing his fingers off, trying to work a camera, and running all over the side of a mountain in a futile attempt to get some video footage of birds that, evidently, really like to travel. It was a pain. The cabin had no heating other than some matches and paper in a coffee can, the wind easily slipped through the cracks between the planks that made up the walls, and snow seeped into the room and covered the floor. Butch didn’t even know why they set it up in the first place, being inside was just like being outside. They might as well have just built an igloo, that probably would have worked better. Butch sat and loathed what he was being paid to do. He pondered how hard his fellow workers were working on it and thought it was pathetic that they would try so hard to make something so pointless. He thought about how many times he did something like that. Like the junk car he bought at a junkyard and tried to fix up so it would run again. He worked on that car for three months and when he was finally finished, he tried to start it and it wouldn’t start. He inspected it as thoroughly as he could and changed a few things, but it still wouldn’t start. He felt like a failure. He beat himself up for weeks after that. He figured that these people were doing the same thing. They were just wasting all of their time and money filming this documentary. Their efforts were pointless. Butch remembered the anguish he felt when he couldn’t get that car to run. All of his efforts were pointless. His work was vain and so was theirs. Butch started to think about how bad he felt, the pain of his ineptitude was unbearable. He began to think about how they were going to feel when the documentary turned out to be garbage and cost more money than it made. Then he started to wonder about the people themselves, some of them were not the most sociable people in the world but they were not bad people. He came to Dianna, she was a very nice young girl. She always treated him with respect, even when he didn’t treat her with respect. She was a fairly pretty girl, on top of that, with wavy red hair and grassy green eyes. He realized how high her hopes were for this film. She hoped deeply that this film would be a success. She always talked about having her name put in the credits and how she was going to be so proud to be able to say ‘I helped make this movie’. She always shared her thoughts with Butch like that, but Butch just tried to ignore her when she started talking. Butch started to wonder why he hated being in Antarctica so much, sure it was cold and uncomfortable but it wasn’t much better back home in New Mexico where it was always so dry and hot. Perhaps he didn’t like being there because he had left all of his friends and family behind. He had never been away from his friends for so long a time. He felt like he had nobody to talk to, but in truth, he was just too attached to the normal things of his life at home, and now he was beginning to realize it. He recalled the behavior of the other workers he worked with, he saw them as being annoying, but they were never mean or bossy to him. They never antagonized him for any reason or tried to purposefully make him angry, though they weren’t always particularly nice to him. Butch started to feel a little guilty for the way he acted toward his peers, he was always telling them how this film was going to be a ‘B-movie’ and that it wasn’t worth the trouble to make it. He always had a negative outlook on this production. He looked back at the box full of blank tapes. He got out of his chair, picked up the box and headed out.
Dianna aimed her camera at the orcas that had appeared near the shore. Orcas were not something you could easily find, so this was a pretty special event. She made sure to get every detail of its behavior on film. The way it swam in circles around the small iceberg perched on by a few trapped penguins was hypnotic. Dianna was dreading the scene where one of the poor little penguins jumps into the water in a desperate attempt to get away and seals its fate as sea food. She looked away from her camera for just a moment to check her watch. ‘I hope they get here soon…’ She thought.
Butch dragged his boots through the hard packed snow, trudging toward the shore, with the cardboard box in his hands. The wind burned his face and turned his flesh red. Flakes of snow gnawed at his cheeks, but he ignored the sensation of the icy teeth and claws and pushed forward. He heard a loud rumble. He stopped and looked around, he could see nothing that would make such a noise and decided that he had imagined it. He walked on. He hit his boot on a large rock hidden under the blanket of snow and fell forward, landing face down in the ice. The box he was carrying fell out of his hands and its contents scattered all over the snow. He pulled his face from the freezing fluff. His face hurt even worse now. He rubbed his cheeks with his hands and tried to get the snow off of his face, but he found that his gloves only carried more frost to his face. He started to gather up the scattered tapes and stack them back into the box. Butch heard the low pitched rumble again. He stopped and looked around again. He still could not see anything that would have made the noise. He continued to gather up the tapes.
Dianna was still filming the orcas that showed up and still worrying that the men who were posted on the other side of the mountain would make it in time to get some extra video of them. She went out onto a small ice peninsula to get video of the whales from a different angle. She got some video of one of them poking its head out of the water with the mountains in the background. She thought it made a nice picture. Then she noticed a big cloud of birds flying away from the mountain they were perched on. She stood up and strained her eyes to see what had spooked them.
Butch finally gathered up all of his tapes and had them back in the box. He pushed himself back to his feet and began on his way again. He heard it again. The low pitched rumble. He looked around and still didn't see anything. He glanced up at the mountain thinking maybe there was some snow falling down the side of the mountain. He saw nothing so walked on. He hadn't taken but five steps before he heard it again. He, being annoyed by the sound, simply ignored it and tried to go on. Now the rumbling was a constant noise. He still tried to ignore it, but it became hard to ignore when he realized that whatever was making the noise was getting closer. He turned back towards the mountain just in time to catch a glimpse of it. It was a beast, running down the mountain after him. He couldn't believe how big it was. It was covered in a fluffy white coat, glaring at him with its white as ice eyes. He tried to run but it had caught him by the time he caught sight of it. It tackled him. He felt its frozen teeth dig into his side as it overpowered him and knocked him to the ground.
Dianna saw what had spooked the birds. She saw the snow rolling down the side of the mountain and immediately thought about the men who were on the other side of it. She took a snow mobile to the mountain. Along the way, she found the four workers that she talked with over the radio. "Oh, thank God you're okay. Where's Butch?" She asked. The four men told her that he had stayed back at the wooden tent. “Butch stayed behind.” Dianna reached the site of the avalanche in only five minutes or so. She called Butch's name multiple times but got no response. "Butch!" She called it louder. Still nothing. Then she noticed something brown in the snow. She recognized it as a cardboard box. She pulled it out of the snow, opened it and found the blank tapes inside. She inspected the hole she pulled it out of. There, she discovered Butch's lifeless purple hand.
© Copyright 2016 TWO. All rights reserved.