A Television personality on the search for Sasquatch lives with those who doubt the meaning of his work…until the day he meets the mythical creature.
Written by Kevin Travers
Fred Abigail believed in the Sasquatch and was determined to find him. For the last six years, Fred was the host of the reality TV show Searching For Squatch, which had a loyal fan-base but was always under threat of being canceled. Not considered high art, critics lampooned it for being six seasons of Fred wandering around the forest, never finding anything. But Fred believed, and one day he’d show them. He’d show them all.
Today was the start of filming for season seven. His show was produced by the Investigation Channel, a channel which began as straight science but started experimenting with the paranormal in an attempt to boost ratings. Fred’s show was green-lit, and it had muddled along ever since. Last year his channel was bought up by the ANBC media conglomerate, and they were currently ‘streamlining’. His show was given notice that without a significant boost in ratings, it would be axed. He would be operating this season on a shoestring budget, with a skeleton crew, and he’d have to personally cover some of the production costs. His wife wasn’t happy about that.
He said goodbye to her that morning and received a frosty reception. They wouldn’t see or even speak to each other for weeks, and Fred had hoped for a more loving, supporting farewell. There wasn’t much of either of those these days.
Fred met his wife while filming the first season, during a peak in his confidence. She had just gotten out of a relationship with an abusive jerk, and Fred was a nicer, safer alternative. They married a year later, and things were good for a while. When the show didn’t take off the way he had hoped, though, she became mean, critical, even started questioning his manhood. He suspected she was having an affair with his producer, but couldn’t be sure.
None of that mattered today. This was the year he would finally find the squatch. Fred believed. He had to.
He went to the ANBC office that morning, signing the standard non-disclosure agreement, and the waiver that said the network wasn’t liable for injuries he might receive while filming. Waiting outside was his crew: Darryl the camera guy and Toby the sound guy, two interns who approached the project with total indifference, and Herb the driver, an obese man in a cowboy hat.
They packed the van with their film and camping equipment and hit the road.
“So… how much do you guys know about the squatch?” Fred said to the interns a few minutes in, excited to discuss the adventure at hand. They looked at each other, confused.
“The Sasquatch! A large bipedal primate, six-to-nine feet tall… the missing link!”
Darryl sighed loudly.
“I dunno. We’re getting paid scale, right?”
“Most cultures have stories of ape-like creatures in their folk histories. There’s the Sasquatch in North America, the Yeti in Asia… it can’t all be a coincidence!”
“Sure…” Darryl looked out the window, tuning out.
“The leading theory is that the squatch is a relic population of the Gigantopithecus. Maybe it came over the Bering Strait during the last ice age…”
“Yeah, maybe!” Toby said, trying to sound as interested as possible to make the others laugh.
“People think it’s all a hoax, but there’s solid evidence in some cases! Footprints, hair samples… Did you know the forests of the Pacific Northwest are home to over one-third of all Sasquatch sightings in North America? They’re vast and dense, and scientists believe half the species on Earth are still undiscovered in forests across the world… it’s definitely possible that a hominoid could exist all this time undetected!”
There was an awkward silence.
“Why do you care so much?” Toby asked, genuinely curious this time.
“I dunno…” Fred considered it. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea… A majestic creature, living in the wild… powerful and free… like us, but different… It would be an amazing discovery. And If I found him, I’d be someone important.”
“I watch your show,” Herb said from the driver’s seat. “The squatch is real. Hope you find him, brother.”
Fred smiled. An hour later, the van dropped the crew at the edge of the forest. Fred gave his opening remarks on camera, and they entered squatch country.
Fred and the interns spent the next few weeks wandering the forests of the Pacific Northwest. They got a lot of footage of trees, a few jump scares that turned out to be small animals, usually squirrels, and a few prints that might have been made by a squatch but might also have been made by a bear. The possibility of the latter spooked the interns.
With a week left of filming, Fred was getting antsy. They came to a river and followed it for a while. On the other side was a steep incline, filled with thick brush. Fred eyed it for a minute before making the decision.
“We have to get up there,” he said, pointing to the hill.
“Huh…?” Darryl panted, usually short of breath this time in the afternoon.
“Most squatch evidence is found on high ground. I believe they’re highly intelligent creatures, sticking there to track food and avoid detection.”
“We have a lot of great footage already… we don’t need to go hiking up mountains…”
“No,” Fred said, assertive in a moment of clarity, “He’s up there.”
Fred stepped into the river. The interns looked at each other in disbelief. They shot daggers with their eyes at Fred as they followed.
They crossed the river, waist deep at its center. There was a treacherously steep hill, trees bunched just inches from each other. Fred started up, the interns silently considering mutiny.
After hours of exhaustion, they came to a grassy clearing. The trees parted, the sky a peach orange-and-pink as the sun neared the horizon. The interns dropped their bags and collapsed on the floor.
“Come on, we still have a few hours of daylight!” Fred urged.
“We’re setting camp here,” Darryl said, frustration boiling over in his tone.
“But the sun’s still up…”
“I don’t care. I’m wet and tired. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Why don’t we set up here and get some rest?” Toby said, trying to keep the peace. “We can start early tomorrow.”
Fred sensed he was on the verge of losing them and relented.
They set up their tents and lit a small fire to keep warm. Things were tense as they dined on their few remaining survival packs, the same beef jerky and dried fruit they’d had every day for weeks. They tied their scraps in a plastic bag, then tied the bag to a high tree branch to avoid scavengers. The interns went to their tent without saying a word. Fred fell asleep that night listening to the two of them talk about how pathetic he was, making no effort to keep their voices down.
Fred had a dream that night. He dreamt the Sasquatch was chasing him through the forest. It caught him and started tearing him limb from limb. He could see his wife in the distance. He tried to scream, but no sound came out of his mouth. He was woken by the sound of rustling outside his tent.
At first, he thought it was one of the interns going to the bathroom. As it continued, he figured it was an animal scrounging around the site. He opened the zipper just a crack and peeked out. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust.
There was a creature by the tree. It was large, bigger than a person. It stood on two feet, reaching for the bag of scraps. In the light of the full moon he could see the thick layer of fur covering its body.
“Holy shoot…” Fred thought to himself, reaching for the small camcorder in his bag. He turned it on and pointed it at the shadowy figure.
Someone stirred in the tent next door. The creature leapt back into the shadowy refuge of the forest.
Fred couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. He re-watched the footage, over and over. It was hard to make out what it was, but Fred was sure it was the squatch. They were close.
At sunrise, he heard the interns emerge from their tent. He found them by the tree, inspecting the torn bag, and the scattered scraps on imprinted grass below. They looked terrified. Fred rushed over and showed them the footage.
“I can’t believe it!” he said after, “Video evidence of a close encounter with a squatch!”
“I’m going home,” Darryl said, taking down his tent.
“What do you mean? What are you doing?”
“It’s a bear, you idiot. They’re all over these woods, and now they’ve connected our scent with food. I’m not going to die for your stupid show.”
“It’s not a bear, look!” he pointed to the camcorder screen, “it’s bipedal…”
“Bears can stand on two legs, you putz! They do it all the time to reach for food. You’re chasing something that doesn’t exist. Bigfoot isn’t real. And you can’t admit that, because if you do, it means you’re a fucking loser.”
Fred continued to protest, to no avail. His crew packed up and left, leaving him with one tent and a camcorder with half a battery charge.
Fred wandered around on his own for a while. He considered following them, but what did he have to return to? His wife hated him. His show would surely be cancelled. He was so close to finding the squatch, his life’s work, and in a moment of honesty, he admitted that he didn’t have much else to live for. He was so close. If it killed him, so be it.
To make matters worse, there was heavy rain that afternoon. Fred was forced to set up camp early. He sat huddled in his tent, wet and shivering, eating the last of his rations.
The next day the trail was muddy, every step a struggle. He almost slipped, managing to grab a branch and avoid a painful and probably life-threatening fall. He made it to the precipice, and that’s where he saw it.
A print in the mud, about twice the size of a person’s.
He saw another one. And another.
“Oh shoot, oh shoot…” Fred pulled out the camcorder, manically narrating as he recorded.
“I found a fresh print… It looks primate, but over 20 inches long, 15 wide… notice the heel indentation, implying bipedal motion, and no claws so it’s not a stupid bear… I can feel it! We’re so close!”
He followed the prints for a few more hours. Sometimes they’d disappear over grass and reappear as the trail returned to mud. He was lucky. Next rain they’d be washed away, destroying any evidence that the creature had been here.
They led to a flat grassy area, covered by a thick encircling of trees. Inside was dark, even in the long afternoon sun. It had an eerie silence to it, no animals scurrying in the bush, no birds chirping. Fred took a deep breath and stepped inside.
It was warm. Cozy. There were food scraps on the floor. The perfect spot for a squatch to make his home, he thought.
Or a bear.
He set the camcorder on a tree stump, prepared to use his remaining battery. The plan was to hide in the bushes. Stakeout overnight, wait for the inhabitant to return. It would have been a great plan…if the nest’s owner hadn’t arrived a moment later.
There was rustling behind the trees as something very large approached very quickly. Fred looked for cover, thunderous footsteps getting closer.
He tripped over the tree stump.
It was too late now. A huge shadowy figure emerged from the trees. Fred froze, instinctively curling into a ball and covering his face. He felt a flood of adrenaline, the mammalian endocrine response to danger crafted over millions of years. Fight or flight. But Fred couldn’t win this fight, and he had nowhere to run. So, he pissed himself.
Fred waited for death, but nothing came.
A few seconds passed. With shaky breath, he removed his arm, opened his eyes, and looked up.
He saw large feet, covered in mud, connected to hairy tree-trunk legs. It had the body of a primate, but larger and more human-like than any known species.
He looked up at the creature’s face. It inspected him curiously, not threatened, but curious. Forehead wrinkled and head tilted to the side. Its big black eyes seemed to betray exactly what Fred was thinking: “It’s like me… but different!”
“HOOF!” the creature shouted.
The creature smiled, then made a sound that Fred could have sworn was a chuckle.
“HOOF! HOOF!” the creature waved its arms in the air.
It was messing around. Fred smiled.
The squatch took one more look at the strange creature he had found in his home, before turning and disappearing again into the forest.
When Fred’s world stopped spinning, he reached up for the camera. It slipped out of his shaking hand, slamming into his eye. He picked it back up, speaking into the lens.
“We’ve got it! We found the squatch!” he grinned like a kid on Christmas.
With his last ounce of battery power, he watched the recording. He was right- he got it. All of it. Clear, in focus, undeniable evidence of the existence of the sasquatch.
Fred made his way back and set up camp. Just before sunrise, he started the journey home. It was downhill and dangerous, and Fred wouldn’t eat for a few days, but he was fueled by his discovery. He had to get the footage home. After the long trek, he returned to the edge of the forest and called for a ride.
Fred showed up at the ANBC headquarters covered in mud, ranting about a huge discovery and demanding a meeting with the producers. He charged the camcorder, and in a few hours, he got it. He showed them the footage to stunned silence.
“We’ll… get started on editing right away,” one of the juniors said afterward.
“I think you just saved your show, Fred,” another told him, shaking his hand profusely.
Life was different for Fred in the months following his encounter. He knew he was sitting on something that was about to change the world. Despite the NDA’s, word started leaking from the ANBC headquarters that season seven of Searching For Squatch would be different. This season, they had really found something.
He was treated like a rock star every time he visited the office. There were promises of contract extension, promises of syndication. Fred was on top of the world. He even reconnected with his wife, having a second honeymoon phase.
A few months later, season seven, episode one aired. It started with brief cuts of the creature outside the tent, and of the footprints, and of the different jump scares, with a voice over-promising that this season would be different.
“This season, come face-to-face with the squatch,” it promised in a deep voice.
Some of the editing was out of sequence, implying things that hadn’t actually happened. Fred figured this was just marketing and editing tricks, “the magic of media”, they were always saying.
With each passing episode, the ratings increased, along with the buzz. The show was featured in various newspapers and TV shows. As the season approached its final episode, Fred was invited on talk shows to discuss this year’s grand finale.
“So are the rumors true?” they would always ask, “Did you really find the squatch this season?”
As per the rules of his NDA, he wasn’t allowed to expressly state yes or no. All he could do was smile coyly and say something along the lines of, “I guess we’ll see…” with a grin and a twinkle in his eye.
Sometimes, they’d turn to the audience and make a face, even openly mock him. It didn’t matter. Soon they’d see. They’d all see.
It was the Monday after episode 11 had aired, the penultimate episode before the finale, when Fred was called into the ANBC office. His show was the highest-rated thing on TV in months, and they wanted to meet to discuss contract extension.
With a skip in his step, Fred arrived and was ushered into the office of the show’s head producer, Jock Hollywood. He suspected that wasn’t his real name but couldn’t be sure. Jock was dressed in an Armani suit and shoes that probably cost more than Fred’s car. Jock finished a phone call, making Fred wait, then hung up and looked at Fred with arms wide open like they were old pals.
“Fred, congrats, we did it! Searching For Squatch is the top show in the country! That’s all you, buddy. Misunderstood genius, that’s what I always told people.”
Jock stuck out his fist. It took Fred a moment to figure out what he was doing. He bumped it awkwardly.
“We want you to know that ANBC is behind you, one-hundred percent. So much so that we want to offer you a three-year contract extension. Waiting to find the squatch in a contract year, you sly dog! We’ve included a generous pay raise, that we think is befitting of your new status as king of television.”
Jock slid the contract across the table and handed Fred a pen. Fred looked it over. The salary was four times what they paid him now, with a full film crew and traveling caravan. Fred’s hand shook as he signed it.
“We’re gonna take this to the next level, buddy! You and me! There’s just a tiny matter we have to discuss first.”
“What’s that?” Fred said, handing the contract back. Jock looked it over, satisfied.
“What about it?”
“Well Fred, hear me out. You’re a brilliant guy, and you understand the concept of longevity. We’ve got a bright future here! Break out the shades, bro! We need to think about the long-term health of this project. Sure, you could show the squatch this weekend, and people would love it, you’d be the toast of the summer… but what’s to keep them tuning in next year? And the year after that?”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying Fred… what if instead of showing the squatch… we didn’t.”
Jock smiled, a pearl white, toothy smile.
“The show is called Searching For Squatch…” Fred continued, “And we finally found him, after years of searching, and personal sacrifice on my part… This is going to change the world, why would you not want to show it?!”
“To keep the audience hungry, Fred! That’s the genius, I know you’ll get it… It’s like Cheers. You can’t let Sam and Diane actually get together! It ruins the tension! People don’t actually want what they want, they want the feeling of wanting it. Revealing the squatch kills the golden goose! Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, know what I mean, buddy?”
“Three more seasons, Fred. That’s twelve episodes each. Sixteen minutes of commercials per episode. We’re talking MILLIONS of dollars here, Fred, and that’s not even including syndication! The network feels we can’t jeopardize this by blowing our load too quickly and revealing the squatch next week.”
“You… you can’t do this!”
“Well, I’m afraid we can, Fred. Your show and all your footage is property of the ANBC network…”
“I’ll release the footage myself!”
“That would be theft Fred, and constitute a federal crime with strict penalties, including jail time…”
“I’ll do interviews! Tell my story!”
“That would violate your non-disclosure agreement and open you up to litigation that would definitely bankrupt you. It would also make your juicy new contract null and void.”
“Well, we’d hate to see you go, Fred… although there are lots of middle-aged actors in town who could play a scientist convincingly enough. As for you, there aren’t a ton of positions requiring a Sasquatch expert… but it’s summer, I guess Home Depot is hiring their seasonal staff? I’m sure your beautiful wife would stick around for that.”
“Anyway, let me know what you decide, buddy. You have twenty-four hours.”
Fred spent the evening walking the forest path behind his house. This was his tranquil spot, where he’d go to find peace after a tough day or a fight with his wife. He thought about her. Thought about his show, his life’s work. Thought of everything he’d lose if he walked away.
The next day, head hung low, Fred went back to the ANBC office to say he’d play ball.
That Sunday, episode twelve aired. Fred watched it with his wife. It showed him reach the nest. Showed him drop the camera on his face, declaring that he had found the squatch. It then cut to one of the jump scares, where a squirrel leapt from a bush. That was the narrative they chose. Fred Abigail, the great squatch hunter, had spent all season chasing a squirrel. His wife frowned, turned the TV off, and went to bed.
Next spring, Fred found himself back at the edge of the forest. He now had a professional film crew, and they had driven there in a massive caravan/film studio decked out with all the latest gadgets. His show would increase in production value this year, maybe even compete for some awards. There were moments when he was able to focus on the bright side, feel good about the show’s accomplishments, and even forget for a few minutes that it was all a sham.
There was a knock at his trailer door.
“Just a minute!” Fred took a deep breath, preparing himself.
Outside, the camera crew had set up by the edge of the forest. They were waiting for him to say his opening words, before stepping into the woods. Fred set up, took another breath, and looked at the camera. He mustered up the fake enthusiasm he had been practicing all winter.
“Here we go, season eight… we’ve come a long way, been on a journey together… maybe this is the year we finally find him. Come on, everybody… let’s go find the squatch!”