I set up my tripod carefully. I get behind the video camera and turn it on. The couple is perfectly in frame. I give a thumbs up and the woman smiles in that grandmotherly way that says she’s enjoying helping a youngster like me out a bit.
She is helping me out. This is an interview like no other and it was hard even to get introduced to the couple involved.
The husband well, he doesn’t seem to be paying attention to me. Whenever I say anything, he appears to just grunt in my general direction. And every time he does it, without fail, his wife’s face brightens and she gives him a long and loving look.
I haven’t heard him grunt though, and I haven’t heard her speak. At least not directly.
Legend has it, correctly, that to hear her speak would result in my death. Thankfully, whatever part of her voice does this doesn’t seem to have any effect over the telephone. And so I’ve got a Bluetooth microphone tucked away beneath my over-sized and double-insulated ear protection. And she, well, she has a speakerphone.
I motion towards the phone, and she picks it up and calls me. I answer and her voice comes through – only slightly delayed, “Can you hear me, young man?”
I nod. And she smiles again.
“Can you hear me?” I ask.
She nods. Her husband grunts. I sense some disguised desire to be friendly. Apparently, so does she. She elbows him gently in the ribs and smiles that adoring smile again.
“Mrs. Snowman?” I asked.
She turns back to me, her voice projecting into my right ear, “Oh, deary, you can just call me Victoria.”
“Victoria,” I ask, “And how should I refer to Mr. Snowman.”
“Oh, you people have such a hard time pronouncing his name, just call him Aybo.”
“Okay,” I answer.
I flip open my notepad and start with my first question, “Victoria, can you tell me a bit about your life before you met?”
“Sure,” she says, with an open smile, “I was living in Thailand. I was making my living there, in the way of my kind. You know, singing to men, drawing them in, and eating them. I know you people tend to be horrified by this – I do read the press. Anyway, I was a pretty lonely Siren, as most Sirens are. We eat the men of your species – so they don’t provide much company. And the men of the monstrous species – well, they generally consider us a bit on the desperate side. The singing and coy glances and all that do lend themselves to that impression. Not that there’s much we can do about that. Biology is biology. Anywho, that’s where I was. Me and a few of my girlfriends just getting by, playing cards to pass the time.”
“And you, Aybo?”
Aybo, more commonly known as Abominable Snowman raises his shaggy head. His glowing red eyes are framed by his dirty white mane. He looks right through me and I feel an incredible chill. He opens his mouth, his breath the smell of rotted Yak breath, and then, he grunts.
Victoria smiles up at him. “He doesn’t talk much. Kind of the strong and silent type, you know?”
I write in my notebook, trying to get the image of his face out of my mind.
“So, uh, how’d you meet?”
“Oh, that was a strange day,” says Victoria, “It was back in ’43. I was living in the Thailand. I think I said that already. Anyway, I was living in what I thought was a sunny little seaside village. But one year, it got very cold and snowy. And us Sirens – well, we aren’t built for cold and snow. We’re actually allergic to clothing. We built a little fire in our cave and tried to stay as warm as could, but we were fading fast. We were in real trouble. But then, when we were on the brink of death, in stepped Aybo here. He rescued me.” She pats the matted hair of his arm appreciatively.
“Was it love at first sight?”
“For me, yes. I was smitten. Of course, he had no way of knowing that. I’m a siren, we always act smitten. And my girlfriends were acting exactly the same way. I think, more than anything, he wanted to get out of there. He built us a bigger and better fire. He put up some doors on the cave. And he got us all battened down. And not one of us made any progress on luring him. I did mention we’re generally regarded as the desperate types, right?”
“Right,” she said, “I was really falling for Aybo though.”
Her eyes twinkle in remembrance, “My girlfriends were just acting on instinct. There wasn’t any love or desire there. But Aybo couldn’t tell the difference. So I pulled out all the stops and just as he was about to leave, I said, ‘I’m still cold here.'” – with that the little old siren indicated a key portion of her upper body – “‘Can you warm me up?’ He grunted and grimaced, but he finally agreed.
“And let me tell you, his hands were freezing. I mean icy cold. I wasn’t cold before, but I got cold awful fast. And this sweet teddy bear of a man,” she pauses and smiles up at him, “He kept looking down at me and asking, ‘Are you sure I’m helping?’ And I kept looking up at him and, lying through my chattering teeth, insisting that he was.”
“Was that it, instant love all around and you got happily married.”
“Oh, lord no,” says Victoria, “It didn’t really work at all. All it really did is get him to stop working and strike up a little bit of a conversation with me. This Aybo of mine, he was all work and no play. He was doing doing doing, but he wasn’t stopping to smell the flowers. I could see he needed some love and some help. Anyway, once I actually got to talk to him, I’m sure he could see that there was more than the standard Siren routine going on. I was more than a body and a sweet voice. And we sort of began to click. And then, just as I thought things were going great, he was gone. Some other monster needed help – or he had a snack to finish – who knows. I was forlorn.”
She patted his arm.
“When did you meet again?” I ask.
“It could have taken years,” she says, “But I took things into my own hands. I left my girlfriends in sunny Thailand and I moved into a cave in Nepal. Next thing you know, I was in the middle of another snowstorm and I needed rescuing again.”
“And Aybo showed up?” I ask.
“Well, no,” says Victoria, “His brother did. I could tell they weren’t the same. And I pouted and refused his help. He must have been extremely confused – Sirens just don’t act that way. But I said he wanted his brother and, seeing I was next to death, he agreed. A few hours later, my Aybo was there. We talked and talked. Well, I talked and he grunted amenably, and we spent a wonderful night together.”
“And then you got married and lived happily ever after?”
“Well, you’d expect a little drama. A little spat. Wouldn’t you? We are monsters. Well, we had our little drama. Aybo is a bit of the jealous type – and I can’t help but, shall we say, put myself forward. I kept on luring monsters and men and he got more and more angry about it. It looked like things would never work out. We fought and he left for a while – he never liked fighting. I got myself stuck on an ice-floe in the Arctic, on a mountaintop in Colorado, in the middle of the Andes, all sorts of places. But his brother always came to rescue me. He never ever came. And I was falling to pieces. I almost wished the snow would take me.”
“But you’re here now?”
“Yes,” says Victoria, “I finally realized how we could both be happy. I sent him a letter explaining: I’d sing ’em in, and then, to satisfy his jealousy, he’d get to kill them. He got it out of his system and I got to keep doing what I’ve always done. In fact, it was a really successful little operation. People are prepared for a Siren near the sea, but I’d be on a glacier or something unexpected. They wouldn’t have any protection. I’d lure in climbers and hikers and anybody who thought about travelling through those parts and Aybo here woul
d finish them off. We were eating well and making a fantastic living selling excess equipment. It was a great partnership and we were truly happy.”
“What happened next?”
“Oh, before long, I was expecting and we moved to a bigger cave. Life was really great.”
“What did you have?”
“It was a god-awful thing,” she says, playfully, “My cute little Johnny. Being as we’re monsters, the greatest risk in childbirth is that your offspring will eat you. So our obstetrician recommended a prenatal surgery to put a muzzle on little Johnny. And little Johnny, that cute little guy, bit her arm off from within the womb. That’s when we knew he’d be something special. When we was finally born, he had the voice of a Siren, the body of a Siren, and the hair and smell of Aybo here. We didn’t think he’d ever get married. But he did, eventually. I guess there are all types.”
“Do you have any grandchildren?”
She gave me her best grandmotherly smile, and said, “Of course!”
She reached into her purse, pulled out a photo wallet and was just about to show me the pictures when she thought better of it. With a disappointed look, she put the photos back and then said, in a slightly depressed voice, says, “I’d show you, but you might not survive.”
I closed my eyes and counted to five.
Then, I turned to Aybo and asked, “Is there anything you’d like to add.”
He looked straight at me and I resisted shivering. And then he grunted.
Victoria smiled warmly and translated, “He says ‘We’ve lived happily ever after.'”
They both gave me their best smiles.
And with that, I closed my notebook, packed up my gear and headed home.