I have learned not to form preconceived notions when it comes to Aaron Rosenberg’s writing. He is nothing if not versatile and creative. Yeti Left Home is no exception, a quirky and exciting urban fantasy, this book takes monster-of-the-week to a whole new level. Filled with cryptids and other assorted fae, it will keep you turning pages long into the night. Settle back and enjoy this sneak peek of Aaron’s cryptid-in-the-city adventure, which is funding right now as a part of our eSpec Books Fantastic Novels campaign (which is ending soon!), along with Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Phoenix Precinct and Ef Deal’s Esprit de Corpse. Still no cover, but enjoy!
Wylie’s first instinct, born from his early years, was to go completely still. Of course, that had worked a lot better when he’d been clad in only his fur and was hoping to blend into the equally white snow all around him!
“I said stop!” the shouter continued in a deep, strong voice, which puzzled Wylie further. He had stopped! What was the man on about?
Heavy footsteps thudded on the sidewalk—someone his own size or perhaps even bigger, from the sound of it!
Wylie glanced behind him. And stared.
Because what he saw simply made no sense.
First off, the pounding was coming from a small figure he quickly recognized as the boy street artist. How was he making such a racket when he was so small and slight?
Second, the boy was running away from Wylie, not toward him.
Third, he was not the only one running.
A man was fleeing, or trying to—despite the differences in their size, the boy quickly caught up with him. He looked familiar, and after a second, Wylie realized it was the same guy he’d just bumped into over by the trash can. Maybe he’d been littering? If so, they were really strict about that around here!
“Hand it over!” the boy demanded, and the deep voice proved to be his as well. The man resisted—and the boy grabbed him by the front of his jacket and hoisted him up into the air like an empty sack until his feet dangled off the ground, kicking uselessly. “I said hand it over!”
The man fumbled something out of a pocket, which the boy accepted before tossing his captive aside like so much trash. Evidently, the impact had not been severe, however, because a second later, the man stumbled back to his feet and hurried off, limping slightly. The other people around quickly turned away, acting as if they hadn’t seen any of that but giving both of the figures involved a wide berth.
And the boy had now turned and was heading toward Wylie instead.
“Here you go,” the little youngster said as he reached Wylie. He was holding out—Wylie’s wallet. “I saw him nick it. Can’t be having that, not on my watch.”
“Oh.” Wylie accepted the wallet back. It didn’t have much in it, really—his driver’s license and fishing license, a single twenty-dollar bill for emergencies, an old silver coin he’d found in a fish a few years back and had thought was neat—but still, he appreciated the gesture. “Thanks.”
Up close, he quickly revised his impression of his savior. The “boy” was older than he thought, definitely an adult, albeit a small one. His face was clean-shaven and did have a boyish look, which was only added to by the long reddish-blond hair that flowed free from his cap, but his gray eyes were older and far too worldly to be those of a youth.
The cap drew Wylie’s attention next. It was sort of a newsboy style, he’d guess, rounded in back and peaked in front, and it was a bright, vivid red that looked almost wet, it was so glossy. Otherwise, the boy—man—wore jeans, a T-shirt, a hoodie, and a lined denim jacket.
And the biggest boots Wylie had ever seen.
They looked like ski boots, those big, puffy things that resembled an entire layer of bubble wrap—Wylie had seen those advertised before and occasionally on tourists passing through town. Only these had a dull metallic sheen to them—not bright like chrome, more like old, heavy iron or lead, something like that. Were they actually made of metal? That and their size would explain the tremendous footsteps, at least!
The little man was examining him right back. “So, what’re you, exactly?” he asked, tilting his head to the side and leaning back to peer up at Wylie properly. “Sasquatch? Ogre? Troll?”
“What?” Wylie frowned, shaking his head and wondering if he’d heard correctly. “I—don’t know what you mean.”
In response, his interrogator winked at him. “Oh, sure you do,” he said with a grin. “Come on, lad. No need to be bashful—you’re among friends here. I’m just curious, is all.”
Suddenly very aware of the other people around—who were clearly listening in on the conversation even as they pretended not to be—Wylie held up his hands, the wallet still enfolded in one, and backed away. “No, sorry, I think there’s been some mistake. Thanks again, but I need to—I’ve got to go.”
And he turned and ran.
He wasn’t entirely sure where he was going, of course. He didn’t know this city at all. But he had to get away from this odd little man with his even odder questions.
Sasquatch? As if! But who here in this metropolis even believed in such things?
Wylie had on occasion encountered adults able to see him for what he was, of course, or at least enough to make them realize he wasn’t quite normal. Not quite human. “Second Sight,” a cousin had explained once when he was young, and they’d heard about a woman who’d seen another of their kin, seen them clearly. “Not many have it, and those who do, most don’t realize what it is. But the few who do, they’re dangerous. Steer clear if you can.”
Well, that was exactly what he aimed to do now!
So, he ran, shoving past people with muttered apologies, squeezing through groups and small crowds, turning down streets at random, rushing across them to the honks of cars and the screech of brakes, until his heart hammered in his chest and his breath came in great, rasping gasps. Then he finally skidded to a halt, ducking around a building to shelter in the alley beside it, where he could lean over, resting his hands on his knees as he struggled to breathe again.
But at least he’d lost that stranger.
“You’re pretty fast on your feet for such a big fella,” a voice called from above, and Wylie straightened, peering up.
At the red-capped man, who dangled from a nearby fire escape.
“How?” he managed as the man grasped the railing and flipped forward, dropping gracefully to the ground.
“Parkour,” the stranger replied. “A lot faster going over buildings than around ’em.” He eyed the alley they were in. “Ah, gotcha—a more private place for such talk, am I right? No worries, man. I hear ya. Shoulda been more circumspect, you’re right. My bad.” He shrugged. “Anyway, Knox Adair’s the name. Red Cap, obv. And you are?” And he held out his hand.
Wylie accepted the proffered handshake purely on reflex, which is also why he answered, “Wylie Kang. Uh”—he faltered under the other’s steady gaze but finally mumbled—“Yeti.”
“For real?” The man’s—Knox’s—eyes widened. “Nice! Never met one of you lot before. New to the city, then?”
Wylie nodded, his brain still dazed by this strange turn of events. “Got in last night. You—sorry, did you say ‘Red Cap’?”
“Yep.” Knox pulled off the cap and twirled it on his finger before setting it jauntily back atop his head. “You know, Red Caps? Goblins from the English-Scottish border? Short, strong, big iron boots, caps dipped in the blood of their enemies?” He must have seen Wylie’s horrified expression because he let out a laugh that sounded far too light and cheerful for such a gruesome description. “Naw, no blood here, mate, don’t worry. Oil paint, dontcha know? Gift of the gods, that is—never truly dries out. Amazing stuff.”
“I—” Wylie didn’t even know what to say to that. On some level, he’d known there were other supernaturals in the world. After all, his father had talked about Hunters as going after all of them, not just Yeti. And some of the shows he’d watched over the years, they’d featured such creatures—vampires and werewolves, mostly, but here and there a few others, like Goblins or Ghouls or Bigfoots. Plus, of course, he’d seen those movies with the elves and dwarves and orcs and so on.
He’d just never thought any of it was real. Not truly. He’d figured they were just stories, myths, tall tales, and the like. After all, the only creatures he’d ever seen that weren’t human or regular animals were, well, other Yeti. But evidently, that was just another result of his sheltered lifestyle.
“So, you live here? In the city?” he asked now. He’d expected to see all kinds of new sights here, of course. But another supernatural hadn’t been one of them!
“You betcha,” Knox replied. He flung his arms wide, and Wylie noted that the little man’s hands were dusted with bright colors, presumably from his art. “Welcome to the Twin Cities! Best place in the whole world! What’s your pleasure? Music? Art? Food? Sports? Ladies? Gents? We got it all!”
“I—” Wylie frowned. “I’m just—I just need a place to lay low for a bit,” he admitted slowly, not used to explaining himself to others. “To hide out and be safe.”
“Safe? From what? Big strong guy like you, what’re you afraid of, huh?” Knox elbowed him in the side. “Is it a jealous ex? I’ve had plenty of those, let me tell you! That ain’t fun, can’t blame you for running from something like that!”
“No, no, nothing like that.” Wylie shook his head. “Look, I should really— thanks again. About the wallet. I don’t want any trouble. Just looking to keep to myself for a bit.” He turned and started out of the alley, his heart rate almost back to normal now despite the strangeness of this conversation.
“Oh. Hey, yeah, no worries. If you’re sure.” From the lack of footsteps, Knox wasn’t following, for which Wylie was grateful. “You change your mind and need a local guide, though,” the little man—Goblin?—called after him, “you know where to find me! That picture ain’t gonna finish itself!”
Wylie held up a hand in a vague wave, acknowledging the offer, as he stepped back onto the main sidewalk and quickly marched away, trying once more to lose himself in the crowd.
He didn’t look back.
First sighted in the wilds of New Jersey, the cryptid known as “Aaron Rosenberg” or “the Gryphon Rose” has been seen as far afield as New Orleans and Lawrence, Kansas, but for the past twenty-five years has been primarily found in and around New York City. Though a sociable creature, Rosenberg has been known to unleash cutting wit and biting sarcasm, often upon those pulled into his expansive social circle. When not utilizing such weapons on the unwary, or camouflaging himself as the web content manager for a financial trade organization (previous disguises have included “college professor,” “animation studio creative director,” “film studio script supervisor,” and “children’s book publisher desktop coordinator”), the Gryphon Rose can most often be found pounding the keys of a battered laptop or equally dilapidated desktop, engaged in his most beloved activity—writing.
Over the past thirty years, Rosenberg’s particular brand of storytelling has been traced to more than two hundred publications, including roughly four dozen novels in a variety of imaginative genres, from horror to comedy to action-adventure to mystery to various shades of science fiction and fantasy. His unique approach has been conclusively linked to the bestselling sci-fi comedy series The Adventures of DuckBob Spinowitz, the Anime-esque epic fantasy series the Relicant Chronicles, the space-opera series Tales of the Dread Remora, the period cryptid mystery Gone to Ground, the pirate fantasy mystery adventure Deadly Fortune, the historic dark fantasy Time of the Phoenix, and, in a rare collaboration with unsuspecting human David Niall Wilson, the occult thriller series OCLT. Rosenberg is also believed to be responsible for the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel, the bestselling Finding Gobi: Young Reader’s Edition, the #1 bestseller 42: The Jackie Robinson Story, and the original children’s book series STEM Squad and Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles.
Nor has this strange and prolific creature limited himself to original work. Rosenberg has also inveigled himself into various tie-in worlds, producing novels for such properties as Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, Stargate: Atlantis, Shadowrun, Eureka, and Mutants & Masterminds, and short stories for The X-Files, James Bond, Deadlands, Zorro, and many more. The Gryphon Rose has even made his mark on roleplaying games, writing the original games Asylum, Spookshow, and Chosen, and doing work for other games by Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle Entertainment, and many others—he won an Origins Award for the book Gamemastering Secrets and an ENnie for the Warhammer supplement Lure of the Lich Lord!
When Rosenberg is not writing at breakneck speeds, working alongside regular folk, or deploying snark against those who call him friend, he can be found reading, watching TV and movies, eating, and spending time with his mate “Jenifer” and their two offspring.
To follow more of this strange creature’s adventures, monitor him through his site at gryphonrose.com, observe him on Facebook at facebook.com/gryphonrose, and watch his antics on Twitter @gryphonrose. Just be prepared for frequent dad jokes and daily writing updates.