Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language, violence, and mature content.
TW: Scary, Horror, Murder, Mutilations, Abduction
Echo is an American filmmaker from Chicago. She’s assembled four other filmmakers to create a documentary about the infamous abominable snowman.
Dr. Edith Evans, a renowned Zoologist with a passion for Cryptozoology, arrives at their studio. Conn, the director, and Sullivan, the producer, greet her at the door. Echo wipes the camera lens clean with her sleeve. She catches a glimpse of her own reflection in the glass and sees Edith take a seat behind her. Her crimson suit nicely contrasts against the smokey gray backdrop. Echo sits down out of the camera shot. Seth makes several technical adjustments before Harkin rolls the camera.
“What can you tell us about the Yeti?” Echo asks.
“Many people report seeing a creature that resembles a cross between a human and primate in the Himalayan Mountain range,” Edith explains. She sounds like she’s telling a scary story around the campfire. “Sometimes the creature is a prominent figure in their diverse cultures, religions, and folklore.”
“What do some of the Himalayan peoples believe?” She asks.
“The Yeti is worshipped as the god of the hunt by Rongkup communities. They believe a population of them inhabit the mountain’s glacial regions, whistling a long haunting tune in search of food…” She tells them. “The Sherpa communities tell stories of them abducting their livestock and girls from their villages. They believe the creature has supernatural abilities such as disappearing at will. Seeing one is merely an accident that brings bad luck, ill fortune, or death. If the Yeti sees you first, you’ll be unable to move, and then eaten…”
“How do we lure a Yeti to us?” She asks. Edith frowns deeply at her as if she has some sort of a death wish. It’s evident that Echo is the biggest skeptic in the room.
“The Rongkup believe whistling and playing the flute in morning and night attracts them. In fact, they’re strictly forbidden from doing so,” She warns them. “The Yeti isn’t just a folktale; it’s been a reality to Himalayan peoples for many centuries…”
Himalayan Mountainside, Nepal, 2021.
The crew first became best friends in a Film Studies class and have been travelling together since high school graduation. Over time, they’ve developed a solid background in camping, survivalism, hiking, and mountain-climbing. They’ve committed time to special training and have worked hard to prepare themselves for Mount Everest. Echo’s friends have always been daredevils. Despite their better judgement, they don’t hire a guide to trek through the most dangerous mountain in the world.
The team manage to interview a handful of climbers at base camp. A married couple claimed to have found enormous footprints several years ago, but couldn’t recall its exact whereabouts. Their guide claimed to have had a brief encounter with one high up in the mountains.
“Could you have mistaken the Yeti for another animal?” Echo asks the guide.
“No.” He replies firmly.
“Maybe a bear standing upright on its hind legs?” She suggests.
“I know what I saw.” He declares. His expression and tone make her stomach turn.
It took over a month to ascend more than halfway up the mountain. When the conditions were right, they filmed thorough investigations; however, little to no evidence turned up even after whistling and playing the flute.
Dark clouds clustered overhead as the blistering snow slowed their pace. Whenever an unforeseen storm occurred, they’d descend and return to the former campsite; however, they were too close to the next camp to stop. Echo was the first to ascent over the next ridge and discover the route blocked by an avalanche.
“Shit!” Echo roars over the loud winds.
“Oh no,” Harkin says, concerned.
“What’s wrong, Echo?” Conn asks.
“The route is blocked!” She projects to them. Her friends follow her over the crest to look for themselves.
“Looks recent!” Sullivan remarks, examining the scene.
“Are there any other routes nearby?” She asks, hopeful.
“Not for miles,” Conn says, checking the map.
“We’ll freeze to death if we turn back now.” Sullivan says. Harkin betrays a terrified expression whilst Seth keeps his composure better than the rest.
There is a long moment of hesitation while they struggle to hold their ground against the powerful winds. The same idea is on everyone’s mind, but nobody wants to go through with it.
“We’re going to have to go off route and make camp elsewhere,” Echo declares. Conn nods in agreement and Sullivan sighs deeply.
“Leave some trail markers every now and then,” Conn instructs Seth.
“Hopefully the storm won’t destroy them first,” Echo comments.
The crew is forced to trek through steeper grounds, far away from the unstable regions. They make camp on the flattest terrain they can find, setting up only one of their tents to save time and avoid freezing to death. Despite being crammed with five people, the tent provides significant shelter from the storm. The group huddles together in their sleeping bags, trying to recover the warmth they lost.
“My feet hurt so bad,” Harkin complains. “I don’t think I’ll ever walk again.”
“I don’t know how a primate could survive any of these conditions,” Echo groans.
“I don’t think it’s so outlandish,” Sullivan says, “especially if you consider how many other species can survive the harshest regions of the planet.” His argument makes her reconsider.
“Anyone want some Eggnog?” Seth offers.
“Hell yeah!” Harkin exclaims. His eyes light up with child-like excitement.
The filmmakers play several card games to pass the time. Conn was the most competitive, Seth called out Sullivan for cheating every round, and Harkin drank so much eggnog that he felt sick.
Night soon fell upon Everest. Snow melts and trickles through the rocks like raindrops knocking on a window. Seth softly plays his flute, eventually luring the others to sleep. Echo could have sworn she heard a faint whistle in the distance. The low-pitched, otherworldly tune sent shivers down her spine. Within her own denial, Echo writes it off as the howling wind and somehow manages to fall asleep.
The next morning, Echo wakes to a loud scream right outside the tent. She catches a glimpse of Conn and Sullivan jolting out of their sleep.
“What the hell?” Sullivan whispers. Echo looks around and finds two empty sleeping bags beside them.
“Harkin and Seth are gone!” She tells them, scared. She throws on her snow gear as fast as she can. Conn and Sullivan are far from ready to go out into the freezing cold.
“Wait,” Sullivan stops her from leaving. He digs through his bag and pulls out a sharp tool. “Take this with you.” He hands her his lucky ice axe. In another scenario, maybe she’d take time to acknowledge that he’s never lent it to anyone. It’s always been his and for him alone.
“Be careful!” Conn tells her.
“I will.” Echo promises them. She leaves her friends behind and keeps the ice axe close to her side. A long time ago, she never would’ve thought she’d take on Mount Everest for a documentary, or be the silly character to investigate a spooky noise in a horror film. Somehow, she keeps proving herself wrong.
Echo finds Seth far from the campsite. He stands as still as a statue and stares blankly ahead. He doesn’t even react when she calls out his name and catches up to him.
“Are you alright?” Echo asks. “Where’s Harkin?”
Seth remains speechless as if he’s seen a ghost. Echo looks ahead of him and shrieks at the horrific scene before them. Harkin’s dead body dangles from the rocks above them. His exposed face is nearly blue from insufferable temperatures. His blood has been completely drained, giving his body a deflated appearance. She barely notices that Conn and Sullivan have caught up to them.
“Oh my God!” Sullivan gasps.
“Let’s get out of here,” Conn says, “before whatever the hell did that comes back!”
They reach the tent and discover their only satellite phone broken in the snow. Yesterday, it was in prime condition and now it’s in two pieces. The batteries to their headlamps are also missing. None of them speak to each other as they try to find their way back to the route. Echo doesn’t think Seth is mentally and emotionally ready to tell them everything yet, so she holds back all of her questions.
“It’s been hours,” Sullivan eventually says. “We should’ve found it by now!”
“Did you hang the trail markers up?” Conn asks Seth. He’s as speechless as when Echo found him this morning. “Seth? Seth?” He grows agitated as he fails to pull Seth out of the trance.
Conn storms forward and pins Seth against a tree. “What the fuck happened to Harkin?!” He shouts, shaking his friend violently. Seth hardly reacts to Conn’s sudden aggression. “Did you kill him? Did you kill Harkin?!”
The same thought had crossed Echo’s mind too, but she didn’t want to believe her friend could commit such a horrific crime.
“Stop it! Stop it!” Echo yells, nearly in tears. “He’s in shock.”
“None of us could’ve possibly done that!” Sullivan cries, as he tries to pull Conn off of Seth.
“Please, Conn! None of this will bring Harkin back.” Echo pleads. Conn briefly hesitates before releasing Seth. “Look, we may be lost, but as long as we descend, we still have a chance of finding other climbers and making it out of here alive.”
The following silence is as sharp as a knife. Since descending is often more fatal than ascending, their preparation is long, careful, and thorough. After Echo finishes her last task, she tries to return Sullivan’s ice axe.
“No, you keep it.” Sullivan tells her. Echo is surprised by his insistence. “If anyone’s going to make it out here alive, it’s going to be you.” Maybe she’d be flattered if the thought of losing her friends didn’t sadden her to the bone.
The team descends until their muscles ache. As Echo tries to fall asleep, she hears the same whistle from the night before, but it sounds much closer this time. She wants to ask the others if they heard it too, but they’re sound asleep beside her. It takes more than a few hours for her thoughts to settle and drift off.
The next morning, Echo wakes to another scream. Seth and Sullivan aren’t in their sleeping bags. She throws on her winter gear and goes outside. A rush of Deja-Vu washes over her when she finds Seth staring ahead. Sullivan’s dead body is strung to higher grounds. His eyeballs have been ripped out rendering the back of his eye sockets visible. His contorted mouth hangs open like he died screaming. Echo sobs at the horrifying sight before them. She finds herself backing away from Seth.
“What the hell is going on?” Conn shouts. It’s hard to tell whether his face is red from holding his breath or the bitter cold. “You better give us some fucking answers, Seth! This is the second time we’ve found you like this, man.”
Seth remains frozen as if his friends didn’t exist. Conn pulls Echo far off to the side so Seth can’t hear them.
“Let’s leave him behind as soon as possible,” Conn whispers. Echo used to believe Conn wasn’t afraid of anything, but the look of terror in his eyes tells her otherwise.
“I don’t think he did it,” Echo says. She feels like she’s arguing with herself more than with Conn. “What motivation would he have to kill his friends out here? Wouldn’t he have tried killing us earlier? Maybe even back home?”
“If Seth didn’t kill them then who did?” Conn asks.
“I don’t know,” She tells him, “But whatever it is, it doesn’t want us here.” Her gut feelings obviously don’t influence his opinion on the matter.
For the first time ever, Echo questions her skepticism towards the Yeti as well as the true intentions of her best friends. She’s in the middle of packing up her belongings when Conn peeks his head inside the tent.
“I talked to Seth,” Conn tells her. “He’s decided to stay behind.” His body is more tense than usual. Her heart sinks into her stomach when she sees a small red stain on his coat. Echo’s eyes quickly drift elsewhere, pretending not to see it.
“Okay,” she says “I’m almost ready.”
A series of questions run through Echo’s head as they continue their descent. Has Conn been the killer all along? Or did Conn only kill Seth to ensure their survival? Will she be killed next? She struggles to conceal her grief, anguish, and fears all at once. She tries to focus on devising her next plan.
“Are you okay?” Conn asks, halfway through the day.
“Yes,” Echo manages to tell him, convincingly.
As the night approaches, Echo tries to distance herself from Conn as much as possible.
“I’m going to sleep in my own tent tonight,” Echo tells him.
“Sure,” Conn says, “whatever makes you more comfortable…”
There’s no safe way of fleeing tonight without batteries for her headlamp. Echo keeps Sullivan’s ice axe close to her the whole night. A familiar tune whistles closer than ever before – within their own campsite. She slaps a hand over her mouth to keep her breath from hitching loudly. Whatever was lurking outside knew they were there and wasn’t going away anytime soon. She’s in-and-out of sleep for the rest of the night.
The next morning, Echo is relieved to wake to a deafening silence. Soon after finding Conn’s tent deserted, she discovers his dead body swaying from taller grounds. The top of his head is hollowed out, his brains scooped out and missing. His eyes remain wide open like he’d been frightened to death.
Echo falls to her knees and doubles over in tears. She would have to continue on alone. She pulls the camera out of her backpack and wipes the lens clean with her sleeve. She records herself telling the world about their long journey, the horrifying events that followed, and her newfound belief in the unknown.
At the end of the recording, a foul odor fills her nostrils and a soft whistle blows against the back of her head. She catches a glimpse of her own reflection in the glass and a massive figure standing right behind her. The video camera drops in the snow right beside Sullivan’s lucky ice axe, her terror echoing in the only place where no one can hear her scream.