31 March, 2011

31 March 2011

For a long time Einar lay in the spruce needles under the log where Kilgore had left him, face down, barely appearing to breathe, too exhausted to move. Shoulders hurt, ribs ached whenever he took a breath and the crust of partially dried blood that had run down from a deep gash above his left eyebrow was beginning to draw flies, but he hardly noticed. Wouldn’t much have cared, even if he had.

Rolled over, finally, so that he could see the sky, try and get some idea of where he was, which direction he needed to go if he wanted to get back to the cabin. Which he supposed he would, eventually. Because of Liz. And the baby. And all the work he had to do before the baby came. Not just yet, though. Didn’t want her to see him like…like this. Like he was just then. Like he could see himself. He was almost certain she’d be able to see it, too. Even after he got the blood washed off. Look right through him and see it. She had eyes like that. The kind that could, on occasion, look right through a person. He’d seen her do it. Had to get himself together before he went to her, get…that thing…that part of himself that he always worked so hard to keep concealed, back under wraps. Didn’t know how to do it. Not anymore. So he shut his eyes, pressed his hands--stiff and strange and difficult to move properly with their crusty coating of dried blood--to his face, rolled back over. Not yet. Not time to go home just yet. And, drifting once more into an exhausted haze--easy to do, too easy, for he truly had lost a significant amount of blood where he’d bled from his forehead and from his wrists, significant, at least, considering the condition he’d been in to start with--his mind went back over the events of the past few hours, puzzled them out. Or tried to…

Kilgore pushed him roughly up the path after taking their leave of Susan and the morning fire, all but holding him upright lest he collapse and trying with every step to get some response from him, to rile him up, get him talking, fighting, anything to jolt him out of his near-stupor, but all without success. Wouldn’t do, simply would not, and he took to kicking and jabbing at his prisoner as they walked, bruising his legs, nearly tripping him several times and once--succeeding, and it was about time; the man had an incredible sense of innate balance, even under the present conditions--sending him sprawling into a patch of currants. That did it. Got him angry, finally, and he came out of that briar patch and launched himself at Kilgore, but Bud dodged aside, sending Einar to crash into a small standing dead aspen, snapping it off near the ground and leaving him toppling along with it to end up in a tangled heap on the ground. Bud took full advantage of the situation, clubbed him hard in the head with a branch of the fallen tree, or tried to, but Einar saw him coming and rolled to the side, leaving Bud to catch him hard in the ribs, instead. Solid contact. Hoped he hadn’t broken any. The next blow found its mark, took him in the head and knocked him out, as Kilgore had intended, and knowing he probably didn’t have much time he acted quickly, snatched a large coil of paracord from his pocket and went to work, wrists tied to ankles, drawn up tight--he’d seen things over there, seen more than he’d ever really wanted and talked to folks who’d seen more than that, knew what he was doing--cord end going up and over a leaning aspen where it angled up several feet off the ground, roughly parallel to the ground, just high enough, sorry man, but time is short and I can’t think of any other way, already tried all the other ways I could think of, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, so I got to get your attention somehow

Which he definitely succeeded in doing, Einar waking shortly with a horrid bellowing injured-grizzly holler that echoed off the surrounding ridges and sent small animals all over the basin scurrying for cover, writhing and twisting and fighting the ties like a madman, like a wild thing, wolverine in a trap, ready and more than willing to chew off his own leg if it would have helped, but he couldn’t reach his leg, couldn’t get loose, couldn’t breathe--broken ribs were making it even more difficult, and he couldn’t remember having them broken, but clearly, they had been--tried to slow down and take stock of his situation, make some sense of it but he couldn’t; the spruces were gone, the good clear blue-purple high altitude sky that should have arched above him free and pure and nearly infinite…gone. He was sure. It was real this time, and he was about to pass out for lack of air. Couldn’t, mustn’t, must stay awake and try to gather more information, make a plan to…nothing. No. Couldn’t plan, couldn’t think, not like this, couldn’t do anything but struggle for the next breath, and it seemed they were determined not to let him take it, had placed something heavy on his back--chunk of cement or pile of rocks, he couldn’t tell and really, it didn’t matter, unless of course he could find a way to get ahold of one of the objects and use it as a weapon--to further distort his position and impede his increasingly feeble efforts to breathe, world gone dark, stinking, close around him, and the fact that Kilgore could still speak the language after all those years…intonation perfect--that was the tricky part--execution flawless as he shouted his demands…only added to the reality of it.

For a long time the man went on barking out his demands, emphasizing them from time to time by pressing on Einar’s back, adding weight to the heap of rocks it seemed he had already stacked there, but Einar was determined--he wouldn’t say anything, and didn’t, and finally the man left, left him all alone there with the hot white hiss and scream of the pain in his limbs, his head, his horrible and increasingly futile struggle to breathe, to remain conscious, but Einar didn’t care, face twisted up in grin of triumph, elation, he had done it, could do it again and would go right on doing it this time, endure to the end, but the next moment the grin was gone as the man returned, adding more weight to his back, more than he could bear, pretty nearly, and he hung there with mouth wide and eyes staring, sightless, as he fought to fill his lungs, to get any air in there at all, had to have some air, God…God help me, I can’t do it…give me the strength to…to hang on here and…blackness, then, it swept up and took him, blackness, and an answer, and when he woke again he could breathe just a bit, just the tiniest bit, not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord…the Lord is my strength, my fortress, I shall not be moved, but he was moving, slipping, the ties were slipping, he felt them loosening as he fell to the ground where he took a great breath, another, blessed, blessed relief, before finally passing out…

Stayed that way a long time, too long, as far as Kilgore was concerned, twitching and writhing and striking out with his hands after the tracker untangled them--somehow got his knife into one of them, after which Kilgore was careful to give him a good bit of space--clearly immersed in a rather intense sequence of dream, going somewhere, goal in mind, and finally Kilgore threw nearly the entire contents of his water bottle into Einar’s face, wanting to bring him back to the present. It worked, more or less, left Einar awake, spluttering and confused, propped rather painfully on both elbows, knife in hand, staring in wide-eyed bafflement and disbelief at the scene around him. His trees, his lovely, high, desolate ridges all around him, sheltering him. Home, but it was wrong, all wrong; he let his forehead rest on the ground, the good, free, living spruce-scented ground of his own beloved hills, and he wept.

“No…no! Let me go back, I have to go back for Andy!”


  1. Wow, very intense FOTH. Hope Einar is finally able to forgive himself and move forward. Now would sure be a good time with winter and a baby coming.

    Thank you for sharing this incredible story with us.

  2. I don't know what to say, I hope some good will come of this, but for now I just hope that the good guys will stay on Einar's good side, and the past can hopefully be left further in the past.

  3. Excellent thank you for this moving installment!

  4. RMP--Yes, would probably be a very good time to do something like that.

    John--About staying on Einar's good side, Kilgore is certainly on dangerous ground, but he knows what he's doing.

    FrRichard--Thank you!