“Don’t know how long we may be here. Better save it.”
“We have more, and you know it. You helped me pack. What’s happened to you? Why won’t you eat anymore? You eat so little most times that it doesn’t take much at all for you to end up hypothermic, and you have to know this isn’t going to work well when winter comes. It’s not going to work at all, in fact. You’re going to die. ”
Einar shrugged, nodded in the direction of the waiting men. “Not a good time to have this conversation. They might hear us.”
“Well that’s one more reason to eat the pemmican, then. So you’ll have the energy to run fast and far if they do hear us! That, or fight them off…but with this wind we’re having, they’ll never hear us. We’re directly upwind of them, and it’s really howling.”
He nodded, couldn’t dispute the truth in her observation, so she went on.
“You know this place so well, and you’re the most knowledgeable and wise person I’ve ever met when it comes to understanding how to get along in it…how to get along anywhere, really, improvise, find a way to get by with what you have…I mean, just about everything I know about surviving and living out here, you taught me!”
“Nah, you picked up a lot of that yourself. And taught me things, even. You’re a real good student.”
“Thanks, but that’s beside the point. Point is that I just don’t understand how you can have so many years of experience out here, have the knowledge and the ability to effectively pass it along to others, to teach, yet be so unable to apply what you know to your own life. You know what you need to do, I’m sure of I, because you’ve told me, explained in detail how the body breaks down different foods for energy, you remind me all the time to make sure I’m getting the right things for the baby, getting enough, so I know you understand the concept. Why can’t you do the same for yourself?”
Einar just shook his head, stared at the ground, spoke in a voice somewhere between a growl and a sigh. “You already know the story.”
“Which story? The one of your time…over there. Is that what this is all about?”
Einar was getting angry, didn’t like that she was interfering with his focus on the current situation, which he knew could easily turn more dire than it already was, and in a hurry, liked even less the way she was trying to drag him into a conversation he really did not want to have, came close to snapping at her but restrained himself. Didn’t want the men to hear him. And figured he probably owed her some sort of an answer, anyway, much as he dreaded the discussion that would surely ensue.
“Yeah, guess that’s the one. Don’t know if I could explain it to you if I tried.”
“I wasn’t there with you, so know I wouldn’t be able to entirely understand it even if you told me, but…it’s about your friend Andy, isn’t it? The one who didn’t escape…”
Einar nodded, staring at the ground, teeth clenched. “I know this isn’t right, really, but sometimes it seems the only way I can make that right…can even begin to make it right is to…I left him there Liz, left him for them to…to torture and to starve, and they did and he died. I should have stayed…”
“When we talked about this before…there was nothing you could have done for him, Einar. You said so yourself. Nothing at all, and if you’d have stayed you would have almost certainly died, too--you told me that, told me you found out later that they didn’t intend to let either of you live past the time when they moved their camp a few days after you left, so what would have been gained by you staying? I don’t see that anything would have been gained.”
“Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change anything.”
“Yes, it does. It matters that you lived. Matters to me, and matters to your child. Einar…if you were up here all by yourself, or even living down there in civilization or on the edge of it with no one depending on you, then maybe I wouldn’t have an argument, wouldn’t be right to try and talk you out of living--and dying--this way if it was what you believed you needed to do, because if I’m hearing you right that’s exactly what you’re saying…that the only way you feel like you can make things right is to die like your friend Andy died, the way he died. I’d probably still try to talk you out of it, as a friend, if I had the opportunity…which I wouldn’t, would I, because there’s not much chance you’d intentionally let anyone that close to you…but that’s not the situation. You’re not alone. This isn’t about you, and it isn’t really about me, either--I can take care of myself--it’s about the baby. Your baby. Because of him, you don’t have the right to live any way you want to, or even any way you need to, if it interferes with his right to have a father and a provider. Can’t you understand that? Can’t you see that he’s got to come first before…whatever it is you’re putting first right now? Not yourself, I know, because you’re obviously not putting yourself first, but this...thing…needs to take second place to your son. And it needs to start happening now.”
“I know it Lizzie, I know.”
“Then act like it. Live like it. Live, Einar.” Once more she handed him the pemmican, and he ate, grateful--oh, so grateful; he couldn’t stop the tears at that first taste--and angry and confused and terribly ashamed all at once, and though he wasn’t to have time to begin sorting all of it out just then, he did quickly finish the little packet of pemmican, a good thing indeed, as the next thing either of them heard was the distant but fast-approaching buzz of a small helicopter.
Tree island similar to the one beneath which Einar and Liz are hiding: