09 February, 2012

9 February 2012

The tracker grabbed Einar by the hand--met with some resistance; the man was shaking, eyes a bit wild, wanted to run, and he could hardly be blamed--and gave him a solid thump on the back, embracing him when he didn’t show any particular inclination to apply a strangle-hold and slip the point of that spear between his ribs. Wouldn’t have surprised Kilgore one bit, considering the circumstances. Einar freed himself, back to the wall and leaning heavily on the spear just to maintain his balance, bent over, and when Liz looked into his eyes they appeared to her immensely weary, anguished, perhaps even a bit frightened and she knew she was seeing a glimpse of something he’d always done his best to keep carefully hidden around her, seeing right through the vigilantly-maintained armor with which he kept himself surrounded. The lapse lasted only a moment and then the customary fire was back in his eyes, the hardness, Einar straightening himself and standing once more at his full height to face Kilgore. The tracker wasted no time, wanting to take advantage of the moment before it passed.

“So does this mean you’re up for considering our offer, now?”

A quick answer from Einar, no hesitation. “No, it really doesn’t. Still can’t risk taking my family down out of this place to one where there’s a greater chance of their being found out and captured. You know how things can go wrong with an operation like this…Kiesl could have been compromised in one way or another, your house could have been, they could be watching the plane…worth the risk if you’ve got a mission to carry out and it’s just you and your buddies and all, but I’m not putting my family in the middle of that. We’re pretty well set here, you’ve said it yourself. We’ll do fine for the winter.”

“Yeah, aside from the fact that you’re still dying just like you were earlier when we talked about this, and probably don’t have more than a good week or two left in ya at this point before you go and leave your lady and that kid all by their lonesome for the rest of the winter. What’re you planning to do about that?


“Yeah? How? Stuff you’re doing sure isn’t working. I figure you’d really best send the two of them out with us, even if you’re not willing to go, yourself. They’d be safe. Your Mrs. could cut her hair, color it and nobody’d know who they were, even if they were to walk right through town.”

Liz wanted to object at that point, declare unequivocally that she had no intention whatsoever of going anywhere without Einar, but Susan put a hand on her arm, shook her head. Let him finish. I’m sure he’s going somewhere with this…

“Seems to me, Asmundson, that unless you can come up with a better plan before we head out of here, the only responsible option is to say goodbye to your family and send them down there with us. Gonna be doing it anyway here in a few days if nothing changes, and at least this way, they won’t be facing the rest of the winter all alone up here.”

“Had it with you, Kilgore. Now how many times do I have to tell you that I’ve got no intention of abandoning anybody to spend the winter up here all alone? I’m in this for the long haul. Just going through a little rough patch right now, but it’s gonna work out just fine. You can go on down and meet your plane in a few days when you’d planned to do it, and we’ll all see you again sometime. Maybe in the summer.”

“You can be a real idiot, man, for such an intelligent guy. Can’t see the nose in front of your face, apparently. How much more plain do I have to make this? You’ve got medical training, a good bit of experience, actually, know the basics of how the human body functions and would be able to see the signs in anyone else--and know what to do about the situation, too, how to fix things--yet can’t seem to recognize them in yourself. You got nothing left to live on, Asmundson, and your body’s near giving out because of it. Heart’s beating so slowly at this point that it can hardly keep the blood moving well enough to supply your various parts and pieces with oxygen, brain’s got no fuel and it’s already burned up all the fat you had and every bit of muscle you could spare, and some you really couldn’t, looking for stuff to run on, to the point where now you’re having seizures because it’s scraped the bottom of the barrel and can’t find anything more… Besides which you’re severely anemic, deficient in almost every vitamin and mineral known to man, constantly dehydrated and on the edge of life-threatening hypothermia--or over it; purple is not a normal color for human hands and arms, you do realize, and that’s the way yours almost always are now--and worst of all, you’ve become so used to it that you think you’re doing just great. And will probably go on thinking so until the moment you take your last breath and keel over. Now you just tell me how you get from that, to ‘being in this for the long haul.’ You’re a short-timer, man. On the way out. You just don’t want to see it.”

Einar was inclined to be angry--the nerve of this man standing in his house putting a limit on his life, trying to number his days--but something about the events of the morning seemed to lessen the power of the anger, leave it sitting there all quiet and still inside of him so that instead of rising and raging at the tracker and all of his unwelcome pronouncements as he might normally have done, he simply nodded. “Yeah, I know it. But I’m not leaving here.”

“So, don’t leave. I know that’s a mighty risky operation, even when done the way we’ve got it planned, and don’t know that I’d choose to try it myself, in your shoes. But you got to do something, man. Something different. Seems half your trouble right now is that you’re so far gone you just can’t remember when you’re needing to eat and drink and such, can’t figure it out, and whenever somebody else suggests you might want to consider doing it, you get all prickly and riled up and won’t do it. Just to prove to yourself that you can keep on going without, keep on resisting or something. There’s a time and place for that, but this isn’t it. You might want to consider just letting that that thing go, for starters. That whole idea. Nobody here wants to do you any harm--not too much, anyway--and it wouldn’t hurt any to keep that in mind, maybe take folks’ suggestions now and then.”

Einar shrugged, wished he was somewhere else so he didn’t have to clamp his jaw so hard to prevent growling an angry response but he managed it, Susan seeing her opportunity and taking a step closer. “It might help,” she pressed him, “if you’d let either Liz or I prepare you meals and broth and go ahead and work your way through whatever we bring you, rather than only eating when you get the idea. Might help you get through these first few days when things are still pretty difficult…”

No response from Einar. He sat staring grimly at the floor, not liking the way they were pushing him, beginning to feel trapped and wanting very badly to be outside, out where the cold, clean bite of the snow could sweep and scour him, where he could be strong to resist…all of it, as he knew he must do. And he might have gone, had not Liz quietly approached just then, sat down beside him and placed the baby in his arms. Calm, mysterious eyes looking up into his own, that wrinkled little forehead as the child studied his father’s face and Einar smiled, something in him relaxing a bit as he looked up at Liz, and then Susan. “Yeah, guess that sounds like a pretty good plan.”


  1. and another step towards recovery has been taken. Glad to see it.

    Thanks for the new chapter!

  2. Meplat said:

    Good men do cry.