30 May, 2012
30 May 2012
Snow had stopped and the sky, when he peered up at it through the timber, was rapidly clearing, a giant rift already revealing blue behind the clouds. A quick end to what had been a rather quick storm, and Einar scrambled back in through the tunnel, shut down the damper on the stove.
“Assuming that guy made it out, they could be in here with a chopper anytime now. Storm’s done.”
Liz wanted to object to the dying of the fire, as she could see that he had by no means finished thoroughly warming, and would in the absence of the stove’s heat almost certainly tend to start heading in the wrong direction again, but she knew the end of that storm meant the possibility that they would soon be seeing air traffic, and protecting the cabin from detection had to be their first priority.
“Well, I’m glad I got all this stew done! Hopefully they’ll hurry in here, snatch the skiers out of the basin and be on their way, so we can get back to life as we know it around here. Things were starting to work pretty well these last few days, you know?”
“Was a little busy to notice, I guess.”
“Yes, of course you were. I mean before the skiers came!”
“Oh. Then. Sure, going pretty well I guess.”
“At least all of our tracks ought to be gone, after last night. I think it’s been snowing pretty hard ever since you got back, and blowing, too.”
He nodded slowly. “Pretty safe, I think. Shouldn’t be a sign, unless they come pretty soon and the rock of the chimney’s still giving off enough heat to stand out like a beacon, which it might be…I’d figured that storm to stick around a little longer, maybe taper off more slowly so we’d have some time to cool everything down before they end up in here above us.”
“It’ll still take them a while, don’t you think? And that’s assuming the third man even made it down to some sort of help…”
“We got to assume that. If he didn’t, he didn’t and we’ll have more time, but chances are that he’s either met someone by now, reached someplace where he can use one sort of communications device or another, or by now he may have simply walked out, if all else failed, found the first house and called for help. Or, he may have fallen in the storm and ended up dead at the base of a little cliff, body hidden until spring. But we got to figure on his having made it out.”
“I’m sure the other skiers are hoping for that… It must have been a pretty rough night for them.”
“Yep. They will have made it though, I expect. Had a fire when I left. She should have had plenty of wood to keep that going, with a little work. Don’t know about the guy. He wasn’t looking too good, got his ribs mashed pretty good and seemed to be having a rough time breathing, but I’ve come through worse, and they ought to be just fine.”
“Well sure, if we’re going to start using you as the standard…but you’re a little unusual in that regard, my dear…”
“What, now? Nothing unusual about me. I’m just too dumb and hard-headed to know when to quit, that’s all. Anybody could do it, if they really wanted to.”
“Not sure I entirely agree with you on the “nothing unusual” part…you’re plenty unusual, and there’s no denying it! But yes, I am quite certain that everyone can do more than they realize, push themselves a lot further than they guessed was even remotely possible before ending up in a situation that demands it of them, and hopefully the pair in the basin were doing that last night, and came through alright.”
He nodded, limped over to the stove and felt its top with the back of his hand. Still plenty hot, and so would be the chimney, and had it been the dark of night he would have thrown a good shovel-full of snow into the coals to create massive clouds of steam which would hasten the cooling of stove and chimney alike, but it wasn’t dark, and in the daylight, massive steam clouds were definitely not their friends! Would simply have to allow things to cool down on their own, hope it would happen quickly enough to spare their being picked up on infrared when the inevitable chopper made its way over the ridges and to the basin. Supposing they were even using infrared. If the skier had either given them a very accurate description of the basin’s location or was riding with them--unlikely, that last one--then they might have no need of anything at all other than the naked eye to locate the stranded pair. Certainly the slide path itself would provide ample visual clue as to their general location, so there seemed a fair chance he was overestimating the danger, when it came to detection of the cabin’s heat signature. Which was the way it must be. Better to overestimate the threat, even at the cost of potentially unnecessary loss of comfort and convenience during the day as they sat in a cold cabin, than to go ahead with life as usual, hoping to be overlooked. Liz had made an enormous batch of stew, Will had numerous blankets and robes beneath which to keep quite warm and well-insulated, and they would all be fine.
Einar stirred restlessly, watching Muninn as the bird sat with eyes half closed on his perch, studying him for any sign that he might hear some approaching rumble--if he heard anything, the raven wasn’t letting on--and wishing that chopper would go ahead and put in its appearance, if such was going to be the way of things. Waiting was really getting to him, shouldn’t be, as it required nothing more than simply carrying on with life in the cabin--a far easier proposition than had been his long, bone-chilling wait out in the snow and wind at the edge of the dropoff over the course of the past day and a half--but the knowledge that he was at any moment likely to begin feeling the earth-rattling throb and rumble of an approaching beast of the air…well, it was really setting him on edge. Needed to get out and walk, run, slog straight uphill through the deep snow until the breath caught in his lungs, his sides ached and his legs felt like electrified globs of white-hot, flaming jelly, or otherwise burn off some of his nervous energy and keep life reasonably livable. But neither those nor his other usual measures were options just at the moment. Had to keep still. Or at least, had to keep inside.
Nothing said he couldn’t move around there in the cabin, and moving carefully in the dimness, he retrieved the FAL from its spot on the wall, began the series of exercises by which he had been seeking over the past days to begin returning some of the strength to his arms. Normally he would have gone outside for such activities, but hoped Liz might forgive him just once for executing them indoors, which considering the circumstances and recognizing in him a growing restlessness which must be dealt with, she certainly did. Only wished that he might be persuaded to stop and enjoy another bowl of stew before continuing with the exercises, but put that idea out of her head when a few minutes in he stopped, frozen in place, listening. Nearly a full minute later, she heard it too.