18 June, 2012
18 June 2012
The sun set, leaving Einar and Liz to face another fireless evening, their last for a while, she hoped, provided there was no sign of the reappearance of rescue personnel down in the basin. Doubted there would be, had strongly doubted from the beginning that there would be any further repercussion of the rescue and knew Einar would have almost certainly seen it the same way, had he allowed himself to slow down and really think the thing through. But for the time she was doing fine and so was little Will, snug and quite warm either in his nest of goat wool and rabbit fur or pressed against her body in sling or parka, and the fire could wait for at least one more night. After that they would be out of the icy, half frozen slush that had been passing in recent days for stew, and she would be greatly wishing for a fire to make another batch. Besides which, the water in the barrel had begun to freeze up, and she needed a few hot rocks to help reverse the process.
None of which even took into account her greatest and most pressing reason for wanting a fire once more; that reason, living, breathing bundle of raw-boned, shivering humanity that it was, did not want to be taken into consideration and would have vehemently denied its own need for warmth, had it been asked. Liz did not bother asking. His need was painfully obvious even without her trying to initiate a discussion on the matter, purple lips and deeply shadowed face speaking to his struggle, but as usual, he barely even seemed to notice. Was giving some consideration to his hands, though, painful and blistered as they were and he not wanting the damage to worsen, if at all possible, doing his best to keep them warm in the deep chill of the cabin as evening went on and giving Liz at least some hope that he might soon be persuaded as to the wisdom of resuming the use of their stove.
Try as he might, Einar could not maintain an adequate supply of blood to his hands, thoroughly chilled as he remained at the core. Body was struggling simply to keep him alive, doing its best to conserve his blood around the vital organs where it was needed to sustain life; extremities were dispensable. He knew all of this, had at one time or another been fully aware of the facts, but his conversation with Liz ended and mind beginning to drift a bit in the cold-haze that waited always just around the corner to sink its claws once more into his body, he could not currently seem to puzzle out the source of his difficulty. Kept breathing on his hands, rubbing the backs of them--fronts were too raw and red and blistered for such contact--on the opposite arms in an attempt to restore some feeling, even if it was to be pain, but nothing worked, and finally he wearied of the effort, sat, eyes on the ground, and waited. Didn’t even know for what. Did not suppose it mattered much. Was going to lose the fingers, some of them. Only a matter of time.
Liz, working to break up the stew-ice and prepare them a bit of supper, saw his drift, the lostness in his eyes and had a pretty good guess as to what was happening. Knew she had to act pretty quickly, lest he end up near-irretrievable again. Watching him, she saw how little progress had really been made during the course of that day, all her pots of candle-warmed tea and the hours in the sun serving barely to boost him up from the edge of hypothermic stupor, but not really allowing him to warm as he needed to do. Time to take matters into her own hands. Considered simply steering him to the bed and bundling up with him for the night, but Will would soon need to eat and without her full attention, she feared Einar might not manage to turn things around before the deeper chill of night set in. Fire, then, was appearing their only option, and wholly confident herself that she was not putting their security at risk by doing so and hoping Einar would either see it the same way or be so far gone that he wouldn’t bother to resist until the warmth had done its job, she began preparing a fire. Watching in wide-eyed wonder as the little flames came dancing up through Liz’s carefully prepared cone of willow shavings, Einar did not move to stop her or to crush the new little life there in the stove; all that with the helicopters was past. He’d been wrong, had told her so, and despite a nearly overwhelming urge to do something about the heat signature that would soon paint their cabin with the bright glow of a target for anything that flew over, he forced himself to keep still, staring, silent. When she came to him and attempted to talk him nearer the flames, he started as one asleep, for indeed he very nearly had been, scrambled clumsily to his feet and joined her in front of the stove.
“Come be warm, Einar. I have to thaw the stew and heat a pot of water, and then you’ll have some good hot tea to sip. It’ll help. Your hands need it.”
He nodded, held bloodless hands out to the flames but she gently pushed them away. “You’ll burn yourself. Wait. It’s your body that needs warming, not your hands. The blood will start flowing again, just as soon as we get the rest of you warm.”
Another nod. Of course she was right; how often he’d warned her of the same thing, of the need to avoid accidentally burning numbed, compromised extremities by exposure to too much heat while they lacked the blood flow to adequately use the added warmth without scorching, in the process, only somehow it seemed he must have managed to forget the fact, and then the next thing he knew he was lying face down on the floor and his nose was bleeding, dirt in his mouth and Liz hovering over him, making some remark about how he really ought to try and aim for the bed, next time. He grinned--sure, sounded about right to him, and would save a lot of mess on the floor, besides--sat up and leaned back against the wall, dizzy with the warmth of the stove and feeling for the first time since his long night out on the cliffs both relaxed and warm enough at the same time to risk closing his eyes in sleep without imminent risk of succumbing to the elements.
Elements. Yep. They existed inside as surely as they did out, and they’d nearly had him. Again. He could feel it, now, that old familiar tightness around his middle which meant he’s pushed things nearly as far as they were able to go, the thing he’d so diligently fought off all through his conversation with Liz, managing only because of his recent time in the sunlight, and it had crept back in with amazing swiftness and silence the moment that light had left the cabin, nearly taking him. No matter. Headed in the right direction now and a good thing, too, for he could see that it was getting dark outside and soon he must take his leave of the place, seek out the shelter which might give him some chance of shivering his way alive if not quite well through the night, to see the start of a new day. Tunnel, maybe, but only with her leave. It was so close, and while he seemed to have a vague memory of the two of them trying to talk things out, resolve them, somehow, if such matters could ever be resolved, it seemed he also remembered those efforts failing. His fault, for sure, price his to pay and now--stumbled to his feet; wanted so badly to sleep, and the wanting hurt, made him want to hurry and find that spot, curl up in his parka and give it a go--he must be on his way.
Only, Liz stopped him. Fed him. Wrapped the pot in a clean sock so it wouldn’t hurt his hands so badly and pushed it at him until finally he took it, drank, warm, sleepy, better be going, and she led him to bed.