19 June, 2012
19 June 2012
Einar woke almost warm and thoroughly terrified some time later in the darkness, feel of the stove’s still-radiating heat against his face and the remnants of a very dark dream hanging over his mind like a shroud, body still tense and trembling with the fading energy of the thing so that it took him some time to be entirely sure what belonged to that world, and what to the one that lay still and sleeping around him. One thing was clear, which was that he, himself, belonged to the dream world more than he did to the slumbering peace of the cabin, couldn’t believe Liz had allowed him to go to sleep under that roof, in the first place, but her oversight--it was his hands, he was pretty sure, that had done it; she had seen their state and didn’t want him losing fingers--did not have to be his continued negligence, and carefully he eased back the hides, meaning to roll to the floor and take his leave. She had him. Wouldn’t let go. Had not, apparently, been quite as thoroughly and peacefully asleep as he’d judged her to be, and had halted his retreat. He didn’t like it, felt a moment’s panic at his sudden inability to go on with his planned exit, but not wanting to wake Will, managed to suppress his urge to struggle. Whispered.
“Time for me to go, Lizzie. You know I can’t stay here, not at night.”
“You’ve been staying just fine so far. Give it a chance. You’re just now starting to warm up, and your hands…”
“They’ll be Ok.”
“Not if you leave now, they won’t. I can see they must hurt, the way you’ve got them all stretched out in front of you like that and trying to avoid contact with everything, but you need to keep the blood flowing to them if you want them to start healing and keep the damage from getting worse, and you know the only way that’s going to happen tonight is for you to stay right here where you’ve got some chance of being warm. Please.”
“But you and Will…”
“Oh, you’re not so scary.” She got her arms around him, fingers finding the deep hollows behind his collarbones as she tried to rub some of the ice from his shoulders, and he relaxed slightly against her. “I’ve got my rabbit stick, and I know how to use it. If you wake up with a big knot on the side of your head and a vague memory of getting hit by a falling tree, you’ll know it came to that. Otherwise, just don’t worry.”
A silent grin, unseen in the darkness. “Yeah, you know how to use it. Might as well go ahead and do that, knock me out for a few hours so I’ll be better company for the night, and then maybe it’d be alright for me to stay. What do you think?” To which proposal Liz made no answer, instead pulling the bear hide back up around his shoulders, for already, halfway out from beneath the covers in his halted attempt at escape, he was trembling in the night chill, needing either to go hover over the stove or curl back up in the bed but not, of course, realizing it. Thinking, in fact, mostly of the fact that he really couldn’t take advantage of Liz’s admirable if perhaps slightly misplaced faith in him, must do the right thing and remove himself from the cabin for the night. Dreams were simply too frequent, too real, and even if he could manage to keep himself anchored to present realities through the daytime hours by the system of strict discipline he intended to impose upon himself, night came with no such guarantees, and unless he intended to remain in wakeful vigil until daylight again began showing itself--at which pursuit he could hardly have trusted himself, even had it been his intention; he was far too weary--he must go ahead with his plan, and he did, ducking Liz’s embrace and rolling from the bed before she could make a move to stop him.
Liz did not pursue, simply waited for him to settle somewhere, which finally he did, pressed up against the tunnel door in what she supposed must to his mind be some acceptable form of compromise, halfway out the door but not wholly rejecting her gift, and she was glad he could apparently find it within him to allow for some sort of middle ground, for once. He would have frozen out there, further frozen his fingers, at the least, which injury would have proven devastating to him in its limiting of his use of the weapons and tools so necessary to life up in their basin. Let him sleep by the door if he had to; at least he was inside where the stove’s radiating warmth could improve conditions for him and she could cast an occasional eye in his direction, listening, when she half-woke to feed the baby, for the telltale whistling and puffing of his breath which would serve as warning that he was becoming badly chilled once more. Which, she knew, was bound to happen, and in a hurry, even with the stove’s lingering warmth; he simply lacked the resources to keep himself warm absent either a good deal of physical activity or an outside source of heat. Like hot rocks. She left the bed, using the stove’s lingering glow to make her way carefully over to its far side, where a number of granite rounds and slabs leaned against the base of the chimney, remnants of the water barrel-thawing project that she had earlier completed. Muninn stirred sleepily on his perch as she brushed by him, chortling softly to her but not fully waking. Wrapping several of the smooth, round rocks in dry socks she nestled them close to Einar where he lay huddled against the door, and he did not reject the gift, pressing one of the stones to his chest where it rested somewhat painfully against his ribs, bruising beneath crossed, pressing arms. Already, he was freezing. The rocks were most welcome.
As Einar lay there wide awake and trying his best to keep himself that way, thinking, he came upon what seemed to him the perfect solution to their present dilemma, a plan by which he would be able to put a bit of distance between himself and the place just for a few days, give him time to sort things out and at the same time starting on a project they had been intending to begin for some time, one whose seasonal nature made it somewhat urgent, considering the constant press and passage of time, the coming spring. He wanted to go trap the river. Sure, they had intended to do it as a family, Liz with Will in the parka as they spent a week or so seeking beaver and muskrat along the ice-bound river, and he supposed she could still come if she had her mind set on it, but perhaps she would see the wisdom in a solo trip on his part to establish the trapline and run it for the first week or so, after which he could come back for the two of them and they could spend their time down there, Liz taking care of the skinning and stretching while he maintained traps and extended their territory. Weary, warm, mind more at ease than it had been all day in light of his new plan of action, Einar’s mind finally released him by degrees from its enforced vigilance, stiff muscles relaxing slowly and, at long last, sleep overtook him.
Fingers. They woke him, hurting, throbbing in time with the slow, not always entirely regular thumping of his heart, and he tried to bend them, nearly crying out at the resulting jolt. Well. Real thoroughly thawed now, aren’t they? Doggone it, I can feel the blisters on a couple of them, no doubt about it. Things may pose a bit of a challenge when it comes to that trapline, Einar. Got to be able to exert some pretty significant pressure with those things to set the traps, gonna be chopping through ice, repairing snares and making camp and a whole bunch of other things that require a certain degree of manual dexterity, and I just don’t think you got it, right now. Real bad deal. Would have a real struggle right now if you didn’t have all this good meat and other stuff stored and were gonna be relying on your hands to provide yourself with meals on a day-to-day basis, wouldn’t you? Would be in for a real rough time. Guess you’d better be getting up pretty soon and giving these fingers a try, see just how much trouble you may be in when it comes to handling the traps. Hopefully the worst of it is confined to a finger or two, which really is what it feels like, so you’ll still find yourself up to the task and can head out here pretty soon.