26 June, 2012

26 June 2012

The parka was not enough, would not have been enough even had it stayed in place, but it didn’t, slipping down as he slept, his shivering eventually dislodging it entirely so that it slid away down beside him.  Waking, groggy, Einar tried drawing himself into a tighter ball against the encroaching cold but it wasn’t doing any good, no effect at all and he changed position, creakily rolling over and wrapping arms about his knees, ribs, trying to compress everything together and find a bit of warmth somewhere.  Only made matters worse. Seemed his sleeping bag wasn’t holding in any heat at all, but he knew that the more likely scenario involved his simply generating far too little, in the first place.   Tried gnawing at the strip of jerky that he’d stashed away for breakfast, but he couldn’t seem to get the stuff down, mouth filling with dry crumbs that choked him as he tried to swallow.  No help.  Appeared he must have managed to end up a bit short on water, along with everything else.  Knew he’d got to move if he wanted to make it through the night.   Move, then.  Get up.  Come on, you can do it.  Just get some motion going, some momentum.  Not gonna get any better so long as you’re lying here. 

All very easy to say, but doing something about it was another matter entirely, body stiff and unwilling when he tried freeing himself from the sleeping bag.  Couldn’t operate the zipper, fingers unable to close around the pull and he exhausted himself striving to manage the task, all but gave up and was about to squirm his way out of the tightly cinched top of the bag--alarmingly enough, he really could have done it--when he had the idea to try his teeth.  Success.  Flopped out onto the ground where he lay fighting for breath, snow not even beginning to melt into his clothing as he stared up at the shapes of the spruces overhead, dark, blotting out stars with their jagged black forms.

Cold.  Had to do something about it, and lying in the snow, though it had been his erstwhile goal, wasn’t going to help any.  Into the parka.  Rough going, but he did it, arms tucked inside the main body of the garment, huddling up against the granite wall behind his camp and wondering just what he’d thought he was going to do about the whole situation, anyway.  Parka wasn’t any warmer than the bag, certainly, and now his feet were sticking out there, nothing but socks to protect them from the sub-freezing temperatures and snow.  Didn’t sound like progress, to him.  Well, put on your boots.   Right.  Why not?  And he did it, rising, stumbling about for a minute or two and wondering where he was supposed to go--hot spring, that’d be a real good thing about now, just spend the night in that thing, but I don’t remember ever seeing sign of one along this stretch of river--until his aimless motion came to an abrupt halt with his rather sudden and unexpected meeting with the rock wall.  Had walked right into the thing, crouched stunned for a minute in the snow, tasting blood and only growing colder as it oozed damply down the front of his neck.  The jarring had done more than bloody his nose though, had managed to reach him through the fog that was so quickly developing in his brain and get him in motion again, and this time his movements had some purpose.  On his feet, shuffling and stomping, throwing himself against the wall, beating numbed limbs against one another and swinging them out from him like the rotors of some crazy, malfunctioning helicopter until at last the intense sting of returning circulation crept in to tell him that all was not lost, his efforts were having some effect…

Weary, and he stopped, forehead drooping against the rock wall and the rest of him threatening to follow, knees folding.  On the ground.  Needed a fire.  Couldn’t keep up that exhausting routine of stomping and swinging and pounding himself against the wall all night long.  Yeah, he’d done such things before but that had been then and this was now and much as he might try to deny the fact, things had changed some in the meanwhile, and if he tried it now, he’d probably never see morning.  Would end up passing out and freezing in the snow before daylight ever began showing itself.  Needed another plan. Sleeping bag sounded good and besides, he couldn’t think of anything else, so he crawled in, shedding snowy, bloody clothes along the way and curling himself into a ball way down in the bottom of the bag, parka overtop--enough, he hoped it would be enough, for it was all he could do, and he had traps to check in the morning--and arms wrapped hard around bony knees as he shivered himself to sleep.

Daylight.  Just a sliver of it, a tiny chink visible where the bag’s zipper revealed some small defect, and staring at the brightness, Einar came slowly awake, aware of his surroundings at last, ready to be up and checking traps.  Actually moving proved another matter, body so stiff from his long night in the cold that at first he couldn’t get it to respond at all, briefly considered going back to sleep but knew that would be a tremendously bad idea under present circumstances even if he didn’t have traps to check, which he did, so finally and with much effort he clawed his way up to the top of the bag, peered out, blinking in the strengthening glow of the daylight.  Not too late in the day, if not the predawn rising which was his long-established custom, and he shrugged, searched about for his breakfast, figuring he might as well eat in the relative warmth of the bag.  Found the jerky strip and found his water bottle, also.  Frozen solid.  Not good.  Guessed it must not have been quite as warm in there as he’d thought, and inspecting fingers and toes--somewhat flexible if mostly numb, none of them the dead, frostbitten white which he had feared--he supposed it was a wonder he hadn’t frozen anything, in the night.  Water would just have to thaw as the day went on, and in the future he would need a better solution for keeping it liquid through the night.  Dehydration would do him in, if ever he let it get a toehold.  Wasn’t merely a problem of desert plains and hot, summer afternoons; could be every bit as deadly in the cold, thickening a man’s blood, slowing his responses and leaving him to slowly freeze without even realizing he was in trouble.  Einar had been there, or almost there, on more than one occasion, and had no particular desire to repeat the experience.  On with the day, then.

Clothes, when he searched for them, were strewn about everywhere, lying here and there in the snow and he gathered them up, pulling the items one by one into the bag and doing his best to thaw them out before struggling them onto his body, wondering all the while at the extent of the bruising that was showing up purple and tender all over his legs, shoulders and sides, the stiffness that had come over him in the night.  Guessed he must have ended up getting pretty enthusiastic about trying to warm himself; remembered some close contact with that rock wall, and supposed it must provide the explanation.  Well.  No matter, really, for he was still able to move after a fashion, and did, shaking the snow from his bag and hanging it in a tree to air out for the day, nodding to the raven and setting out for the first trap.

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