06 June, 2012
6 June 2012
Moving slowly and with an uncertainty that soon had Liz thinking she might have been doing better to simply go ahead and push him over the cliff where at least he would have been cushioned somewhat by the deep snow and instantly close to home, Einar shuffled his way back into the timber there on the overlook, following Liz. The bear hide and soup pot, she had pushed over. No way she could hope to both carry them and assist Einar, who despite starting out well, made slow progress that all but came to a halt upon reaching the steep descent to the cabin. Couldn’t trust himself not to fall in his clumsiness, and with Liz there below him, feared scraping her off the descent with him, when he went. So he stopped. Quit right there in the middle of the path and sat down, pressing himself into the snow and meaning to wait there until she’d finished making her own way down and was in the clear. Which of course she did not do, having no intention of leaving him and thinking his reason for stopping to have more to do with simple exhaustion, cold and a physical inability to continue than anything else, she returned to his side, did her best to get him back on his feet.
He couldn’t tell her, made vague gestures with his hands in the hopes she might understand and somehow she did, inching her way up above him on the steepness and allowing him to go on ahead where his fall would impact no one but himself. Good, the way it should be, and he started moving again, stumbling his way down those steep, icy rocks with a reckless abandon that made Liz cringe and hold her breath and ultimately look away, lest she lose her own footing with the intensity of watching it.
Down at last, both of them, Einar in the snow on his knees beneath the firs, unable or unwilling to go further just then and she took his arm, hauled him insistently to his feet, seeing that he was near the end and not willing to lose him then, so close to home. Knew she might well end up doing so anyway, for he was, despite his occasional assertions to the contrary, not wholly immune to the effects of the cold, was human and was badly starved and had just spent a very long night out in the weather not making even the least effort to shield himself from its effects. And they couldn’t have a fire.
None of these things were in Einar’s mind as he allowed Liz once more to get him to his feet, helping how he could and point his path towards home. He was thinking only that he had no right to go home, none at all and belonged, if anywhere, still up in the snowy heights where he had passed the night, but he had even less right to contradict her, and she wanted him at home. So he kept moving, and then there they were, tunnel opening black and welcoming before them, morning breeze ceasing in its sharpness and chill as soon as they’d crawled their way in, and Einar rolled himself up against its wall and was still, exhausted, unbelieving when Liz held the door and beckoned him inside, but he couldn’t do it, could not share a space with them just now, turned to the wall and closed his eyes.
Liz went inside. Had to get Will fed and herself eating some breakfast so she could continue reliably to produce the food upon which the little one depended, and if Einar really wanted to stay out in the tunnel and finish dying—her attitude towards him had shifted just a bit upon actually reaching home once more—then perhaps that was his business, and he ought to be left to it. Which of course she did not really mean, shaking her head the next moment at the horror of it and hurrying to get Will his breakfast so she could go out and see what she might do for him. Not much, for he’d already done it himself, shedding snow-encrusted pants, boots and gloves and curling up inside his parka in an impossibly small, heat-conserving ball where he lay doing his best to shiver himself warm again, repulsed by the idea that Liz might feel any obligation to help with the process when by all rights she ought to be kicking him out in the snow to face his fate.
Despite his efforts, things weren’t going too well. Simply possessed no energy with which to fight it, the chill that had hold of him, and even his shivering was a feeble effort that soon tapered off and left him once more still in the silence of the tunnel, drifting down and with no terribly strong motivation to fight it.
Liz was glad to see that he’d made some effort to help himself begin warming; it was more than he would have done a week or two prior, and done that morning without her prompting and despite the circumstances, she took it as a sign of hope. Saw that he could use some help though, if things were to continue heading in the right direction. Sat down beside him. Will was inside, warm in his bed of furs, having finished eating and gone back to sleep.
“Brought you some tea. Lots of honey to help you get your energy back, and I warmed it over a candle so it’s not quite so cold as it would have been…”
No answer. Kept his face to the wall. She needed to go back in there with Will, leave him be. He couldn’t understand her persistence. Not on this matter, not after what he’d done. Been about to do. He knew that she knew. Must know. He’d seen it in her eyes, the recognition, the moment of terror and the intent to step in and stop him, drop him in his tracks, hated that he had been the one to put it there. And he’d probably been wrong from the start about the nature and severity of the threat, too. Could see it now, with what was left of his capacity for rational thought after all that time out in the cold, seeing far more clearly than he had at the time--could be you should spend a lot more of your nights freezing on the edges of cliffs; seems to do you some good, but it wasn’t funny. Nothing was funny, anymore--and knowing he had to find a way to tell her.
Normally, his pride might have interfered a bit when it came to admitting such a thing, allowing for the fact that not only had he been wrong about a specific situation, but that his judgment had been seriously flawed, having little relation to reality. But none of that mattered, now. Only thing that hindered him at the moment was the fact that despite wanting very badly to tell her these things, he couldn’t see to so much as get his brain to get his body working on turning over. Well. Probably best that way. He’d just mess up the telling, most likely, and besides, none of it would change who he was or what he was or the thing he’d just done. Probably best for everyone if he stayed as he was, face to the wall for a little time more, until it was over. Only, he was wrong about that, and knew it. Even if he never slept in the cabin again, lived up in the cliffs for the next twenty years trapping rabbits and squirrels and leaving them on her doorstep in the dead of night, even if that was how it had to be, he had a duty to that woman and to the child they shared, and much as he might have liked to justify the train of thought which had been and was leading him in that direction, his duty and its fulfillment must come first. Which meant sticking around, and he turned, suddenly finding himself able, though not moving well at all, and met her eye.