23 August, 2012
23 August 2012
Einar sat down on a snowy log--partly to ponder and partly because he suddenly found himself quite unable to go further unless he wanted to resort to crawling--barely even feeling the cold as the melting snow came up around him, and stared up through the slight opening in the timber where his trail ought to have been. It hadn’t snowed in the night, had not, from the look of things, been so excessively windy as to have drifted over and obscured such an extensive section of tracks, especially there in the shelter of the timber, and it wasn’t making sense to him, none at all. Perhaps he’d taken another route? But there really was no other route, not unless he’d wanted to push his way through deep, unpacked snow and heavy trees--not entirely unlikely, as he had, after all, been seeking a challenge--but still he would have left tracks, and there were none to be seen. Must’ve been out for longer than he’d thought, after arriving back. It seemed to offer the only possible explanation, would account for his tremendous thirst and might, conceivably, have given the snow time to fall, drift or otherwise obscure the trail he knew must have been there.
Yep, that had to be it. Unconscious for a couple of days, and he shook his head at the thought of Liz having to deal with that, with him, did not like it at all, but it seemed better, somehow, than the only alternative, the one that had been lurking black and evil and ready to spring in the corners of his mind ever since he’d laid eyes on the lovely, pristine snow of the untouched path up to the spring, which was that perhaps he had never gone at all. That would explain some things, too. Like why his fingers and toes seemed no worse for the wear after what must have been, despite his lack of memory for the particulars, quite the extended ordeal in his present condition. He would have expected some damage, would have accepted it and treated the affected areas as well as he was able in an attempt to minimize the lasting harm that might result, but upon inspection when he’d wakened a while ago, not only had there appeared to be no further cold damage, but his feet had actually healed a bit during the interval. That was definitely not right, and though he’d been able, earlier, to overlook it as one of those pleasant if inexplicable surprises which life sometimes throws a person, it now only furthered his suspicion.
Had got to talk with Liz. She would know. But, how to approach the matter? Hated to let her know that he’d so misplaced himself within the tangled, twisted fluidity of time and space as to need her help retracing his own footsteps, he, a tracker…but saw no other way to obtain the information his mind now sought with such singular intensity that he knew he’d be able to focus on little else until the riddle should be solved. At present he knew only what he remembered, and aside from some vivid impressions of his struggle against the secure binding of those nettle cords, of wind and cold and the rough bark of that old limber pine--and some equally vivid ones of the jungle--that was not an awful lot. If there was shame in asking Liz to help him fill in the details, perhaps more existed in carrying on without being certain of his own whereabouts and actions, over the past day or two.
He didn’t have to wait long to speak to Liz, as she had grown concerned and followed him, taking a seat beside him now on the snowy log and silently lamenting the fact that his knees stuck out bony and trembling from beneath the undersized deer hide with which he had haphazardly wrapped himself, gone quite purple in the melting snow as he sat there apparently quite oblivious to his own shivering, little trickles of icy water tracing their way down into his boots. She wanted him inside again by the fire, the sight of him almost leading her to regret having freed so soon from his bear hide wrapping, rubbed his knees, draped her own parka across them. Wished he’d thought to wear his own, but such things seemed rather beyond him, at the moment. At least he’d remembered his boots.
“You’re really freezing. I can’t leave Will alone for too long, not with him trying to squirm all over the place, now. Are you coming in, or am I going to have to hit you again?”
He gave her a bit of a lopsided grin, put a hand to the knot on his head and glanced around for the rabbit stick but didn’t see it. “Again?”
“Huh. Probably take…lot more than that if you want to keep me down. But no. I’m coming. Just trying to figure…can’t find my tracks from yesterday and I can’t seem to remember...”
“Come on in, and we’ll talk about it.”
He went, glancing over his shoulder for any sign of the tracks he surely must have left on the way up to his night-long vigil, but still seeing nothing. Inside, Liz did not seem particularly anxious to discuss the matter and he, still rather abashed at having to request assistance in remembering the details of his own recent comings and goings, found himself more than content to start in on a fresh pot of broth, instead. When he’d finished, she brought him stew. Thick stuff with lots of rabbit chunks, and a leftover hotcake to clean out the pot when he was done. Einar shook his head. Remembered eating four or five of those cakes earlier in the day, and it had been too much, far too much, days’ worth of food for him, and he must not have any more. For days, preferably, and he told her so.
“That’s an excuse. You’re using your feet as an excuse.”
“Swelling’s real. Makes my boots not fit.”
“It’s real, yes, but you’re using it as an excuse to go back to starving. Yesterday when I left you alone with Will, I was out digging in the snow for some of the little sub-alpine cedars we have up here. They were buried pretty deep, but I found them and collected almost a pound’s worth of the berries, so I can make you tea. They’re not juniper berries, exactly, but are very similar and should help keep the swelling from getting too bad, since you’re going to be drinking two or three cups of it each day. We’ll try that for about a week, along with the meals you’ll be eating, and see how it goes.”
Einar opened his mouth, closed it again and glanced at the still-sleeping Will as if hoping the child might have some answer as to what could be going on, all of a sudden. Which he did not seem to have, but Einar needed an answer, alright; not only had he failed to find any physical evidence of his nighttime ordeal, but now to top it all off Liz seemed to have quite relentlessly seized control of his eating and drinking, and--what could possibly come next?--before he knew it she’d probably be telling him when to breathe, when to blink, if he didn’t get things figured out in a hurry. She was returning to the stove for more broth, but he got a firm grip on her arm, nodded to the empty bit of floor beside him.
“You said we’d talk once we were in here, and it’s time to do that. Now just how did I come by this knot on the side of my head…? Things aren’t adding up, not at all.”