25 August, 2012
25 August 2012
If Liz had expected him to be angry, she was mistaken. He was, if anything, perhaps a bit incredulous at first, especially as he came to realize that he had never made it up to the tree at the dropoff at all; that, too, had been part of a dream, just like the sequence in the jungle. Both of them imposters, constructs of his busy but hardly trustworthy mind. When measured against this reality, the circumstances under which he had come to miss going on that trek--Liz’s quick action with the rabbit stick and his subsequent kidnapping and confinement in the bear hide--seemed to him almost immaterial. Not only had he failed to live out his resolve to get himself up that slope and spend some time under the tree as he had concluded he very much needed to do but, perhaps worst of all, he had not upon waking been able to tell the difference. No wonder his fingers and feet had shown no additional signs of frostbite--he’d been sleeping all that time warm and oblivious in the bear hide, and he bitterly reproached himself for it, despised the weakness of mind and body which had made possible such a slip and began devising, in silent, calculating rage, means by which he might begin to make amends. Must not rest until he had done so, could not trust body or mind not to betray him again, and this, considering the high standards to which he strove to hold himself, was entirely unacceptable.
Liz wished he would be angry. Outwardly, obviously angry, shout at her, throw something across the room like an ordinary person might have done under such circumstances, go storming outside for a while to cool off in the snow…well, not literally; an ordinary person wouldn’t have literally done that, but of course Einar would… Not that any of these reactions would have been ideal, and she supposed any one of them might have scared her a little, but she would have found them better than the dull, defeated look that had crept into his eyes at her telling of the thing, and far preferable indeed to the silent, dangerous gleam which had welled up with slow, implacable certainty to replace the dejection, a hard, deadly thing which she knew she lacked the ability and strength of will to counter. Yet, she was not shaken from her course. Had set out to keep him alive and remained determined to do so, if he was at all willing. Which he had repeatedly asserted that he was, had clearly fought with tremendous courage and resolve to keep going when all the odds had been against him, and had more than once won, but lately there had certainly been times when his actions left her in some doubt as to his real desires and intentions.
Now, in addition, she worried that in keeping him against his will in the cabin for the night--and then telling him about it, though she’d had little choice in the matter, as he had clearly begun figuring it out for himself--she would have only hardened his resolve, in the end, to test himself as had been his original intent. Which, this time, would probably be the end of him. Well. She could only do what she could do, and now she rose, brought him some more broth, hoping he would drink it, hoping to somehow interrupt his quiet but incredibly resolute progress along the path she could see him starting down, a path which led with some certainty to that barren, blackened tree up by the overlook, and likely to his own dissolution.
He did not take the broth. Appeared to be deep in thought and indeed he was, decisions to be made and actions to be taken, and he wished very much that he had his spear in hand, something solid to lean on, as so often he did, as he thought, but it was out in the tunnel--an un-closeable distance at the moment--so he settled for his knife, somewhat alarming Liz by pulling it out and driving it into the floor before him, still silent, still pondering, calm demeanor belying the fact that he felt himself increasingly trapped against a wall with nowhere to go. Desperate. Must fight. Must free himself. He knew what to do when trapped, had always known what to do, instincts sharpened and reflexes reinforced by years of testing, and now he must do it again, reclaim what had been taken from him in his involuntary detainment and in all the days before that, and stand. He stood, ready to do it, ready to dare her to try and stop him if she voiced any objection, silent challenge on his part, of course, as he had no words at the moment, and he saw that it was unneeded, anyway; she wouldn’t do it, had laid the rabbit stick on the bed and sat there unarmed, empty-handed, a deep, wise sadness and a terrible resignation in her eyes.
Einar shook his head, sank to the ground there beside the door and looked again at Liz, not meeting her eye. Ashamed. She was not a wall, some obstacle to be overcome. She was the mother of his child and the woman he had traveled with over so many miles and who he loved--though why she returned that love, he could not begin to fathom--and he’d been doing her wrong. Doing both of them wrong, she and the little one, though of course it had never been his intent, ever; he’d only wanted to stay strong in the only way he knew possible, to provide, to fight his way through life as he always had… And it had not been the right thing. Not for them, at least, and by continuing to insist on having the thing his way, he would only be prolonging the injustice.
Knew what he had to do now, and the prospect scared him, held a terror far stronger than had his impending visit with that snowy tree and all the dark, agonizing memories that he’d known would seize him during its course, hold him so that he might never find his way back out again…more dreadful than most anything he could think of, actually, for it involved a surrendering of himself, of some part of his will and his sovereignty to another, and it took all his strength to swallow a pressing desire to run, leave the door and seat himself on the bed beside Liz.
“You were saying earlier…you had a plan, things you wanted me to eat every day, to do, to drink the juniper tea… Well, I got to say that it had me kinda riled up to think you’d have things all planned out like that…” he took a big breath, hands spread and eyes on the floor, slowly raised them to meet hers, and she saw that they were still, unwavering, entirely present if a bit wild and frightened, quite unlike him. “But I’ll do it. Got to do something different, and my ideas…well, you see where they’ve got me. Not fair to you guys, so…I’ll do it.”