29 August, 2012

29 August 2012

After using the remains of the ermine, suspended temptingly where they would move and twist in the wind, as bait in a bent-tree snare for the bobcat, Einar and Liz moved on to the next snare site, finding it empty and the one immediately beyond in the same condition, but in the fourth they were pleased to discover a rabbit, large, healthy and undamaged by scavengers.  The creature appeared fairly freshly caught, and when Einar got stiffly to his knees in the snow, he found that it had not yet even frozen.  Definitely from that morning, then, and he was glad they’d come along when they had, in time to save it from becoming lunch to a bobcat or marten.  Crouching there on his knees after resetting the snare, he remained still for a long moment, very conscious of Will on his back as he struggled hard against a wave of dizziness which threatened to throw him to the ground and, when finally it passed, left him badly disoriented and feeling rather sick.  Liz had to help him up.  She hated to be wearing him out like this when he could be back in the warm cabin eating, resting, perhaps even sleeping, but had feared the result of keeping him closed in for too long, even if with his outward consent.

She’d seen what could happen, and had supposed a bit of fresh air and exhaustion every day--for there seemed nothing at all between stillness and utter exhaustion for him those days, no middle ground, and probably wouldn’t have been, even had he sought it--must surely be preferable to his coming, after three or four days of confinement, to a point at which he could no longer restrain himself from fleeing the cabin to lie concealed beneath the spruces until he froze nearly solid in the snow--or something worse.  Knew it might happen despite his sincerest intentions to the contrary, and did not want to see that day arrive.  So, trapline it was, and guiding him by the arm until he seemed to have regained a bit of stability on his feet, she continued to the next set.  The entire trapline was no more than a mile long, incredibly short as such things go, but just the right length for that day’s excursion, so far as Liz was concerned.

By the time they reached its far point and doubled back along the path which would lead them past several additional snares on their way back to the cabin, Einar was stumbling along like a man in a dream, eyes wide and staring but not seeing nearly as much as he would have liked, surrounding landscape barely registering as he struggled to maintain his balance and avoid falling asleep on his feet.  Hated it, the incredible weariness and malaise that had come over him, and despite knowing how ultimately counter-productive it would be, he wished with a fierce intensity for a return to the sharp-edged desperation of hunger and privation in which he had spent so many of his past months, and which at the moment seemed so far preferable to the slow, sleepy haze which had come over his body with the re-introduction of larger quantities of food, every fiber of his being crying out for sleep, for slowness, for rest and repair.  Pointless to be wishing for such, he knew, for a return to his old state of being; Liz would never let him have it back, and even if she had, the thing was an imposter, the beautiful, crackling immediacy it lent his surroundings merely, he knew, a final mercy by which a dying man’s senses were sharpened so that he could hopefully do something to remedy his situation.  If a person didn’t use the gift for its intended purpose, act on it pretty quickly and get something to eat--which usually he didn’t, experimenting with the thing, fascinated, trying to see how far he could push it--obtain some energy from one source or another, its brilliance would soon fade, world cast in a flat, grey dimensionless light and full of whisperings, shadows, black, terrifying things that left him entirely unable to trust his ears, eyes, stumbling about in a daze and jumping at things which weren’t necessarily even there, narrowly missing one fatal encounter after another, or at least believing he had…

He’d been there more times than he could count, and it was not a good place to be.  Especially not with little Will on his back.  So perhaps he ought to be glad of the dull, slow heaviness that now sat on his shoulders, trying its best to press him into the earth.  He supposed, though it did not feel so at the moment, that it was simply a sign of his body beginning the work of repairing some of the damage he knew he’d done to it, calling on all his energy for the effort and leaving little to spare on such extraneous activities as slogging through the snow.  He tried--without too much success--to be grateful.  

Nearing the cabin once more, and Einar shook himself awake, pausing, glad Liz had a bit of a lead on him and was not near enough to see, to scrub a big double handful of snow across his face in an attempt to bolster his alertness, dropping the stuff down the front of his parka after and leaving  it to melt.  Another big scoop of the soft, almost slushy stuff he stashed beneath his hat to melt, and was soon not only wide awake but painfully so, shivering and aching with cold and about as far from drowsiness as he could hope to get, a good thing, for he never liked to approach the cabin after a time away in any other  state, lest he miss some evidence of tampering, of an unwanted human presence around the place.  No tracks, the place appearing safe, and he was glad.  Had, with the obvious approach of spring, been growing more concerned about the length of time they had remained stationary in the basin; a good location to be sure, and one in which he really wouldn’t have minded raising children, watching the seasons pass and living out the rest of his life, outside circumstances notwithstanding, but the fact remained that he was a wanted man, ` hunted creature who could forget his situation only at great peril, and he’d remained in one spot for far too long.  Yet it had been a good spot, a place for the two, and then the three of them to snugly and securely see the coming of the child and live out the storms of winter, and they’d done it, and he now found himself reluctant to ask Liz to leave what had become her home, especially with Will still so young.  They had to be prepared to do so though, more prepared than they were at present, or the day would inevitably catch them unawares and with nowhere to turn.  Needed, in addition to the further caches they would with the receding snow be working to fill with jerky and other supplies, pre-arranged locations where the two of them could meet up again if separated, rally points both near the cabin and far, far from it, as the chances of keeping together if responding to a sudden raid were, he knew, slim to none…

Einar shook his head, started moving again, only then realizing that he’d stopped in his tracks in contemplation of the thing.  Yes.  Needed to be making some plans, but first he’d better get himself back to the cabin before Liz returned up the trail after him…but it was already too late, for there she stood, appeared to have been watching for a while, and he--just now realizing the fact--shaking uncontrollably with rattling teeth and ice water streaming down his face from the large clump of melting snow beneath his hat…

Will found the whole thing quite humorous, laughing from his perch on his father’s back, but Liz did not, scolding him roundly as she tried to hide her smile--goofy guy, seems he’ll find a way to turn himself to ice one way or another, no matter how hard I try--and sending him inside for a pot of warm broth.

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