07 August, 2012

7 August 2012

Evening came and with it the sharp chill typical of the first truly clear night after a big storm, but the skies remained quiet, and Einar was glad. Still, he did not like the idea of a fire so soon after the strange meanderings of the tiny plane, wanted to wait through the night to be sure nobody was coming back.  Liz pointed out that no plane such as the one he’d described would likely be flying at night, anyway, and though he agreed, still found it best to wait on rekindling the fire.  Candles seemed alright though, and Liz took full advantage of this allowance by lighting three of them, hoping they’d do at least a bit to combat the chill which seeped increasingly through the walls to settle in a layer above the floor, which was, almost inevitably, where Einar had chosen to park himself for the evening.  Wasn’t working too well for him, hands too stiff and shaky to reliably slice meat for their second batch of jerky as he was attempting to do--first round had yet to finish drying in the heat of the fire, but neither he nor Liz saw any reason to wait on getting the second batch sliced and hung--but still he kept at it, working more slowly in an attempt to avoid chopping off too many fingertips, but quite adamantly refusing Liz’s suggestions that he move the entire operation to the bed where he could be warmer.  No surprise.  She knew he’d made quite a concession, as he saw it, in cutting short that trapping expedition and in most everything he’d done since, largely staying in the cabin and allowing his feet to heal as well as they could when really he would have preferred to be out testing himself in the snow, and she could hardly blame him for clinging to that one small thing, that need to test and challenge himself if only by rejecting the warmth of the bed in favor of that hard, cold floor.  Let him do it, if he must.  He would live.

Not if he intended on staying there all night though, might be a real challenge in that case, and after an hour or two--cold supper eaten, Einar’s portion a good deal smaller than she might have wished, but he’d said he could manage no more, and she did not challenge him, Will fed and put to bed and she finally growing weary and joining him--she really began worrying, especially when he seemed either unwilling or unable to respond to her inquiries.  Gone too far.  She got up, crouched beside him in the dim light of the single candle he’d left burning, saw that he was no longer working at the jerky, knife grasped hard in one hand and the other spread palm-up in front of him, looking all stiff and strange and mottled with cold.  She’d seen him like that more than once in the past, knew, something weighing heavily on his mind, that he’d almost certainly remain thus all night long if she didn’t do something to get him moving again.  Fairly sure of the subject that occupied his mind--still hadn’t finished reading the transcript since recovering it from the snow, and she knew he’d been wanting to do it--she figured one certain way to get his attention would involve going for the recently-recovered documents in their carefully-secured orange envelope up in the rafters, seizing the thing and threatening, perhaps, to hold it above the candle…but that was to be saved, so far as she was concerned, for the direst of emergencies.  Surely lesser means--such as simply speaking with him for a time--would have some effect.

“You’re cold.  When are you coming to bed?”

“Need to be cold.”

“Sure, but not for this long, you don’t.  What about your feet?  You’ve been doing so well, really need to keep them on track so you’ll be ready to go out trapping again soon…  You need to do something about how cold you’re getting.”

A silence; she was beginning to think he hadn’t heard her, when finally he shifted position, spoke.   “I’ll fix it.”

Einar got up then, struggling cold-stiff and more weary than he would have liked to admit to his feet and doing the exercises he had developed since receiving the rifle from Kilgore, lifting, swinging, holding it out straight from his body for as long as he was able, and at first it was all he could do to keep his grip on the thing but he warmed slightly as he went, doing better, moving faster.  Kept it up until his arms were shaking with exhaustion, entire body trembling and he was in danger of dropping the weapon.  Leaned it against the wall then, sinking to the floor with chin on his knees and arms wrapped about them, resting, soon very cold again and barely able to keep his eyes open.  Enough of that, so far as Liz was concerned, and she hoisted him to his feet, led him to bed and rolled him beneath the bear hide, responding rather forcefully to his somewhat sleepy objections.  “It’s night and it’s cold in here and you’re coming to bed one way or the other now, either with the rabbit stick or without it.  Your choice.”

She didn’t seem to find it too funny when he responded by rather sincerely mumbling, “with, please, if you’re gonna insist on one or the other,” tucked the hides in over him and secured them with the heavy logs she’d previously used to help prevent midnight wanderings.  That got his attention.  While the rabbit stick--either threat or reality--might not have bothered him too much, the sense of confinement brought by the logs certainly did, and he squirmed out from beneath the hides when she went to blowout the candle, ended up on the floor again by the time she returned to the bed, curled in an unobtrusive little ball against the door, where he had hoped in his sleepy state to somehow avoid detection.  Didn’t work of course, Liz pulling him back to his feet, giving him a halfhearted whack with the rabbit stick for good measure and guiding him back towards the bed.

“Ok, no logs.  I’ll leave them off if you’ll promise to go ahead and stay here for the night, instead of freezing yourself on the floor again first chance you get.  I can’t sleep knowing that’s going to happen, and you have to know it would be too much, cold as the night’s bound to get.”

“Wouldn’t know unless I tried.”

Exasperated and wanting to snap at him, Liz struggled to restrain herself.  “You don’t always have to try.  Sometimes you just have to use common sense and think about it.  You know what’ll happen if you sit up all night.  Now come to bed before I have to use this rabbit stick for real.”

Grinning slightly despite the obvious anger rising in Liz’s voice he followed her, allowed the hides to be drawn rather conclusively over him and secured on her side, if not on his.  He’d stay.  Could see that she was serious about not being able to sleep if she knew he was going to keep leaving the bed, and he wanted her to sleep.  Needed to get her rest so she could be there for Will, have the energy to care for him during the day, so he let her get her arms around him, feeling trapped but putting up no objection, trying to relax and hoping for a bit of sleep, himself.  Too cold to sleep, and he was just then beginning to realize it there in the warmth of the bed, lay listening to the breeze in the spruces outside and trying his best to push from his mind the turmoil that had kept him rooted to the floor all evening, wind calling him, envelope calling, bidding him out into the wild, moonlit snow to face the things he knew were waiting for him, would be waiting, even if he delayed answering, and Liz--silent--calling loudest of them all.  He slept.

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