The snares and traps were empty that morning, every one of them, which only seemed to add to Einar’s sense of apprehension, the very silence and stillness which prevailed in the timber that morning confirming to him the veracity of his suspicions. Liz, pausing now and then to check on his progress, could see that he was distracted, not entirely sure of the world around him, but she kept on, hoping the exercise might prove helpful and finally when it did not appear to be doing the job--if anything he was looking worse, glancing furtively at sky and ground alike and appearing ready to bolt at the slightest sound--standing aside, allowing him to pass, lead. There on the sharp end of things with the responsibility of Will on his back and the timber closing in all around him, Einar did indeed have an easier time keeping connected to the immediate realities of the trapline, phantom tracks and half-heard rumblings fading so as to be nearly undetectable, and by the time they reached the high point of the trail and were ready to turn around--still critter-less, for everything had been empty--Einar was nearly himself, again. Weary though, felt as though he’d spent the entire night dashing at top speed up through the snowy timber, and he needed all the strength and balance he could muster simply to keep himself on his feet and avoid spilling Will in the snow. Before they once more reached the more level ground around the cabin, Liz caught up to him and pulled him down on the snow-free trunk of a fallen aspen for a rest.
“You were saying something earlier about our needing a plan, more caches, things like that… Tell me about it. What do you have in mind?”
It took him a minute to catch his breath sufficiently to be capable of speech, hands braced on knees and Will protesting softly at their stillness, urging him back to his feet. Einar slid the little one around to his front, freeing him from the parka and handing him to Liz for a snack. “We’ve talked about it before, put a few caches out there last fall but after last night…”
“Yeah, what about last night? That must have been quite a dream, huh?”
Shook his head, not wanting to talk about it, shadow of the thing still hanging just over his shoulder. “It was a reminder. Just a reminder. Don’t know how much we can really do before the snow goes down some more, since it’d be real counterproductive to leave a bunch of tracks all over everything, but soon as it’s reasonable we’ve got to get a lot more stuff stashed, routes planned and rehearsed so that if the day does ever come…we’ve got the best chance we can have.”
“That was your dream, wasn’t it? They came, took us, or took me, and you had to escape with Will…”
A slight tightening at the corners of his mouth, but no other sign that he’d heard her question, and he was on his feet, waiting for her to slide Will back into his parka for the remainder of the walk home, but Will wasn’t done with his snack, and Einar ended up standing awkwardly as he waited, one arm braced against a tree in an effort to keep himself from toppling over. She wished he’d go ahead and talk about it, the dream-shadow that seemed to hang so heavily over him, expected the thing might lose some of its power if brought out into the high mountain sunlight, but when he spoke, it was only of the future.
“Can do it on the hard spring snow, get out and scout, place caches, so long as we plan the trips carefully so we’ll be back off those routes again before things really start softening up in the late morning or early afternoon. Under the heavier timber--if it’s had enough sun to melt and then refreeze the snow into that hard surface in the first place--we ought to be able to push it a little later in the day since the sun won’t be hitting it directly, but the air itself is getting pretty warm these days, once we get past morning…”
“It is changing faster now, isn’t it? More daylight, getting a little warmer. Maybe it’s almost time to start working on those windows you wanted to make us, this summer!”
“Windows. Yeah. Be good to be able to see out the front of the house. I’ve got that deerskin I saved to use as rawhide, so maybe I’ll stretch it and start scraping to thin it down, start planning where we’ll put the window. Only one place to put it, really. Over by the water barrel.”
“That sounds good! I’ll help. It’ll let in so much more light, give Will more to look at while we’re inside, and we can make a shutter of some sort to close it up when we need it to be more secure, keep it too small for bears and such to climb in, in the first place…it’ll be great!”
Einar nodded--yeah, I’d like to be excited about it, but I’m just hoping we get to stay there long enough to finish the project and enjoy the results; not looking real likely, right now--braced himself a bit more securely on the tree as Liz slid a very sleepy and satisfied Will back down into his spot on his father’s back, started down the slope.