15 October, 2012
15 October 2012
Einar was done. No more talking, no more questions, wanted away from all of it, from what this stranger was doing to him and he stumbled to his feet, narrowly missed falling into the fire before he wheeled around and found the rock wall behind the camp, felt his way along it like a sightless man until he’d moved well beyond the fire’s glow, into the darkness. Only then, safe, secluded, did he allow the tears to come, had not wanted to do that, not in front of his adversary, but she was behind him in that circle of light and alone now with his memories on his knees in the snow he silently wept, forehead pressed against the solid, icy stone of the wall, a real thing, and a good one, in a world suddenly gone so terribly uncertain around him. Vague, shadowy, all of it; he did not know if it was real, what he had just seen, could not at the moment reliably distinguish memory from delusion and for this he wanted to blame Juni, was sure she had been sent up there to entrap him, discover the one thing which could effectively be wielded as a weapon against him and then use it, destroy him before the feds ever made it up there to finish the job… But some part of him knew this was not so. Juni had not caused the trouble, she had merely reminded him of it, and would not have been able to do even that much, had he not willingly allowed her to lead him down that path. Which still left him with the question: had the memory been real, or had he imagined that scene in the jungle, blood in the water, guards soon to discover his absence and Andy bidding him go, get out of there while there was time.
Would have been a convenient thing to imagine, he supposed, a way for him to make peace with himself and let the entire thing sink, perhaps, into the background of life just a bit, but it seemed very much to ring true, details too sharp, too vivid to have been imagined. Really though, it didn’t matter, did it, whether this new vision was history or merely the product of a brain desperate to cease, if only for a moment, being always at war with itself? Wasn’t relevant. What mattered, the only thing that really mattered, was the duty he’d had, and the fact that he’d walked out on it. Andy’s feelings on the matter…well, much as he would have liked to think he might have been forgiven by the young man sometime in his last moments as his recent vision-memory had indicated, the fact wouldn’t have changed anything, even had he been able to convince himself it was in fact real. As the ranking officer in the camp, he should have…
Ranking officer, heck. You were just a kid, starved, half crazed with thirst and out of your mind with hurt after the way they’d been handling you for that past week, pretty near death, even if you didn’t recognize it at the time, and you couldn’t reasonably have been expected to--
No, I wasn’t. No kid. Had a lot more experience than he did, had been on the ground there for several years and he looked up to me, was counting on me to find the way out of that place. If I was a kid, it was a kid who’d held life and death and hellfire and thunder in his hands more times than a person could count, had risked life and taken it; chronology means nothing, it’s all about experience. Nothing innocent about me. Knew exactly what I was doing, and I did not do enough.
Nothing could change that, nothing at all, not Andy’s feelings on the matter, not even his…forgiveness, which might have been a reality though the word hurt him even to say, to imagine in this context, nor the things anyone else might have said to him since, none of it had any relevance. None of it changed what he had done. Not done. Not even the things Kilgore had told him over the years…Kilgore, adversary, nemesis and just about the closest thing to a friend he’d ever really had, and he wished the tracker was there at the moment to slam his head into the rock and pound some sense into him like he really needed, but then he realized that he didn’t necessarily need Kilgore in order to accomplish that particular goal, bashed his head into the granite wall before him, and it seemed to help some, so he did it again. Yeah. That was what he needed. Maybe not so much with the rock wall, though, as it would be preferable that his brain still remain functioned to some degree when he got through. Needed some serious time with that old dead pine on the dropoff, training, atonement, whatever he wanted to call it; couldn’t remedy the situation, nothing could, but it was the closest he could come, and there was a rightness to it, a justice, a purpose, and he must go.
Could not go. They were in the middle of several days of trapping, an endeavor which having been previously abandoned on his last trip to the valley he must diligently see through to the end, this time, and besides, there was Liz. And Will. Could not simply walk off and leave them to wonder where he had gone--and with a fair chance of his not returning, were he to look at the thing honestly--especially considering the presence of the intruder whose motives, if seeming so far to prove themselves honest, must of necessity always and forever remain suspect. Must stay nearby, which meant that the most he could reasonably manage would be a solo night up in the rocks, and he went through all the steps in his mind, finding, by starlight, a spot in the good solid face of the wall which would allow him passage, crack in the rock which would admit a knee here, clenched fist there as he pulled himself up, up until the fissure widened some, allowed him to wedge his body into the rock. There he would hang, parka, boots, everything cast away down into the snowy blackness below and his flesh, what little was left of it, offered up as a sacrifice, living, striving, as he contended through the night with the elements and with the weakness which he knew must lurk still somewhere within him, hidden in his body, his very soul, perhaps, hated, feared, ready always to betray him, an enemy more vile and deadly than any who could assail him from without. He would contend, and would prevail, and by the first light of the coming dawn he would creep back down as well as numbed limbs would allow him from his hidden crevice in the stone, drop more or less unharmed into the snow below and somehow beat a workable degree of warmth back into limbs by then grown quite insensible, ready to rejoin the trapping party and do his duty to Liz, to his family.
Time to go, to do it, and he went feeling his way along, searching, wanting to make that climb but needing somewhere to start, some feature in the rock which would allow the beginning of his climb. Could not find it, kept going, searching almost desperately with hands growing increasingly numbed at the continued contact with the cold rock, feeling, searching and then there it was, an angled, ascending crack offering the bit of purchase he had been seeking. Ready to climb, then, but as he stood, squinted up at the wall in an attempt to gain a better understanding of its features and begin the ascent he found that the world was moving most alarmingly beneath him, swaying, heaving, and he could not keep his footing…
Quite some time later Liz found him, fire burning low and Will sleeping in her parka as she went searching in the faint starlight, following the rock wall, as she had some sense that he would have done so, himself. A time of searching as she wanted to call for him but held her silence and then there he was, black hulk against the lighter rock, on his knees in the snow, spear stuck in the ground beside him, hands pressed against the wall as if he’d been trying to pull himself up, head resting on the stone and eyes closed against the dizziness which still assailed him every time he tried to move. By the glow of a single candle which she lit and nestled up against the granite to prevent the wind extinguishing its light Liz did her best to clean the crusted blood from his face, pressed icy hands between her own and pulled him somewhat unwillingly to his feet, come back, the night is cold, come be with us, and he was going, following her back towards the distant glow of the fire, back there where Juni waited, no doubt, with more of her questions…