17 October, 2012
17 October 2012
Much as she had been hoping that her conversation with Einar wasn’t over for good, Juni found herself uncharacteristically squeamish about the idea of continuing to question him, just then. Figured he could probably use some sleep first, a bit of distance from the events of the evening. But it seemed he didn’t want that, for reasons of his own. She was pretty sure she knew why. “You just want me to tell you so you’ll have a reason to go back out there and beat your head against the wall again in a little while, don’t you?”
“I don’t need you for that. Pretty good at finding reasons, all by myself. Just wanted to try and answer your question if I could.”
“You really want to do this now?”
A shrug. “Sure. Why not?”
“I don’t know, maybe you’ve had enough. You kind of look like you’ve had enough.”
“You have no idea what that looks like.”
“No.” But neither, she added silently, do you. Obviously.
“On with it, then.”
“Andy. My last question was about what Andy thought about your escape. How do you think he saw it?”
“He was…” not going to do it, not going to tell her about his earlier vision, younger man with face pressed up against the side of his enclosure, bidding him go, smiling… “He was glad to see me go. Wanted one of us to…get out of there.”
“And you think it should have been him?”
“Should have been both.”
“But it wasn’t.”
“You tried everything. I read the report. You charged the guards that time when they were taking you for interrogation, attacked them with your elbows when they had your hands tied and ran at Andy’s cage, trying to get them to stop hurting him, hoping, I guess, to be able to get over there and free him... Even though you knew they’d probably kill you for it. They almost did, didn’t they?”
A shrug, Einar rubbing the outside of his lower leg where it still frequently ached despite having been more or less healed for nearly forty years, chunk of muscle missing where they’d ripped that spear out of him; the wound, despite his best attempts at treating it, had festered during his weeks in the jungle after escaping, and they’d had to take more, once he made it back. The surgeon had told him he almost certainly would have lost the entire leg, had it not been for the aggressive scrubbings he’d given the wound as he struggled to evade his pursuers in those initial days after leaving the camp. Though unable to even contemplate having fire to sterilize water for cleansing the wound, he had scrupulously kept to using rainwater gathered from the big leaves around him, constant rain of those days providing ample opportunity and his efforts, if not entirely effective, managing to stave off the worst of the infection which otherwise would have surely done him in before ever he managed to reach friendly territory again.
Yeah, they’d almost killed him that day for his rash attempt at putting himself between Andy and his tormentors, had, besides the spear through the leg, taken him back to his cage after an especially fruitless interrogation session--who, after all, tends to be in the mood for talking when he’s got three feet of bamboo sticking through his leg, constantly being kicked, twisted and pulled by his kind and considerate hosts as they bark their questions at him?--and bound him up so tightly that he really could hardly get a breath after a while no matter how hard he tried, rocks stacked on the small of his back for extra weight as he hung there, muscles worn out, exhaustion taking over, and had they left him that way too much longer he really wouldn’t have seen the end of that particular day, though he’d been too out of it at the time to recognize the fact; a good thing, probably, as it had spared him for the time the temptation of giving in to their demands.
Juni. She was waiting for his answer, and he swiped a hand quickly across his eyes, drew knees up to his chest tried to dry some of the sweat that was slickening his hands, despite the evening being cold enough to make him shiver. “Yeah, they almost killed me for that one. Still don’t know why they didn’t just shoot me when I broke away from them like that. They didn’t tolerate any sort of…non-compliance, around there. Still needed me alive for a while I guess, so they used the spear instead of a rifle… Doesn’t matter though. None of it matters. I didn’t get him out.”
“I read about how you got pinned down later after you’d escaped, surrounded so that you had to try and wait them out, but I bet you had to be moving pretty quickly when you got away from there, didn’t you? To put some distance between you and the camp before they discovered what you’d done, and started searching?”
“Yeah, had to move quick. Hardly quit running until sometime that next night, through the swamp and finally out of it, up this one hill and down the back side, almost ran right into a patrol back there but they weren’t out there for me, not yet, and I flattened myself out until they’d passed by, went on again. Didn’t feel the leg, didn’t feel much of anything that day but it wasn’t working too well, kept giving out on me after that hill and that slowed me down some, but not too much…”
“And if you’d been trying to carry Andy?”
A brief flash of something that might have resembled despair crossing his face, so brief in the flickering firelight that Juni couldn’t be sure what she’d seen and then he looked away, into the darkness. When again he turned to her after a long moment his eyes were glowing weirdly in the light, voice fierce and terrible with resolve.
“I would have liked to find out.”