26 October, 2012

26 October 2012

Cold.  Before too long nothing, not even the glory of the stars or the effort required of him to ward off further sleep, could keep his mind from the increasing bite of the night air, hands hurting and body so wracked by shivers that he was soon exhausted if not noticeably any warmer, too weary to maintain the squat by which he had been striving to keep himself out of contact with the icy ground and the rock that enclosed him, without having to stand constantly.  Not going well, and he wished desperately for fire, for a blanket, a hide, a bit of protection from the wind that whispered and swirled in through the open front of his cage.  Right.  Cage.  He wasn’t going anywhere, no fire waiting for him, no bear hide, nothing but the long, dark hours of struggle that lay before him, and determined to see them through, he hunkered down against one wall, chest on his knees and hands clasped under them, fighting for warmth, for a continuation of life.

Though managing to keep himself from falling again into sleep, Einar spent a good while drifting in a hazy state somewhere between dream and wakefulness, brush bars before him, stars overhead and rock at his back, everything taking on strange and terrifying new meaning so that the task of keeping reality separated from dream-image soon became impossible, and all he wanted was to be out of the cramped confines of that little rock alcove.  Wanted it awfully bad, and he struggled, fighting the screen of boughs before him and then when they seemed unwilling to yield turning his attention to the rock itself, bashing with knees, elbows, clawing with his fingers until they were raw and bloody but making no progress.  He tried to climb then, wedging himself between the walls and seeking with counter-pressure of hands, feet, knees against opposing surfaces of rock to make some upward progress and at first he thought he might be getting somewhere but then he hit an impasse—of course, doggone cage has a top—and, limbs shaking with the strain, fell back to earth.  Hard.  Tasted blood, tried again but again he came up against the “roof” and this time hung on as long as he possibly could, heart pounding in his ears at the effort of it but limbs finally betraying him as before, dumping him rather unceremoniously back to the ground.  They had him then, had heard his struggles and come to the cage, pushing their way in through the door and seizing him, binding him up so tightly that he was sure his arms would come out of the sockets but they did not, the pain growing as they lifted him until soon he could stand it no longer, but he must, had no choice and then they were raising him again, rocks on his back as the breath was crushed out of him, world going black, blacker than it had already been, stars blotted out by the smothering, billowing darkness before his eyes, a blackness split by splinters of white-hot, shattered light.  That was all for a while, a sudden unconsciousness leaving him to slump mercifully unaware to the cold ground, rest, in the only way it could come…

Woke with a cry, a strangled, animal sound as he remembered where he was and flung his full force against the bars of the cage, futility, all of it, but he tried again, gave the walls another go but made it no further than the first time, ending up in a bloody heap on the ground…

Back at camp Liz and Juni heard Einar’s howls of anguish and rage, strange, unearthly sounds that made the hair stand up on the backs of their necks and sent Juni scrambling to her feet, glancing back at Liz as she prepared to make a run for the sounds, see what had happened and if anything could be done to help.  Liz remained seated, silent, face buried against Will’s hat where he slept in her lap.

“Don’t we need to go see…?”

“He’s Ok.  Dreaming.  It happens sometimes when his mind is on those things.  Gets so real for him…”

“You just let him go on like that?  Isn’t he going to hurt himself?”

“Probably, but there’s not a lot I can do.  Sometimes if it’s especially bad I have to get out the rabbit stick…” she struck a spruce with the stick by way of demonstration, “but I try not to resort to that too often.  He just has to get through it the best he can.”

“Is that really how it has to be though?  Can’t we help him, interrupt the…episode?”


“What if I just go and talk to him for a minute, see if…I don’t know.  Talk him into coming back to the fire, maybe.  It’s a cold night.”

“Probably not a good idea.  He’s got his reasons for being over where he is, and even though I don’t like it at all, and can’t stand the thought of him freezing all night in that little hole in the rock…well, sometimes we just have to let him be.”

“I’m sure.  But maybe not this time.  I caused this, and I think I can make it right.  Better.  A little less awful, anyway.  Let me go try.  Just try to talk with him.”

“It’ll probably wind up with one or both of you getting hurt, and I hate to think what it would do to him if he wakes up out of that to find that he’d done you some harm, without meaning to.  Best to let him be.”

Determined, thinking she had some understanding of his situation and an ability to affect, if nothing else, the course of the night for him--perhaps, Liz thought, she was correct, or perhaps simply not as experienced as she in dealing with such situations--Juni took the flashlight from her pack and left camp, light off, feeling her way carefully forward in the darkness in search of the place where Einar had sequestered himself for the night.  Unwilling to leave Einar and the young reporter entirely to their fate Liz eased the sleeping Will into her parka hood and followed at a distance, hoping to be able to step in somehow, should things go especially badly…

By the pale light of the stars Juni found the place, Einar sprawled awkwardly on the cold dirt floor of his “cage,” hands stretched out before him as if in a last attempt to find his way through the self-imposed bars before he’d lost consciousness again.  At the sound of Juni’s footsteps through the crunchy-frozen snow he stirred, scrambled to hands and knees, eyes wide and wild in the beam of light with which she explored his enclosure.  Dangerous, empty eyes, and she was sure he didn’t see her but she stayed, still certain that she could find some way to free him, at least for the night.  Right.  Free him.  Let’s give that a try.  With which she attacked the branches holding him in, kicking and clawing, half sure that he would throw himself at her and that would be the end, just as soon as an opening was made in that wall of branches.  Had to time it just right, that, and hope he saw the entire thing the way she was intending him to see it, and then there was no more time to hope, for the last of the branches were broken, ragged hole in the wall standing wide open to the world.

Einar did not move, crouched there at the back of the rocky alcove like a trapped animal, ready to go, to spring, eyes glowing as he gathered his strength for the attempt and she seized the moment, glancing back over her shoulder and motioning to him.  “Hurry.  We have to hurry and get out of here, before they come back…”

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