04 November, 2012

4 November 2012

Their skinning work done for the day everyone took a break before fleshing and stretching the hides to partake of the freshly sliced liver Liz prepared, she herself still a bit reluctant to indulge in such fare with thoughts of Giardia--and its potential, if temporary consequences for her ability to adequately feed Will--fresh on her mind, but Juni had no such reservations, and enjoyed several slices of the stuff along with Einar.  He, of course, body still being somewhat unused to food and wanting to shut down and work to repair itself whenever encountering the stuff, became immediately and immensely sleepy after the snack, eyes drifting closed and head drooping as he crouched against a spruce, fighting hard to stay awake but half inclined to give up and curl himself into a little heat-conserving ball in the spruce needles, instead.

Liz, knowing how badly he must still need to catch up on rest after his long night fleeing across the river and up the hill, was all for the idea, prepared to drape the bear hide over him and let him lie, but things never quite got to that point.  Somewhere there in the shadows between sleep and wakefulness Einar heard through the silence that was stealing up around him the muted gurgle of water under ice, voice of the winter-locked river, and in hearing it he was reminded somehow of the previous night, his desperate journey across that water and the disaster which had awaited him beyond its icy grip, bitterness, loss, and the irreversible sorrow of being unable to go back and right a wrong once done.  Finished.  No way back.  Only, he had reversed it, they had escaped together and he’d carried Andy on his back through the swamp and up the hill beyond, desperate flight with the enemy close behind, had done it, would do it again and though he knew now, eyes wide open and sleep far from him, that it had been unreality, all of it, the doing of the thing had seemed to loosen, at least for a time, the grip those memories had on him.

Well.  A good thing he supposed, that distance, for he had a lot of work to do and could hardly afford to be losing too many more hours, days to the remembering of the thing.  Not just then.  Had to finish with the trapping, decide what to do about Juni and, in all likelihood, move his family and all his earthly possessions out of the cabin and to some new, safer location, all within the next week or so.  Busy time, but he was ready for it, shook himself free of the sleep which had been trying to claim him and scrambled to his feet, arms spread wide and braced against opposing trees to prevent a sudden bout of dizziness from laying claim to him.  What’s this?  Never mind what it is.  Doesn’t matter.  Can’t have me.  Got a job to finish.

But it wouldn’t leave him alone and then Liz was beside him, steadying hand on his shoulder as the world went wobbly around him--goofy world, why can’t you hold still for a while?  Pretty rough for a fella to get his balance with you flowing and shimmering and distorting all around him like this, don’t you think?--and then, lowering him to the ground against his silent protests, cool hands on his face, which seemed suddenly to have gone all hot and dry and strange.  Didn’t make too much sense, any of it, and though he was as usual of late shaking with cold, all he could think about was the river, and his need to submerge himself in the chortling, gurgling iciness of its black waters.  Seemed his only hope.

Water.  Liz was offering him water, and he drank, spilling most of it but not caring, for its frigid shock felt good against his skin, and then he was crawling, his only really reliable means of transport, it seemed, and he absolutely had to reach that river.

Liz.  She has hold of him, wouldn’t let go.  “Hold on there, where do you think you’re going?  Remember, we have hides to stretch.”  Which they certainly did, knew she was telling the truth so he stopped struggling and allowed her to pour the entire contents of her water bottle over his head and face, giving her a grateful smile at the relief this brought him even as his trembling increased so that he could barely seem to get his breath.  “Thanks.  Water’s…real good but the river’d be even …”

“Well, you’ve got a fever.  Pretty bad one I’d say, but you sure didn’t have it in the night, because I was the one having to keep you warm all night, as I remember.  Not the other way around.   Is that where you were headed?  The river?”

“Yeah, need to…”

“No, you don’t.  You’ll be fine right here.  I’ll bring you more water if you need more, but the last thing you need right now is to be fully submerged in that ice water and likely as not losing your footing and getting dragged down under the ice, too.  Now, what’s going on with you?  When did this trouble start?”

“Don’t…not the liver.  Can’t blame the liver.  Doesn’t happen that fast.”

“Oh, I know it’s not from the liver, whatever it is.  It’s not Giardia, at all, I wouldn’t say.  So what’s happened?  Do you have some sort of infection I don’t know about, something that could be causing this?  Or did you finally just end up so worn out that your body is looking around for ways to make you slow down, and settled on this one?  That wouldn’t really surprise me…”

He laughed, the sound a bit wild and strange, but definitely his own laugh.  “Not slowing down for anything.  Got hides to stretch, said so…yourself.  Just need…more water, wet clothes so they can freeze on me for a while and…be just fine.”

“You certainly have a strange definition of ‘just fine,’ but we already knew that!  Now hold still and let me take a look at you.  What all did you tear up last night trying to get out of those cliffs and then across the river?  Your hands, I know, but they really don’t look infected.  Come on, we’ve got to figure this out because you’re not going to be any good at stretching the hides until we can get the fever to come down.”

“Sit in river.  I’ll just…sit in the water and do it…no problem!”

“Big problem!  Not going to happen that way at all.  And besides, the stretching hoops would probably float away under the ice and be lost.”

True.  He couldn’t deny that, and certainly they didn’t need to be losing those hoops, so he supposed working in the river wasn’t actually a very good option at all, and besides, Liz seemed intent on solving the problem, figuring out its source and doing something about it.  Wise, probably, but quite honestly he had no idea what the trouble might be, or where might lie its cause.  Figured it’d all go away soon enough, given time and cold water.  Liz, though, had other ideas, and Juni, agreeing with her on this particular matter, had a theory of her own.

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