Next thing Einar knew he was waking in the darkness, total darkness and not a sound to be heard, or at least so he thought at first. Didn’t appear to be able to move. Even raising his head seemed far too much effort, and when, becoming a bit agitated at the situation and throwing all his rather questionable strength into the effort, he tried again, he was only able to clear the floor by an inch or two before his muscles betrayed him and sent his head flopping back to the ground. Not good. Hurt, a stab of pain between his eyes for his effort but he did not mind, for it seemed to be helping him to wake up. Wanted to do it again, but this time nothing would respond, so he lay motionless.
Needed information, needed to know where he was, where Liz was—Liz and the little one; the realization that he had no idea where they were filled him with a sudden, sickening dread which would have sent him immediately to his feet and out in search of them, had he been capable—and after trying very hard to move eyes that seemed somehow locked in their sockets, dry, grating and unwilling, he was able to get sight of a faint light over to his right side. A narrow, horizontal strip of blurry, wavering light that appeared to hang some distance from the ground, and it took quite a bit of squinting and figuring before he slowly came to realize that the light must be coming from a window, blind mostly drawn and the dancing shadows of densely-growing spruces likely accounting for the changing pattern of the light. Those shadows he would recognize anywhere, but the rest of it made little sense.
He was coming to think, now that the ability to do so was somewhat returning to him, that the most likely explanation for his current plight must lie with the pickup truck that had been grinding its way up the driveway last he knew, that he must somehow have been captured, whether through treachery on the part of his hosts or the failure of some ill-fated escape plan which he did not quite remember putting into effect, but not even that made complete sense. Because of the trees. Had he been captured, he wouldn’t expect to be seeing trees. Would probably never be allowed the sight of trees again in his life, yet there they were, shadows dancing in that strip of light, good, unquestionable and real, if at the same time rather ephemeral and unreachable.
Too dark to learn much of his surroundings through visual inspection, so he tried feeling about with his hands, but could not find them. Which was rather unfortunate, as he was beginning to think a weapon of some sort would be a very good idea indeed, but how was he to locate one, much less be prepared for its use, if he could not even find his own hands? Silly idea. They had to be on the ends of his arms where he had left them, and he tried again, this time got some sort of response, but still lacked the dexterity to make much use of the appendages. Perhaps, he thought, he was simply cold, and could remedy the entire situation by warming his hands to restore some flexibility. Who knew how long he might have been lying wherever it was he found himself, and certainly, now that he thought about it, he did seem to be pretty thoroughly chilled. Wanted to get his hands in closer to his body, into contact with stomach or sides or perhaps even tucked under his arms for some warmth, but they wouldn’t seem to go that far—couldn’t figure out the reason, everything still seeming oddly disconnected—and after a while he gave it up. Felt like sleeping again, felt as though he couldn’t resist it, actually, and though for a time he did so, fighting, sleep eventually claimed him.
No trees this time when he woke. Trees had been a dream. Wishful, fever-induced memory of home, of his old life. Before this. Before it all ended down there in that tunnel, pistol butt to the side of his head, blackness, and then the cage. The ropes. That explained it. Explained why he hadn’t been able to use his hands, earlier. Were never much use after they freed him from the ropes. Took a long time for much circulation to return. Surprising, now that he thought about it, that they had left him so long alone, long enough to begin feeling his hands, to dream into existence his trees, the dear, sheltering spruces beneath whose cover he had so often in the past taken refuge. Even if the dream had not lasted, it was a strange, singular thing to have been allowed so much time in the first place, and he wondered what his captors might be thinking. What had made the difference. Regardless, he was sure they would soon be back to start all over again. With the questions. And with the rest of it.
Thirsty. Could hear the endless lapping, lapping of the water beneath his enclosure, so close but always out of reach, as if they’d designed things that way, meant it to be part of the torture. Doubted it. But an effective means, nonetheless.
He’d lost track of the days. Five, six, perhaps more since he’d last tasted water. No wonder he felt so dry, eyes gritty and tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth with thirst. Beyond thirst. He didn’t even feel it as thirst anymore, not the way a person is used to feeling. But would, once he started moving about. Or trying. Body just wouldn’t respond, and he figured they must have finally taken things just a little too far. Past his limits, unable to come back, and it didn’t bother him nearly as much as he knew it ought to have. Beneath him, the bamboo floor felt strangely soft, welcoming, pain almost non-existent for the first time in what seemed half a lifetime. Closed his eyes. Felt so near to accepting, acquiescing, lying quietly as he waited for whatever they next had planned for him. Close to not caring anymore what that might be, nothing they could do any longer holding terror for him. Or hope. Finished. Would surely be finished, if he allowed himself to let go like that. Wouldn’t last long at all. He’d seen it happen. Knew, but let it come over him anyway.
Drifting. Breath barely coming. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Head back, mouth open, Einar lay unmoving for a time, an unaccustomed peace beginning to steal across the sunken features of his face, but before it could get too far the start of a snarl took its place, eyes coming open in the darkness and he was fighting his bonds, the wraps of cord with which they had him secured, struggling until blood came and he could feel it trickling down his arms, but he did not stop, dared not cease until he’d made some headway. Couldn’t be finished. Not yet. Had to fight. Die fighting if it came to that, sure, but don’t willingly die lying in your own filth in a cage suspended over the swamp just because you’re too tired to raise your head anymore. Don’t acquiesce. That’s no way to do it, and he wouldn’t, but neither did he seem to be making much progress at freeing himself, and he could feel the strength leaving him, efforts growing more feeble and heart doing the strange, unsettling things it tended to do when faced with the combination of heavy exertion and not a drop of water for who knew how many days... Rest for a moment—but only a moment, lest he again start slipping towards sleep—try again.
If he could free himself, free his hands, at least, he might be able to retrieve the substantial fragment of broken bamboo with which he had at every opportunity been working away at a weak spot in his cage, begin that work again or, if finding himself incapable, use that sharp-ended fragment to go after the next guard to open the door to his enclosure, make an attempt at escape while he still had the strength to do it. There. Snapped one of the cords. One hand free. It was quick work to free the other. Now all he must do was wait. Couldn’t find the bamboo sliver. Would just have to use his hands.