Storm raging on, Einar took time that day to improve their shelter situation, dragging over trees from the nearest area of deadfall and stacking them to create a windbreak on the uphill side, from which gusts seemed to come when on rare occasions they did find their way down into the depression which was sheltering them. Will riding in her parka hood, Liz helped him, the two of them kicking in unison in an effort to free frozen deadfall aspens from their places in the snow and, succeeding, each of them taking an end, hoisting the trees up and over snowdrifts and deadfall and finally skidding them down into the tiny basin for use in their shelter. It was hard work between the cold and challenges posed by the terrain, but Einar was glad to be doing it. The time had come, he’d decided, to stop moving for a while, and this place seemed better than any he’d seen since leaving Bud and Susan’s several weeks before.
Einar, stumbling slightly as he hoisted his end of yet another log over a fallen aspen—leg still hurt from his hard landing coming out of the plane--didn’t want to admit it, but he was tired, becoming increasingly unsure of his judgment if not of his ability to go on for as long as going was demanded. More than anything, he wanted a safe place where he could get Liz and little Will established even if temporarily, secure from the elements and with some provision made for their ongoing sustenance. The last few days, this need had seemed to take on an added urgency in his mind, to demand fulfillment even as circumstances seemed to be conspiring to keep them on the move, on the run, exiled from the canyon, the caves and from what had appeared a sure and long-lasting supply of meat. This odd little terrain feature, tucked away so discreetly on its all-but-impenetrable mountainside of solid timber, seemed perhaps an answer to his unspoken prayers. No time to lose. He had a shelter to build.
Sensing Einar’s urgency if not quite understanding it, Liz worked through the remainder of the day helping him move logs and stack them between the two firs which had supported the first several, their wall growing in height and its wind-stopping effect improving dramatically until even the stray gusts that occasionally found their way into the sheltered depression were almost entirely prevented from affecting those in the shelter. Pile a bit of snow against the windward side, stuff moss or usnea lichen into a few cracks between logs, and they would have the start to a nice, solid structure which might someday even become a cabin, of sorts.
Sometime near dusk, despite being greatly pleased with their progress so far and wanting very badly to continue the work, Einar found himself simply unable to lift another log, arms trembling when he tried, failing to comply with his demands. Liz saw, lowered her end of the log to the ground and went to him, taking him by the arm and urging him back towards the shelter. By the time they reached the place Einar could not stop his arms shaking no matter how hard he tried, the cold, Liz expected, but it didn’t feel like cold to him. Not that he could necessarily rely on the way things felt. He couldn’t feel much of anything, at all, and when Liz suggested he sit down and mind the fire for a minute, he did not object. Almost fell asleep there staring into the flames and trying to get his brain to cooperate so he could plan further steps which might need doing on their shelter, but returned abruptly to wakefulness when Will let out a squeal of delight at the sight of a pinecone exploding into flame.
On his feet and staring in some confusion at the child until he realized the origin of the outburst—a joyous one, he now saw—Einar shook his head, scrubbed a hand across his eyes and resolved to keep moving for a while, reserve sleep for some later time when all were tucked into their sleeping bags. For the moment work remained to be done, his first task—the idea had occurred to him during his sleepy reverie before the flames—being to stretch the parachute from the top of the stacked-log wall to the ground opposite it, thus creating for them a fairly large area in which snow would not fall. Though fairly well shielded by overhanging evergreen branches, any further reduction in snowfall would, he knew, help keep clothing, sleeping bags and other gear dry, and would be most welcome. First to find the chute, which he did, digging around in the drop bag and starting to unfold it. Though focused on this task the tremor in his arms would not leave him, a fact which he tried unsuccessfully to conceal from Liz by crossing his arms and appearing absorbed in studying the parachute every time she turned his direction. No success at all, Liz pausing in her own work—time to prepare a supper soup—to bring him a mug of hot water laced with honey and spruce needles, staying with him while he drank.
“What’s the idea with the parachute? Making us a tent?”
He nodded, hesitating to speak lest that come out all shaky, too, but she was staring at him, waiting for an answer.
“Tent, yes. Keep the snow out, some of the heat in. Have to leave an open space for the smoke. Kind of like a tipi, but different shape.” Good enough. Speech a little wobbly, perhaps, but she seemed to be understanding him. Understanding more than he’d thought, apparently.
“What’s wrong with your arms? Are you cold?”
“Maybe a little. Nothing wrong. Just worn out from carrying trees. Glad we got it done.”
“Me too! This place is almost cozy, and surely will be, before we get done. Are you thinking of staying here for a while, now that we’ve done all this work?”
“Was thinking about it. What do you say? Ready to try and settle down for a little while?”