The remaining daylight hours passed in a blur of activity for Einar and Liz, Will crawling excitedly about the shelter as they worked to stuff spruce needles between upright wall timbers, chinking them against the wind and adding some insulation to the place. Einar would stop frequently as they did this work, head tilted to one side and eyes raised skyward as if to help himself hear more effectively any distant hum of a plane engine, and then he would crouch, palms against the frozen soil that lay beneath their flooring of fir branches, feeling. No distant rumble, no vibration in the ground, and every time upon rising he breathed a tempered sigh of relief, prayed that the situation might continue thus.
Walls chinked and insulated as well as could be done with spruce needles alone—could have done a more thorough job with several large buckets full of mud, but the season was all wrong for such endeavors—Einar set about trying to hang the parachute from the inside of the structure by way of a further wind barrier. It would, he explained to Liz, trap a layer of still air between its upper surface and the ceiling of the place, would do the same for the walls, and this would go a long way towards insulating the shelter and making their fires, when they could have fire again, far more efficient.
There was to be no fire that day, though, Einar far too concerned about the return of the aircraft of the appearance of others to want to risk smoke or heat, and though Liz and Will were doing just fine in the absence of flame, Einar began struggling a bit as the sun went down and all the meager warmth of the day dissipated into the high, clear sky.
Returning from yet another sojourn outside to listen for aircraft, Einar sat with arms crossed and knees pressed together, cold and trembling but trying not to let Liz know about it, weary but resigned, mind on the possible return of that plane and what it would mean, rather than on his current situation. Liz, though also concerned about the plane, was more urgently worried about Einar, and how she was to get him into that sleeping bag. Even if she couldn’t see him in the inky darkness that had eased its way into the shelter with the coming of dusk, she could certainly hear him, his lack of words and the whistling and puffing of his breaths in the cold, and she did not like it.
“Don’t you want to join me in here? Will’s all cozy and taking a nap in the other bag so there’s plenty of room…”
He smiled. “Later. Don’t want to…fall asleep now and if I get all warm and…” he shrugged, words not coming very easily, hoping she would get the idea.
“Doesn’t it hurt though, to just sit there shaking like that with everything rattling together? I mean, with your bones so near the surface, and all. You’re going to end up all bruised and sore, I would think.”
“Guess that could be one way to describe it.”
“How do you describe it?”
“Interesting. Well. I just wish there was some way for you to be warmer.”
“Oh, you know I’ve never minded being cold. Sometimes…prefer it, really.”
“Yes, I know that’s true. But would like you to be able to stay a little warmer than this, just because when you’re like this, your body uses so much energy trying to warm itself up, and that’s all energy it can’t put towards other things. Like fueling your brain and muscles so you stay alive. And starting to add a little weight, here and there.”
Einar supposed she had a point, of sorts, but knew also that the temperature inside the shelter was to be the least of their problems, as time went on. While he had hoped to locate a spring or seep once the snow melted—should they find themselves able to stay so long—the fact remained that they presently had no water source up there in the tiny basin save the snow itself, which of course required heat in some form if they wanted it in liquid form. Several candles that had come with the supplies in the drop bag seemed to provide the only real option short of taking bottles of snow to bed with the and hoping they might see some melting by morning—didn’t sound like such a bad idea to Einar, but he figured Liz would object—and as if hearing his thoughts, Liz began searching for them.
“We need to be working on melting snow, don’t we?”
“Yep. One way or another. Gonna be without fire or a couple days at least, until we can be pretty sure the plane’s not coming back…or bringing friends…and probably not the best plan to go without water for that long.”
“No! We’ve used a candle before. And bearfat lamps…remember that?”
“Sure, I remember that. Good times, those were. Except for the doggone air search that was hounding us all the time, anyway. That wasn’t so good. Real glad to be out from under that. Hope we can keep it that way.”
“There’s no reason they should suspect we’re anywhere near this area, really. None that I can think of. That plane was probably just some sightseers or hunters looking at the canyon, or the wildlife folks trying to find and inventory a moose or two.”
“Hope they don’t find and inventory our moose! That’d mean trouble, for sure…”
“No way they can spot it from the air, and it sure wasn’t wearing a radio collar or anything, so I don’t think we need to worry!”
“Hope not. Really want to go back for that meat someday. If we get to stay in the area. Would feed us for an awful long time, and if we leave it as things start warming up, we’re gonna lose it all to the flies, real fast.”
“That would be a terrible waste.”
“Yep. We can talk about going back, maybe come up with a plan that makes sense, but we’ve got to wait out these planes first, make sure they’re not gonna make a regular habit of buzzing the canyon.”