27 March, 2014

27 March 2014

In a low crouch some three feet from the fabric wall Einar quickly scanned the camp, seeing no one and seconds from hurrying to his feet and leaving the circle of tents when he heard the second zipper, flattening himself against the ground in what appeared to be his only hope of avoiding detection, and a rather poor one at that.  Nothing nearby under or behind which to effectively conceal himself, the entire area consisting of trampled-down  grass and little else, and Einar had the pistol in his hand, hoping there were only two, and that he could, if need be, take at least one of them by surprise. 

Footsteps.  He could hear them rustling in the grass, approaching, and then a swish of fabric as the individual entered the wall tent.  There was a quiet greeting and then conversation, but Einar did not stick around to hear its nature, bolting for the rocks as soon as he was certain he would not be seen.  Once there, out of breath and head swimming with a sudden dizziness from the exertion, he rolled into the deep shadows between two boulders, eye scanning the camp for any sign that there might be a third party present, that he might have been seen.  Nothing.  All appeared still, the muted tones of conversation still rising and falling in the wall tent, the two returnees seeming unaware that an intruder had been in their midst, unconcerned by how close they had come to a likely-deadly meeting with the same.

Success, then, escape, freedom, but Einar could hardly rejoice in it as he would have liked to do, going over in his mind the grid layout he had seen on the map, careful canvas of each and every cave and crevice in the cliffs above that lake, and he could not help but think that these bat scientists would almost inevitably stumble across the cave where he and his family had, even if only for a few days, taken refuge upon first arriving at the canyon.  Should they do this, they would hardly be able to miss the signs of recent human habitation, tracks, remains of the fire, and they, as curious people, would wonder, would want to know…

The potential implications of such a discovery were, he knew, enormous.  He must make certain no trail existed between that cave and their current shelter amongst the deadfall, several miles distant.  Must also, he was coming to realize, find a spot from which he could watch to see if they did, indeed, discover that particular cave in their searching, what their reaction seemed to be should they enter, and take action accordingly.  Of course, they might already have discovered it.  They had taken those bat samples from somewhere, after all, and if they were currently searching the caves in the cliffs near that big lake on the map, perhaps they had already finished with those near the canyon rim.  Only way to know for sure was to visit the cave, himself, and check for sign, and obvious risk lest he either meet someone there or unwittingly leave sign of his own that could be found and followed, but if he kept his distance he ought, he knew, to be able to determine whether the place had recently been visited, without leaving too much nearby sign of his own.  The intruders were, after all, biologists and not trackers.  Their focus was bats, not human fugitives or the tiny signs they might leave on the land.  Which could all change in a real hurry if these guys see something suspicious, and put in a call to one agency or another, so you’d better be awfully careful out there, Einar…

Moving, scooting backwards on his belly and leaving the rocks before the rest of the men could return and make such a move terribly risky until after dark, Einar took his leave of the camp, retreating into the timber which had sheltered his approach.  Safest, it seemed, would be to follow the canyon rim, keeping to the timber until he found a place where he could descend to the area of the cave where they had first sheltered.  Which assumed he would be able to recognize it from up here, from above.  Landmarks.  He remembered how the land opposite had looked from the cave mouth, and it was that view he knew he must seek.  That view and the strange, low tower erected by the men on the snowmobile as he and Liz had taken their leave of the place. 

Once he’d got some distance behind him and the adrenalin of his near-discovery in camp began wearing off, Einar found himself rather suddenly and without warning feeling the full effects of his past several days of travel and cold nights, stomach hurting and hollow, limbs going numb and all the strength seeming to leave him so that he was forced to take a step, take a breath, pause before repeating, sometimes standing there in a daze for a minute or two between steps before he could summon the energy and drive to start moving again.  The third time this happened, he found himself sagging for the ground, body swaying and knees giving way beneath him.  No good.  Snapped himself back upright, shifting his full weight to the injured leg by way of getting his attention and chasing away a bit of the sleepiness.  It worked.  Wake up.  Can’t be doing this.  You can sleep when you get back to Liz.  Just gonna freeze if you try to sleep here, anyway.  Even if you could do it.  If it was safe, people-wise.  Which it isn’t.  Have to get further from this camp, find a way down to where you can see that cave, look for sign, maybe keep a watch on it for a while in case they’re still headed this way.

Moving again, picking his way around the remaining banks of snow and sticking, whenever possible, to frozen ground in the shadows rather than risk leaving marks in the mud where the snow slowly turned to liquid on the sunny sides of things and seeped into the ground, Einar made progress through the trees, reaching, at last, a spot from which he almost recognized the view across the canyon, picturing how it would look had he been two hundred feet lower and relieved to see a timber-choked gully, steep, but far more passable—and concealed—than the cliff face, cutting its way down in the direction he needed to travel.  Good.  Making progress.  Keep moving.

Down the gully, terrain steeper than it had looked, but he made it, shape of the land all wrong to allow him to see the area immediately around the cave, but he was close, knew he would, with some effort, be able to get the desired perspective.  Only, the light was fading.  He pictured everyone returning to camp on the plateau above, straggling in by twos and threes as they had done the evening before, beginning to cook their supper…

Darkness.  Not good to keep moving on this steep terrain now that darkness had fallen, could end up falling, himself, or leaving sign.  Best to stop for the night, and he did.  Resting, lying down on the uphill side of a low-sweeping spruce to conserve energy, a mistake, but he let his exhaustion speak to him, talk him into it, and within seconds he was sleeping, blackness, drifting, Liz beside him and he was aware of being dreadfully cold, rolled closer to her for warmth but after a time did not seem to be warming at all, might have discounted the fact—can take an awfully long time to effect significant changes in body temperature, after all—had not a dull ache in his back gone on increasing until it practically screamed at him with every slow, dull thump of his heart.  No way to sleep under such conditions, and with a great reluctance he rolled over, doing his best not to disturb Liz…only to find that she was not there at all, the presence he had mistaken for hers belonging to a rather solid chunk of snow-encrusted, knobby-branched fallen spruce.  One of its broken branches had been digging into the ribs on his back as he lay, explaining the backache.

Good thing for the tree, he told himself, or who knows how long you might have gone on sleeping? Too long.  Anything is too long right now.  Too much going on.  You want one of those bat people following a limestone band down here, and stumbling over you in the process?  You’d make one strange-looking bat, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be interested…you might end up in a little plastic bag in that cooler just like the rest of their hapless sample animals, all labeled, dated and categorized, ready for future study.  And they wouldn’t even need to add extra ice to preserve you, because you’d likely as not already be frozen.

On his feet then, body stiff and unwilling, Einar doing his best to swing arms and stomp feet, drive away a bit of the chill of the night and warm himself, but the chill, as so many times of late, seemed almost to be coming from inside, from his bones, and the exercise only served to make him dizzy.  So he sat back down, drew his knees up inside the parka, and rested, counting stars in an attempt to stay awake and pressing an elbow into the hungry, hurting hollow of his stomach.

It was then, freezing in the night and with no prospect of ready food to sustain him over the miles which remained ahead, that Einar’s thoughts turned to the moose…


  1. Chris... now that ending has Great Promise!!!!

    E knows he is Hungry. He knows he needs food. And he remembers a Cache! What could be better, I hope E enjoys some filleted Moose Sushi. maybe a hunk of Moose Fat, just to gnaw on along the way!!!!


    1. He should also know that any FRESH carving on the moose will be obvious to the greenest of rookies. Unless there is a piece small enough for him to manage toting home, he had better stay the heck away from that moose!

      Einar is getting in such bad shape that he is starting to make bad decisions again. Visiting the old camp cave was not one of his brightest moves either. So 'somebody' camped in a cave, big deal, people have been doing that forever. Less risky to just leave well enough alone.


      Thanks FOTH

  2. Philip, yes, he needs to eat and the moose would certainly provide for that need.....but Mike has a point, too. If anyone had discovered that moose in the meantime and perhaps set up a camera or other surveillance hoping to catch the poacher--could be big trouble for Einar!