It had been some time since Einar last experienced a similar incident, a long time, at least, since she had last seen it happen; she was not at all sure that he would have told her about it, had it happened somewhere out of her view...and though she could not be sure of the cause, low blood sugar seemed a likely candidate, perhaps various electrolyte imbalances after their long trek to reach the airport, accompanied by his usual antipathy towards taking in anywhere near an adequate quantity of nutrients...but nothing she could do about any of that at the moment.
She wondered if she could give him a bit of honey, perhaps, in the hopes of at least raising his blood sugar, without either hurting him or putting herself at too much risk, wanted to take Will off her back for his own safety but with their situation so uncertain and the little one both highly mobile under his own power and intensely curious about all aspects of the world around him, she did not dare. Could not have him wandering away. So, she waited. Surely the event would have to end soon, and Einar would be alright, and they would move on... But, it did not, and Liz knew she must try to do something.
Approaching carefully, knee gently on Einar's chest more to monitor his movements and give herself an early warning should she need to jump back than to restrain him in any way and his right hand gripped firmly in hers, she worked to get a taste of honey into his mouth. Hoped it might help cut short the seizure, which already seemed to have gone on far too long. His mouth was clamped shut and she could not get it open, had to make do with smearing the honey on his gums and hoping some might find its way inside. Not too likely, but there was nothing else she could think to do. Other than to wait. And wait.
Liz had no way of keeping track, no time keeping device, but it seemed to go on for a dreadfully long time, upwards of eight minutes, she was pretty sure, and when at last it was over and Einar lay still, she was not at all certain at first that he was still breathing. Hurrying to him she was prepared to start CPR, but he grimaced and twisted to the side when she touched him, half opened his eyes and then went limp again.
She sat down beside him, dabbed at a smear of blood where his cheekbone must have contacted rock in his thrashings and tried again to get some honey into his mouth, this time succeeding. It seemed to help. To her amazement he got right to his feet, unsure at first, stumbling, eyes not quite able to focus, but with one glance at Liz he drew in a sharp breath, situation returning to him and the urgency of the thing lending a straightness to his faltering limbs and a wideness to his eyes as he met Liz's. Tried to speak but couldn't get the words to come together, brain could form them but could not seem to send them to his lips in an order which made any sense, and he soon gave up trying, resorted to hand motions. Time to go. Keep moving. And, they moved.
Focusing intently on the ground ahead of him as he walked, Einar strove to avoid leaving sign, mostly succeeding despite limbs which felt as though they belonged to someone else and a head which would not quite clear up and allow him to reason with the precision to which he was accustomed. Aware enough to recognize the deficit but frustratingly powerless to correct it just at the moment, he struggled to strike some sort of balance between the speed he knew they needed to maintain, and the stealth essential to their situation.
They traveled some distance, Einar walking strangely but maintaining a decent pace. He was sick though, vomiting, didn't want to take the water she kept offering, and when finally she insisted, he choked on the stuff, only managed to get a little down, immediately took off walking again. His walking was getting worse, left side weak, leg dragging, face grey and a dreadful exhaustion in his eyes when finally Liz persuaded him to stop and look at her, hands cold and mottled purple where he held the straps of his pack despite the day being fairly warm, and she knew she had to get him to Arizona.
They did not discuss it, did not discuss anything, really, Einar still struggling to put two words together, but when Liz took out the map during one of their infrequent breaks and asked him if they were on course to make the rally point set by Bud and Roger, he squinted hard at the twisting, blurring lines until they began making a bit of sense, nodded, showed her their present location on the map, and waved her into the lead.
Doing her best to pick out landmarks as she walked and keep them on the course which appeared likely to take them with the fewest obstacles in the direction of the assigned meeting place, Liz took them up the remainder of the increasingly narrow canyon. Having looked at the map, she was somewhat dubious about their ability to cover the required distance before that coming morning, when Roger said he would meet them at the designated meadow, should their first attempt fail. As it had done. Not only had it failed, but Einar's driving, necessary as it had probably been at the had put them many miles from the assigned meeting place. Those miles could be covered, though, and she did her best to make certain they would be, pushing ahead somewhat ruthlessly even when she saw that Einar was lagging, struggling, left leg clearly not functioning properly, grey faced and fighting for breath. He did the same and worse to himself all the time, she reasoned, and they absolutely had to make that meeting.
At the canyon's head, a little trickle of water tracing and dashing down orange sandstone cliffs stained white and purple with deposited minerals, she found an end to the easy walking, a series of narrow, rocky cuts offered a good chance of escape, and when she looked questioningly back at Einar he squinted, nodded and headed for the leftmost of the cuts. Though still visibly struggling with both balance and strength, Einar took on the task of leading his family up that rocky, treacherous draw with the vigor and enthusiasm required of him by once more being in evasion mode, speed surprising Liz, though perhaps it should not have, and they were soon topping out in a dense cluster of wind-stunted little aspens, some of their lithe trunks bent nearly into loops a foot or two from the ground by decades of heavy, gale-packed snow. Going no further for the moment, world spinning most inconsiderately around him, Einar grinned at Liz, lowered himself to his stomach on the damp, mossy ground, and promptly passed out.
Not a time for rest, not even the enforced rest of unconsciousness, and Liz, though desperately wanting to allow him to rest, scrubbed a handful of icy, spring‐hardened snow across Einar's face, all but poured a sip of water down his throat when he snapped awake and looked at her with confusion in his eyes, and dragged him to his feet. Liz led again after that, map in her hand and landmarks showing themselves in such a way that they were able to make good progress, and by the time Einar put a hand on her shoulder and insisted on taking the lead once more, they were less than a mile from the long, narrow, aspen‐lined meadow where Roger intended to land the plane. Sun low in the sky and nearly swallowed by a growing mass of cloud, but not yet set, they had made it in plenty of time.
"Is that it, you think? That meadow?"
Einar nodded. "Has to be."
"Do you think they'll really come?"
Exhausted, swaying, Einar half closed his eyes, caught himself against an aspen tree to avoid falling, nodded.
"Can always count on Roger. He will come."
"I'm glad. Will you get on the plane?"
"Have to see. Just wait and see how things look."
It was the best she could hope for. At least he had not refused. The rest would have to come in the morning. Walking the perimeter of the meadow, securing the place, Einar discovered a jutting outcrop of broken, tumbled‐down grey shale at a high point overlooking the meadow, just inside the trees and parallel to one of its long sides. A fine place, he figured, to spend the night, and Liz agreed.
Later, Will warm and asleep beneath the shelter of stone and everything as well set as it could be for morning they stood together in the rising wind and watched the light fade, streaks of orange and crimson through the clouds. Einar's head still hurt from its earlier encounter with the rock and his entire being felt odd and somewhat out of place from the lingering effects of that seizure, but it didn't seem to matter, relief so great, joy at having been able to evade the potential dangers of the past several days, the smell of sagebrush, broken rock, distant rain and immediate freedom sharp and joyful all around them. Einar turned to her, led her over beneath the aspens, and she might have been surprised at the taut energy in his emaciated and half frozen form, had she not known him so well... Later they fell asleep close together beneath the sheltering overhang of rock, and that night she dreamed of a brother for little Will, the two little buckskin‐clad boys playing together outside a sturdy, hand‐hewn log cabin hidden high in basin somewhere between the peaks, and the dream brought a smile to her sleep...
Einar's sleep was not nearly so peaceful, night quickly becoming cold and a thin, piercing rain starting sometime after midnight. Liz and Will were well sheltered by the overhang, but Einar, on the weatherward side of things and jammed as well as he could manage under the little outcropping as he sought to avoid the rain, had the worst of it. They had begun the night with Liz's jacket tucked around the three of them them as well as could be but as the hours had passed and with little Will's squirming, he found himself with less and less covering, hardly wanted to wake the others to try and do something about it, so he just lay there with various parts of him inevitably sticking out of the cramped little space into the wind no matter how he contorted his body, shivering through the night and any hope of further sleep soon evaporating as the dampness chilled him though.
Better that way anyhow, he told himself, as it kept him awake to listen for any potential danger, gave him time to think. He spent the remainder of the night running through various scenarios in his mind, plane showing up, plane not showing up, showing up but something being wrong, being off, so that they had to conceal themselves at the last moment and melt back into the timber, disappear... Towards morning the rain moved out, sky cleared and Einar dozed a little, exhausted by the intensity of the thoughts and by his own shivering. Daylight and Liz's insistent words woke him some time later.
Wake up, she was telling him, the plane will be here soon, and you have to wake up, but more immediate than her concern about missing the plane was the fact that Einar had become seriously chilled in the night, extremities purple, body nearly too hypothermic to shiver, and she tried to get him warmer, talk him into eating something. Einar, though, saw no problem, his singleminded focus being on that plane, on watching, waiting, making sure things were safe...