Saturday, May 8, 2010
Davis L. Bigelow
Lille McPherson smiled in the half-light of their tent trailer. A tangle of auburn hair flirted with her eyelashes as she stared across the pillow at her husband. Glen reached out his fingertips and lovingly caressed her face. Lille was a pretty woman, smart and full of life. If she had one fault, it was that she adored Glen too much. He moved close and kissed her gently. Her warm breath caressed his cheek as he pulled away. The enamoured Scotsman paused and looked deeply into her eyes. Green and sparking in the muted morning light, Glen saw eternity as she met his gaze. After 25 years of marriage, she still stirred butterflies in his stomach - and it still amazed him.
Lille abandoned the softness of her pillow and nestled her head in the warmth of Glen’s solid shoulder. As he gently stroked her hair, Lille whispered. "We should get going. Big C and Alida will be wondering where we are."
Glen smirked. "We could make them wonder...”
"Hmmm" Lille played along. "You wouldn't want to make them come looking for us would you?"
"Maybe?" Glen teased, running his fingers over her shoulder.
"You'll just have to wait until you come back". Lille whispered, pulling herself up to look down on him.
Red hair spilled across Glen's cheeks as Lille's lips touched his. He ran his fingers through her soft tresses as promise and passion passed between them. Eyes closed, lips lingering for one final brush of intimacy, "I love you", Glen whispered.
"I love you too." Came her tender reply.
Five minutes later found Glen and Lille dressed and emerging through the door of their tent trailer to greet the dawn. Their secluded campsite, on the shores of Midnight Lake, was bathed in the brilliant light of morning. A quick glance around revealed that everything in their campsite was as they had left it the night before. Across the lake, the Mistawasis mountain range glowed in the summer dawn and reflected peacefully in the lake’s silky water. An attractive blend of deciduous and coniferous trees adorned of the far side of the secluded lake and climbed the sharply rising slopes beyond. The sight was breathtaking. Glen breathed in the sweet scents of nature, spiced with the delicate aroma of innumerable pine trees. The morning was perfect! He had dreamed of this day for a very long time and now it was finally here.
Through the evergreen boughs Glen caught sight of Stan and Alida Calderbank. They were already up and scurrying about the neighbouring campsite. Considering the fun and adventure they were about to have, Stan’s deep voice sounded rather frustrated. Glen shot a quick glance at Alida’s scowl, but waved warmly anyway. “Hey Big C! I’ll be ready in just a few more minutes.” Stan returned the wave, but immediately went back to attending his overstuffed backpack. Glen could see several pieces of Stan’s gear littered about the picnic table awaiting their turn to be crammed in. “Mama ain’t happy this morning!” Glen shook his head and spun on his heel, muttering to the air. “I’d better check my pack too.”
Then, without warning, time seemed to rush foreword, scene melting into scene. One minute Glen was loading his pack into the bed of Stan’s black pickup, and then he was again gazing into Lille’s green eyes. “Be careful.” Her sweet voice whispered into his ear, her warmth close. “Come back to me safe and sound.” Her soft lips brushed his as the scene faded.
Then, abruptly, Stan’s dust coated black truck was bouncing down Fairlight Road. “Good grief!” Stan was at the wheel of the lurching vehicle, grimacing. The big man swerved back and forth across the entire roadway to avoid the proliferation of potholes and giant stones. Beside him, Glen gawked and hung on. A securely fastened seatbelt comforted Glen’s shoulder but the seat beneath him threatened to propel the small man right through the roof.
Suddenly a weather beaten road sign appeared through the dusty windshield. “Yarbo Rd,” it stated, pointing a worn arrow to indicate a deeply rutted excuse for a road curving off into the evergreens and disappearing from view. Glen gazed down the rutted cart track. The Mistawasis Mountains towered above the coniferous trees. An azure sky back dropped the rugged peaks. Stan cranked the steering wheel and the truck followed the protesting tires. Glen’s head and body jostled violently.
Then, without warning, the scene melted again. Glen looked around, trying to orient himself. All was quiet, except for the babbling of a nearby creek, and the chirps of a few unseen birds. The day was bright and calm. The summer sun was warm on his face. His favourite hiking hat shaded his eyes. A calm alpine lake shimmered at the base of the hill on which he stood, framed by a mammoth glacier and several snow-topped mountain peaks. A white waterfall, just out of earshot, frothed down jagged rocks as it descended from the lake to feed a meandering, but wide creek that flowed towards him until it winked out of sight in a proliferation of thick evergreens and tangled bushes. It was as if Glen stood gazing upon a gigantic photograph – except things were moving.
Glen puzzled a bit at the unfamiliarity of it all. Suddenly, he felt a bit thirsty. Actually, now that he thought about it, he felt very heavy too. Something was digging into both his shoulders. Glen glanced down. Thick, padded straps ran across the front of his shoulders while a wide web belt striped across his waist. He was wearing his backpack, and it was all buckled into place. “Strange?” He muttered to himself and looked downwards even further. Pressed into the soft dirt under him, his familiar hiking boots were laced firmly to his feet. Still bewildered, Glen turned.
Behind him, Stan Calderbank was leaning over the hood of his truck. “At last, a familiar face” Glen muttered. A bit relieved, Glen shambled over to his good friend. The big man looked up for a second before resuming his former position. A large topographical map was spread out on the smooth black hood of the truck. Although not perfectly flat, the hood created a moderately clean makeshift table. Instinctively, Glen began to match the horizon with the map’s markings. Stan was better than him at a lot of things, but when it came to topographical maps, Glen had a gift.
Several silent seconds passed. “That’s Lady Lake,” Glen blurted, pointing with a finger. “And that’s Skull Creek.” Glen scanned both map and horizon again. “We’re on Wynyard Hill… and…” He pointed to a mighty, snow-capped cathedral of a peak. “That mountain over there is High Tor, the highest mountain in the Lajord Range…” Confidence breathed its way into Glen’s mind and his heart took courage. He pointed westward, “Behind Lady Lake are the Mistawasis Mountains”. He knew where he was, but new thoughts now plagued him. “Why was he here? How did he come to be standing on this spot of ground?” He’d been riding in the truck a moment before. And before that… Lillie had been in his arms. Lillie...
Stan’s untried voice broke in as he pointed northward to where the Mistawasis and Lajord Mountain ranges seemed to touch each other, “That is Green Canyon and above it… there… is Ravenscrag Mountain.”
Glen’s eyes followed his friend’s lead and in that instant he knew why he was there. They were going through Green Canyon to explore the picturesque lakes on the other side! They had been planning this trip for over two years and now they were finally going! The lurching truck ride had gotten them there. Their wives waited for them at their Midnight Lake campsites.”Yes!” Finally Glen’s eyes found Stan’s. The big man was staring at him with a quizzical expression. “Well Big C?” Glen piped up. “What are we waiting for? Let’s head out.” A broad grin split Stan’s face and he began to gather up the map.
The two adventurers gave the truck one final notice look before showing it their backs. A two hundred foot descent, spread out over a quarter of a mile led to the creek marking the beginning of their wonderful journey!
Then, without warning, the scene melted again. Sounds of clumping boots gave way to chilled feet, bare and sloshing through icy water. “Aaaaaah!” The small man moaned. The day was warm, but Glen’s feet and ankles were nearly numb. The rushing water was over a foot in depth. He scanned the horizon, again trying to orient himself. Instantly, Glen spotted the white waterfall spilling frigid water out of Lady Lake.
“Sure glad my lady’s a lot warmer than that one!” Stan remarked, indicating the glacier fed lake. “Of course this morning, she was pretty cool.” The big man added quickly. Glen glanced again at the beautiful waterfall but it faded, the scene melting before his eyes. Glen tired to reply, but he felt too thirsty. His brain reeled. He was sloshing through pure mountain water and yet he wasn’t stopping to drink. What was happening? Why wasn’t he stopping?
Glen blinked as he scanned the sky. The sun was intense and perspiration wicked into Glen’s Kroy-wool hiking shirt, making his back feel sticky. Glen’s heart pounded blood through the veins at his throat. His breathing was laboured. He was still thirsty. The panting Scotsman looked at the ground. A red, overstuffed pack sat near his feet, propped up against a thick-trunked evergreen tree. The pack was his. To Glen’s right and left, towering peaks rose into the deep blue sky, attempting to touch the few white cottony clouds that lazily hung there. The two men stood in a narrow canyon filled with a few trees on one side and a mountainside of fallen rocks on the other. Suddenly Stan was laughing and pointing at something. The sweating Scotsman followed Stan’s finger, still wondering what new situation he was somehow part of. Things were definitely not making complete sense.
“Do you see it?” The big man asked. “Right above that giant rock?” Looking across a barren field of randomly strewn, jagged boulders, Glen noted a black gash on the side of mountain. The mountain’s near vertical slope rose sharply out of the more or less level field at its feet. “Let’s go have a look.” Stan said, beginning to move and sounding very much like a school boy at an amusement park. “I bet we can find a way up there.” Glen grinned at the challenge and began to follow his large friend. Then the scene faded once again.
Glen felt nothing but cool air on his face and a burning thirst in his gut. He groped for the long, flexible tube that he knew was clipped onto his backpack’s shoulder strap. Where was it? He had over a litre of water in his pack and the tube let him drink from it at will. Then, Glen felt something strange in his hand. It was warm and fleshy and seemed to be holding him tightly. Yes, it was pulling him downward! In fact, it was impossibly heavy!
Glen shook his head, but it refused to clear. “What’s happening?” He tried to speak, but his parched lips refused to part. Suddenly, searing pain racked his body. All his muscles were on fire! His arms and legs were quivering uncontrollably from the awful strain! A pounding heart threatened to blow right out of his chest! Glen tried to calm himself. He knew his mind would cope if he just willed it to. “Why can’t I just relax?” Glen soundlessly screamed. Overhead, the sun blared in the sky, blinding him. “Why isn’t my hat shielding my eyes?” Suddenly, something tightened onto his other hand. From out of the light, he heard Stan’s voice, deep and intense. The words made no sense at all. “What on earth is happening to me?”
“Ok Glen!” Stan boomed. “One big pull! One… two… three!”
Glen felt a mighty force tear at his arms. Then, his feet pushed into nothingness! “What?” Glen fell, but why? The sensation was terrifying! “What’s happening to me?” The question began to form again, but the breath was suddenly knocked out of him. A new pain spread upwards from his tailbone. His crazy, senseless world seemed to enter a time warp and everything moved in slow motion. Suddenly, Glen was young again, careening the down basement stairs of his childhood home and accidentally knocking over the old fire extinguisher. It had been one of those big extinguishers that you turned upside down to activate. Once more, Glen tasted the frustration of foam shooting everywhere. He had been powerless then! Even righting the large tank had not stopped the nightmare of discharging foam. There he stood; a small boy crying desperately for the extinguisher to stop, but it would not. Then, the boyhood scene of powerlessness was ripped away by a new sensation. Glen was falling again! He heard himself cry out.
Down he plummeted! Pain seared the back of his head! From somewhere in the dark pit he was careening into, he heard Stan cry out in desperation. Then, just as abruptly as it had begun, everything stopped. Sound and sense was completely swallowed up by the pit’s inky blackness. Then, there was nothing.