Saturday, June 5, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 6

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 6

Red dawn crept on cat’s paws over the whitened tip of High Tor, bathing the peak’s pure snow with fresh blood and spilling crimson onto Ravenscrag Mountain. Dew hung silently in sharp defiles and gullies. Innumerable nooks and crannies pockmarked the surrounding cliffs. The place was hauntingly beautiful, but equally barren. The “green” portion of Green Canyon occupied only a narrow slice of the eastern boundary. Most of the rough, rock-strewn canyon was a monotone grey, punctuated only by orange and grey lichens clinging here and there in the harsh environment. Decades of winter ice and spring rockslides had ensured the scarcity of life here. Far away from the sparse splash of evergreen trees, on the opposite side of the sterile canyon, a mound of silver shimmered with scarlet. As out of place as a brilliant diamond ring on the finger of a monkey, the strange looking silver mound began to undulate with life. Suddenly, a human head poked into the chilled mountain air.
Glen McPherson yawned wildly, but stretched tentatively. His body was about as rested as it could be, considering the fact that he had slept on top of a giant rock pile. All his muscles ached. His ankle was swollen and throbbing. “Either I’m too old for this adventure or this adventure is too old for me.” He grimaced at the thought. “Perhaps it was both.” His body had warmed the rocks under him, but not quite enough to produce comfort. Thankfully the night hadn’t been too cool. The wiry Scotsman raised a finger to his right cheek and rubbed the skin. The soft flesh bore the deep imprint of the stone he had turned into a makeshift pillow. He attempted to massage life back into his stubbled cheek.
The small man turned his eyes towards the cloudy sky. It didn’t look very inviting with the clouds bathed in red light! He muttered the old couplet under his breath, “Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.” Glen’s eyes swept the peaks of the Lajord Mountain Range, noting the thick blanket of snow on High Tor. “It’s cold up there!” At 4,500 feet above sea level, summer was in full swing in the canyon, but obviously not at 15,000 feet. Suddenly, Glen was glad they weren’t injured on the steep slopes of the prominent peak.
Still waking up, he looked down. The underside of the Mylar covering was thick with condensation. His shirt and pants were damp where their fabric was touching and the evaporative effect was beginning to chill him. He gripped the thin, crinkly sheet and prepared to shake the moisture off when he stopped short. Suddenly, his mind was alert. Ever so gently, Glen peeled back the polymer emergency blanket. Paying special attention to keep it level, he tried to invert the silver sheet that had covered him and catch the water. Most of it cascaded off, but a tiny portion of the precious fluid pooled together. He bent forward and slurped up the liquid of life.
At his right, Stan stirred from slumber. “What are... you doing?” He rasped.
“Good morning, Big C.” Glen’s familiar voice called out.
The big man moaned in pain, “I feel terrible.”
“You need to hold still so I can collect the water condensed on the underside of the Mylar.” Glen instructed, gathering up the water bottle and twisting off the top. Glen positioned the open bottle under the plastic sheet and began to lift a corner. A tiny rivulet dribbled into the waiting opening. It wasn’t much, but every additional drop was more than they had. In under a minute, Glen had gleaned all the available condensation.
“Glen?” The big man breathed. He sounded a bit embarrassed.
“I’m not sure… how this is… going to work,” He stalled, “But I really… have to pee.”
For a surprised second, Glen looked like a cat cornered by a pack of wild dogs. “What do you want me to do?” He queried, quite sure that he really didn’t want to know the answer.
Glen looked around furtively as Stan eyed him nervously. “Perhaps he’s hoping a nurse will wander up the trail and stop to help me.” The big man thought sarcastically, but bit his tongue. “I just need… help to sit up.” He paused to take another shallow breath. “And to move… my good leg… out of the way.” He sucked in another wheezing breath. “I think I can… do the rest… myself.”
“Ok.” Glen agreed sounding more relieved than he wanted to. The scowling Scotsman crab-walked over to his friend and placed his hands under the big man’s shoulders.
The next few awkward minutes were not so bad after all – at least from Glen’s point of view. The big man’s fingers crushed the rocks at his side in a death grip as Glen began to push his torso upright. It was all the Stan could do to keep from screaming out like an injured child, but he managed to contain the outburst. Fire erupted in his leg as the effect of sitting increased the blood pressure around the broken bone. The only sounds that escaped the big man’s lips were short bursts of highly pressurized air from his lungs that squeezed past clenched teeth and produced guttural grunts. His reddened face was twisted in concentration.
At last, sitting more or less upright, Stan panted to catch his breath. Each draught of precious air caused his ribs to be racked with searing pain. Grimacing and squeezing his eyes shut, Stan silently attempted to slow his pounding heart. Finally, the big man’s watering eyes opened.
The pile of multi-sized boulders Stan rested on had more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. With his friend supporting his back, the big man’s unwanted waste easily vanished without a trace, but Stan would long remember the pain that accompanied the ordeal. He had never experienced all out agony before. “Why didn’t I lose consciousness?” The big man wondered. His face was the colour of death. Great beads of his precious sweat ran into his eyes and along his nose. “Is this how bad it is to give birth?”
Finally, the business was done. “Ok” Stan rasped in distress. Glen gingerly eased him back to the hard ground.
When Stan reached the comfort of his rock bed, he lay motionless, gasping. His mind reeled from the intense pain. “Is there no relief?”
Sorrowfully, Glen gazed down at his tormented friend. His own injuries were bad enough, but Stan’s were many times worse! Glen shook his balding head. “Can we really make it out alive?” Doubt marauded silently into the dark corners of his mind. “We aren’t due to return to our wives for four more days! How can we do it? No one will come looking for us until after it is too late!” Dejected, Glen gathered up the noisy Mylar that had covered him and began to fold it. ”We’re going to die here!”
Suddenly, the memory of the resolve Glen had felt during the night returned. Below his ears, his jaw muscles flared. His eyes wandered to their rugged surroundings, settling at last on the point in the trail where their backpacks lay. Glen stared, deep in thought and gathered himself. “We might not make it out alive, but I won’t just sit here waiting to die!”
After several more mournful minutes, Stan’s pain levels returned to normal. “Strange, how normal hurts so much!” He thought bitterly. “Yesterday, normal was so much nicer.”
“Here.” Glen interrupted, nearly ready to leave. “You’d better drink this water before I go.” The big man took the bottle, but didn’t drink.
“After that… ordeal… I don’t ever… want to drink… again.” He sounded completely spent, and the day was still early. The morning sun hadn’t even hit their resting place. “You know…” Stan drew in another breath. “In the movies… when someone… is hurt… they never… have to go… to the bathroom.”
Glen smiled for the first time that day and nodded. Reality was so much more merciless in real life than in a screenplay! “You made it through the night Big C.” Glen encouraged, still trying to mask his own miserable mood. He looked up from tightening the laces on his scuffed boots. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Make sure… you bring the… Tylenol from the… first aid kit.”
“I will.”
“It won’t… help much… but maybe… it will take… the razor’s edge… off my pain!”
“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Glen turned to leave, pushing his hat into place. “You’ll be OK my friend.”


Barb said...

I look forward to your weekly posts. This is the longest it has taken me to read a book though, haha. Keep up the good work.

Davis L. Bigelow said...

Hey Barb,
I'm pleased that you are enjoying the story. If you're up for it and if you find any flat spots in the plot (or any other problem I missed), please let me know. Thank you for reading. According to StatCounter, there are quite a few readers visiting my blog, but so far you're the only one to comment on “In Ravenscrag’s Shadow”.
And for those who do not leave comments, that's not a problem. The adventure is posted for you to enjoy not necessarily for you to comment about. I wrote the story for fun and just don’t want to keep all the fun to myself.