Saturday, October 16, 2010

"In Ravenscrag's Shadow" - Chapter 26

In Ravenscrag's Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 26

Beneath the gloomy, nimbostratus clouds a small figure travelled. The strange creature moved three of its limbs on or near the ground plus two more limbs that were higher up on its body. The distant human had a wide-brimmed hat on his head. Its movements were jerky, but then it stooped down. Next, the human hefted an odd looking contraption from the ground and began to drag it. A large, dark mound trailed behind the human, riding on the strange contraption. The cautious carnivore sniffed the air, but never took its black eyes off the unusual procession. Hidden in the fringe of foliage, the grizzly continued to stare. Scents of the human were not reaching his flaring, wet nostrils, but the big bear knew that that would change. The uncommon visitor, pulling the peculiar cargo in his direction, would soon reach a point where the wind would waft the scent his way. For now, the big bear would wait and watch. Now was not the time to approach. That covert operation would have to wait until later.

Glen McPherson struggled forward. His pathetically slow ground speed could have been measured in feet per second, but the mathematical notation would have fewer decimal points if expressed in inches per minute!

The wiry Scotsman looked ahead often. His progress was sluggish at best, but he had to formulate sound long range plans if he was to keep to the smoothest route. Putting both hands on the travois and leaning his armpit onto the top of the crutch, Glen advanced. Once his feet were level with the crutch, he dropped one hand from holding up the travois and used it to send the tip of the makeshift crutch forward a little. The cycle was labour intensive!

Behind Glen, Stan was having the ride of his life. As the tips of the travois slid over the rough rock, they bumped and jostled and shuddered and scraped. Of course, the tips didn’t just move in a synchronized fashion. The handmade travois sported the latest in off-road independent suspension, causing its distressed passenger to sway from side to side as well as to be jounced up and down. Agonizing minutes passed. If the big man were dreaming, he might have been enduring a nightmare about getting tumbled to death in a giant clothes dryer! At least he wasn’t wet.

One hour passed. Then two. “Come on Glen!” The small man muttered to himself, trying to rally his weakening will. Winded and sweating profusely, Glen would not let himself quit. He permitted himself second-long respites between lengthy pulls, but he would not quit. Not yet!

The spent Scotsman collapsed on a giant lichen-covered rock, panting. His hat was in his hand and his head was lowered nearly to his knees. Hot blood coursed through enlarged veins, pounding in his temples and at his throat. Thirst gnawed at him. He was hungry too. His closed eyes flickered open. Beneath his sweaty face grew a proliferation of lichens. Deep grey and rusty orange in colour, the lichens looked like a conglomeration of deformed brains that had taken refuge on the fragmented stone. Clustered on the rough rocks, the lichens gave the field of boulders a dappled appearance. When the small man had first laid eyes on the rugged heap of discarded mountainside, he had though the sight was beautiful. Back dropped by Ravenscrag Mountain, an enlarged photograph of the scene would have made a very challenging jigsaw puzzle. Glen smirked slightly at the thought. It was ironic. He felt like his efforts to keep himself and Stan alive were like assembling an elaborate puzzle. Alarmingly, however, the pieces of this puzzle needed to be assembled in a particular order. One miscalculation and the picture would not be pretty! Glen stared at the lichens. His brain felt like they looked; deformed and dappled and doomed to a marginal existence in the dismal, life sized diorama in which they were all trapped.

Still panting, Glen pulled off his leather gloves and then his wire-rimmed spectacles. The glasses were smeared with an unpleasant mixture of dust and sweat. He absently scanned the canyon while he polished the lenses on the underside of his shirt. “At least the inside of my shirt is a little cleaner than the outside.” He thought. Glen held up the lenses to inspect them. “Good enough.” he muttered, then put them on and prepared himself to rise anew.

“Here we go again Stan.” He announced, donning his gloves and gripping his makeshift crutch. Forging ahead once more, Glen elevated the litter and began to pull. He was definitely the designated packhorse of this expedition!

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