Saturday, June 26, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 9

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 9
Two black, beady eyes stared fixedly on the strange sight. The curious furry creature perched on a jagged boulder just a few yards from the silver mound. “What on earth is this thing doing in my home?” Cautiously, the woolly marmot sniffed the air. After a moment, he stood up tall and let out a shrill whistle. To his surprise, the silver mound moved. The skittish creature dove for cover, but not before his presence had been discovered. Tense seconds passed, but at last, the marmot poked his nose out once again. “What sort of strange creature is this?”
Stan Calderbank lay uncomfortable and miserable on the unforgiving rocks, staring at the place where the strange looking animal had just been. “Amazing that anything can live out here on this heap of rubble!” He thought. Stan’s parched lips baked in the heat of the sun. His broken leg throbbed unrelentingly. The less he moved, the better it was, but occasionally, the big man just had to move a little. And then there was the whole breathing thing. Every inhalation caused his ribs to protest. The muscles throughout his entire body felt cramped up, bruised and strained. “Nurse?” He called out, breaking the stillness with his ironic request. “I need… more painkillers!” Only the carefree sounds of a distant, chirping bird answered. The big man closed his eyes and let out a shallow sigh. “I feel so alone.” The fact of the matter was; he was alone! For all Stan could tell, he might have been the only human inhabitant on a long forgotten planet. He scanned the tangle of boulders for any sign of Glen. The wiry Scotsman had been gone for several hours, but was still nowhere to be seen. “Steady Stan. Steady.”
The big man’s breaths were shallow and distressed. His ribs ached. He had been staring at the partly cloudy sky for hours and not even a jet trail had interrupted the blue and white jumble. “Where’s Glen!” he moaned aloud, thirst gnawing at him now.
Stan grabbed for the Mylar emergency blanket and pulled it over his face and upper body. In the sweltering shade he stared at his watch. Its face was scuffed from the fall, but it appeared to still be working. The analog hands indicated that it was well past noon. The big man slowly sighed. By now his three sons and five grandchildren would be just about to the base camp where his wife waited. His dear, faithful wife! He had been harsh with her for much too long and she had only loved him. “She is such a patient and a kind woman.” Stan shut his eyes and saw her face in memory. A hot tear trickled across his cheek and lodged in his ear. The big man opened his eyes and studied the distorted reflections in the crinkled Mylar. “Please, dear God, help me to live to make things right.”
Stan wiped his eyes and closed them again. “Today is the second day of our hike. Today our family is to arrive.” The big man easily pictured the scene that would soon take place in the distant base camp. Three vehicles and eleven members of his family would add much to the sound levels of their secluded camp at Midnight Lake. At their arrival, Alida would grin broadly. Her sweet face would radiate more pride than the sun itself. One-by-one, his dear wife would embrace their fine sons and their darling daughters-in-law. Their five lively grandchildren would spill from the cars to throng their beloved grandmother and hug her as one. Another unbidden tear rolled into the wrinkles at the corner of his eye. With a dirty finger, the big man carefully wiped it away. How he longed to be among his family; to hold each precious child once more; to hear the innocent and excited voices of each one of his grandchildren just one more time. “Will I ever have that privilege again?” A lump rose in his throat. Doubt stabbed at his heart. He shouldn’t lose hope, but hope was beyond his grasp. “Steady Stan! Steady!”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 8

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 8

Glen’s eyelids popped open and he drew in a sharp breath. “Was I asleep?” The small man looked upwards. The sun now hid behind a thick cloud. The air was still warm, but not as nice as it had been a second ago when the sun was pouring heat down upon him. Glen lifted his head from sagging against his pack and massaged his neck. “If I didn’t fall asleep then why is my neck so stiff?” Glen glared at his watch. “I can’t believe it!” He exclaimed aloud, furrowing his brow. Nearly forty-five minutes had passed! He shook the sleep from his stiff body and stretched. Oh, how he hurt! A wild yawn overtook his face followed by a hard glint in his eyes.
Immediately, Glen began emptying his pack. The freshly consumed calories and unplanned nap had powered the man up, but he had lost precious minutes of daylight. In no time at all, the dirt trail was littered with the pack’s colourful contents. Glen set about sorting. “I need to make the return trip to Stan’s broken body with as little weight as possible.”
Once he had finished the sorting of his own pack, he tackled Stan’s. The first aid kit was a no-brainer, but deciding what food to take and what food to leave behind was a tad bit more difficult. Stan’s pack, like his own, only contained one litre of water – and his litre was now gone. Stan’s hydration pack was only half full! Glen eyed the plastic pouch thoughtfully. “Obviously, I’ll have to hike back to Maple Creek to re-supply before crossing the rocks again.” The bruised Scotsman sighed in exasperation. Maple Creek was nearly a mile away! “Why is everything always so hard?”
With the sorting completed, Glen pulled on his leather gloves, snatched up the folding saw and crawled on all fours through the bushy undergrowth. A squirrel chattered wildly at the man, sounding a frenzied alarm. Big, black and bushy, the pesky bully was incessant! At length, the balding man paused and yanked his hat off, glaring angrily up into a nearby tree. “All right!” he yelled at the loudmouth. “Go away before I find something to throw at you!” The obnoxious squirrel paused and stared down at the unknown invader. Glen stared back. Finally, the squirrel turned tail and scampered off. The Scotsman shook his weary head, pulled on his sweat-soaked hat and crawled on.
A few minutes of searching yielded a suitable tree. Up came the saw, and Glen set to work. Kneeling carefully, the small man watched as the sharp, stainless steel blade gnawed its way through the thin trunk. He had felled several trees before and was careful to have an escape route planned. In his condition, Glen wouldn’t get very far away when the toppling part of the endeavour became inevitable. The tree he was cutting, however, was not large. Finally the Mountain Ash gave way. Like an enormous, three-and-a-half legged Dungeness crab, beached on a parched, alien shoreline, Glen clamoured through the sparse undergrowth. Crash! Behind him, gravity brought the strong and once-vertical sapling crashing to the ground.
The grinning Scotsman scuttled back to his project. As the minutes passed, the fallen tree began to take shape. Glen sat, his back against the nearest standing tree, working the green wood in his experienced, but scraped up hands. Using the saw blade and the honed blade of his Leatherman, Glen skilfully shaped a usable crutch out of the unwitting sapling. The green wood wouldn’t break as easily as deadfall and either way Mountain Ash was a strong wood. The determined Scotsman began to whistle to himself as he worked. “Life is about to get a whole lot better for me.”
With the makeshift crutch under his left arm, Glen’s speed of travel was exhilarating! Smiling at the success, he moved on to the next need; creating a splint for Stan’s broken femur. From his first aid training Glen knew that, ideally, he needed two straight, flat pieces of wood of unequal length. The shorter piece went on the inside of the leg, between the foot and crotch, while the longer one ran from the foot to just below the armpit. He eyed the trees that surrounded him. “Aside from locating suitable pieces of wood, I also need a way to comfortably tie the splints in six separate places.” An ironic smile passed across the determined man’s face. “Comfortable indeed!” As he continued his search for suitable wood his mind ran on high speed. “What can I use to tie the splints in place?”
It wasn’t long before Glen’s plans had morphed. Instead of two splints, he settled on using four thinner pieces of wood. Two rounds, laid side by side would better approximate a flat board. “Besides, one thicker chunk of round tree wood will be a lot less comfortable between Stan’s legs than two thinner ones.”
Soon the ground around Glen was littered with four additional fallen saplings. The sawing and cutting procedures went well. As the saw blade completed its final cut, Glen gazed down at the helpful tool and smiled slightly. “At least things could be worse!”A bizarre image suddenly flashed into his mind and the small man laughed out loud and shook his head. “At least I’m not some lame beaver trying to gnaw all these pieces to length!”
With the splints cut, and all the stubby knots smoothed off, Glen hobbled back to the packs, four tips of wood dragging through the dust behind him and one crutch tip at his side. He dropped the splints into the dirt, gathered up a length of coiled rope from Stan’s pack and headed off again.
In a matter of minutes, Glen located two additional trees and began the dangerous felling process again. In no time at all, two four-inch trunks were severed just above the ground level and resting safely on the undergrowth. Glen trimmed the branches and estimated fourteen feet. Cutting the trees to length while they lay in the horizontal position was much easier than making the felling cuts. With the first piece sawn to the right length, he dragged it beside the other fallen tree and cut a second length to match. In spite of the gravity of the situation, Glen grinned at his handiwork. “A perfect pair.” The small man scuttled back to the nearest tree and began to saw again. “All I need now is a couple of shorter lengths to use as cross pieces for the travois.”
Tiring minutes passed as the third and forth pieces fell from their mother trees. Shredded wood littered Glen’s pants and spiced the ground around him.
With the wood cut, the small man tossed the four pieces together and uncoiled the rope. With a practiced hand, the small man tied a bowline in one end and pulled the standing part through it to form a loose noose. He slipped the noose around the four logs and completed the constricting knot by adding a half hitch to lock the loop. Holding the free end of the rope, Glen gathered himself up from where he had been kneeling and leaned on his crutch for balance. He flipped the rope over his shoulder, coiled up the rest of it into his free hand and began to move. The travois parts slid easily behind him, bumping softly over the undulating floor of the alpine forest and leaving a strange looking track in the dirt. Soon an assembly of logs lay in the dirt beside the makeshift splints and backpacks.
Several seconds later, Glen held Stan’s empty hydration pack in one hand and wiped his moistened lips with the back of the other. His eyes swept the field of stones. Standing in the warm summer sun, Glen could see the brilliant glint of silver Mylar in the distance. Stan was there; waiting; suffering. The bruised hiker breathed in deeply and peered up at the hot sun. “You seem to be doing your job of providing daylight at a faster rate than I am doing my job of saving myself and my friend.” He muttered.
Fuelled by renewed determination, Glen knelt down. Gathering both hydration packs, the water purifying pump and a protein bar, Glen stuffed the four precious possessions into his empty backpack. Donning the light pack, he struggled to his feet, cradled his armpit in the crutch and was off.
The trail heading back towards the truck was a freshly paved freeway compared to the field of crumbling rocks he had recently crawled across! Compared to moving sluggishly on his hands and knees, his crutch was like a set of wings! While not yet able to move at a normal pace, the small man did cover the ground at a steady pace.
Below his sweeping gaze, yard after yard of dirt, littered with red and green pine needles, passed under his shuffling foot and knobby crutch tip. Glen’s hands hurt from their earlier chafing, but his gloves relieved some of the discomfort. Here and there, roots snaked across the trail’s surface. Glen had no difficulty stepping over them. His keen eyes scanned both the trail ahead and the terrain nearby. Thing were looking up but he still needed to be wary. “If there’s a bear in the area, it’ll help to know it before I stumble into its path.” Glen grimaced. “Or into its mouth!”
Just forty uneventful minutes later, Glen stood at the edge of Maple Creek. Massaging his left armpit, a triumphant grin adorned his dirty face. Only yesterday morning, the two men had refilled their water pouches in this very spot.
Glen shed the pack and set the crutch close by. He pulled the pump from its case and dropped to his knees. Glen scooted across the scrub grass and up to the loose dirt bank. After attaching the hoses, he opened his hydration pack. Holding his good leg out over the water, Glen dropped the pump’s intake into the lazy current and supported the hose on his outstretched foot. The discharge fit snugly into the top of the hydration pack. The tired hiker methodically pushed and pulled the pump’s plunger. It required long, slow strokes. The pump moved water at a snail's pace, but once the life-giving liquid had passed through the filter, it was free of any sediment and bacterial impurity. As the pouch filled, Glen’s mouth began to water in anticipation.
The creek gurgled gently past and the filtered water trickled quietly into the hydration pack, but Glen was still panting. The exertion of the hike had taken its toll on his bruised body. When the second flexible pouch was full, Glen removed the discharge line and guzzled greedily before topping it up again. “If Stan and I are going to survive the next twenty-four hours I need to maximize my own hydration levels while I have water to spare.” The capacity of their combined water pouches totalled only two litres, and Stan would require most of it. Glen shook his head. “I should have brought Stan’s pocket water bottle!” He lamented aloud. The bottle wasn’t especially big, but it would have added to their storage capacity. “Oh well.” The small man sighed and looked at the plump pouches. “I hope this is enough water to keep us alive.”
Glen stowed the cool pouches into his pack. The tired man mechanically moved back to the creek and rinsed the sweat and dust off his face and forehead. The water was cold, but the shock to his skin somehow gave Glen a bracing boost of confidence. “Ahhhhh!” He breathed with audible relief. “That feels much better!” He then rose to stand, his face still dripping fresh creek water. With his crutch tapping out a muted cadence in the powered dirt, the determined Scotsman took one last look at the precious water source, snatched up his backpack and left the creek behind him. “The faster I get Stan to this water source, the better our chances of survival!”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 7

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 7

Trepidation tugged at his heart. Ahead of him, Glen eyed the expansive field of jagged rocks. To walk the distance back to their waiting packs would require only ten minutes or so, but he could not walk. As the small man scuttled away from his makeshift sleeping area, he knew the trip was going to take much, much longer.
At first, Glen tried to walk using his two arms and keeping his one good leg nearly straight. The three legged crab-walk technique seemed to produce the fastest pace, but in under a minute, his quad muscle began to burn. He paused to rest and rethink. A glance back at Stan revealed that he had only travelled twenty yards! “Where’s my entourage of faithful porters and packhorses when I need them?”
Glen rose again, but this time he crawled on his hands and knees. “Ow” he muttered, a deep furrow dominating his shiny brow. If he’d been prone to profane language, now would be the time for it. Instead of swearing, however, Glen just gritted his teeth and lifted his black and blue ankle a little higher. Bumping it was painful. Putting weight on the damaged joint was out of the question. “At least the cut on my injured calf is on the back, and out of harm’s way.” He thought. “The only problem I have now is that my knees and hands are ill prepared for this rough rock!” Glen grimaced to himself. “The only problem indeed!”
An hour passed, as Stan Calderbank watched his friend crawl up and clamour over and skirt around the monotone of jagged obstacles. The majority of scattered rocks were less than football sized, but here and there, giant boulders broke the barren landscape. Several mighty, discarded chunks of shattered mountain jutted some fifteen or twenty feet into the sky! In spite of his pain and discomfort, however, Stan found the wiry man’s movements a bit entertaining. The farther away Glen got, the more he looked like a strange alien creature crawling over the surface of a lifeless planet. Humour tugged at the corners of Stan’s dry mouth. “At least I can smile about something!” He thought.
Stan laid his head back on the hard rock pillow. “For now, I’m alive.” Suddenly, a dark thought crossed his mind, but he resisted it. A wave of panic surged over him. “He’ll come back.” Stan told himself. “He will come back.” The big man had known Glen for nearly twenty years, and in all that time, Glen had been a hard worker; fearless and determined in everything he did. It appeared that Glen was taking his time to reach their packs, but Stan knew that Glen was doing his best. “Steady Stan!” The big man thought. “Glen will return soon with water and drugs!” Stan reached along his side, groping. In a moment, he was pouring the last drops from the water bottle into his parched mouth.
“Ow!” Glen panted in protest. It was the umpteenth time in the past hour and a half that he had re-hurt one of his knees. The ragged chunks of crumbled stone offered no mercy! The knees of his stretch denim jeans were shredded and stained with hints of blood. He had been crawling and crab-walking for far too long, but he was nearly there. The waxy green leaves, clinging to the low bushes growing along the sides of the approaching trail, were becoming clearer and clearer with each ragged breath. Glen had even caught a glimpse of his backpack a few minutes earlier.
Glen paused to refuel his oxygen starved brain. His chest heaved. Pressurized blood pounded in his temples. In the past ninety minutes, the hot summer sun had meticulously stripped away all pretence from the small man. “Come on Glen!” He panted, trying to rally. The weary hiker removed his hat and wiped at his brow and forehead. His thinning hair was plastered to his balding scalp. His hiking hat was wet with far too much of his precious internal moisture. His knees were scraped and throbbing. His jeans were torn up. His unprotected palms protested from the rough treatment they were receiving. The stubborn Scotsman stared down at his fingers and scowled. Several of the tips were bleeding. Tough leather gloves waited in his pack. “How I wish I had my gloves right now!”
Glen put hand to stone once more and scrambled on. Again, a flash of red caught his eye. “At last! Just a few more yards to go!”
Glen lurched onto the dusty wilderness trail, crawling now on relatively soft dirt. Then, several long minutes later, a smile crossed his parched lips as Glen McPherson collapsed beside his blood red backpack.
The flexible drinking straw, protruding from the top of his pack, lay undisturbed and waiting for him. Glen snatched it up and pried the protective cover off the mouthpiece. Sun warmed for several hours, the drinking tube was filled with hot water, but Glen didn’t care. He sucked hard on the mouthpiece. Obediently, the pure water slid into his sticky mouth, down his dry throat and into his empty stomach. “Aaaaaah!” He grinned, swallowing a second gulp. “Nothing could be better than this!” The grateful man exclaimed before sucking again on the thick straw.
The water from within the pack felt cold and wonderful in Glen’s stomach. He turned and unzipped a small pocket on the top of Stan’s backpack. This was the moment of truth! Their lives might depend on how the next few minutes played out. Glen withdrew a small waterproof container that protected two items. The small man opened the top and fished inside for Stan’s cellular phone. Flipping the lid open, he pressed the power button. “Now, all I have to do is to wait for it to locate a signal.”
Impatiently, as he watched for the phone to activate, Glen continued to catch his breath. The illuminated display flickered against the daylight. “Searching”, flashed on the tiny screen.
”Come on!” Glen encouraged. Trying to will the phone into action. The small man clamoured to a standing position and balanced on his good leg. He still couldn’t bear to put any weight on his left foot, but he gently rested it in the dirt to stabilize himself.
“Searching”, the phone continued to display.
“I hope my slightly increased elevation helps.”
Then, suddenly, the message on the small screen changed. Glen sighed in frustration. “No signal.”
Dejected, Glen sunk to his knees. “Oh God?” He prayed, “Please have mercy on us!” Until now, he had felt hope that the phone would get them a helicopter. “If we could just airlift Stan to a hospital!” A tear slid from the corner of Glen’s eye. “How can I save myself and my injured friend?”
Glen puzzled over the answer to his question. Kneeling in the dirt, he spent precious seconds thinking it through, but there seemed to be only one remaining scenario that could save them both. “If I hike directly to the truck to obtain assistance, Stan could very well die of dehydration before anyone can reach him.” The thought felt like a pool of black ink profaning a pure white sheet of paper. Glen shook his head. “And then if I do just go for help, there’s the little matter of limping alone for endless hours on a trail potentially prowled by Grizzlies!” Glen rolled off his knees and sat in the dirt. Absentmindedly, his hand reached to massage his throbbing ankle. “Considering my injuries, it might take me two days to reach the truck.” He drew in a long breath and blew it out through pursed lips. “If I cut poles to make a travois and take water back to Stan, it’ll take most of the remainder of the day. That’ll keep us both going, but by tomorrow, we’ll both need more water just to stay alive.” Him mind grappled with the problem some more. “Crossing the rock field is another matter of concern.” Glen rubbed at his battered knees. “My body isn’t designed to withstand the sort of abuse demanded by this disaster!”
Frustrated, Glen looked up at the sky. Several puffy clouds paraded slowly over Ravenscrag Mountain. “I could make it back to Big C today, but dragging him out would have to wait until tomorrow. By then, we’d be out of water again.” Glen continued to puzzle through the various possibilities. “If I get Stan to a water source and then leave him to go for help, the big man will be in grave danger of being attacked by a bear.” Glen grimaced. “The fact is, Stan is in less danger of being eaten if he remains where he is.” The bruised Scotsman rubbed his face. “Ok, I have to leave Stan where he is.” There was only one choice that made complete sense. A long sigh escaped his parched lips. “I have to take water to Stan and then drag his large body to the pickup truck.” Glen thought some more. “But I’m injured.” He reminded himself. “How can I do it?” He rolled back onto his bruised knees and prayed again, “Heavenly Father, please give me the strength to save both our lives.”
Glen opened his eyes and stared down at his scratched hands. In one he held the useless phone. Lying in the dirt beside him sat the waterproof pouch, still protecting the distant truck’s precious ignition key. Motionless, Glen might have been asleep, but the small man’s mind was still churning. “How can I drag Stan to the truck? Maybe I should go for help? No!” The small man answered his own question. “I have thought it out. I have to return to Stan.” Glen clenched his teeth together, flexing his jaw muscles and furrowing his brow. His eyes swept the field of boulders that lay between him and Stan. Slowly, his face relaxed and a distant look filled his eyes. Glen tilted his head a little to one side and gazed up at Ravenscrag’s rocky summit. A wry smile played at the corners of the small man’s dirty, unshaven face. Glen looked back in the direction of where his big friend lay helpless and awaiting his return. Tears welled up in Glen’s eyes and he nodded head slightly. “If it is our lot to die, I will not allow my friend to die alone!”
Famished, as well as thirsty, Glen unzipped a pouch near the top of his pack and fished inside. In seconds, the candy bar he found was consumed and he was looking for more. He crunched down some trail mix and drank more from his hydration pack.
As the minutes ticked slowly by, his stomach finally felt satisfied. Glen leaned up against the softness of his backpack and sighed. Like copious quantities of water from an agitated garden sprinkler, pain pulsed from his pummelled body. Glen’s frustrated mind tried unsuccessfully to force the aches from his limbs and torso. He desperately willed his wounds to slip silently away, but they would not. His ankle still throbbed. His palms still stung. His knees still felt battered. The back of his head still felt tender. His tailbone still ached. The small man shook his head and closed his eyes. “I feel like I’m in the ring with Bruce Lee, laying face down on the mat after having received the thrashing of my life!” In his mind, Glen could hear the referee counting to ten. “Maybe I am beaten? Maybe I cannot win this fight?” Glen blew out a long breath. “Isn’t it time for the bell to ring?” The question cried out, echoing down the corridors of his frazzled mind. “Can’t this bout be over already?” How he wished it could be, but the truth was painfully obvious. He was only at the end of round one! The referee continued the ten-count. Frenzied spectators cried out for him to quit but Glen could not. “I will not admit defeat just yet. I will not stop until I am no longer able to draw a breath!” Renewed resolve filled his mind. “My fight might seem pointless. The inevitability of death might loom ominously on my horizon, but I will not flinch!” In spite of the odds, in spite of his pain, in spite of it all, the determined Scot knew he would not cease struggling to keep himself and his friend alive. “This fight will only conclude when I say it’s finished!” He proclaimed aloud to the trees but concluded by muttering under his breath, ”I just hope my determination is enough!”
Painful minutes ticked by. Glen rested for as long as he dared. He knew that he couldn’t afford to fall asleep. “Too bad I can’t stay here all day.” He thought wearily, stirring and grimacing. Glen fished into his pack and located a tensor bandage and a pair of clean wool socks.
Shedding his left boot and the accompanying sweaty sock, Glen carefully wrapped his swollen ankle. The colour of the reddish bandage clashed with the deep shades of purple, black and blue that dominated his skin, but that mattered little to Glen. “I just hope it’s not broken.” He winced, securing the end of the wrap. Glen gingerly slid a clean sock over the bandage, followed by his boot. Pain shot through him like a wild fire. Finally, with gritted teeth and a throbbing heart, Glen finished re-lacing the stiff hiking boot. He lay back again and shut his eyes. His lungs were heaving, but his ankle was now stabilized. He raised the brim of his hat and stared upwards. Warm on his body, the sun shone brightly between two white, cotton candy clouds. It felt so good to rest! He closed his eyes once again and soaked in the sun.

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.”

A Red Carpet Welcome

It has been a very long time since I acknowledged my many readers from around this awesome world, so… Here is a list of all the countries (some with provinces listed) where you, the appreciated readers of my blog live. Thank you all for taking a few minutes from your busy lives and stopping by to visit me. I hope you enjoy the posts and stop by regularly. For those of you who don’t “follow” my blog, and are not sure how often to visit in order to see new content, I sometimes succeed in posting once a week. Now that I am publishing my fiction novel, In Ravenscrag’s Shadow, I am trying harder than ever to maintain a weekly post – and so far I’ve been successful. Enjoy…

Countries of the World:
Albania, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Chile, Colombia, Cote D'ivoire (Ivory Coast), Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic Of Iran, Israel, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines. Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Saint Vincent And The Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam, The Former Republic Of Yugoslav, Uruguay

Argentina: Distrito Federal, Buenos Aires,

Australia: Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia
Brazil: Minas Gerais, Rio De Janeiro, Rio Grande Do Sul, Parana, Pernambuco, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo,

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland And Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Northwest Territories,

Chile: Region Metropolitana,

Germany: Nordrhein-westfalen, Niedersachsen, Bayern, Baden-wurttemberg, Schleswig-holstein,

India: Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh,

Mexico: Veracruz-llave, Jalisco, Distrito Federal,

United Kingdom: Devon, England, Isle of Man, Scotland, Bath And North East Somerset, Southampton, Nottinghamshire, Liverpool, Kent, Glasgow City, Cumbria, South Lanarkshire,

United States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D. C., Wisconsin