Davis L. Bigelow
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!”