Friday, September 16, 2011

The Crate - part 4 - the end

     Fidget stopped grasping at the strip of cloth and offered the narrow end of it to Cramp with his mouth and nodded for assistance. When Cramp drew it away Fidget said, "Oh, the crate? why? You think it will be the end of us?"
     Cramp looked over the ledge and squinted. "It's likely. I wouldn't ask, I mean under normal circumstances." They both hissed painfully from the humor of it, "But we're so close now, and I don't feel like we'll make it, not after that bear, not with this." Cramp toed the crate, "Look at us."
     "Foolish, I suppose. We should be near, wouldn't you say? Seems like maybe a few miles will bring us into contact."
     "I agree. Maybe hours. Unless...."
     "you'd figure we'd see planes, lights, something. We still have the flares..."
      "We do, but still," and they came back to the crate.
     Fidget limped up to the ledge, leaned against the crate and in doing upset a small tuck of stones beneath it. The stones clattered down the rocky cliff, echoed into an easy quiet. The crate shifted.
     "Okay then," said Fidget, mustering up something that looked like gladness. "Here it is, I was waiting until we were rescued, until we finished this, but since it might finish us first," Fidget fumbled with the latches, clubbed and clawed it a  bit. When he finally threw the lid open it flipped hard, and Cramp stared in wide eyed disbelief as Fidget said, "It's a present! A present for you! A welcome home gift! Can you believe it!" And fidget turned to the crate to stare with disbelief too as the crate rocked forward once and back, right off the cliff.
     "A what, did you say that was?"
     "A gift," said Fidget," leaning over the ledge for a look.
     The crate careened down the side of the cliff, they could hear it and the contents shattering into ever smaller pieces as it descended.
     "You had me help you carry a gift for me? Through this?" Cramp swept the air above and below him.
     "Of course," said Fidget plainly, "Who else would have helped me?"
     Cramp chuckled as he sucked at the tears in his lips. He edged his nose over the ledge. Darkness. Then he began to laugh. Fidget laughed a little too, still shaken from watching the crate vanish like that. But he laughed and tears welled up in his eyes, and when Cramp saw the tears he laughed more and made to slap his knee but couldn't due to the pain. And as they both laughed a terrifying sound rose up from beside them and grew to deafening in mere seconds, so much so that when the lights slashed flashing, radiant, arcs across the sky they found themselves in a tangle against the hard earth, both men having had the same irrational thought, which was: Bear with flashlight!  
     By the time they'd sent up he flare and the real rescue had begun, Fidget and Cramp had forgotten about the crate almost completely. It wasn't until later, once they were safe, when the rescue team had told them that the helicopter found them after the pilot spotted a firelight descending the dark mountainside.
      "You boys were lucky! A needle in a haystack! If old Doc hadn't been mak'in that pass on his midnight flight, you'da been finished! Nothin out there but dead 'n wanna'be dead!"
     Cramp looked at Fidget. "So, what was in that crate again?"
     Fidget pushed up he bandage over his eye a bit and scratched the sutures in his head. "Well, I was telling you, before all this... " he waved about a bit. "I guess it was a welcome home present, and as you know, we hadn't any candles, so I guess it was the flare... That was mostly a joke really... And well, now the rest if it, heavy as it was..."
     "Some Mighty present indeed!" interrupted the deputy sheriff, "you got a box full'a saved your life is what'cha got there! Box'O Save U Life indeed!"
     Fidget poked at the clean hospital linoleum with one bootied toe and thought of the others, the span of their battle, the losses. Cramp followed with his eyes and his heart and the moment passed.
     "Thats what it was," said Fidget, gently. That's what it was indeed."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Crate - part 3

     The fifth evening fell quietly and both men shared the feeling that the dawn would either make them survivors or the last victims of a long suffered catastrophe. Any observer of the pair, with knowledge of their circumstances, would suppose that a conversation was due; some planning, crisis management, tactical discourse, perhaps a final assessment of stock and strategy. But it wasn't until after a small tangle with a large bear much later that evening that Cramp found a moment to discuss the crate.
     The conversation took place as they stood against a stone ledge, teetering on a broad plateau, overlooking a subtle expanse of empty terrain below. Moonlit hues of iron-grey, plum, and blue emptiness painted their isolation in serene certainty. The sky above read black, ignoring the bright moon, with no lights above or below to signal civilization.
     While wiping his own thin blood from his forehead Cramp noted, "It had to be your right hand, huh? As if the bear knew... "
     Fidget looked at what remained of his right hand while attempting to grasp a remaining shred of his shirt to use as a bandage with his stump of a left hand. He said, "How it managed to maul the both of us at the same time is the most painful thing here. This is a bear with remarkable agility."
     "Speaking of agility," said Cramp, "I guess I have to ask again, only because I believe it may mean the difference between life and death: Why was it that we are carrying that crate?"
     They both looked at the crate glowing dimly on the stone ledge like a small warning.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Crate - part 2

          Somewhere beyond Skull Pass, but before Blind Drop, Cramp lost a toe. He didn't make much noise about it, and Fidget was grateful for that. It was shorn off in a rockslide, and considering how badly that might have turned out, a toe wasn't such a terrible loss. At least that's what Cramp told Fidget as that little piggy got seared shut with the red-hot side of a Butchers knife they'd been using as a machete since the plane went down.
    "I suppose I should have pulled the crate over instead of pushing it that way," say Fidget once Cramp stopped screaming from the cauterization.
    "Might of still slid," replied Cramp.
“...or I could have tried a lever, I don’t know.”
   The fact was that Fidget had taken his own share of minor beatings on he trip as well. He had torn one ear almost fully off, and he’d split the flesh and tore tendons between his index finger and his thumb on his left hand; both injuries occurred while hefting the crate from one spot to another.
    Cramp pointed weakly through the dark bramble. "Looks like Blind Drop up ahead there. After that, if we got it right, we're home free."
    "Fidget sat on the crate and held his chin up with one club of a bandaged hand and said, "Would have been nice... you know, for some of the others to have gotten off with us. Even just to see it happen."
    And in the darkness it looked like tears in his eyes to Cramp, but Cramp never saw tears leaking from Fidget, not once, not during the worst of it, the kind of worst that makes a maiming seem like a scratch.
    "The only reason we're here now is exactly cause there's no one left. Right? Dead and dying for how long? I don't remember..."
    "Don't want to," said Fidget. "don't ever want to."
   They risked their lives on blind drop, letting the crate down on a pulley they devised that used their own dead weight as a counterbalance. In their worst moment, dangling, sick with exhaustion from the effort, they'd both laughed into the force of the howling wind. death had them again, but there was no fear, no care, just being, just that and nothing more.