The sweat trickles down in streams, squeezed from my pores by a relentless sun bearing down from above like a hammer of light. Leaving the house without water now seemed like folly of the worst sort. A mistake that could get you killed… if your arm wasn’t already being ground into hamburger by a 40 ton boulder.
On my arm the rock, enormous and jagged, pins me down as easily as I once pinned my younger brother, Joe, during our frequent childhood wrestling matches. The memory, elastic and groping, touches off a different memory, of the verbal wrestling match we’d had not two weeks before.
“How strong is your will to survive?” Joe asked.
At the time, safe in the cave cool darkness of the bar I owned, the answer eluded me, but on the baking sand of the valley floor, the answer seemed a lot easier to realize.
If I can live through this, I can live through anything.
True enough, in the last two days I’d lived through much worse. At least emotionally and mentally, I was as prepared by recent events as one could ever be. Fratricide has that effect on you.
The weight of that particular burden seemed even heavier, but less a present concern than the boulder on my arm. Memories run up and down my conciousness like a tide. Something relevant, a story I heard about an American mountaineer who sawed off his own arm in an effort to survive chief among them.
If I had any doubt before, I was about to find out how strong my will to survive was. Nothing promotes self-actualization like a do or die situation. I wasn’t yet ready to give up the ghost and the time had come to see about getting myself free.
When I had awoken, confusion was the first thing I felt. Shortly thereafter, the realization that I was going to die forced me to take stock of my predicament. I had tried to move my arm, but shock had kept me from doing much more than sweating profusely. Now, a full hour later, I tentatively forced whatever muscles controlled the fingers of my trapped hand to move. At first, nothing but a tingling sensation returned after I prompted the synapses into action. A second, two, then three and I could feel my fingers somewhere a mile or two away, perhaps on an errand they had forgotten to tell me about.
The nerves were still in tact, although numbed by the pressure being applied. With an effort I twisted my body until I was on my side, using my free hand to dig into the sandy soil.