19 Salvation!

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Stephen Whiteside
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19 Salvation!

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:41 am

19 Salvation!

© Stephen Whiteside 02.01.2012

Hubert Wexler had never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth. When the insulating clothing and wet weather gear had been laid out for them on the space-ship, he had grabbed a couple of extra sets and stuffed them in his back pack. They were amazingly light and thin. Hocus and Pocus were about to become the beneficiaries of Hocus’ generosity - although it is always much easier, of course, to be generous with other people’s property!

There wasn’t time for niceties. Without bothering to consult any of his fellow tourists, Wexler began to pick his way down to the river. It wasn’t easy. Directly in front of him, the land dropped away vertically. Indeed, it was more than vertical - they were on a slight over hang. On the upstream side of their little promontory the cliff continued, as the stream had gouged out the bank. On the downstream side, however, the cliff quickly gave way to steep hill-side. It was very steep, but there was the occasional hardy plant embedded between rocks to provide a foot or hand hold. Looking back on it all afterwards, Wexler was amazed that he had made it down safely. Without the desperate drive to save a life - and ultimately, of course, to save his own, because he knew his own chance of survival without the guidance of Pocus was extremely remote - he never even would have contemplated a journey such as this.

Hocus and Pocus were in a bad way when he reached them. By a sheer stroke of luck, they had come to the near bank. They had managed to strip off their soaking, freezing clothing, and were standing naked, clinging together to try to minimise heat loss. They were shivering violently, and both quite unable to talk. Another few minutes, and it probably would have been too late.

Wexler threw down his back pack and drew forth the dry suits. Neither Hocus nor Pocus were big men, and the suits were a little large. They struggled to co-ordinate their movements, however, and the simple act of dressing them both proved quite a challenge. Eventually, it was done. Hocus and Pocus both collapsed with exhaustion on the ground. There was no external heat source available. Each was going to have to wait for the slow process of their own considerably diminished body heat re-heating themselves and their suits. Wexler moved between the two, offering words of encouragement. There was nothing more he could do now, however. It was just a matter of time.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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