An Altered State of
The idea for the story is based on a true story. See author notes at the end of the story for more info. Thanks to Judy for her beta skills. All remaining mistakes are mine. All mine (evil laugh). On with the story.
"What do you mean you're calling off the search?" the exhausted, blue-eyed man demanded. "He's still out there and he's hurt. How can you call off the search?"
Five days earlier
"Chief, this was a great idea. The scenery is spectacular, and the weather couldn't be any more wonderful," Jim enthused.
"And the meals are marvelous," Blair teased his friend. "The fire is fabulous, the tent terrific, the…," he trailed off with a laugh as his partner glared at him.
"Blair," Jim mock growled.
"Jim," Blair taunted back. "Chill, you are supposed to be on vacation. Enjoying the Earth. Reconnecting with relaxation. Communing with… hmmm, what works with that? The creek," he grinned. Communing with the creek."
Jim turned quickly and pounced on his roommate tackling him gently to the ground and then proceeding to tickle him into submission. "Enough, Einstein," he growled "Or else."
"Or else what?" Blair queried.
"Or else, I'll torment you with tickles." Jim smirked.
"Okay, okay… you win, big guy. No more word play. I'll just enjoy the last few days of our vacation. So, what's on the agenda for today? Fishing, hiking… a nice nap?"
"I want to see the view from that ridge sometime before we leave. How about, we go fishing now, relax around here for a while and go hiking after dinner when it's cooler?" Jim suggested.
"Sounds like a plan." Blair stated.
"Didn't turn out to be a very good plan, did it, Jim," Blair stated as he turned what was left of Jim's shirt into another bandage. "Come on, man. You can wake up at any time now. You're starting to scare me here. You're the medic, but even I know that prolonged unconsciousness after a head injury is a really bad sign.
It's been over three hours since you fell. And have I mentioned that I could have spent my whole life without seeing you fall fifteen feet straight down a cliff. You scared the shit out of me, man." Blair continued to talk to Jim as he tried to figure out what to do next. "You're the medic. The Army Ranger. Heck, you'd probably already have me strapped to a tree and down the mountain by now. I don't know what to do," Blair sighed feeling useless.
“Next time, I get to fall off the cliff and you get to rescue me. Don't you remember that part of our contract? You're the big he-man and I get to play the helpless, yet endearing sidekick. You're screwing up the plan. I don't know how to do this part. I don't know what to do. I'm scared…"
"JIM! Oh, sorry about the volume. Jim, can you hear me?" Blair asked in a soft, soothing voice."
"Blr," Jim mumbled.
"Yeah, Jim. It's Blair. Can you tell me where it hurts?"
"What happened? You fell off a cliff, big guy. Took about ten years off my life watching you do it. So don't let it happen again," Blair stated firmly.
"Where are we? We're about halfway down a ravine about two miles from the nearest trail head and close to four miles from our campsite."
"Bd Gys?" Jim asked.
"Um, Jim. There aren't any bad guys around," Blair said as he started to worry a bit more about his partner's head injury. At least I hope there aren't. That's the last thing we need.
"Hey, Jim. Don't go back to sleep just yet," he tried to think of something to help keep Jim alert. "I need your help."
"Hlp? Hrt!?" Jim slurred as he tried to get more upright.
"No, Jim. I'm fine. Calm down," Blair said as he restrained his partner. "I just need your advice. It's the middle of the night and I can't get you back up to the top by myself. I don't think you should be moving around much," Blair trailed off.
"Lv hr. Go hlp," Jim stated.
"I'm worried about leaving you here by yourself. You've been out of it for several hours," Blair said as he worried at his lip… and about the situation they'd gotten themselves into.
"B Fn. Go gt hlp."
"I don't know Jim. A head injury is nothing to mess around with. You need to stay awake… and I'm not sure I should leave you alone right now."
Jim struggled to be coherent enough to get his way. To keep Blair safe from harm. "No one cmming fr too lng. Neeed hlp sonr. B Fn. Wt here fr u."
Blair frowned in concern. "You'll wait right here. Promise?"
"Rt hr," he trailed off as he patted the ground.
"Damn, I don't like this, but I can't think of what else to do. Okay, Jim… we'll do it your way. Here's some water and another blanket. I'll be back with help just as soon as I can." With one last look at his injured partner, Blair made his way back up the mountain and started off toward the trailhead and the nearest source of help.
Jim watched his friend leave and when Blair moved out of sight, he switched over to hearing. He kept listening long past the time he could hear the muttering of his partner heading down the mountain. His head was pounding and his vision was alternating between double vision and fading out altogether.
He drifted off. Asleep, unconscious… some where between the two perhaps.
"What the hell! Gunfire?" Jim sprang up adrenaline surging through his body. A quick look around showed that he was alone. "What happened? Where is everyone? Where the hell am I?" He looked around at the tree-lined mountain side searching for clues. His head hurt and a quick touch to his scalp added to the sensation of pain. "Okay, not going to do that again, Captain. So, evaluate the current situation and then take appropriate action." He glanced around again. "Best case scenario would be that I was injured on some kind of night-time training maneuvers and they had to leave me to go get help. Worst case… Enemy lines. Damn, I better find a better place to hide and hope for reinforcements."
Jim bent over to grab the blanket and was almost overcome by dizziness. His feet started to bother him. The shoes were too tight. He managed to get them off without bending over and then forgot about them. "Much better. Now to find a good hiding place." Jim took off leaving his shoes, and the water bottle behind.
back," Blair called down from the top of the ravine. "I've brought some big beefy guys to
haul your lazy ass back up the mountain and to the nearest hospital." He
waited impatiently as one of the men from the Search and Rescue team helped him
into a harness and attached a belay rope.
"I've done this before you know.
Both ways… up and down."
The S&R team leader patted the anxious man on the shoulder. "Won't do him any good if you get hurt too."
"Finally," he muttered as he was deemed safe enough to start down the cliff. He got more and more worried as he neared the spot where he'd last seen his partner with out any sounds of acknowledgement, or movement… or anything. "Jim… buddy… I'm starting to get worried here…" Blair trailed off when he saw Jim's shoes and the water bottle, but no sign of Jim anywhere.
"But he was right there when I left him. This is the right place, I left that marker so I could make sure. Where is he?" Blair was getting more and more agitated. The S&R guys weren't having any luck calming him down until…
"SANDBURG!" Simon Banks bellowed from the top of the ravine.
"Simon?" Blair asked.
"CALM DOWN AND BREATHE. I’M COMING DOWN RIGHT NOW," Simon said and put words into action as he belayed down the rocks. "Now, what's going on?" he demanded as soon as he finished his descent.
"Jim's missing," Blair said. "I left him. I had to go get help. He said he'd wait for me, but he's gone."
The commander of the Search and Rescue team reluctantly repeated his last statement. "We're calling off the search. Mr. Sandburg, it's been five days and despite the best efforts of you, the other police officers, our S&R team and dogs, and the hundreds of volunteers combing the area, all we've found are several poisonous snakes and a possible mountain lion sighting."
"A mountain lion! Where? Who saw it? Are they still here?" Blair asked as he looked around at the group of tired, disheveled people.
One week later
"…and so you owe your successful rescue to a fifteen year old Native American girl who wants to be an Army Ranger when she grows up," Blair finished the story, and the last bite of Jell-O that Jim had just refused to finish. "Hiding out in a mountain lion lair… how fitting."
"The doctors all say you were very lucky to have survived that long with the head injury, not to mention the other broken bones. I told them you were hard headed and that I knew…" Blair trailed off and cleared his throat. "I knew you would make it."
"Shh, don't try to talk. You need to rest and regain your strength. Now that the swelling is down, you should start getting better quickly. In the mean time, you'll just have to let me do most of the talking," Blair said with a reassuring grin. "Not like that will be anything different, right?"
"Yes, Jim. You are safe now."
"I'm safe too. You need to get some more rest, my friend. I'll be right here when you wake up," Blair stated.
Jim drifted off to a more natural sleep and Blair settled back into 'his' chair to resume watching over his partner and friend. And now that we are back together, all is right with my universe once more.
Author Notes: Ripped from the headlines… now I sound like 'Law and Order' … can you hear the dramatic music in the background? Anyway, I came across this story in the Sunday (Sept 3) Denver Post. It reached out, grabbed me by the heart, and wouldn't let go. I took the brief synopsis I read and distorted it completely from real life. I hope that if anyone who knows Mr. Hering reads this, they won't be offended. After reading the story, I started thinking about what Jim and Blair would do in a similar situation.
And today, Sept 8, after I finished writing this story, I went to check again and see if they had found him yet. It now appears that either he or Powers, his friend, set it all up as a way for Hering to avoid reporting back to duty or some sort of foul play was committed. The police now doubt Powers' statement and the article went on to describe the man as a very polished liar. Lance Hering, the real missing person, is still missing. Here's the first link for anyone who's interested. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_4284040
Feedback is greatly appreciated. The muse gets very hungry. Cheryl