It was the sheer beauty of the dawn that nearly drove me to despair. I’d fallen asleep inside a cloud as it faded from dark to light grey. If the dawn had been the reverse of the dusk, I’d have been disappointed. Perhaps miserable, but nowhere near despair. The cloud layer had dropped below me during the night, and the rays of the rising sun skimmed across it like stones across a sheet of silvered water. It nearly broke my heart.
Montagnard was still out there somewhere and until I’d found him, alive or dead, despair was a luxury I would postpone. I laced my boots over my blisters, feeling the stiffness in my legs from yesterday’s marathon hike. It had taken me sixteen hours from the airstrip to the highest peak. I was feeling it.
Should I wait to see if the cloud would clear so I could scan the valleys for the wreck of Montagnard’s machine or the smoke from the fire he’d make of it? Should I start quartering the valleys now, only to watch the cloud lift above me in two hours?
The choice tore at me. If he was injured, a few hours might be critical. My decision was born not of calculation but of bodily desire. I wanted a cup of coffee from my pack, which was as good a reason as any to wait it out. It was the right choice. As I drained my tin cup, the cloud faded like the memories of a lost friend.
I saw the red flash of a broken wing on the shore of a lake Montagnard hadn’t quite reached. Perhaps four hours if I hurried. As the despair faded, it made space for the conviction I’d left it too late to save him.
It was a conviction I welcomed. Despair would bind me in lethargy. The conviction goaded me forward.