Zero Node
Chapter 13: "Author's Triskaidekaphobia"

by Jeff Rand

ATS Explained

The chapter continues to explain proposed emergency procedures for Winter Camp, some of which may be still practical. The title for Volume III of the emergency procedures "Project Orion" was used simply because the constellation was clearly visible when the chapter was written. The need for getting a selective lobotomy was explained to erase human memory to protect from a mind reading device.

Writing for this chapter occurred on March 24, 2001 and it offered a coded message to a couple celebrating their nuptials on that date.

The binary engravings on the case holding the emergency procedures give the precise coordinates of the Elkland Cemetery near Cass City, which actually holds the remains of an early Winter Camper and the first lodge chief of the former Indian Drums Lodge.

Jeff Rand
September 15, 2019

Need a refresher? Here's the After the Apocalypse chapter

Steve and Jeff remained on a southerly course and had been out of sight of land several days when they first sighted an island directly in their path. As they approached the island, they found it was protected by a rough shoreline and steep cliffs. The cliffs appeared to stretch to the horizon as they looked to the southwest. Looking to the northeast, the shoreline curved out of sight, making a determination impossible of the cliff height beyond their line of sight.

"How far do you think we have sailed?" asked Steve.

"By my calculations, at least 900 miles," Jeff responded. "That puts us at about 45 degrees north latitude. Perhaps we can find some supplies on this island and begin the real trip across the Pacific to North America."

The current was driving their small raft south towards the cliffs. However, after several days at sea, they had learned a few maneuvers and were able to change direction. It required some tacking but the zigzag path brought them around to the northern tip of the island. Here they found a landing that had suffered from years of human neglect but remained unscarred from the destructive activities of the NET.

On shore there was a small shack and a sign that read ?????? ???????. Jeff was surprised when Steve unearthed a book that he had salvaged in Magadan. The book was a Russian atlas and had a few items with English titles underneath. Steve found ?????? ??????? and its English translation "Ostrov Iturup." It was in the southern chain of islands in the Russian Pacific.

Noting their proximity to Japan, Jeff spoke, "I wonder if this is one of the disputed islands between Russia and Japan?"

"Perhaps," said Steve. "But I doubt that the NET or whoever or whatever controls it, will care."

Steve searched the shack near their landing and was pleased to find a few cans of food to replace the stock they had used during their initial voyage. Jeff replenished their water supply from a nearby waterfall, which were abundant on the north shore of the island.

The pair decided to investigate a bit further, planning to spend a night or two on the island. They followed a rutted roadway which led up the slope from the shore. As the path reached a plateau, they were pleased to find level ground. The forest was thick but thinned drastically after about a quarter mile. Here they observed the ruins of a house amidst the tree falls of a burned forest. The house had burned but the walls were still standing.

They threaded their way through the stumps and branches to get to the house. The front of the house had not burned completely, even having a front door intact. Finding it locked, Steve kicked hard to force their entry. The insides were a mess, as the fire had gutted most of the interior. The roof had caved-in, allowing the rainfall to have its way ruining the rest. Fortunately, the house had been built on a slab, which allowed Steve and Jeff to investigate without fear of falling through the floor. Realizing the house would not offer any shelter, they hoped to find some useful items for the rest of their journey.

In the back of the house they entered what they believed to be a bedroom. This was confirmed when they observed the rusted remains of bedsprings laying flat in the corner. The bedsprings were covered with debris, as Steve moved for a closer look. He lifted some debris to investigate. The remains of two human skeletons were lying across the springs. The larger had a pair of broken wire rim glasses hanging on the side of a skull, the top of which had been crushed with a charred beam. The smaller skeleton wore a necklace.

"It looks like the NET did not want anyone to be living outside the Neural Virtual Reality Centers," remarked Jeff, as if this was to be expected.

. . .

The horrors in house made the stay on the island a brief one for the travelers, as they set sail early the next morning. The weather held for the first two days but was followed by three days of rain. The pair hunkered down during the storms believing that the worst of the journey was behind them. Clouds remained for two more days forcing Jeff to postpone his readings in measuring solar angles.

Once the sun returned Jeff was able to take a measurement of the its angle to determine their approximate longitude and latitude. He was pleased to note that they had travelled 1,500 miles in just nine days. The prevailing winds and current were taking them to America, but they had travelled further south than expected. It was becoming more difficult to take readings because the deck of the raft was rarely level in the increasing swells.

On the tenth day Jeff fell ill once again and complained of an earache. Steve, too, did not feel right in the head.

Steve looked the west and could see a quickly darkening sky. "I think we have a storm brewing," he said.

Jeff responded, "It might be typhoon! That is why we are sensing drastic changes in air pressure."

"Isn't it too early in the season for that?" asked Steve.

"I don't know the season for typhoons, but it may be different in the Eastern Hemisphere from what we know in West for the storms we call hurricanes. We better secure everything," said Jeff.

As the storm approached, everything was tied down. Jeff lowered the sail and wrapped himself to the rigging. Steve moved to center. Both had grabbed emergency packs, holding them at all costs.

A few hours latter the sea grew rough and the small raft rocked significantly at 45-degree angles. Steve found a way to anchor himself to the deck. Jeff remained attached to the rigging. After two hours of constant rocking, the winds increased, and the rain started. Steve could hear the wind howling and the responses from the raft; yet it remained intact. Up and down the raft swayed as the storm intensified. Steve shouted to Jeff, but it was unheard.

Wind speeds were beyond comprehension, while Steve and Jeff clung to the raft. Any contact with the rain was painful as it made a horizontal approach. The small shelter at the center of the raft was the first to go, along with the chests of supplies. The raft rocked to face the full brunt of the wind as these objects were blown out to sea. Two waves later, the raft nearly flipped. Miraculously it righted itself only lose the sail and its quadrupod.

Steve dared to look into the storm as the pelting rain stung his face. He believed that Jeff still held to the deck near the front of the raft. All else was gone - shelter, water, food, supplies, and sail. He was wrapped to the deck holding his emergency pack and hoped the same for Jeff.

The early stages of the typhoon continued for another hour with constant waves, wind and rain. For each minute that passed, Steve was sure it would be his last.

After three hours passed, Steve hoped that eye of the storm would bring some relief. However, the intensity of the storm only increased. After five torturous hours, the eye of the typhoon made its approach.

Never having the experience with a hurricane, as had his brother, Steve was not at all prepared for it, and it would be significantly different at sea. A wall of water flipped the raft and split it apart. Steve was now under water.

Now that he was in the eye of the storm, chaos reined. The eye of a typhoon at sea is nothing like the relative calm on land. Although the rain had stopped and the winds calmed, waves continued from all directions. It was impossible for a small vessel to endure such conditions.

Steve choked unable to breathe in the churning ocean. After all that had happened in the last few months, he did not expect a drowning death.

Only it was not yet to be. Another wave from the opposite direction flipped the remains of the raft to which he clung. He gasped again and was still alive. He fought the chaos for many more minutes, facing constant near drownings.

The storm continued and Steve rode through the backside of the typhoon on the remnant raft that barely kept him alive.

The storm cleared and daylight returned to the world. Steve was alone with just one third of the raft held up by two barrels. Save for the small emergency pack, everything else was gone. No other debris from the raft were around nor their supplies. Jeff was gone. Steve could only hope that Jeff had clung to another piece of raft and rode out the storm as had he. However, he doubted that two could be so lucky. Or was he really the lucky one?

Steve surveyed the contents of his emergency pack. He had one gallon of water, three cans of food, a small knife, the Russian Atlas and pen, and the hand crank generator and portable transmitter/receiver radio. He should expect a slow death at sea. There could be no rescue or nearby island.


Steve had never been a student of survival at sea. It was not a situation he ever expected; for he read that those who face such dilemmas do so because of the mistakes they've made and not because they are prepared. Yet he did recall such training at Winter Camp LII when the theme involved adventures at sea. The Winter Campers spared no expense to recreate a survival scenario on Beaver Lake. It took some engineering, but a patch of ice was melted on the lake to recreate the right conditions.

Steve thought more for a moment only to realize that Winter Camp 52 did not really happen. He was in the Yakutsk NVR center experiencing this fiction with his brothers. However, he did recall that having a calm mental attitude offered the best chance for his continued survival. He decided to make use of the Russian atlas and write a journal in the white space.

DAY 1: By my reckoning, it is July 14, 2031. I guess folks celebrated Independence Day in America this month but doubt there was anyone actually outside seeing fireworks. I guess I missed Canada's 164th birthday 13 days ago. Or have I crossed the dateline and it was 12 days ago. I ate a can of boiled potatoes today and drank about half a liter of water. Perhaps it will last 8 days. The sun came out and dried my clothes. It is warm enough, but I have no shelter from the sun or rain. Sea is calm and I think I am drifting east.

DAY 2: Saw a seagull but it did not come to my raft. The sun is starting to bother me and I drank a liter of water. I didn't eat any food. So I am hungry and thirsty. No sign of Jeff or anything else. I am utterly alone.

DAY 3: Had to open another can. It held pickled beets. I would enjoy eating some flesh, even raw. Perhaps I can fish but not sure how. I believe my raft is an attractor. Half my water is gone. It is still sunny and seas are calm. I cranked my generator and tried my radio which I had dried in sun yesterday. I heard static but no one responded to my "maydays." I am deceiving myself to think there is anyone else out there.

DAY 4: Saw a shark today. Would make a nice meal and I am sure he had the same thoughts about me. I decided not to eat today but now have just one liter of water. Tried the radio again with no luck.

DAY 5: Decided to open the last can of food. It held pears which I devoured. Wish it was a #10 can and I could have eaten the whole thing. Drank the pear juice instead of water. I am getting weaker and sunburned. No sign of Jeff. I mourn his loss.

DAY 6: Drank the last of the water. Getting weaker. It was cloudy most of the day but no rain. Nothing on the radio.

DAY 7: It rained most of the day and I was able the collect some in the water jug. I cut off the top. Now I am really weak, thirsty, hungry, wet, and cold. Otherwise have a positive attitude. Right?

DAY 8: Got some more rain and I am shivering. Getting weaker.

DAY 9: Not sure I will continue to write every day. I just want to lie down. I was about to give up when I noticed floating debris. I found our sail. Had to take a swim in chilly water to retrieve it. Not sure where I got the energy.

DAY 10: Found a way to fashion the sail to make a shelter with some cable tied around my barrels. It took all day but I was able to use my knife to split a piece off of a decking board. I now have a pole to hold my small shelter. Very thirsty. However, food is a luxury.

DAY 11: Another break. It is raining and I have shelter. I made two smaller poles and shaped the sail covered shelter to channel the water into the water jug. I drank four liters.

DAY 12: No rain today but I had collected to extra liters of rain yesterday. Still no food and nothing on the radio.

DAY 13: Need food.

DAY 14: Getting weak but got a bit of rain.

DAY 15: No food and rough seas.

DAY 16: Came across a floating carcass from a porpoise. Decided to pull it onto my small raft. It was rancid. No wonder the sharks didn't want it. Nevertheless I cut it into small strips to dry in the sun.

DAY 20: Have been able to get enough water but am weak from hunger.

DAY 25: I can't go on much longer. Tried some of my homemade jerky. I puked.

DAY 26: Ate a bunch of the jerky without getting sick.

DAY 30: I know I am at the end. Out of water and no sign of food. Used my last bit of strength to crank the radio. "Mayday its Winter Camp," I said. Thought I heard a response "Winter Camp is Alive." The mind will deceive you as you prepare to die. THE END.

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