Zero Node: Chapter 21: From Island to Unknown
by Jeff Rand
The chapter describes some of the challenges Ron Donohue faces as he emerges from hibernation in Ottawa, Ontario. True descriptions of geography are depicted as Ron travels through the province and crosses Lake Ontario into New York. One may note subtle changes in the spelling of some words from the British English form to that of the United States when Ron crosses the international border. Ron enters the town of Wilson, New York, where on a clear day one can see the CN Tower in Toronto across Lake Ontario.
The title of the chapter tells an interesting story that has nothing to do directly with Ron's attempt to return to the Detroit area and Winter Camp. However, it refers to his mode of travel on an iceboat. "Detroit News" or "DN" refers to a popular design for iceboats. This designation dates to 1937 when the newspaper sponsored a contest on Lake St. Clair to determine the best iceboat design. (Yes, there was ice on the Great Lakes.) Since then, many iceboats have "DN" emblazoned on their sails, as it is the most popular design. The International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association was formed in 1962.
January 26, 2020
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
Steve felt a sense of renewed faith as he departed from the captivity of the lighthouse. Perhaps his prayers had been answered, although he could not make sense of the "Infinite Wisdom." Was the Infinite Wisdom a person or something else? He would bide his time and wait for the answer. Momentarily he was followed by the others.
Wilbur stood before the group and extended his hand. He was young, perhaps in his twenties, but exuded a sense of confidence. He wore a red cap embossed with a yellow star inside a yellow circle. Appropriate to the climate of the equator, he was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. His hair was long and hung nearly to the shoulders of a muscular frame.
As Steve was about to speak, two others approached, coming around the lighthouse. They were over six feet tall, but of slight build. Both had blond hair and very light complexions, despite inhabiting an equatorial climate. The one on the left spoke with the voice of a child, "Hi. I'm Ron Olds, and my companion is Tom Wilder."
Ethan took the initiative and clasped Wilbur's hand. "Why did you keep us as prisoners and try to starve us?" he asked.
Wilbur responded, "You represented a threat and were slated for termination. You must know that you should be housed in a neural virtual reality center with your kind. You cannot be allowed to remain as a free roaming human."
"But you let us live and eventually brought us food."
"We are not killers, though you were days away from annihilation. An aircraft was on its way to this remote location. It was our encounter with Leu that forced us to take pity. Yet, we knew your remaining days were few. We expect the craft will be here soon to destroy the lighthouse and its inhabitants. However, you will not be in it. It is because of the intervention of the Infinite Wisdom, that you have been spared. Now, we must make haste."
"Who or what is the Infinite Wisdom?" interjected Steve.
Wilbur continued, "It is not for me to say. Perhaps you will be given the opportunity to learn more."
Keith joined the conversation, "Wilbur, what's to stop us from overpowering you and these two children?"
"I am not a child," said the one named Tom. "You should know that everything on this island will be obliterated."
"Then we will set sail on the Clearwater."
"I assure you that your boat has made its last voyage."
"Do you mean that you have destroyed it?" asked Keith.
"Not at all. Though we moved it, the aircraft will find it and eliminate it."
Michaela, Leu, Keith, Ethan, and Steve grabbed their makeshift packs and followed their former jailers to the western shore of the island. When they arrived at their embarkation point, they were not at all surprised to discover that the Clearwater was no longer present. They were led south towards the furthest extent of Howland Island. A small inflatable raft was beached on the rocky shore, guarded by two more individuals, who like Ron and Tom, appeared to be prepubescent youth. They, too, were tall and thin.
"Let me introduce Doug Sutton and Jeff Dryden," said Wilbur. "They will take us to our vessel. Because this small raft can't hold all of us, we will have to make multiple trips. Doug, will you take Michaela and Leu on the first trip?"
"I would prefer to go with my son," quipped Ethan. "And where are we going? I don't see a ship out there."
"The raft will return in a couple hours for you. I know you don't trust us. However, it should not surprise you that we, too, are untrusting. I believe everyone will be better behaved if we separate the adult males from their offspring for this short trip."
"How is that you know all about us?" asked Keith.
Wilbur responded, "Don't you think we observed you during your captivity? It became especially difficult when we realized you were slated for termination."
"And now you changed your minds?"
"It was never our decision. We are simply obedient to the Infinite Wisdom."
"Well, obedience is a point of the Scout Law," interjected Steve. "But so is trustworthy."
Jeff Dryden, who had kept his distance by the raft, felt obligated to respond, "It might surprise you that we know of Scouting and its values as a result of the Infinite Wisdom."
Dryden escorted Michaela and Leu to the raft, where he joined them. Sutton pushed the small raft off the rocks as he and Dryden paddled out to sea. The others sat patiently, watching the raft as it became lost in the waves. More than two hours had passed, as three worried men waited for its return. Finally, the raft returned with Doug Sutton as the sole occupant.
Sutton motioned to Ethan and Keith to join him in the raft. The pair got their feet wet as they waded in order to enter the raft. Tom stepped forward to push the raft from its rocky perch and became the second paddler. Once again sight of the raft and its occupants became lost in the waves as its distance grew from shore.
"I suppose the disappearance of the raft on the horizon proves we live inside a hollow sphere," Steve acknowledged, as to make a nonsensical statement to the strangers.
Wilbur responded, "I am not sure I know what you mean."
Suddenly, Ron Olds became more animated, "Steve, I have reason to believe it to be true. I just don't know how to escape."
Steve became perplexed but chose not to respond. Could this Olds character be familiar with Cyrus Teed and the religion he founded based upon a concave earth rather than a convex spheroid? Did he know of the Inner World Society, a well-kept Winter Camp secret?
Once again, the raft returned with a single occupant. This time Jeff Dryden fought the waves back to Howland Island.
"Steve, it is your turn," said Wilbur.
Steve entered the raft with Dryden and was soon joined by Wilbur and Ron. Although Ron was of slight build, Steve became nervous of him. There was something about him that created this uneasy feeling. Yet, Ron picked up the paddle and assisted Jeff as they propelled the raft out to sea.
"Can you tell me more of yourselves?" asked Steve, directing his question to Wilbur, who sat idly on the other side of the raft.
Wilbur, who had not been very informative, continued this practice, "There is not much I can say right now." Then he was silent.
"That says a lot," offered Steve, hoping to irritate Wilbur into a response.
Wilbur remained silent, as did the others. Little was spoken for the next hour, except the occasional command to veer left or right when encountering a wave. Then Jeff and Ron stopped paddling.
"We made it," said Jeff.
"Great," said Steve. "There is nothing here but open water. Is this where you plan to leave me to drown?"
Ron, who had not been eager to engage in further conversation with Steve, felt obliged to speak, "That is not what we had in mind. But I would be happy to grant your request. Should I knock you out first or just dump you in the ocean to experience more of a struggle before death?"
"Enough!" cried Wilbur. "We have to wait."
After some time, Steve grew impatient and started singing an old camp song, "Here we sit like birds in the wilderness." Ron growled. Then, after Steve repeated the lyrics twice, Jeff joined him for several more renditions. Steve paused and asked, "How is it that you know a camp song?"
"Be quiet," said Wilbur. "They're here."
Steve looked forward in the direction Wilbur was facing and thought he could see a few ripples, but nothing else. Then, to his surprise, he could see metal pipe rising out of the water. It was a railing that was followed by a small deck. "It's a submarine!" he shouted.