Ask Dr. Eldritch

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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
Ask Dr. Eldritch Thing My co-workers and I set off on a "Team Building" weekend, but now we're lost and being hunted by something awful. Two days ago, our company's home office staff helicoptered deep into wilderness for an overnight trip to inspire us to work together better. Immediately, things went wrong. Dirk, our guide (who said he was 23, but he looks as if he's still in high school), couldn't find our location on his map. Heavy overcast and dense fog kept us from getting a fix on direction, and even worse, his compass merely turned randomly. Dirk finally admitted we were lost.

Last night, Dirk went off to answer a "call of Nature," and we heard screams in the dark. We called, but he never came back. Some of the younger fellows ventured out to look for him, but they ran back a few minutes later saying they heard something large crashing in the underbrush and snarling. They were so worked up it took us a few minutes to realize that Nelson from Payroll was missing as well.

Since then, we wander aimlessly and bicker. Strange noises come from the woods around us, and we see flickers of movement. Edna from Human Resources can't go very fast with her trick knee, and many of us are not in the best of shape. Some of the younger people from Customer Service are threatening to strike off on their own. I don't know why they think they'd have more luck finding their way, as they seem useless with anything that doesn't involve an electronic interface. Still, we're out of food and dangerously low on water, so we must do SOMETHING.

Employee morale wasn't good before, but I can't imagine this will do anything but destroy it altogether. First, however, how can we safely make our way back to civilization?

-- A Voice In The Wilderness

Dear Voice,

Tempted as I am to ramble on about the parallels between your situation and the typical human experience during the Paleolithic era, I'm sure that's not what you want to dwell on right now. One of the primary comforts of civilization is the reduced risk of being eaten by wild animals. The downside is that when civilized people are confronted by that very situation, they are at a complete loss. Assuming that your nemesis is one or more hungry predators (and not something more sinister), I recommend the following course of action:

  1. Stop the bickering! Put someone in charge, let them make decisions, and everybody goes along. Consensus is lovely in a small organizational committee for a local flower show, but it doesn't work in life-or-death situations. There just isn't time for long discussions. A few people will still argue. They'll either whine the whole way home or get eaten; I'll let you judge which is worse.

  2. Travel by day, make camp before dark, and take shifts standing watch by night. It's not fun, but this is no longer a happy camping vacation in the woods.

  3. Build a big fire nightly. Light is your friend, and few creatures relish a poke with a burning stick.

  4. No matter what you hear, don't wander off into the darkness! Stay within the firelight. Also, civilized modesty doesn't encourage answering that "Call of Nature" in groups, but refer back to previous talking points about lack of predators. If someone would rather die than relieve themselves in the presence of others, well, that may be an option.

  5. Improvise weapons. I don't believe in leveling the playing field; I like it tilted as far in my favor as possible. Pocket knives and rocks may be tied to sturdy sticks to make spears and clubs. They're not as comforting as a high-velocity projectile weapon, but more effective than a stern memo or harsh language.

  6. You'll certainly be hungry, but worry more about water and shelter. If you're walking in a generally straight line, you should find a road or other sign of civilization within a few days, and most people can go for weeks without food. It's more important to be hydrated on the inside and dry on the outside.

  7. Don't split up! Any subset that separates from the main group will never be seen again. I'm sure they won't believe it could happen to THEM, but it will.

  8. And above all, REMAIN CALM! You'll undoubtedly lose a few to panic, hubris, or stupidity. Consider these "Acceptable Losses," as long as you're not one of them.
I understand that this is a terribly upsetting experience, and you're not likely to appreciate the symbolism in your situation: Wandering through unfamiliar territory, trying to have your needs met while avoiding being eaten. Isn't that a perfect metaphor for Life?

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-- Dr. Eldritch

(DISCLAIMER: Anyone intelligent enough to be reading this should understand 1) Satire, and 2) That following the advice given may result in physical, mental, or spiritual harm to beings living, dead, or undead. The author does not suggest that anyone other that the originator of any given letter follow his advice, and cannot be held liable if anyone else does.
If you need more, read this Advanced Disclaimer!) All content © 2006 Evan M. Nichols