You awake to a cool breeze running through your hair and the sounds of rushing waters coming from a small river not a stone’s throw away from you. As you groggily lift your head from the earth that had been your pillow, you find that the sounds of nature have replaced the sterile silence of the apartment in which you’d fallen asleep.
It begins to dawn on you that this is not a dream… and you are no longer in the underwear you wore to bed the night before. You are dressed in a deerskin tunic and drawstring pants, both of which seem to be fastened with sinews made into strings.
You try everything from pinching yourself, to running quickly in a circle, to dunking your head in the nearby river, to shouting “HELP!” at the top of your lungs – before finally convincing yourself that this is real. All that you manage to accomplish is giving yourself a small bruise, tiring yourself out, getting your head (and torso) wet, and scaring off a nest of nearby pheasants.
After settling down for a moment and listening to see if anyone would respond to your cry, you begin to suspect that you may be quite alone in this part of the world. You suppose it could be worse – it’s a nice, warm climate (at least for now), whoever (obviously) drugged and kidnapped you at least had the common courtesy of getting you dressed before dumping you in the middle of nowhere, and it seems to be the morning of a fairly decent-looking day (crystal-blue skies with a few scattered puffy white clouds) in a relatively paradise-like environment.
You quickly decide to not let your imagination run away with you, as the fact of the matter is that you are stranded in an unfamiliar area. Your first things to acquire are food, water, and shelter. The water seems well-supplied by the river, but it would be prudent to find the source of the water to get it in its purest state (you know, before bears have peed in it upstream or something). Food would normally be difficult to come by, but you notice a small grove of red apple trees near the river upstream a bit on the opposite shore. The river itself is only about ten feet wide at this point, and the current is slow enough that swimming across shouldn’t be a problem.
Shelter would likely be the biggest concern right now, as you’ve not been given an ax (or anything whatsoever save the clothes on your back), and you have only a cursory knowledge of lean-to construction. You figure that maybe your surroundings might provide a shelter that need not be built, but there’s a pretty slim chance of that. You do a quick 360 to see what lands surround you.
Assuming that the sun has risen a couple of hours ago (and not that it is beginning to set), you quickly establish compass directions. To the east is all downhill with the river – the forest ends and rolling hills and grassy plains extend to the horizon. It’s pretty open country, and considering that man isn’t the only predatory animal in existence, you wager that that direction would be a bad idea at this stage of your survival plan. The height of the forest in your immediate area obscures the view of every other cardinal direction except for the rocky mountain peak that rises above the forest to the southwest. The peak itself is pretty bare (with no caves in sight, unfortunately for your sheltering needs), but is wooded about halfway up… meaning that it would be a helpful promontory from which to scout the surrounding countryside without revealing your location to any hostile animals (or humans) that may be doing scouting of their own.
You decide that the hike up the mountain would be a good idea – tomorrow. For now, your stomach’s rumbling drives you to swim across the river, which lands you only a few feet further from the apple trees than before, and you easily walk back to them. You feast on a couple of delicious red apples and then gather about half a peck of them for later.
A few hours later, you’ve not only found a couple of thick trees growing closely together, but have gathered enough long branches, sticks, leaves, and debris to make a decent lean-to. The only wildlife you encountered along the way were a couple of timid deer (which explains your deerskin outfit) and the random twitters and songs of birds that always seem to be just beyond your line of sight.
After constructing your shelter and a rudimentary “bed” for the night, you use your remaining daylight scouting your general area to make sure there are no nests of snakes or dens of bears, as well as collecting stones from the river and wood from the forest for fire pits. You remember that a triangle of three fires is recognized as a sign of distress (even though you have yet to hear any unnatural noises like airplane engines or helicopter blades nearby), so you first set about making three such fire pits around your lean-to (that you also figure will keep out predatory – yet primitively fearful – wildlife), and then begin the arduous task of making your first bit of fire.
It seems like forever before the stick you vigorously twist into your small log begins to make the surrounding dry grasses smoke with heat, but you know the fire isn’t far off at that point, so you surround them further with tiny dry sticks and redouble your efforts. Within an hour, you’ve got three nice fires surrounding you, safely nestled inside their rings of dampened river stones. The sun begins to set to the right of the mountain peak, and it drops below the treeline long before the sky grows truly dark.
You lean back against one of the trees, gazing up at the clearest, most star-filled night sky that you’ve ever seen in your life… and realize that any light-polluting cities must be miles and miles away. Somehow, you don’t care. You find yourself content to take lazy bites of one of your last apples and tend to your warm fires that dance for you in the gentle breeze. When you finally decide to bed down for the night, you throw a final, large log on each fire, and crawl into your lean-to. The bed of twigs and leaves and moss – though mildly uncomfortable – is the most satisfying thing you’ve ever experienced.