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Worst Nightmare: Cold

A hair-raising tale of wilderness terror that will haunt your backcountry dreams
Oct12_KayakPaddle_445x260Kayak Paddle

Derek eased his legs into the cockpit until his soles felt the firmness of the kayak’s foot braces. Somewhere out there, five miles across the Strait, was Blakely Island.

“Who do you know on Blakely?” he asked.

“Gordon Manicker,” said MK. “Starbucks CFO.” Unserved by ferries, Blakely was an isolated island of compounds. “Said we were welcome to go hiking. Stop for coffee. Gord’s got his own Clover press.”

Derek checked the map. “Northwest heading should get us there,” he said, pointing into the curtain of drizzle. MK stroked past him.

A week ago when MK suggested a New Year’s trip, half the SONEN staff signed up. A winter paddle-and-hike in the San Juans with the boss and his new boat. Bracing! Fun! Kind of not optional! So Derek borrowed his neighbor’s kayak. And then it rained. Which it did every day in winter. But apparently the drops turned his co-workers to jelly. In the end it was just Derek and the man.

He doubted MK even knew his name. The way he used phrases that elided the proper noun. Everybody knew MK’s name, of course. Michael Kee, director of the SONEN Biomedical Institute, formerly of Goldman Sachs. The Vanity Fair piece hinted at some dark incident behind the pretentious initialism, but Derek just assumed the guy didn’t like the Life cereal sound of “Mike Kee.”

MK broke the ice. “So you keep our checkbook balanced, eh?”

“Yeah.” Pause. “Derek.” Nip the bud.

“Of course,” said MK. Smiled. “So how we doing, Derek?”

“Good,” he said. “A stray thread here and there. Probably nothing. An errant zero. Happens all the time.”

MK let it drop. He wasn’t a numbers guy. He was big picture, famously so.

They paddled on. Drizzle turned to hard rain. As they moved into the Strait, Derek sensed a change in the water. It grew thick and pushy. Half an hour in, all sign of land disappeared. They had kayaked into a ground cloud.

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