The Cistern – Survival Reading from The Cave and the Sea


Sometimes the best way to convey a skill or a truth is to make it part of a larger narrative. The Cave and The Sea, a Novel, began as a short story of survival (originally called The Medicine Symbol) and later grew to contain almost 80,000 words and countless survival principles. Please enjoy these initial chapters as they introduce the story’s primary character and the myriad survival challenges he faces.


The sound of rain on the battlefield above him broke his delirium. Instinctively he drew water from the basin below with his right hand. His dominant left hand and most of his left side ached with a dullness that concerned him, if only he had more strength to investigate. Sips of water were helping to relieve the headache though, and his first lucid thoughts were of his predicament and how he came to this dark place.

For some time he had observed that the tribal superstitions of his youth vanished on the battlefield. He prayed to the gods like everyone else did but noted that war had removed many tenets of his belief system, leaving only concepts that were real and binding at the moment. He had started to pray when cornered by two opponents, and the ensuing confrontation brought moments of thoughtless action and reaction.

His father had taught him at an early age that, when faced with multiple opponents, it is best to keep them in the same plane and never become surrounded. He remembered circling the two men so that the smaller of the duo was in the center of the fight, and he had easily dispatched the diminutive man with a basic swing of his maqua sword to the mid-section.

The larger enemy would not be neutralized so easily. In fact, it was only Fate that had saved him from this superior foe, and the mystery teased his ability to reason as he reclined on the cool, stone floor. He reached into the darkness and with relief gripped the hilt of his sword, with his nickname “COE” etched in glyphs on the handle.

Enraged at the loss of his companion, the big man had retaliated with a flurry of strikes, using his stature and bodyweight to gain the high ground and force a down-hill retreat. The brute delivered a blow to the head that had blurred Coe’s vision, and neither man saw the hidden depression until both were stumbling into it. The giant over-reached, and his loss of balance allowed for an exchange of blows. Coe had felt an intense burn in his left arm and ribcage as he delivered a death strike to the big man’s neck. He remembered falling down some sort of stone staircase, and then nothing else but darkness.

Perhaps the gods had heard him after all? He slept again without giving more thought to his location or what to do next.

Next week’s reading: Chapter 2 THE EASTERN PRAIRIE.

About the author:

“Heatherly makes you feel like you could survive on your own (for at least a little while) after reading this book (The Cave and The Sea)—not that I’m going to give it a try any time soon.” –Forever Young Adult

The Hunger Games smash hit book and movie got my daughter and one of her friends interested in archery. Maybe John A. Heatherly’s novel The Cave and The Sea will do the same for teenagers regarding learning primitive survival skills…” –

“I don’t throw the term ‘life changing’ around lightly but this book (The Survival Template) has very likely altered the way I think, the way I plan and the way I see my future as I’ve laid it out.” –