SAVAGE DAWN

Karen Black, a marathon runner and single mother, and her daughter, Roxy, set out on a camping weekend to Dease Lake Caves in Northern British Columbia, in the Canadian wilderness. They do not realize that nearby Mount Edziza is boiling and about to erupt.

Karen's ex-husband, her current romantic interest, and several strangers are also headed in the direction of Dease Lake. When the volcano erupts, they know they must reach the safety of the caves or perish.

Violent human conflicts, ecological disaster, and shifting alliances abound as the group struggles to survive under almost impossible circumstances. Not only has Edziza erupted, but so has a string of other volcanoes around the world, resulting in the worst volcanic winter the earth has ever seen.

Now the group's future rests in their own hands. They must discover what events have brought about the apocalypse. Because if they don't understand what's happened in the past, there will be no future.

Savage Dawn is a novel of high adventure, breathtaking survival and sizzling romance, set in the wilds of northern British Columbia, Canada.


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SAMPLE CHAPTER

SAVAGE DAWN

By Inge Moore

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Karen waited on a bench. The dark hall walls around her held the secret smells of school, musty hints of books and boots and raincoats. Then a bell pealed and the corridor was awash with running, laughing children. Karen couldn't hold back a smile as she waited for her daughter to emerge from the door marked, "Grade One." When Roxy appeared, Karen's heart clenched. Roxy's head was bowed, and tears were splashing from her dark eyes. Just behind and pushing her forward was her teacher.

"Mrs. Black," said the young woman, "I'd like a word with you."

Not again, Karen thought. Not today!

"What's the problem?" Karen asked, straining to keep the tremor from her voice.

As Mrs. Canton disclosed her latest grievance, her words pierced Karen like bullets: "behaviors … conduct … disturbing."

Karen answered each volley, "Yes, I see ... I'll talk to her … I'll try."

Roxy, now hiding behind Karen, clung to her thigh. Mrs. Canton didn't miss the gesture. "Look at her! Just look! That hiding is not normal for a child of her age. She is simply not normal!"

For Karen, this was the final straw.

"Roxy is not only normal, Mrs. Canton," Karen replied evenly, "she is about ten times as bright as you give her credit for. Maybe, if you tried really hard to devote yourself to teaching her instead of complaining about her, you'd see that!"

 

"Not normal," Karen muttered. Waves of heat rose from beneath the neckline of her shirt as she hurried Roxy out of the school into the early September drizzle. She stopped in the small playground, crouching to face her daughter. "Well, Roxy. What happened this time?"

Roxy's face was calm, her voice small. "Mrs. Canton says I can't read."

"But you read wonderfully!" Karen objected.

The child shook her head quickly, blurting, "No, I don't. She says I read bad. I can't read, I can't read, I--"

"Stop," Karen said firmly. She held Roxy‘s hands in hers until the child quieted. "Listen now," she continued. "You know the rules. No tearing up your work, no throwing things, no running away. And now, no reading words you made up yourself."

Roxy burst into sobs. Karen gathered her into her arms and crooned, "It'll be okay. Don't cry. It'll be all right." And they hugged, the rain spinning silver nets over each dark head.

 

Try as she might, Karen could not pin down the cause of Roxy's problems at school. Bobby, her first child, had no problems and Roxy was just as bright. Ray, of course, would blame the separation -- the trauma it was causing Roxy, the guilt and confusion. But that wasn't it. There was something else.

She kissed Roxy's soft cheek. "Look," she began, her tone light, "here's the deal. We forget about all of this for now. Monday you stay home with Maria while I talk to Dr. Wilson about another check-up and to your principal about changing classrooms.

"A new teacher?" Roxy asked, her voice bright with hope.

"I'll see what I can do. But you must promise to follow the rules this time. Promise?"

Roxy nodded solemnly.

"Good. Then we forget about this for the weekend and just concentrate on having fun, right?

"Right."

Ray had called off at the last minute -- just like him -- his weekend visit with Roxy. To ease the sting, Karen had quickly planned a camping trip.

They climbed into Karen's old blue Ford and drove home. Karen's heart caught as they passed the senior elementary school where Bobby would be going if he were still alive. Pain squeezed her chest like a vise.

She stopped the car on a street of drab houses, and backed into the drive of her small rental. The house wasn't much, but it was home. With her salary as an account clerk at the Telegraph Creek Review, she no longer had to depend on Ray for anything. Her only anxiety was that the divorce be finalized as soon as possible. But Ray haggled over every point in an obvious effort to slow things down.

In the bright yellow kitchen, Karen and Roxy were met by Maria, Karen's best friend and Roxy's baby-sitter. Maria and her children, Carl and Linda, were joining them on the weekend trip. Roxy ran to Maria, was caught up and hugged, then wriggled free. She bounced up and down on her toes, singing out, "You made walnut kuchen! Walnut kuchen!"

Karen watched her daughter with the woman who, in the last few months, had become her closest friend. The affection between the two was evident, yet Karen felt no jealousy. In fact, a smile crept into her eyes. She'd been more than fortunate to find Maria after Roxy's disastrous experience with her first baby-sitter. Maria was perfect for Roxy -- the very picture of motherly love. Even her face, with its small pointed chin and widow's peak, was heart-shaped -- a pale heart framed by thick red hair.

"Valnut kuchen, valnut kuchen," chanted Carl and Linda, in imitation of Roxy.

"Roxy," Karen said, "how did you know what Maria baked?" She needn't have asked: Roxy knew things, then couldn't explain how.

Roxy smiled. "I just knew it!"

"Well," said Karen, after a quick glance around the spotless kitchen. "It looks like you've been busy, Maria! Everything set to go?"

"Ready for take-off, Captain," Maria quipped.

Maria hauled out bags and boxes of food, toys, blankets and clothes while Karen hitched the boat trailer and stowed the camping gear. After a final tally to ensure they'd forgotten nothing, they were on their way.

 

As they drove past the town limits of Telegraph Creek, Maria handed out sandwiches, drinks, and squares of cake to everyone. Karen switched on the car radio. In the middle of a song, the music was interrupted by breaking news. "Since mid-morning," said a crisp male voice, "temperatures have risen at Mount Edziza, situated four hundred kilometers northwest of Prince Rupert in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. This evidence confirms earlier predictions that--"

Suddenly, Roxy howled. "Turn that off. Turn off the radio. Turn it off!"

What now! Karen thought, her heart racing as she clicked the switch. Roxy quieted the instant the radio shut off, leaving only the sharp sound of wind rushing into the cracks of the car windows.

Karen drove on. She tried to ignore the incident and think about the camping trip. Something about Roxy's tone though, nagged at her, reminding her.

Karen's thoughts plunged once again to that instant when Roxy howled, "Bobbeee!" The instant when Bobby fell from the back of the pick-up where Karen had warned him never to ride, as Ray turned sharply, hitting a bump, and Karen looked up through the living room window to see the truck with nothing in the back, yet somehow knowing that something should have been -- Bobby -- but he was under it. She knew that the instant was final. Bobby would never be back no matter what she did, or said, or promised, and no one could ever make that up to her.

The salty taste of blood jolted Karen out of the memory -- she'd bitten her lip. Wiping at the blood with the back of her hand she said, "One more outburst and we're going straight home, young lady."

 

***

 

But Roxy wasn’t planning any more outbursts; she was popping raisins into little Carl's bow-like lips.

Roxy knew her mother was mad. She'd been mad often since Bobby's accident. At first, she'd been mad only at Daddy. But now she was mad at Roxy too and that was doubly worse. Some grownups were always mad, like Mrs. Canton. Maria though, was never mad, so it felt good to be with her. Roxy felt free when she was with Maria, not like a trapped bird flapping up against a window, the way she felt in Mrs. Canton's class room and sometimes, even in her mother's house.

Carl squawked for another raisin. He was so sweet -- like a little chickadee. She popped the last raisin into his mouth, then started to read Carl and Linda a book. They squealed with delight at the scary parts of, Where the Wild Things Are, then settled to nap. Roxy watched the road curve on and on through the fields and trees, while in the background loomed the high, dark mountains.

Some of the fields they passed were brown and bare, others were dotted with men, trucks and tractors. The men caught Roxy's eye. She wondered if any of them had little girls like herself at home. Where are you now, Daddy? she wondered. I miss you and I wish you were here. She sighed.

Daddy couldn't take her this weekend because he was going fishing. When Roxy had asked to come he explained that he wasn't going alone and that it'd be no fun for her, "just a bunch of grownup stuff." But Roxy knew they'd be drinking beer and whiskey. She lowered her head. Daddy had been drinking when Bobby fell out of the truck. When Daddy was drinking he didn't know what was safe and what wasn't. What if he falls out of the boat and-- Roxy didn't want to think about it. If bad things had to happen, she didn't want to know. Just the same, she usually did. And she'd had a sick feeling today, all day.

This morning, when Mrs. Canton had asked her to read from her book: The red wagon. See John and Janet ride in the red wagon. It goes fast. Sally comes too with her dog, Spot. To ride in the red wagon, Roxy couldn't see the book properly. She got dizzy and the words danced all over the page. Roxy didn't want Mrs. Canton to be mad, so she'd guessed at the words.

She'd read instead: "The red fire. See John and Janet burn in the red fire. Flash, it goes flash. Livia Canton comes too with her boyfriend, Troy. To burn in the red fire."

 

Mrs. Canton turned red. Gripping Roxy's arm hard, she pulled her into the hall. "How did you know my first name!" she hissed, bending over her. "And how do you know Troy!" When Roxy couldn't answer, Mrs. Canton dragged her all the way down the hall to Mr. Daniel's office. Once inside, she loudly repeated what Roxy had read, only leaving out the part about Troy. Her voice shook as she finished. "This child is not right. She frightens me."

Mr. Daniel's fingers on the desk formed a steeple.

"I know something, Mr. Daniel," Roxy said.

He looked at her. "I'm sure you do, Roxy. What is it you know?"

"Not a church and not a steeple, only woods and Indian people. That's a poem," she replied solemnly, as if getting it right might somehow make up for her earlier mistake.

"That's right, Roxy. You're a very polite girl."

"When she wants to be," Mrs. Canton interjected.

Mr. Daniel continued, "You're also bright. I know you've had some problems with the rules here and you're now trying extra hard to follow them. Now tell me, why did you read the story that way? Why did you put in your own words?"

Roxy tried to explain how the words had danced and so she'd guessed. When she finished, Mr. Daniel came around his desk and stood behind her, placing the open book gently in her lap. "Try it again for me, please."

Roxy's heart was racing. She was afraid to look at the page, but when she did, the words weren't blurry anymore. She read them properly! She beamed.

 

***

 

Mr. Daniel sighed. He'd worked with children all of his life. Memories of various children flashed through his mind. He recalled one errant child who'd become a murderer, another who'd entered the ministry. Yet this child, Roxy Black, was like neither and none. And despite her behavior problems, he could sense a powerful goodness within her.

He glanced at Mrs. Canton, then over to Roxy. Tiny and dark she was, and very pretty. But she had a lot to deal with: the death of her brother, the break-up of her home.... He'd see about having her referred to a psychologist. If her mother agreed, it might just help.

Clearing his throat, Mr. Daniel spoke. "All right, Roxy. I believe it was an honest mistake. And you read it perfectly this time, didn't she Mrs. Canton? I think a trip to the doctor is all this little lady needs."

He smiled warmly as he opened the door, dismissing them, and watched them walk back to the classroom, Mrs. Canton's heels clicking like gunshots down the hollow halls.

 

***

 

The cool breeze that blew through the car's windows whipped Roxy's hair. She liked doctors, particularly Dr. Wilson. He spoke gently and seemed to really care about how she was feeling and about the things she told him. Roxy loved Dr. Wilson. In the back seat, Roxy began to sing, "Let me be a little meeker, with my brother who is weaker, let me think a little more of others, and a little less of...." Maria joined in. The car ride went on and on and Roxy was happy. Roxy had a secret.

 

***

 

The lack of traffic pleased Karen. It meant she didn't have to concentrate on her driving, gave her a breather. Her days were usually a dizzying muddle of tasks -- finish one, begin the next. This weekend would be a needed break. She'd gotten up at four and run twenty miles before breakfast, a hard twenty, so didn't feel guilty about taking off the weekend. At one time she wouldn't have taken off a single day. But marriage and children had changed that. She'd given up her goal of competing in the Olympic triathlon to move up here with Ray and have children. Over the years, Ray had become distant and increasingly disagreeable as drink began to take over of his life. But she'd had the children to make up for that. They were her life. And although she hated to admit it, with all his faults, she'd still cared for Ray. It wasn't until after Bobby's accident that her love for him died.

Now, she was training again, this time for the marathon, an event she could fit into her schedule. She planned to move south next year where the weather wouldn't interfere with her training. In a way, she hated to go. She loved the north: the deep-flowing Stikine, the blue ice of the glaciers, the hulking mountains. She knew that her leaving with Roxy would enrage Ray, but she'd be within her rights. It wasn't as if he was much of a father anymore anyway. He cancelled more than half of his scheduled visits and she hated seeing the Roxy's tears.

"How was your morning run?" asked Maria, breaking into Karen's thoughts.

"Great," said Karen.

Maria shook her head, "I don't know why you put yourself through that! Don't you ever think it's just too much?"

Karen was silent for a minute. "Maria, don't you ever feel ... a need to do something special, to be someone special, to be the best at something?" she ventured, trying to define what she herself felt, what drove her and made her Karen.

Maria smiled. "I am special. I'm special to the kids, including Roxy. To me, that's the most important thing a woman can be!"

"Yeah, I know," Karen said, reaching over to squeeze Maria's hand. Maria's attitude constantly amazed her -- there was no anger in her. In Karen's worst moments, when she'd lay awake hour after hour through the night, she felt anger was all she had left.

They hit a rough section of the road and Karen slowed the car. She took a quick look over her shoulder and saw Roxy was asleep. "Maria," she said. "Roxy's had more trouble at school." Her voice sounded strained, even to her own ears. "Her teacher said the principal thinks she should be seen by a psychologist."

"A psychologist?" Maria said with a frown.

"What do you think?" asked Karen.

"I think that would be okay, but...."

"But what?"

"But, if I were you, I wouldn't let it go any further."

"What do you mean, further?"

"I mean, don't let anyone talk you into sending her away. Roxy's your daughter. She belongs with you. Anyway, I'd miss her too much if she were gone."

Karen smiled. "Thanks, Maria," she said. For several minutes they drove in silence to the sound of stones pinging and clanging against the car's belly. Then Karen took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and asked, "Do you think Roxy's strange? Do you think she could be … disturbed? Tell me the truth, Maria."

Out of the corner of Karen's eye, she saw Maria turn to look at her, green eyes wide in surprise.

"I hope you don‘t mind if I tell you something," Maria said.

"Of course not," Karen replied. "I want your opinion."

"Where I come from, back home in Austria," Maria said slowly, "we believe in more things than you do here. We call someone like Roxy a hellseher -- one who sees clearly."

"And..." Karen prompted.

"And it's an accepted fact, not normal in the sense of ordinary, but like you were saying before, special. It's a gift."

The words, their plainness and the matter-of-fact way in which they'd been spoken, sent prickles dancing along Karen's spine.

Before them, the grey road twisted, disappearing into countless dark trees. There wasn't a sign of civilization anywhere, just the weed-edged road running on and on into nowhere, lulling her jagged nerves. Karen took a deep breath of the cool fresh air. It will all work out, she told herself, forcing her worries to the back of her mind, as though in preparation for a long run. Then a small smile crept onto her lips as she thought of David Wilson. Her heart gave a small twirl. She wondered, Will he come?

When they arrived at the Dease Lake Campsite, a yellow poster was plastered over the wooden camp ground sign. It read: "Campsite closed for the season." They drove another kilometer before reaching the boat ramp. Before she turned the car, Karen looked at the lake, overwhelmed as always at its clean beauty, the bold mirror of blue water against the haze of the far shore.

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