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Authors: Angela J. Townsend

Amarok

BOOK: Amarok
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Copyright © 2012 by Angela J. Townsend Sale of the paperback edition of this book without its cover is unauthorized.

Spencer Hill Press

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

Contact: Spencer Hill Press, PO Box 247, Contoocook, NH 03229, USA Please visit our website at
www.spencerhillpress.com

First Edition November 2012.

Townsend, Angela J., 1969–
Amarok: a novel / by Angela J. Townsend –1st edition
p. cm.
Summary:
A teenage girl in Alaska is abducted into the wilderness, where her only ally is a wolf that is more than what it seems.

Cover design by Carol D. Green.
Interior graphics by Angela J. Townsend.
Interior layout by Kate Kaynak.

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this fiction:
Dave and Busters, Disneyland, Earl Gray, iPod, Jell-O, Mercedes, Girl Scouts of America ISBN 978-1-937053-22-2 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-937053-23-9 (e-book) Printed in the United States of America

Amarok

Angela J. Townsend

S
PENCER
H
ILL
P
RESS

To my family and to Milton Datsopoulos and Diane Larsen

You are the finest people I know

1

Friday, 3:30 a.m.
Attla, Alaska

Emma lifted the car keys from the hook on the wall, praying they wouldn’t jingle as she crept across the kitchen floor. A floorboard creaked. She froze, peering down the dark hallway, her throat tight. Bedsprings squeaked, but her drunken stepfather didn’t appear. Emma slipped on her parka, careful to slide the sleeves over the bruises on her arms, defensive wounds from Stan’s fists. Most of the time her stepfather was careful not to leave any evidence of his abuse, but last night his cunning mind, the one he used in the courtroom as a prosecuting attorney, swam with booze. Emma searched for her snow boots, her gaze sweeping the floor.
Where were they?
A cough resonated from the master bedroom. Only a cough, but enough to send her heart racing.

Emma spotted her tennis shoes, shoved her feet into them, and bolted for the door. The knob rattled in her hand; she held her breath as she thrust the door open. Closing it quickly, Emma cringed, knowing it would creak, or bang, or make some kind of noise to give her away. But it shut without a sound. The porch light cut an icy path into the dark. Heavy snowflakes spiraled through the bitter cold air, melting on her face like tears.

Unsteady fingers jammed the key into the ignition of the Mercedes. It rumbled to life. Frozen leather seats crackled under her slight weight. She glanced at the kitchen door. Still closed, thank God. She flipped the defroster on high and backed out of the driveway. Catching a glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror, she hated what she saw.

How do you spell loser? E-M-M-A. Tears burned her eyes.

Soon, she’d be far away from snow and ice. Back to California, where they’d lived before her mother married Stan and they’d moved to Alaska. More tears. Happy memories hurled like knives, recalling the precious time before she’d caused her mother’s death. Emma slammed the car into drive and accelerated down the narrow, twisty mountain road.

Snow mixed with rain fell in an endless river of white. She leaned over the steering wheel, straining to see beyond the hood ornament. Her wipers, on high speed, scraped violently over chunks of slush freezing on the windshield. Icy pellets hammered the roof of the car. The headlights reflected a swirling wall of mist.

Tension stiffened her neck. Emma swallowed hard, rotating her head for relief. The road curved into a glaring sheet of ice. The car fishtailed. Headlights swayed. She gripped the wheel in terror, turned into the skid, and regained control. Breathing a sigh of relief, Emma continued her descent, fingers tight on the wheel.

Her mouth suddenly went dry. Her purse—where was her purse? She shot a look into the passenger seat, then back at the road, and screamed.

2

Friday 3:45 a.m
.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had been alive—really alive. He faintly remembered a family—his mother, a raven-haired native, and his father, a French Canadian trapper. But that was a long time ago, a very long time. He’d stopped counting the years. Time didn’t exist, only survival in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, with its sun-drenched summer nights and blinding winter snow.

As a wolf, he’d learned to gauge the seasons not only by the weather, but by events. The fall and winter months offered long, dark days with very little travel, except when his master poached the walrus for its iron-rich liver and ivory tusks. May brought pups to the ringed seals and fireweed to the tundra. July brought salmon to the rivers, and August produced abundant crops of tasty moss berries.

The thought of the ripe scarlet berries with their tart taste filled his senses and his mind wandered back to the preserves his mother had made—the thick, sweet jam that’d held them over for the winter and the gooey pot he would lick clean after it cooled. He could still hear her calling from the door of their home. Calling his name… what was it? He thought hard. As the fog in his mind cleared, it came to him, his mother’s warm voice, light with bright summer laughter… Tok… his name had been Tok. There might have been more but her voice faded, swallowed by the fog once again.

He had no trouble remembering his death, though, a painful battle to the end. Nor would Tok forget the old native who’d arrived at his bedside, leaning over him, chanting in an ancient tongue, rattling and shaking caribou bones, denying him the peace that true death brings. Hours later, he’d woken in the old man’s hut lying on his back, staring at a roof made of whale ribs and seal skins.

Tok rolled onto his side, writhing in a sudden burst of pain. His tried to shout as the agony wracked his seventeen-year-old body, but the sound tightened in his throat, taking his screams and warping his pain, transforming his cry into a sorrowful howl. His hands tore at his misshapen head, and claws split through the tender skin where fingers and toes had been
.

Over the next hour, Tok’s hearing and sense of smell increased. With every gust of wind his wolf heart raced, smelling the lemmings nesting between the logs of the cabin. This repulsed and frightened him. His senses grew even more acute as days went on. As his instincts sharpened, he became more frightened of the old shaman—a cold, soulless creature, whose loathsome touch singed Tok’s nerves. When he was able to stand, a man by the name of Ryan purchased him, and he never saw the native again
.

Now, many years later, he traveled through the early dawn. More wolf than human, he hunted with his cruel captor—a descendant of the first brutal man who’d enslaved him. Years ago, he’d given up on finding the totems that would free him. When the time was right, he’d rip out his master’s throat and will himself to turn to dust, as he should have long ago. Death would be his freedom.

A bitter sorrow stirred inside him. He would miss the tundra almost as much as he missed being a man, and he would miss watching over herds of musk oxen while his master harvested their wool. He would also miss hunting caribou, the gurgling rivers packed with ice floes, and the northern lights coloring the frozen prairie in vivid hues of scarlet.

Maybe he wasn’t ready to die—not yet.

3

Friday, 4:00 a.m
.

A bull moose stood in the center of the highway. Emma stomped on the brakes, immediately realizing her mistake. Never hit the skids on ice. Shit—too late. The Mercedes skewed sideways. She caught the wheel, turning into the spin. The vehicle whipped around and around, left the road and reeled over an embankment. Tree limbs twisted and snapped as the car plowed through their frozen arms, crashing down the steep mountainside. Emma stood on the brakes, clutching the steering wheel until her fingers went numb. She bit her lower lip, tasted blood, and wondered if this was the same insane fear her mother had endured when her car plunged into the frozen river.

The Mercedes slammed to a halt in a thick grove of pine trees. The seatbelt gripped hard as Emma jolted forward. Air bags exploded like sprouting mushrooms. A white dust filled the air. Choking on the powder, Emma’s mind filled with images of her dead mother drowning in the icy river, dragged down into the frozen blackness. Panic cut into her veins, sawing at her last nerve. She yanked on the door handle. It opened a crack, stopping hard against the base of a towering pine. Emma slammed the door over and over into the trunk of the tree. She couldn’t breathe—she had to get out.

She fumbled for the controls, hit the right button, and the window rolled down. Frigid air swirled inside. Emma gulped down a precious lungful and struggled to escape the mangled car.

In the distance, icy granules crunched under lumbering footsteps.

“Help!”

The crunching drew near, heavy and uneven.

BOOK: Amarok
8.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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