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Posted on Oct 4, 2018 | 0 comments

A Long Hard Road – A Novel

 

I have started writing 3 different novels in the last 10 years and I have allowed myself to become stuck at one point or another with all 3.

I started writing this one about 10 days after arriving home from my Dust to Dawson Adventure into the Yukon Territory last summer, July of 2017.

And I am excited by it.

This is a living document and it will change as I add more pages to the story. My goal is to add 10 pages or so each month.

I hope that you find it entertaining. And I welcome comments, feedback and yes, even critique.

And with that, here we go!

 

 

A Long Hard Road

 

Prologue

 

 

She smelled. A strong, pungent sweaty smell.

It offended her own nose.

Such a long, long sleep in the warm, warm dark.

She had pains in her joints.

Signs of aging, though she was not aware of that.

Anymore than she was aware that the pain was in her joints.

She just felt pain.

It made her angry.

Not that she had any true concept of anger. Or of happiness or despair.

She knew hunger. And not hunger.

She knew rage. And not rage.

But she didn’t know that she knew these things.

They just were.

 

The big grizzly clamped her powerful jaws around the soft, warm flesh and slowly dragged the unconscious woman into the brush.

She knew hunger. And not hunger.

 

 

1. The Hunter

 

The grey haired man sitting in the drivers seat of the white van kept both hands on the wheel, staring straight ahead, denying the instinct to make eye contact with the driver of the pick-up  moving slowly past on the highway.

To the passerby, he looked like an aging fella lost in thought, parked in the pull-off for one of the many scenic lookouts along the Klondike highway.

But he was the furthest thing from lost.

That word was better applied to barely conscious woman in the back of his van.

Yes. Lost described her quite well.

But the grey haired man would help her.

Soon she would see.

And then, she would be found.

 

 

2. Prey

 

Karen was almost blind with fear.

She grabbed Kayleigh’s bassinet and ran from the kitchen, through the laundry room and out to the garage.

Mark was screaming at the top of his lungs.

Karen!

KAREN!!! STOP RUNNING NOW!!!

Two fingernails ripped from her flesh as she scrabbled at the door handle of her Toyota Camry.

Such a sensible car. Mark had approved of her decision completely.

Why was she thinking about that now?

Karen slid behind the wheel and placed the bassinet on the passenger seat in one fluid motion, freeing her right hand to fumble the key into the ignition, starting the car with a barely contained squeak of triumph.

She threw the car into reverse, smashed the gas and just managed to pull her door closed  before clearing the wooden frame of the garage door.

‘Thank god we never close the damned thing’ she thought, almost laughing through the tears and snot streaming down her face.

Kayleigh was crying loudly, not used to being jostled and handled so roughly.

If her 4 month old little brain were capable of it, surely she would be wondering ‘what the hell is going on!’

The windshield spider webbed as the crescent wrench crashed into it a split second after leaving Mark’s hand.

Kayleigh screamed louder.

Karen screamed with her.

The Toyota’s engine screamed as though trying to compete with both of them.

Karen threw the car into drive and sped out onto Hemlock, knocking the neighbours recycling bin clear into the next neighbour’s yard.

The fact that it was a beautiful, warm and sunny May morning was not completely lost on Karen.

It just didn’t seem that important at the moment.

 

3. Pray

 

Mark had never felt such rage.

He was literally seething with it, coursing through his veins like molten metal poured from a smelting pot.

The fact that there was not a single rational or emotional reason for Mark to be feeling this way was completely lost on him.

Anything remotely like coherent thought had left for the day. All that remained was rage.

And it demanded release.

4. Let’s Begin

 

Dan Pauloosie felt sickened by the sight of it.

The twisted metal. The broken glass. The spray of blood.

Why couldn’t people just slow the fuck down?

The Robert Campbell highway was not the Trans Canada for Christ’s sake!

The 580 kilometre, mostly gravel highway was dangerous in the very best of conditions, and these were not those.

The heavy rain that had been falling for the past 4 days had caused numerous washouts and sinkholes. The gravel surface was all but gone, swallowed by the soupy clay, sand and shale mixture that made up the base of the long and lonely highway.

 

His people were Tlingit, originally from the Teslin river basin area in southern Yukon. Dan had left to go to northern BC when he was still in his teens.

More to the point, he had gone on a hunting trip and then not gone back home.

His father was on the council, as was his grandfather and one of his uncles.

It was too much pressure for him at the time, so he struck out to find his own path.

A path that led him to the RCMP and eventually, back to the Yukon Territory.

And here he was, at the scene of yet another wreck.

Dan keyed the mic on his patrol radio and asked dispatch to call Charlie and have him bring a hook out to his location.

This was the third wreck that Dan had attended in the last four days.

The first was on Sunday. A pick-up truck had left the road, crashing down the embankment and smashing through the alders, all but hidden from the road mere seconds after it happened.

The driver had been fortunate. A broken neck and shoulder, yes, but he was alive, after all.

He had managed to crawl out of the broken alders where he had come to rest after being thrown clear of the cab, not even noticing the 20 centimetre long branch that was protruding from his thigh until he attempted to get into the passenger seat of the car that stopped as a result of his bloodied appearance, a macabre apparition stepping out of the mist and into the road.

The second was on Tuesday, a triple-fatality. An old Jeep Wagoneer, driven by an even older alcoholic drifted into an oncoming Volkswagen Golf, killing the recently married young couple on the adventure honeymoon of a lifetime as well as himself.

Dan had noticed that the old drunk had signed his organ donor card. Like his fucking liver would do anyone any good.

And now this one. A white half-ton had lost control on the softening, muddy surface and soared off the side of the road just past the Ross River junction, landing some 6 metres below grade, smashed amongst the sub-alpine fir and alder that grow so thickly all over the Yukon.

It appeared that that truck had rolled, every one of the body panels having sustained crumpling damage as it crashed into the trees.

 

But it was the blood smear on the driver’s side rear of the cab that caught Dan’s attention.

 

5. Heading Home

 

Rick was never going to make it in time.

Sure, his F250 had four wheel drive, and the 33” Mickey Thompsons had great bite, but the road was an absolute mess.

The softening surface caused the big tires to wander, constantly searching for purchase where there was almost none. Jarring from pothole to pothole, he still managed a smile from ear to ear as he considered just how very lucky he was.

Rick hadn’t been back home in almost 2 years. Working for the MNR out of Ross River, he had never once felt like he needed a break. He had his dream job, in his dream location, and quite honestly, life could not have been much better than it was right now, shitty roads or not.

It was just shy of noon and Rick had to be in Whitehorse to catch his flight by 7:00pm, with the recommendation that he arrive at least 90 minutes early.

No chance that was going to happen.

Rick glanced at the radio display, checking the time.

The big Ford sliced through the rain, a wake of mud and mist trailing behind it.

As he looked back up through the windshield at the van that now blocked his path his brain scramed “where the fuck did he come from?!”

He was a good driver.

He could manage this.

Rick lifted off the gas pedal, not touching the brake, and guided his truck to the left, aiming to squeeze past the van that had backed onto the road from his right.

The van moved with him.

Rick swore loudly as he cut the wheel to the right, the big tires throwing a sheet of mud and water as they skidded back across the centre of the gravel road.

The van pulled forward, once again blocking Rick’s path.

He gave the wheel a hard pull to the left and knew the second that he did it that he had pulled to hard.

The front tires dug deeply into the surface of the road, finding too much traction and guided the speeding pick-up truck straight off into the trees.

 

6. Prey

 

She heard the crash from almost 1000 metres away and instantly began to salivate. She was not capable of understanding that the sound that she heard was caused by a vehicle smashing into trees. She didn’t know what a vehicle has.

Or a tree, for that matter.

But she associated the sound with meat. And so she drooled.

It had been a long time since she had hunted. There was no need.

She knew that this meal was going to be in one of those strange containers. That was what had made the noise that had caused her to begin to drool.

She didn’t like having to remove her meal from the container. It was always sharp and she often cut her pads ripping it open.

The meat was usually fatty, and there was rarely much of it, but that was okay.

It was an easy meal, with no need to hunt on her part. And she was used to the taste by now.

She had learned to be cautious when approaching her meal. Sometimes loud, piercing noises and bright flashing lights circled the meat in the container, and she wasn’t able to satisfy her hunger.

The grizzly made her way through the thick mountain forest, following the scents that she now associated with this particular kind of eating.

She didn’t know what gasoline was, but she definitely knew its smell and could pick up its trace from over five valleys away.

The same was true for blood.

She had covered the distance to her meal in less than 2 minutes and approached slowly from the downhill side of the wreck.

 

7. Too Close For Comfort

 

Rick was thanking Christ and his lucky stars that he had been wearing his seat belt.

The half-ton had rolled at least once, and he was pretty sure that he had pin-balled off of at least a half-dozen large pines.

The air bags had gone off. That, and the seat belt was the only reason that Rick was still conscious, let alone alive.

The truck had come to rest on its wheels, the driver’s side of the vehicle on the downhill side of the mountain slope.

Gravity lent a helping hand to Rick as he pushed the driver’s door open. He wiped the blood that was streaming from a deep laceration in his scalp with the palm of his left hand, and smiled as he realized just how beautiful the forest smelled. He drew a deep breath, filling his aching chest with the sweet, almost minty smell of pine and alder and spruce.

As he drew a second breath he noticed another smell.

Sour. And rank.

And close . . .

 

Rick stepped out of the truck, releasing the catch and taking his rifle from the rack behind his seat as he made his way around the box to the high side of the wreck.

 

 

. . . to be continued


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