IT IS REAL . . .
Some call it a spirit, a demon. Others, an all-consuming force of nature. According to Cree legend, it goes by the name of Wendigo. For a hundred years it has been sleeping. Resting beneath the earth. Buried in a godless no-man’s-land known as Resurrection Pass . . .
IT IS RISING . . .
Led by half-Cree guide Jake Trueblood, a clandestine team of exploratory miners enter a remote valley in the Canadian wilderness. Searching for veins of untapped rare earth elements, they begin drilling into the spongy soils of the forest—and uncover something unbelievably large, unspeakably grotesque, and inexplicably alive . . .
IT IS RAVENOUS.
Within seconds, all hell breaks loose. Giant grasping tendrils shoot out of the earth. Poisonous spores explode into the air. And the horrified miners become a living, screaming feast for the biggest, hungriest creature the world has ever seen. Jake Trueblood and a young ecologist named Rachel barely escape with their lives, only to confront the Okitchawa, a murderous group of local Cree infuriated by the presence of the mining team. But even if they can escape the Okitchawa, Jake and Rachel’s ordeal is far from over. The nightmare is just beginning . . . to feed.
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Kurt Anderson has held jobs as a roofer, machine operator, toxicologist, and environmental scientist. A regular contributor to outdoor magazines, Anderson spends his free time in the woods and on the water, hunting, fishing, ’shrooming, wild ricing, tapping maple trees, and trying—usually in vain—to repair haying equipment on his ranch. He lives in northern Minnesota with his wife and two sons.
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By Kurt Anderson
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Kurt Anderson
All rights reserved.
"We've got to do something."
Jake Trueblood watched the meadow below them. It had been a beaver pond at one point, but the dam had long since been breached and the water was gone. Waist-high grass grew inside the acre-sized depression, a dozen dead and limbless trees amid the yellowing stalks. On the far side of the meadow a jumble of sticks marked the remains of the lodge, and backed against it was a young woodland caribou, panting, its hind end streaked with blood. Three timber wolves paced around it, cutting in lightly when it tried to escape, but not attempting to close in.
"You have a rifle," the girl said, touching his shoulder. Her name was Rachel Bell. Not a girl, he thought, but a young woman, part of the group but not its leader. "Shoot over their heads."
Jake turned back to the meadow.
Two of the wolves were young, born that spring, and the mother was pulling double duty, keeping the caribou at bay and making sure her pups didn't do anything stupid. The caribou would only get weaker as the day went on. The alpha female had already bought their dinner when she had bitten through the big muscles on the back of the caribou's leg; now they just had to wait for it to be served. Of all the lessons she would pass on to her pups, Jake thought, patience would keep them alive the longest.
"Sorry," he said to Rachel, then turned to address the rest of the group. There were six others, rigged out in new clothes, top-quality gear, and big backpacks full of equipment. "I thought they already had it down."
He'd heard the yipping early that morning as he fed twigs into the breakfast fire. He recognized the tone and the chatter of a hunt in progress and listened carefully, tracking the chase through the woods, hearing it stall out less than a quarter mile away. This was their second morning in the brush, and he'd been brusque with them the night before, their banter around the fire turning quiet at his one-word answers to their myriad questions. Well. They were silly questions.
So this morning, when he was sure that the hunt had entered its final phase, he snuffed out the fire and went to each of the tents, and instead of telling them they were leaving he'd asked them politely, each one, if they wanted to see a pack of wolves on the hunt. They had, and he'd led them here, to this everyday desperate scene, a temporary stalemate that wouldn't make the highlight reel on The Nature Channel.
"Can you?" a tall, bearded man named Cameron Fairchild asked. He stepped next to Rachel and placed a hand on her shoulder. "We're far enough away from ... everything, right? One shot won't matter."
"I can't scare them away," Jake said. "Not for good, unless I shoot one. And maybe not even then."
"Don't shoot them," Rachel said. "Just fire over their heads."
Jake turned to her. That open face, those untested eyes. Patience, he thought again, patience and temperance. No reason for him to paint this situation with reality, broad strokes or fine. No need to explain that even if he went down and scared the wolves away and wrapped the caribou's leg in goddamn gauze it wouldn't help. The wolves would find it, or other wolves or a bear would find it, and the caribou would die alone and in pieces. There was nothing to gain. Patience. I might not be working for tips, but I've got another ten days with them, and if they get what they need —
"No gunshots," Warren Campbell said, stepping through them. He smiled at Rachel, eyes crinkling, the silver hair around his temples reflecting golden in the morning sunshine. "I think what Mr. Trueblood is saying is that wolves need to eat, too. Which of course you understand, Rachel. You're a biologist."
"Ecologist," she murmured, her eyes flitting to the meadow and then back to Warren. "And I know they need to eat, just not ..."
Just not before she's had her own breakfast, Jake thought. Then: Christ, what's wrong with you? She was probably playing on swings and going to the mall when you were out trapping muskrats, skinning them in the shed under the kerosene lamp Henry got from the railroad. And hoping the son of a bitch inside Mom's bedroom was too drunk to come out to the shed and tell you how you were doing it all wrong.
Jake walked out a dozen steps, picking through the screen of hazel and onto the edge of the meadow. The two wolf pups continued pacing, tongues lolling. The female went very still, her yellow eyes locking in on his shape, then quickly flitting around him, picking out the other shapes. Not counting, but something close. Assessing.
"Go on," Jake whispered.
She melted into the brush, not running or even trotting, just turning away like a dog disinterested in a situation. The pups, each pushing sixty pounds already, continued to haze the caribou for a few moments before realizing they were alone. Then their ears cocked forward, their heads swiveling around and then locking in on something deeper in the alders, something that only they could see. They trotted off. The caribou watched them go, neck bent, with the tines of its velvet-covered antlers pointing at the departing wolves, its sides bellowing.
The conversation behind him fell off. Then the slow footfalls of Warren — he didn't know all of their footstep patterns yet, but he knew Warren's, surprisingly light for a big man, surprisingly quiet — coming up behind him. Here it comes, he thought. Was that an Indian thing, communicating with your eyes? Did you talk to it, somehow?
Warren's voice was low. "You could have done that five minutes ago."
Jake looked at the meadow, at the caribou whose death had been extended by a few minutes, maybe an hour. Then back to Warren, a man perhaps a decade older than Jake, thick but not yet gone to fat, his eyes dark and intelligent. He was after something buried in the Canadian soils, something that Jake knew little about. But he could tell Warren was going to get it, or know the reason why he couldn't. Warren looked like a guy used to getting what he was after.
"You ready?" Jake said.
Warren held his gaze. "Next time you want to veer off course, check with me first." He glanced at his watch, which looked like it cost more than Jake wanted to know, the only watch in this group of seven, who had not brought phones or handheld GPS units or anything other than their fine camping equipment and silly questions. "Better yet," Warren said, "how about we just skip the sights?" Jake adjusted the straps on his backpack. It afforded him three long breaths, and when he looked up his face was calm. "Fine with me."
Ten minutes later he was sweating, the weight of his pack nearly seventy pounds, as he led the once-again silent group deeper into the brush.
* * *
He pushed them harder that day than he had the previous. It was purposeful, meant to stretch out muscles that were unused to rugged terrain, to keep the chatter down. He increased the pace steadily, and a break that might have lasted ten minutes the day before was seven today, and they came spaced further apart. There was some groaning, but not much — soft as they might look, they were in pretty good shape. Runners, he supposed, or maybe treadmillers. They could handle it.
He felt good himself, only the usual aches and pains. The other pain had been silent for a while, weeks stretching now into months. Gone for good, perhaps.
When he talked, it was about water. Making sure they drank enough, that there wasn't too much in their socks. Sweaty feet were more than an unpleasantness — he had learned that much, at least, at Dwyer Hill. Had learned how blood blisters and fungal infections could combine into something that would make feet and ankles swollen purple nightmares. Finding water was not really a problem in this sprawling wilderness of lakes and rivers and swamps, and they all carried iodine tablets and ultraviolet decontamination units. But the treated water tasted bad, and he noticed several in the group were reluctant to do much more than wash their mouths out when they stopped for a canteen break.
"Not quite up to your standards?" he asked Jaimie Bednarik. She had just spat out a mouthful of water.
Jaimie wiped her mouth with her forearm. She was as tall as Jake, with broad shoulders and a finely sculpted face Jake thought of as handsome rather than pretty. "Tastes like boiled shit," she said.
"Maybe so," Jake said. "But you're a big girl, you need to drink." He leaned forward and tapped the jugs in her backpack. "Drink two of these a day, I don't care what it tastes like. You get dehydrated you won't die, but you will slow us down." He started away, then turned back and said in a lower voice, "We might find some better water up ahead."
She nodded. "So you do know where we're going?"
"More or less. Do you know what you're doing?"
Her eyebrows dipped for a second, and then she relaxed and flashed him a smile. It transformed her face, and Jake found out he was wrong: she wasn't pretty or handsome. She was beautiful. "More or less, Mr. Guide," Jaimie said. "More or less."
Two hours later he stopped at the far edge of a long, low alder thicket. It had been a decade since Jake had been through this section of woods, and that had been in the winter, running a marten and fisher trapline, when the ground was frozen and he had broken a trail with his 1978 Ski-Doo snowmobile. It had been a slog then and it was far worse now, traveling in the tag end of the warm season, especially after a wet summer like this. It would be impossible in the spring, or the autumn if the fall rains came like they used to. But this was the only way he knew to approach the destination from the eastern route.
He wiped his brow and glanced at Warren, who was staring at him, his shirt collar soaked through with sweat. Warren arched an eyebrow. Jake turned away, took a drink of water.
They went on. After finding the pass between the flowage and the spruce bog, Jake knew he was in the right general area, but now he needed to make it overland to the small drainage coming out of the blackwoods, a massive forest of black spruce that covered dozens of square miles. The drainage had no formal name, but he called the small seepage blackwoods spring, no capital letters; it wasn't big enough or important enough for that. But blackwoods spring would take them a good five miles in the right direction, and it was far more efficient to follow the mini-floodplain it had carved through the forest than it was to go overland. Time was of the essence — he'd heard it from Warren enough to know it wasn't something he said lightly. In quickly, do whatever they needed to, and out before the fall rains swelled the rivers and swamps. Following blackwoods spring was one way he knew they could save some time.
The problem was coming in from the east. Well, one problem. The other was finding the rest of the equipment, which had come in three months ago via chopper, the equipment set down on high ground. The crew — maybe this crew, maybe another, Jake didn't know and hadn't been able to get more than the barest of details — had been scheduled to come in a few days later. That didn't happen, and his understanding was that someone had fired a high-velocity slug through the chopper's cockpit on its return flight. The slug hadn't damaged anything critical, but it had sent a shard of metal through the pilot's hand, making him reconsider his career of flying covert operations in broad daylight. So no more chopper flights.
Jake was deep in his thoughts when he felt someone come up beside him. The woods had opened up, and there was enough room to walk side by side. He turned and saw ash blond hair hanging over blue-gray eyes.
"I wanted to say thank you," Rachel said.
"The wolves. Getting them to leave the caribou alone." She took a deep breath, as though to confess something. "I know they'll probably be back."
Jake swatted at a deerfly on his arm. "Welcome."
He turned back to what passed for a trail. There was a patch of mature sugar maples to his left with minimal undergrowth, and he had to consciously make himself steer clear of the big timber. The constant crush of close-set trees and the low brush made a person want to veer away from the line they needed to follow, to follow any trail where your face wouldn't get slapped by branches, or where the ground wouldn't suck at your feet. But the easiest path never led to where you wanted to go. You had to bust through the thick parts, had to get your boots —
She was still talking. "— and you forget there are places where we don't matter."
"You weren't listening to me, were you?"
He glanced to his side. "Thinking about where I need to go."
"Sorry," she said, and he could see she was hurt, a little at least, from his lack of attention. A girl used to two guys comforting her.
He turned to the rest of the group trudging along behind them. They were ready for a break. He saw it in their sidelong glances at each other, but he wanted to get to blackwoods spring first. Or at least get to a spot where he knew he had missed it. If they hit the spring close enough to the place where it burbled out of the ground, they would be able to fill up their canteens without using the water filtration pumps. Saving minutes, saving hours. Maybe make Jaimie smile again.
"It's going to die anyway," she said, and now her tone was different, softer. "Isn't it?"
"Yes," he said. "Everything does."
She looked up sharply. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Jake reached up and once more tightened the straps on his backpack. "I thought we were talking about the caribou."
An hour later he found the spring.CHAPTER 2
The two men glanced at each other through the haze of cigarette smoke. It was dark, and they had just pulled into a driveway etched into the endless expanse of spruce and alders. At the end of the drive was a trailer house, flanked by a dozen cars. The girls, huddled in the middle of the Crown Vic's backseat, leaned forward to inspect themselves in the rearview mirror, one set of lips painted a deep crimson, the other a shiny black. Vanessa and Sharon, local girls, the kind who truly appreciated a free drink at the Caboose back in town. The kind who wanted to pahhhty.
Dragon girls, Byron thought. He turned back to the double-wide. And yonder's their lair.
The house was three miles north of Highbanks. In the Crown Vic's headlights they could see the siding streaked with rust below the window frames. The driveway was not much more than a wide spot in a weedy yard, lined with pickups and the same sort of long old cars they were in. It was Vanessa's car, but neither girl could drive tonight — the local constable had walked right into the Caboose, done a quick assessment, and told them as much. Byron and David had agreed to drive them home. Gentlemen of the first order, knights among men. It was their first night back in the village, and the girls had been in the bar when they'd walked in.
"Screw bear hunting," David had said after his sixth or seventh drink, watching the two girls dancing to an old Shania Twain song. "Tonight I'm hunting local."
"I hear they don't shave this far north," Byron replied, his eyes tracking the girls as they sashayed across the grimy wood floor, leaving little pieces of peanut shell and popcorn in their wake. They weren't bad looking.
"I been in the bush for seven days," David said. "I ain't scared of one more night. And that one on the left, she looks like she'd be ... adventurous."
That was four hours ago, and the girls were drunker now, and he and David were plenty buzzed, too, but not so drunk as to miss what looked like a bloody tissue plastered against the windowpane set into the screen door, illuminated by a bare yellow porch light. Several fading yard toys were parked between the weeds, and from somewhere behind the house a dog was barking. They could hear the music through the vinyl siding, a steady thumping. David listened for a moment to see if the woofs followed the rhythm, maybe a woof every four beats, but they didn't.
"Pull up through them trucks," the girl with black lips said. "Weasel and Garny always leave an open spot for us."
Excerpted from Resurrection Pass by Kurt Anderson. Copyright © 2017 Kurt Anderson. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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