Cover image for The dawning
Title:
The dawning
Author:
Cave, Hugh B. (Hugh Barnett), 1910-2004.
Publication Information:
New York : Leisure Books, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
359 pages ; 18 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780843947397
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Crime, drugs, and pollution have made the cities of the world virtually inhabitable, and the air and water are slowly killing the residents who remain. A small group of survivors escapes to the wilderness of northern Canada to make a new life. But now the Earth is ready to fight back and rid itself of its abusers.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One He had set the alarm for 7 A.M., knowing he must not be late this morning or he might have no future.     But the alarm was not necessary. The numbing enormity of what he was about to do had created such a turmoil in his mind that sleep was impossible.     Not once had he even dozed off. At two, at three-thirty, again at four-thirty he had left his bed and prowled through the apartment, snatching up things he felt he must take with him, then discarding them with groans of frustration when he realized they had to be left behind.     Left behind for all time. Abandoned. No longer to be a part of whatever life he might still have.     Then at five-thirty he got up to stay up, and by the glow of a flashlight--because there had been no power in this part of the city for nearly a month now--donned the clothes he had so carefully laid out the day before. And, this time in earnest, he took the empty backpack from the chair beside his bed and proceeded to put things into it. The very few, the heartbreakingly few possessions he was being allowed to take.     It was like dying, he thought as he carried out this final tour of his apartment. In order to go on living, all of them must give up practically everything that made their lives worth living. Each could take only one pack, and it must not weigh more than twenty pounds.     "And that means you weigh it," Gene Cuyler had warned yesterday at the professor's place, where they had assembled for a last-minute briefing. "On your bathroom scales, ff that's all you have, but weigh it. We'll have canoes and other junk to lug over those portages--the guns, too--and we won't be able to take more'n twenty pounds each of personal stuff. And most of that'd better be clothing and at least one pair of extra boots apiece, you hear? Because where we're going there won't be anyplace to buy even a safety pin if we need one." Finding that funny for some reason, Cuyler had voiced the donkey-bray laugh they had come to expect of him. "So be pretty damn sure you make every ounce count, you hear? Don't take anything dumb."     Like books, Don thought, pausing in front of the bookcase that occupied an entire wall of his small living room. We can take guns, but no books. Because, of course, Cuyler owned a gunshop and loved his toys the way other people loved--well, the way Cricket loved animals. Birds, cats, dogs, all kinds of animals. Like the little Italian greyhound she called Rambi because, she would explain, though he looked like a miniature Bambi, he was inclined to be pretty rambunctious. If she had to leave Rambi behind she would not go, she had flatly stated. "His ten pounds can be part of my twenty."     "And whaddaya expect to feed him?" Cuyler had of course challenged. "We're not lugging dog food along, for Chrissake!"     In her own way Crier could be just as firm as the gunshop owner; even if much more quietly so. "Suppose you let me worry about that, Cuyler." None of them, not even his wife, ever called him Gene; it didn't sound right. "If he can't find food for himself--which hell soon learn to do, I'm sure--then I'll share mine with him."     So Cuyler would have his guns in the days ahead, but teacher Don Neal would have to do without books. Yet, personalities and personal feelings aside, it was really not illogical, was it? Without the guns they might starve before learning other ways to obtain food.     Not due at Cricket's until eight, and with time to kill, Don stood before his books a good while, feeling a need to fix a lasting picture of them in his mind. As a teacher of special kids in junior high, he had used books every working day of his life until the city's schools were shut down. One slender volume on the teaching of English had his own name on it, and next to it on the same shelf were magazines containing short stories he had written and a scrapbook full of features he had done for the Sunday Examiner . The magazines were no longer being published. The newspaper--the city's largest--had been out of business for six weeks now.     But, dear God, what would he do in the new life without something to read now and then?     Cuyler was right, though. Despite his domineering attitude, the gunshop owner would probably almost always be right in the kind of situations they were likely to encounter from now on. Already in many ways he had usurped from Professor Varga the role of the expedition's leader.     Shaking his head at the thought, Don reluctantly returned to the bedroom.     The clothing and boots he had selected to take along were similar to what he had donned earlier: the kind he would have worn for a hike in winter woods, though today was the first day of June. As he stuffed the duplicate outfit into his backpack, his parents watched him from large, framed photographs hanging side by side above the headboard of his unmade bed. At one point, out of habit, he had actually started to make the bed before realizing he would not again be using it.     Finished, he stood there gazing at the caring man mad woman who had made him what he was: Bradford Neal, a cabinetmaker; Della Rodgers Neal, a teacher. Both gone now, though he himself was only twenty-eight years old. Father, a heavy smoker, had died of lung cancer. Mother had been one of the early victims of the violence, stabbed to death in a library parking lot one evening by a person or persons unknown who had merely wanted the few dollars in her handbag. Probably for drugs, though at that time the ghastly drug they called Halleluja had not yet made its fatal appearance.     Planning not to return to the bedroom, he bade his parents a silent farewell and went into the bathroom for toothbrush, bars of soap, and a handful of the lightweight plastic razors he had been using since the power outage made his electric one useless. He would stay clean-shaven as long as he could, he had promised himself, if only to be different from Cuyler, who from the shoulders up already resembled some kind of black-haired Bigfoot.     Aspirin. Should he take aspirin? He was never troubled with headaches.     He dropped a small bottle of the tablets into the backpack anyway, guessing there might be stressful times ahead. Then he weighed the pack on his bathroom scale.     It was just under his allotted twenty pounds.     A book? he thought. One book?     He tried his Bible first, weighing it on a food scale in the apartment's kitchenette. It was too heavy. Returning to the living room, he reached for a paperback volume called Our Road to Oblivion , by their own Professor Varga. Prof's predictions were in it. And the formulae for such survival goodies as the concentrated food tablets and new insect repellant he had perfected in his lab at the university. With Our Road to Oblivion in the backpack, Don made for the front door.     But he could not walk out that way. Invisible cords held him, forced him to put the bag down and turn back. With his mouth dry, his hands empty at his sides, his heart beating so heavily he could feel the throbbing in his ears, he went slowly through the apartment one more time. Looked once more at his books. Paused before his tape player and realized he would not again hear any of the old Big Band music he had been collecting for years--Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Woody Herman, all the treasured good music that had given way to the strident obscenities of the present. In the bedroom he stood again before the photographs of his parents and this time reached up to touch them.     "Good-bye, Mom. 'Bye, Dad."     So long to everything. Forever.     Oh God.     He could not have said why he so carefully closed the apartment door behind him and tested it to make sure it had locked itself. Why should he care if anyone broke in to loot the place, as, already, others in the building had been looted? But it would be like having the grave of a loved one desecrated, wouldn't it? Defilement in a cemetery.     The elevator, of course, was not working. He took the stairs, six floors of them, to street level and trudged out to the parking area.     "Hey! What do you think you're doing?"     There were two of them, he thought. Or three. Although the windows of his apartment had turned gray with daylight just before he left it, the morning was heavily overcast and the cars were still in near darkness under their rows of sheltering roofs. The intruders fled when he yelled at them--just kids, probably, or they would have challenged him--and on reaching his car he discovered they had already smashed a window. Glass crunched under his boots. He stumbled on the rock they had used.     It was getting to be a nightly occurrence now, this breaking into cars and stealing them. He didn't understand. Why steal a car when gasoline was so hard to come by? Weeks ago Professor Varga had warned, "Now be sure, all of you, to save enough gas to get here to my place when the time comes."     Anyway, he seemed to have frightened them off before they could smash anything more than the window. After unlocking the car, he tossed his backpack onto the rear seat and slid in behind the wheel.     As usual, the engine groaned in protest like a drunk being poked awake, but at last, grudgingly, it turned over. Thank the Lord he had worked on it last weekend. These days it was next to impossible to get a car serviced in the city. In some of the other big cities you still could, maybe, but not here. Here you were lucky to find even a supermarket open.     Driving through the city now, from his eastside apartment building to Cricket's little cottage on the far west side, was like driving through a nightmare. With no streetlights to probe its ugly depths it might be only an ill-defined nightmare, but you knew it was full of evil nevertheless. Refuse of all kinds overflowed the sidewalks, some of it the glass from shattered store windows. Cars everywhere stood abandoned, most of them probably stolen and then left where they had run out of gas. And the predators--always now, except in broad daylight, you saw the predators on the prowl, usually in groups or gangs.     He saw them now as he drove through: dim, twisted shapes scuttling in and out of dark alleys and along the littered sidewalks. At times he saw and heard them fighting among themselves in a kind of nightmarish ballet of survival. The city was, in fact, fast becoming uninhabitable--at least for decent people.     Which, of course, was why Professor Varga had decided the time had come for their planned departure.     "There have been three killings in my block this week," the professor had said. "Our time has come."