11/9/2022 UPDATE: Starfall is Now Available for Pre-Order!
Read on for a sneak preview – where it all begins…
I woke up in pitch darkness, with the certainty I wasn’t alone.
“Virginia?” I whispered. Maybe my best friend had changed her mind and come back inside the fire tower to spend the night. There was no answer. Still, I was sure someone – or something – was there.
I crept out of my sleeping bag and found my backpack by feel where it lay on the cold stone floor. I rummaged through it. My hand closed around my flashlight. I pulled it free and flicked it on, played its beam around the empty room.
There was no one. Virginia’s sleeping bag and pack were gone. She’d said the place gave her the creeps, had wanted to sleep outside in the tent.
I shone the light on my watch, an old brass windup with a velcro strap – about the most advanced form of technology that was compatible with me. The time read two minutes until midnight.
It was summer of my seventh grade year. I was still thirteen; Virginia had just turned fourteen. The tower was leftover from eighty years before, back when the Forest Service kept lookouts for fires. This one was perched atop Sourdough Mountain, a peak in the Cascade range of my adopted home state of Washington. Funny name, but the hike was no joke. I’d wanted to see the Perseids, the meteor shower that was just hitting its late July peak as the Earth went sailing through the tail of a long-dead comet. That my dad had let Virginia and me come up here alone to spend the night was – I thought at the time – a minor miracle.
Suddenly I was regretting the choice. The hackles rose on the back of my neck, and goose bumps spread across my arms. I shivered. I was certain something was there.
“Hello?” I called softly. My words vanished into the surrounding darkness. There was no answer.
I dug in my backpack again, this time retrieving the short-wave radio Dad had given me in case we got into trouble. He was camped out by a creek six miles down the trail. Even now, all these years later, I wonder how things would have turned out if I’d called him.
But I didn’t. I thought about how much Virginia would make fun of me if I got scared and went crying for help, and shoved the radio back in my pack. I tucked myself deeper inside my sleeping bag and cinched my knees to my chest, hugging myself tight. Even in July the Cascades can get cold at night, and we were four thousand feet up.
Then, without warning, a shaft of light appeared in the corner of the room.
For a moment I thought it must be the moon – but it couldn’t be. There was no moon that night, which was part of why I’d decided to go see the meteor shower in the first place.
The light grew brighter. I saw a thin vertical line that quickly grew wider, and brighter, and wider still. It was as if I was sitting at one end of a dark hallway, and someone was opening their bedroom door at the other.
The light became blinding. I covered my eyes with my hands looked away.
Then I heard footsteps. Something was padding across the floor toward me.
I smelled fur. Wet fur.
I peered through my fingers, and saw an enormous white wolf towering over me, holding a coal-black cub in her mouth by the scruff of the neck. Her eyes burned like twin pools of lava, and her fur was dripping wet, as though she’d been running through a rainstorm, even though it was dry outside and had been for days…