Black Dawn (Chapter 1)

Maggie Neely woke up to the sound of her mother screaming.

She'd gone to bed as usual, with Jake the GreatDane sprawled heavily across her feet and the threecats jockeying for position around her head. Hercheek was resting on her open geometry book; there were homework papers scattered among theblankets, along with fragments of potato chips andan empty bag. She was wearing her jeans and a flowered pajama top plus the only two socks she'dbeen able to find last night: one red velveteen anklet and one blue cotton slouch sock.

Those particular socks would eventually meanthe difference between life and death for her, but at the moment Maggie had no idea of that.

She was simply startled and disoriented frombeing wakened suddenly. She'd never heard thiskind of screaming before, and she wondered howshe could be so certain it was her mother doing it.

Something…really bad is happening, Maggierealized slowly. The worst.

The clock on her nightstand said 2:11A.M.

And then before she even realized she was moving, she was lurching across her bedroom floor,with piles of dirtyclothes and sports equipmenttrying to trip her up. She banged her shin on a wastebasket in the middle of the roomand ploughed right on through. The hallway was dim,but the living room at the end was blazing withlight and the screams were coming from there.

Jake trotted along beside her. When they got tothe foyer by the living room he gave a half growl,half bark.

Maggie took in the whole scene in a glance. Itwas one of those moments when everythingchanges forever.

The front door was open, letting in the cold airof a November night in Washington. Maggie's father was wearing a short bathrobe and holding hermother, who was pulling and tearing at him as ifshe were trying to get away, screaming breathlesslyall the while. And in the doorway four people were standing: two sheriffs, a National Park ranger, and Sylvia Weald.

Sylvia. Her brother Miles's girlfriend.

And knowledge hit her quick and hardasa hammer blow.

My brother is dead, Maggie thought.