It was like the moment when the airplane lands, and the pressure in your ears is intense and you can’t hear anything. And then your ears pop and it all comes rushing back. Time started moving again, and everything was real.
Chey screamed and screamed. She thrust her hands into her eyes so she wouldn’t see, pressed her face against her shoulder.
Screamed some more.
It didn’t change anything. It didn’t help. Breath whistled in and out of her lungs, but she was just sitting there. She was just sitting there doing nothing.
She was still about to die. The wolf was still going to tear her apart and—and—
She was still screaming as she unfastened her seat belt, but at least she was moving. Achieving something. She was going to open her door, very slowly, and get out. And then she was going to run as fast as she could.
She would run until she found someone else, somebody who could help her. Somebody who could make it all okay. Somehow. She didn’t have to worry about the details, about how anything could ever be okay again, because when she found this person, this hypothetical Good Samaritan, they would have the answers. All she had to do was get out and run.
Except that wasn’t going to happen, was it? She could run as fast as her body was capable of and it wouldn’t be enough. She knew it wouldn’t. The wolf wouldn’t just let her get away. The wolf would outrun her. It would catch her, and ﬁnish her off.
That was what the wolf wanted. And the wolf had all the power. It had those teeth, and it had claws, and it had millions upon millions of years of evolution on its side. It would be very, very good at chasing down little girls in the dark and tearing them to pieces. That was one reason why people had invented ﬁre, and guns, and cities—as a way of protecting themselves from—from monsters that ran in the darkness.
She had none of those things at her command. If she played this game the way the wolf played it, she was going to die.
But there had to be something she could do. Something other than running for it. She thought again of the mythical person out there in the night who was going to make everything okay. That person was too far away to help her. She needed to help herself.
Which meant that ﬁrst, she had to start thinking. She had to stop screaming so she could hear her own thoughts. Somehow she found it within herself to stop screaming.
When she’d managed that, she could hear other things again. She could hear bones cracking in between those giant teeth. That nearly made her start screaming again. She needed something—she needed to ﬁnd something that would help her not scream. That would help her think. She looked around at the broken glass and the torn vinyl upholstery in the car.
She glanced over at all the blood on the driver’s seat. Her dad’s blood. His seat belt hung slack and stretched out across the blood. So much blood.
She had an idea. It was not a brilliant epiphany, not a moment of genius. But it was a good, solid thought at a time when her brain was barely functioning, so she clutched to it like a mountaineer clutching to the last, poorly seated piton, because the other option is to drop away into nothing.
The next step was to make herself move. To put her plan into action. Her whole body shivered, though she was not particularly cold. She slid across the seat, slid her legs down into the leg well on the driver’s side.
She was twelve years old—she’d never driven a car before, had no idea how. She’d played video games where you had to drive a car. She looked down and saw two pedals. She thought there were supposed to be three. Weren’t there supposed to be three? She stepped on one of them with all her weight and the car bobbed back and forth a little.
In the headlights the wolf tore something stringy out of her dad’s torso. She wasn’t sure, but it looked like one of his arms was missing. Would the wolf wait until it had ﬁnished eating before it came for her? Maybe it thought it had all the time in the world. Maybe it wanted to enjoy its meal.
Chey almost threw up. But that wouldn’t have been helpful just then. It was not part of her plan.
She pressed down tentatively on the other pedal, the one she hadn’t tried yet, and the car surged around her but it didn’t go anywhere. She held down her foot and the engine made an angry whirring sound. It was enough to get the wolf ’s attention. It pulled its face out of her father’s side and took a step around the side of the car.
She had managed to make it think it needed to come for her now. She’d managed to make herself its priority. That wasn’t helpful at all.
“Get away,” Chey screamed. “Get away!” If neither pedal worked she had no idea what to do next. She was certain she was pressing the accelerator but—but why wouldn’t the car go? She stepped on the pedal again and again the car roared. The headlights ﬂickered but—
What had her dad said? Right before the wolf got him? He had said he was going to put the car into drive. What did that mean?
The wolf took another step. It was coming up around to the driver’s side door. Was it grinning at her?
She grabbed a stick on the side of the steering wheel—she’d seen her dad move it before—and yanked it down as hard as she could. The
windshield wipers swept up, but then the one on her side got stuck in the broken glass and just sort of ﬂopped there. The other one beat back and forth madly. She pushed the stick back up.
The wolf reared up and put both paws on her windowsill. It licked at the window next to her face. Jesus, she thought, it was playing with her. It wanted to scare her.
“I’m already scared, you, you asshole!” she screamed at it. Then she grabbed another stick and pushed it down. The car jumped underneath her and started rolling backward. Shit! She looked back and saw the side of the road there, saw a ditch. A big letter R had appeared on the control panel. It had to mean reverse.
The wolf trotted away from her. It got maybe ﬁve meters away. She stepped on the brake pedal and the car stopped. Everybody stopped.
From the side of the road the wolf watched her with lethal curiosity. It looked like it was considering its next move. Very soon, she was certain, it would decide to stop playing games and get down to business.
She studied the stick and the dashboard and she ﬁgured out how to push it up two stops until it said D, for drive. There was a 1 and a 2 as well, but she had no idea what they meant.
Standing on the brake pedal, her legs not quite long enough to reach comfortably, she ﬂipped the stick up to D. The car bobbed again and she looked over and saw the wolf. It was leaning back on its hind legs, ready to jump at the car again. To drag her out just like it had dragged her dad.
Just as the wolf bounded toward her she shifted all her weight from the brake to the accelerator. The car lurched forward and she swung the steering wheel around to get back on the road. The wolf slashed at the side of the car and she heard metal ring and tear. The car’s rear fender came off with a clang and a rattling clatter as it bounced on the asphalt. She didn’t dare let go of the accelerator—she just kept pushing it harder, as the car rushed along underneath her, dragging her forward so hard she had to clutch at the steering wheel with every muscle in her arms. She looked back in the mirror and saw the animal falling away behind her in the red wash of her taillights.
That was the last she saw of it.
Except ...some nights, when she couldn’t sleep—which was pretty much every night after that—some nights she would sit in the dark and replay her escape. She would go over it in her head, each event, every little thing that had happened. Her hands would involuntarily reach for the gearshift; her feet would press down against the sheets, hunting for the pedals. And she would remember looking in the rearview one last time and—
—she swore to herself every time it was a false memory, a guilt complex, her imagination running away with her but—
—just for a second, just for a split second she would see her dad lying in the middle of the road, covered in blood and gore, and before she looked away, before tears made it impossible to see anything, she would watch him sit up and reach for her with his remaining hand. Reach out, begging her to come back and get him.
Check out the previous chapters of Frostbite right here.
Excerpted from Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington. Copyright © 2009 by David Wellington. Published in the Unites States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Published in the UK as Cursed by Piatkus Books, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.
Purchase Frostbite - In the U.S.:* Amazon* BN.com* Borders
In the UK:* Amazon.co.uk