Frostbite- Chapter 34

Chey woke face down in a snowdrift, her hands gripping the earth like claws. Her body ached and pulsed—a maddening tingle in her left leg made her cry out.

She rolled over and stared up at the sky. The sun was high above but its light couldn’t seem to warm her. Her breath turned to mist inside of her mouth.

She sat up—her body complaining, her neck popping noisily—and grabbed at her leg, kneading the muscles there, trying to get her circulation going. She felt a real shock when her hands met the skin of her calf and found it blistered and raw. She looked down and saw what looked like a burn scar there. That was where the silver chain had bound her. She knew silver could kill her, kill the wolf. Maybe even just being in contact with the metal was enough to hurt her.

Wait, she thought. Something was wrong. Bobby had chained her up so she wouldn’t hurt him or Lester. The chain had held her even when she transformed—she could remember that much. But now it was gone. Had Bobby released her while she slept?

Except then why was she not in the clearing by the little lake? She looked around, nearly forgetting she was naked, and called Bobby’s name. There was no sign of the helicopter. She must have traveled some distance while she was in her wolf form.

She brushed snow off her arms and her chest with shaking hands and rose creakily to her feet. She wasn’t going to freeze to death, she knew that much now, but her body still rebelled at the cold air around her, the cold earth beneath her feet. It wanted clothing and shelter.

She took a step and got another shock. A bad one, a really bad one. The snowdrift around her was splattered with red blood. What looked like gallons of it.

Her hands pressed against her mouth. Her chest tightened—what— where—had that blood come from?

Oh, God, she thought. Oh, no.

Somehow she’d gotten free of the chain. She’d gotten free right in the midst of the two men. Her wolf was faster than any human, stronger. Bobby had silver bullets but—but maybe she had attacked before he could draw his weapon.

Murder, she thought. Murder, murder, murderer, murderer, her brain gibbered. But no, she thought, no, she had to calm down. She didn’t actually know what had happened. She had vague memories of snarling and snapping and running through the woods. She could taste blood in her mouth still—the obvious conclusion, the most plausible scenario was that she had killed the two men and maybe ...maybe she had eaten them—

She fell to her knees and retched into the snow. A little red blood flecked the white, but after a moment her body was just fluttering with dry heaves.

If she had killed Bobby and Lester then that made her exactly the same thing as her demon, as the trauma that had devoured her life. The thing she had sought to destroy for so many years, the thing that had destroyed her. It made her no better than Powell.

Chey had on many occasions in her life been haunted by memories and questions. If there was one thing she knew how to do it was cope with horror. Not fix it, not resolve it, just cope. She knew what she needed to do. She needed to focus on her immediate situation. She needed to get to a place of safety.

She started walking. It helped—moving over the rough ground re¬quired a certain amount of concentration. Picking her way through the dense undergrowth took mental energy away from the parts of her brain that just wanted her to sit down and scream. Still. She had no compass, no map. She wasn’t sure where she actually was, nor did she know where she wanted to go. She couldn’t go back to Powell’s cabin, could she? The wolf knew who she was now. He would be on his guard and he would probably attack her—kill her—on sight.

She could head back to the little lake—assuming she could find it again—but what would she discover there? Broken bones with the marrow sucked out? Bobby’s wraparound sunglasses, the lenses shattered on the rocks?

Shelter was the main thing. She needed to get inside someplace warm. She needed clothes, if only to help her feel human again. Such things would be in short supply in the drunken forest, she knew, but there had to be something.

There was, and she found it purely by accident. The only real idea she had was to try to get to higher ground, where she might be able to see better. Climbing a sinuous ridge, she stumbled right into a cleared path, one of the meandering logging roads Dzo used. The way was overgrown and full of tiny saplings—clearly it hadn’t been used for years—but it had been cleared by human hands once, and that was something. She headed southward, toward the sun, and followed the path no matter how it turned or bent back on itself. She climbed a tree from time to time to try to look around. With her new strength it was a lot easier than when she’d climbed to escape from Powell’s wolf. Noth¬ing presented itself to her from the treetops, though, except a chaotic expanse of more trees.

The road seemed to run on for kilometer after kilometer. After what felt like hours Chey began to think she’d made a mistake, that she was doomed to wander the logging road until she transformed again. At her lowest moment she stopped and looked up, one last time. And there, between two trees, she finally saw what she was looking for. A squat bunkhouse elevated on a scaffold of rusted metal girders. A tower—a fire lookout. It wasn’t much, but it had four walls and a roof. She ran through the trees and climbed up the rickety stairs two at a time.

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.

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