Frostbite- Chapter 43

The wolf howled.

The wolf felt as if she had always howled.

The wolf had gone a little bit crazy.

Not crazy like a human being goes crazy. Like an animal. There were two parts of her, of her self, of her mind. The thinking part of her brain, the part that could solve problems and that kept her out of trouble, grew less active with each passing hour. The instinctual part of her, the older half of her brain, rose up, its hackles high, and demanded more and more of her mental energy. Anger and fear and desperation had built up in the crenellations of her brain like wax building up in her ears, horror and hate and pain added to every day she was locked in the human place, magnified by the moonlight that leaked in through tiny cracks in the ceiling and the shutters. Multiplied—her hatred and her rage and her torment were multiplied, jacked up by a power of ten, because she knew a human female had been inside her square little cell the last time she’d slept. She could smell it on the floor, on the walls. She licked the wood and tasted the human, the oily sourness of the female’s skin, the unbearable thickness of her artificial scent. She hated, hated, hated the human, wanted to snap her neck, wanted to grind her bones between her teeth. Where was she? Was she nearby? Was she—was she?

Was she still here? Hiding somewhere? The wolf felt the female human like she was under the wolf ’s very skin.

She paced the corners of her cell, ran from wall to wall. There wasn’t enough room, wasn’t enough, wasn’t, wasn’t, wasn’t. She panted with the fear, the fear, the fear. Her legs cramped and her head bowed—her body filled all the available space. Her rage filled every square centimeter. It made the walls stretch and buckle as if she could escape just by needing it badly enough.

Finally she sank down to lie on her belly, her tongue out, her breathing slowing. And still she howled.

The human, the other human, the male, was he near? The one who had chained her leg, the one she’d nearly devoured. He had done this to her—he had imprisoned her in this terrible place. She could smell him! Was he nearby? She would tear him apart! She would, she would, she would. She would.

No, the human was nowhere near. She knew as much. Still, his stink, his cologne, was smeared on the walls, and the floor. Still he stung her nose, her eyes.

Still she howled.

She howled. She was a creature that howled. It was all she had left in this prison. The howls came out of her like the pure distilled essence of her anguish, long, rumbling horrors that ripped out from her throat, from her belly, over her teeth, rumbling in her chest, shaking in her, and out into the air.

She howled—and nothing changed. The howling achieved nothing.

For four days straight she howled, even as her body hungered and grew weak. Even as her brain dried out in her skull and she forgot why she was howling.

Still she howled.

And then one night she heard the other wolf, out there in the dark—howling back.

Her massive jaws snapped shut. Her ears perked up. The rest of her body lay perfectly still. She made no sound at all as she listened. She knew she had no reason to want him near; she knew he would try to kill her if he could. But he was another wolf, another creature like her. Another, another, someone like her, another. She listened—she craned her ears forward and she listened, desperate to hear him.

A roaring howl rattled through the forest, bouncing off the tree trunks. A searching wail. Then it was gone.

Her body had little sound left in it, so little energy left, so little to call on. She yelped. Whimpered. She leapt up and pushed and scratched at the walls until one of the shutters slipped open and she shoved her muzzle out into the dark air, her tongue tasting the wind.

Again—the answering howl. Her undercoat stood up away from her skin as if it were straining toward that sound. That long, stretched- out, lonely sound. He was looking for her, searching for her. She whimpered.

Below her she heard metal clinking, a fire crackling. She heard humans moving around excitedly. Had they heard the answer? They must have. She could hear them hurriedly extinguishing their fire. She could hear them moving out into the trees, their hands full of metal, their voices low, their grunting words meaning nothing to her.

The answer came again. She dug deep, dug into the last flickering embers of her strength, and let out a warbling yowl. Enough sound to guide him, enough for him to find her through the woods. Enough to lead him to her. She slipped backward, her body spent, and collapsed on the wooden floor, one foreleg over her muzzle.

Later on she heard gunshots, and her tail flicked across the floor, but she was too weak to prick up her ears.

For another day and a night she lay on the floor of the fire tower, rolling over when she could, too weak, too hungry, to do more than pant and wait, and pant, and try to sleep.

She lacked the strength to make a single noise, but in the hidden chambers of her heart, she howled, and howled, and howled.

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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