When she actually thought about it, though, there really was only one conclusion to be made. A pistol with a single bullet in it is useful for a small variety of things, and only one of them made sense given where she was. And how alone she was.
The pistol was Bobby’s ﬁnal gift. The last residue of whatever he might have once felt for her. He was being merciful. The thought made her grin crazily. She had never meant anything to him, not really. She couldn’t have. She was just convenient, a way to bring Powell out into the open.
His apparent affection for her—the words he’d spoken when they were quiet, when, after sex, she would reach for him—those words weren’t sincere. They were calculated, intended to achieve a certain effect, and in that regard they’d been very successful. He had a problem— Powell—and she had presented a solution. That was the closest thing to affection he’d felt for her, that she was useful.
He hadn’t expected her to get scratched. To join the club. Now that she had, she had become a new problem. And the pistol was what he’d come up with. The silver bullet was the solution. He was going to let her solve herself.
She lifted the pistol to shoulder height. She wondered if it mattered if she shot herself in the heart or the head. Blowing her brains out might hurt fractionally less—before she even knew what was happening she would just be gone, a puff of smoke blown away on a stiff breeze. If she shot herself in the heart it might take a couple of seconds for her to die. Excruciating, burning seconds.
Yet wasn’t the heart more traditional? That was how the stories usually went. Or was she thinking of vampires? Yes, of course. It made no difference where she shot herself. It was just “Silver bullet plus lycanthrope equals no more lycanthrope.” Just that simple.
Then again—what if she was wrong about that? She had never actually seen a wolf killed by a silver bullet. What if she shot herself in the head and it didn’t work? What if she had to lie there in her blood and scattered brains until she changed again?
She lifted the weapon as nonchalantly as she could and tapped the muzzle against the side of her head. Then she started laughing and put the gun carefully back down on the ﬂoor.
She kept laughing until she realized she couldn’t stop. Then she clutched her hands over her mouth and rolled up into a ball and tried to squeeze herself shut before her mind leaked out all over the ﬂoor.
She picked up the gun again. Contemplated just doing it. Finishing the whole sorry mess of her life the only way left to her. But her stomach was growling. She was still hungry—ravenous, after ﬁve days with nothing to eat. Maybe a last meal would help. Give her the strength to do what she had to do. The food might help her think more clearly, and . . . and she reached down and found nothing but a piece of wet ham lying on the ﬂoorboards. The stale bread and wilted lettuce leaf were gone.
“You can have that part,” Dzo said. “I’m a vegetarian, remember?”
It was so natural, so perfectly ordinary for him to be sitting in the corner nibbling at a piece of bread, that she didn’t scream. She just turned to look at him with half a smile on her face. He was sprawled across the ﬂoor with his mask tilted up, his furs spread out around him, making him look as ﬂabby as a bear about to go into hibernation.
“Powell’s gone off, and told me I couldn’t follow, which left me kind of at loose ends. Thought I’d pop in and see how the lady shape-shifter was doing,” he said, as if she’d asked what he was doing there. He looked at the gun that was dangling loosely in her hand. “Not so hot, it looks like.”
“I’ve been a little ...upset,” she said. She was crying, she realized. She couldn’t make herself stop. As dehydrated as she might be, her body seemed to still have a few tears left in it. “Don’t try to stop me,” she told him, almost begging him to do just that, and lifted the gun. Felt its weight.
“Why would I do that?” he asked, all innocence.
“You’re not human,” she said, as if she’d just realized it. She had no idea what he was, but he deﬁnitely wasn’t human. Some kind of ancient Indian spirit or something. “You can’t possibly understand what I’m going through.”
“Because I’m not human, right.”
She nodded slowly. “They hate me now. They want me to die. I can never go home, never feel safe around another human being, ever again.”
“And that’s enough to make you want to die?” Dzo shrugged. “Weird. Monty didn’t feel that way.”
“But look at him! Alone up here! All alone, with just—just you for company. Which, no offense, is not what I consider enough.”
“None taken,” he said, and she could see he genuinely meant it.
“I can’t be alone. Not forever. I’ll go crazy. Just as crazy as I did being locked up in here. I’ll start thinking that maybe I was wrong, that people can understand me after all. I’ll head south, just to see another human being. I’ll kill somebody.”
“Yeah, it’s tough being a lone wolf. You need a pack.”
“What?” she asked, as she lifted the pistol to her forehead.
“You said I wasn’t human, and that’s true. But then neither are you. Not anymore.”
“Shut up,” she told him. She gripped the pistol in both hands so it wouldn’t shake so much.
“You’re a shifter now,” he told her, as if he hadn’t heard her. “Not a human. What you need, I think, is to ﬁnd Monty. Be a pack with him. That’ll ﬁx you up.”
“Powell wants to kill me, too,” she said.
Dzo laughed. “Oh, come on. Really? You really believed him when he said that?” He scratched at his swollen gut. “No way. He was mad, sure, because you kind of, you know, betrayed him.”
“Yes,” she said. “I did that.”
“But the way he looks at you, man! The way he talks to you. I’ve been living with him for a long time and I never heard him say more than a dozen words at a stretch. Then you come around and the guy just won’t shut up. He needs to be in a pack, too. It’s a real shame. I thought the two of you were really going to make it together. Oh well. Hey, I don’t know much about guns or nothing. But it looks like your safety is still on.”
She yanked the pistol away from her face. Stared at it.
“It’s that little catch there. Just switch it to the left,” he said, helpfully.
“Dzo,” she said, and couldn’t think of what to say next.
“You want me to do it for you?”
“Dzo. I don’t want to die.”
“Then maybe you should leave the safety on.” He shrugged.
“I just don’t want to be alone.” She laid the gun gently on the ﬂoor. And then she covered her face in her hands and moaned. Long and loud. Her body shook with it, with the realization. That she did not want to die. That she wanted to survive. “I’ve made so many mistakes. But I want to live.”
It hurt. It hurt a lot. Her body was rejecting her old humanity. Her belief that all this was temporary, or that maybe there was a cure. She was accepting that she had changed, that she was a lycanthrope now. She was accepting what that meant.
It meant, for one thing, that she needed to apologize to Powell. Explain herself to him. Convince him not to kill her. Because the only way she was going to live—and that was what she wanted, it was deﬁnitely what she wanted—was with his help.
It might also mean she would have to ﬁght. Bobby and the Pickers-gills weren’t going to be pleased when she failed to kill herself like she’d been told. They might try to lock her up again. They might try to kill her. She would have to defend herself.
Most assuredly, though, it meant she had to get out of the tower.
“Well,” Dzo said, looking slightly uncomfortable, “I guess that’s settled, so I’ll just be going.” He started to stand up.
“Hold on, Dzo,” she said. “Can we get out of here? Go someplace else and talk there? Pretty much anyplace—anyplace at all—will do.” He must have come in through the trapdoor, she thought, since there was no other way in. Which meant the door had to be open. She scrabbled over to the trap and yanked on the latch—and nearly pulled her arm out of joint. It was locked up as tight as ever. She pulled again just for form’s sake, but nothing had changed.
She turned to look at Dzo. He just shrugged.
How had he gotten in?
Suddenly she realized she was naked and she grabbed for her sweater. Dzo didn’t turn away or blush or anything. “This—this means nothing to you, does it?” she asked. She pulled it on anyway. “You don’t care if I’m naked.”
“Gosh, do you mean if I care what kind of clothes you wear or if you’re in your altogether?”
“Well, to be honest, not as such.” He scratched his belly. The question seemed to make him much more uncomfortable than her nudity. “I mean, I barely have time to notice what color your skins are. Humans kind of all run together in my head. They’re like mayﬂies, eh? Here for a second and then they’re gone. I like you shape- shifters better ’cause you last a little longer, but, well, still and all.”
She nodded again, understanding none of that.
Maybe she could worry about it later. “Dzo, you got in here somehow. I’m sure that if I asked you how I wouldn’t understand the answer.”
“Dove through the water. I’m a pretty strong swimmer.”
“See what I mean?” she said. “Can—I—dive through the water?” she asked. “To get out of here? ”Whatever it meant, whatever weird new fucked- up action it might entail, she knew she would do it. Anything to get out of the tower.
His face opened up as he considered her question. “Well,” he said, ﬁnally, “no.”
“No, you see, because the water I’m talking about, it isn’t water like you’re used to. It’s everywhere all at once, kinda, and I don’t think you know how to swim like that.”
“Right,” she agreed.
“Now, as for teaching you, that’s been done before, but that’s a long time since. Like back when all the stories were still true.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said, defeated. She slumped back against the wall of the ﬁre tower and closed her eyes.
“But that’s not to say there’s no way out for you. Why, I can see a pretty good way right now,” he told her.
“You can.” It wasn’t a question. Because she didn’t expect an answer, at least not one that made sense.
“Yeah, sure,” he told her. “You just open up one of these windows and jump out.”
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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