Frostbite- Chapter 21

Most people’s lives change very slowly, more slowly than the seasons. Some people are born into the life they’re going to lead and nothing much ever comes along to force them to change. For Cheyenne Clark, change came about in the space of thirty very bad seconds.

It happened when she was younger. Much younger. It happened one day when she and her dad were driving in their car.

It was at the end of a vacation. They were coming down out of Jasper National Park, where her dad had shown her the glaciers. Just the two of them—she was on holiday from school and he was between jobs, but he’d scraped enough together for the trip of a lifetime. Her mother hadn’t been able to get time off from work, but frankly, she’d looked relieved when they packed up the car, waved good- bye, and pulled out of the drive—glad enough to have the house to herself for a while, to have some time off from looking after the both of them. For Chey and her dad it had been a time to bond, something they’d never had much of before. The park was half a continent away from home and they’d driven the whole way there, which meant a lot of time to talk to each other and reconnect.

That was the summer she’d started to really think about what it was going to be like to be an adult, and her dad had answered all of her stupid questions. He’d told her stories about his own youth, in America, and his time in the army there, which sounded like going to a summer camp you couldn’t leave. In exchange she’d told him all about her life, about school and her friends, and she’d even told him about her first kiss, with a sweaty Quebecois boy who had called her mademoiselle and then bragged, afterward, that he’d gotten his hand up under her shirt even though he really hadn’t.

As for the park itself, it had turned out to be a lot of fun. The two of them had ridden in a snowmobile as big as a bus and out of the window she’d seen a herd of deer. They’d had a week in the park, and though she’d been dreading the trip all spring, now that it was over she wished she could have stayed there for a month.

It was on the drive back that things changed.

It was July 25, 1994, and Chey was twelve years old. They’d been driving for days already and the car was full of discarded fast food wrappers and empty plastic water bottles and it had started to smell a little. Her dad let her put in an Ace of Base CD, and he even said it wasn’t half bad. It was that or the radio, and there was nothing on that far west but country music and talk radio about ice fishing and hockey.

He was wearing his red Melton jacket that smelled like cigarettes even though he’d quit the year before. He hadn’t shaved in three days and his face was dark with stubble. Afterward she would not be able to remember much of what they talked about in the car that day. There had been so many long, deep conversations already, and the promise of plenty more to come—they were nearly a thousand kilometers from home, and had days of driving ahead of them—and most of that day, she thought, they had lapsed into a kind of companionable silence, the two of them sharing a half- breathed laugh now and again, her father occasionally pointing through the windshield at a flight of geese or a particularly stunning stretch of landscape.

She was sure, however, that she was the first one who saw the wolf. “Oh, Dad, look at that,” she said, pressing up against her window until her breath fogged on the glass. He stamped on the brakes, maybe thinking she’d seen some obstruction in the road. They hadn’t quite stopped when the wolf leapt onto the highway and smashed into the front end of the car.

There was a really loud bang as metal crumpled under the impact. Chey slid to one side in her seat and screamed as the car rocked on its tires.

“Honey, shh,” her dad said. “Shh,” his big hairy hand catching her across her chin as he reached to steady her. Maybe he’d reached over to try to grab her shoulder, but his eyes were fixed on the animal in front of them.

The sun had set, but still a trace of orange lingered on the horizon. The moon was up, a narrow crescent. In the distance the mountains were slowly turning into silhouettes, already heavy with night. The wolf sat in the road in front of the car with its head turned to one side, not moving at all.

Chey breathed heavily. She was very scared.

“It’s alright,” her dad said. “It was just a little accident. It didn’t see us coming.”

The wolf slowly stood up and took a loping step to the side, away from the car. Then it shook its head violently as if trying to shake water out of its ears. It turned its face to look at them, and its frosty green eyes were full of undeniable malice.

“Just don’t scream, okay?” Chey’s dad said. “Just don’t make any noise, and I’m sure it will leave us alone. It’s hurt. It’s going to be scared, but—”

The wolf tilted its head back and let out a roaring yowl, sounding more like a mountain lion than a dog. Tears jumped out of Chey’s eyes and she pulled her knees up to her chin.

“I’m going—” he stopped as she started to whine for him to not go anywhere, to stay with her. It was a primal sound that came out of her, not any coherent speech. She couldn’t have held it in if she’d tried. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to put the car in drive and—”

The wolf bounded up onto the car’s hood and smashed at the windshield with its wide face. They both screamed then. A crack clicked and rattled across the glass as the wolf reared back, wrinkling its nose. It brought up its massive paws and slapped them against the glass and the windshield shivered, cracks radiating outward, cobwebs of broken glass emanating from where it struck. It brought its face close again and howled in at them, and its breath froze on the windshield, fogged it up. The wolf threw itself at the barrier one last time and the glass just evap¬orated out of its frame in a winking cascade of light and noise.

The wolf ’s giant teeth came inside, inside the car with them. The teeth were white and yellow and the animal’s lips were black, drawn back to bare the teeth. Those white, white teeth turned red as they sank into her dad’s neck; she heard her dad trying to talk; he made a gurgling sound as he tried to tell her something. The wolf yanked backward and her dad’s body strained against his seat belt. Safety glass was everywhere, in the leg wells, on the dashboard, in her hair. The wolf yanked again and her dad’s throat came out in pieces. His eyes were still watching her.

They looked calm, those eyes. Totally in control. He was still trying to convince her that everything was okay. His eyes were lying to her.

The wolf ’s green eyes showed nothing but the truth.

She was screaming. She screamed and screamed, but the wolf didn’t even seem to hear her.

Her dad kept trying to speak. His lips moved, and he lifted his hand toward her, but he couldn’t seem to get it high enough. It fell back against the seat between them with a soft thud. Blood came up out of his neck and ran down his shirt. The wolf lunged forward again and got its teeth into his shoulder and his chest. It pulled, and pulled, and her dad slid out of his seat belt, his arms and legs bobbing, and the wolf dragged him down into the road.

Then—she was alone in the car. Her dad was just—just gone, along with the wolf.

The silence would have been perfect if it had not been for the CD playing on the sound system. She reached over and switched it off.

Cool air came in through the hole in the windshield, a breeze that touched the wetness on her face. Chey sat up a little and looked forward.

Outside, in the fan of the headlights, the wolf was tearing at her dad’s body. Tearing pieces off of him and swallowing them convulsively. Eating him. The wolf looked up, its face covered in blood except for those wintry eyes. Those hateful eyes. They looked right into Chey and judged her and found her wanting. They despised her.

In a minute, those eyes said, I’ll be done here. Then I’m coming for you.

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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