Frostbite- Chapter 33

The two men made camp and built a cheery little fire. The white smoke that lifted off the blaze mixed with the mist off the water and the yellowish twilight. That butterscotch quality of the evening had lingered for hours and it still wasn’t dark—it was near midsummer in the Arctic and that meant some very short nights—but the air had turned frosty and damp and the dancing fire chased away some of the gloom.

It was half past nine, already. The moon was going to rise at 9:45.

She caught Lester checking his watch more than once. Bobby, though, kept his eyes on her the whole time. Even as he got up to throw another sap- heavy log on the fire he watched.

“You hungry?” he asked, and she almost jumped. She’d gotten used to the silence. “We’ve got some powdered eggs and coffee. Instant, you know, but it’s still Timmy Ho’s best, and it’ll probably smell like civilization. I can’t remember, do you take sugar?”

The breath leaked out of her with a whimpering sound.

“I guess not,” he said, and sat down by the fire. To watch.

Her body grew light, almost insubstantial. Her clothes hung on her like formless sacks, then dripped to the floor of the clearing. She watched her broken wrist. The hand there lifted of its own accord—it looked like a balloon filling up with air. She could feel the bones inside twanging and grating on each other. It didn’t hurt much—nothing hurt, or felt like anything much. She felt like she were made of some softer substance than flesh and bones. She felt like she might have floated away if not for the incredibly heavy chain around her ankle that held her down. That didn’t fall off, even when she stood naked and ghostly and tearing at it, pulling at it—

Silver light. The world filled up with silver light. It was 9:47 p.m. Moonrise.

Her body shook with joy, her fur fluffing out and her bones popping happily. She dug at the ground with her claws and then lifted her muzzle to the wind to howl in pure pleasure.

Her nostrils twitched. Her throat tasted smoke—fire—wood burning nearby. Her eyes tried to focus and though her vision was not her best sense, she could still see the yellow splash of flame in the middle of the clearing. She could still see—them.

Men. Men. Men, hated men. Men, she panted. Men. She could taste their blood already. Though not as much as she would have liked. Visions of tearing them up and feasting on their entrails struck sparks in her heart and her head. Desires she had not felt before blossomed inside of her, filled her up, made her body race.

Men—two of them. They stood around their little fire as if it could protect them, their bodies crouched as if they might run. They were afraid of her.

They should be. A growl rumbled in her throat, low, but like the thundering pulse of a waterfall muted only by distance.

They shouted at one another and at her. Grunting, grumbling noises that meant nothing to her. They sounded sickly. They made the kind of sounds a stomach full of rotten meat might make. Her lips pulled back from her teeth as she took a step toward them. Another step, closer, her paws flat on the ground, her body low for the pounce, another step—

Searing pain burst through her leg, like a hot knife pressed against the bone. She yelped in horror and fell back, curled around herself, looked for the source of the terrible cutting agony. Her tongue lapped at her leg and she tasted fire there. She sniffed at the injury and smelled something new, new to her at least. Something she’d never encountered before and yet—and yet in her bones she understood immediately what it was. Silver. Silver the color of the moon, the color of the orb that ruled her.

A band of it wrapped around her hind leg. The band was tied around a tree with a rope of silver. She could never break that cord. If she tried to bite through it her teeth would snap, her gums would bleed. It was stronger than she was. She understood at once that she was trapped, and she knew it was the men who had trapped her.

She had not thought it possible that she could hate the men any more than she did already, that she could long for their throats between her teeth with any more rage and longing than she’d already known. But it was possible indeed. Every cell in her body burned with the need. And yet even as she wanted and begged and growled and fought and needed, she was stuck in place; she could not pounce, or run, or fight.A whimper leaked out of her that sounded pathetic, she knew, but she couldn’t help it. Let go, go, go, go, she panted, the rhythm of her anger and her dread rattling in the hollow parts of her skull. Free, free, free me, free!

One of the men, the paler of the two, walked toward her, his knees bent. Ready to jump away if she snapped at him. If she could move, if she could just get loose for one moment, she would tear apart his face and his chest and lap at the blood of his hot heart. Closer he came, his hands outstretched as if to soothe her. Fool! And yet even with blood-lust smearing its gory paws across her eyes she knew she could not hurt him, not unless he came a little closer, closer, closer, little closer, closer—

He stopped just outside her range. She swatted at him anyway out of sheer need, but he was out of reach. He made some more of those hateful sounds at her, but where before the clanging human syllables had been harsh and grating, these were soft and low like the fur of a woodchuck’s belly.

She couldn’t reach him. She couldn’t bite through the chain. Her growls were pointless, impotent.

Then she thought of something. Even as he spoke to her in those soft and rumbling tones, even as he studied her with his eyes, she licked the metal one more time, the silver like searing ice on her tongue. Then she got her muzzle and her enormous teeth around her own ankle and with one quick snap she bit through the bone. There was pain as her leg tore, as her skin and her muscles snapped apart, there was pain as her paw came off like so much dead meat. But the band of silver on her leg fell away and suddenly, instantly, she was free.

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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