Frostbite- Chapter 35

Chey discovered the limits of her new domain pretty quickly. The fire tower comprised a single square room twenty feet on a side. It had a pitched wooden roof through which she could see sunlight peeking in. The walls were painted a peeling green, and were cut away at waist height so they could be opened upward like shutters. The walls, floor, and ceiling were covered in block- letter graffiti carved into the wood with a pocketknife. Very little of it was legible or made any sense—mostly it was just names and dates, presumably memorials left by the people who had stood lonely watch high above the trees, making sure they didn’t all burn down. Chey propped open one of the shutters even though it let in a gust of frigid air and made her feel even chillier. She took a long look at what her predecessors in the tower would have seen. The drunken forest all around rolled and pitched like an ocean frozen in mid- heave. In the distance she could see sparkling light bouncing off some water, but she couldn’t be sure if it was the lake where Bobby had set up his camp. Powell’s cabin was nowhere in sight. Beyond that she had no points of reference—beyond those two locations the forest was a unicellular seething mass, an entity without boundaries or form. She let the shutter fall back with a bang that made her wince.

A big footlocker along one wall proved to be locked up tight. Chey tugged at the latches a little as if they would come loose in her hands, but the metal locks were solid, perhaps rusted in place. Chey inhaled deeply—she wasn’t going to let even such a tiny mystery go unsolved if she could help it. Then she used all of her wolf- given strength and tore the locker open, sending pieces of the lock flying around the small room.

Inside the locker were kerosene lamps (but no kerosene), boxes of firestarters, tin plates and cups, and other camping supplies. Underneath the supplies she found an old sweater with a bad tear down one sleeve and struggled into it. It was far too big for her and came down to mid-thigh. She pawed wildly through the other contents of the locker, looking for more clothes, but didn’t turn anything up. There were some old books, but they smelled musty and when Chey picked one up the cover was damp and spotted with mold. The pages stuck together in one thick, gloppy block.

On the far side of the room stood a table and a pair of folding chairs. There was a big electrical outlet under the table—perhaps there had been a radio once—and a single light bulb hung from the ceiling, but the power had been cut off. With the shutters down the room was dark and oppressive. With the shutters up the wind tore right through and cut her to the bone. She compromised by bracing one shutter halfway open, then sat down in one of the folding chairs. It creaked badly under even her relatively slight weight—rust had been working at its joints for years.

If she sat very still it didn’t make any noise. She experimented with drawing her feet up underneath her, sitting almost in lotus position on the chair. She pulled the sweater down over her knees, stretching it out.

She had no idea what to do next. If Bobby and Lester were dead, if Powell was going to kill her the next time he saw her—she couldn’t stick around. She knew she was going to have to leave if she wanted to survive. Still, she couldn’t very well walk back to civilization. And even if she did she would just be putting people at risk. What would she do, walk into a hospital and ask to be treated for lycanthropy? There was no cure. Powell had been quite clear on that—he’d been looking for one for a hundred years, he’d said.

She bit off all her fingernails, thinking her way through her situation.
Then she jumped up and tore open the footlocker and took out one of the books. It was called Black Sun, by somebody called Edward Abbey. She’d never heard of him, but she didn’t care. She tore off the cover, then started peeling the pages apart one by one. Carefully she arranged them on the floor, left to right, then across when she ran out of room. The paper felt slimy in her fingers but it crumbled if she rumpled it too much. She was careful not to rumple it. She figured she could dry out the pages and then read them one by one over by the propped- open shutter where the light was better.

Before she had fifty pages laid out to dry silver light came and carried her away.

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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