Frostbite- Chapter 44

Eventually Chey woke in silver light.

Her mouth was smeared across the floor. Her hands were under¬neath her, crushed under her own weight. It felt like there was no blood in them—they tingled painfully. Unbearably.

Her eyes felt like raisins. Dried up, cracked and broken. She rolled over and the effort made her squint. She was so hungry, it felt like insects had colonized her abdomen, that they had hollowed her out and left a gaping void where her stomach had been. So hungry.

“Hungry,” she moaned. She had a voice at least. A voice meant she was human again. It was getting hard to tell, sometimes. “Hungry,” she said again, and her throat cracked. No one could have heard her— she didn’t expect them to. But she was hungry.

She had no idea what time it was, or how many days had passed. Her thoughts were loose and small and she couldn’t get the mental energy together to make the simplest of logical jumps.

“Hungry.” She hadn’t even thought it that time. It just came out of her like a fetid belch.

Without water, without food—shouldn’t she have died already? But no. The curse wouldn’t let her die.

She closed her eyes. Maybe she changed, maybe she didn’t. All she saw was darkness.

When she opened her eyes again she felt a little better. There was a sound—a soothing sound. Tapping. Something was tapping on the roof. Lots of people, tapping very gently. There was a whole crowd of them up there, and they were—

A droplet of water seeped through the shingles over her head and dropped to scatter the dust near her face. Oh, she thought. It was raining. She closed her eyes again.

Up, moving, she smashed against the wall of the tower, slammed against it again, trying to knock the tower over, trying to break out. Her hands grabbed at the wood and pulled and shook and—and—she couldn’t—couldn’t catch her breath—she sank down to the floor again and—and closed her eyes.

Water was dripping down one wall. A thin, thready stream of it that wove around the splinters and pooled in the wolf- scratches. She watched it intently, raised her hands to touch it, lowered them again. As if by touching the stream of water she would make it stop. As if it was there just to tease her.

Her mouth burned. Her eyes felt like hard- boiled eggs, swollen inside her head. It hurt to move them from side to side. It felt like her eye sockets were full of sand, and every time she moved her eyes she could feel them getting scratched up back there.

The tiny ribbon of water never stopped. She leaned forward. Touched her tongue to the moistness. The water felt like ice on her cracked and swollen skin. It splashed across the inside of her mouth, wet her teeth. She laughed, it felt so good. She pressed her mouth against the wooden wall and sucked, sucked like an animal.

Like a gerbil in a cage sucking at its water bottle.

She didn’t fucking care.

“I don’t fucking care, alright?” she asked nobody. Because nobody was there. She sucked more water off the wall.

When she was done she dropped back to the floor. And closed her eyes. She had a smile on her face.

Knock, knock. She opened her eyes but didn’t move. Knock, knock. Someone was knocking—no, she’d thought the rain was people tapping on the roof, but—knock, knock.

“I’m here,” she screeched, and rolled over. She realized she was naked. She realized she didn’t have the strength to call out like that. She shouted again. “Please! I’m here! And I’m human!”

The trapdoor creaked open on its spring. A hand, a very human hand, reached up through the dark hole and pushed a plastic bag up onto her floor. Then the hand drew back and the door shut again.

She reached for the door, tried to get to it. She could barely crawl across the floor. It was already closed. The arm—she’d seen the arm; it hadn’t just been a hallucination. She was sure of it. The arm had been tanned and brown. It had been Lester’s arm.

“Lester,” she called. “Come on, Lester, it’s safe. You can come in. Lester! Look, I know I’m dangerous. I know I’m scary. But I’m also a human being. It’s not okay, Lester. It’s not okay to leave people alone like this! It’s not fucking appropriate! Lester! Come back. Just, come back. Please. Come back.”

She pressed her face up against the wood of the trapdoor. Pressed against it with her nose, her cheek. She was sobbing. Was he there? She could visualize his face, inches away from hers. Looking up, through the wood, just like she was looking down through the wood at him.

She heard the padlock click into place. She felt the fire tower shake a little as he rumbled down the stairs. Then nothing. If she’d had more strength she could have gotten up on her feet, thrown the shutters open. Screamed after him. If she’d had more strength, but she didn’t. She had no more strength at all.

She wept until she was dry again, and then she closed her eyes.

Later she opened the plastic bag. There were some sandwiches inside, all the same. Ham with a wilted leaf of lettuce on white bread. She ate two of them right away, crammed them into her mouth, chewed just enough that she wouldn’t choke, swallowed them in great painful lumps. Then she started to get sick to her stomach. It was too much, too fast. If she threw up it would only make her feel worse. She put the rest aside. Promised herself she would wait and eat them later.

Her body grumbled and bitched at her. But she could feel her stomach starting up again. Starting the process of digestion.

The bag also held two magazines. An outdated copy of Outdoor Life, and a relatively new Flarech surprised her. hat did the Pickers-gills want with a fashion magazine? Then she noticed that half the pages were stuck together.

She put it aside and picked up the bag to see what else they’d given her. The bag was so heavy it slipped through her fingers. She picked it open and took out the last of the contents. A pistol. A black, square pistol. She ejected the magazine and found there was one silver bullet inside.

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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