Frostbite- Chapter 46

“It’s at least thirty meters down,” Chey said, looking out into the darkness. She had one shutter propped open, but the moon was down (of course it was, she thought, otherwise she’d be in her wolf form) and she couldn’t see anything beyond the branches of the nearest trees. She couldn’t, for instance, see the ground below her. She thought if she could see how far the drop was she might be more afraid than she was already. In the pitch dark it might be possible to climb up on the sill and jump out. The idea still made her stark raving terrified. “That would kill me.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” Dzo leaned out and looked down. “You’re a shifter, remember? It’s just going to hurt like a bitch.”

Chey licked her chapped lips. “I’m not sure if I can do that. I’m afraid.”

Dzo shrugged mightily. “You asked if I knew a way out of here. You’re looking at it. Don’t blame me if you wimp out.”

“You’re not human. I don’t think you’re alive, really. You’re more like a ghost or a spirit. Can you even feel pain? Have you ever felt pain?”

Dzo tilted his head and shoulders from side to side. It was a distinctly ambivalent gesture. “Why, sure I have,” he said, finally. “Sorta. Actually, no, I guess I haven’t.”

“Well, it’s not fun. That’s pretty much the definition of pain. It’s the opposite of fun. Maybe I should just take my chances and stay here.”

And blow my head off with my one silver bullet, she thought. “I mean, even if I did survive the fall, even if I recovered from the broken bones and punctured lungs and blood loss and everything, then I’d still be down there. In these woods, with Bobby wanting me dead. At least up here I’m safe from him.”

“Until he comes back for you and finds you didn’t kill yourself like he wanted,” Dzo pointed out.

“Yeah. How long is it until moonrise?” she asked Dzo.

“No clue,” he told her. She stared at him and he shrugged. “You think I got some kind of built-in moon schedule in my head or something? Listen, you want to know where the nearest body of water is, and how deep it is, and what’s at the bottom, then I’m your guy. But why do you care?”

“Because when I jump out this window, when I land down there and I break my neck, I’ll be in incredible pain until the next time I change. I’d like to spend as little time as possible like that. The perfect time would be to jump just a couple of seconds before I change.” She stared at him again.

“Sorry,” he said.

She nodded and grabbed all the things she had to her name. The two magazines, the slices of greasy ham, and the pistol. She made sure the safety was on and jammed it in her pocket.

“If I land on my head, and my brains splat all over the ground,” she said, “I still won’t die. Will I?”

“Don’t know,” Dzo admitted.

Chey frowned and went to the shutter. It was so easy not to jump. It was so easy to waste more time. But what if she changed in the next second? What if she had to wait for another night, another day to pass?

And what if she jumped—and there were still hours to go?

“Okay,” she said. “I’m going to do it.” But then she just stood there. Her legs were frozen in place. “Can you help me?”

“Yeah, definitely,” Dzo said. He came up behind her and picked her up as if she were made of paper. Then he tossed her out into the wind, even as she began to scream at him, to beg him not to. She looked back and saw the side of the fire tower, saw Dzo silhouetted in the window, barely illuminated by starlight. His mask was down.

She fell.

The cold darkness around her felt like an illimitable gulf of space. She felt for a particle of time as if she were floating in the depths of interstellar space.

A moment later she collided with the ground so hard she felt like a squashed bug, like a stain on the forest floor.

The pain was unimaginable. Her skin hurt everywhere and she felt bones poking her, fragments of bone sticking in her guts. Her breath sputtered inside her, full of blood—she must have punctured a lung. She could see nothing, could feel nothing but her own insides squirming out through a break in her skin.

She tried to get a hand underneath her, tried to rise. Blood gushed from her mouth and she fell back, her torn cheek grating on the rocks.

The moon—she begged the moon to rise—the moon had to come. It had to come soon. The moon. It would heal her. It had to come. Soon.

Then she felt a hand slip into hers. It was smooth and small, almost feminine. It was a stranger’s hand, but she was past caring. The tiny fragment of comfort she took from that human touch was something, a drop of water on a parched tongue. It didn’t hurt—that was the main thing.

Who was it? Who could it possibly be? Or was someone even there—maybe, could it just be a hallucination, her brain trying desperately to find some comfort for her, making things up when nothing real presented itself ? She could wonder, but she had no way of answering. Her eyes couldn’t focus, couldn’t make out anything. No one spoke to her—or if they did, she couldn’t hear it.

Her breath hitched in her damaged lungs and stopped and she panicked for a second, but the hand just closed tighter around hers and she calmed down, literally felt herself settling down and then, with a noise like a balloon popping, air sagged out of her.

Whose hand was it? In the end it didn’t matter. She lay there broken on the ground for forty- seven minutes. She had no way of measuring that time—to her it felt like hundreds of hours. It would have felt like an eternity if not for that hand in hers. Then silver light came like a grace upon her, a divine breath of mercy. Confused, her head still buzzing and unclear, the wolf rose on strong legs and howled for her newfound freedom.

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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