Frostbite- Chapter 48

She swung around, her massive mouth wide open, and pulled the human into her jaws. His weapon fell to the ground and he screamed and her blood sang. She closed her jaw like a vise and twisted and pulled and tore and his leg bones snapped inside her head. She could hear them thrum against her upper palate. She could taste his blood on her tongue.

His body surged with pain and fear and it made her rejoice. She shook in convulsions as she tore at his flesh, as she swallowed chunks of him. He rattled and wailed and fell away from her and part of him tore free. His leg tore open in her mouth, and he toppled backward like a felled tree. She gulped down his blood and meat and lunged forward for the rest of him. Bloodlust scattered her senses—all she knew was to press forward, to press the attack. She did not see his arm come around, would not have guessed he had any strength left, and when his closed fist smashed into the top of her head, crushing her sensitive ears, she yelped and dropped to her side.

Light swirled in her eyes. Her mouth was full of nothing, full of air, of air—her paws beat at the carpet of pine needles and dead leaves. What had happened? How had—how had he hurt—how had—

He pushed away from her, scuttling into the darkness like a pill bug, his hands pushing at the snow and the rocks. She shook herself, trying to throw off the dullness, the ringing numbness in her head. When she recovered he was not there. She cast about, threw her forelegs down and touched the earth with her muzzle, sniffing for him. He couldn’t have gotten far. She knew she’d wounded him badly.

She took a step forward, another, another. She smelled water and breeze, cold air like the trailing hem of a ghost’s gown flapping in space. Another step and—no. She stood on a precipice looking down at a sunken stream bed. Far below her, down a raw slope of disturbed earth, he had crashed to the bottom of the trickling water. He was down there moaning and bleeding and still alive.

The need to kill filled her up. Her hackles lifted and a growl grew in her throat. Yet it was over. There was no way for her to get down that sharp slope. She was no human with fingers and toes to grab at the descent.

No matter. He couldn’t live long. She’d given him a death wound, and it was only a matter of time before blood loss finished him off. She turned around a few times and settled to her belly, to listen to his screams and wait.

The moon sank behind the trees and caught her yawning. And then—

Chey came to sobbing, her body cold and damp. She remembered blood, but whose, and how it had been shed, was lost to her. She lay on the edge of a riverbank maybe five meters high, a carved- out shore of mud and tree roots. She looked over the edge—and then she shrieked in horror.

Her wolf had killed a man. There could be no doubt about it, this time. She could see his bent and twisted corpse down there. It was Frank Pickersgill, and his blood stained the water. Naked and shivering, she stared down at her own handiwork.

Frank Pickersgill. She had not hated the man, though she’d been afraid of him. He’d never shown her anything but kindness. And she had killed him. Her stomach rumbled and she realized she must have—must have—

“Lady,” he croaked up at her.

Oh, God, he was still alive. Chey stepped forward onto the sloping bank and clods of dirt tumbled away from her foot, pattered down across him. She hurried down as quickly as she could manage, grabbing at exposed roots and bits of rock, sliding down as much as she climbed. She was covered in mud and dead leaves by the time she reached bottom, by the time she knelt by him in the frigid water.

“Lady,” he sighed, and she heard his breath come weakly in and out of him, dripping, almost gently, from his lungs.

“Don’t try to move,” she insisted.

“Lady, they see you,” he protested. “They’re gonna kill you.”

She searched him for wounds. Found most of his left leg gone. She started to vomit but forced herself to stop. “You’re going to make it,” she promised him, because it sounded like something she was supposed to say. She tore at his pant leg and found raw meat underneath. Blood trickled out of dozens of small wounds. Teeth marks.

Chey put the guilt aside. This was what she’d chosen, wasn’t it? To be a monster. To accept that she was a monster. This was what monsters did.

The wolf had felt no guilt. Just as Powell’s wolf had felt no guilt when it devoured her father. Just as Powell’s wolf had felt no guilt when it had tried to kill her, up in the tree. When it had scratched her.

“We got our orders. If you come down from that tower, we gotta shoot on sight. Figured you should know that.”

She pressed down on the raw tissues of his leg, tried to stanch the bleeding. She had no idea how much blood he’d lost already. “Don’t talk. Does talking hurt?” she asked.

“Shit,” he laughed. Weakly. “Everything hurts. Gimme my pack, willya? I’m gonna die.”

“Not necessarily,” she said.

“Nice.” He smiled at her. His eyes weren’t tracking, just staring straight ahead of him. Was that a bad sign? “You’re a nice lady. I want you to know I ain’t sore. I know this wasn’t personal and I’m sorry they’re going to kill you. My pack?”

She looked up and saw a leather satchel lying near his head. She grabbed it with her free hand and pushed it into his arms. He opened the flap and reached inside.

He wasn’t going to die. She knew it, understood it. He wasn’t going to die. But he was going to change.

“The moon will rise in a while,” she said. How many hours would it be? If he died of blood loss first—but no. He would make it until the moon rose.“Do you understand what’s going to happen to you?”

“I heard the story from Fenech, yeah. It’s like rabies or somethin’. You get bit and you become one yourself. Lady, you get out of here.You head east. Get as far from . . . Get away from Port Radium, and maybe you’ll make it. Don’t look, now.”

“What?” she asked.

He drew a pistol from his pack and it wavered as it moved around between them. She reared back, thinking he was going to kill her. Instead he pushed the muzzle of the gun into his mouth and fired.

“Jesus!” she shrieked, the noise lost in the gunshot. She fell backward into the water, her hands back to catch her.

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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