Frostbite- Chapter 58

“Okay,” Balfour said. His voice matched him perfectly.
Gruff, but not too low.

“Okay what?” she asked.

He gestured with the gun for her to climb out of the truck. Chey studied his face. There was no smile there anymore. He’d had his fun, and he’d won his game. Now he was just going to finish her off so he could collect on his contract. It was over.

Chey lifted herself from the ceiling of the cab with her arms and legs. Then with a sudden inspiration she threw herself forward, against the windshield. She didn’t weigh all that much and she had little strength left to add to her momentum, but it was enough.

The truck screamed as metal tore apart from metal. Welds popped, rivets shot out like bullets. The whole massive multiton body of the truck scraped forward. Broken rock tailings rolled away, out from under all that mass, and the truck jumped forward as if it were moving on rails. Balfour’s eyes went wide and he fired through the windshield. Chey couldn’t see where the bullet had gone. A second later the truck rumbled forward, gaining speed, and smacked right into him. He was carried forward as the vehicle tilted down and fell into the water with a noisy splash and one extended bass note of metal folding in on itself.

The windshield had become the floor. Chey lay sprawled across it, groaning with pain. The fall had hurt, but not in such a way that it mattered—not in any way that could kill her. She rubbed her forehead and then opened her eyes.

Under the water, Balfour looked right back at her, lit up by the beam of his flashlight. His cap was gone and his sparse hair floated in the silver bubbles that streamed out of his mouth. She couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead. His eyes were wide, very wide.

Then he slammed on the windshield with the flats of his hands, slapped at the glass as his mouth opened and toxic water poured in. Chey screamed as she saw the muscles of his face constrict, as he drowned while she watched. He was trapped under the weight of the truck, unable to get out from under. His muscles went slack—his hands drifted away—and finally, after far too long, his eyes lost their focus.

She made no move to save him.

Frigid water gurgled in through the bullet hole in the windshield and through the open window. It leaked around her body, soaked her clothes. The saline stink of the muck filled what little air there was in the cab. Chey jumped up, away from the touch of the water, and pushed her way back out through the open side window, just before the water surged over the sill of the window and filled the cab.

In the water she kicked and flailed and struggled to get clear. Making all the noise in the world, she scrambled out onto the shore and lay gasping on the bank, in pain, half- frozen, and knowing she wasn’t done yet. Bobby was still out there. She needed to get up. She needed to run.

For some reason her arm hurt. She couldn’t remember landing on it when the truck hit the water. She thought she should take a look at it, maybe.

In a second, she promised herself. She stared up at the stars. In a second she would start again, she would get up and get moving. In just a second.

Above her the aurora borealis flickered and snapped like a wind swept curtain. It was so beautiful. Green coruscations like waterfalls of pure light dazzled overhead. It was hard to look away. She didn’t want to.

She had to—but she could give herself a second, she thought. Just a second to look, to see one last beautiful thing. In a second, she would—

Her arm really hurt. The pain was acid, eating away at her. It was poison rushing through her blood. It was—it was—

She managed to look down and saw blood welling from a wound in her bicep, staining her coveralls black in the darkness. A small, perfectly round hole had been punched right through the cloth.

Oh no, she thought. No. Balfour had fired at her right before he died. She’d thought the bullet had gone wild. It couldn’t have hit her— she would have felt it. Wouldn’t she have felt it? Unless shock and horror had flooded her bloodstream with adrenaline to the point she couldn’t feel anything.

That was a gunshot wound, alright. And he’d fired it from a pistol. Which meant the bullet might be silver. If it was—if it was she had to do something; she had to—had to—she was so tired—she would have to dig it out, God it hurt, she had to—

Then Chey passed out.

The silver bullet in her arm was sapping her strength. She’d already pushed herself past her limits, and now she had nothing left to fight off the poison. Her body couldn’t go another minute—it was just that simple.

She did not wake when the sun rose and warmed her chilled body. She did not wake hours later, when the moon came up too, and silver light transformed her.

Silver, silver, silver inside, silver.

The wolf stood up and panted into the wind.

Silver. Silver, silver, silver. The wolf knew exactly what was wrong. She felt weak, weaker than she ever had before. She felt sick, and thoughts of food made her sicker. She felt hot and cold at once, and she knew she was dying. There was silver in her leg—how had it gotten there? She couldn’t even begin to imagine.

She lifted her hurt leg and grabbed it with her jaws. Pull it off. Bite it out and spit it in the poison water where it belongs. She had done as much before, to get out of chains.

Her teeth sank through her fur and then she was yelping and rolling on the ground, rolling her forehead along the hard ground, her eyes squinted tightly shut. Pain! Her teeth had touched the silver and her whole skull had erupted in pain, in agony. Her nerves sang a high thready note that buzzed in her ears and in her brains. She rolled and shook herself and warbled out a kind of muted scream until the pain had lessened a little, until she could think again.

She couldn’t bite off the leg. She couldn’t bite out the silver. Every fiber of her being cried out for relief, for comfort, but she had none to provide.

Silver, silver, silver, silver inside her, silver, poison silver!

She ran in circles. She ran in random directions as if she could get away from the pain. She tilted her head back and howled, howled and howled, yelped, mewled, roared. None of it helped. She heard the echo of an answer, a callback, from far away and she knew the other wolf must be nearby. Maybe—maybe he could help her. But would he? He had tried to kill her, hadn’t he?

It didn’t matter. He was the only possible source of help. She ran toward him and howled and followed his answering howls. They would meet. They would join together again. They would meet like packmates and he would help her. He would do something, something, something for her.

Before she’d even smelled him, though, a buzzing roar chopped up the night, chopped it to pieces. The human flying thing. The wolf could not conceive of what a helicopter was, but she knew what it was carrying—her death. She watched, her ears flicking back, as it came up over the far side of the junk heap and turned to head right for her.

The wolf ran.

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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