She snufﬂed around the edge of the pipe. It was no mere curiosity that drove her, nor was it the tantalizing smell. This was a man-made thing, and therefore, she hated it. Hated it, hated it, hated it. That was the law, the iron margin of her existence. She hated it, without further reason or meaning except that it was touched by human hands, that it was part of their world. Yet it didn’t move or offer any resistance. So she took her time.
The top was open and dark. She looked inside, but her eyes weren’t her strongest sense. She put a paw up on the edge.
Then she twisted around it and sank her sharp teeth into the yielding, cracking whiteness of it, dug in deep and then yanked backward with the powerful muscles in her neck.
The pipe slid up out of the ground with a noise like thunder. Something fast moved past her cheek, ﬂew into the darkness. She cast the pipe away from her and danced backward, her ears stinging with the noise it had made.
Her mouth snapped open and her tongue came out, tasting the air.
What was that, was that, was that, what was that?
Someone was playing a joke on her. She snarled and slashed the air in rage. Humans—humans had put this thing here, just to distract her perhaps. Or maybe they had a darker purpose.
Humans. The humans had imprisoned her. They’d tried to break her, tried to destroy her mind. Maybe they’d succeeded, a little.
Now she was free. She didn’t know how that happened. But she knew she wanted their blood in vengeance.
She could smell them in the air. Their perfumes clung to the tree trunks, their sweat dotted the ground. She ran through the woods following that track, looking to show them, to show them, to show them who they were dealing with.
She found their camp. The wolf howled and tore into a bedroll with her teeth. She slapped at the kerosene lanterns and tore at the tents. The stink of humanity was everywhere, everywhere, all around her. They had been there. They had been so close! How had they gotten so close to her?
She would destroy them. They had harmed her—they had—they had—they had done something, she wasn’t clear on what but some-thing—they had imprisoned her. She recalled her starved howling. She could remember pain.
She would tear them apart. She would ﬁnd their throats and—
They were gone. The remains of their ﬁre still warmed the earth, but they were gone. They had headed out, toward where the sun had set. She could sense their path like an arrow of as- yet- unspilled blood painted across the forest ﬂoor. Blood that belonged to her. Her blood, her blood, her blood to lap up, her blood by right. Her blood.
On bounding legs she ran, following that trail. Through dawn and most of the day, she ran.
Her paws splashed across water, her tongue lapped at the reindeer moss and the lichens on the bare rocks. Above her the trees seemed to part, to lean away from her path. The moon, a narrow crescent like the blade of a knife, anointed her fur and her eyes as she streaked over tree roots and broken ground. She came to a shallow pond and didn’t even slow down, the freezing cold water scattering into round droplets on her guard hairs, her feet down and touching slimy rocks, ﬁsh scattering from the thousand small impacts of her running. She ran for hours, and did not tire, because there was blood at the end of the trail. Her blood to claim.
She could feel them ahead of her. The one who had chained her— yes, it was coming back to her, now. She had trouble telling them apart, but she knew there was one, one in particular. He was ahead. The male human, the one who had locked her away. He was there, and with her tongue ﬂapping in the corner of her mouth she could taste him and then, and then, and then—
A human warbled in the trees, a high- pitched fear sound. Her blood pumped cold in her veins with blood joy. The human was nearby, very close, nearby. It wasn’t the human she wanted, not the male that had locked her up. But this one would most certainly do for a start. She spun around, her paws slipping on pinecones and fallen needles. Her ears twitched, triangulating his position. She remembered when she had been taught to hunt and she dropped to the ground, her belly cold on the surface, her joints bent, poised like a spider’s legs are poised just before the strike.
The human moved through the trees, blundering like a bear. Making so much noise she nearly cringed. His stink was so complex—metal wood leather wool body odor meat breath urine human urine human spoor. It ﬂashed in the chill air like an abstract painting, a wild disarray of smells.
He called to her, but she did not answer. He crept closer. He was big, big for a human, bigger than her. His bones were long and she could hear his joints rolling. She could smell his skin. She could smell his blood.
He called again. He knew she was there, knew she was lying in wait for him. Her lips drew back over her massive teeth. Fine, she thought. Fine, ﬁne, ﬁne. Let him know. Let him see her with those cold human eyes. Let him smell and taste and touch her. She would not move. Not until, not until it was, not until it was—time.
She stood up on all four legs at once, raised the saddle of fur between her shoulders like a battle standard. He was within snapping range, close enough to touch her with his human hands. He had a piece of metal and he brought it up, metal and wood and oil and, and, and yes, she smelled silver and it banged in the air, exploded in the dark just like the white pipe back at the tower. She knew there was danger in that sound, knew it carried her death. She felt silver glide across her skin, felt silver ﬁlings get lost in her fur and they burned and she howled, but the silver didn’t break her skin.
The silver was gone. It had not pierced her. Had not killed her.
Now it was her turn.
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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