July 20, 2012
The door flew open and a teenage girl stormed into the little wooden cabin. She carried a flurry of snow in her wake, crimson cloak whirling about her. Ebony curls spilled from her hood, framing her slim face, which usually pale, now bloomed pink. The girl crossed her arms tightly over her chest, demanding to know why she had been called so unceremoniously from her leisure.
Her mother turned, and handed the girl a basket. “Your grandmother is very sick, dear. I need you to bring this to her.”
The girl’s lips pursed and her eyes remained glaring. “Do I have to? Granny stinks. And she never does anything; she just sort of sits there.”
“Don’t be insolent, child. You would do well to respect your elders.”
The girl rolled her eyes and snatched the basket from her mother’s hands. She peered inside. It contained a wedge of cheese, a small bottle of wine, two large loaves of rye bread, a piece of cake, a pot of honey, and a brass key.
“Make sure to lock up Grandmother’s cottage after you leave.”
“Why do I always have to do these things?”
“You do nothing but play all day.”
The girl glanced past her mother to the window, where a boy was peering inside. Dark, disheveled locks peeked from under his brown cap and fell into sunken, blue eyes. He took the feather from his mouth, stuck it in his cap, and a grin split his gaunt face.
“Be careful of the wolves,” her mother cautioned.
The corners of the girl’s mouth tilted up ever so slightly, and as soon as her mother’s back was turned, she waved to the boy.
Night had not yet fallen. The setting sun lit the clouds afire, and the full moon hung ghostly against a blazing sky. The girl plodded lazily through the forest, swinging the basket to and fro so that the items inside clattered about.
She was halfway to the cottage when the rustling of a bush drew her attention. A pair of icy eyes glowed from the darkness, and a scarred muzzle emerged, followed by pointed ears and the huge, muscular body of a gray wolf. The girl froze, gripping her basket tightly.
The wolf reared up onto its hind legs. “You wouldn’t have any food to spare a starving stranger, would you?”
The girl relaxed visibly, her eyes twinkling. “A good strong lad like yourself, surely you find enough to eat?”
“Oh please, milady, I haven’t had anything to eat for days.”
“Oh alright then. But I have to bring some of this to my grandmother.”
She took out a large loaf of bread and stored in it her cloak. After a moment’s hesitation, she took the piece of cake as well, and handed the basket to the wolf. “Good day, sir.” She curtsied, smiling sweetly.
The wolf tipped his head to the girl and plunged back into the trees.
Dusk descended, and the girl skipped off toward her grandmother’s cottage, cake in hand, red cloak fluttering behind her.
Saffron ribbons were twisting in the clouds as she licked her sticky fingers. Her grandmother’s stone cottage rose from the hill up ahead. As she approached, she narrowed her eyes at the leaping shadows in the windows. Then the horrible snarls and ripping sounds reached her ears. She sprinted to the dwelling, hood flying off, and flung open the door. A grisly scene welcomed her.
Thin streams of red ran across the floor and collected in pools. Filthy bones were piled atop the firewood, burning. Ravaged chunks of flesh were scattered across the room, and mangled entrails hung from the foot of the bed. Scarlet, everywhere.
The wolf sat on the bed in a feral crouch, munching away at what had to be a leg, or the remains of a leg. The fur around its muzzle and forepaws were spiky with blood. With a final gulp, the wolf looked up, blue eyes locking on her. Its lips drew back, revealing stained, yellow teeth in an unmistakable grin.
The girl crossed the room, boots splashing in the puddles and spattering her porcelain legs. She slumped into her late grandmother’s rocking chair, swiped the brown, feathered cap that lay on the table, and fitted it over her dark hair. She retrieved the bread from her cloak and a sick smile spread across her face as she rocked, back and forth.