Seeing Red: A Twisted Fairy Tale

SEEING RED
by Bob Freeman
(originally published in Wicked Karnival, 2005)

Once upon a time, not so long ago, lived a mean and spiteful little girl who took pleasure in harming the animals that called Sloccum Forest their home. As she walked the winding path through the forest she would stone birds from their perches, snare rabbits and poke them with pointy sticks, and leave poisoned sweetbread for any to find. The lords of the forest took great interest in her and watched her carefully so as to warn their charges away.

But this girl hid her cruelty from the people around her and was able to pass for an innocent and sweet young maiden. None were so gullible as this girl’s grandmother, who lived deep in the woods along the bank of Goose Creek. The animals of the wood loved the old woman because she was kind and generous and had aided many before old age crept in. Despite her love for the inhabitants of the wood she refused to hear anything of detriment concerning her seemingly doting granddaughter, so the lords of the forest came up with a plan and encouraged the old woman to give her granddaughter a gift. And so it was that for her birthday the old woman made for the child a beautiful red cloak with a cap to match. Now, the lords surmised, the animals of the forest could see her coming and thus scurry away before she could harm them anymore.

But this plan would backfire, for the lords did not realize the depths of her depravity. For months she walked the woods and found no animal to visit her cruelty upon. She fumed and she hissed and she cursed her misfortune until one day her mother made a fresh batch of muffins and asked her to take them to her ailing grandmother. The girl smiled as a devious plot hatched in her dark and twisted mind. She would add a little something extra to her mother’s prized muffins and she would surprise her grandmother with a gift unexpected. She smiled at the thought and skipped off to put her plan into motion.

Later that afternoon the girl made her way through Slocum Forest and to her grandmother’s house. Her mother had been right and the old woman was in bed with her aches and pains. They won’t hurt you much longer, the girl thought to herself.

“I’ve brought muffins,” she said with a wry smile.

“Oh, you sweet dear, thank you,” the grandmother said. “Will you join me?”

“No, grandmother, I can’t,” she said, “but I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow. Eat up now.”

The girl skipped away as her grandmother ate from the poisoned muffins. It wasn’t long before she became fevered and ill. She could feel her life-force slipping away. Suddenly the cabin door opened and a man appeared, framed by the sunset.

“Old woman,” the woodsman spoke, “you are slipping away from us. If you would live, I have the means to make it so, but you would need to become one of us.”

“Please, good sir, I fear I am not ready to pass. I can’t imagine what has overtaken me.”

The woodsman drew close and sat beside the ailing woman, taking her hand. “We have tried to tell you of the bitterness within your grandchild, wise woman. We have protected the beasts of the forest from her and in her desire to cause harm, has turned upon her own kin.” The man picked up the basket of muffins and removed one, lifting it to his nose.

“Belladonna and gypsum weed,” he said, sniffing at the pastry. “She’s poisoned you, old mother.”

The old woman was heartbroken. She didn’t want to believe it but there could be no denying the truth. She braced herself for the woodsman’s cure and resolved that she would make all right once she was whole once more.

A new day dawned and played out like any other day, save this day found the young girl quite anxious. As morning gave way to afternoon and dusk began to settle she announced to her mother that she would be off to grandmother’s house, to bring her flowers and good cheer. Flowers for the dead, the young girl thought to herself. With a skip in her step she was off. The sun had just dropped below the horizon but a full moon lit well the forest path. In time she came before her grandmother’s cabin.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Grandmother?” she queried, not expecting an answer, but when one came she nearly jumped out of her skin.

“Come in child,” her grandmother called out. It was definitely the old woman’s voice, though somewhat harsh and gravely.

The girl opened the door and walked inside. The room was dark, lit dimly by a low-burning lamp near the old woman’s bed.

“Grandmother, are you well?” she asked.

“Never better, child,” the old woman responded. She was in bed with the covers pulled up tight around her head and a large nightcap on that was ill fitting.

“Grandmother, what big ears you have?” the girl said, taking a step closer.

“All the better to hear you with, my child”

“Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!” The girl had stepped even closer, trying desperately to get a better look. Had she miscalculated the effects of the poisoned muffins?

“All the better to see you with,” her grandmother replied. The old woman pulled the covers down away from her face, but kept her head low.

“Grandmother, what big hands you have!?!”

“All the better to hold you with, my dear sweet child.” The girl’s grandmother raised her head and smiled.

“Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!”

“All the better to eat you with!” the grandmother exclaimed as she sprang from the bed. Her gaping maw filled with rows of terrible fangs, her flesh covered with thick gray fur.

“No!” the girl screamed, trying to turn and run for the door, but the werewolf was upon her in an instant. Claws tore through the child’s flesh. Fangs bit deep into the child’s throat. The lycanthrope gulped at the sinew and baby fat and gorged itself on the meal before her. The red cloak and hat had been torn asunder, shredded and tattered and was soon the only remnant of the grandchild that was.

The door opened and the wolf looked up into the shadowed visage of the woodsman, axe in hand. He lifted it overhead and smiled… and then tossed it across the room to land on the old woman’s bed. He reached his hand out toward the she-wolf and led her outside to stand beneath the moonlight. He ripped at his clothing and stood naked, bathed in lunar light and then he began to change.

The woodsman’s flesh rippled with animated muscle and the reshaping of bone. He cried out in pain as the flesh tore and reknitted itself, hair sprouting across his bare flesh. His face convulsed and elongated forming a snout and maw of dangerous fangs. He howled with glee at the moon overhead and the aged she-wolf joined him before the two galloped off into the night to join the creatures of the night in celebration.

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