New flash fiction written for Devin O’Branagan monthly contest. This was based on retelling the Little Red Riding Hood story.
Ending the Cycle
It seems stupid to be scared of a little girl but he knew how the story played out, what was about to happen. He and the girl in the hooded red jacket were on a constant loop, a fairy tale that never ended. The story of Little Red Riding Hood. He knew that he wouldn’t live to see the end of the day. He ran to the tree and with his nails unsheathed, he climbed it until he reached the top. He held his breath as he peered around it.
She’d stopped at a patch of flowers, daisies by the looks of them and she was humming, oblivious to the death that stalked her. What did she have to worry about anyway? He was the one who lived on borrowed time. The routine scared him, every incantation of himself was getting younger. One day they, he and Red would be the same age. Then what would happen? Hunt her as a boy, a maybe murderer at the age of fifteen? Would he remember his past lives? Did she remember hers?
As graceful as a cat, he leapt to the next tree. Usually he’d been in his wolf form by now. He never approached her in his human body. The girl’s head snapped up and he darted around the truck. He couldn’t let her see him. Not yet.
What the hell are you doing, Wolf? End it now. Why prolong the torture? He let out a shaken breath, calming his unruly heart. Was this the first time he really felt fear? The first time he acknowledged it? A girl, barely sixteen, terrified the beast. Wolf heard her moving again, his senses, even in his human form were sharper than an average person. How was it even possible that for all his strength, she could still beat him? Because that was how the story had been written. She was pure light. A child without sin. He, on the other hand, he was doomed from his birth. A creature of darkness because of some words someone scribbled on paper. A monster because he wasn’t human. He’d never been that. He was a monster through no fault of his own. There always had to be a bad guy in these stories, the task fell to him.
“You’re following me, why?” Her voice echoed through the forest and Wolf instinctively held his breath. Did he dare to talk to her? What would it accomplish? “I know that you’re there. Why are you afraid of me? There isn’t any reason to be scared. My name is Red, what’s yours?” Her voice was almost lyrical and if it had been a weapon it would have cut into him like millions of knives.
“I’m not afraid of you.” The words left him almost like they wanted to escape. To be heard.
“Then come down. It’s nicer to walk down here.”
Wolf took a deep breath. They had to end it. He might as well take the first step. His untimely demise was waiting in the wings. He stepped out from his hiding place and jumped down. She gasped and for a second Wolf thought she’d take a step back, but she didn’t. A pleasant smile crossed her face and she pushed her hood back. Black strands of her dropped around her shoulders and Wolf stopped in surprised. How had he never noticed her eyes before, a warm blue that searched his soul with a single glance?
“Isn’t that better, it couldn’t have been safe walking around up there. Are you part monkey?” Her tone was filled with mischief and there was a light in her eyes that sparkled. She was teasing him? Did she honestly not know why he was there? What he was supposed to do?
“No,” he grudgingly admitted. “Not part monkey.”
“Do you spend a lot of time in the woods?” She gestured back to the path and Wolf let her led the way.
“Every now and then.” He replied. He wasn’t deliberately trying to be cryptic but for once he was at a completely lost. They’d never talked before. Oh there was the conversations at grandmothers house but a few incantations ago he decided against killing the old woman, instead he stuffed her in a cupboard and all she got was a bad back.
Red started to hum again. “Why do you follow me?” Her choice of words was telling. A part of her knew of the loop. The endless routine, an understanding behind her eyes. A realisation. The closer they got to their destination the more she remembered.
“We’re enemies.” He shrugged.
She paused, stopping in the centre of the path and turned to face him. “We don’t have to be.”
She was suggesting breaking the loop? Hadn’t he thought the same thing? He wanted it to end but for both of them to come to the same decision? To make the decision to live? “Then what can we be?”
“Friends.” She smiled up at him. Those blue eyes framed by heavy black lashes. “Aren’t you tired of the fighting?”
“I’m tired of the dying part.”
“And I’m tired of being the one who kills you.” She put out her hand and he glanced down at it, unsure about what to do next. “What do you say, Wolf? Friends?”