Red Riding Hood

I found this on my computer when I was poking around some old files, turns out there's all kinds of weird stuff hidden away on my computer. Anyway, I wrote it for an English assignment my senior year of high school and rereading it, I still thought it was pretty good. So, I made a few edits and decided to post it.

It was Tuesday morning, bright and crisp out. Gloria had woken up early to help her mother with the morning baking, then she was going to take their family's weekly contribution of food to her aging grandmother. The old matriarch of her father's family received food from all her progeny on a weekly basis since she was now blind, and unable to cook for herself. Gloria had her own reasons for taking on the chore of walking the miles to her grandmother's house and back every week; it was not just to avoid the house work.

"Now dear, don't forget, don't talk to strangers and go directly to your grandmothers house," her mother warned once again as she slipped into her bright red market cloak. "There, you look presentable now," she adjusted her daughter's hair a final time before pushing her towards the door. "Be careful. The woods are dangerous for young girls. I really should send your brother."

"I'll be fine Mom, don't worry!" Gloria called as she ran out the kitchen door, basket in hand.

She was out of the yard and disappearing down the forest road before the older woman had a chance to react. "That girl, so rash, I hope she doesn't get herself into trouble."

Gloria ran until she was out of earshot of her family's small house. Throwing her back against a handy tree trunk she paused a moment to catch her breath. Her eyes slid closed as the knot in her stomach slowly unraveled. 'I can't hurry too much,' her brain reminded her harshly. 'If I do I'll miss him.'

"My, my, what have we got here? A little village girl, lost in the deep wiles of the forest? How tragic. Perhaps she needs help."

Her eyes sprang open to find a young man standing directly in front of her, his arms crossed as he looked down his nose at her; a serene smirk, slightly suspicious, belied the pleasant sparkling in his dark brown eyes. His reddish brown hair was quite unruly, obviously he had not been anywhere near civilization for some time now.

"My good sir," she responded with a curtsey, "I assure you I am far from lost, and merely on my way to my grandmother's house. She lives but on the other side of the forest."

"My dear young maiden, truly you do not know these parts well, there are many twists and turns that can keep a traveler occupied for hours if they happen to lose the main road," his tone held something sinister in it and he seemed to wink as he spoke of travelers being occupied.

"Be that as it may sir, I fear I cannot spare the time to speak with you, my mother has forbidden me to talk to strangers." Gloria turned and started walking again, her brisk pace meant to quickly put distance between them.

"Ah but the problem of our being strangers is easily resolved!" he exclaimed jumping in front of her. "All we need is a proper introduction!"

"I fear sir, that such things cannot be undertaken in the forest, with no third party to introduce us."

He grinned. "You always find some way to shoot me down Gloria dear. My but don't you look ravishing today, just like you do every Tuesday."

"Peter, you're always the one who wants to play silly games with me," she replied, ignoring his cheeky comment.

"Guilty as charged," he sighed and turned, putting his hands behind his back he started to walk forward, kicking a few rocks out of his path. "Soo, whatveyuhgot in the basket?" he asked as she trotted over the uneven ground to catch him up.

"Nothing for you, greedy wolf!"

"Hey! I take offense at that, you didn't give me a chance to ask first."

She smiled to herself and waved the basket around temptingly, just to annoy him. After a few minutes of pouting he changed tactics. "You're grandmother's an old lady, she doesn't eat much—"

"Which is why we don't pack much."

"Well you obviously packed a lot, just look at the way you're struggling under that heavy load."

"Oh no, I'm fine, my lunch is terribly light, just enough food for me I'm afraid. So there's no need to worry about me." She hoisted the basket higher and pretended that it was nothing to swing it from two fingers.

"Argh! You're infuriating!" He pulled at his hair and glared at her as she kept on walking, radiating calmness. "I'm a scary predator you know! I eat little children for breakfast! You should be cowering in fear and offering food to appease me!"

Her laughter tinkled like a soft mountain brook in his ears. "Oh really Peter, you're like an adorable little puppy. And if you ever ate a child I would flog you until you spit him back up."

"For some reason I don't doubt you would," he muttered, glancing up at the dappled branches making a vaulted passageway of road, half open to the blue sky above.

"I know a long cut to the old hag's house, it goes by a little waterfall; you'd love it."

"Is that what you meant when you spoke of 'twist and turns that can keep a traveler occupied for hours?'" she asked, also ignoring his term for her grandmother. 'At least he's gotten that much better,' she thought as she swung the basket around again and pounced on a shifting spot of light on the path.

"Well, sort of," he smiled his toothy grin.

"Hmph, well I think I shall go straight there, thank you very much."

"Pleeeaaaasssee," he pouted making big puppy dog eyes at her and barring her way as she stepped back and forth trying to get around him.

"Oh fine!" she huffed in false annoyance. "If we must."

"Yippee! You'll love it, it's perfect, I found it just the other day, and we'll still get to the old hag's house by lunch!"

"Hey, she Is my grandmother you know!"

"Yeah, but she chased me out of the house with a broom, it still smarts," he said clapping his hand to his rear.

"That was so funny, you have no idea."

"I have an idea of how unfunny it was, I had to spend two hours crouching the bushes, waiting for you, while You sat inside and sipped your tea."

"She's old, she doesn't know any better, and your manners are not the best."

"Hmph, they're better than hers." They came to a fork in the road and he led the way to the right, off the main way, the straight and shorter way, and instead they went deeper into the forest. "It's really lovely, I was just here the other day. The perfect spot!" he buzzed on, bouncing around the path as she smiled fondly at his antics. "Oh, oh, oh! Here!"

He grabbed her arm and pulled her forward, in a sudden rush the forest opened up, the sound of running water had been slowly growing stronger, but now it burst upon her ears in full as she faced a small waterfall. Below it sat a rock strewn pool, water clear as fresh-cut crystal around the rocks, holding them gently in its cool embrace. The trees hung over, giving shade and dappling the surfaces with morning light. Some flowers sprouted here and there at the water's edge where the sun beamed down in patches.

"Ohhh, it is lovely," came her enraptured sigh.

"Did you doubt me, love?" he asked pulling her forward. "Beautiful, beautiful, just like you, the perfect setting for brunch!"

"You're always thinking about food!" she laughed, her soft voice mingling in with that of the water. She took off her cloak and spread it on the ground, and they sat, by the pool's edge, to talk and eat, spending their few hours grace in each other's joyful company.

When they finally got up again it was almost noon and they took off running, laughing still, but running too now, in order to reach her grandmother's house in time. They made it and Peter melted back into the scenery of the forest while Gloria ran out into the sun and up the hill to visit her grandmother, and make it as brief as possible.

"I smell an animal on you," the matriarch said in way of greeting.

"Oh Grandma, the forest is full of animals, of course I smell of them."

"No girl, I mean wolf, like the one that came here before. Sometimes you can see more in blindness than you can in sight," she said, her wide unseeing eyes turned towards the flushed girl. "I tell you that is no man, I can smell it, but still you laugh at me and call my crazy. Heh."

"I've brought you your food Grandma," she said, patience firmly fixed in her voice.

"Yes, yes, of course you have, what other reason would you have for coming? None. Now drop it there and be gone girl. If you want to talk come back when you have more sense."

She practically dropped the basket where she stood and went flying out of the door again, back down the hill and towards the trees. A man's voice stopped her.

"You're Gloria, ain't cho? Ole Clarissa's young granddaughter."

She paused mid-step and spun around to see a tall, husky man, about middle age, standing over on the main road.

"Yes sir I am, but you must excuse me, I have to hurry home to help my mother."

Without waiting for a reply she shot off again, like a great red bird as her cloak billowed out behind her. She reached the cover of the trees and began to breathe easier. The man had made her uncomfortable, but she had no reason to feel so oddly, she had never seen him before in her life. She stopped to glance back through the trees and saw him shake his head and continue on down the main road and into the forest.

"Well that was fast." Peter's voice made her jump, something that had never happened before. "Who was the man?" he asked in a quiet voice, but it was not exactly even.

"I don't know, I've never seen him before. He gave me the chills. I don't want to meet him again; if we run back, well beat him to the road."

"If we run," he said taking her hand, "You'll get home sooner."

"Oh Peter, I just, I don't want to have to answer any funny questions okay?"

"Okay Gloria, we'll run back."

They took off running, hand-in-hand through the forest, the empty basket slung over the girl's free arm.

The straight path from the old woman's house to the road connected to the main way just above where the long and winding detour also reconnected with the road. They burst out onto the well trodden way, only to hear heavy footsteps close behind them.

"We'll take the long cut again, if he's going this fast well be sure to miss him by the time we get back to the road," he whispered in her ear before tugging her off along the fork. They kept running until their hearts were pounding in their ears and Gloria's legs felt like they were as stable as her mother's jam.

"Ok...I don't... hear him...anymore," Peter panted bending over, leaning his arms on his legs. "He kept... on the...main route."

" we...need a break."

They both plopped down where they stood, blocking the middle of the path with their recumbent bodies. After a brief recuperation Peter was up again, trying to persuade Gloria to get up and keep going. "I'm too tired, I just need a little nap," she yawned.

"Well at least pick a better place to nap! Were almost back to the waterfall, cant you hear it?" That was enough to get her up and moving again. They were so preoccupied that they missed all the warnings, the lack of birdsong, the odd stillness of the woods around them.

Hand-in-hand once more, they walked down the steeply sloping path, the neighbor of the waterfall whose noise drowned out even their loving whispers. They reached the pool and paused to look into the water when a shadow emerged from the darkness behind them. Smelling the apparition with the shift in the wind, Peter whipped around, pulling Gloria behind him. The woodsman was standing there, his ax in hand, looking down at them with complete loathing.

"So it's true," he said slowly, his voice dripping with disgust. "There are still wolves alive in these woods, and I thought we'd managed to eradicate them all. Girl, get away from him, if you didn't know what he is. If you did..." he let the sentence hang, threats in the air.

She could see Peter bristling in raging fury. "No Peter," she whispered. "Let's get away."

"I Said Get Away From Him, Girl!" the woodsman shouted stepping forward.

"No! You leave us alone! He never did anything wrong!" she screamed, clutching at the back of Peter's shirt.

"Gloria," he growled quietly. "When I tell you to run, you do it, you hear? Straight back to your mother, straight home, don't stop for anything. Anything!"

"No! I'm not about to leave you, we never did anything wrong!"

"Being near that 'orrible creature is abom'nation enough! Harlot, you whore yourself to this animal and shame your family! I know these woods better than any man, and I have seen you two oft enough, giggling and walking through, and now I know for certain what it is you've rolled with!"

"Shut up you horrible man! You have no right to talk to us that way!" The woodsman growled, low and guttural, as he took firmer grip of his ax and prepared to strike.

"Gloria!" Peter shouted pushing her away down the path and making sure to stay between her and the woodsman. "RUN!"

The man leaped forward and she ran. The tears came, blinding and hot, burning her face as they streaked down, a flurry of pain and remorse. 'Please God, let him be safe. Please God, I beg you, protect him. Please!' she thought feverishly as she flew down the path, never looking back in terror of what she would see. She ran and ran, her legs turned to jelly once more but she forced them on, she couldn't stop, not when the last thing he'd told her was to run. Along the way she lost the basket, lost her cloak, even lost a shoe, running, tripping, catching on branches, but nothing slowed her. Her terrified sobbing drowned out all other noise. She stumbled up the steps to her house and collapsed onto the floor, as a heap in the kitchen; she smelled the baking pies, the roasting meat, all the homely warmth, and it only made things worse.

'I made it, I made it because you told me to.'

"Gloria! My God what's wrong?!" her mother screamed rushing over and kneeling down.

Panting so heavily it was a moment before she could speak, she finally managed: "Oh Mother! It was so terrible! This man, this man, in the woods, with an ax, oh I was so frightened. He wanted to kill-" and she broke down into sobs. Her mother sat on the floor holding her dirty and wet daughter and shouting for her husband.

Weeks passed and Gloria spent the time in the house. Her brother took the food to her grandmother now, riding the horse, he took it the long way, around the forest. Her father had banded together a group of their neighbors and they had went with pitchforks and axes into the forest with torches to search for the mad woodsman who had attacked old Finnian's daughter on her way home. When they got to the pool by the waterfall they found blood everywhere, and a trail of it leading off into the trees. They followed the blood and at the end of the trail there was the woodsman, gored almost beyond recognition with his own ax in his heart, but there had been another surprise waiting there. A set of bloody footprints, doglike, but too large, leading away from the body. A few of the braver men had followed these, but they disappeared into the thickest under growth and all the men agreed, whatever had made them had gone in there to die. So Gloria stayed in the house, she helped her mother with the chores, cooking and cleaning, but all the while she was listless, the light was gone from her once sparkling eyes, and her laughter had died.

"Just run outside and get some wood, your brother isn't back yet and I'm trying to keep this fire from dying, the boogeyman wont get you in the yard!" her mother was exasperated, the damned girl wouldn't even go out into the yard and it had been over a month, no one could be that traumatized by a mad woodsman even if he had sprung upon them in the middle of the forest.

"You get out there right now or I'll flog you myself, girl!"

Gloria sighed and drooped more, but shuffled to the door and went out in the half-dusk of late afternoon to obey her mother's orders. She hurried over to the firewood, scooped up and handful, and ran back to the door. Just as she was sliding it across the floor towards the stove, the hair along the back of her neck pricked up and she felt cold shivers run down her spine. She turned her head slowly to look across the yard. Under the eaves of the trees she saw a dark shape loom up and she cringed back in fear. But the outline became more distinct and her jaw dropped, her breath stopped as she made out a huge, dog-like outline.

"Peter," she gasped, and then she was running once more.

She threw herself over the fence and towards the wolf. She had no way of being sure that this was Peter, she had never seen him as a wolf, but she knew it was him, and as she got close she spotted a red cloak hanging from its mouth, along with some other dark garments which she recognized at once as his clothes. She threw herself upon the wolf, pulling it over sideways with the force of her impetuous embrace. He let out a slight whimper as she squeezed his neck too forcefully.

"Peter, Peter, Peter," she was saying over and over, cooing as she held onto him.

"Gloria! What are you doing? Where did you go?" her mother shouted from the house.

"I'll be right there!" she shouted back. "Oh Peter, I ran, I ran like you told me to, but I shouldn't have, I should have stayed with you, by your side."

The wolf let out another whimper and laid its head on her lap. Looking over it she could see some of its wounds were still not healed and he was thin, almost skin and bones. "Change back and come inside, I'll take care of you," she whispered, stroking his fur. He gave another whimper and shook his head. "What? You can't when you're hurt? Peter, come on, I'm bringing you in."

She helped pull him standing and guided him through the gate and towards the house. Looking out the window her mother dropped the plate she was washing, which shattered in the sink.

"Mom, this is Peter, he saved me from the woodsman."

"It's, it's a wolf!"

"Yes, he's a wolf, and he's very sick."

"You brought a wolf home?" her brother shouted running in from the front room where he was just pulling off his cloak. "This is awesome!"

This was inspired by my deciding to rewrite another fairy tale, (I'd done one the year before) and I'd heard that the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood can be interpreted as a man who seduces the girl, the hood is a symbol for blood, the woods are dangerous femaleness, and the woodsman is society fixing everything in the end, blah blah blah, and I thought, well maybe she didn't want to be saved... What if she's perfectly fine with being seduced? But I had to keep some of the magic in there so we get a shape-shifter wolf-boy.