Once upon a time...
For the Character Creations Workshop organised by the lovely Kali Lynn, I decided to swap the roles of two characters from the same fictional universe. I chose the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I met the criteria and definition of a fictional universe, but after thinking about it for a while, I decided to go ahead because the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are not only similar in style and meaning, but most importantly (almost) everyone knows them.
Moreover, Little Red Riding Hood has a kind of serial attribute: the origin of the once orally transmitted story is no longer traceable, but the many reinterpretations became a permanent feature in the history of fairy tales, in the centre and before Grimm, the version by Charles Perrault, which took up the theme of werewolves in 17th century France, up to several film adaptations.
For this reason, I see a kind of fictional universe established - perhaps not as pronounced as Star Wars or Star Trek or the Marvel universe...but a universe nonetheless.
The assignment also raised the question of how it would change the canon, and I found that particularly interesting. Although I tried to keep a kind of fairy tale aspect in my text, it was exciting to watch it change from a distinct fairy tale to what in literary studies is called “realism”, if not “naturalism”.
The big grey wolf wandered ponderously and without a destination along the small, earthy path. One eye already blinded, the other increasingly dull, he recognised the sun’s rays of the morning hours seeping lazily through the canopy of leaves.
The forest was no longer the same. It lacked the many singing birds that heralded a new day and the berries that once hung in abundance on the bushes. But above all, the prey on which the wolf could feast was missing. Now, everything seemed bare and silent, and he was hungry.
The animal bent its mighty head and, sliding its snout over the ground, sniffed in all directions, frantically back and forth, only to find that it could not pick up any scent.
They had begun to take all the food—animals with feverish eyes, walking on two legs and calling themselves humans, pouring into the forest when loud thunder and eye-burning smoke rose in the neighbouring hills they called their territory.
Instincts told the wolf to stay away from these humans, for he saw the things they used to kill with, the greed in their faces, and the power behind their actions.
The wolf continued on its aimless trail. His ears moved in all directions, listening for the sound of a twig cracking or any noise in the undergrowth, perhaps a rustle in the leaves. But there was nothing. The forest was silent—a green hell of mere trees, moss and roots.
His soft grey paws made no noise as he wandered along the moss-covered ground. Over hill and dale, on paths that other animals had used for years before they landed as food on the tables of these two-legged creatures.
The wolf panted slightly as the warmth of the sun increased with the progress of the day...when suddenly, one of its ears lifted, the second immediately following. The distant murmur of a small stream reached him through the thicket of the forest. The wolf knew the place, a waterhole, yet he was more interested in the other sound.
For a moment, he just stood there in silence and then began to push his way through the undergrowth, ignoring the flies and mosquitoes buzzing around his face, the babbling of the stream serving as his compass.
The waterhole was situated in a small clearing with rich green grass, surrounded by old, dark and brooding pines. On the bank of the dammed pond was a cluster of marsh marigolds—lovely tiny plants, yet poisonous to the animals of this region.
And amid the flora sat a girl, filling her basket with wild strawberries and the flowers he did not dare to touch. She was young, her features slender and pale, her red cloak covered in dark stains. A pungent smell wafted from her towards the animal.
The wolf studied her from a raised platform, the colour of his fur blending with the shadowy tones of the leaves and plants.
And slowly, he ventured a step forward. He cocked his head to one side and listened intently to the girl’s soft, caressing hum that escaped her mouth. The wolf knew from experience that young prey was weaker and slower; the experience of a hunt only growing with age. He, however, had been hunting and killing for almost sixteen years.
He left the shadows of his lookout, knowing that if the human tried to escape, she had no chance as his four strong legs were superior to her two. So, cautious but determined, he descended from the hill--step by step, each of his moves tentative and silent.
He stopped at the far end of the waterhole and watched the girl picking her berries across the water, her voice making those lovely sounds.
The wolf sniffed the air once more, her musky scent now stronger than ever, more enticing than ever. Saliva began to collect in his mouth while long wet strings formed on his flews.
And then the girl looked up. She didn’t move a muscle when her eyes met those of the animal. Calm and still, she just sat there in the grass.
The wolf’s instincts gathered, its old body preparing for its young, inexperienced prey. He took in her scent completely, listening to her heartbeat, the throbbing of her pulse, the blood rushing through her veins.
And his left paw entered the water, feeling the muddy soil and the coldness of the stream as his gaze zoomed in on the texture of the girl’s skin. He noticed the tenderness, the fragility of her neck that he had targeted to tear apart with his fangs.
The desire for flesh and blood would be glorious.
Then, the wolf stopped.
Momentarily unsure whether to approach the human, he stared into the girl’s dirty face, whose eyes gazed back so unabashedly.
The wolf couldn’t tell what exactly it was that made him wait. Was it the calmness of her heartbeat? The lack of that particular scent he knew from previous prey during hunting? The missing posture that signaled her preparedness for an escape?
Tentatively he took another step forward only to stop again. It was her eyes above all that made him hesitate—calm, steady and just like his, focused.
“Come here, puppy. Come here to me, good boy.”
The wolf tilted its head, and the girl slowly rose without taking her eyes off the animal. She, too, had taken a step forward.
“Look at you,” she purred as her stare mused over the old wolf’s massive body. “Come here to me.” The girl patted her thighs with her hands and beckoned the wild animal to come closer. And the wolf observed her, his head moving from side to the other as he listened to the sweet sounds of the human girl calling to him.
“What big ears you have,” the girl whispered, and the wolf continued to walk towards her, fascinated by her voice and enchanted by the prospect of such a delicious meal.
“What big eyes you have,” she kept going, taking now step back as the wolf approached.
“What big teeth you have,” she said and let the animal cross the waterhole and step onto the moss-covered ground of the clearing.
Cautiously and in a crouched posture, he drew closer, searching once again for the sensitive spot on her neck. And the resolute grin that spread across the girl’s face was impossible to miss but beyond the wolf’s comprehension.
“You know, my dear, it’s not safe for a little wolf to wander these woods alone,” the girl spoke, licking her rotten teeth with her tongue.
The wolf, however, understood nothing--the language of the humans unknown to him. The girl’s voice turned into a muffled murmur in the background as she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a shiny black object, which she held tightly in her hand.
A red haze settled over the animal’s field of vision as its prey was within reach. His thoughts turned exclusively to hunting, killing, eating, his senses barely anticipating the fresh scent of the red elixir of life.
The short, explosive sound was ear-shattering. Some birds scattered from the surrounding trees as the echo of the thunderous noise filled the air, leaving a smoky scent behind.
At first, the wolf only felt a dull blow on his right side, soon replaced by a stinging sensation spreading from his flank in all directions. The animal did not yelp but sensed that it had suffered some damage. He turned away and limped back to the waterhole to step inside. The escaping blood transformed the stream into a scarlet nightmare, and the big grey wolf dragged its old, battered body to the other side of the pond, his breathing now laboured, a gurgling sound joining in.
Back on shore, the animal lay down, tongue sticking out of his mouth as his ears detected a soft wading noise through the water. A moment later, a shadow enveloped the wolf. It was the girl in the red cloak, holding the black, smoking object steady in her hand.
Her face looked different--older as if she had done this many times before, and for the first time, the wolf understood the human because her expression showed what he had felt for a long time.
“At last some meat,” the girl said in awe, raised the object and pointed it at the animal’s head, her face a mirror of determination and victory. “Praise the Lord.”
And the dying wolf gazed calmly at the small, round opening of the black item.
...he had lived a long life.
Approx. word count: 1452 words.
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