The wind is howling in the woods, or is it the wolves? A shiver runs through my spine and all my muscles tense. I had heard the stories. All my life, I had been warned not to come here. But I have to go, I can’t go back now or she’ll die. She’ll die, and I will be the one that let her.
The stories varied massively, they were told so many times that the details changed over time, but it always involved the forest at night and wolves. The story my mother used to tell me was about an old crooked lady who lived in the middle of the woods. Her little house was hidden, and had never been found, but according to the story she lived there with her dogs. One day there was a girl, she was lost in the woods and found herself at the doorstep. The girl, scared and alone, was only hoping to find some water and maybe food, but the old lady thought otherwise. On the way there, she innocently picked a flower from the field, and when the lady’s eye fell on that, smoke started rising from her ears. The woman screamed at her, took out something that looked like a wand, and pointed it at her. “How dare you?!” she yelled. “How dare you to steal this source of power from me and then come ask for food?! If you don’t leave this second, I’m sending the dogs after you.” The girl, confused but not afraid of the cute-looking dogs, let out a laugh, “Those dogs? They don’t scare me.” But those would be her last words, if you don’t count the screaming that followed. The dogs transformed into fierce wolves that chased her, ripping her to pieces.
The witch, passively watching, was still boiling from anger. She only blinked with one eye when they ripped of the girl’s flesh, because the other one was from glass. Her flower had been stolen from her. The midnight flower only bloomed once every six months and the petals were extremely powerful. One of them could heal a person entirely, all of them would make a person live forever. For an old lady, such as her, the power was needed to use her magic and to stay alive. Because there was only one of these flowers in the entire forest, and perhaps the entire world, it was vital that it stayed alive. The dogs, her vicious monsters, brought her back the flower, which she was then able to save using some of her precious magic. She cursed the dogs to live to protect the flower, and whoever would step of the path, would meet their end in the claws of the creatures.
With every step I take, I want to run back out of this forest. I want to leave these creepy trees, their creaking sounds and their shadows that seemed to be moving. Every sound makes me startle and turn around, as if every moment a wolf could jump from the bushes or a witch would point her wand at me. The only force that keeps me moving is the knowledge of little Azra laying in her bed, on the verge of dying. She had caught the virus weeks ago, but you only knew that when it was too late. There was no way to save her now, except if I would get her the magical midnight flower. What if it were all just stories? Then this would all be for nothing.
I had to stay on the path. Don’t step off the path, that warning has been swimming circles through my mind all evening. It has become a mantra, repeating over and over again. And I hadn’t stepped off the path, but now I had to. I couldn’t keep on the path or I would go deeper and deeper into the forest, there would be no going back. The midnight flower bloomed only, as the name suggested, at midnight. As the stories told, the flower glows of magic. It grows at the open spot that is in front of me. My feet don’t want to move, still hanging on to the safety of the path, but I force them forward. One step, two steps, I release a deep breath, nothing happened. Maybe it were only stories after all. Snap. My foot has landed on a branch, my body freezes in movement. I was surrounded.
They were real, and more scary than the scariest tales anyone ever told me. Their claws clinging in the ground a few feet before me, their fangs larger than those of a lynx, their eyes black as night, reflecting the little light that fell on them. It seemed like they were growing with every step. There were eight, and they would kill me. I can almost smell the killer instincts coming off them. I tried to keep my breath calm, but it was almost as wild as theirs. The panting breaths from their beak resulted in swirling smoke in the cold autumn air. There was no-where I could go, the path behind me was too far to run to. They would catch me before I could set two steps. This was it. The end was near. My last thoughts would be of these creatures in the dark.
A whisper filled the air, the wolves suddenly stopping in their attack. The whisper of a song, soft and sweet it travelled through the trees. Wild animals in these woods, wild animals oooh. I warn you for the wolves, fear the wolves, for they will kill, they will kill. The song rose in volume, the voice growing louder and higher with the second. And then she appeared in front of me.
Her cloak, once white, but now dark red with blood still dripping down on the soil. She was almost see-through but not really. Her voice is revolving between shrilly and silvery when she speaks: My dear puppies, she pats one on his head, you weren’t going to do to her what you did to me, right? The last word is spoken sweetly with a sour undertone. What was she? A ghost? Was I dreaming? The wolves contracted and stepped back. Naughty dogs. Another step back. Are you okay, my sweet girl? They can get a little intense sometimes, but they have a small heart. I did my best not to collapse and nodded. Grandma should keep a leach on her pups, they don’t like people that much. Don’t you Feathers? She pats another one and sings on Wild animals in these woods… and disappears in the night. The wolves running behind her, fading in the dark. I could swear, I saw them transforming into dogs before they vanished.
With my breath still stuck in my throat, I ran over the field. I located the flower, which was glowing a few dozens of meters in front of me. Before kneeling to pick the fragile flower, I scour the surrounding, the wolves were really gone, and that creepy girl too. I ripped the flower from the ground, taking the roots with it. No-one would kill for this flower ever again. At the moment the flower was in my hand, an intense glass-shattering scream arose from the woods. And as I ran to home, in a little house in the middle of the woods an old lady collapsed, and shattered into a million pieces. The wolves were wolves again, and they were free.
This is the second story for Short Story Society, a project that takes place this December. What did you think? I had a lot of fun writing this story, I got so caught up in it that I wrote it almost entirely in one sit. It was quite difficult to write a story so different from what I normally write.
If you didn’t notice it yet, this is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling. It has completely changed from a cute tale to this spooky story. I mixed up the characters and aspects of the story, and made it my own. I hope you enjoyed reading it!
I can’t wait to read all of your stories!