Red Riding Hoodbysensanin©
Just a foreword, all characters in this story are 18 years or older. Though I refer to Red as a "girl", she is in fact 18 years old. I hope you enjoy!
The flames licked up the sides of the small cottage, consuming everything in their path. Some thirty feet away, behind a withering rose bush, crouched a girl. Shivering from cold and fear, she gazed at the violent, swirling flames. Her home, was nothing but burning timber, her parents nothing but ashes on the floor. She sobbed quietly, eyes glues to the massacre.
Then like the devil, come out of hell; the silhouette of a man stood in the door way, flames all around him, yet he seemed unperturbed. In one hand was an ax, in the other her dog. A golden retriever, fondly named Wolf ,because of his penchant for howling, lay passively whimpering in dismay. A shake from the devil silenced her furry companion.
The man stepped from the crumbling structure, turning to leave. He heard the rustling of leaves and quickly, like a snake rearing for an attack, turned toward the rose bush. There he saw a slip of a girl crouched low, shaking with fear. He turned to her, intent on grabbing her and selling her off to slave traders, when the sound of villagers stopped him. He stared at the girl a moment longer with seething with hatred, a clear promise of retribution to come later. He fled into the night, merging with the shadows, the devil with an ax.
Mary Alice ran, laboring for breath with tears streaming down her small face, her throat burned from her exertions. Her family, slaughter in one night, one fell swoop by the devil, Hunter Bradshaw.
She ran still faster, trying to reach her only safe haven; at least she hoped it was still safe. She tripped on a root, fell hard, scraping her leg, arm and cheek. She did not care, pushing the pain aside, she crawled back up, and continued running. She needed help. She needed safety. She needed her family.
Sadly she knew her parents were dead. She had felt as much from the villagers, when they had come and put out the fire. Two twisted charcoal bodies, lay on the floor of her parents room. No one need say it was them, they had all known.
Mary Alice saw it then. Over the rise she stood on, strong and sure, a cottage that could weather the most traumatic of events. She wiped her dirty face with the side of her arm, a watery smile flitting across her face. There it stood, her sanctuary, grandmother's cottage.
Cynthia handed the frazzled girl the cup of hot mint tea. She looked over the small figure, huddled in her arms, rocking her back and forth. Mary Alice had told her grandmother as much as she could between the uncontrollable shudders and broken sobs that wracked her frame. It was warm in the small cottage but, Mary Alice shivered with cold and fear. Fear for herself and her grandmother.
"Run-we have to-run!" Mary Alice shrieked in her frightened voice. "He will come-devil Hunter- kill us! I do not want to die!" She cried into the linen of her grandmothers shirt.
Cynthia stroked her back with gentle hands, soothing the girl. "Calm down Mary Alice. Drink your tea, it will make you feel better." Cynthia soothed in a calming voice. Mary placed the tea down on the floor, and clutched at her grandmother's shirt, willing her to understand her fear and panic, her eyes pleading with the older woman. "We must run! Now! He will kill us! The devil!"
Cynthia picked the tea back up, sighing deeply she handed it back to the girl. "Drink your tea, sweet. You are over wrought, and it will sooth you." Cynthia said curling the girls hands around the mug, and lifting it to her small lips.
Mary Alice looked at her grandmother over the rim of the cup. Something was wrong. Something was not right. Mary Alice thought frantically for an explanation, when she heard the howl of a wolf. The two women stilled, eyes going to the window.
Mary Alice knew that howl, it was the howl of her dog, Wolf. She looked at her grandmother, relief breaking over her face, to know her canine companion was not dead. Her grandmother was staring into the darkness of the forest. A frown tugging at her lips. She stared at her grandmother a moments longer, until the woman turned to her, grey eyes seeking hers. Mary Alice's grandmother did not have grey eyes. Her grandmother's eyes were green. Cynthia touched her face, looking down at the cup still held up to the girl's lips. "Drink your tea Mary Alice." Cynthia said tersely.
Mary Alice's eyes widened, to the size of saucers. Her lower lip quivered, and she stared at the woman in front of her, more stranger than family. "Grandmother?" She asked in a small voice.
Cynthia rose from her seat, grabbing a handful of Mary's hair, she pulled her head back and forced the cup to her mouth. "Drink the tea!" The woman screeched.
Mary Alice dropped the mug into her lap, the liquid soaking through her gown to her thighs and leaving a stain. She grabbed at the hands in her hair, scratching, trying to pry them free. "No!" she screamed at the woman, clawing at her hands and kicking her away.
The woman, who shared no resemblance to her beloved grandmother other than her hair and clothes, stumbled back from Mary Alice. Stunned for a moment, the woman stood clutching her battered hands. Suddenly a furious, crazed look crossed the imposter's face. "I'll kill you!" The woman shrieked like a banshee, launching herself at the small girl.
A second before the woman would have claimed the girl, Mary Alice jumped out of the way, fleeing to the other side of the room. Her mind trying to wrap itself around the turn of events. It was then that the door opened, and with it came her canine companion, Wolf. Teeth bared snarling at the woman who was trying to kill his beloved owner. He leaped toward the woman, a deep growl emanating from his chest. He dragged the woman down, front paws on her shoulders, large jaws around her delicate neck. The woman screamed, scratching and kicking at the canine to release her. He growled again and pressed down harder on her neck, until skin broke, and blood flowed. The woman only became more crazed, her struggles becoming more desperate. And all at once a deadly snap was heard in the room. the woman, had stopped struggling, stopped moving.
Mary Alice looked at the scene, and knew the woman was dead. She was shocked, and her legs could not support her, so she slid heavily to the floor, her shaking resuming with vigour.
"Such a waste." Came a sing-song voice from the door was. Mary Alice would forever remember that moment, it was when she turned to look at the devil, and saw every nightmare she had ever had, embodied in a single man. He strolled with ease, through the room to the lifeless body. The wolf, watching the man's every step, slowly moved in front of Mary Alice, to protect her from the new threat.
The man reached the lifeless body, crouching down to check for a pulse at her neck. His fingers came away from the woman's revenged neck covered in blood. He raised the bloody fingers to his mouth and licked them clean, enjoying the taste of the woman's blood. He shook his head, smiling. "Such a pity. Cynthia never did listen." He said, his voice happy and carefree. Gaining his feet he turned to the girl and her canine protector. "It was simple." He said conversationally to the pair. "Have you drink the tea, then you'd fall asleep. Then it would be easy. I would sell you to a slave trader, and claim the money. Easy, right? But she never listens, and look- she got herself killed! By a dog no less!" He said to them, laughing. He shrugged carelessly, drawing the girls eyes to the large ax he wielded in his left hand.
He turned sharply and kicked the dead woman's body, hard. "Now look! I'll have to kill the girl, because you don't listen." He said dispassionately. He turned back to the canine and the girl. The dogs legs were shaking for the effort to remain upright. The canine should be dead. Hunter had thrown the dog against a tree, shortly after he had left the burning house. He had heard a loud crack as the canines body had slid to the ground.
But the dog was alive, though pathetically weak. Hunter was suddenly overcome with tiredness, as he stared at the two before him. He looked down into the girl's tear stained face. He raised his ax arm, "quick", he murmured. But the dog charged him, clamping down hard on the ax hand. Hunter yelped, dropping his ax, and began beating at the canine with his other hand.
Mary watched as Wolf clamped down in a death grip to the Devil-Hunter. Her eyes darted to the ax Hunter had dropped, and she moved slowly making her way to the ax. Hunter was still trying to pry off Wolf by the time her hand curled around the handle of the ax. Wolf was whining and growling, in deep pain. Hunter shook the dog violently, yelling at the creature. Mary lifted the ax with both her hands, moving silently around to the back of Hunter, she lifted the ax and swung down hard. At the last minute, Hunter sensed the girl behind him. He turned sharply, as the ax swung down with killing force striking the arm the dog was attached to, and severing it from Hunter's body.
Blood gushed and sprayed, and Hunter screamed with pain, nearly blinded by it. Mary Alice was showered with the blood, yet again she raised the ax, and with even more force swung down. Hunter was too disoriented to move or block her attack, and so the ax lodged with deadly precision in his chest. Breaking his ribs, and penetrating his lungs. As Hunter went down, he stared through bleary pain drenched eyes at the girl coated in his blood and her own tears. He smiled, having never seen a more beautiful sight, he died with a smile on his face, the devil, Hunter Bradshaw.
Mary Alice, stared at her hands, covered in blood. She had killed a man. She didn't have time to absorb this fact as Wolf whimpered, still clutching the decapitated arm. She ran to the only family she had left. Coming down on her knees, she hugged Wolf to her, petting the animal, and slowly it let go of the arm. He panted, into her arms, lifted its head, looking at her with unseeing eyes, he nuzzled her arm, and promptly died.
She held him, rocking back and forth murmuring soothing nothings to Wolf. Time past and her knees began to ache, she stroked her pet a final time before laying him gently on the floor. She glided around the death stenched room, past the bodies, to the closet for a clean dress. She opened it, and out poured her grandmother. Mary grabbed the woman, and laid her gently on the floor, checking for a pulse. She had none.
She stood, moving to the edge of the bed, where the chest with all her grandmothers most precious possessions remained. Opening the chest, with automatic movements. She pulled out a simple green frock, and a red riding hooded cape. She laid the outfit on the bed. Her movements instinctive and automatic, she went to the night stand, poured a pitcher of water into a bowl, grabbed a towel and cleaned the blood from her skin and hair.
She undressed, put the blood colored rag into the rust colored water, and grabbed the green frock from the bed. She slipped the frock over her head and grabbed the cape. She secured the cape around her shoulders, then tied it around her neck. Flipping up the hood, she moved over the bodies of her grandmother, the devil-Hunter, the impostor, and Wolf. Stepping out into the waiting sun, she closed the door to her grandmother's cottage. No longer was she sweet, young Mary Alice. She was now the mysterious woman in the red riding hood.