I watched her skip out from the village wearing her red hood and carrying a basket in both hands. She was perhaps eight years old, humming away some happy tune like most of the people in the Fairy Tale Realms. Fortunately she didn’t see me on my porch as she skipped by my house in the edge of the forest, so I wouldn’t have to talk to her. I could tell she would be one of these syrupy sweet, cheerful, and talkative people.
I really miss the aloofness of New Yorkers.
I followed her at a discreet distance. Maintaining a tail in a forest was a lot harder than it was in a city where other people could cover for the fact that I was there. I stayed a good bit behind, almost entirely out of sight. When she rounded a bend on the trail through the woods I had to hurry to make sure she didn’t slip away.
But I pulled up short of going around myself when I heard voices. They were too far away to make out, but a quick glance confirmed my suspicions, she spoke with a wolf. I knew this story, most people growing up new this story, but I was also curious to see how it would actually end.
The wolf loped off on his own path while Red skipped along her original path, though she paused to pick flowers and generally wasted time as kids liked to do. Eventually the woods opened up into a small clearing, revealing a cottage. It was every bit a fairy tale cottage with gentle puffs of smoke coming from the stone chimney, a thatched roof, a small pen for animals, and even a stump with an axe for splitting wood. Red went right up and knocked on the door, then went inside, closing it behind her.
I made my way up and pressed an ear to the simple country door, listening. The wolf’s voice was horrendously bad at pretending to be Grandma, but Red fell for it anyway until the Wolf devoured her.
I looked around, watching for the presence of the famed Huntsman who would save both Red and Grandma. He was nowhere to be seen.
Another minute went by. Nothing. Dammit, Sam, you can’t just let them die.
I seized the axe from the stump and kicked the door open to confront the wolf. Its stomach was monstrously distended from swallowing two people whole, so it couldn’t really maneuver that well. With a broad stroke I took care of the wolf and cut Red and Grandma free.
As they worked themselves free, I looked at the wolf, at the axe, and my own hands.
“Aw hell,” I said, “It’s me. I’m the Huntsman.”
“Thank you, Huntsman,” Red piped at me.
I sighed. Should have known better than to get involved. Wonder how many other stories I’ve written myself into.