“Grandmother?” Rossa reached for the weathered door. There was no answer from within, but Grandmother was old. She was often sleeping when Rossa brought her supplies.
The rough wood slab swung inward at her touch, and she frowned. Grandmother lived all alone, in the densest part of the forest. She always latched the door from the inside. Uneasy, Rossa went in, holding her basket before her like a shield. A body lay on the floor, a pile of ripped clothing and torn flesh. The smell of blood and offal was choking. Dark red stains had soaked into the boards all around.
“Grandmother!” Rossa cried, fighting the nausea in her throat. She edged around the body and rushed to the only other door in the house. It flew open to reveal the big four-poster bed. Among the mounded blankets sat a wolf, a massive creature with a long muzzle and glittering eyes. Its ears were hidden under Grandmother’s fluffy nightcap. Its mouth opened, and Rossa saw yellowed teeth with pink meat clinging between them. The fur around the mouth was stiff and matted.
“Rossa,” the wolf said. It sounded strangely calm.
“What happened? That man…”
The wolf’s dark fur began to melt and smooth. A long red tongue lolled out over the teeth. “It was him, yes? The one who followed you into the forest last time.”
Rossa nodded, trembling. His face had been mostly gone, but she recognized the stringy hair, the big hands.
The wolf lifted a paw. Claws receded, melting into soft fingers with prominent blue veins. Rossa crossed the room and took the hand in hers.
As always, the face was last to change. As the muzzle shortened and the eyes grew rounder, Rossa stroked the wiry fur with her other hand. A tiny smile curved her lips.“Grandmother, what big teeth you have.”
“The better to protect you with, my dear.” Grandmother blinked, and her expression was nearly human again. “Now, you must help me get rid of him. Good thing you wore the red cloak today.”
Patricia Correll lives in Alabama with her family and an elderly, very naughty cat. Her work is available on Amazon. She enjoys matcha Kit-Kats and big dogs.
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