RED RETOLD • by Haley Isleib

That stupid girl.

I cried when I heard the hinge creak as she entered my house. Go away! I hissed, and got a mouthful of blood and acid for my trouble. Darkness. I couldn’t breathe. She came closer and called my name. I heard her foot-shuffle, nearer, nearer.

I felt the rumble of the Wolf’s voice. He bade her, Come in, come in, my darling.

Oh Grandmother, she said.

Foolish child! Did I have teeth so sharp? Eyes so yellow? Was I so cruel? No. I did nothing but help her, feed her, clothe her, correct her when she strayed from righteousness. A belt, my old dead husband’s: whenever she misbehaved, and on Sundays. Everything I did for her! How could she smell the shaggy scent of monster and still call my name?

Go away!

She came close. The Wolf’s mouth opened. I gasped and choked from the lungful of air. It burned.

Again, the girl called, Grandmother? The Wolf’s mouth opened wide and wider.

Light. Too much light, stinging my eyes. But I had to look. I had to see her trembling, wide-eyed, framed by the fangs of the beast. How easy it is to hate the pathetic.

The walls of the monster’s belly constricted around me as it swallowed her whole. Child-of-my-child landed beside me. I read astonishment and fear in the lines of her face, but even as the Wolf devoured her she pulled away from me.

From me.

The beast’s jaws snapped shut. Darkness again. I couldn’t see her, but felt her heart beating beating like a common thrush in hand. I held that little idiot close and wept for us both. I held her with my hands around her neck, squeezing. She fought her fate, kicked at me, clawed at my hands. Why? Why did she never accept a single gift I gave? Not even mercy.

I shouldn’t have been so kind.

Heavy steps now. Who was this coming into the room? The Wolf wobbled to its feet, so full of murder it couldn’t move. And then a voice, human and bold, spoke some challenge I could not decipher.

Go away!

The knife of the Huntsman pierced our prison wall. We poured out onto the floor in a tide of innards and bile, the Wolf asunder, defeated.

I sprawled naked across the floor. Sudden exposure weakened me; I could not stand. Neither Huntsman nor granddaughter moved to help me up. Huntsman eyes were on that stupid girl. She swooned, eyelids aflutter, hair entwined with entrails. Her beauty erased, replaced with gore and wounds and red welts where I had held her. Why did he not abandon her?

She didn’t thank me for all my care, for all these years. Was I not worth one last tender goodbye? She reached for this Huntsman, this hero, this fragile human life. He would take her away. And thereafter, perchance, be the only one allowed to beat her.

Fine with me. Leave me with this mess to clean.

He picked her up and took her out of my hut, her long hair trailing, her white cloak and hood dyed red with blood.

Haley Isleib is a writer and filmmaker in Portland, OR.

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