As most writers (and probably many people) do, I sometimes like to re-imagine stories. This one came to me a couple days ago when I was planning this post. I first imagined the main character in the opening paragraph. When I was trying to figure out why she was doing what she was doing, the rest evolved on it’s own into an alternate version of the classic, Little Red Riding Hood. As usual, I wish I had more free time to work on these to flesh them out more. Then again, sometimes I work best under pressure!
This one isn’t as lighthearted as my recent stories, so read at your own risk. Nothing too dark or terrifying, but maybe a little violent for some. If you choose to keep reading, I hope you enjoy it!
Writing Prompt: Red
Crouching low, Red slowly moved aside a branch with the tip of her drawn arrow. Early morning rain misted the air. She felt an icy trickle slide under her hood and down her collarbone, and she forced herself not to shiver. Thankfully she was wearing an outer layer of oiled leathers, but it didn’t help much against the cold.
Nothing moved in the forest before her, but she held her position anyway. Her prey had the frustrating ability to hide in plain sight. She’d walked right past it without even knowing a few times, only to double back and find signs that it had hunkered down right in the area she had tracked through.
The gently tapping rain usually soothed and relaxed her, but currently she felt only annoyance. She couldn’t hear the sound of leaves rustling, branches creaking, or the soft patter of paws on the forest floor. Just the steady beat of rain.
Her heart pounded in her chest. She had been tracking her quarry for over a year. Unlike most of his kind, this one roamed far and wide. An old anger rose up and she gripped her bow so tightly her hand ached. Fury and heartache threatened to choke her. She tried to push them back down, but it had been months since she’d been this close to the monster that had taken everything from her. This close to her goal, it was hard to suppress the memories.
Coming home from a trip to the market. Spotting the front door ajar. Red splatter on the stoop. More red, leading into the home she shared with her gran. Gran who had raised her, cared for her, loved her. Gran who lay broken and bleeding in her bedroom where she had tried to take refuge. Refuge from the beast who was feasting on her when Red came home.
No one who lived as far into the woods as they did, did so without knowing how to defend themselves. As best she could figure, the monster must have surprised gran as she was doing some chore in the yard. A struggle had ensued and gran had tried to find safety in the house, but the creature had been too fast. Gran had been older, and unarmed. Red was neither.
Pulling back her scarlet cloak, she had pulled her knife from its sheath. A hoarse cry tore from her throat as she launched herself at the massive beast who had just destroyed the one person she loved. Startled, the wolf had turned, maw dripping crimson, bracing for a fight. She had caught it unawares though and managed to stab deeply into the side of its neck. It had lunged at her, forcing her to fall back as it ran for the door. By the time she had picked herself up and raced out into the yard, the creature was gone.
That night and the following day she had taken the time to bury and mourn her gran. She had cleaned the house, scrubbing until she had worn spots into the floorboards. Then she had packed her gear; food, clothing, and weapons. She laid her scarlet cloak on gran’s bed, the cloak her gran had lovingly sewn for her, and donned a more sensible one for trekking through the woods. Locking the front door, she left the only home she had ever known… and went hunting.
She had planned to be away only a few days. The beast was wounded after all, and she was a pretty good tracker. That had been over a year ago.
Yesterday she had stopped at a nearby village that was rumored to have wolf problems. The local barkeep said a massive grey wolf had killed off the local wolf pack and was terrorizing villagers. After a cold night of tracking, she had finally found the wolf den.
Now was the time. He wouldn’t get away again.
Rising from her crouched position, she slowly walked forward, arrow notched. The den was several yards ahead of her, a dark hole surrounded by packed earth, currently muddy from the rain. Creeping forward, she scanned the surrounding area. She couldn’t see anything but rain and forest though.
Something moved within the hole. Freezing, she squinted through the rain.
A low growl was the only warning before a massive blur of teeth and fur launched itself from the den. Releasing her arrow, she barely registered it struck the wolf in the shoulder before she was pulling her knife. Jaws snapping, the beast rushed her. Spinning low, she slashed out with her knife and was rewarded with a spray of blood.
Growling continuously, the wolf backed off, limping as blood poured from its left leg, both from the arrow in its shoulder, and the deep cut she had just given. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she reached for another arrow. However, the beast chose that moment to spring at her and she was forced to defend with the knife again. This time she wasn’t able to land a blow.
Unfortunately, he did.
Pain lanced through her as sharp canines pierced her arm. Unable to maintain her grip, her knife dropped into the mud below them. She cried out and beat at the wolf’s head with her free hand, but it didn’t seem to phase him. Brutal snarls echoed through her skull as he shook his head viciously. Falling to her knees, Red watched as scarlet bands of blood ran down her mangled arm to mingle with the mud and rain. Wrenching her again, the wolf let go of her so violently it slammed her fully into the mud. Fire lanced through her and she dazedly realized she had fallen on her knife.
Lunging, the beast went for her throat this time. It was he who aimed to finish it.
Yanking the knife from her side in an excruciating jerk, she brought it up just as the monster’s hot breath caressed her throat. Slamming the knife deep underneath his jaw, she felt the jolt as she tore through tendon and bone. With a satisfying crunch Red twisted the knife, unknowingly shouting in a cry borne of pain, anger, sorrow, and relief.
The weight of the wolf slid off of her, but she retained her grip on her knife, following him down so that it remained embedded in his brain. Sobs racked her for several long minutes as she realized it finally, truly, was over.
Pulling the knife from the dead wolf, she slowly stood and gazed down at its still form. The rain chose that moment to stop, though the clouds still hung low in the sky. Breathing heavily, she glanced down at her crimson stained knife and then back to the wolf.
It was time to make a new cloak.
I hope you enjoyed this short story! Please feel free to leave comments below. I do welcome constructive criticism in the comments, but please give me more than, “I didn’t like it”. Don’t be afraid to tell me it sucked, but tell me why you think it sucked! And, of course, if you did like it, I would like to know that too.
And if you liked this writing prompt, and feel inspired to write a short story of your own, please feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to highlight your story in a post of it’s own!
Please don’t mind the mess.
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