As the rain poured and the wind howled, a lurker, vulnerable in his light clothes became soaked to his core. Beyond the heavy downpour dark clouds busied the pitch sky, accented only by candle lit lanterns; independently illuminating the cobblestone ground and rows of dainty wooden houses. Though a ferocious wind could not harm those inside, the fathers, the mothers, the precious children, all safe. The only dangers that these petite towns would ever have to watch out for were wolves. The animal? Oh goodness no, a small dog-like creature held no such threat to this community or any other, even in a pack of ten.
A ‘wolf’ was a foul metaphor. A phrase reserved only for the most cruel, malicious, evil beings. With attitude, personality and intentions so animalistic, almost all civil folk believed them to be the reincarnation of a wolf, their life-force and will manifested into that of human flesh and bone. Our wolf was down on his luck, a creature caught between the cracks of society and looking for a way to get back on top. He didn’t plan to start up a small bakery, craft hats, or tailor fancy clothing for the local townsfolk. His scheme involved stepping on the backs of those who had trodden on and kept him down for so long. Why this was? He did not know, but using those fowl people as stepping stones would allow easy access for his bloody hands to grasp whatever he so pleased.
The wolf lived on the outskirts of the town. Well, this is what he’d say to people to try and make his residence sound nicer, ‘Oh yes, I live in a quant cottage on the outskirts of Greenwood, it’s very peaceful.’ When in actuality he lived over five hundred paces from any sign that even acknowledged the existence of Greenwood. He hated his home, it was damp, cold, insecure and lonely, he had no friends and lived in near-poverty. Though, news did travel. Through a postman or wandering pack of soldiers maybe, and if opportunity arose, the wolf would do his best to gain information, start up a conversation, or maybe just keep his ears open. Which is exactly how he came to be standing at a trail in east-Greenwood, during the night, in a heavy downpour.
A few weeks back he’d been sitting in his home poking a dwindling fire, trying to cook the last scraps of meat scrounged from the market days prior. While spinning the scraps he heard two distinct words ring through his broken window: ‘Abandoned house.’ Quickly, he sprang to his feet and stood by the door to continue his eavesdropping session.
‘You hadn’t heard?’
‘Oath, eastern-side of Greenwood, down a trail off the cobblestone houses, near the dock? House has been abandoned for months, near a year it’s just sat there ripe for browse.’
‘I, the oath?’ The second, smaller man laughed and sat down on the grass outside the beaten house. ‘You’ve known for months yet haven’t plundered nought? Fool.’
‘You’re very welcome to plunder all you wish, my friend, but there’s plenty a reason why men don’t go near that damned house.’
‘Ooooh, very scary.’ He undid his flask, ‘Right, I’ll bite… Why not?’ Sipping, he prepared for the tale.
‘I’ve not seen it me’self, but the words are always saying an enchantress resides, doing what I don’ know, protecting it perhaps. It’s a three storeyed abode and you think the only reason no one’s broken in is because it’s slightly out the way of the cosy homes, gives off a spooky feel? Something’s in there and I honestly don’t care what, you couldn’t line me pockets with enough gold to even kick in the backdoor.’
The seated man laughed, spitting water on the storyteller’s boots. ‘Alright, alright, story time’s over, we’ll continue this over a bottle later.’
At the very edge of the cobblestone path, the wolf stopped, rested against a house and sheltered himself under a wooden awning. He surveyed. No one was around during so late in the evening, especially with such heavy rain. Directly in front of him was the trail leading to the abandoned house; it was somehow well kept, even showing off an untouched wagon to its right. Surrounding it was around a hundred feet of grass, enclosed by woodland area on every side except that connecting it to Greenwood. To the east, he could see the rain had stopped in an area just beyond one of the pathways to the woods, though he had no time to hesitate in favour of his dryness. He pushed down the path, fifty paces from the house the rain slowly stopped, departing from right to left of his body. Then, as if planned, a girl skipped directly in front of him, stopping them both dead in their tracks.
A red cap, red cape, long golden hair, black boots and smile.
‘Hello mister! What are you doing out so late in the evening? And cold too!’ She spoke in a way of invincibility. As if even at night, alone, standing in front of an unknown man, she was in charge.
The wolf did nothing but look at the girl, wet hair stricken across his face.
‘Huh… You’re all wet. I’m just on my way home back to my mother, what a nice surprise to see someone out on my travels!’
‘Not bothered by the rain?’ The dry girl puzzled the wolf.
‘What rain? It’s been dryer than my grandma’s cakes all night, silly!’
He grew impatient at her seeming jokes. ‘You’re very young to be travelling alone.’
‘Ohhh, that doesn’t matter, so long as you’re quick! Didn’t you just see me skipping down that trail? I’m faster than any animal, a lion, a cheetah, even a wolf!’ She looked to her left in what seemed like a matter of urgency. ‘People call me Red, it was nice meeting you!’ Her words losing strength as she skipped away.
Checking to see if anyone witnessed what just happened, the lurker turned behind him, nothing. Then back to the girl, she was gone. A bizarre encounter indeed, paired with the even stranger occurrence that the rain had now returned. However, his confusion was short-lived; within seconds the wolf was back on track of his mission and into the mind-set of theft, or as the two men outside his house phrased it, ‘plundering.’ Wood splintered as he drove his foot through the centre of the cart’s wheel, leaving plenty of options to choose from. He slid his hand clockwise around the now broken spokes, choosing a long one and snapping it off at the remaining end. It fit perfectly in his hand, horrifically jagged on both sides and heavy enough to swing if need be.
Gliding over to the town-facing side of the house, he attempted to open the front door using a well-kept, pristine white crafting of wood with a golden handle. Grasping firmly he felt a warmth travel up his hand and through his body. He could compare it only to a fine glass of rum, or the rush before a fight. A very fitting thought in light of what was about to happen. Pure coincidence struck once more when the door breezed open with a gentle push; the house’s allure pulling the wolf in, greeting him with a peculiar experience. A home, fully furnished and well-lit with candles, brimming with warmth and an aroma of fresh bread. Yet no one was present, no one awake or in sight, no one tending to this bread. ‘Is anyone he-‘ before the words could leave his mouth, he was hit in the back with brute force. His weapon slid across the ground out of reach and he was thrown against the counter, held in place by hands around his throat. Another pair of eyes met his, they were pure white, belonging to no man. But the grip failed the attacker, allowing the wolf to throw the mindless husk off of him and crawl to his wood. Still on the ground and hearing the attacker rush closer, he spun, and using all turning momentum, impaled his foe.
You’re about to understand why we call them wolves. They’re bad people, incapable of mercy, remorse, or any form of compassion.
Whatever this thing was, it was out of commission; but just because he could, the wolf retrieved his weapon from its stomach and beat it over the head. With two strong blows to the skull, blood poured from its eyes. Then, like a cat finished with its mouse, the wolf left the scene, uninterested, looking for the stairs which he found almost immediately near the back of this lavish home. He wandered through a living area to find another one of these husks sat in front of him, it appeared to be watching the stairs. The house was big, but not big enough that the seated sentry wouldn’t hear what had happened in the other room. The wolf banged his weapon against the wall, no response. He stepped to his side, evading the husk’s vision and ending his movement directly behind it. A non-lethal choke would have sufficed, even another swift blow of blunt force trauma to the head, but no. The wolf cocked his hands high above his head, gripping the wood in between. With a furious slam of his feet, the lumber had now entered and exited its second body in two minutes. From point A, the soft top of the skull, to point B, the bottom of the mouth. ‘You can keep that.’ He laughed, kicking the husk in the jaw, indignifying it further as its limp body slumped off the chair.
What was he even doing here anymore, quenching a bloodlust? Killing for sport? He came to plunder, yet he’d picked not a single antique, no coins, no jewellery, no silverware.
He continued up the stairs. They split into a left and right flight, both leading to opposite sides of the same landing. As he sauntered up the white carpeted stairs, he made sure his feet lingered, wiping a bloody boot on each step they encountered. At the top were two rooms, with a copy on the other side and another set of stairs around the corner. He treated his curiosity, kicking in one of the two doors to find a small room. It was filled with one husk, sleeping, flat-backed on a single bed. ‘Thank goodness you’re deaf.’ Was his only interaction with it before punching it, throwing it out of bed and treading on its throat.
At this point I’d had enough. I’d seen everything: the murders, the skipping of the child, even the overheard conversation about my ‘abandoned’ home. I blinked from the attic he’d so foolishly ignored to the bedroom.
‘You’re killing my child.’ I said from the doorway.
‘Oh, he’s already de-‘ I had no time for his audacity, I flew forward, held his arm and we returned to the attic. He let out a scream. It would appear that in our rush I’d torn his shoulder from its socket. ‘You’re quite fragile too, it seems.’
‘What in God’s name just happened? Where am I? Please, have mercy, my arm is truly broken, look!’ He flailed his arm at me.
‘I do not care for your flesh, human. And… You ask me for mercy? Mercy, that’s strange word to be used by a wolf.’ I tugged on his arm. It was visibly weak so I ripped it from the host and threw it, only to have him fall unconscious.
‘I forget how weak you people are.’ A harsh palm to the head and flick of fire to close his wound woke him.
‘What…’ He could barely talk, bless him. ‘What do you want from me, you’ve taken my arm. I am sorry. Just let me leave with my body.’
‘Your body? Oh that’s not your body anymore. There’s a reason why they call those people wolves. You people. The murderers, the thieves, the turned watchers of my home. Look, I’ll cut to the fun part and show you the end-result, the final form! The appearance that oh-so rarely accompanies the folklore of a wolf. The wolf!”
I gave another flick, his arm healed but at double the size and with black, matted fur. He grew about nine feet tall, eyes as big as saucers, fangs protruding from his disgusting mouth. You’ve heard of a werewolf, surely?
‘W’AT FE FUCK HAF YOU DONE TO ME, YOU WHORE.’
‘Strange, they’re usually obedient upon transformation, count to ten for me?’
‘I WILL KILL…’ obedience struck, ‘…One, two, three.’
‘Very good. Now, we’ll start with something simple, wolf. You enjoyed killing my watchers? My children…’ It still hurt. ‘You appear to kill brutally, yet impartially, so we’ll test your newfound loyalty since you’ll be killing for me now. The young girl in the red cap and cape, you remember her?’
A quiet snarl was his only response.
‘Find and kill her for me, I don’t care who’s affected or how it’s done. Dress up like her damned grandmother for all I care. I just want Little Red Cap dead.’