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I wished myself into a storybook once, a long time ago. I’m not sure how, or how I got out, but I am sure of the fact that I never want to go back.
That day had been a particularly bad one. My teacher had yelled at me, and then my mom had sent me to my room when I got home from school. I opened my bedroom door and was met with the unpleasant surprise of all my toys spread across the floor, courtesy of my sister. I did my best to ignore the mess and made my way to the bunk-bed I shared with the very same sister I was sure to be very angry at when she chose to grace me with her presence again.
On the edge of the top bunk I saw the comforting sight of a pile of books. I always kept them there for when I was bored, when I couldn’t sleep, or when I had days like that one. I pulled the pile towards me and began shifting through it, looking for one that would provide a much needed escape. One near the bottom of the pile caught my eye: a small worn book entitled Little Red Riding Hood. I opened it up and began to read. It wasn’t long before my eyelids began to droop. The last thing I remember thinking before the book fell from my limp fingers was the wish that I could be in the story.
I woke up on my back, staring up at a clear blue sky. My admiration of that beautiful shade of blue quickly turned to confusion. Where was I? I pushed myself into a sitting position to better examine my surroundings and was surprised to find myself sitting in the middle of a big green meadow spotted with little yellow flowers. On the farthest edge of the meadow was a forest of dark, tall trees, clouding the horizon. There was a dark mist surrounding it, adding to the foreboding sense of it.
Out of the corner of my eye, a splash of brilliant red appeared, bobbing up and down, moving steadily toward me. I stood to get a better view and I felt my jaw drop. It was a little girl wearing a red cloak, a small woven basket on her arm. It was the girl from the cover of Little Red Riding Hood. As I stood there staring at her in disbelief, she lifted her head to look at me. Instead of stopping and staring in confusion like I expected her to, she smiled at me and waved for me to join her. I only hesitated a second before running to her.
“Hi!” she said brightly when I reached her.
“Hello,” I replied, a little short of breath. “What’s your name?” I asked, though I already knew the answer.
“Red,” she told me. “What about you?”
She smiled again. “That’s a pretty name. Well we’d better hurry!” she said.
“Where are we going?” I asked. Once again, I knew the answer before she spoke it.
“To my grandmother’s house. Come on!”
I walked closely behind the girl as she skipped, wondering how far her grandmother’s house was. It wasn’t until we were on the edge of the forest that I noticed we were going in it. Red seemed to sense my unwillingness to enter it because she paused and offered me her hand. “Don’t worry,” she said, “my grandmother’s house isn’t far from here.”
Her words didn’t offer much comfort, but if she wasn’t afraid to go in, then I could at least pretend I wasn’t. Just before we walked in, I remembered that the forest was where Red first meets The Big Bad Wolf.
The girl and I could feel his presence before we saw him. The hot, muggy air was pressing in on us, laced with a nameless terror. Red was extremely nervous and kept glancing through the trees on either side of the little path we were on, jumping every time a small breeze would rustle the leaves above us.
We stopped abruptly at the sound of a breaking twig ahead of us. I barely had time to blink before he jumped through the trees and landed with a muffled thump in front of us. My eyes grew impossibly large at the sight of him, towering over us even though he was crouched near the forest floor. One of his eyes was a milky white and framed by a nasty scar; the other was electric blue. There was a certain menace emanating from him that I had never felt before, one that had me frozen in place. He eyed us hungrily for a moment then asked, “What do you have in your basket, little girl?”
His voice was a low, rumbling growl filled with what I can only describe as evil. I suppressed a shudder. Red slipped her hand into mine again then opened her mouth to answer, but I never heard the words that came out. I had never been so relieved to see my bedroom.
Even now, ten years later, that voice still cuts me like a knife dipped in icy terror.
I can smell her. I remember that scent well. So mouth-wateringly delicious. I was ever so disappointed when she never arrived at the cottage with the little girl. I was so looking forward to tasting that sweet-smelling flesh. Now, after a decade of searching for her, I have finally found her. Tonight I will finally get my meal. I am in the woods near her home, watching and waiting. I don’t recognize this alien place but it matters not.
It is dark when she finally walks out the door, shivering in the cold, even with her grey sweater on. Her breath escapes her in short white puffs. She seems wary. She can feel my presence, but she doesn’t recognize it as the same one she felt ten years ago in a forest not unlike the one I’m hiding in. She turns her back to me and I see my chance. “We meet again,” I growl. She whips around with terror in her eyes but her scream never leaves her lips.