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The dry autumn leaves crackled beneath his paws as he awoke from his deep sleep. The crisp air calmed the panic incited when he felt the fur that had concealed his previously human figure. The wolf wobbled over to a puddle near him while trying to make sense of how to walk with his now four legs.
What he saw on the pond’s surface was life shattering to him. He was a wolf. A big, gray, human devouring wolf. He splashed away the reflection with the desperate hope that if the reflection was gone, the wolf he had become would be too.
I must find help, thought the wolf to himself, I am not a wolf, and I am James Huntington. I can find my own way out of this.
A scrumptious smell distracted the wolf as it swirled through the chilled air around him. He followed the scent. His stomach was grumbling with the temptation of food while his mind was twitching with the idea that if there was food, people, who could help him become human once again, would be with it.
As he prowled around the road searching for the tasty aroma, he caught a glimpse of a young girl in a little cap of red velvet. She was carrying a small basket in her hand as she skipped down the path. The wolf decided that the only way he was going to be able to get the girl to talk to him was to act calm. He could nearly taste the delicious scent that had coated his nostrils twice over. As the girl pranced ever closer, the wolf slowly, and as friendly as he possibly could, approached her.
“Good-day, Little Red Riding Hood,” Said the wolf, hoping that the nickname he had given her would create a comfortable feeling about the conversation.
“Thank you kindly, wolf”
“Whither away so early, Little Red Riding Hood?”
“To my grandmother’s”
“What have you got in your basket?” Asked the wolf, hoping that her reply would match the scent that was tempting him so.
“Cake and wine. Yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger.” Said the girl.
This perplexed the wolf because what he had smelled was buttery, meaty, and tender. But then it hit him; she was the thing that he wanted to eat so badly. In one instant, he lost the human soul inside him. As his instinct took over, so did his hunger. He thought that if the girl smelled so delectable, than her grandmother would have less meat, but even better flavor than the girl standing before him.
“Where does your grandmother live, Little Red Riding Hood?”
“A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood. Her house stands under three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just below. You surely must know it,” replied Little Red Riding Hood. The sweet smelling girl looked innocently down to her feet, waiting for the wolf’s reply. He simply stated that the day was a glorious one and it should not be wasted. The concise reply sparked the girl’s imagination. She ran off and began to dance around the wood while picking the prettiest purple flowers to give to her grandmother as a surprise gift to go with the cake and wine. As she veered farther and farther off the path, the wolf came closer and closer to her grandmother’s house with each step.
But, along the way his heart began to slow and he became calm once again. He rationalized his thoughts and came to the conclusion that being changed back into a human so he could live his life as a happy man was more important than eating well for one night. He would work to be transformed back into a person, not hunt for food.
The wolf’s body shook with anxiety as he knocked at the grandmother’s door. He was ready to be human again. But he knew that if the old woman did not have the answer to the mystery that had become his life, there was no one else he could go to. So, as the splintery, wooden door began to open, the wolf’s heart began to feel as though it was about to explode.
As he stepped into the home, the succulent smell that had he had encountered in the wood earlier that day, returned. The wolf tried with all his might to remember what he had come there for, but even his best effort was not enough. He breathed in the fragrance. It overtook his body, mind, and soul. His animal instinct took over; he lunged at the fragile woman, and swallowed her whole.
Shame filled the wolf’s heart minutes later. He had eaten a human and had enjoyed doing so. After about ten minutes of time had passed, a knock on the door made the wolf’s ear spike up and his nose twitch with excitement. It was Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf quickly disguised himself as the grandmother so that the girl would not discover the awful truth about where her grandmother actually was.
“Good morning” Little Red Riding Hood sang cheerfully as she entered the house.
As she approached her grandmother’s bedside, a look of confusion came over her otherwise pleasant face. “Oh, grandmother”, she said, “what big ears you have.”
“The better to hear you with, my child” replied the wolf, trying desperately to resist the child’s tempting aroma.
“But, grandmother, what big eyes you have,” she said
“The better to see you with my dear.” Replied the wolf slowly and quietly.
“But, grandmother, what large hands you have.”
“The better to hug you with.” The wolf gripped the mattress as tightly as he could; he could feel his hunger begin took take over.
“Oh, but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have.”
“The better to eat you with.” The wolf’s paws released the mattress as his jaws swiftly opened and closed, allowing Little Red to be devoured by the wolf.
The wolf’s eyes gave in to exhaustion and closed. He slept, and dreamed of running through the mountains; free at last. No longer a human trapped in a wolf’s body, but a guilt free, running, jumping, and howling wolf.