A Fairytale Mystery

Submitted into Contest #37 in response to: Write a story that takes place in the woods.... view prompt

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Mystery

Tick tick tick.

The dials of Red’s watch moved to the moment, seeming infinitely slower. Her honeycomb eyes scanned her dress, hoping she was absolutely perfect for the moment. Her dress was a beautiful robin’s egg blue, to the delight of the birds nearby. Her olive skin was adorned with a simple locket that rested perfectly at the curve of her neck, slightly covered by her unruly night-black hair. 

The clouds wafted over the thick tendrils of the breathing forest, plump and ready to blow. The summer morning was bliss with cool air, something rare. Goosebumps jumped up on Red’s arms, tingeing her with a sense of dread.

“You are taking awfully long,” she called out, her voice wavering. Her heels dug deep into the earth, her eyes scared. She moved farther into the thickly knitted woods, her knee-high boots clacking against the soft ground. Quiet as a whisper, the trees breathed alongside her, almost as if monitoring her movements. 

The letter had arrived earlier this morning. It hardly left anytime for her slow mind to think, or her small hands to act. I can help you. Meet me at the clearing - and wear something nice. 

Red definitely didn’t understand the last of it, but she obliged. Anything to solve the mystery she’d been stuck helplessly on for the past week. 

She hoped that’s what the mystery man had meant by help. 

She made her way carefully through the woods, wishing on leaves and vines for hope that all would be well. “Are you there?” she asked, her voice no more than a whisper. Her dress brushed against her white tights, sending shivers down her legs. 

Suddenly she stopped. A voice. A mantra. A wish. 

Someone sang, and Red followed. She was in a daze, and only the scent of honeysuckle pushed her forward. She was pulled into another clearing, and vaguely, she thought, Oh, this must be the clearing. No wonder he wasn’t here yet.

Yellow flowers brushed against her side, and she leaned down to pluck a few. The sun beamed against her back, prompting her to pick more of the sunflowers and honeysuckles. “These will be perfect,” she murmured absently, tucking them into the pockets of her purse. 

“Ah, there you are.” 

Red whipped around, faced with a well-built man. He was much taller than Red, who appeared like a speck next to him. He wore an iron-gray suit, a tie matched with her dress. His golden hair was gelled to perfection, not a hair out of place. His cold black eyes scaled over her, stopping at her purse. 

“You said you would help?” she whispered, hoping her voice came confident.

“You said you would bring food?” he shot back, his steel smile unwavering. 

“I did?” Red asked, momentarily confused. Then her eyes glazed over and she didn’t miss a beat. “Of course. I know where to get food.” 

“I said I would help, didn’t I?” the man confirmed, reaching out a tan arm to take Red’s hand. She followed dumbly, reminding herself it was all for the mystery. If she could solve it, it would be the last of walking through quicksand. 

“What’s your name?” she decided to ask, the silence bothering her. Silence was usually her friend, helping her out when peace was absent. But now, she couldn’t help but think silence was all she would hear for a long time. 

“You can call me Wolfe. You?” He replied smoothly, not taking a second to think it over. 

Red nodded shakily, before realizing it wasn’t a yes or no question. “Red.” 

“Red,” Wolfe mused, pulling her to the right in the fork of the path. Hummingbirds chirped, warning her, almost. Red shook her head, warily, knowing she was in deeper than she signed up for originally. Reminding herself it would be over soon was getting harder. 

“We’re nearly there,” Wolfe announced slowly, eagerness seeping into his tone. Uneasy, Red wrenched her hand away.

“Almost where?” 

“To solving your mystery,” he replied bluntly, cool and collected. “You wanted to find her, didn’t you?” 

Her was the one who was causing all this trouble. Her was the tic on the dog, sucking blood. Her was testing her patience, acting like a needle in a haystack. Her was already dead in Red's eyes.

Rainwater trickled from somewhere, pulling her back to her senses. Red’s eyes unglazed and she stopped dead in her tracks. “We will find her?” she checked, unsure. The feeling of dread was settling over her like a rainstorm, as dark as Wolfe's eyes. She shifted uneasily from foot to foot, darkness alive in her wake.

“Of course, Red.” She slowly followed behind Wolfe, her footsteps leaving deeper prints each time she slowed. The sunflowers in her purse were withering, and her trust was shredding. She wrestled her curls into a ponytail, just as Wolfe stopped near a cozy home, surrounded by spiked plants reaching out with green fingers, and red blooms guarded by thin spikes. 

“A cottage?” 

“A cottage,” Wolfe confirmed. “Fresh meat is scarce.” 

Before Red could process the new information, Wolfe pushed her in, tripping over her feet. She landed at the far end of the room, sure she would not be having a nice lunch and chat with Wolfe. 

To her horror, Wolfe melted and reformed before her eyes. His golden hair morphed into dusk, shriveling and darkening. His smooth tan skin blistered, only seen for a moment before obscured by thick gray dreadlocks. His cold eyes doubled in size, hiding behind coats of soft iron hair. His suit blended into his legs and torso, and Wolfe was gone. 

“What big teeth you have,” Red muttered stupidly, eyeing the old lady on the bed. I had to go through all this, she thought, for you. Oh, joy! 

“All the better to eat you with!” Wolfe roared, launching himself towards Red. Almost too late, Red rolled to her side, tossing her purse away. “You are definitely not grandmother,” Red observed even more stupidly, backing into the corner. Her words were not hers. Her movements were not hers. Her story was not hers. 

“I,” Red whispered, her eyes glazing over once more. “Am Little Red Riding Hood.” 

Wolfe dissolved into a puff of smoke.



April 11, 2020 00:27

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