Eat You Up

Chapter 2 - Redder

While Red had meant what he'd said when he'd told Anthony that he was capable of taking care of himself, Red still found himself a little worried as he set off the next morning on the path that would lead him to his grandmother's house. There had been four girls and two boys found dead in the past year, all of them having been brutally assaulted before having their necks broken. Worst of all, each of them had been eaten, some of them missing entire limbs and large portions of their bodies, and in some cases they had been identified only by the clothes that they wore or the jewelry that they still possessed. And each of them had been found in the woods. Just off the path. The path that every child in the village had been taught never to leave, lest they be lost forever in the mass of ancient trees. Apparently, the trees were not the only things that the children of New Harborton need fear anymore.

Even without the fear of a serial killer weighing heavy on his mind, Red still would not have been looking forward to his journey. His grandmother, at the best of times, had been neglectful while the beautiful redhead had been growing up. At the worst of times she had been an abusive drunk, and poor Red still had the scars to prove it. And, even as a young adult, Red still feared her. She did not often come into the village, having everything that she needed in her home in the woods, but when she did Red tried his best to avoid her. She did not strike him near as much as she had when he'd been a child, but her words could be just as harsh as any blow. Red did not look forward to being called slut and harlot again. But he would endure his grandmother's favorite terms of endearment if it meant finding a way to gain his heart's greatest desire.

Red packed a bottle of his grandmother's favorite wine and an extra large batch of his homemade white chocolate and cranberry cookies into a little wicker picnic basket, pulled on his much loved red cloak, and set off for the great gate that would lead him out of the village and into the woods. He passed several villagers on his way, but none of them spoke to him or asked him where he was going, and the few that smiled at him only did so when they thought that no one else was looking. It made Red a little sad, but he tried to ignore it. He was going to win the heart of the huntsman, so what did the favor of a few villagers really matter anymore?

And then he passed through the gates and was gone from New Harborton.

When first the village fell from sight Red became very nervous, jumping at every sound, weary of every shadow, and suddenly unsure of the intelligence of Anthony's plan. He even caught himself running from a threat before realizing that it was nothing more than a sweet little hare out on a search for grass to nibble upon. Red felt exceedingly silly for having run from such a tiny and harmless creature, and afterwards he was not nearly so frightened. In fact, once he took a good look around and stopped letting his imagination provide him with outrageous things to fear, Red realized that the forest was actually quite beautiful. After that, his journey became much more enjoyable.


Red had been on the path for almost an hour, and he felt that he ought to be nearing his grandmother's home soon, when he heard a sound just off of the path that could not possibly have been made by a rabbit. This time, however, he did not immediately run. Instead, he squared his shoulders, tipped his chin higher, and walked on as though he had not heard anything at all. He refused to be frightened by squirrels and birds. And, if it just so happened to be the murderer, then at least the nefarious evildoer would not have the satisfaction of seeing Red flee in terror.

"Where go you in such a hurry, little red riding hood?" The deep and gravely voice sounded so near Red's ear, and so suddenly, that his new found resolve was completely shattered and Red gave a frightened shriek as he spun around in shock.

"Where did you come from?!" Red shouted.

"It is horribly impolite to answer a question with a question. Or didn't you know that?"

"Well, then answering my question to your question with another question would be even ruder, would it not?"

The laughter that he received in response was better than another question, but Red still had difficulty relaxing, even though the stranger did nothing more than stand and stare at him after that. The man's appearance did not help either, for before Red stood a six foot tall wolf. Or, rather, a wolf-man. His body was that of a man, for the most part, with broad shoulders and muscled arms. But his pants were short, and Red could see that clawed feet covered in fur anchored the man firmly to the earth. A bushy grey tail waved to and fro behind the man. His face held a long grey snout, sharp golden eyes, and was topped by a set of fuzzy pointed ears. When he smiled, a mass of sharp teeth glinted in the dappled sunlight that filtered in from between the many trees of the forest.

Red, as it turned out, was right to be wary of the stranger with the pointed ears. He did not know it, but Red stood before the very same person that he had been so fearful of for the entirety of his journey. The wolf was, in fact, the one responsible for all of the rapes and murders that had been occurring over the past year. As well as a few that no one had yet to find out about. The wolf was an evil-doer of the worst sort. And he was hungry.

"What a charming boy you are!" The wolf said at last, hoping to relax the human who had so unexpectedly stumbled across his path. He had found that too much undue stress too early in the game simply ruined the flavor of an otherwise delicious meal. "Your village must love you for that."

It was Red's turn to laugh, although his laugh held more of sadness than of glee. "My village, love me? If only I were so lucky."

"Why would they not?"

"They think that I'm a worthless slut." Red wasn't sure why he was telling this stranger such personal things. But, perhaps because he was a stranger, Red found himself suddenly desperate to speak to someone. His solitary journey had left him with far too much time to think. "They hate me for it, although it does not stop them from visiting my bed. But just because I've known more cocks than Farmer Smith's henhouse doesn't mean that I don't have feelings too!"

"There, there, my darling boy." The wolf moved forward cautiously, scenting weakness, placing one furred paw upon Red's cloak-clad shoulder in a comforting gesture. Red did not back away. He knew that touch was his weakness, but at the moment he didn't really care. In fact, he felt on the verge of tears, and even the comfort of a stranger was a gift at the moment. "Please don't cry."

"I'm sorry," Red sniffed, wiping at his face as the first tears began to fall. He was so terribly embarrassed at his outburst that his face turned as red as his hood. "I'm usually not so emotional, really. I've just had a lot on my mind as of late."

"Oh, that's quite all right." The wolf assure him. Then he smiled widely and prepared to lie straight to Red's face. "In fact, I know exactly how you feel. I too have been ostracized from many a town myself for things that are entirely beyond my control."

Red looked up hopefully, thinking that he had at last found a kindred spirt.

"Why, yes," the wolf went on, knowing that he had just captured the boy. "You see, simply because I am a wolf, people so often assume that I am nothing more than a bloodthirsty fiend who wishes them ill. They don't believe me when I tell them that I am a peaceful man who prefers vegetables to meat."

"You're a vegetarian?" Even Red could not believe this.

"Why, yes," the wolf had trouble keeping a straight face as he spun his web of lies. He had never met someone so gullable. "I have lost many a home due to the prejudice of mortals. Humans can be so judgmental."

Red nodded, agreeing completely. Just because he was a little on the friendly side, and freer with his affections and his favors than the other residents of New Harborton, didn't mean that they had to treat him poorly or talk about him behind his back and ignore him to his face. But, although he found it comforting to have met someone who understood just how he felt, the wolf's speech also served to remind him of the most judgmental of all humans. And she was the one person that he had no hope of avoiding.

"Why the long face, my boy?" The wolf was honestly curious. He'd thought that he'd had the boy on the verge of a smile only moments before. "You look like a man about to face the executioner's axe."

"That might be a preferable way to spend the day," Red sighed. "But, unfortunately, I'm going to go and see my grandmother instead."

"Shouldn't that be cause for happiness," the wolf wondered, "and not pain?"

"You don't know my grandmother."

"Really?" The wolf prompted. "Why don't you tell me all about it, my friend."

"Well," Red hesitated, for the first time thinking that the whole situation seemed a bit odd. He was not used to people being so kind to him. Especially strangers. "I really should be moving on. I promised my friend that I would be safely back in town before nightfall. And I've yet to make it to my grandmother's house, let alone starting on the journey home."

"Then I shall walk with you while you talk." The wolf was having quite a bit of fun talking to the boy in the red cloak, and he didn't mind at all postponing his meal for a little while. After all, he had always had a bad habit of playing with his food. "It might be safer this way as well. I don't know if you're aware of this, but there have been a series of horrible attacks on this very road as of late. In fact, I would never forgive myself if I let you go off all on your lonesome and something terrible happened to you!"


"I positively insist on walking at least part of the way with you." The wolf placed one great paw on Red's back and gave him a little push in the way that he had been traveling, chuckling a bit when the boy stumbled before catching his footing. But he made certain to keep his smile hidden when Red turned back to him.

"Well, if you insist."

"I do."

They walked quietly for a while, only the cries from the birds of the forest and the crunch of dirt under their feet breaking the silence. But Red had never been one to keep his mouth shut, being too full of nervous energy to ever stay silent for long, and so at last he began to speak again. "My grandmother has never been very fond of me. Even as a child. And now, with the way that I am, she doesn't approve of me and makes that fact known whenever she has the chance."

"That's very sad," the wolf said. And he almost meant it. "I've always thought that family should love each other no matter what."

"I wish that she thought the same way."

"If she is such an awful woman, then why spend the day traveling a dangerous path just to see her?"

"I have a problem that only she can help me with," Red answered a little sheepishly. "You see, I'm in love with the huntsman. He's the first person that I've ever looked at with more than lust, and I want so desperately to be closer to him, but as of late he is all but ignoring me. My friend Anthony says that my grandmother and he are aquatinted, and so I'm going to see her in the hopes that she might tell me how to gain his favor."

"Oh really?" The wolf thought quickly, his fiendish mind formulating a plan that might fill his belly with two meals that night. "And what makes you think that your shrew of a grandmother will give of her knowledge freely if she thinks so poorly of you?"

Red winced. He had been wondering that very same thing ever since Anthony had told him of his plan. He still didn't have an answer.

"I have an idea," the wolf provided helpfully. "I know of a mushroom that grows in this area. It loosens a person's tongue and makes them give up secrets that they would not have otherwise given. If you took a few of these mushrooms to your grandmother and managed to get them into her food, perhaps over lunch, then she would surely tell you all that she knows. Why, you could have your answers and be off to romance your beloved huntsman before the sun has traveled much past the midday mark, and still make it home in time for supper with this clever friend of yours in town!"

Red's emerald eyes grew wide with wonder, salvation suddenly within his sight, and he stopped in the middle of the path and grabbed at the stranger's paw with a look of pleading on his pretty face. "Where can I find these mushrooms? What do they look like? How much will it take to make her talk?"

"Calm down, my friend," the wolf laughed. He had worried that the boy would not want to use such underhanded tactics on his own family, but the wolf decided quickly that he had greatly underestimated the level of discord between grandmother and grandson. "I will tell you everything that I know. Why, your grandmother will never know what hit her!"

The wolf spoke for about fifteen minutes, making up many magical properties for a very common mushroom that he had seen while devouring the body of his last victim nearby, and then it was with a toothy smile that he waved to Red from the path as the boy ran off into the woods in search of his very own rosetta stone. The wolf, in turn, went off at an easy lop along the path and towards Red's grandmother's house. He salivated all the while, anticipating a most delicious two course meal.

                                                                                                                                    Chapter 1 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Red Riding Hood ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 3



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