Welcome back to PEP. I will have a few announcements coming soon that I am very excited about. I don’t want to jinx anything so I’m not going to go into too much detail about them now but one of them will have a direct effect here at PEP. Beyond that, let’s get into this week’s Medium stories and Monday Short Tale.
Here’s the link to last week’s Wednesday Weird Tales of the Unknown:
and here’s the link to this week’s Sunday Fabricated Stories:
Now onto this week’s Monday Short Tale.
Once upon a time…
Wait, that’s not quite right. After all, once upon a time eludes to a tale that will have a happy ending. I’m not sure you would agree that this tale has a happy ending. So, let’s try this again.
On a dark and stormy night…
Shoot, I’m really messing up this tale, aren’t I? It wasn’t dark and stormy, it wasn’t even night. Though I’m sure there are those that would argue it has to have been for the happenings. But hey, who are you going to trust? Someone that would re-write the tale or the girl who was actually there?
Okay, let’s try this again. Third times the charm, right? That’s how the saying goes anyway…
It was barely dawn when the young woman’s mother shooed her out of the house.
“Your grandmother’s not feeling her strongest so you need to take her some medicine.”
The girl sighed, “Mother, can’t you take it?”
“Absolutely not. Someone has to work to keep a roof over our heads and since your father’s gone for months at a time doing who knows what, rarely sending money to where his responsibility lies, that falls to me. I need to get to work so go on.”
“Do I have to leave now? It’s so early, even the birds aren’t up yet.”
“Yes. You know your grandmother’s cottage lies in the middle of the woods. Now, don’t dawdle and don’t step off the worn path.”
Drawing the hood of her worn red cloak over her blond hair to ward off the predawn chill, she took up the small sack containing medicine for her grandmother, some cookies for her as well as her own breakfast and mid-day meal.
After all, she’d need food to give her energy to make it to her grandmother’s cottage and then more to get her back home afterwards. She had no doubt her grandmother, who earned that title only in that she’d given birth to her own mother, wouldn’t spare any food for her.
Eloise highly doubted that needing to work was the only reason her mother was foisting this chore off on her.
The sun was finally creeping over the horizon as Eloise reached the edge of the woods.
She sighed, of course, just as the sun was coming up, she would be entering the woods where there would be little to no light.
Not for the first time, she cursed her grandmother’s decision to live isolated from the rest of the village in the woods.
Just before she entered, a familiar voice called out from behind her, “Hey, Ellie!”
She turned, huffing, “I’ve told you not to call me that, Peter.”
“And I’ve not listened before now so why would I start today?
Eloise rolled her eyes and Peter changed the subject, “Why’re you going into the woods? Haven’t you ever been told to stay out of them? It’s too dangerous for you.”
“Because I’m a girl?”
Wary of the look on Eloise’s face, Peter scrambled to backpedal but Eloise saved him the trouble.
“I’ve been sent to deliver medicine to my grandmother.”
“Your grandmother lives on the other side of the woods? That’s insane. There’s no village there.”
“I wish. No. She lives in the middle of the woods.”
“That’s actually even worse. There’s creatures that roam those woods. Dangerous creatures that’ll rip you apart easily. You need company?”
“And you’re tougher than I am? Not likely. No, this isn’t my first trip, I’ll be fine so long as I stick to the worn path.”
“I’d get my father’s axe first, of course.”
“No, thank you, Peter. I’ll be fine. It’ll be late by the time I return so I will see you tomorrow. Goodbye, Peter.”
With that, Eloise entered the woods, leaving Peter looking worriedly after her.
He didn’t like the idea of Eloise entering the woods alone so he returned home long enough to pick up his father’s axe before following after her.
Eloise walked along at a comfortable pace, in absolutely no hurry to reach her grandmother’s, sack swinging from her left hand. She knew her grandmother’s medicine would be securely closed so she worried not about it spilling.
She paused as she believed she heard something off to her right. But when she didn’t hear again, she put it out of her mind and continued on. After all, to go investigate would require her to leave the path. She wasn’t foolish enough for that. Peter hadn’t been wrong, after all, when he’d been warning her about the creatures in these woods.
She did eventually pause when her stomach began grumbling. Not only would the noise attract the wrong attention if there were any creatures around but eventually, she’d become too hungry to continue. And if she arrived at her grandmother’s hungry, she would only add that to her list of complaints about Eloise and her mother.
So she stepped off the path just a few feet where there was a old stump that was large enough for her to sit on. She opened the sack and pulled out her bread and apples. She began nibbling on the bread in between bites of apple.
Just then, she heard a rustling behind her and she tentatively turned around, afraid of what it might be.
She signed in relief when she realized it was just a little fox.
“Hello there, little one.”
It moved a little bit closer, nose quivering, no doubt smelling her food.
She tore off a piece of the bread and offered it to the little creature.
“It’s not much but I’m more than happy to share it. I don’t think foxes digest apples well, though.”
The fox took the bite of bread quickly, as though it thought Eloise would take it back, and retreated back a few feet to eat it. It turned its nose up at a bit of apple but took the second bite of bread same as the first.
Eloise offered it one last bit as she finished off the rest of the bread and last of the apples.
She stood up, dusting off her beige skirt, “I’m afraid that’s all I have on me for the moment. If I see you on the way back, I’ll have some food for supper that I don’t mind sharing. For now though,” she sighed, “I have to be off to my grandmother’s.”
Eloise returned to the path, never realizing the fox watched her go before scampering off into the woods.
The sun was beginning to beat down, just breaking through the thick trees as her grandmother’s cottage appeared. Eloise paused long enough to pull down her hood, knowing her grandmother would frown if she saw it up, and run a hand over her clothing, trying to dust them off. It was pointless, really, but any attempt made Eloise feel better.
She knocked on the door, listening for footsteps. But they never came. She knocked once more but still, they never came. She tried the handle, locked. Of course, why wouldn’t her grandmother lock her door despite being in the middle of the woods that all the villagers feared.
She briefly considered just leaving the medicine on the doorstep but quickly dismissed that idea, she had no doubt it would somehow get back to her mother and she’d hear about it and potentially made to return.
She thought she remembered there being a back door so she made her way around the small building. Sure enough, there was a back door, one that was unlocked. She glanced behind her to make sure her grandmother wasn’t just outside somewhere. But she was nowhere to be seen and so, Eloise entered her cottage.
A groan sounded from her grandmother’s bedroom.
Hmm, perhaps her grandmother was worse off than she or her mother had believed.
Eloise set the sack down on the table, pulling the medicine out, leaving her cloak on. If her grandmother was truly bedridden, she wouldn’t be staying long.
She made her way to her grandmother’s bedroom where there was a lump under the covers.
Some sense told Eloise that something wasn’t quite right. So she cautiously made her way towards the bed, “Grandmother?”
Another groan, but yet to be any words.
“Grandmother, could you show yourself?”
The covers shifted to show what appeared to be her grandmother in her nightclothes.
But something was still wrong and Eloise inquired, “Grandmother, your eyes seem very large today.”
“All the better to see you with, dear.”
If the shimmery edges of her grandmother’s body hadn’t given it away already, the dear certainly did.
“I don’t know who you are, but you can drop the glamor and tell me where my grandmother is, right now.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, dear. I may not seem like myself but I am feeling a bit ill.”
“Try again. I know you’re not my grandmother.”
Just then, her grandmother’s form shifted to reveal a large black wolf. He stepped out of the bed, shredding her grandmother’s nightclothes on the way. But he didn’t step towards her, threateningly or not.
“Why were you there, pretending to be my grandmother, and where is she?”
The wolf grinned, showing bloody teeth, voice now a hoarse baritone instead of the copy of her grandmother’s he’d attempted, “I’m afraid your grandmother is no longer with us.”
Back straight, prepared to run, “You’ve eaten her, haven’t you? I thought she’d made a deal with the creatures of this forest to not kill her?”
The wolf tilted his head in acquisition, “She did. But the terms of the deal were that so long as she didn’t harm any citizens of the woods, we would leave her unharmed.”
“Who did she hurt?”
She frowned, “I’m not a citizen of the woods.”
“Technically, no. But you shared your water with the little bear cub on your last travel here, shared your cloak with the little owl with the broken wing during the storm on the trip before that and on this trip, shared the little food you had with the little fox. Three times kind, now the woods are mine. You were kind to the creatures of the woods three times, now the woods are yours. As such, we removed the greatest threat to you in the woods.”
Eloise blinked, “You killed my grandmother to protect me?”
The wolf nodded.
“How did you shift like that?”
“These woods are special, none of the creatures here are ordinary. Now that you are ours as we are yours, you will see.”
“Was my grandmother…”
The wolf shook his head, “No. She was a trespasser but made a deal so we allowed her. You are welcome, our protector so you will see and likely gain powers of your own, if you don’t already have some.”
Still digesting his words, Eloise hadn’t decided how to respond when a unwelcome familiar voice rang from outside.
“Eloise? Eloise! Are you here?”
“Oh, no. Peter.”
The wolf peered out of hte window, “Suitor of yours?”
“God, no. Though I believe he’d like me to be. Perhaps if I remain quiet, he’ll go away.”
“If you wish it, this cottage should disappear from his sight.”
Soon enough, she saw him shake his head and blink. He set the axe down and rubbed his eyes.
“I know there was a cottage here just a moment ago.”
When Peter showed no signs of leaving, “I will get rid of him for you, child.”
“I’m not a child.”
“You are young, that makes you a child in the eyes of the woods.”
Before she could retort once more, the wolf stepped through the cottage walls, surprising her.
The wolf growled, haunches raised, expecting Peter to back up and leave as most others did.
But instead, Peter stepped back, picked up his axe and swung.
The wolf dodged easily but Peter didn’t stop.
Eloise made her decision instinctively, running out of the cottage, cloak fluttering behind her, missing the fact she’d gone through the walls as well.
Peter halted, axe held mid-swing.
“Don’t hurt him, Peter!”
“What? He’s a wolf! He needs to die!”
Peter swung once more, this time potentially making contact, when Eloise flung her hands out again.
The axe readjusted its aim to turn inwards and hit him in the chest instead. He gasped, blue eyes widening in shock, blood gushing out around the axe.
Eloise covered her face, eyes peering through her fingers, watching as Peter bled out in front of her.
The wolf spoke, “See. Our protector.”
The wolf howled and before long, Eloise watched as another wolf came into sight, clamped its teeth around the leg of the corpse and dragged it off. She couldn’t find it in herself to stop them, after all, she couldn’t return him to the village without questions and the wolves needed food.
Eloise had no doubt she would return to the woods to live eventually. But for now, she was too young to leave her mother just yet without her mother becoming too concerned. As such, she began the hike back to the village, accompanied most of the way by the black wolf.
So, was this a happily ever after for you? It was for me, no more abusive grandmother, creepy stalker boys and a future home away from the villagers that look at me as if I’m strange. After all, not all beasts are monsters and not all monsters are beasts; some are hiding as humans.
No matter, I know what I know of the story is the truth. Even if you desire to try to spread lies to the village, no one would believe you. After all, we all know the tale of the Little Red Riding Hood. And the sheeple don’t tend to care for people trying to change what they know to be the truth.
Besides, you act as if you’re going to get to return to the village. Have a look behind you, won’t you?
Well, that was dark. And I don’t know, I kind of like that angle on the Little Red Riding Hood tale. What do you think? Feel free to comment below. I’ll also be posting an image to Instagram that’ll connect to this. You can find the link to my Instagram @paulacrofoot below if you’d prefer to comment there.
(Be careful of looking behind you)
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