It’s that time again… Time to get fictional!
Red was the color of her cape. And that was the beginning of all her problems.
See, the simple-minded townsfolk of Howling’s Creek had never seen anything such as the scarlet cloak that had hooded her since infancy.
It didn’t help that she came from a long line of naturally petite women just like her mother, grandmother, and all the mothers before them.
And because it was so vibrantly red and because she was so significantly small, everyone automatically called her, you guessed it, Little Red.
Was it her real name? Nope. Did it matter? Not one bit.
The little girl with the red hood, riding her pony in the woodlands. This is how the story you thought you knew began.
Of course, I remember things quite differently.
Anyone who lived in Howling’s Creek knew where the town got it’s name. And it wasn’t because we lived near a loud creek. Let’s just say we had a bit of a wolf problem.
Red knew this better than anyone. She’d lost her younger brother when he ventured off into the woods on his own. She had grieved for her best friend, when the young maiden had snuck out to meet a boy at midnight. She mourned for her father, after he had come back from a hunting trip in pieces.
When her mother was slaughtered while hanging laundry to dry, Red was sent to live with her only surviving relative at the edge of the wood.
No one expected Red to make it to her grandmother’s house. Her alleged fiancé even backed out of marrying her, since everyone thought it would be a waste of time. After all, it was only natural to assume that she would be the next victim.
It was certainly not proper that a young woman traveled alone. But fear had a way of making people abandon their sense of decorum. And yet, Red didn’t seem to mind the journey without accompaniment.
The ride to her grandmother’s estate would take a good half a day, for the old bat had led a life as secluded from civilization as possible while still remaining near to her now deceased family.
What it must have been like for that poor girl, having to look over her shoulder the whole way there? From a fallen branch to a bird’s flapping wings, surely each insignificant noise must have triggered a jump or cringe. How many times did she hasten her horse to go just a tad bit faster?
We simple townsfolk can only assume what would happen before Red entered that cottage.
What we do know is that she arrived at the cottage when the sun was just beginning to set. Something made her set her basket of belongings and baked goods right outside the front door. She didn’t even bother to close the door behind her as she stepped inside…
Those close-minded inhabitants of Howling’s Creek were as so superstitious that they believed my entire family was cursed. And perhaps, in a way, they were right.
When Peter had broken off our engagement, I wasn’t surprised to say the least. Who would genuinely want to be with Little Red?
They once told me that my crimson hood was attracting the wolves. “It’s the color of blood, you know. That’s their favorite drink!”
I told them, time and time again, that I was the one still alive. Perhaps my thin cloak was protecting me from a ravenous death.
When I arrived at my grandmother’s house, I was beyond exhaustion. The journey had proven to be too pleasant. It was as if the heaven’s had parted, bringing light to each and every shady grove. Not a single peep had been made. There were no leaves to even be crunched beneath the hooves of my noble steed.
It was nauseatingly boring.
The intoxicating scent of Grandmother’s rabbit stew wafted with a ever so gentle breeze as I dismounted. I folded my hood onto my back, allowing my once captive curls to escape from their cloth prison. And that’s when I noticed the door.
It was ajar, practically dangling from it’s hinges. I quickly reached for a knife among my meager belongings in a basket dangling from my arm. Setting the basket down at the doorway, I quietly stepped forward with shaking hands.
“Grandmother?” I softly called, trying to recall when the last time I’d seen her was.
“Come in, come in! I’m in my bedroom, dear!” It had been too long since I’d heard her shrill voice. But the voice that came from the back of her cottage was more like a snarl then a bird’s chirp. I clutched the knife behind my back.
“My, what a deep voice you have.” My hand was shaking, as I stepped closer, opening the door.
“The better to sing with, love.”
Grandmother was sitting in her favorite knitting corner, her face shielded by a dark shadow.
“And Grandma, what big hands you have.”
“The better to hold you with, my dear.”
I dared to step even further, hoping to catch a glimpse of her face. She moved forward and into the light. My suspicions were proven correct. This was not my grandmother. I began to back away.
“Is there something wrong, girl?”
“Of course not, G-grandmother. I just forgot my basket o-outside. I’ll b-be right back.” I made a run for it, but the stranger followed after me.
“Harry! She’s headed your way!” A tall figure then emerged from what seemed like thin air, blocking the front door and my only exit. Panicked, I froze before leaping towards the far wall.
“Who are you?” The men looked between themselves, before the one who pretended to be my grandmother stepped forward. My blade was still hidden from them, I think, tightening my grasp on the handle.
“Little innocent Red Riding Hood. A victim of the injustice of a wild beast. Headed to her last living relative, to stay hidden away forever.” He chuckles to himself, straightening out his dress. “It truly is a remarkable cover… for a murderous snake!”
“I beg your par…” He immediately interrupted, shouting a name that made me jump.
The man called Harry moved over, allowing a hunched over silhouette to pass under the doorway.
“Name the one thing in common with each death in your family, Ms. Bakerson.” The old cow stood there, resting against her cane, with a saddened gaze before raising a finger.
And pointing directly at me.
“Red, it was Red.” She began to cry, and I can’t believe my ears. They believed I had murdered my family, my friend. The icing on the proverbial cake was that my own grandmother had called me that heinous nickname. She’d never called me it before. She’d never believed I was a murderer.
I was many things. But never a liar.
So, naturally… she was, of course, right.
Knowing what was to come next, considering these seemed like the sort of men who would take the law into their own hands, I did what I had to.
I whipped my blade from behind me, it’s sliver catching against the impostor’s neck. A spray of gloriously deep red smacked my face. I watched with satisfaction as he flew back. A crimson puddle began to pool around him. I then charged towards the others, ready for more, when a shot rang through the cottage.
Pain surged across my middle, and I fell to my knees. I held my stomach, and then raised my fingers so I might see. Glancing at my killer, I slowly grinned, before taking a final look at my wet hand.
Red, after all, was my favorite color.
I can’t begin to imagine why she did it. To this day, I blame myself.
Of course, if I hadn’t have told Harry and Tom my suspicions, then I would have been just another one of her victims.
Tom was buried with his forefathers, in Howling’s Creek Cemetery. But Red’s body was claimed undeserving for proper burial. So it was burned, symbolic of how most believe her very soul still burns today.
Harry’s decision to pull that trigger surely still haunts him. But slowly he tried his best to move on. Settled down. Had five kids with a pretty, kind girl.
I moved away from Howling’s Creek after it was all said and done. An old woman needs time to grieve. Needs a place to be at peace.
But anytime I see the color red, it reminds me of that look on her face. That sickened sweet smile at the sight of blood. It took a good while for me to realize it. But Red was the color of her cape.
And in a black and white world, it was the only thing so vibrantly colored that she could see.
As I take my last breath, I know now. I know because Red is all I see.