“Hurry, before it gets too dark.” Her mother warned.
The candles danced weakly, the source of their movement an open window in the kitchen. Red packed the cupcakes and thermos of soup into her bag. It was but a 15-minute walk to Grandma’s house, she would be okay. The candle cast long shadows on the wall as the mother and daughter packed all the goodies to be delivered to Grandma.
“If you get lost or scared, phone me – I’ll come and pick you up.” Mother told her, with a touch of fear in her voice.
Reds little trips to her Grandma’s house always made her feel uneasy. Growing up, herself, she heard countless stories of the Menace in the woods that preyed on children… But they were just that. Stories.
It was getting dark, clouds rolling through the sky and covering the setting sun. This would not be too much of an inconvenience for Red as her mobile phone was equipped with a built-in flashlight. Gone were the days of children wandering blindly around in the dark.
Now, she had a phone that enabled her location to be shown to her mother, a flashlight, as well as the local police station on speed dial. All things considered, Mother felt a bit more at ease. Packed and ready, Mother gave Red a kiss on the cheek, coupled with a tight hug and the parting words of, “Be safe honey. Stay on the path and call me when you get there. I love you.”
Hood on and bag on back, Red walked out the door, calling back her love and affection to her mother.
Her mother had told her the stories many times, and they often played over in her head as she walked alone. In every bush she saw it. Every corner she walked around, she expected the Menace to be waiting. She could hear its footsteps keeping pace with her as she walked.
She knew it wasn’t really there, but the thoughts were scary all the same. She pulled her red hood, a gift from her sweet old Grandma, higher up over her head and continued her brisk walk. Red extracted the wonder of the century from her pocket and pushed the buttons that instructed the device to illuminate her path.
It wasn’t dark yet, but the bright light was comforting. She glanced over her shoulder, having felt the sensation of someone walking in tandem with her. All that accompanied her was her shadow. Breathing a sigh of relief, she set her eyes back upon her path.
A blur shot across her path, a good few meters ahead of her. Unsure of what it was in the dark, Red began to run. The phone light bounced as she ran, causing shadows to dance all around her. Maybe it was a dog, she thought. Or a raccoon? She didn’t know what she saw, but she knew it moved quickly. She wasn’t far from Grandma’s house now.
“Maybe she should call Mother” she thought in a panic. Reasoning took over her and she figured calling her would mean she would have to stop. She certainly was not going to stop with whatever it was behind her. Red could feel her face getting hot.
She ran, tears began to stream down her face. “What if it’s the Menace”, she thought to herself. This caused her to sob heavily. Snot and tears merging as one on her face. She pawed at her eyes, trying to wipe the tears while running as fast as she could. The blur was even more blurry with tears in her eyes.
It came at her fast. She had no time to react. The Menace was real. Her screams pierced the treetops. Her phone fell to the ground as she was knocked over, still partially blind from the tears.
She looked up, in the darkness, at what stood before her. It appeared to be a wolf, although somewhat human. It was covered in hair and the snarls it emitted shook Red to her core. It circled around the vulnerable child, snapping at her ankles.
Red closed her eyes and covered her head. She screamed as loud she could. Who was to hear a young girl all alone in the woods?
The snarling stopped, Red didn’t notice as her sobs drowned out all other sound. She lifted her head, slowly, unsure if it was a trick to expose herself. She saw a torch light bouncing towards her, her Grandma’s worried cries ringing out in the night, “Red! Red baby, I’m coming. I’m coming sweetheart!”. Red had never been so happy to see her Grandma.
“Grandma.” Red stuttered.
“It’s real. The Menace is real! It chased me and attacked me!” Red let out with another heavy sob.
“Honey, you tripped and fell on the path. I could just about make you out from my porch. You bolted towards me, I thought you could see me. The next thing I knew, you went head over heels on the floor.”
Red shook her head and tried to argue. Grandma cradled her head and soothed her.
“Let’s get you inside and put something on this scrape on your knee.”
Phone forgotten, Grandma and Red walked slowly inside, where it was warm and smelled like cookies and love.
Red set the basket down on the kitchen table and sat down heavily on the chair. Her knee was bleeding slightly and she winced in pain.
“Just one second Honey.” Grandma told her.
“Let me get you something to help with that.”
Red sat clutching at her knee. Tears still rolling gently down her cheek. She immediately began to feel better. Her Grandma’s kitchen rekindled fond memories of baking and good cooking. She loved coming to Grandma’s house.
Grandma returned, first aid kit in hand. Knee bandaged and cookie in hand, Red felt whole again. Grandma pinched her cheeks and smiled.
“My, oh my, aren’t those cheeks chubby!” She exclaimed. “You’re so cute I could just eat you!”. They both laughed and hugged each other.
Grandma stood up before saying, “Red dear, it’s been so nice having you over. There’s someone I want to introduce you to.”
The kitchen door was opened, and Red felt her heart sink. It walked in upright, face twisted in a snarl, saliva spewing. It was a man, but also a wolf. The teeth, Oh God, Red could see them clearly. Its eyes were cold and dead. It was a nightmare personified.
“Here’s my little pet Honey.” Grandma said.
“He’s been dying to eat you.”