The rain kept falling against her red coat. She had her hood on, hearing every single thud the drops made. On her right hand, she clutched a basket with her grandmother’s lunch in it. The forest loomed just beyond the narrow pathway. She glanced behind, then trotted on, feeling her backpack heavy.
She didn’t skip; she didn’t dance down the path. She let her wellies cause plashes on every puddle she found. Her mood was as stormy as the weather. She hated everything and everyone, starting from her mother. All morons. All deserving their ill fates. People yelled at her because of their shortcomings and not hers. All she had done was state the truth. But no one appreciated the truth anymore.
“Go and take your grandmother’s lunch to her,” her mother had ordered her out of the house just when she had gotten into a good spot in her book. Her feat roasting against the fire.
There was no arguing back. Not in the mood her mother was. Not even the rain kept her safe from the false arguments of the adults.
Plash went the puddle as she jumped in with her wellies. She would show them to be sorry.
She left the town behind and felt the trees hug her into the woods. Plash went every puddle she found. There was a crack beyond the tree line, and a flock of birds lifted up. She showed her tongue at them. They deserved it for spooking her.
When she had gone deep enough, she was sure something was following her. Cracks here and there and the sound of someone breathing heavily. She looked behind her, but there was only an empty pathway and the dark trees against the raining gray sky. She sniffed, and there was a musky smell—more than the usual of wet afternoons.
She moved on. If there was anyone or anything, they didn’t show themselves. She let her wellies fall heavily against the ground as she sighed out. Mother would be sorry. The least she could do was to get her new trousers as dirty as they could. Her mother would complain and ask if she had to carry all the mud of the world with her. And she would reply, yes—simple and sort—and give a defying look.
Another crack and heavy breathing, but this time it was coming behind her. She spun around, ready to swing the basket against anyone stupid enough to test her nerves.
There in the darkness of the woods, a huge black wolf looked at her. She stared back into the glowing blue eyes. The wolf had its muzzle snarled, revealing a row of sharp teeth. Its big black ears were turned fully on her, anticipating her every move.
Oh, mother would be sorry about this. They would find her red coat in tatters, and her wellies spat out in the ditch with her feet in them. They would say she was a bad mother for letting a wee girl go out alone across the blackened forest where the evils of the world haunted mankind. Her granny would cry against the empty casket. They deserved it all for forcing her to leave the warmth of the fire and the company of a good book.
The wolf stood there, and she stood there. One of them had to make the first move. Any fool would know it had to be her, being the superior animal here with a big brain, as some would argue. But not her. A wolf knew its mind as well as she knew hers. It might have not read books, but where did a wolf need the written word when it knew the ground it walked upon and smelled the air for the signs of new to come.
“Smell this, Mr. Wolf,” she said, opening the basket with a roasted chicken, freshly baked bread, and apple pie.
The wolf cocked its head, sniffed the air, and took a step out under the trees.
She lowered the basket on the ground and stood there, waiting for the wolf to come. What point was there to run? It would run faster than her. What point was there to back away? It would ruin the payback her family deserved.
The wolf came slowly, taking hesitating steps in the search for a trap. She had been right; it knew who was the more devious creature here. When there was no obvious danger, the wolf launched at the basket, stealing the chicken and backing away.
She could leave, but instead, she watched as the wolf tore into the flesh.
“Will you eat the apple pie? Or the bred? Or will you know it is not good for you?” she asked.
She got her answer. The wolf sniffed the basket but left it alone. Now it gazed her with its big blue eyes.
She took a step forward. The wolf flinched.
“I just need my basket if you are not going to eat it all.”
She lowered down and took the basket under the watchful gaze of the wolf. She lifted up slowly, having the face of the beast inch away from hers.
“We have worked well thus far. It would be a shame to end this badly in already a miserable day like this,” she gushed out.
The wolf cocked its head.
“You can escort me to my grandmother’s place if you want, but you cannot come in. She doesn’t understand the world we live in. She paints scary monsters everywhere she goes. So does my mother, and so does most in my village. You better head where there is still untouched land left. But I’m afraid even it won’t hold. We are worse than cockroaches. So if you know a way out of this world, find one and never look back. And take the rest with you and do us a favor and show the errors of our way and leave us deserted and dying here.”
If the wolf understood or not, it didn’t say.
She turned around and heard the gentle pat of paws behind her as she walked to her grandmother’s cottage. Before she opened the door, she glanced behind and found the wolf gone.
The rain had stopped, and her mood had lifted. Maybe there was a sense in the insensible.
Thank you for reading, have a moody day! Once in a while, it is just what the mind needs to sort out the mess.
© K.A. Ashcomb