Red Riding Hood, Again Revisited

Red stepped briskly along the path. It was early, and she thought she could get to Granny’s by late morning. Granny hadn’t been feeling so well this past week, and Red was bringing her a few things to lift her spirits.
The forest was deep and dark, but Red knew she would be fine as long as she stuck to the path. That was the first rule of travelling through the forest—stick to the path. The second rule was not talking to strangers, especially large, hairy strangers who pretended to be kind and helpful. But in case she did meet such a stranger, Red had just what she needed in the pocket of her cloak.
Red came to a giant oak in the path. It was a tricky spot because she couldn’t see ahead or behind as she came around the tree. The path went down into a little dell, and came up and around the far side of the oak.
Red reached inside her cloak and pulled out her phone. If she was going to have company, then she would have it here. Sure enough, Red saw a tall, slouching figure come onto the path just ahead.
Red stepped quickly back behind the giant oak. She thumbed her phone.
“Hello, Red,” came Granny’s voice. “Are you on your way?”
“Yes,” said Red in a half whisper. “But I have company on the path.”
“You know what to do, dear,” said Granny. “I’ll see you soon, and we can have tea.”
Red repocketed her phone, and once again stepped out onto the path. Reaching again under her cloak, she took the can of bear-spray in hand. This stranger was about to get a surprise.
Looking wide-eyed and innocent, Red walked along the path towards the wolf that waited. He tried to smile ingratiatingly. Red almost felt sorry for the big brute.
“Good morning, little girl,” said the wolf. “And where are you off to this fine morning?” He was working his jaws hard to hide his slavering chops.
“Good morning,” said Red. “I’m just off to visit my Granny.” And with that, she pulled the bear-spray from beneath her cloak and let him have it full in the face.
Well, that wolf howled and yowled, and stumbled back off the path. Red repocketed her spray and carried on, and for a long time she heard the wolf yammering and crashing through the forest.
That’s the end of that, thought Red, smugly. But little girls are not as wise as old grannies in the ways of Wiley wolves.
The wolf found a pool in the forest and ducked his head repeatedly until the sting lessened in his eyes and nose. “The little wretch,” he said to himself, grimly. “I’ll have that little brat—and her granny as well.” And with that the wolf loped through the forest in search of Granny’s house.
By that time, Red had reached Granny’s, and she was busily unpacking her basket and telling Granny all about her adventure in the forest. But Granny was less impressed than Red expected. Remember that grannies are wiser in the ways of wolves and other unpleasantness in the forest than little girls.
Granny patted Red’s cheek. “Very good, dear,” she said. “But we have more to do.”
Granny had Red help her with a large cauldron that they maneuvered onto the fire. They filled it with water and stoked the fire. Soon the water in the cauldron was roiling and boiling, and Granny’s face took on an expectant expression. They didn’t have to wait long.
A knock came at the door. Red looked with alarm at her Granny, but the old woman simply sat on by the fire.
“Oh please, old granny,” said a plaintive voice from outside the door. “Open up and let in a poor, starving stranger.”
Granny rolled her eyes. “Always the same trick,” she muttered.
The wolf, for it was indeed the wolf outside the door, stared in disgust at the little house. He knew the old lady was too cunning to just open the door. He thought of huffing and puffing, but that one didn’t always work. Eyeing a tree beside the house, he thought of a better plan. He scrambled up the tree, and with a swing and a grunt, he stood next to the chimney.
He didn’t like the look of the smoke coming from the chimney, but he was bent on revenge and a meal, so in headfirst he went.
Red was still standing watching Granny by the fire. She heard the wolf on the roof, and feeling suddenly afraid, she heard him scrambling down the chimney.
Now, if you know anything about chimneys, you will know they are full of smoke and soot. That gave Granny her edge. When the wolf popped his head out of the chimney, he shook his head and gave a terrific sneeze. Quick as a flash, Granny reached out and gave his ears a terrific tug. The wolf fell straight into the pot of roiling, boiling water. And that was the end of him.
When the local woodsman, swinging his great, sharp axe came striding through the forest, he knocked at Granny’s door. There he found Granny and Little Red having tea and cake at the table. He was a little disappointed not to have a shot at the wolf, but he was very glad to join them for tea.

Red Riding Hood Revisited


He preferred the dream. In the dream, he could run, he could play, and he could watch the fall of water through the canyon and smell the scent of growing things as he joyously pelted through the forest with the others. But when the dream ended, he would get pulled once again into the story, and there his choices would cease. He would be compelled once again to play out the story to its end. And the end was always the same—the screaming, the taste of blood, the running, and finally being hunted down by the man with the axe. And the man always killed him—every time, the same ending to the same story.
He never minded the end. Meeting the man with the axe meant that once again he would dream. He would again run with the others through the forest; he would feel the joy in his heart that came with the forest smells and the silence beneath the trees. And he would be free from the terrible appetite that drove him whenever the story took him.
He never remembered dreaming while he was part of the story, but he always remembered the story while he dreamed. Many others lived this dream with him, old men and old women, handsome young men—barely more than boys—who strode through the trees looking wonderingly at everything about them. There were maidens, too. Young girls with serene expressions, untroubled by desire, who occasionally stopped to look at him and smile. Not often, but sometimes he would trot up to one of these maidens, and they would exchange a silent greeting. The maid would scratch behind his ears, and he would close his eyes in rapture. But he often felt an uneasiness at such times, remembering the story and what it did to him. And not just him, but all of the others who dreamed the same dream.
And it never lasted. The dream always came to an end, and in exactly the same way. He would feel the pull of the story. It caught him like a trap, like a fist around his heart—clenching and constricting.
He would feel himself being pulled out of the dream to emerge in another forest. But he was no longer himself. He had forgotten the dream, and his mind had shifted into something more savage, more primitive and cunning, filling him with the desire for the blood of young girls.
In the story, he was no longer four-footed. There was usually just enough of himself left upon entering the story to register his two-footedness. But then he simply stood tall, quivering with the hunger that burned him through and through. He stepped from the trees onto a path, just as a young girl came around a bend beneath the shadow of a giant oak.
She was young, barely more than a child, and still carrying baby fat in her face and belly. Her blonde hair was braided tightly over each shoulder, and the red cloak she wore was ill-fitting. A basket looped one arm, and her blue eyes were wide and curious as she walked along.
The blood-lust filled him, causing his mouth to run with saliva. Dissembling carefully—dropping his head and slouching his shoulders—he stepped forward to greet the little girl, to pretend concern for her well-being, and hungering all over again for her sweet, young flesh, to once again follow the story to its unwavering conclusion.

The Dream of the Tree: An Original Fairy Tale


Once there was a man who had a dream that ruined his life. In the dream, he was walking across a vast country. He was not just walking, he was striding, striding with seven-league steps while the ground beneath him and about him blurred and shimmered. He passed through forests, over great plains of grass, and through the gaps between the mountains. He strode on until he saw a mountain rising up before him. It was a mountain as he had never seen a mountain before. It went up-and-up, climbing higher and higher until it was lost in the sky.

He paused at the foot of the mountain and looked up. Only one thing to do. He began to climb.
He went up-and-up, stepping over streams, wide meadows, and over stands of trees. He went on until he came to the end of the trees where there was only rock. He kept climbing.
This mountain, he thought, was surely the highest mountain in the world. He climbed and climbed.
Finally, after what seemed a year and a day, the man arrived at the top of the mountain. Across a great plain, the man could see a tree. It was surely the tallest tree he had ever imagined. It went up-and-up until impossibly far overhead the tree spread its branches.
The man walked across the plain towards the foot of the immense tree. As he did, his seven-league strides kicked up swirls of leaves. There were countless numbers of them, and as he caught one of the leaves he realized that each leaf held a story, or a fragment of a story.
He caught leaf after leaf. He read snatches of stories about people who lived and died, fought tremendous battles; stories of boys and girls, of men and women who wandered far, searching for love, for revenge, and for treasure. He read snatches of stories about patients and greed and the longing that goes with lost love, friendship, and family.
The man looked up to the great tree. “This must be the tree where all stories come from,” he said, aloud to himself.
He hurried forward to the trunk of the massive tree that rose up like a wall before him. Reaching out a hand he touched the trunk of the great tree. For one, indefinable moment he had a glimpse of the ongoing story of the world, from its beginning in the depths of space and time to its conclusion at the end of all things.
And then he woke. The cry that escaped his lips in that moment was a cry of grief and loss. The man had glimpsed for one instant the story of the world, and as he sobbed aloud in the grey morning, the dream began to fade.
Later that day, the man sold his house and everything he owned. He took the money from the sale of all of his belongings, and he wrapped it in a handkerchief with a loaf of bread. He left the home where he had lived all of his life and took to the road. He told himself that he was going to find that tree, if he had to search to the ends of the earth, for he wanted just one more glimpse into that story.
 And so he did. He wandered far and met many people, and to whomever would listen he would tell what he could remember of that story and the fragments he read on the leaves. Many people thought him mad, and others just thought him a storyteller. Some were glad of his stories, but many were not, for in everyone he met, he planted a seed of that longing for the story he glimpsed when he touched the tree in his dream.