Fairy Tale: Red Riding Hoodlum

—by Nathan on May 1, 2011—

The following is a story I wrote for Greenhouse. I guess you could consider it a "fractured fairy tale" of sorts. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Enjoy.

You know the story. Wolf accosts little, innocent girl heading to Grandma's house with cookies. Wolf goes to Grandma's, eats Grandma, pretends to be Grandma, and eats little girl. Dude with axe kills wolf and rescues girl and Grandma, who have both amazingly not yet succumbed to wolf's digestive juices. At least, that's how everyone else tells it. Look, whoever came up with that garbage was obviously some kind of mental case. And then he went and passed it off as "fairy tale"? I mean, come on! More like "horror story"! Pathetic.

Honestly, I don't know how it ever got to that. I would never, ever eat anyone. Vegetarian's honor.

My name is Wolf. The wolf. Yeah, I know. Clever, isn't it? Parents weren't the most original, I know, so I'm stuck with this name. But therapy helps with those kinds of things.

Anyway, I bet you want to know the real story. You've been sucked into a vortex of lies, and I'm here to pull you out, to tell you exactly what happened, straight from the horse', wolf's, mouth.

You see, it all began a long time ago, in a land far away, right smack-dab in the center of a forest known as the Golden Wood. It was a clear summer's day, with birds chirping and flowers blooming.

And I loved it.

Now, look, you have to understand something. We wolves have been stereotyped as monsters, villains, and down-right dirtbags. Generally, we fit that bill pretty snugly. As far as wolves go, we like being mean. Those of us in the Golden Wood can be especially mischievous. Anyone who crossed our paths instantly became the butt of one devilish prank or another.

However, I was a special case. Instead of despising the sunlight, I would now and again tan myself underneath its wondrous rays. Instead of wishing the birds would shut up, I would often add my own tune by whistling right along. Instead of wanting to crush every daisy and daffodil in sight, I would stoop to sniff them. I was kind, where others were nasty.

This, as you could see, was a problem. My pack was the toughest and the meanest in the whole forest, the Hounds. We had a fearsome reputation as lords of the Golden Wood. It was our territory, our turf. The surrounding valley belonged to a gang of humans called the Red Hoods. I bet you can guess what they wore.

They ruled the valley with an iron fist. They had lots of firepower in their possession, and nearly unlimited resources provided by their black market connections. Still, despite their power, they had been unable to take control of our forest. The Golden Wood was in our command.

On that very sunny day, I, Wolf the wolf, the "pretty-boy", was waltzing through the forest, all alone. I was on a very secret mission. I was sent by my superiors to intercept a courier sent by the Red Hoods to one of their bases of operations deep within the forest. Though our gang held rule of the Golden Wood, the Hoods had been able to manage to get a stronghold within our labyrinth of trees. Supposedly, they had another one known as the "Gingerbread House" somewhere within the wood, but that's another story.

Along the way, I allowed myself time to sniff the flowers and play tag with a butterfly. That game abruptly came to an end when I, um, man-handled my opponent.

I was just about to bury my new friend when the messenger appeared around the bend. She was a girl, about eleven or twelve, dressed in the traditional clothing of her fellow gangsters. Chained to her wrist by a pair of handcuffs was a briefcase. She carried no weapons, which was odd for a Red Hood. They were known to use a variety of hardware from knives to guns to rocket launchers. The girl looked as harmless as a fly.

This was the messenger I was sent to stop.

I stepped right in front of her, screwing up my face in the most formidable look I could muster.

It made her stop and frown. "Whatcha looking' at, Lemon Face?"

Yeah, I guess I couldn't look tough. Yet another flaw of a not-so-nasty wolf.

"I've been sent to make sure you don't deliver that," I growled in a tone that made me sound like I had a sore throat. My finger pointed at the case. "You won't get past me while that thing is in your ownership."

She snickered. My morale, which wasn't so great to begin with, instantly plummeted. Who was I kidding? I was a total wuss.

"Whatcha gonna do?" she sneered. "Tickle me until I surrender? Gee, I'm shaking."

"You, uh, better be. If you don't give me the case, I'll, uh, use my Fung Ku moves on you."

"Don't you mean Kung Fu?"

"God bless you."

She dashed forward, startling me. The case struck me in the stomach, and her fist punched me in the nose. She leapt up, her body spinning and her feet hitting me in the chest.

I stepped back, tripping over a log. I fell to my back, and she stood over me, triumphantly.

"You're a total wuss," she said.

Told you.

Scoffing in disdain, she stepped passed me and continued down the road. Mumbling to myself, I stood, rubbing my aching snout, trying to piece together how I could stop this little Jackie Chan-wannabe.

An idea popped into my head almost instantly. She was headed for the base, that much was certain. If I could get to the base, get in, and face her there, I could still nab the case!

But how? I couldn't just walk right into enemy territory and expect them to accept me with arms flung out wide. Most likely, they would try to kill me and use me as a rug. The last thing I wanted was for my hide to be trodden upon my dozens of muddy boots. Ugh.

I could sneak, I told myself. Somehow get in secretly and...pose as one of their henchmen! Yeah, that was the ticket.

I knew the Golden Wood like the back of my paw, so finding a way to the base was no problem. Given my immense knowledge of short-cuts, I just had to go over the river and through the woods to reach my destination. While I walked, I cooked up a plot, which, in my mind at least, was both clever and fool-proof. It had to work.

Finally, I reached the base. Now, when I had first heard "base," I had pictured some hastily-constructed shack covered with ivy so it could blend-in with the surrounding foliage.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The building was more like a fortress than a base. It was a large, iron box enclosed in on all sides by barbed-wire fences. Guard towers were positioned at each corner, manned by red-hooded agents carrying machine guns. High-tech surveillance cameras were everywhere, scoping out certain areas. The front door was flanked by two of the Hoods, each holding a semi-automatic. Satellite dishes stuck out from the top of the roof. A tank was half-hidden behind the building, a powerful, metal monster waiting to be driven.

I blanched at the sight of the base. I honestly believed I could sneak into this place? I wasn't cut out for this! I wasn't James Bond or Chuck Norris. I didn't have the skills it would take to infiltrate this stronghold. I was the weakest member of my pack, a lover, not a fighter. Not to mention I had just been trounced by a girl in her preteens. There was absolutely no way I could break into this base.

My fears only worsened when a lady bug flew into the wires, instantly receiving an electric jolt and falling to the ground. The barbed-wire was electrified. Perfect. The plan that I had formed on my hike over instantly faded. I was left clueless and dumbfounded, staring agape at the iron construct before me.

What to do? What to do? My mind whirled with ideas, all of them ending with me dead or somehow horribly injured. I couldn't climb over the fence, I couldn't walk right through the front gate, and I couldn't ask them to let me in.

That was when it hit me. I could dig under the fence.

My claws went to work, throwing up dirt in handfuls. I worked far enough away so the guards couldn't see me, tossing up globs of earth as I furiously dug. Once under the ground, I tore my way through walls of dirt, throwing aside scoops of it as I traversed. A worm managed to find its way into my mouth, but I spat it out and continued.

I dug and dug until I finally collided with a metal wall. I'd done it. I'd dug under the wire all the way to the base.

Carefully, I made a hole to the surface and carefully stuck my head out. The guards by the door stood twenty feet away to my left, but they weren't paying any attention. Directly to my right was a vent. I had found access inside.

Once inside the air-duct, I scrambled as quickly as I could up a slope and through a maze of tunnels, searching for the girl. In my head, I now planned on either jumping her or another member of the Hoods. If I managed to tackle one of her comrades, I would disguise myself. Hard to do as a wolf, I know, but I had to try. I had been sent on this mission for a reason. It had to be important.

Through other vents I could see various portions of the base. The duct I followed was above a long corridor that branched off at certain areas. I followed the main route, hoping it would get me somewhere significant.

After what seemed like an eternity of crawling and scraping my poor paws, I stopped. Through a vent I saw that the corridor had come to a stop, right at a large door. And there, to my relief, was the hooded girl, chatting with two guards who stood by either side of the door. She had yet to deliver her case.

I crawled on, past the door and into the room beyond. Through yet another vent I could see into the chamber below me.

The room was like a command center. Maps hung on the walls. A globe sat in the corner of one room. The entire left half of the room was devoted to a huge computer station consisting of multiple screens. From it could be seen various areas of the forest, the black-and-white images provided by cameras.

A woman sat behind a desk, an old woman. Her face reminded me of the typical grandma, the loving woman who adores her children and bakes endlessly. All resemblance ended there. She wore a black work suit, complete with cuffs and a crimson tie. Her grey hair was done up in a bun, and her large spectacles were tinted with green. Her hands rested on the desk, hands clasped together. A plaque on her desk read "General."

But what really struck me were her eyes. It wasn't that they were abnormally colored or shaped. No, they were blue and round. What got me was the sternness in each pupil, the absolute absence of love or caring. She looked like she could destroy entire cities and not care for any soul lost. Devoid of all feeling, her cold eyes were pools that led right to the source of her chilling appearance. Her heart.

I could hear an odd, wheezing-like sound coming from her mouth, her lips red as blood. It took me a moment to realize that she was snoring. The old crone had somehow managed to fall asleep with her eyes still open.

Okay, I told myself. Spooky.

Swiftly, after taking in all these details, I decided to act. While the girl was busy outside chatting with the guards, I removed the vent and fell into the room, landing with cat-like dexterity. I silently made my way over, suddenly puzzled at what to do next.

There was a large wardrobe leaning against one of the walls, so I quietly lifted the woman up and moved over there. Being ever so quiet and slow so I wouldn't jostle or wake her, I opened up the wardrobe and set her inside. Making sure she was comfortable-or, at least, as comfortable as one could get sitting upright in a small space-I took one of her suits hanging from the wardrobe and put it on. A nearby mop served as fake, stringy hair once I removed the stick. I found a pair of gloves and put those over my hands. The only thing that was left was my face.

I frantically searched, looking for anything. My luck ran out as the door began to open. I hastily sat, hoping the girl would not discern any difference. The woman was ugly, so I just hoped the girl wouldn't notice the difference. Fat chance.

The girl stepped in, the briefcase still cuffed to her arm. She made her way over to the desk, staring at me intently. Her face assumed a puzzled look, and she cocked her head as she stared at me.

"General?" she asked, her voice expressing her perplexity. "Since when have you had all the hair on your...?"

"Rare disease, my dear," I cut in, trying to sound old and stern at the same time, a difficult combination to achieve. "Very rare. Runs in the family, if you didn't know. Was bound to happen sometime or another."

"Oh-okay." The girl looked skeptical. "But, General, what about all those cavities in your teeth?"

"Too many chocolates, I'll assume. You know how much I adore chocolate. Can't keep my hands off the stuff. And dentists. Never mention the dentists. The last one I went to couldn't stop calling me 'sweetheart', of all things. Drove me batty! I haven't visited one in years!"

"I wasn't aware."

"Well, now you are."

"And...what about the long snout? Is that part of a rare disease as well?"

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out. I hadn't thought of that. Aw, dang.

"Plastic surgery," I quickly mumbled. "You know, facelifts and stuff like that. All the rage among my generation nowadays. You younger folks like your piercings, we like our...really... long...noses...I guess."

Terrible. Awful. I couldn't have convinced a two-year old with junk like that. Who in their right mind would actually believe any of the rubbish I had just spilled?

"Uh-huh, sure," the girl muttered, clearly unconvinced. She jumped in the air, landing on the desk and backhanding me with the briefcase, sending me sprawling.

"Your acting skills leave much to be desired," she growled. "Research your subjects, wolf. The General routinely visits her dentist, and I see her almost daily, so I would have already noticed any plastic surgery or disease. Your acting is as awful as your defensive skills.

"We know what you wolves have been up to," she continued. "We Hoods have been on alert ever since that incident with the Swine Brothers last week. Did you really think we wouldn't have seen something like this coming?"

I rubbed my aching nose. ""

She laughed at me. It was a cruel, heartless laugh. "You failed," she hissed venomously. "You will never get this case. Tell me: What did you do with the General?"

I said the first words that came to my mouth. "I ate her."

The girl frowned. "You...what?"

"That's right, you little, red, riding hoodlum. Added a bit of salt to account for the dry texture and bland taste, then snapped her right up. A little crunchy, I'll admit, but not a bad meal, all in all."

"You lie!"

"Do I look like a guy who lies?"

"You just pretended to be the General and tried to deceive me into thinking that you were someone else. Yeah, I think you do." She pulled out a knife and pointed it at me. "Tell me where she is, or I'll make you very sorry."

This was my chance. I could finally prove that I was as tough as my brethren. All those years of humiliation could be wiped away if I just stood up to her. I stared her in the eye, glaring into pupils just as chilling as the old woman's. But I had to be confident and bold. Strong and firm. Unwavering. With a sigh, I made my decision.

I told her where the woman was.

Okay, my nerves couldn't take it. I finally broke under pressure. Maybe I wasn't some tough, manly wolf after all.

The girl freed the woman, who was still asleep, surprisingly. That was when things went from bad to worse. The girl pressed a hidden button beneath the desk, and alarms sounded. My presence was made known to the entire base.

I bolted, slamming through the doors and charging down the hall. I ran like the wind, passing surprised Hoods and knocking down a few.

My helter-skelter dash was halted prematurely as I ran into a brick wall. Well, not an actual wall, but a guy was big as one. He had long, blond hair, a blond beard and mustache, and bulging muscles that made him look like he could rip steel apart like it was paper. That being said, what could he do to flimsy me?

He grabbed the handle of a double-bladed axe that was strapped to his back and pulled it free, glaring at me with stony eyes.

"It all ends here," he snarled. "You'll make someone a nice rug."

Oh, please, I thought. Anything but that!

I lunged to the side as the axe came whistling down. I danced another blow, slowly backing down the hall, my hands raised defensively.

"Look, Thor," I began with a mild, nervous chuckle, "just because you've got rock-star hair, Hulk Hogan muscles, and an axe Gimli would be jealous of doesn't mean I'm gonna let you use me for wood-cutting practice."

"I wasn't asking permission," he responded, taking a mammoth step forward. "You have committed multiple offenses against us. Your death shall serve as a message to your pack. The Hounds will know what we do to anyone who crosses the Red Hoods. Axe-Man Jack will make you pay today."

"Add it to my bill," I snorted. With that, I turned and ran down a hall perpendicular to the one we stood in. I heard the Neanderthal give chase, his heavy footsteps stomping so hard I thought he'd make an earthquake.

A door stood at the end, and I burst through it. Sunlight struck my eyes. I was outside again.

Blinking away temporary-blindness, I slammed the door shut and bolted it tight. With Axe-Man whoever locked inside, I was faced with a new dilemma. How would I get out of this crazy compound?

I caught something in my periphery and I faced it. A smile crept over my face.

The tank.

In seconds, I was riding in the vehicle, crashing through the barbed-wire fence as a wave of Red Hoods came at me, Axe-Man Jack leading the charge, his face red with rage.

I ploughed through the wood, oblivious to stones, animals, and trees. Nothing could stand in my way. They would either have to move or get crushed. Luckily, no poor soul got under the tire treads, and my traveling was pretty smooth.

That is, it was smooth until the thing ran outta gas. Of all the times for the gas tank not to be full, it had to be while I was fleeing from the clutches of angry enemies armed to the teeth and bent on using my hide as decor.

I left the tank where it had stopped, charging through the woods at a break-neck pace. I could hear the shouts of the Hoods as they got ever closer. Dropping to all fours, I put some distance between myself and them as I scurried along the dirt paths.

Eventually, the sounds died out. I slowed. Either I had lost my enemies, or they had given up. Whatever the reason, I was happy to still be alive.

Yet, it had all been in failure. I hadn't stopped the messenger from delivering her case. However, I had proven one thing. A Hound had been able to infiltrate one of the Hoods' bases. And if we were able to do that, where else could we get inside? What secret of theirs was safe from us? Suddenly, the Hoods didn't seem as invincible as they once were.

My story had a two-fold effect. Once I related it to my pack, they accepted me and took back every insult they had ever said. I was made chief scout and leader of a spy group that has been very successful, if I do say so myself.

When word reached the Hood command, they were furious. They tried to maintain a level of absolute silence on the subject, but it was soon discovered that loose lips sink ships. Axe-Man Jack couldn't help but swear vengeance on me to everyone he met. Soon, my story became widely known.

It has been covered up, of course. The Hoods transformed it into the tale I bet you've heard as propaganda against the Hounds. While the story has remained the same, many details have been altered and changed.

But my pack and I know what really happened. And it has kindled a flame of hope within us, showing that, one day, we might be able to win this war.

I'm not going to end this story with "and he lived Happily Ever After." I'm not saying that because my story is continuing. The war between Hounds and Hoods continues to this day, as strong as ever, if not stronger. However, if we Hounds can just work together, we'll come out on top someday.

My name is Wolf. That's it. Four little letters. I may not be the toughest, roughest, or fiercest of my pack, but I can still be helpful in ways. And it's those ways that can lead to a happy ending. It's just that a happy ending is yet to come in sight.

—Tags: Fiction, Writing

Also read Nathan's blogs at Geeks Under Grace.