Little Red Riding Hood had just turned twelve. She had a secret. A terribly scary secret.
Little Red Riding Hood grew up in a community where people received their names between ages ten and twelve, when their personalities bloomed. As a fierce horse rider, Little Red Riding Hood did not have to wait until she turned ten. When she was four, she was given her name in a ceremony led by her father, chief Ferocious Soaring Eagle.
Little Red Riding Hood, knew no rules, no boundaries, no quiet time. She was always seen riding her horse, easily breaking away from the camp on her own. The number of guides to watch for her increased each day, but the chances of them catching her before it was too late, never did. Sometimes she would leave the camp before dawn and return the next day. Nobody knew what she was up to when she was away. She was faster than anyone. Before anyone could say Little Red Riding Hood, she was no more.
The tribe was going through a challenging time. It had been too hot and too dry lately, drying up the streams. There was nothing much to eat. The prey animals had gone elsewhere to find water. The vegetation had mostly dried out. They had to move elsewhere. But that meant possible wars with the neighboring tribes. The prospect of a peaceful winter with tummies nice and full was dimmer than a clear moon on a stormy night.
Yet, neither the starvation nor the possibility of a war was the source of worry for the parents of Little Red Riding Hood. Their primary concern, was and had always been for the last twelve years, Little Red Riding Hood, their only child.
“No one has the power to stop her,” Ferocious Soaring Eagle said to his wife Bright Shining Star one day, gazing into the storm of sand as their daughter galloped away. “Only life has,” commented Bright Shining Star… Ferocious Soaring Eagle nodded with a sad sigh.
It was the day of the Full Moon. Bright Shining Star woke up when the mother moon was still lighting up the night sky. She tied up her jet-black hair to a horsetail and got to work. Before dawn she had finished making food for her mother. Her mother, the Wild Hunting Hare, was living on her own a day’s ride away. She was called Wild Hunting Hare for her hare hunting skills, and she smelled like one. “Stubborn like a bull,” Bright Shining Star complained, placing the food securely in a basket. “She wants to die on her own, far from us, won’t even accept to see us.” She wiped her sweat with the sleeve of her wool night gown. “She became crazy as she aged.” She glanced at the sleeping figure of her daughter with a faint smile. “Mother won’t say no to her little granddaughter.” A wolf howl pierced the night’s silence. “Let’s just hope so.”
“No mama, I can’t possibly go to grandma. You go and bring her food yourself if you want to!” screamed Little Red Riding Hood, her face beet red with rage. She had woken only five minutes ago, and her mom was insisting that she bring a basket of food to grandma.
“Why not? You’re perfectly capable of arriving on time before the food goes bad. And she can’t resist you. Please do go my fierce little one, there is no one else.”
“Mama, you don’t understand. I have things to do.”
Bright Shining Star stabbed a stone knife to the ground as she leapt to her feet. “What things?” She shrieked through gritted teeth. “You are a child; you have nothing to do but help us around here. Nothing else.” She swiftly tied the basket to her daughter’s arm with a thick rope. “As your mother and your elder, I command you. Now, go!” She pointed out, fuming through her nostrils.
Little Red Riding Hood dashed out without a single word. Tears prickling her tired dark eyes, Bright Shining Star watched the girl storming out of the camp on the back of her horse, disappearing into the lush woods ahead. Her wet eyes gazed at the moon peeking out of the clouds in the blue-yellow sky. “Moon Mother, guide her through.”
Little Red Riding Hood’s heart seemed to burst out of her chest with fury. Mama you don’t know what you’re dealing with.
She was riding the horse with incredible speed, through the woods taking a short cut which no one else could dare to take. She rode to the densest part of the woods which was avoided at all costs by everyone. It was filled with wild animals and monsters of every sort. The men of her tribe never rode this far into the woods for hunting, even when they could a find a prey nowhere else. Unless they wanted to be a prey. No human who went in ever came out.
This part of the woods was so dense that, even when the sun was at its highest, it was pitch black over here. Humans were not equipped with good enough eyes to find their way through. They weren’t equipped enough with anything good for survival here. Little Red Riding Hood’s horse trotted carefully among trees and plants with deadly poisonous thorns. The girl could hear the hissing of at least a dozen different types of snakes. These weren’t actual snakes. They were monsters programmed to bite and destroy. Just like anything else in this forest. The girl didn’t stop. Anytime now, they would walk into the giant spider’s den. Little Red Riding Hood would normally avoid going through the den. But now time was of mortal significance.
“Hello little darling,” whispered a voice, followed by a villainous laughter. “I knew you would stop by to say hello one day.”
“Hello,” responded Little Red Riding Hood, stopping before the giant thick web, spun by the foulest creature that ever walked on earth. She wanted to draw her dagger from its pouch, pitifully realizing that the basket tied to her arm totally prevented her right hand reaching it. Yikes. Mama, now you did me. “I’m not stopping. Let me go.”
Laughter. And the clicks of spider legs. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them. Click click click.
As if clapping to celebrate. To celebrate the death of…
I’m not going to think of death now. If it happens, it happens. “You know me. I’m not here to harm you. Let me go now.”
“Harm me?” More laughter. More clicks.
Little Red Riding Hood grabbed her horse’s head with one hand and pressed tight. “It’s okay.” I wish I knew if it were okay. I wish it were okay. The horse was frozen to the spot. It was scared to death. Perhaps literally.
Wait, perhaps, it is okay.
“You can laugh as long as you wish for. But I am not here to put out a show for you. You want to kill us. I’ll tell you one thing. You can’t. You have to let me go. You know what day of the day is today. It is the day of the Monster Ghosts. Winter Solstice on a Full Moon. You kill me now, and my ghost will slaughter all of you. For sure. You especially will be a scrumptious meal for my taste. Now, bloody spider...” She raised her voice to sound unforgivably demanding. “You already cost me some valuable time. You will let me go now unless you want to pay for it.”
Quiet. All she could hear was the hammering of the horse’s heart. Great, at least she is still alive.
There was no response from the spider. No words. No laughter. She spotted an opening on the web and rode through it. Slowly. Her horse could hardly move. Very slowly.
As slowly as a slug, they moved inside the forest, thankfully leaving the spiders’ den behind. Taking the shortcut didn’t save any time after all. She could hear the howling of wolves. Werewolves, at this part of the world. Now we are done for.
Once they were outside the forest, the horse’s spirit came into life. It galloped faster than the wind. Would they be able to make it to the grandma’s house on time? She could still hear the howling of the wolves. The sound was stronger. They were already transforming. Little Red Riding Hood looked up to the night sky. She was almost at grandma’s house. Perhaps she could do it? I can knock the door and quickly drop the food at her door. We don’t want grandma wandering about at such a deadly night. Indeed, the night could turn deadly. “Nonsense,” she said to herself, now almost flying above the horse who also knew well that they had no time to lose. “We will make it.” Little did the Little Riding Hood know that she wouldn’t make it.
“I made it!” she exclaimed with pure relief. She patted the horse’s neck, as they slowed down. Grandma’s house was right before them. The girl swiftly got off the horse. “Yikes!” she wailed, as she realized, there was no way that she could leave the basket at the door. It was tied to her arm. I’ll be quick. We’ll make this quick. Cold sweat soaked her clothes. There really was very little time. She knocked heavily on the door. “Grandma, it’s me, Little Red Riding Hood. Open the door. I’ve got food for you.”
“Go away. I know everything. I don’t want food. Leave me alone.”
What does she know? She can’t know, can she?
“You don’t know anything. Grandma, I can’t leave the basket here. Mama tied it to my arm. Please open the door. I’ll leave it and be on my way. I’m in a hurry.”
She heard footsteps. The door opened with a creak. Her grandma was standing before her with a dagger.
“I know why you are in a hurry,” she said weakly. Dark brown eyes glossy with tears were staring at the girl. Grandma was wearing a dirty beige night gown made of thick wool. Her long silver gray hair was loose, reaching messily down to her belly. She could hardly stand on her thin trembling legs. With shaking bony hands, she cut the rope on her granddaughter’s arm.
The basket fell on the floor. The bright light of the full moon filled the room.
The girl howled.