‘Twas the color of her cloak that first captured the attention of his tainted eyes. Traipsing across the cobbled street, the bright splash of crimson against the grey gloom that is Wesston was hard to miss. It wasn’t often he saw his victims first, and not during dark days such as this. His usual pattern led him through the streets near children’s dress shops and bakeries during bright-sunned days. He would wait patiently for one squeal or a peal of laughter. Pacing his feet he would walk slow enough not to look suspicious, but fast enough to keep up. It only took one lone child…
She was quiet. The little girl in a full petticoat and pointed boots moved through the alleyways and past the carriages without a sound. He kept his distance making sure she wasn’t headed home, or worse, to meet up with her folks. As she made her way out of town, her pace quickened, but still, no sound. She moved like a ghost through the trees and over the moss-covered stones. He couldn’t hear the layers of fabric rustle or even a slight tap from her feet. Even the woods were quiet. There were no chirps, no scurrying feet. Just silence. That should have been a sign.
The further he walked, the more excited he became. He enjoyed the hunt, the thrill of the chase. His body buzzed as his heart raced. He was never sure where he and his prey would end up, but that made it even better. This was his favorite game.
Small beads of perspiration glistened on his forehead. He labored to keep his breaths hushed, but the man could have sworn he heard her humming. He paused, holding his breath.
Ah, there it is.
Broken pieces of a familiar melody floated back, sticking fast in his mind.
Though he was exerting himself, he caught sight of his arm and saw the gooseflesh. Chills licked his spine as the hair on his neck rose. Shaking it off, he worked to catch up to how far behind he had been. He mumbled a curse under his breath. None of the others had taken him this far from town, and none had been this fast. As his eyes searched he caught a flicker of red in the dense sea of pine, bark, and earth. Grinning, he patted himself on the back for such luck, as if he himself had told her to wear the article.
As he pulled himself over a boulder his clammy fingers slipped on the wet moss and he landed hard on his rump and cried out. Peering cautiously around the rock, he saw the girl continue on. Grateful she hadn’t heard him, he was also slightly perturbed that she hadn’t.
She should have, he thought. She should have at least paused.
Righting himself, he brushed away the twigs and debris. He knew he’d have to speed up if he wanted to find her. It would be dusk soon, and he liked to finish his business and be home before it was time to wash for supper.
The man was much too noisy and much too involved in his own thoughts to notice the other hunter behind him. The panting that followed him through the woods grew louder, but matched his own. Had he not been muttering he would have heard the echoes of branches cracking under the weight of large black paws. He was usually more careful and aware of his surroundings.
Just ahead of the girl, the trees thinned. The man could hear waves of a lake across the pebbled shores. He could smell smoke from a nearby fire. He knew he would have to pounce soon.
As he passed the last tree, he saw the young girl seated on a large boulder, her back to him. Adrenaline pumped through his body, causing him to shake. He could feel his heart beat in his ears as the distance between them lessened.
Now, merely inches away, his arm reached out to touch her shoulder. Before he could feel the velvet of the red cloak a large black jaw latched onto his elbow. One hunter screamed out in pain and surprise. The other fed.
The large black wolf stepped out of the lake and shook, drops of water and blood flying in all directions. Small pale fingers reached out towards the large beast as he licked the human remains from his lips and teeth. He lowered his head and sniffing, walked beneath the girl’s outstretched hand. Her blood-red lips curved into a grin as he nudged her, coaxing her to pet him, or scratch his ears.
“Come, Woodsman,” the young girl spoke softly, her hands combing through the coarse fur. “We’ve more hunting to do.”
Nina Renner 2011 ©
Yes, this is mine. Steal it and I will bite you. Twice.