at some point Our Heroine (I don’t know her name, I don’t know anything about her) is walking through the woods, and stumbles across a girl wearing a red hood, who has a finger in her mouth and is drooling a bit.
“Oh lord,” says the wolf behind her, “not another one!”
The wolf and Little Red Riding Hood are partners. Sometimes he kills her and sometimes she kills him and sometimes they’re lovers and sometimes they’re mortal enemies. It’s just the way things are. She always reappears on the path, and he always finds her. Pas de deux.
And then one day Little Red Riding Hood showed up without a mind. And the wolf, not knowing what else to do, takes her back to his den and feeds her and tries to figure out if this is just the latest variation on the theme, or if something else is going on.
And then another one shows up. Which is outside all experience—there’s one Little Red Riding Hood, she’s an archetype after all. And then another one and another, and they can utter maybe a word or two and aren’t housebroken and the wolf is collecting them because he simply doesn’t know what else to do and Our Heroine goes to his den and finds a dark room full of grimy girls wearing rags, staring out with bright, feral eyes, and eating the meat the wolf brings them raw.
“One of them got sick once,” said the wolf miserably, “and I left to find medicine for her, and by the time I got back, they’d eaten her, too.”
“Why don’t you just…let them go?” say our heroine, who can tell that the wolf is on the last edge of exhaustion, and isn’t sure there’s anything left in the girls to be worth saving, even assuming they’re actual people and not something else entirely.
“If I let them go,” says the wolf, “they try to go to Grandmother’s House.”
It’s been years, and I still am not any closer to knowing the end of this story.
It’ll come to me someday, I hope.
I don’t often reblog here, but I desperately want to be able to tell stories as well as Ursula Vernon. Read her things if you haven’t already! She is an awesome lady.