red sugar

Ebony and Ruby walked the same path.

They didn’t walk it in the same manner.

Ebony took small steps with dancing feet, and kept her eyes on the path through the forest ahead. Ruby wore heavy boots and stomped hard, one eye over her shoulder at every twig snapping behind them.

Ebony had no fear, and Ruby had no shame.

The wolf sat up and took notice.

He had yellowed teeth that dug into his lip and claws that dug into his palms. He sat up straight when he heard their footsteps, he narrowed his lupine eyes, and he knew what to do.

Wolves always do.

Maidens think they know the dance; think they can sway, and flounce, and strew cherry blossoms in his fur. They think they can giggle with plump little hands over ripe little mouths, and even the wiliest of wolves will be seduced. All maidens are certain, deep down in the reddest pulsing chamber of their hot juicy hearts, that they can walk through the forest unscathed.

And wolves laugh.

A wolf laughs from the back of his throat, a sound like thunder in the darkest of hills where moss doesn’t grow. Wolves laugh, and they sit up straight, and rub their hairy paws together. They reach for their basket, throw in pale dust and cold silver, and slink from their hut into the forest.

Ebony stepped with eyes ahead, and Ruby stomped with eyes behind. And the wolf sauntered in from the side, so that neither saw him coming.

Twigs snapped right there on the forest floor.

Branches cracked like bones breaking.

Birds fled past the treetops and flooded the skies.

And when the mewling stopped, and his paws padded through the undergrowth, only one of them stood.

Ruby in a blood red coat, staring down with hands over mouth at a pile of wet bones, picked clean and spat back to earth. She’d always known Ebony was the ripe one, the girl with succulent flesh and no fear. The wolf had made one ravenous lick along Ruby’s cheek and paused, red rimmed eyes unblinking.

She knew she had too little sugar, too much venom, and a backbone too rigid to snap. One slide of a sandpaper tongue along quivering skin and he knew it too.

So he’d turned to the girl who was easier to swallow, as wolves always do.

Some girls just stick in your throat, and you can’t wash them down.

Ruby stopped walking in the forest. She takes paths with few shadows and stomps hard; keeps her ears pricked and fists clenched. And though she loves the hood of her red coat, can smell the damp earth of the forest in its lining and hear the rustling of leaves as she walks, she never strides with the hood up anymore.

Wolves have padded paws, you see.

You can’t always hear them coming.

© bellmusker 2008

red sugar


Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

It’s so dark inside the wolf
Brothers Grimm

When I moved home from Europe and unpacked my boxes, I found my red coat again

Her red coat, really.

I was nineteen the last time I’d worn it so I didn’t scowl at the loose button, or how it stretched across the bust. She was always much skinnier than me, after all, especially once the wolf came knocking.

She’d told me she’d come back for it. It’s just that she didn’t have the money for him, and he was knocking soon, and she really, really needed him tonight. And I could take the coat as payment, if only I’d answer the knock.

She’d come back for it; of course she would.

I keep the collar turned up when I wear it now, at 36. Sometimes, I don’t even feel the cold.

But other times, I feel it in my bones.

Artwork Comments

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