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As Red as the Moon
My village lives in fear of the wolf. “The wolf,” a graceful hunter, and symbol of strength, but that is unheard of here.
Rumors tell of wild men far west from our village worshipping this horrid creature that we hide from. Traders and travelers tell of these men being able to hunt and kill anything they wish, but do not kill a wolf. My village scoffs at that. The only reason we remain in this cursed village is for the hope that the wolf will be killed and we can live a life of peace on the beautiful land. We would kill it if we could.
We assume these wild men are crazy and possessed by the evil in the Forest of Shadows and Claws from which they have been heard to live. That is the only answer we have for their obvious madness.
No one goes in that forest. Demons are told to roam there, as well as the wolf. Many believe, including I, that the wolf is a demon.
This wolf torments us. He slaughters our livestock and kidnaps children. If out late, you may be eaten. On a full moon your soul may be devoured in the Forest of Shadows and Claws.
We live in constant fear of the wolf.
As a child I was told tales of the wolf and its evil doings before bed.
The stories were nightmarish.
Children here do not get sweet stories and songs before bed. We get songs and stories of death and sorrow to keep us in bed at night and safe inside. But even then we are not protected from what prowls in the night and lingers between houses.
The stories are filled with screams and blood. They scare me, and they still do.
The scariest part is that they are real.
Some nights there are screams in the streets, an eerie scratching at your window, paw prints in the fresh morning snow, or blood in the water well.
The blood poisons the water. No one dares drink it. We believe it to be evil and possess dark magic. Blood is red. Red is the color of demons, of evil.
One night I found myself in the midst of one of the nightmares.
I was walking to the well after supper for water in the morning.
Snow coated the ground and sunk in under the weight of my steps, leaving a perfect trail of imprints.
The air was cold and the sky almost completely dark. The wind seemed to carry cries from the Forest of Shadows and Claws. I shivered.
I still had time. Curfew (a time set to protect us from the wolf) was in a few minutes, the sun was not entirely engulfed by the horizon yet.
I made it to the well, smoothly made of gray brick, and quickly plunged my bucket into the water, not wasting any time, for I had none to spare.
The ice cold water consumed my bucket. It sparkled in the growing moonlight. Ripples cascaded throughout the water like a dance. It was beautiful clear water, so able to sooth the town’s throats.
I began the pull my bucket up by the rope when I noticed something… red in the water that seemed to have floated to the surface.
Was it blood?
I couldn’t tell.
I stared at the red area to make sure it wasn’t blood. If it was, my family and I could not drink it and my time risked would be wasted.
Intently, I tried to make out this substance. My blonde hair fell in my face blocking part of my view. I placed it behind my ear carefully. The red seemed to move with the water like a liquid, but did not spread like one. It grew gradually like a flower and was thick, but it reflected like water. I could even make out my own reflection. The moon reflected too, bright and full and red, proudly shining down into the still water.
As I looked over the well’s ledge, I heard a growl from behind me, near, yet soft enough to be distant.
I froze and didn’t dare turn. It wasn’t now did I notice the moon was up, curfew had passed, I was outside, and the moon was… full.
Was the wolf behind me? Did I imagine it? I’ve never seen it. Was I going to die?
Snow gave way behind me and continued its rhythm slowly becoming louder as it grew closer.
Should I run? Should I scream? No one can or would save me. The sound is too common, a scream. No one would dare go out past curfew anyway, unless drunk, but even then they wouldn’t be of much use to me.
I stood at the rim of the well feeling my heart rate jump and my breathing increase rapidly in response. I was going to die. My body knew it; it sensed the end was near. It felt as if death was calling me and luring my soul.
I would be the next victim to fall at the mercy of the wolf, the next story to scare children with at night.
I anticipated pain, and blood when the footsteps stopped. A presence was behind me and a hot breath flooded down my neck like a snake causing my hair to stand on end.
“You are so beautiful,” it said tauntingly to me.
It was a male’s voice, low and evil. Not a wolf? Demon maybe, I pondered.
“No not a demon silly girl. Everyone in this town is so silly.” It laughed at me, and the breath blew my hair forward.
My eyes widened. Did it just read my thoughts?
“Yes, sweetie,” it crooned as lips brushed the base of my neck. I shivered and took a quick sharp intake of my breath. They were very hot and burned my cold skin. I wanted nothing but to cringe away from them.
“Aw, afraid of the big bad wolf?” It mocked bemused of my reaction. I didn’t answer. My voice was caught in my throat. “Answer me!!” It ordered, suddenly spinning me around too fast for me to notice until I was facing a different direction. My heart slammed in my chest as I was turned to face the one who held my life in it very palm.
I was hit full force with fright as I stood before a tall faceless hooded figure in a red cloak. The face was hidden by the black shadows within the hood. I couldn’t make out any features besides red eyes piercing the darkness.
“Yes,” I managed to choke out. Shaking, I was ready to cry. This had to be the end for me; I could feel it getting closer. The fear of death was becoming unbearably uncomfortable to the point that I could call it pain. And what a horrible way to die, I didn’t even want to imagine what this…thing had planned for me.
“Good,” it beleaguered evilly. “You will make a wonderful werewolf.”
I didn’t even have time to process its words. Inhumanly strong hands pushed me backwards. I went down. I was falling, falling into the depths of the well. My screams echoed off the walls as wind rushed up past me and carried it away.
My life flashed past me as the opening of the well grew distant and death grew nearer. I hit… red water and was engulfed by its ice cold temperature. Pain like knives erupted in my veins and clenched my heart as it tried to resist the cold. But it held me down freezing me limbs and draining their strength. This was the well that killed me, drowning in water as red as the moon’s reflection.
The last I saw was the red cloak. But it was also the first.