Greetings and salutations, faithful reader! Welcome back once again to Story Time With Tim! I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this week’s offering is a story I wrote for a class when I was attending Wright State University back in the mid 2000’s. It was a creative writing class and the assignment was rewriting a famous fairy tale. I ended up choosing Little Red Riding Hood and basing the narrative off of The Huntsman. There was this sexual relationship between Little Red and the Wolf as well and it was a strange little version of the old Grim Fairy Tale.
My professor really enjoyed this one and I tried over the years to get it published, but it’s always been rejected. I don’t think it’s bad myself. In fact, it’s one of my personal favorites. I think I hit just the right balance between the characters and the narrative. Of course, I used Native Americans and the Coyote legend to flesh out the rest of the story as well. So, there might be some disdain from readers over that notion. But, c’est la vie.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this week’s tale and come back next week for the start of another one of my novellas! See you soon!
ONE LAST DANCE
Moonlight glittered brightly, casting a light blue glow across a frozen forest. All around, the extensive mountain range was cloaked in a thick blanket of snow. Deep within the silent, windless woods, a young woman danced with a tranquil smile. She twirled and stepped lightly nearly soundless among a copse of leafless trees, her footsteps bringing the barest of crinkling from the snowy ground. With widespread arms, she bathed herself in the light of the moon. Her eyes were closed as she ignored the slight chill trying to pierce her rabbit hair sweater and denim jeans. Long, raven hair trailed a path where her body had been only a split second before.
No other sound persisted in the woods, which made it all the more serene for the young woman. She had desperately needed time to herself, away from the chaos of the mundane and everyday world. Away from pain and fear. A whisper of a thought crossed her mind and she stopped mid-stride of her meticulous dance and opened her eyes slowly. Brown irises stared at the moon, but her heart was beating fast over the sensation of being watched.
Carefully she shifted her head and her sight fell on a copse of trees at the edge of a small exposure just at the precipice of the deeper wood. There, watching her silently, was a white wolf, with deep blue eyes. Moonlight bounced off his fur, making him seem as an apparition. So much so she could only stare in amazement and uncertainty.
She casually lowered her arms from their frozen swing and turned towards the wolf and stared back. Her mouth opened slightly, as if to utter some word, however no sound came out, only a breathless release of awe. Several more seconds passed as the two looked at one another.
A sound echoed through the wood from down the trail leading to her home. She got distracted by that sound and turned towards its source, wondering what it had been. When she looked back to the wolf, she saw that he’d gone. A sadness crept across her soul as she stood still, hoping to catch a glance of his fleeing form.
“Alexia!” the shout cut through the silent night causing her to jump.
Up the trail came her angry, huffing father who saw her upon reaching the top of the path.
“I’ve been calling you! What the hell are you doing?! Do you realize what time it is?!”
Alexia slowly walked over to her basket and coat and picked them up. “I’m sorry, dad. I just wanted some time alone.”
“To do what?! Catch pneumonia!” He swung his arm in the direction of the path. “Let’s go!”
Her eyes were downcast as she walked to the fore and he shook his head in agitation, gripping tightly the shotgun in his left hand.
The door slammed behind Alexia’s father as he traipsed heavily towards the fireplace mantle to hang his shotgun.
“You need to more careful, Alexia. This world is full of devils! They come here to suck out our soul! And you go parading out in the middle of the night tempting their lusts! These demons from every place, all crawling the land seeking your blood!”
Alexia tuned him out. As usual, he was too absorbed with his own hatreds. She absently watched him go into the kitchen and fill a glass with whiskey and drink half of it in one gulp. Shaking her head in disdain, she started to open her basket
“…Not to mention those goddamn Napiquanas!”
She stopped and looked up at him. “Dad, when was the last time you saw anybody out here who wasn’t a Blackfoot? Especially a white man?”
“Don’t turn your back for a second! They took our land and our hopes! And now everything is nothing but rot!” he waggled his finger in the air as he shouted.
“And yet you don’t have a problem speaking the white man’s tongue…” she interjected without thought.
He thumped towards her in a flash and her eyes barely had time to widen before his outstretched palm had found its mark across her left cheek. She reeled backwards in pain and wanted to cry but dared not to.
“You watch that tongue of yours! Be glad your mother isn’t around to hear it!”
Without another word, Alexia gathered her belongings and retreated to her room.
Joseph watched his daughter disappear down the short hall towards her room. The corners of his lips drew down and tears welled in his eyes as he stood in the center of the living room. Several moments passed while firelight bounced off of wooden cabin walls surrounding him, making him feel ever more the prisoner… in all that he could do.
Erema… we are lost without you… His sight drifted to the stone inlaid fireplace and froze on the ten year old photograph of his wife who seemed to stare at him solemnly from an eternal pose. She was holding the shoulder of a much smaller Alexia with her left hand while her right was about a younger Joseph’s waist. That Joseph also wore a solemn shroud despite the happy facade both were feigning.
He pulled his eyes away from the photo and walked back towards the kitchen where the sole electric light in the house was on. The light buried the room under an unnatural yellowish glow. Behind him, flickering firelight battled the yellowish aura for dominance of the living room and its sparse furniture. The yellow light was winning the fight yet dark shadows lingered in every corner.
Flumping heavily into a wooden chair at a small wooden table in the middle of the equally tiny kitchen, Joseph filled his glass once more with whiskey and leaned back with a sigh. He stared at nothing in particular as he watched the shadows competing with the light. After a moment he took a long swig of the whiskey and then ran his left hand across his face. He was exhausted though he didn’t know why.
Erema… what am I supposed to do? His chest unleashed an unbidden heave and a gasp left his throat quietly. Nothing I do is right! Damnit! Damn this nation! Those self-righteous white men did this! Made it impossible for men like me to find decent work! So that they could get rich on the backs of our people! I hate them! I hate them all! Joseph tossed his head back and consumed the last of what was in his glass then slammed it on the tabletop to refill it again. He paused, dizziness eating away at his conscious mind. The world was spinning ever so slightly, the shadows and the light a kaleidoscope of a graying world. He stared and kept staring as the walls seemed to shrink and the shadows grew denser, absorbing the light until it was upon Joseph where only the luminescent glow from the bulb above him was spotlighting his existence.
Joseph wavered for a moment and then downed the rest of the glass and allowed the shadows to engulf him yet again.
Alexia sat on the edge of her bed crying. It had been seven years since she’d cried so hard, when her mother had taken ill. All anyone would tell her at the time was that her mother was very sick. She’d gone with her father and grandmother as they rushed her to the nearest hospital nearly one hundred miles away. Two days later, her mother died.
Alexia was there when she had taken her final breaths. Her mother had looked at her then, and smiled. With that smile she spoke, “be happy.” And then nothing more.
She didn’t know so many years earlier, and still didn’t know, how she was supposed to manage that. Every day was the same: miserable and lonely. She was mostly home schooled, though she occasionally had the opportunity to attend the small school at the edge of the reservation. Only a hundred students attended. It was a small, isolated building several dozen miles from Alexia’s home and was impractical to attend on a daily basis. Consequently, Alexia spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house further along the path up the hillsides just at the base of the massive mountain range running across the state and into the north.
Her grandmother had tried to convince Alexia’s father years before to move in with her after the death of Erema. But he refused saying it was best to stay where they were. Which Alexia figured was because it was so much further from society.
Alexia liked it better at grandmother’s house. She was a wise woman who knew much about the world’s history and the things they did in society, knew about life beyond the reservation. She hoped to one day leave the place and go to see the many sights of the country. However, for the time being she would have to content herself with going to Grandmother’s.
One of the perks of going there was that her grandmother had somehow procured a large widescreen television with satellite service. Alexia didn’t know what she’d done to get those and, when asked, Grandmother would only say a good friend owed her a big favor. Regardless, Alexia got to stay in a relatively comfortable home with a surround sound TV that allowed her to see so much more of the world than she’d been exposed to before. She never looked forward to ending her visit and returning to the solitude of the quiet little shack deep in the woods she was forced to call home. Alexia thought moving in with her grandmother was a great idea. But whenever she brought the idea up with her father, he would grow dark and call her grandmother an old crone trying to warp her young granddaughter’s mind with white man’s toys.
Alexia rolled her eyes at the thought and wiped the tears away. She opened her basket and pulled out some of those ‘white man’s toys’ she’d gotten from Grandmother. The woman was always giving her things she’d gotten from friends who would go into the cities. Just the thought of traveling with Grandmother into the city caused a smile to rise.
Think of all the adventures to be found! The wondrous sights to see!
From her basket she pulled a small handheld color TV which Grandmother had told her would keep her sane when the blizzards came rolling back through, which were quite common during that time of year, though Alexia wondered if it still would pick up signals in the middle of a snowstorm. Even if it didn’t, it had a built-in radio that could pick up transmissions from the broadcast tower not far to the south.
She placed the radio on top of her dresser that stood near her bed and went back to taking things out of her basket. She took out several items that were of some entertainment value, some books and movies. And then paused when she withdrew a journal. It was decorated with a handmade dreamcatcher and a soft sewn slip cover. She smiled thinking of all the secret things she could write in it. Writing was a favorite pastime of her grandmother, and had been of her mother as well. Both had made sure Alexia learned to read and write at a young age because, as they had said, “society is driven by the written word.”
Alexia put the journal on the nightstand on the other side of her bed. Returning to her basket, she pulled out a deep red cape with a hood on it. She smiled and hugged it lovingly. Her grandmother had made it for her and had said that it would protect her from harm, keeping her safe during the long winter months when travel would be impossible. Though she didn’t think much on old Blackfoot legends and myths, or luck for that matter, she found it a very kind gesture. She wrapped the cape around herself and drew the hood over her head. It was remarkably warm. She stood up and crossed the room.
Standing before the long mirror on her closet door, Alexia smiled and admired how she looked wearing the cloak. She drew back the hood and let her smile drift away. Her long hair fell over the hood and flopped down to the back of her bare legs coming to rest at just above the backs of her knees. The cape she wore went well with her blue shirt, or at least so she felt.
Here I am admiring how my little red cloak looks against my shirt when all I really want is one thing… She blinked and closed her eyes, thinking back on her relatively short life. It wasn’t enough she knew. None of it was.
“I want to get away.”
Late evening a few days later Alexia was on her way home again from grandmother’s. She slowly strode along the snow covered path kicking snow gently with her foot and glancing around at the trees frozen in time. She stopped and grabbed the edges of her cloak to wrap around her tightly and proceeded walking at an even slower pace smiling and humming to herself. Winter was still several weeks away from being in full swing, but the snows from atop the mountain range was already preparing the few denizens around for what was to come. For the meantime, however, the weather was calm with a light flurry of snowflakes settling into the silence as if they’d been there all along.
Amongst the pure white snow and the brown, barren trees, Alexia stood out as the one bright spot on the path, her red cloak gently wafting in the subtle breeze. She contented herself with listening to the scrunching snow beneath her feet as she walked watching only the trail for the longest time. That was until she neared the area where she had been dancing several nights before. Her heart stopped as the familiar sensation of being watched reemerged in her awareness. She looked up from the trail, ignoring the several flakes drifting into her eyes, and came to a complete halt in mid-stride. Standing in the clearing where she had danced was the same white wolf as before.
He was staring at her, watching her every move. She stared back wondering where such a creature had come from. Then he darted into the wood and, without thinking, she gave chase.
The white wolf was much faster than she. However, he still left tracks in thick accumulation lying untouched on the forest floor. She followed the tracks, not giving up on the pursuit.
She wasn’t sure how long she followed the wolf. Time had seemed to freeze and all that existed was the forest, the wolf, and herself. And she enjoyed it. Found peace in the simplicity of the chase.
After some time, she found herself in another clearing, deep in the forest. And in the middle of the clearing was the wolf sitting, like he was waiting for her to catch up. He resumed his stare at her, his expression one of complete serenity and calm. Alexia slowed her pace and cautiously approached him. He never moved an inch, only followed her progress with his eyes.
Alexia knelt before the wolf and ran her hands along either side of his head and down the sides of his body. His fur was the softest she’d ever felt, and as smooth as silk. She felt his warm breath against her cheek as she continued stroking his fur; that breath filled her with a warmth she had never felt before. After a few moments she gazed into his eyes.
“What soft fur you have,” she said and smiled. The better to keep you warm with.
Her thoughts were running wild and a strange sensation was overcoming her senses.
“What vivid blue eyes you have,” she said and thought, The better to gaze upon you with.
“What a sumptuous mouth you have,” she said and grinned broadly, Mmmm… indeed.
Alexia wrapped her arms around his neck and felt his heart beating and felt even more warmth pouring from him. She drew back from him and removed her cape and laid it upon the soft snow. The white wolf watched with intense eyes as she removed her clothing one by one and laid it upon her cape so that it was the length of her whole body. And then fully naked lay herself on top of the clothing and the cape. The wolf approached her cautiously and after a moment, mounted her.
Joseph stood outside his house gripping his shotgun tightly. “Goddamnit, girl! Where are you!?”
The snow was falling harder and the light from the moon was having a difficult time illuminating the environ.
“Fuckin’ make me get out in this weather-”, he stopped walking when he saw Alexia coming down the path. He almost hadn’t seen her, but her red cape started fluttering and picked up the stray moonlight. He wasn’t sure, but she also seemed to be casting a strange glow herself. It was almost imperceptible but he could have sworn it was there.
“Where have you been?!” he yelled as she neared.
“Sorry, father, I just got caught up with the sights of the wood.”
Alexia said nothing more as she walked past him and into the cabin. He stood for a moment more not sure what to say. However, a feeling of trepidation started eating its way through his insides.
“I need a drink,” he mumbled as he entered after her.
Several days passed, and every day Alexia sought the wolf. Yet nowhere was he to be found. She grew anxious and afraid that maybe the wolf had gone and wouldn’t be back. That perhaps she drove him away. And then, on the day one week past her encounter with him, she saw the wolf sitting in the middle of their clearing. He sat there, waiting for her, staring at her with his intense expression. Alexia smiled and went to him.
And so it was once a week at the same time for three weeks when she’d go to the wolf in the woods. It was on the third week that she lay in bed dreaming. The wolf came to her in her dreams and smiled. Only he wasn’t a wolf. He’d become a man. And the two of them danced all through the night. Alexia awoke refreshed and rejuvenated and smiled. Many times more would she have that dream and then go to see the wolf in the forest.
And then the blizzards came and she was unable to go to see the wolf anymore. Five more long weeks passed before the blizzards let up enough for her to return to find him.
Grandmother was walking outside when she saw Alexia coming down the path from the forest. She shook her head not because she was worried about where Alexia had been, but by the fact her father was already outraged beyond reconciliation. Alexia smiled as she came nearer her home. She hadn’t realized that Grandmother was coming to visit them that day. Snow was rising nearly to their knees. Glad there was a break in the blizzards. Hope the next one isn’t as close as they say.
“Grandmother. I was going to see you,” Alexia smiled.
“Yes, child, I figured as much. You should be more careful though…” Grandmother said.
“Is that her!?” the angry shout came from inside.
“Oh no…” Alexia grimaced.
She shook her head and closed her eyes. Grandmother took her hand and squeezed it gently. Joseph came outside in a huff his anger brewing greater than the storms of previous weeks.
“You said you were going to your grandmother’s!” he began.
“And I did. But…”
“But!? Your grandmother is here! She’s been here for hours! Where have you been!? Sniffing roses and enjoying the scenery!?”
Grandmother raised a hand hoping to abate his anger. “Now, Joseph, I never said anything to Alexia about coming to visit you. It was a spur of the moment decision–”
“That doesn’t explain why she’s been gone so long, now does it!? Why don’t you head out now, granny! I’m sure you have other people’s minds to warp!”
“Father, stop it! Grandmother hasn’t–”
“She’s done enough! I’m trying to hold on to the last piece of property that hasn’t been taken by devils and warmongers and you are busy filling her head with nonsense!” Joseph shook his fist in grandmother’s face. “Get out of here and don’t come back! I’ll send Alexia to you!”
“You should find more respect for you elders!” Grandmother shot back. “All your life you’ve blamed others for your problems! You think the white man made you a drunk and a fool? No, you chose that avenue, Joseph. No one else chose it for you!”
She turned to leave and he continued yelling at her. “No! They made us this way! Gave us scraps for food and trash for land!”
“You call this trash? All of this nature!?” she turned back. “Your father would turn over in his grave if he knew what you’ve become!”
“What do you know?” he barked and turned back into the house slamming the door.
“Grandmother let me–”
“Alexia! Get your ass inside!” Joseph shouted from inside.
Grandmother sighed and pat Alexia’s hand that was on her shoulder. “You go inside where it’s warm. I’ll find my way home just fine. I wish he was more of the man he used to be… before. It’s a shame. Ever since that day…”
Alexia wanted to cry but let go of Grandmother’s arm. “You mean when mom died.”
Grandmother walked a few feet and stopped. “Hmm. Sort of. It isn’t anything to worry about young one.”
She continued on her way without bothering to look back and Alexia took a deep breath. She forced herself to return inside. Answers to where she’d been were something she was hoping to keep to herself.
“Joseph… I… Joseph…” his wife tossed and turned underneath the blankets of the bed.
Joseph shook his head and ignored her. She was sick with a cold, that was all. She was tossing because of the fever and there wasn’t anything he could do. She kept coughing all through the night, and he watched her feeling numb.
Shadows stirred in the corners and started to approach Joseph. His eyes widened in terror as sweat poured down his brow. It took only seconds for him to rise to his feet and retreat out of the bedroom. His daughter, so young and sweet, lay asleep in her room not knowing what was transpiring. He didn’t check on her, only ran into the kitchen where he slipped and fell. He hit his head on the table but it didn’t hurt. What pained him most was the whiskey pouring all over the floor.
“Ah shit!’ he shouted and picked it up.
Having righted it, he tried to use his hands to scoop the loose whiskey on the floor into a cup. However, the liquid kept draining away, sliding to the other side of the kitchen.
“Damnit!” he cursed, spat, and flung himself into a corner near the cabinets.
The shadows were drawing near as they always did. He didn’t know what to do. Not then. Not before he learned to just accept them as part of life. He tried to scream as the shadows surrounded him but couldn’t. They were shaking him, shaking him hard and all he could do was grimace in fear.
“You have to take her to the hospital Joseph!” he heard grandmother’s voice in his head.
“She’s fine. Just a head cold,” he answered, though the grimacing fear wouldn’t vanish.
“Fool! That’s all you are! What my daughter saw in you is beyond me!” grandmother cackled.
“To hell with you you old bat!” he screamed.
“You can’t ignore grandmother! Grandmother is there! She needs your help!”
“What!? She’s fine! She doesn’t need my help!”
“Grandmother won’t last long! Just like daughter–right, Joseph!?”
He screamed in his mind, the shaking getting worse, the shadows overcoming his sanity leaving him alone to his own thoughts. And grandmother’s voice still cackling, taunting him for his own stupidity. Yet, strangely, grandmother’s voice sounded younger to him somehow.
“Wake up! Or grandmother won’t make it!”
The bed shook violently as Joseph struggled to open his eyes against a bright light. He wasn’t sure what was going on and could only grunt and raise his hand uncertainly.
“Father! The blizzards are back! I don’t think Grandmother has had time to get home! She needs your help!” Alexia screamed and beseeched him.
Still groggy Joseph sat forward. “What? What do you mean?”
“Look outside!” Alexia plead.
Joseph looked out his window and saw the fiercely blowing storm pounding against the cabin.
“Shit… what time is it? How long has she been gone?” he leapt out of bed, still not feeling himself.
“It’s only been about forty minutes. The storm just came in!” she said hastily grabbing his coat.
Forty minutes? That’s it? Why can’t I remember it? Joseph shook his head and went for the mantle to grab his shotgun. Moments later he was fully dressed and ready for the weather. A segment of his mind told him it was a foolish thing to do, to go out into the blizzard. She had to have gotten home by then. He didn’t think she could still be out in it. However, he didn’t want to take the chance.
“Wait here. I don’t know if she made it back or not so I’ll go straight up the path. Hopefully she has. If so, then I’ll stay there until the storm lets up. You have plenty of food in the fridge,” he said and walked out into the storm.
If there was one thing he made sure of, it was to keep the cabinets stocked. The weather changed fast where they lived and he didn’t like taking chances. Joseph stumbled slightly as he made his way up the hill into the woods. Fortunately, the forest kept enough of the blizzard at bay to make the path relatively easy to find. He followed it for what seemed an eternity until he happened across a set of prints leading into the wood.
Oh no. Damnit! You old crone! You didn’t… Part of himself was saying to just continue on. The prints in the snow could have been anything. They were already mostly filled in so it was too difficult to tell if they were human. An uncomfortable feeling told him though that they were probably grandmother’s and she’d gotten disoriented in the blizzard. Reluctantly, he followed the trail off the path.
Grandmother flicked her eyes open with effort. Something was licking her face and she wasn’t sure what. All she knew was that a moment before she was falling asleep, the kind of sleep that comes from too much cold. All around her was a white existence, a blanket of winter covering the forest floor. She tried to move but something came into view and stopped her from rising to her feet. She looked at that something and saw the most beautiful white wolf. He looked at her and licked her face again and seemed to be speaking to her in some inaudible way.
You’ll be fine, Grandmother. I will see you home. And she was comforted by him. She felt safe with the wolf and smiled. She settled down into the snow and waited to see how the wolf would take her home, but before he could do anything she heard a shout and a loud boom. The wolf jumped back and passed her line of sight. But in so doing, he exposed to her eyes the sight of her son-in-law rushing out of the wood brandishing his shotgun.
“Get away from her, beast! Eyaaa!” he shouted and took aim again missing.
The wolf looked around and then stared at Joseph as he raised his gun again. The wolf almost seemed to widen his eyes, almost seemed to want to scream “No, you fool!” But was too late as Joseph discharged his weapon, the shot hitting Grandmother in the chest. She slipped onto her back and a hot steam of breath exited her mouth. The wolf yipped in anguish and then silently stared at Joseph who came running towards Grandmother’s lifeless body. The wolf growled and ran off, never once letting Joseph out of his sight.
“No! Oh god!” he grabbed her in his arms and she went limp. “Look what you made me do! Look!!”
Joseph sobbed and clutched Grandmother to him. The wolf disappeared into the forest.
Alexia sobbed alone on her bed. It had been a month since Grandmother had died. When she had asked her father about her, he had said he found her dead in the snow, frozen by the blizzard. She had looked at him then, wanting to believe his words but he seemed distant when saying it, as if hiding some terrible secret. She hadn’t said anything more to him about it, but couldn’t stop thinking about everything. Especially about the horrified look that was in Grandmother’s eyes when she saw her face just before they buried her. Her father had dressed her in traditional clothing but there was no pyre they could erect for Grandmother.
Alexia looked out at the grave a dozen or more feet away from the house and then turned to stare at the walls. Her entire existence had now become that little cabin in the woods.
And she hated it.
It was in the middle of one of her sobs that she felt it. She hadn’t noticed before, with everything going on. She ran her hand across her stomach and felt the slight bulge. It was both terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
Alexia stood up and went to her mirror and bared her stomach. Oh no… what… could I really be? She relaxed her shirt and looked to the floor. Terror clouded her mind. She couldn’t say anything to her father though she knew it was inevitable that he would find out. And she dared not suggest going to the hospital. He would only say she’d been eating too much. Alexia sat down in her chair by the window and stared out at the falling snow. How she wished to see the wolf.
Again the shadows were coming for him. Joseph didn’t struggle though. He stared right at them and let them come. He wasn’t afraid. Just numb. He’d been numb for years. Since before he’d even met Erema. He’d been numb since his father had taken the long walk. That was his excuse anyhow. He knew the truth. Everyone did. He was hiding. Hiding in his cabin away from everyone.
“So why do you hide your daughter with you?” a strange thought said.
Joseph winced at the shadows that suddenly seemed too timid to come any further. He looked around the room and saw nothing. Taking another drink, he tried to let the shadows come again. But they halted.
“I ain’t hiding her,” Joseph finally said.
“Who are you lying to? Me… or yourself?” Joseph leaned forward then.
He couldn’t be hallucinating that voice, could he? It was just in his mind. He narrowed his eyes and breathed in. Shaking his head, he leaned back into his wooden chair, the yellowish light above bouncing erratically though he hadn’t touched it. Joseph paid it little heed.
“Why should I lie to myself?” he said to no one.
“Fools often lie to themselves,” the voice responded.
“I’m no fool!” Joseph shouted. “Who are you!?”
He stood up and wobbled around the kitchen. He picked up several dishes and items to see if something was making the voice.
“I’m not under your silverware…” the voice said as a startled Joseph dropped the dish rack.
“If only you could see yourself, Joseph. Jumping at shadows,” the voice taunted. “How many years now have you been allowing the shadows to take you?”
Joseph stared at nothing. He wavered slightly and looked to the window and the darkness beyond it. He kept staring until a white face appeared and then vanished. He ran outside to see who was there, but saw only the dark and the blowing snow. He re-entered his house and rubbed his hands together.
“I must be losing my mind…” he said.
“Hard to lose something that was never there…”
“Oh, so you’re a funny specter are you!?” Joseph yelled. “Why don’t you come out here and say it to my face!?”
“I don’t have to. You are your own worse enemy…”
Joseph turned behind him to the living room. Only, the living room was no longer there. It was the hospital room that had held his wife so many years before.
“What witchery is this…?” he mumbled.
He saw his wife lying on her death bed, barely able to speak. He saw his daughter standing beside her. And he wanted to cry but was too angry with himself.
“What is this?” he looked away.
“What do you think it is?”
“It’s profane! You can’t do this to me! It’s not my fault!” he shouted.
“Of course not. It never is, is it?”
Joseph saw grandmother standing with one of the doctors. He didn’t see himself anywhere. And then he remembered, after he and grandmother had gotten her to the hospital in the nearest city, which was no small task given the nearest city was eighty seven miles away, he had went to the nearest bar.
“Isn’t there anything you can do for her?” grandmother asked.
“If… if she’d gotten here earlier. Pneumonia should be taken seriously and…I’m sorry. She’s just right there on the verge. We’re treating her the best we can. If… she’d only been brought to us a little sooner,” the doctor said and walked away.
“I forget… why was such an easily treatable ailment allowed to take Erema?” the voice asked.
“Shut up! Damn you! Shut the fuck up!” he turned away and walked back into the kitchen.
Looking back, Joseph saw that the vision had faded and his living room was back to normal. He sobbed slightly and fell down to the floor near a wall.
“Curse me all you like…”
“I didn’t think it was anything more than a cold!”
“The way I see it… you didn’t think much of anything at that time…”
It wasn’t my fault… this is what you get for giving the White Man’s medicine a chance. Should never have trusted them…
Joseph stared into the dark, seeing the shadows overcoming him yet again.
Joseph awoke the next day feeling wary and nervous. His daughter said nothing as she busied herself cleaning up around the cabin and then retreated to her room. The day passed uneventfully. Mostly because he was too numb to care. He didn’t bother to try to talk to Alexia. He saw her only a few times and that was when she came to get something to eat. Elsewise, he was left to his own devices. Soon enough, the night had returned. And with the night, came the shadows once more. He ignored them as he always did and sat in his chair swaying slightly as under the influence of an invisible breeze.
“Why do you do this to yourself?” the voice came again.
Joseph tossed the table over and slung the bottle of whiskey against a wall. He clung onto the countertop and stared out at the kitchen. He said nothing in the ensuing silence. For a moment he thought he saw a face in the window again. Only then he realized it was his own visage.
“This entire time, I’ve been seeing myself,” he said and exhaled.
Weariness was overcoming his mind as he looked to the floor and started to smile.
“Finally, you are starting to see things as they are…” the voice said.
Joseph ran into the living room. “Who are you!? Why do you torment me!?”
“Didn’t you just answer your own question?”
“What? How… what do you mean? Apistotoki! I’m going nuts!”
Joseph crouched down next to the couch and covered his head with his arms.
“I don’t dispute you there. Well, save for the term ‘going’. The truth is…you’ve been nuts,” the voice said solemnly.
“Leave me alone…”
“Not yet… Do you ever wonder what you are doing to your daughter? You cry and you complain and you shout ‘why me?’ But do you ever think, ‘why her’?”
Joseph looked up then and saw the shadows at the edge of his world again and saw through the walls to his daughter’s room who sat with her arms around her legs sobbing. She looked so very sad to him.
“What is wrong with her?”
“You have to ask a question with such an obvious answer? She is trapped here. Trapped by you…or do you even care?”
“Why wouldn’t I care about my daughter’s welfare? Wait… what’s going on with her?” he wondered seeing her stand before her mirror and rub her stomach.
“What do you think?”
“She’s pregnant!? How!? Damn it! I’ve been too lenient! I’ll kill the son-of-a-!”
“Will you now? Again, it’s all about you isn’t it?”
Joseph railed around and stared at the shadows. He was growing tired of the games.
“Who are you? Did you do this!? I’ll kill you!”
“You should think more of your grandchild’s welfare than of killing me. Unless you intend to destroy yourself. Which I assure you would be no big loss…” the voice sighed.
Joseph sat down on the couch and felt the darkness coming again. This time he welcomed its embrace as he no longer wanted to deal with the reality around him.
“It isn’t true anyhow. You can lie to me all you want. I don’t believe you.”
Joseph looked around, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Or do you ignore me now?” he asked. “Damn you.”
Alexia was in the kitchen reaching for a box of oatmeal when her father walked up behind her. He stood quietly for a moment. She turned to him and let loose a startled yelp.
“How long have you been keeping this secret?” Joseph asked her pointing to her belly.
“I… I was going to tell you. But–”
“Who’s is it!? Who is in the woods taunting me!?”
“Wh-what?” Alexia shook her head not understanding his question.
“Don’t evade the question!” he shouted and backhanded her as hard as he could.
Alexia tripped backwards against the table and used the momentum to right herself and run back to her room. Joseph stood there gasping for breath. He looked at his hand and felt the trembling in his soul. He wasn’t sure what was happening to him. He wandered back to his daughter’s room and knocked on the door.
“Alexia… forgive me. I… I didn’t mean it. I am tough… because I love you. I want you to know that…”
No answer came forth and he clenched his fist. He turned back to the living room and sat on the couch. The rest of the day passed without event. Alexia didn’t come back out of her room, which made him feel all the more guilty. He thought about trying to apologize once more, however, the darkness came before he had the courage to try again.
Joseph looked down at his hands and saw that he was holding a bottle of whiskey and a tall glass for the drinking.
“What…? I didn’t carry these in here.”
“It’s for the taking.”
“No… I’m tired of this spirit! Go away! Leave me be!”
He stood up and went to the kitchen. “How can I leave you be, when you will not see truth?”
“I don’t understand your riddles!” he said leaning against the kitchen counter.
“You don’t want to understand…”
“Fine! I don’t want to understand, goddamnit! Now leave me!”
“Soon. Have you ever considered… what you will achieve with this path you walk?”
“What do you care? Why should you care!?”
“Oh, but Joseph. I specialize in fools…” the voice said quietly.
Joseph turned on the source of the voice and found himself outside. It was dark. But not so dark as to hide the pit in the dirt not far away.
“Funny, spirit. What? You think me some greedy fool? That I am deserving of the grave?” he held his arms out wide. “You’ll have to do better than that!”
“This is no carol to make you giving. The grave awaits us all… in some form or another. No, it is the means by which we acquire our graves that speak of our lives. What will yours say I wonder?”
“What the hell are you talking about!?”
Joseph looked down at the grave and saw a swirl of energy. His arms fell to his sides and a sense of vertigo clamored at his body.
“I speak only of truths…”
The void showed Joseph more visions. He saw himself standing at the side of a great river. Before him, the rapids rushed as stallions stampeding. Across the river was a bridge. Joseph stood staring at the bridge and shook his head. He saw grandmother, and Alexia, and his father crossing the bridge. And he saw Erema too. She went with them. And they all smiled at him and shouted for him.
“Joseph! What are you waiting for? Come with us!” his wife Erema said.
“Why would I do such a thing?” he heard himself say. “Don’t you realize that the white man built it!? It is not for our people! I will swim it!”
“No, Joseph! The rapids are too strong! You’ll never make it!” Erema plead.
“Don’t be foolish!” he said and leapt in.
Joseph got halfway across the river before the rapids turned black and foam threatened to engulf him. Sinister clouds crawled across the sky and lightning pierced the brewing night. He tried to scream but found himself being suffocated by many men of many tones of flesh trying to claw their way above the black water’s surface. Yet none had recognizable features. Everybody trying to drown him was of the same shape and proportion. Panic overcame him as skeletal remains grabbed at him from the bed of the river and he closed his eyes.
“Such panic…” the voice spoke.
Joseph jumped up from where he lay on the ground. And looked back into the grave. It still swirled with terrible energy.
“What was that?! Why would you show me such a thing!? I wouldn’t think to not use the bridge!”
“But Joseph, you’ve been refusing to use the bridge all throughout your life.”
“That’s not true…” he said to the air.
“Surely you’re not through with the grave yet?”
Joseph looked back at the grave and saw into the swirling vortex. He was terrified and stepped back from it.
“I… I am done with it. I don’t like it…”
“You’re terrified of the truth?”
“This isn’t truth!” he shouted.
“Look closer then…”
He couldn’t help but to stare back into the void and saw within another vision. A great plain under a bright, warm sky stretched for hundreds of miles. Upon the plain, thousands of people walked away from him. Joseph stood at the edge of the plains and could see a hazy distance but he didn’t know what it was. Yet everybody was going there. They all seemed happy to be going.
“What’s wrong, Joseph? Why do you hesitate?” an old woman’s voice said.
Joseph looked beside him and saw grandmother standing there. He shook his head and sighed.
“Why do I hesitate? Because there is nowhere to go! Look at all these people, going to nowhere!”
“How do you know it is nowhere?”
He looked at the kindly woman once more. “I don’t trust it.”
“You’d prefer your cabin?”
She motioned behind them and he looked back at his cabin which stood atop a hill amidst dense woods. An undulating, throbbing darkness hung over it and looked like a paused storm. It was a comforting sight to Joseph.
“It is home. I know it well. Why go somewhere I do not know?”
He spoke and looked down at grandmother. Only, she had moved on and was nearing the horizon. He wanted to cry because he saw his father as well. And Erema. She waved to him and smiled and then disappeared somewhere unseen. He turned back to his cabin. He walked and the distance was not so far for in moments he was stopped before the creaky, wooden home. With a sigh he turned his glance back to where his wife and family had gone. But it was gone. The shadow was instead in its place. He heard a growl and faced his cabin. The door was a gaping maw and the windows dark, malicious eyes. The cabin lunged forward and swallowed him whole. He screamed in terror.
“Do you fear the unknown?”
“What!?” Joseph tripped over a rock and fell backwards from the grave. “Why… why would I fear something like that?”
“It seems so lonely here…”
“It’s not,” Joseph stated flatly and rose to his feet. “Why would you show me such a nasty thing!? My cabin would not eat me!”
“You miss the point. This place will devour you.”
“I don’t think so. It is home.”
“What is a home without the people you love?”
“I’m tired of this game…”
“It’s no game. Look upon the grave once more…”
“No… I don’t want to,” he said and looked away.
“What makes you think you have a choice?”
Joseph looked down and saw the grave before him once more and witnessed another vision brewing in its depth. Trembles of fear arched across his chest and through his body. He didn’t want to look, but it wasn’t something that could be escaped. Within the vortex he saw himself standing in a room. Beside him was his daughter.
“Father… why are you so angry?” she plead and dropped to her knees.
He didn’t know why she did so.
“I’m not… what’s wrong?”
He tried to reach a hand for her but realized something was wrong when his daughter screamed in terror. Without warning blood spurted from her chest and she fell backwards, her life gone. Joseph stared at her not knowing what to say or think.
“A, Alexia!?” he cried.
It was then he saw the bloodied tomahawk in his hand. He turned away then and ran.
“No!! No more! I refuse to be here any more!”
“Do you not see truth?”
“What truth!? That I’ll murder my own daughter!? What sick thought or vision is that!? How could I think to do such a thing!?”
The vision disappeared and he stood alone in his kitchen staring at the ceiling. He collapsed into his chair and sobbed.
“We all refuse to see certain truths. It is when they are the most painful that we should pay the most attention.”
Panic surged through Joseph as he sat up from where he lay on the couch. He looked around the room. He’d been spending a lot of time in the living room. Too much time. He sat and waited. Alexia didn’t emerge. And all was quiet. So was the rest of the day. And strangely, the evening. The voice didn’t return. He had been taunted for three nights and then… nothing.
“What is going on? Was it real?”
Joseph looked out the kitchen window and felt stuck. It was as if he were trapped in some dream he could not escape. He went to check on Alexia.
“Alexia! Tell me you are well!”
“I, I’m fine, dad. I just don’t want to talk, ok?”
He didn’t blame her. He didn’t want to talk to him either. So, he did what he always did, poured some more whiskey.
The months passed and spring set in. And then came the time that Alexia gave birth. Joseph helped the best that he could as he couldn’t get to the outlying towns to fetch a doctor. The two of them made do. And it was during this time Joseph started acting strangely. Though Alexia wasn’t sure why. She cradled her child in her arms and was filled with joy.
If only the wolf could see. She smiled in thought and rocked the newborn baby boy in her arms. He was a pure white, as pure as winter snow, with deep blue eyes and silky blonde hair with a curl on the forehead. She spent the better part of the next two weeks mostly by herself with the child. Her father was becoming more and more distant. She wondered if it was because of how he had treated her before and decided that it was necessary to make amends if they all were to survive.
She brought her son out into the living room and laid him in a small bed she had created from her basket she used to take to grandmother’s. It made her sad to think about, but she knew that her grandmother would be smiling for the child. Ensuring he was tucked in and comfortable, she turned to the kitchen where her father sat at the table staring at them. A strange look was in his eyes.
“Father, what’s wrong? Why have you been acting so strange lately?” she stood up and walked halfway across the living room.
Joseph spat out a laugh and stood up.
“What’s wrong? That… abomination is what’s wrong!!” he pointed at her son.
Alexia felt the universe twisting in on itself and she wasn’t sure what to say, let alone do.
“How do you mean, father?”
“And what’s this whole ‘father’ business?” he swaggered drunkenly and approached the mantle. “Remember when you just called me ‘dad’?”
“Dad, what’s wrong with you? My son is not an abomination!”
Fear etched its way across her soul. She stared at her father as he looked at her through a glazed expression.
“You know what I mean! You… damn you harlot! Sleeping with some White Man!”
“Don’t deny it! How dare you defile this home with that… thing!” he shouted and grabbed his shotgun.
Alexia cupped her hands to her mouth.
“What are you doing!?”
Joseph walked towards her and the child. “What do you think? It has to be destroyed!”
“No! Don’t you even…!” she said.
She nearly tripped on the couch as her father raised the gun. Alexia stood up straight and came between her father and her son.
“You will notharm him!”
“Get out of my way!”
“No! I have been the obedient daughter, I have shown you respect! I have given my love unconditionally as a daughter should! And you keep me here, trapped like some animal! Yes… I slept with someone. I took him unto my bosom! I loved him! But I now know peace! You threaten my family!” she cried, the tears flowing down her cheeks.
“I am your family!”
“And this is your grandson!”
“You lay with a white man! You disgrace us all!”
Joseph tried to push her out of the way, but she came between them again, placing her chest against the barrel of the shotgun.
“Your hatred blinds you, father! You won’t do this! Who are you really angry at!?” she shouted, her sobs shaking her body.
“That thing is disgusting and I’m going to kill it! Get out of my way!”
“Then you’ll have to go through me!”
She grabbed the gun and forced it away but he wouldn’t let go. She screamed at him as he pushed against her and tried to knock her down. She kicked at his legs and punched at his face. This only made him angrier as he managed to wrestle the gun from her grip and slammed the butt of it into her temple causing her to fall to the floor. He raised the weapon and took aim. Alexia screamed and lurched for her son but both she and her father were distracted by the din of shattering glass as a wolf leapt through the living room window and grabbed the gun from Joseph. The wolf tossed it out the window and saw Alexia sobbing near the couch greatly wounded. He growled then and stared at Joseph who stepped backwards in trepidation.
“You never learn, Joseph,” the wolf spoke much to the astonishment of both Joseph and Alexia. “Three visions have I shown you! Three visions of the fool’s course! Yet you ignore my lessons! You allowed your wife to die so many years before–”
“…Wha…?” Alexia sobbed and stared at her father.
“No! I didn’t! I did everything I could!”
“Complacency in the face of truth still holds you responsible!”
“No…” Joseph mumbled and stumbled back further towards the mantle.
He bumped into it and saw the photo of his family fall off and shatter on the floor.
“Grandmother dead… by your own foolishness!”
“Grandmother…!?” Alexia sobbed and was filled with fear and rage.
“No! It was you! You did it!”
“Hah! I was trying to rescue her from the cold! But you fired first! Never bothering to make sure she was out of the way! Fool! Reckless and uncaring!” the wolf growled.
Joseph sobbed and shook his head. “It wasn’t like that at all!”
He looked down at Alexia. “Please believe me, daughter!”
She shook her head and turned away crying.
“And now… now you threaten your own daughter and our child!”
The wolf approached more aggressively, angry at Joseph to his very core.
“Your… child?” he said in disbelief. “But… you’re a wolf…”
“Appearances can be deceiving. Which is why I gave you the chances I gave you! Yet you ignored everything! You leave me little choice! Perish by your own arrogance!”
The wolf leapt forward and devoured Joseph in one gulp. Alexia laid there on the floor and then crawled towards her son. She cried harder and didn’t look at the wolf. She held the child to her and rocked him steadily.
“I never wanted this,” she said after a moment.
“I… I didn’t want my father to suffer so. Why… but why…?” she looked at him then, her hair matted and flowing across her eyes.
“No one seeks such things,” the wolf said and stepped forward slightly. “How many times had he been told? By you? By grandmother? How many times did he refuse to listen? I could not let him threaten you anymore.”
She smiled slightly at him. It wasn’t a joyous smile but one filled with hope and despair all in the same breath.
“And then he comes for our child too? I could not allow that. Never,” the wolf sat down and lowered his head. “I have a confession to make.”
Alexia’s smile faded. “What’s that?”
“Please do not be angry.”
A light appeared around the wolf and he transformed into another creature. One that she instantly recognized and was shocked.
“A… Coyote? I… I’m confused…”
“I often come out here as the wolf. It is peaceful here. And I am generally not bothered. And then you sought me. And night after night you came for me. Though I could only come to you once a week. I am sorry it was only so few. I fell in love with you. As I thought you did me.”
She gazed into his eyes and saw the same vivid blue eyes returning her gaze. “I did. And I still do. Please forgive me. I am not angry with you. My… father-”
“Will not hurt you anymore.”
She looked away then back to their child.
Coyote looked at him and smiled. “He is beautiful.”
“Yes, he is,” she smiled and looked back at Coyote.
Only this time, he wasn’t just Coyote, he was a man. And the man was standing before her holding his hand out to her. “I have taught many over countless moons. Have shown many the way of the fool so that they do not tread that path. Now, now I am no longer needed here. The fool will not listen, and the many who used to tell my tales no longer speak of me. I will take you two somewhere safe, where fools can no longer do you harm. There you will be happy. If you wish it.”
Coyote smiled and Alexia took his hand. Looking into his eyes, she saw truth and disappeared with him and their child to a place away from pain and sorrow. The cabin grew dark and remained alone in the forest far away from anyplace remotely civilized by any definition of the term. And in time it too rotted and was reclaimed by the woods.
My very deep thanks for reading this story and coming to this part! I do hope that you enjoyed the story and that you’re intrigued by what comes next. By all means, check out this tale where it’s available at my Amazon Kindle page and I look forward to reading to you all next week!
~Timothy S Purvis
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