• George Nikolopoulos

Fiction: There's More Than Wolves in These Woods, Cindy

Forest Clearing

Photo Source: PxHere

"He betrayed us," she whispered, looking spent and defeated. "How could he do that to us?" The spark had gone out of her, and all that was left was the sadness and the fear.

I couldn't bear to see her like this. "Don't give up, Snow," I said. "He was just a scumbag. We've been through much worse than him." Prince Charming had been supposed to keep watch during the night, but he'd just taken off, along with our only horse, leaving us to the wolves. I could hear them howling and it was all I could do to put a brave face for Snow. We'd been through worse indeed -- but barely.

Snow took my hand and squeezed it. Then, what little color there was drained from her face. "There's someone behind you, Cindy. Who's that? It's a... wolf?”

I quickly turned, ready to strike or flee, but not ready for what I saw. It was a wolf alright, but one standing upright, taller than me or Snow, and it was dressed in a peculiar red cloak with matching hood.

"Hello, ladies," said the wolf in perfect human speech, though with a little foreign accent. "Allow me to introduce myself. They call me Big Red Riding-Hood Wolfe and I live in these woods. If my tiny four-legged companions have inconvenienced you in any way, please accept my apology.”

He had a handsome, honest face, but his big black eyes were like pits of liquid darkness leading to the abyss.

"I'm Snow White," Snow was quick to reply while I was lost in those dark eyes, "and she's Cinderella. We were running from our wicked stepmothers, but now we are lost in these woods. Could you show us the way out of here?”

Wolfe seemed concerned. "There's not much beyond these woods," he said, "only a god-forsaken wilderness. Not at all suitable for fine young ladies like yourselves." He paused for a moment, frowning, then he brightened up. "But I have a nice proposition for you. My dear departed grandma has left me a little cottage in this part of the woods. It's not much, but it's clean, and I do bake a mean blueberry pie -- if I say so myself. So," he paused and looked at his feet, then he cleared his throat and went on with some trepidation, "I was just wondering if you might like to come over to my place for a hot meal and a slice of pie or two. And, well, I'd be delighted if you would stay for a while. No strings attached. It gets quite lonely, here in the woods.”

I looked at Snow and she looked at me, and her face mirrored my own.

I turned to Wolfe. "Thanks for the invitation," I said. "We're looking forward to it."

I couldn't shake off the feeling that he was bad news, but maybe that was exactly what me and Snow needed right then. After all, we'd been through much worse than him, hadn't we?

George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Athens, Greece, and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His short stories have been published in over 60 magazines and anthologies including Galaxy's Edge, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, Dream Forge, On Spec, Grievous Angel, Best Vegan SFF, and The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF.