Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled Scarlett Hood. Please enjoy. Also, if you haven’t already checked out my FAQ on my upcoming book, Magic Once Removed, please check that out as well. Thanks again!
A teenage girl named Scarlett traipsed through the woods. Her red hood covered her short jet black hair as it blew gently in the spring breeze.
She wrapped a beige picnic basket in her right arm. The young woman walked along a dirt trail with her flat jet black boots. It was wide enough that five of her could have walked shoulder-to-shoulder together. So too could two normal-sized men.
The radiant sun, along with its warmth and comfort, gave the forest an almost mystical quality. Its light sparkled in the white misty haze. A mixture of flora and fauna not typically found in a single woodland or any woodland existed. This only served to augment the magical aura in the air.
Forest creatures frittered oblivious to her trek. Squirrels and chipmunks chattered while birds sang loudly above. Deer trotted to and fro and only paused to nibble on some tulips before resuming their gallop in the woods.
The air was crisp. Her nose was attuned to smell, pleasant or not, a skill bestowed at birth honed with time and practice. Scarlett’s olfactory nerves were treated with a pleasant cacophony of smells.
Along the path, she glimpsed a flower. A lovely violet. She reached down and plucked it from the ground and held it underneath her nose. The young woman closed her eyes and inhaled. It had an exquisite smell.
A loud cracking noise, presumably a branch, turned her head sideways. Something landed with a resounding thud and caused a small tremor. A feral rumble was heard along with the breaking apart of bushes and shrubs as some sort of gigantic entity approached.
It loomed at the edge of the forest as a large. A pair of eyes seemed focused on the young woman. They followed her every move before moving on elsewhere.
The creature then vanished. Trees and other foliage, along with poor unfortunate creatures who happened to be in its path, became victims of the presence’s rapid and noisy departure.
Its strange movements and activity reminded Scarlett of stories she heard as a child of banshees and ghouls. She wasn’t convinced that the presence she felt was either of those things but getting a glimpse of the stalking shade caused her to become a bit more alert as she continued through the forest.
As she walked deeper into the woods, the bright sunshine gradually gave way to thin rays of light. The open sky was supplanted with long thin branches that weaved together like hands and fingers. Dark clouds rolled in and brought with them cool air. The mystic hazed had disappeared.
Scarlett trembled a bit, slightly. Her skin-tight leather top and bottom, both dyed black, along with a brown belt, underneath her hood that she only moments ago sweated under now provided little comfort in the changing weather. She clutched her hood tightly near the neck with her free hand to combat the sudden chill in the air.
Her eyes darted as she traveled, as was her habit, though perhaps even more so now due to the potential danger lurking in the woods. As she looked about, her eyes happened to land upon another flower, or to be more accurate, a series of flowers.
It was an entire rose bush. Her head jerked a bit upon the sight. Scarlett did not realize just how unusual the forest was nor did she realize the uniqueness of its plantlife until she saw them.
The young woman reached in, carefully, and plucked one from the bush. She took another sniff. With a sigh, she thought to herself, what a pleasant smell. Scarlett carefully placed the flower in her hair just above her ear.
Another series of branch-cracking sounds once again emerged from the forest. This time it was accompanied by a low series of growls.
The young woman turned her head to the source. He had returned, the ominous shadow, with its everpresent stare.
He suddenly slinked away with the same reckless abandon as earlier. Now was not the time to strike
His eyes had met with hers for but a moment, though she did not notice this, he did. It did not instill fear, not at all. Rather, the creature felt apprehension. Not that he worried about what she could to do him. He just wanted to make sure she had no opportunity or ability to escape.
Scarlett continued to stare even after the metaphorical specter vanished. Her mind raced with thoughts of who that was and what were his or her desires. She went through all of her suppositions, some better than others, and eventually thought of a satisfactory answer.
Then, the young girl shrugged and proceeded with her trek. There was no need to worry. She was sure she could handle whatever surprises the forest had in store.
At some point, something caught her eye, an item to her right, a thing that belonged to the forest. Scarlett set her basket down for a moment and grabbed it with her right hand. Afterward, she transferred it to her left and resumed carrying the basket with her right. The young woman swung the stick she had found, which was about half her height and pointed at the end, from side-to-side playfully as she continued on the trail.
Sunlight dwindled further as she wandered deeper into the heart of the forest. The branches were thicker and more snarled. Finding a path to sneak through proved nigh-impossible for most of those rays of light.
Enough found their way through to provide a minimal amount of illumination but nothing more. True, Scarlett could still see but just barely. Several times she nearly collided with a tree.
Once more on her journey, a flower caught her eye and compelled her to take a short reprieve. The daisy was sitting near the edge of the woods on the right-hand side of the trail. It was wilted and trying desperately to survive, a feat proving to be impossible due to the current nature of the woods.
Perhaps feeling a bit of sympathy for the being, she placed her stick onto the ground and reached into her basket. Scarlett pulled out a canteen, opened it, and poured its contents all over the ground.
An excessive amount of water gushed from its mouth, so much that she nearly emptied her only container of the life-giving fluid.
If she intended to water the plant, she did a rather poor job. Almost none of the water found its intended location. Instead of hydrating the daisy, Scarlett created a muddy pile a few inches in front of the flower and left it as it was before begging for sustenance.
All of a sudden, what little sounds remained ceased. More branches broke. The looming shadow returned.
He hid in the shadows as he peered at the young woman from behind All he could see was the red hood. The creature was biding his time awaiting the perfect time to strike.
Not that Scarlett noticed. Something about the flower must have captured her attention. She placed her knees in the mud and leaned forward onto her elbows until her head was right next to the plant.
Minutes passed. Scarlett continued her activity seemingly oblivious to the beast’s presence.
Though he could not quite make out what she was doing from his perspective, it did not matter to him. What was important was that her attention was diverted elsewhere. This meant she was vulnerable. That is all he wanted or needed to know.
The shadow leaped from the woods with his right paw raised high while his left paw aimed. His hand came down with the ferocity of a thousand hammers landing at once.
Sickening cracking noises were emitted from the hood with every strike. The werewolf’s hands moved back and forth rapidly in succession making them seem like nothing more than a blur. Each attack was more fierce than the last. His talon-like claws ripped the cloth loudly apart.
One of these blows would have been fatal. Several of them would have turned anyone, especially a woman of that diminutive size, into ground beef.
Yet his bloodlust remained unsatiated. There was only one thing that could sate his depraved appetite.
More and more he continued the assault. It provided him great pleasure. He howled with satisfaction.
He was so engrossed with his attack that he did not notice it at first. There was something was off this time, something about this victim that differed from the rest. The creature was not particularly bright so it took him several dozen strikes and a few minutes to pass until he finally noticed.
His hands abruptly stopped. He tilted his head. After a minute or two of pondering, the beast finally realized what was missing.
The satisfying crunch was missing. His strikes did not have the usual satisfying impact when colliding with human flesh.
Most noticeable were the screams, the begging, and the cries of pain, or more accurately, the lack thereof. All of these were noticeably absent and made the attack less than satisfying. There wasn’t even a whimper.
For a moment, the beast thought that perhaps she was missing but then dismissed it as impossible. After all, where could she have gone? She must have died immediately and did not have time to shriek. How very disappointing.
The beast sunk his teeth into the hood. If she did not squeal in agony or terror, the least she could do is provide him an adequate meal.
His prey was much smaller than he expected and tasted funny. The cloth had a familiar flavor but the rest of her tasted odd. It was more like mud and bark than any human he had ever ground his teeth into.
He spat the contents onto the ground. Amongst the saliva ridden items was the red hood which was now mostly ribbons. A large segment did remain intact but the rest of it was merely bits and pieces.
Next to what remained of the hood was a broken stick. At the bottom, it had a large helping of mud.
Had the beast been more observant, he would have noticed that it was the one Scarlett was playing with earlier.
Eventually, it dawned on the creature. He had attacked an empty hood.
The werewolf frantically searched for where she was hidden. He looked deep into the woods to the right. Nobody was there. His attention turned back to where he had initially been. Then he looked on the other side in a dumbfounded gaze hoping to see where his quarry escaped.
His thoughts suddenly turned elsewhere.
A sharp pain in the werewolf’s kidneys brought the creature to his knees. He turned his head, though the pain made it difficult, to see the assailant. At the other end of the knife was the young woman no longer brandishing the red hood.
Blood spurted as the knife was removed. It served as a crimson polish on its silver blade. Scarlett plunged the knife again this time into the creature’s other kidney. She removed the blad only to stab him once again just below the creature’s neck.
Her quick hands penetrated the werewolf with a great multitude of blows, many of which landed on the creature’s spine. His back was sliced open with many long and deep slashes which caused critical wounds that gushed blood profusely.
The creature tried in vain to flee. It was too late to survive but perhaps he could escape further pain, or so he believed.
Instead, he exposed his front and side. Scarlett thrust her knife into the beast’s chest, arms, and legs along with his side.
The creature few anemic attempts to strike while he writhed on the ground in agony were dodged with ease. There was nothing the beast could do to stop the young woman’s brutal and relentless assault.
Those blows eventually took their toll. Blood poured from the beast like a spigot from his numerous lacerations. He was on his side as he stared at the young woman with accusing eyes. He gurgled pathetically as he struggled to breathe.
Feeling pity for her assailant, Scarlett walked over to him and placed the knife to his throat. He closed his eyes. The beast knew what was happening and was ready for the end. With a quick flick of her wrist, the creature was no more.
Scarlett exhaled a heavy sigh and landed on her posterior with a resonant thud. She gasped desperately to regain her breath. It had been quite the ordeal and she needed to recuperate.
After several minutes, when her composure had returned and her breath went back to normal, she rose, wiped the mud off her focusing especially on the knees and elbows, and walked to where she had hidden only moments before in the woods. It was near the muddy pile, where the creature initially attacked.
Moments before, when she bent down seemingly fascinated with the dying daisy, Scarlett had instead taken action which she hid inside her hood.
She had placed the stick between her ankles while bent over and rooted it in the mud. The tip was placed into a hook in her hood a tailor in a previous town sewed into it.
From behind it looked like she was still bent over as she crawled into the woods to hide from her stalker. When the beast attacked, she was long gone.
Had he looked a bit deeper he would have found her. Her plan relied on the creature’s lack of intelligence. It was a bit of a gamble, high percentage one in her favor though it was one that had deep repercussions had she been wrong. There was no need to think about that now, though. Everything worked out well in the end.
Scarlett picked up the remnants of her hood and sighed. It was mostly strips of cloth at this point. However, there was still a piece that could be saved. The young woman laughed when she noticed that the hook was still there.
She wrapped what was salvageable around her shoulders making it look as if she was wearing a small cap that barely reached the nape of her neck. Everything else was discarded.
She reached into the picnic basket still next to the muddy pile and retrieved from inside it a brown cloth that Scarlett used to clean her silver dagger. Her holster and canteen were also removed from the basket and placed onto her belt.
With one swift kick, she booted the basket into the forest. It was no longer needed. While the plan wasn’t a failure, it wasn’t the success she hoped it would be.
Acting as the ingénue did not produce the expected results. Perhaps it was something that could be used in a desperate situation, but otherwise, it wasn’t a viable prolonged strategy to use against her adversaries especially since remaining hidden was always a more practical option in such scenarios.
The woods would act as cover for the remainder of her trip. A town was nearby which was fortunate. She needed to resupply and determine whether a tailor was available to stitch together a new hood.
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