by | Feb 4, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Thirteen

Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter. Married well. Married up. Married into family of riches. Luck of right place, right time: out chopping wood, heard a scream and went running—all chest out and ax. Cut open wolf. Out came grandma and future wife, Red. My my, said she to her savior. He-man, he. He-man, mine.

She held on tight. She whispered praises for the way he swung the ax until flesh was all fractal and liquid red. He had thought it odd, her giggles at the wolf’s corpse. Odder still how she rubbed herself in wolf blood, tracked down wolf’s cubs and killed them too. For he had hated killing the wolf—but needs must and all. He put her reaction down to the moment, not understanding true evil.

Three boys and a girl later he realized the family dealt in the business of blood. A commodity like any other. A harvest like no other. A power like few others. And in his children he sees the evil grow. He now knew Red loved nothing more than that liquid red and her baths of blood. Kept her skin beautiful, smooth—his dick stiff too, of course—but he found it harder and harder to look her in the eye.

But he was still proud of their children. And he got on famously with his wife & her family. And since appearances mattered, they were more than impressed by him, by his performance with family business of violent extraction in the forest.

He was, compared to her, her family, even his children, much too kind. The kind of person they would normally tear from limb to limb, eat willingly, gleefully, and thresh for that liquid red.

He went looking for answers, looking past the propaganda folktale the family had sold as truth.

To hide fear, he dove into books of the family’s past. One moon, two moons, three moons fall.  He now knew that the wolf he had chopped up was exacting a righteous revenge for all Red and her family had done. And he, the woodcutter, all chest and ax, had stopped this moment of justice, and now the world was suffering for it. Yet he feared that if he dwelt on it, Red and her family would sniff his weakness, his hesitation, and end him.

Then one day Red came in from a blood bath all soaked in glory of victory. Our woodcutter felt a numbness come over him. So he grabbed an ax and left. Walked until strange trees and skies collapsed on him. Aching feet speaking to his soft life. He sat down. This was foolish. Why run? What now? What now?

So he marched off, looking for the wolves’ den. He found it. They remembered his smell. And sniffed Red’s evil stench on him. But he sighed a pensive melancholy so strong that they let him breathe enough to tell his tale.

He told them how he had married Red and only now had come to know her evil. They laughed. He asked to live with them, that he would make up for it somehow. Heads shook. He did them no good here in the forest. He had to go back.

Picture this cutter of wood, at the edge of the mansion’s garden, the entire family inside. He waits, sweating, heart in mouth until all lights go out.

Tiptoeing. He enters and swings. Cuts wood, cuts flesh, cuts marble, cuts nothing. His ax dull, he slips on the bloodied floor. Sleeps. The deed done, he walks back to the wolves who lick him clean, give him a throne.

The villagers up in arms, call for an ax murderer. The rumors fly. Morph. It’s a werewolf they now want. The woodsman awakes, all the wolves scared. He sees the city of torches. He knows why, though he doesn’t understand why—hadn’t Red harmed them, dragged their families into destitution? But, oh, he remembers Red’s silver tongue. He first thinks of running, then decides to face fate. Tells the wolves hide. Confronts the villagers. Talks. Slowly wins them over. They cheer him. Back in the mansion, he lives with only ghosts now. Only faces imprinted in memory popping up in his vision burning into his heart. The girl, especially, he remembers. The wolves howl outside, an ode to their king and the return of the forest. But for the woodsman that’s no longer his business. He drinks hard trying to numb his mind as he slips further into the grave.

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