The Wolf and I
by Roberto Sanhueza
I think it’s a waste of time sending food to Grandma; she must be dead by now. I mean it’s been two weeks since we last herd from her and there’s a full moon tonight. Going to see her is not only stupid, it’s also suicidal.
Grandma has always been a stubborn old hag. She’s been living alone in that cabin in the middle of Murkywoods since Grampa passed away some years ago. She’s managed all right so far but she’s never been out of contact for so long.
So mother said somebody had to go and check out on her. Somebody means me of course, little old Red. I’m the disposable one.
I asked Momma “Why can’t Helga go and take Grandma’s food?”
She was all sweetness but never the less adamant. “You know, Red, dear, your elder sister is engaged to marry Prince Rupert next fall. We can’t expose her to crossing the forest and getting caught by a werewolf, can we?”
And that was that. Red isn’t engaged to any prince and she won’t embarrass the family if she gets caught by a werewolf while visiting Granny.
Werewolves. They only come out on full moon and that’s once a month. We could wait a couple of days until full moon is over but Momma says it might be too late by then.
I think it’s too late already, but I can’t say that to Momma. I believe she’s just paying all her guilty feeling over her own momma through me.
Another way around it would be go over at Grandma’s by daylight. Werewolves don’t go around under daylight. Trouble is, we vampires can’t, either, so it’s got to be at night and it’s got to be tonight.
I started my way as soon as I got ready. Father called me aside to give me some last minute advice: “Red, dear daughter. You know I can’t oppose your mother on this matter. Vampire matriarchy forces me to string along, but I want you to know I’d much rather have you back in one piece, even if that means leaving the old hag to rot in her cabin in the woods.”
That touched me. I know I’ve always been Dad’s favorite daughter, to Helga’s chagrin.
“Don’t worry Daddy dear. It’s not as I wasn’t prepared. I’m wearing my body armor beneath my riding hood and I have a silver-bullets gun inside my basket, together with an actinic light flare. Should old wolfie show up I’d give ’im some sunlight to tan his hide.”
Seeing Dad’s expression I hastily added, “I know actinic is dangerous to me, too, but I have my dark glasses and in body armor I’m pretty safe, Daddy.”
The castle door shut behind me with an ominous clang. Damn Momma and her pseudo-democratic ideas. Couldn’t she have sent one of the servants?
Murkywoods spread in front of me. Trees so close by you could hardly walk through them, let alone leaving some moonlight through. No wonder they called them murky. I found the path to Grandma’s cabin and started walking. I didn’t bother to try stealth. I knew I couldn’t fool a werewolf if one was around.
Half an hour later I was suffocating inside my armor but I hadn’t seen nor heard a soul in my walk. The forest was extraordinarily quiet tonight and that gave me the creeps. I’m more used to scaring at night than being scared.
I arrived in the cabin dead at midnight and still no werewolf. That was a relief.
I opened the door with the key Momma had given me and went in. Everything was quiet inside and all the lights were out.
That’s when I heard Granny’s voice coming from the bedroom. She sounded weak and ill but still it was a vast relief to hear her. She was alive after all.
“Who... who’s there?”
“Granny! It’s I, Red your granddaughter! I brought your hemoglobin!.”
“Red! Honey you risked your life to come and help your old Granny.”
I went into the bedroom and there she was, lying inside her coffin, obviously too weak to come out of it.
I saw her old frail carcass of a body. She was even paler than usual for an old vampire, and there were dark circles around her eyes.
“Granny, Granny! We’ve been worried sick about you! What happened to you? You’ve been ill?”
“Ill indeed, my child. Come over here and let me see you up close. My, you’ve grown!”
I came closer to the coffin and the closer I got to Granny the more ill at ease I felt. Something was wrong about Granny.
“Mother sent your favorite hemoglobin,” I said as I casually opened my basket. “What is it you’ve got, Granny? Is it the retrovirus strain again?”
“That must be it, child. I feel so weak all over. But do come here to give your old Granny a hug.” “Vampires are immune to retrovirus, you filthy shape-shifting werewolf!” I said as I pulled the flare gun out.
“Granny” roared and bellowed as she jumped out of the coffin, changing shape as she came at me.
The wild and enormous werewolf loomed over me, spit drooling out of his maws and fangs growing ever so big as the flare went out. Every thing seemed to freeze in the intense white light and in spite of my dark glasses and body armor I felt every one of those actinic rays trying to reach my skin.
Old wolfie felt them too and much more so I could add. He yelled like he was being roasted alive, and quite probably he was, too. He shriveled and turned black all over, hair sizzling as it burned and turned to ashes.
He shrieked too but not for long. When the flare burned out so did the werewolf.
Slowly the blinking lights behind my eyes subsided and I could see again. There was not much left of wolfie by then, just some ashes on the floor by the coffin.
I stopped shaking too and then I noticed the banging inside Granny’s broom closet. I got my hand inside the basket again and got the silver-bullets gun ready.
“Who’s there?” I asked.
“Who are you out there?” came the weak answer.
Granny! She was alive after all. But was she really? I wanted no more surprises.
“It’s Red, Granny! Is it really you there?”
Her croaking laughter was unmistakable, it was her all right.
“I think it’s me, honey. I’m coming out of this damn closet if you can prove to me you are not a stinky, shape-shifting werewolf.”
It was my turn to laugh. “I’ve got here your favorite hemoglobin Granny, type AB.”
“Proof enough, I’m coming out.”
The closet door opened and out came Granny. She was weak but whole. I really hugged her this time and led her to her coffin, careful not stain my shoes with wolfie’s ashes.
It turned out she had been able to lock herself inside the thick-walled closet as the werewolf came in, in spite of her illness. That had been not long before I came in.
I put her inside her coffin and brought in the visitor’s coffin from the next room to keep her company.
“You’re going to sleep now Granny. Dawn will be here any time now, and I’m sleeping by you today and tonight I’m taking you to the castle. I won’t take no for an answer.”
She smiled but didn’t object, she knew when to give in.
I was closing the lid of my coffin and I could see the first grays of dawn coming from the window when Granny asked.
“How did you know it wasn’t me, Red?”
“You were too sweet on me, Granny. You’re a tough old bitch, if you know what I mean.”
“I hate you” she said, but she was laughing.
Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author