Jo pulled the red hoodie over her head. She swept her hair away from her face and tied it behind her neck. Gran was a stickler for always looking your best, but this late on Tuesday night casual would have to do. Besides, old ladies living by themselves in the woods who didn’t bother to answer their phones really didn’t get a say, did they?
For the thousandth time Jo considered dragging Gran out of the cabin and putting her in a home. Deep down she knew she’d never do it. Gran would die in that heap of splintering boards.
She pulled the hood up over her head and left her apartment. Resigned to the long ride out into the middle of nowhere, she caught a bus. She tried calling a few more times on the way. Sometimes Gran couldn’t make it to the phone quickly so Jo let it ring twenty, maybe thirty times.
If she was honest, she was a little worried. Gran had been increasingly moody during their weekly chats, to the point of violent outbursts ending with Gran slamming down her old analog phone with a choked half-ring.
Once she got off the bus she had to navigate a handful of dimly lit suburban streets before turning onto the path that led to Gran’s house. On either side of the narrow passage, moss-covered trees crowded her. Once, she’d been convinced the trees would grab her with skeletal fingers and drag her into the woods. The branches still gave her a bit of a shiver when they snagged on her clothes as she brushed by.
Gran’s cabin sat dark amid ancient trees that never seemed to bear leaves. Jo strained to listen, but she only heard crickets and an owl hooting somewhere nearby. She stepped onto the sloped porch and reached for the doorknob. The metal knob was icy cold. She suddenly felt like going out into the woods alone at night wasn’t the best idea. But she was already here, wasn’t she?
No answer came as the creaking door swung open. Moonlight filtered into the one-room cabin, revealing a pattern of booted footprints in the dust. Gran didn’t have feet anywhere near that size.
Light flared inside the cabin, making Jo instinctively lift her hand to shield her eyes. She blinked a few times, but that didn’t help her see past the glaring beam.
“Not what I expected,” a low voice drawled.
“Excuse me? What are you doing in my grandmother’s cabin? Where is she?”
A dismissive snort came from behind the light. “Kid, there ain’t no way the thing inhabiting this cabin is your grandma.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve known her my whole life.”
“Be that as it may, the thing living here didn’t give birth to your ma or your pa.”
Jo stood taller, staring down the man holding the light. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business. Ever heard of adoption?”
“The only way this thing adopted you is if it was planning to eat you later.”
Jo swallowed and tried to get a hold of her rising sense of panic. “Listen, I don’t know what people around here have been saying, but she’d never hurt anyone.”
“No? Then what the hell is that?” The flashlight panned to one corner of the cabin. A pile of bones slumped against the wall. Some of them still had rotting flesh clinging to them.
She scanned the mess and tried to keep a hold of her late-night truck stop dinner. “She’s a kook, okay? Those are from deer. She does some art crap with the bones and hide.”
“Right.” He paused for a few seconds before turning the flashlight back in Jo’s direction, but didn’t shine it into her face as he had before. “Get out of here kid, and don’t come back.”
“You seriously think my Gran is some kind of serial killer? She can barely walk.”
“I think she’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than that.” In the dark interior Jo barely made out that the man rested a shotgun across his legs as he shifted in his seat. “She’s a werewolf.”
Jo burst out laughing. “You think that crazy old lady is a werewolf?”
“I saw signs out in the woods—huge paw prints, bigger than anything around here. When she comes back from her latest hunt I’m going to pump her so full of silver she’ll wish she’d never been born.”
The threat brought Jo’s laughter to an abrupt end. “You’re a lunatic and I’m calling the cops.”
There was a click as he primed his shotgun. “Sorry, kid. I can’t let you do that. Come in here and we’ll wait together.”
Jo raised her hands and moved slowly into the cabin. “This is a mistake. She’s innocent.” She curled her fingers and tried to keep her nerves from getting the best of her.
“You’ve been snowed by that bitch.”
She took another two steps, closing the distance between them. “You’re the one who’s been fooled.”
The man chuckled. “How so?”
“A classic bait and switch.” Jo rushed forward, shoving the shotgun out of the way as she descended on the hunter and tore out his throat. Blood dripped down her chin, warm and fragrant. The violence brought on the agony of the change and she howled.
A few minutes later, Gran stepped into the cabin, arms laden with twigs and leaves. “What have you done?” The kindly old woman sounded more tired than angry.
“What I had to.” Jo licked the congealing blood from her muzzle and dove in for another bite.
Red by Coral Moore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.