art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Robert E. Stutts
***Editor's Note: Adult fairytale. Adult themes.***
Even in high summer, paths through these woods are difficult to find, let alone follow, overrun as they are with brambles and briars and bracken. But in summer there is the sun above you to warm your head, and the green of trees to cheer your heart.
The winter is worse, of course, for winter lacks any kindness at all.
Nonetheless it is into the winter woods you go, following your brother, who has failed to protect you as he promised. Your parents have abandoned their children to the mercy of a forest that has no mercy, to keep their hands clean of your blood even as they fill their bellies with your portions, meager as those will be. Days have passed now, and you hope they choke on whatever crumb they sup on. If you had the means, you would have your revenge on them both.
But now you are hungry, and tired, and your eyes begin to water at the thought of a warm bed, or any bed. The night sounds terrify you, and every rustle in the brush is a wolf with meat on his mind. You will not escape a wolf's hunger; your own cannot match his. Or can it?