Scarlet woman

Thin tendrils of mist writhe over the gently lapping water and I stand on the dock, waiting. In my blood, I can feel the thrum of the waiting evening, the dark things uncoiling in the grey, moving unseen in the falling night. Beside me, my malamute Loupe watched, his sharp blue eyes on the shifting around us.

The ferry chugs toward me, drawn by the scarlet allure of my hood, the single point of brightness in the fog. A quiet and drawn young man holds the boat as I step on, and I make small talk as we cross. The flickering of the light on the water gives the youthful face a gravity and solemnity as he talks sparingly. I can see what sort of man he would become in a snapshot.

My footsteps on the boardwalk are a hollow sort of sound, lonely, until my companion’s crisp  scrapes sound beside me. We take a break at a bar, where I nurse a vanilla vodka on the rocks, crisp and clear on my palate, the sweetness my balm to the workings of the world.

I watch a couple inside, intimacy drawing them together over the cliche flickering candle, a warmth and relaxation in their faces evident from what I assume is the wine in those glasses. Loupe’s dark-rimmed ears flick back and forth, his black nose twitching. I rubbed him with my foot; I could feel it too.

Leaving my tumbler empty, I walk. We cross the old tram tracks, over the cobbled streets, wandering along deserted shopping strips. The silence fills the cracks here; it is preternatural and wrong, out of place even on a lonely night like this.

Slipping out of the darkness a girl, her dark head down, wanders into the space. She seems not to notice the stillness, the emptiness. Behind her, it rises, its form neither masculine or feminine, much like the mist surrounding the island. The girl walks on, heeding neither me nor what stalks her. From an alley I watch as it gathers, coalescing, congealing, into a form like a human.

Long ago one of my forebears had been told to watch for the wolf, but it was never the wolf that was the trouble. Oh, the stories they tell all involve the wolf now. People prefer not to be reminded of what waited in the dark, what the small parts of our brain are afraid of when we can not see. The wolves are not that to be feared; treasured companions and keepers.

With a soft rustle of fabric, the girl pass me by, the blue light picking up the soft features of her face. A still forming hand reaches, and the ragged flash of glacier blue, sharp and hungry through the eons.

Charging with energy, my axe, that slid so well and familiar into my palm, lit the alley with silvery light. My nemesis turns a head as they glide past, and I see myself reflected, red coated and glowing, Loupe growling softly beside me.

I step into the cobbled alleyway, sounds lost in the vacuum that the fey brings. Justice sings in my blood, coursing through my limbs. It turns from its prey to face me, gashes for eyes glowing in the darkness.

“Little guardian,” in a voice like age coiling serpentine in the air, “you are far from home and all alone.”

“Not as far as you, fey, and not as hungry.”

It laughs, crisp and cold, with a mouth with the blackness and emptiness of space, as the expected face starts to devolve. “What will you do? Scratch me? You’re just a little girl. I am as old as time, older than your ancestors.”

“You’ve lived far too long then,” I heft my axe. “You need to be released back into the stars.”

It gathers and rushes at me, its edges a thousand slivers of glass. I may have a chance while it is still in a humanoid form. It limits its capabilities and I know where it will be hurt. Swirling out of the way, my cloak takes most of the damage, but a sliver slides cold against a cheek and my blood trickles warm against the cold of my skin.

The pike at the end of my axe has gashed it, a tar-like substance oozes from its malformed leg. With a hiss, it rushes again, icicles pelting through the air at me. A weave of garment lighter than mail but similar in strengths knocks aside the small ones that escape the pendulum of my axe but the bruises flower against my skin beneath. I step forward slow, wind gusting and howling. A well timed one-handed swipe and the body is slipping sideways. A growl of triumph and my companion, treading in my footsteps, shielded by my body, launches forward, his teeth bright daggers in the dark.

There is the sound like the ripping of wet sheets and with a judicious swing, crunching glass. Collapsing downward, a sail released and without the wind, it falls. Black goo bubbles and steams, burning up to nothing, released from existence.

My axe slides deftly beneath my coat, onto my back, and the wolf spits out the chunks he can. I acknowledge his service by kneeling, bending my head to his, and scratching the scruff of his neck.

“Why do they always say just a little girl?” I muse as we walk, the silence disappearing around us. “Do they not know what a girl can do?”

Loupe whines in what feels like sympathy.

I smile down at him. “Clearly, they haven’t met enough little girls.”

We walk into the night, side by side, the wolf and I.

4 thoughts on “Scarlet woman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *