Friday 12 October 2012

'Red Robin' by Michael Stuart Lamb

This is her forest she tells herself as she advances, keeping her eye on the huge black wolf. The arrow is knocked on the bow, ready. Today she hunts the beast. The alpha is unnatural, too large to believe. Careful as she is, it’s not until the last second that Robin hears the approaching sounds of the encircling pack. Startled, she lets the shot fly wide as a howl rises into the dark woods like a sonic trail of smoke. Terrified, she flees.
The damp thicket snaps around her as she crashes through the forest. The wolves giving chase silently. Only the snapping of branches beneath her heavy steps is heard over the low grunting and of the pursuing wolf pack. She draws another arrow from the quiver as soon as she enters a clearing, knocking it as she moves before spinning, releasing the string and letting the arrow fly. It sails through the air, hitting one of the wolves in the foreleg. Knocking another arrow to the bow she continues to sprint frantically for the river. She can’t outrun them for long and she knows it, the rapids are the only chance she has.
            The den-mother hunts with the pack, larger than any of the others. Robin can feel her eyes upon her as the pair sprint in parallel through the thick woodlands. The other wolves are a threat but it’s the grey she-wolf that robin wants the most. The arrow flies wide, but the huntress has more. She doesn’t fire at the den-mother a second time; the big wolf is too fast, too far. Continuing to flee she fires only to keep the chasing wolves at bay until at last, she sees the river. The wolves are practically biting now, snapping at her heels as she drops the bow, reaching around her back for the felling hatchet given to her so long ago. It strikes a wolf in the jaw, sharp enough to cut and heavy enough to drag the bone behind it. Slowly, she backs towards the river warily weaving with the axe in a vain attempt to keep the pack at bay. They form around her almost as one, the semi-circular formation breaking only slightly in the middle to allow their leader pride of place.
            The old grey wolf snarls as she leaps, diving for Robin’s throat. The axe caves into the bitch’s side, parting flesh as they crash into the raging waters but the wolf is too strong for the girl and struggling under the pressure she screams. Robin inhales bloody water as she descends into the depths, scarlet blood spreading from the violent embrace. She draws the dead woodsman’s hatchet from the flesh of the wolf desperately as strong, firm jaws tighten around her collarbone and she drives it into the graylings’ throat with both palms. Slowly the girl bleeds, but the wolf will die first. She is Robin of the red hood and her forest will be made safe.

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