Alice’s Red

By Emily Morrison

Alice walked along the path through the dark woods.

As she followed the trail home from school she tried to figure out what was wrong with her. She had felt off all day, with odd stabs of pain in strange places. Her friends had laughed and said they were just growing pains, but Alice didn’t think growing pains were meant to feel like your insides trying to become outsides. Or something trapped inside was trying to get out.

The snap of a twig caused Alice to pause and look up from her musings. Through the trees, Alice saw a large grey dog a few yards away.

No, not a dog. It was a wolf.

Its yellow eyes met hers and she momentarily forgot to breathe, waiting to see what the animal would do. After a tense moment, the wolf padded away until Alice could no longer see it. She let out an explosive sigh, forcing herself to breathe normally again. A chill wind sent a whole new shiver down her spine as she continued along the path. Alice pulled the red hood of her jumper over her head to cover her ears. She couldn’t do anything to help the icy feeling on her nose, but at least she could keep her ears warm.

Alice arrived home without seeing the wolf again, but she had no doubt it wasn’t far off. Inside, her mother was unpacking groceries in the kitchen.

‘Hey hun,’ her mother said.

‘Hey mum,’ said Alice, tossing her backpack next to the door. ‘You need to stop leaving food out for those wolves. I saw one on my way home this afternoon. One of these days they’re going to eat me and you’ll never know until I’ve been missing for a week and they find my femur sticking out of a pile of leaves.’

Her mother laughed and hefted a bag of rice into the pantry. ‘That’s very specific.’

‘It’s what will happen if you keep feeding them.’

‘That’s why I feed them. So that by the time they see you their bellies are already full.’

Alice rolled her eyes. ‘Seriously mum. It’s not safe.’

‘Too late now,’ she said, ‘they’ve already accepted me as their pack leader. Owooh!’

Alice realised there was no point in trying to convince her mother not to leave food out, she only listened to herself anyway. Alice thought she would need to start carrying a large stick to and from school from now on.

Instead of arguing, Alice moved to the pantry with her hand on her stomach. She grabbed the shoebox they used as a medicine box and searched for the new pack of Advil they got last week.

‘Headache?’ her mother asked.

Alice shook her head, ‘growing pains.’

Her mother watched Alice take a glass under the tap and then frown at the pills—which were usually blue—in her hand. Her mother reacted to the new red colour with an almost identical face. Alice shrugged and swallowed the red pills with a large gulp of water.

That night Alice hardly slept and when she did her dreams were nightmares filled with wolves and blood. Lots of blood. And no matter what Alice did, the blood wouldn’t wash off her skin. It was on her hands and her face, in her mouth, but she couldn’t wash it off. It remained like a permanent stain. A mark of what she was and what she had become. Alice looked down at her hands again and saw long claws and fur on her knuckles. She let out a scream but it sounded more like a howl. She continued to howl until blood ran from her mouth like a fountain.

Alice woke to find herself in her bed. It was morning, still early, for the sun appeared to have only recently risen. She reached over for her phone on the nightstand, stopping to reluctantly look at her hand, still shaken from the nightmare. It was her hand. Smooth skin and not a claw in sight. Then she noticed a mark and froze. She pulled her arm back and examined it. It was red, just like the blood in her dreams, only it was only a small smear, not enough to be a second skin. She looked closer. It was blood. Alice looked down at her sheets and screamed. Her bed was covered in blood.

Her mother came running in a moment later, looking ready to face off with an attacker. When she saw the blood on the sheets and the tears on Alice’s face she gave a sympathetic smile. Alice’s mother moved to the side of the bed and sat down next to her. She rubbed Alice’s leg in a soothing motion through the stained sheets, her unnaturally long nails reminding Alice of claws.

‘It’s alright, Red. It’s natural,’ she said, ‘I reacted the same when it happened to me. I was a bit older, though. I thought I had more time to prepare you, but it’s happened now!’ Her mother’s smile broadened though there were tears in her eyes. ‘Don’t worry, it only comes once a month—maybe twice. But that’s only once in a blue moon.’

Alice felt fresh tears and horror well up inside her. In the distance, she thought she heard a wolf howl. She looked to her mother for help, but there was only pride on her mother’s face as she said, ‘welcome to the pack.’


Image by aykut aydoğdu


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