Little Red Riding Hood's Travel Companion...is the Wolf!?
“Conri, wake up!”
The boy rubbed his eyes as he was abruptly awakened from his sleep.
“Conri, get up! We got to go!”
“M-mom? What's going on?” He mumbled as he tries to find his footing.
“The village is in danger. We have to leave now!” The woman said to the boy as she grabbed his hand and made way down the stairs. The boy could feel the trembling in his mother’s hand.
At the base of the stairs were two wolves sitting side by side, one was considerably larger than the other. They had fur as black as coal with faint white patterns that run along their bodies. Their azure blue eyes followed the two humans as they hurried down the stairs.
Faint screams and cries echoed from a distance, catching the attention of the boy and drawing his gaze towards the window where light from flames illuminate the moonless night sky.
“What’s going on? Where's dad?”
“He is helping to put out the fire. Take Aspen and run into the woods.” The mother told the boy as she passed him a sack.
“But what about you mom?”
His eyes started to glimmer as he asked, showing reflections of a fiery night sky on them.
“I'll catch up to you soon, I'm going to help your father.” She said, all the while restlessly looking around.
She quickly gave the boy a hug and a kiss before nudging him to move, but the boy tightens his embrace around her.
The smaller wolf promptly picked the boy up and threw him on its back, separating the boy’s desperate grip on his mother. The smaller wolf gave the other wolf a swift gaze before turning its back and ran towards the woods. Tears poured from the boy’s eyes, but they were quickly carried away by the oncoming wind before they even had a chance to reach his chin.
Looking behind, all the boy could see was the silhouette his mother and the other wolf. Their figures gradually became smaller until they were out of sight.
“Mom…Dad…” The boy cried softly.
He could tell that the situation back at the village was not as simple as a mere fire. Be it in the words between the humans or the gaze between the wolves, the goodbyes that were exchanged carried no hopeful tones—implying a parting with no chance of reunion in the future.
While the boy was lost in thought, a whistling sound rushed past the boy’s ears.
Several more followed soon after. The wolf instinctively started to weave between the trees in the hopes that they will have a harder time hitting them.
“There’s one more running away, do not let it escape!” A hoarse voice shouted from behind.
Turning his head around, he saw glimpses of flames seemingly floating among the trees. The faint light from the flames vaguely outlined the faces of several cloaked men, however something green and shiny around their necks kept him from focusing on their faces.
The wolf continued to run as hard as it could, ignoring everything else with only one focus in mind—to protect the boy at all cost even at the expense of its own well-being.
Slowly, the sounds of men shouting faded as they managed to shake their pursuers.
“Aspen, we did it!”
His relieved face was quickly replaced with the complete opposite.
As the boy got down from the wolf, he felt something stuck to the side. He brought his hands in front of his face and saw that it was stained in blood.
The wolf slowly lowered itself before tipping over to its side, blood dripping from its mouth.
“Aspen! N...no...” His voice shivered. “Not you too...I can't lose anyone else...”
The wolf attempted to move its body towards the boy, but could only muster enough strength to turn its head to look at the boy. The boy’s lips began to tremble as he tried to speak.
“Aspen, that's enough... You've done enough...”
He noticed the wolf’s breathing gradually weakened as he muttered those words.
“You can rest now. I'm going to protect you this time. So please-”
The wolf lied motionless on the ground; it's breathing ceased.
“Don't leave me alo—” Overwhelmed by frantic hiccups, he was unable to finish his sentence.
Tears mimicking endless rain showered over the wolf’s body. His hands firmly holding onto its fur, so tightly that as though the fur could be pulled out at any moment.
Suddenly, a voice pierced his stream of frenzied thoughts.
“Boy, do not fret. You have to live on. As long as you do not give up, you will not be truly alone.”
The voice belonged to no one that he knew, yet somehow made the boy feel at ease despite the situation he is in.
“Your companion has chosen, you must choose as well. Now, what shall it be?”