This piece was originally published in the anthology “Strangely Ever After” by the Pacific Review. It was filled with lovely stories and art about fairy tales that did not quite end happily ever after.
Teeth, Nails and Pain
By Aubrey Lyn Jeppson
I knew he was a wolf when I met him. The hunger in his eyes was evident, the gleam of his sharp teeth should have frightened me, but it did not. It drew me in, and even though I had heard a thousand times that those teeth would tear me to bits, I ignored it.
I wanted the adventure and the danger, and I thought I could teach him how to be a man. If I was kind enough, sweet enough, gentle enough, surely he would not simply want to devour me like he had all the other girls.
At first I thought I had been successful, that I had tamed the wolf. He was sweet, protective, and careful not to cut my delicate flesh with his sharp claws.
When other predators would vie for my attention he would stare them down, a low threatening growl coming from his throat. And they would run. Oh how they would run. I saw this as a testament of the wolf’s love for me, that he would keep me so safe from those that might take me away from him.
His true nature took months to reappear and even then it crept back like a slow crawling vine, starting at my ankles and then twisting upwards, winding around me. I loved him then, a foolish devotion. I tried to love him more, to be more obedient, to bend to his devious ways in a hope that I could again change his nature.
He no longer meant to protect me, but keep me as his territory, his possession. I did not realize that the wolf had succeeded in what he had intended all along, he had captured his prey, and caged me, by convincing me to walk willing into his trap.
I tried to escape, to claw my way free of the bars he had put around me. To slip between those bars and find my way out of them. There were times I nearly found my freedom and then I would hear his whispers. Pleas of love and devotion and dedication. Threats that no one would want a girl who had been caged, no one would want a girl who loved wolves. Words that would twist my insides until I locked myself inside again.
The color seeped from my cheeks, the light in my eyes began to dim. My cloak which had once been the fiercest red was now grey and tattered. At first I did not noticed my own transformation, just the loss of what I had once been. Though the cage he had coaxed me into took my vibrancy, it reminded me of what was left behind it. Teeth, nails and pain.
My teeth had grown sharp, and my nails looked more like claws, and the pain gave me reason to use them both. Though others had likely died in the cage, or lost their way…I had become a wolf. I had become like him, and I knew that was how I would escape this cage.
This time I did not slid between the bars, my escape was not some quiet, meek act. I held the lock of the cage in my hands, and crushed it between my palms. Even if his words swayed me, I could not again be held within that prison. And the words did come.
At first tender, loving words. Promises that we would be together forever, and face the world as wolves at each others side. And then the low growl of anger, of possession. The reminder that no one would love the wolf I had become, no one could care for the thing he had created.
He was mistaken about that. Not that no one could love what he had created, but that his hands hand been the ones to transform me into a wolf. I had been a wolf all along, somewhere deep inside. When I had required the strength, the teeth, the nails, and had the pain to feed that predator within, it was made manifest. Before he could continue his tirade, his pleading, I acted on instinct.
I gobbled him up.
Perhaps little girls should not fear the forest or the wolves at all, for pain can transform them into something just as deadly.
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