I padded the familiar path,
slipping down the dry throat
of the woods,
where the trees drink the light
and spit it back out in apple-coloured dapples.
Although the bracken and bark knew the bite
of my feet like the back of a hand,
my skin still stippled into pearls
of sweat, salting my neck.
Beneath the cerise,
creased silk of my hood
my hair spooled out
and haltered my neck like a noose
of finely spun gold, threaded
down to my heels and whorled
out in reels on the floor;
I’d grown it until it could concertina
from the tallest tower.
I’d left whole loaves of breadcrumbs
dandruffing the ground,
watching birds perched to swoop down.
I’d lost a slipper, I’d ripped the ruby
flesh from Braeburns and Royal Russets,
fingertips swollen with fruitless,
sleepless spinning wheel pricks.
Each month at full moon I’d come
and comb the scalp
of the wood.
I’d play the part,
eyes saucering the sepia-
stained heart of the forest, shivers volting
through my veins.
I was pure and white enough
to sit in the egg-cup of the moon
I’d heard that’s what they wanted;
– and like every girl, I wanted a fairytale ending.
Beneath the bending stems of light
I’d lie, back arched, watching the skin
of the sky freckle to stars, each creamy fibre
of my flesh lusting for the hot,
thick scent of red,
fur-lipped breath, the salty must
of blood-parched tongues.
I’d run my fingers through the hair
of fallen ferns, and branches broken like femurs,
imagining the charcoal
spinules of pelt grazing my skin,
the cleave of teeth tearing my dress and staining
me from the outside in.
But the wolves never came.
That night, something about the sky
the moon bathed in rouge,
and the clouds gaped like a hungry jaw,
the wind gnarled and pawed
at my cloaked shoulders and skirt
with briny, saline thirst.
It was then that I heard the balmy notes
of song from the perfect pink throat
of a girl lost, alone.
I slipped my feet from my shoes,
unrolled slivers of stockings
and stole soundlessly
through the damp worm-wound earth
until I found her
naked in a pool of milk-spilled moonlight,
limbs quivering, voice faltering
as she caught faint, soft snarls;
through a veil of curls I could discern
the honeycombed spire of her spine,
imagining how, higher, there would be
the dry-sweet flesh of her neck,
how her lips would be an unopened bud,
pink and plump with fear.
I pulsed, veins swelling and searing my skin,
feeling the rip and tear
of hunger within –
my breath unravelled into coarse, panting
and my nails itched to scratch,
to shred, to scrape the snow-soft skin
from her back,
her breasts, the nape of
My ferine mane twisted and tangled
as my body mangled and burned to bite –
I clutched, seared, scorched the ground,
salivating and sniffing her out,
haemorrhaged to the floor,
splashed red as burst berries;
I snapped and snatched at her bare
glass-blown throat, pressing her under
a thick muzzle of black coat.
I felt the hank and torsion of my snout,
and thick ropes of hair surge out –
biting and choking –
When I woke
scarlet mouth frayed,
gasping on all fours, she was gone,
I heard the slaked howl of the moon overhead,
curled up and licked my paws.
Illustrator: Karolina Szymkiewicz
Writer: Rebecca Ross