It would be greatly to your advantage if you read the first three parts (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3) of this story before continuing on. If you have, then congratulations! You’ve reached the final part of “Shadow Wolf.”
“Shadow Wolf” is based on a writing prompt posted by Intuitive Writing Guide:
“What big teeth you have, Grandmother!”
“All the better to––”
“Eat me with?”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”
“Yeahhh, I’m not sure why you thought that would work.”~ Mirriam Neal
Now, let’s see how the story ends!
My head bumps into an unseen barrier. Gasping, I push against it with all my strength, which isn’t much. “Marielle!” I cry.
Then the barrier shifts. I push harder, my wings straining. A piece of sky starts to show––if one could call it that. It’s dark but not as dark as the inside of this box.
Am I in the shoebox?
With a heave, I throw off the lid and fly out. My head smacks against something hard. Yelping, I float lower. So much confinement! Sure enough, in the dim light, I can just make out the shoebox.
I’m in her world! But where am I? And where is Marielle?
I peer around the small expanse, limited by the hard substance above my head. To my right is a faint light. Rubbing my head, I fly toward it and meet a cloud of something gray and fuzzy. Shrieking, I try to brush it away, but it clings to my dress. At least it doesn’t seem malevolent, just . . . disgusting.
I continue scraping it away the best I can and glance around. More gray fuzz lingers to my left, but I can easily avoid that. My fingers brush something hard on my dress, and I yank on it unsuccessfully, then realize it’s the anchor. I gently finger the glowing green strand. I’ll come back to you, Lysander.
Oh, why am I delaying? Marielle needs me! I can almost hear her voice crying my name.
I hurry across the floor and out from underneath the limiting expanse. Gray light washes over me, faintly coming from a large square on one of the walls. This time, the ceiling is much higher, soaring high over my head, but still I’m trapped. I hate walls.
Shivering, I turn to the contraption that had trapped me with its low ceiling. It’s as long as Marielle and almost her height, so large and foreign, with strange woolen garments strewn over it and a large, puffy looking object near the wall.
“Marielle?” I call softly. “Are you here?”
Nothing. Just a strange, empty expanse––well, I suppose it isn’t actually empty. It’s filled with strange things, like those animal-esque creatures on the bed, pinning me with their glassy eyes! I hold out my hands, waiting for a threat, but they don’t move. Horror thrills through me. Did Marielle turn animals into inanimate objects?
No, of course not. Surely it’s just a strange human tradition to have fake, glassy-eyed animals in their abodes.
Shivering, I fly away from the bed, trying to figure out how to get out of this expanse, but I’m trapped on all sides. My chest tightens. I have to find her!
I know I’m not her caretaker. She has humans for that. And I’m glad she’s with her own people. But I can’t help but miss her. Looking after her . . . well . . . it gives me purpose, I suppose.
Why can’t she live in Endellion with us? We wouldn’t let her get hurt. We would give her the most wonderful life she could ever live. Yet she still chooses to go back to this dark, dreary place?
My eye catches on an enormous rectangle stretching all the way to the ceiling. Something golden and round is attached to it, and . . . a faint ray of light emits from the crack at the bottom.
I fly up to the strange golden object and press glowing blue hands against it. The object twists and lets the rectangle swing back toward me.
I’m coming, Marielle! I zip through the opening and find myself in a walled expanse with only one way through––forward. Other rectangles are on my left and right––portals leading to other spaces? I press my ear to one but hear nothing, so I hurry on.
Voices, loud and urgent, come from the end of the walled expanse in front of me.
“You should’ve stopped her!” A feminine voice.
“I didn’t know she would run into the door!” Now a masculine voice. “She was just playing!”
“Look where that got her!” A sob breaks the human female’s voice.
Now the side walls end. Wishing for once I wasn’t covered in sparkles, I peek around the corner. Two humans––and I thought Marielle was enormous!––stand over a prone body. A body all too familiar.
The breath leaves my lungs. It takes all my self control not to rush over or burst into sobs or do anything that would reveal my presence. Marielle! Am I too late?
“Now our sweet Marigold is going to the hospital!” the female cries.
The hospital? Is that where they bury bodies or where they heal them? I wish Marielle had told us more about the human world.
All I know is that I need to reach Marielle’s body and try to heal her. But I can’t while her parents are there. How can I get them away?
With a sharp intake of breath, I thrust my hand toward one of the large rectangles to my right. It shudders. The humans both turn to face it.
“Do you think that was the ambulance?” the male asks.
“We would’ve heard the sirens.” The female’s voice spikes. “They need to get here sooner! My sweet Marigold is dying!”
So she’s still alive! But I still don’t know how to make the other humans go away. Marielle needs me! Desperate, I throw magic at the rectangle again.
“Maybe it is them.” The male walks over and opens it using the golden circle, then leans outside. While the female is watching him, I flit toward Marielle and gaze at her pale face, the sweaty golden curls. Oh no.
“No one’s there,” the male says. There’s a slamming sound. I hide in the folds of Marielle’s clothing. I hope they don’t notice the thin, faintly glowing green cord extending all the way back to the shoebox.
“Like I said. It was probably just the wind.” The female pauses. I can almost taste the tension in the air. “I––I just hate seeing her like this.”
“Me too,” the male says quietly.
I feel that way too.
The female collapses in the male’s arms. Neither are looking at Marielle. I hover over her face and press my hand to her enormous, swollen forehead. Blue magic seeps from my fingers into her head and through her body as I try to find the infection, the problem, whatever is causing this. It’s in her head––there! My magic burns away the blood welling in her brain and begins to mend what was broken.
I have to save her. Otherwise––
“What is that?”
I freeze. The human female is gaping, finger pointed toward me.
I slip back under Marielle’s arm, hoping the adult will think she was seeing things. I have to be more careful. My chest heaves up and down. They’ll capture me, torture me!
“What?” the male asks.
“I saw something! On Marielle! It was blue and tiny––”
“You’re seeing things, dear.”
I press my hand against Marielle’s still arm, seeing if I can reach the injury in her head, but it seems as though my magic won’t reach that far. I send some magic into her body just in case it can help somehow.
“No, I swear it was there.”
Shadows start to shift. The female must be reaching for me! My heartbeat spikes, and I flit away from Marielle, back down the long walled space, following the anchor. I need to hide.
“Did you see that?” the female shrieks.
Both stumble after me, their feet clomping against the wooden floor. I dart for the open rectangle, craving the darkness and the shoebox. It’s what I deserve. I failed.
Then a voice stops us all. “My head hurts.”
My wings stutter, and I almost crash into the ground. I whip around. The humans are already hurrying back to Marielle’s body.
“Sweetie?” the male whispers, his voice breaking.
It’s Marielle! She’s alive! Her sweet voice calls me to fly back to her, and I almost give in. To see her face not pale and lifeless, to see her smile . . .
But the other humans would see me. It’s best if I leave now.
Marielle. My heart swells. You’re alive. I saved you.
“Oh, Marigold!” The woman lets out a choked noise. “You’re okay!”
“I saw a wolf,” Marielle says. “It wasn’t Daddy. It was all weird and shadowy.”
“It was just a dream, honey. Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay.”
I can hear them all crying and murmuring to each other. That’s my cue to leave.
I don’t mind, not really. This place is terrifying. But I wish I could see Marielle and tell her it was me who had saved her.
I slip back into the walled expanse I came from and underneath the blanketed contraption, avoiding all gray fuzzies. The shoebox sits in front of me. Can I use it to get back? But won’t that take it away from Marielle?
Still, the cord disappears into the shoebox. Wouldn’t that indicate that it is the way I should return home?
Perhaps not. Perhaps the crack is within the shoebox. Perhaps I can exit the crack without taking the shoebox itself.
Using my magic, I seek the crack between our world and, after a bit of searching, find it right at the top of the shoebox’s opening. My magic, though there isn’t much left, hums faintly, and I yank at the crack. It’s still small, even for me. Perhaps my leg could fit through but certainly not my whole body. Will they see the portal widening? Will Lysander help me? Or will I have to wait in this terrifying world until I’ve returned to full strength?
Then the crack widens, the edges glowing green. My shoulders sag with relief, and I leap through.
This time, I’m surrounded by green––including the green of Lysander’s suit as he catches me in his arms. The portal snaps shut.
I stare up at him breathlessly. I came back to you.
“Stella!” Freya’s voice snaps me out of my trance. “You’re back! You’re alive! I’m so happy!” Her tongue rasps over my body, covering my already-dirty dress in slobber.
“Don’t slobber on me!” Lysander stiffens.
I laugh, curling into Lysander’s chest. Now I can breathe again.
“Is she okay?” Lysander still holds me in his arms. I don’t mind.
“Now she is,” I say.
“So you saved her, then? She was in danger?”
I nod. Lysander finally sets me on my feet. I sway a bit, and he grabs my slobber-slick elbow, steadying me.
“I’m sorry I doubted you.” Freya hangs her head and each of her tails. “I should’ve known. You know Marielle the best, after all.”
“All is forgiven,” I say. “I might not have believed you if you had told me the same.”
But now Marielle is safe. We’re all safe. And if she ever gets in trouble again, I know I can reach her world and help her.
“What was the human world like?” Freya stares at me with wide and eager eyes.
So I tell them about the strange glassy-eyed animals and the gray fuzz and Marielle’s still form. Freya’s fur bristles at the frightening parts, and Lysander takes it all in without expression, but he still hasn’t taken away the anchor connecting us. And in that moment, I know I’m right where I belong––in Endellion with my dearest friends.
Maybe Marielle belongs here with us. Maybe she belongs in her world. It’s her life, and she gets to choose. I’m just glad I get to be a part of it.
I hope you enjoyed “Shadow Wolf”! If you ever want to challenge yourself with creating an authentic voice, attempt a story from a five-year-old’s perspective. Trust me; it’s difficult.
Have you ever written a Red Riding Hood retelling? Do you have a favorite Red Riding Hood retelling? (Mine is Scarlet by Marissa Meyer!) Have you written a story with a child character? Let me know in the comments!