December 15, 2011

EC's Little Red Riding Hood Issue, Table Of Contents

Charles Dickens is quoted as saying that his first love was Little Red Riding Hood. Considering how complicated his personal life eventually became, maybe that should tell us something about him.

Or not.

But one thing is for sure, "Little Red Riding Hood" has always been a wonderfully nasty tale, at least when told by writers and poets with an eye towards the dark, dark woods and the possibilities of wolves.

In this issue, you'll find, death, mystery, mysterious allure, humor, insanity and more than a little blood.

You've been warned. Start reading the posts below. 

And have a lovely holiday.

Darkly yours,
Kate Wolford, Editor

PS: EC will return in January with its new publishing style.

PSS: Blogger is being very contrary. Please make sure to look into older posts for all of the works for this issue and for new information on EC, changes coming to the zine and the current giveaway.

Image by Ethel F. Betts

Table of Contents

Red Cape, By Lissa Sloan

Wolf Slayer, By John Wiswell

What Big Eyes, By Jude Tulli

Red is for Ritual, By Gerri Leen

Red Grown, By James Tolan

Hero Worship, By Alethea Kontis

Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves, By Megan Englehardt

The Little Red Tarot, By Alexandra Seidel

The Witch of the Wolfwoods, By Amanda C. Davis

Alive in the Wolf's Belly, By Sarah Hans

Inside, By Lorraine Schein

Red Cape, By Lissa Sloan

I know what is out there
Out the door
Down the path
Into the wood

There are brambles
And thorns
And a moon-colored rose that only blooms in the dark
With a scent so dizzying you might just forget who you are
Or what you came for

There are ancient trees
Leaning overhead and whispering advice
Advice that would seem sensible
Until you are in too far
And the shadows are so black you cannot see to breathe

And all along the way
There are claws like razors
Teeth like knives
And fur so soft that none of the rest matters

I know what is out there
How can I send her down that path?
With nothing but my glimmering hope that she will find her way?

And one thing more
This fiery circle of protection I draw around her
Perhaps it is only a red cape
But it can enfold her when my arms cannot
And make her as brave as she is foolish

Will it be enough?
It was for me.

Lissa writes: "When not writing or illustrating, I love to read and garden.  I am half English, half American, and I would love to have my own personal wolf, preferably one who would not eat me."

Wolf Slayer, By John Wiswell

hen she knocked a third time, the lumberjack finally got up and answered the door. His pest was a gnarled old lady, half his height and a little greater than his width. He drew away, hand moving to the shut the door, but she moved to block it.

“You didn’t answer my letters,” she said.

“I don’t check the mail often.”

She squinted up at him in a way you could only do if it was your face and not somebody else’s. That relived him, even though there was reproach in her voice.

“Your mailbox was empty.”

He clucked his tongue. “You checked my mailbox?”

“The first time that you didn’t answer the door. I wondered if you’d been home recently. Sometimes lumberjacks spend several days in the woods.”

“I just got back in, and I’m very tired from the trip.”

“Did you read the letters, sir? If it’s a matter of money, I’ll pay you. I can sell my cow.”

He looked away. Her letters were on the end table, opened and stuffed back into their envelopes.

“Madame, I’m very tired. Come back another time.”

“I know your story, sir. I thought if I came….”

She trailed off at the hurt in his face.

“Sir, I understand that once upon a time you saved a little girl from a wolf.”

He shook his head. “I’m just a lumberjack.”

She said a name, then asked if it was his. He couldn’t deny that it was.

“I understand that the wolf killed that little girl’s grandmother, skinned her, then wore her as he waited for the girl.” When he didn’t deny that, she added, “That was no regular wolf. That was a monster.”

“Perhaps it was.”

“And you’re a hero to have saved her from it.”

“I’m done with wolf business, madame. I appreciate your attention, but would like--”

“My town is very nearby. I live with my grandson – orphaned at birth. He’s been seeing things, sir. Every day he goes up on the hill and guards the sheep alone. Every day he sees a lone wolf and cries his head off, but by the time the men arrive, the wolf is gone.”

The lumberjack drew in a slow breath. “He could be making it up. Boys play stupid games sometimes.”

“That’s what the local men think. But he’s not a bad boy, sir. I raised him. And you couldn’t make up the wolf he describes. It’s in his nightmares now. It’s huge, and smart enough to play him so that soon no one will come to save him anymore.”

The lumberjack moved towards her until their toes touched. Normally a person would back up in intimidation, but she saw his hand on the door and knew he’d close it if she budged. She didn’t.

“Fewer answer his cry every day, sir. Today, perhaps one man will come up and check on him. Tomorrow, none will come at all. Then it will be just him and that monster.” She reached up and grabbed at his tunic. “Please, sir. You’ve fought these things before to save a little girl. This is a little boy. My little grandson.”

“Excuse me a moment.”

The lumberjack brushed her hands off of him and retreated back into his cottage. He left the door open, and she stayed on the stoop.

He padded to the rear of his cottage. He washed his hands in the sink, then splashed a palm full of water into his face. When he looked up, he saw the wig dangling from the edge of the cupboard. The grandmother wig a wolf had once worn. No matter how many nightmares he had, he couldn’t throw it away.

He got his axe and returned to the door. The grandmother was still there, blocking the door from closing.

“You say your town is close?”

John has been published by Weird Tales, Flash Fiction Online and Untied Shoelaces. He writes daily at

What Big Eyes, By Jude Tulli

What are we making for dinner, Grandma? When are you going to tell me? You know how I love surprises best at the very moment they turn into presents. How much longer?

You're trying my patience, you know. That's what Mommy says to me all the time, ha ha.

All right, I'm firing up the oven. Hotter? Hotter?

My, my, what kind of roast will this be?

Still hotter?! Something big and juicy, I bet. And it's not even my birthday! I love coming to visit you, Grandma! 

Aww, you feel extra fluffy when I hug you today! What's next?

Eggs! Oh boy, I love cracking open eggs. Watch, Mommy taught me how to do it with just a knife. More? See, I don't even get a bit of shell in there. Watch, Grandma. Watch! Well, that one turned out bad but the next one I'll get it. Master chef, that's me. Watch!

What do we need next? More eggs?! Wow, this is going to be a big turkey! Oh that's right, it's not a turkey, it's a. . .

Ha ha ha ha ha I thought I could trick you into telling me what it is! Didn't work, you're too sharp Grandma! Sharp as those new teeth you grew in last year while I was away. I don't know where you got a chicken big enough to need all these eggs, though.

Not a chicken, either. Hmm. . . Hey! Why'd you dump the eggs all over the floor?! Mommy would kill me if I ever--

You want me to what? Roll around in the eggs and then go play in that sandbox filled with corn meal?

Grandma, you're getting loopy in your old age, you know that?

I can too repeat after you, I learned how to do that when I was a baby and now I'm a big girl: "A master chef must know what it feels like to be the meal she is preparing in order to execute it properly."

No, I've never heard that before in my life! What's execute mean again? I used to know I just forgotted.

Oh, that kind of makes sense, I suppose, in a strange sort of way like having to wash your hands even when they don't look dirty.

If it'll make you happy, Grandma, I'll roll around in the eggs. Like this? Or should I spin around the other way?

Ew, they're all in my hair! Yucky! When do I get to wash up?

All right, I'm playing in the sandbox now. It's a little less gross to be covered with eggs and cornmeal than just eggs. But not much.

Is this what my meal is going to feel like? I don't know if I want to put any poor animal through this.

What's over there now? The oven's already fired up, Grandma, don't you remember?

Test it?

All right, I'll see if it's hot enough. No I've never stepped inside a lit oven before. Mommy wouldn't stand for it.

You sure that's the best way? I've never heard of that. Yes, I know Mommy doesn't exactly keep up with the times, but--

We're having lamb?! Really?! Lamb?!

Ooh, I love lamb! You must love it too, I can tell cause you're drooling an awful lot.

Wait a second! Is it already dead, because I don't like being around when they--

Oh, whew! Grandma, you know me so well!

I'm stepping into the oven now. Ow! It's burning through my shoes!

Take them off? You have gone mad, haven't you!

Stretching out will cool me off? There's not nearly enough room for that, Grandma, I've grown!

It's definitely hot enough but the door being open is drawing out the heat.







What's gotten into you, Grandma? Why did you leave me in there so long? It's hot enough for any lamb I've ever met, I could have told you that when the door was open!

You're not my Grandma?

Grandma was heading off to visit Mommy while I was on my way here and you--wait a minute I'm still catching my breath. You--you're that wolf I met in the forest?


Sorry I said a bad word.

I suppose there is no lamb, is there?

I don't think I like surprises anymore.

Thank you for changing your mind, at least.

Now get the hell out of Grandma's house.

Jude Tulli loves and writes short and novel-length fairy tales.  He was honored to be included in the "Little Mermaid" edition of Enchanted Conversation.  He lives in the Sonoran Desert with his beloved wife Trish and a small pride of housecats.

Red is for Ritual, By Gerri Leen

The red coat rustles, whispers secrets
as our grandmother passes
Once she was the maiden, then the mother
Now she serves as crone for the last time
She smells of clove and all spice
Apples and balsam
She has bathed in the sacred waters
Her gray hair is tied up with vines
The red leaves of the maple give it color again.

She is beautiful

The wolf sits on his throne, his eyes closed
He sniffs the air, his fingers clench
They feed him grapes and dried venison
Give him drink of herbs and flowers
His eyes dilate as he looks
on her, his mate
He lifts his face to the moon
Howls in the fashion of wolves everywhere
The people, the crone, and I howl back

He is magnificent

I finger my red coat, much brighter than hers
I worked on it for weeks
My blood soaking in where the needle stabbed me
I have never been handy that way
But I was not chosen for my skill
I am the maiden
I have been bathed and perfumed
My dark hair tied up with vines
The red leaves of the maple give it light

I am innocent

I wait the prescribed time, then walk through woods
grown darker than before
The moon is hiding behind a cloud but I know the way
It is in my blood, in my soul
I see grandmother leaving out the back
as I open the door
The wolf lies in bed, he smiles
As I drop my robe and stand naked
I see what big teeth he has

He is terrible

He holds out his hand and I climb into bed
We dance the sacred dance
The sheets slide over our skin, white on white
"My goddess," the wolf says.
"My consort," I answer back
We finish, loudly
The door flies open
The priest is there, his axe held high
The woodsman kills the wolf

It is the way of things

The god dies every winter, another chosen in spring
To take his place by the Mother's side
Rule as the summer God, the horned one
Until the night of the wolf
Until the night of the sacrifice
Until he dies
His blood draining, blessing the land anew
I take the hand of the priest
He lays the axe next to my lover

We leave the wolf to bleed

BIO: In addition to having several stories and poems published by Enchanted Conversation, Gerri Leen is celebrating the release of her first collection of short stories, Life Without Crows, published by Hadley Rille Books. See what else she's been up to at her website:

Red Grown, By James Tolan

He doesn’t recognize her
without her cloak and blush,
though she will not forget

who first treated her like food.
His smile, when she takes him
to her cottage in the woods,

perhaps he wishes it
were tender, hopes she
will be a taste of heaven

in the flesh, a spring lamb
born to slaughter, but as soon
as he paws her ruddy belt

she will carve across his gullet
a smile more sincere
then roll him from her bed,

his furry carcass, limp
and fat as a belly full
of undigested grandmother.

James Tolan is author of the chapbooks: Red Walls (Dos Madres Press) and Whiskey and the Rake of Mourning (Deadly Chaps).  He lives in Brooklyn and is an associate professor at the City University of New York.

Hero Worship, By Alethea Kontis

To: Mister Jack Woodcutter
From: Miss Sonya Vasili

Dear Mister Woodcutter,
My grandmother bade me pen this letter. She says that when someone saves your life, especially a legend such as yourself, the least you can do is write them a proper thank you note. We also mention you in our prayers to the gods every night. Sorry if that sounds a little creepy, but if it weren't for you, Baba Vasili and I wouldn't have anymore prayers--or anymore nights, for that matter.
"Thank You" doesn't seem a big enough phrase to fit all the meaning I need it to, but as I haven't been able to think of another, more appropriate gesture in the last few weeks, Baba Vasili handed me the quill and parchment, and here I am. Please forgive as well my utter lack of eloquence, as this is a tradition to which I am not yet accustomed.

And lest this silly little note (if it even finds you on your Grand Wanderings) finish without saying: THANK YOU. Thank you, Mister Jack Woodcutter, again and again. Thank you for my life.
All the best,
Sonya "Red" Vasili
To: Jack Woodcutter
From: S. Vasili

I hope this letter finds you as successfully as my previous pitiful note, but even if it doesn't, that's all right. The writing of it alone is enough. I can close my eyes and imagine you're right there in the settee listening to me, the only person in the world who believes me. Yes, Baba Vasili was there, but she is tired of listening. She doesn't want to hear about the nightmares (I see the wolf's teeth, I feel the brush of his fur, I smell his breath, and I scream for you). She is tired of me jumping at shadows in the forest. The other girls at school have started calling me "Little Red," as if I am just another silly baby telling tales.

Baba Vasili will not tell the tale because she does not believe in spreading evil out into the universe, so no one believes me. No one will listen. No one will stand beside me. I am alone. I have no one. No one but you. And I don't even have you, as you gallivant off on your adventures. But I will write to you often and share my pain. I know you won't mind. It eases my heart a little.

I wonder if you dream of the wolf, if he haunts your head with his darkness as he haunts mine.

I wonder if you dream of me.

Sonya (Red)



I miss you. Does that sound stupid? We met during one of the worst moments of my entire life, but I miss you. You shone like the sun, did you know that? Such a bright light against the darkness of the wolf. Against my darkness.

But of course you know. Everyone knows of your beauty, your confidence, your ability to bear impossible burdens, perform impossible tasks, and beat unbeatable foes. The bards sing your praises from mountain to ocean side. I'm sure you never sleep in a cold bed.

You must think of me sometimes, the in-between moments before sleeping and waking. Do you see me, my wide eyes, my long auburn hair, my pale arms desperately reaching for you as I did in that moment? So very innocent and frightened and powerless in your strong embrace.

Most days, I sit on this hillside and pluck the petals of daisy after daisy. (You love me every time.) I see your eyes in the cloudless sky and your hair in the sunshine. Your chest is the tree trunk supporting me as I lean back against it. I inhale and the breeze is your breath, and in those moments we are together and I know--I know, with all my heart and mind and soul--that you can feel me too.

I miss you, Jack. I miss you.

And I love you.



My Dearest Jack,

A troubadour came through town last night, singing for his supper. Once his belly was full of Baba Vasili's rabbit stew, he indulged me with hours upon hours of The Adventures o the Illustrious Jack Woodcutter.

I never tire of hearing the trials and triumphs of my one true love, however great or small, for I know that one day those songs will hearken your return to my pale young arms and pining heart.

But as the evening drew to a close (and the singer was so far into his cups that I was forced to tie him to the chair), he related to me a silly, bawdy shanty about The Great and Powerful Jack running afoul of a basket of poisoned pastries.

I cannot apologize enough, for I know those pastries could only have been mine. (Did you recognize the basket from that fateful night so long ago? I shed blood, sweat and tears over that basket then; I thought it only fitting to do so again, for you.)

I can only think that the messenger crossed paths with a vengeful fairy, or that some of the ingredients spoiled in this unnatural autumn heat we've been having. You know that I certainly never meant to harm you in any way!

However, in the event that you had taken a turn for the worse, I would have sensed it immediately and been fast by your side to nurse you back to health. You never need call, my Jack, for my heart knows you. I believe in your absence that I am developing the ability to sense when you are in real danger. (Obviously, had the pastries been a real threat, I would have known about them long before that soused balladeer.)

The gods brought us together, Jack. We are a matched set, cut from the same cloth. Who am I to deny the gods?

I only hope they see you safely home soon, my dearest. I will be waiting. As always.

Ever Your Girl,



This will be my last missive to you. The pain cuts me deeply, and soon I will return to the nightmare mouth of the wolf, where I was always meant to be. There is no world without you. There is no me without you. And soon, there will be no world at all.

Forgive the stains on the page, red as my hair, but the quill grows heavy in my hand, heavy as my stone heart. The beats are slower now, and the breaths are faint.

My soul is crying out to yours, growing ever blacker with the night. You will hear it and come to me soon, my love. Look to the stars--they will guide you to me. Perhaps you are already here, with your ax at the door. I only hope it is not too late.



To: Mister Jack Woodcutter
From: Anastazia Yaga Vasili

My dear Mister Woodcutter,

Sir, it pains me to bring such news to you, after the incredible good deed you did my granddaughter and me so long ago, but in the event that any--or all--of Sonya's letters have found you on your travels, I thought you would want to know.

Red is safe. It was I who dragged her back from the jaws of death this time, but the eyes and ears and hands of the enemy were her own. Its teeth were the penknife I keep in the writing desk.

It was I who encouraged my granddaughter's correspondence to you, so it is only fitting that I must bear the burden of its outcome. You and I only saved Sonya's body from the wolf that night--the part we could see and touch and feel. Her mind, I fear, never recovered from that darkness, and I did not recognize the signs until it was almost too late.

Our little Red is recovering in the care of my spinster sister, high in the remote reaches of the white mountains. Perhaps you might have heard of it in your wanderings. Cinderella's blind and mutilated stepsisters convalesce there. So, too, do the young girl with the donkey's tail on her forehead, and the one who spits snakes and toads when she speaks. I believe Red is in the best hands possible. If my sister cannot save her from the wolf, no one can.

As much as I hate to burden you with this information, I thought it best that you should know. You are a great man, sir, and you once did my family a kindness that will never be forgotten. May your road be straight and your skies be blue. May the gods lift you to their breasts and find you worthy enough to be rid of your burdens. Many blessings to you.

Your servant,
Baba Vasili


To: Miss Sonya Vasili, c/o Baba Yaga's Traveling Home for Unfortunate Young Women with Magical Maladies

Dear Red,

Get well soon.


Bio: Alethea Kontis is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter Companion, as well as the AlphaOops series of picture books. Her debut YA fairy tale novel Enchanted, releases from Harcourt Books in 2012.

Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves, By Megan Engelhardt

People like to think there was something sexy
about the wolf. 
There wasn't. 
It was a wolf and I was nine
and wouldn't have known what to do with a sexy wolf

The sexiest thing in the woods that day
was Grandma,
who sometimes still goes dancing
with the widower cobbler from the village,
now that those elves do all the work.

Even if he was a smoldering pillar of manhood
(or wolfhood)
how would that have helped?
It's not like he seduced us into his stomach. 
Not like he batted his eyes
and showed some chest
and told us how beautiful we were
as we crawled into his belly. 

Sexy wolf?  Ridiculous. 

Here's the truth:

He was a wolf, big with big full eyes
and big ears and big sharp teeth. 
His paws were big enough to knock you senseless
with one blow,
his appetite and his jaws big enough
to swallow you whole. 
His stomach was big enough to fit two people. 

Being eaten was fast and it was hot and it was wet
and it was over before I even knew what was happening. 

Being pulled out by the woodsman was like being born,
like fireworks and waves on the beach
and a gasp of air when you've been holding your breath. 

What's sexy about that?

And if I have grown up to become a wolf hunter,
a leather- and wolf skin-wearing hellion,
it seemed only natural,
and what I do with my wolves
is my business.

Megan writes: "I have always wanted a red riding hood of my own, even though I never go riding and capes aren't currently in fashion.  I have previously been published in Silver Blade and the Silver Boomer books anthology From the Porch Swing."

The Little Red Tarot, By Alexandra Seidel

The Seven of Wolves
Something that awaits beyond a turn in the road,
something that you can't quite see yet and therefore
something dark.

"Where to, on this twilight road? Most souls
you will encounter here, are like dead trees
in a wood of dead trees. Why don't you come with me?"

Three of Roads
A path that takes you to your destination
in a roundabout fashion;
a road that ends.

"Come, girl, let me show you where the butterflies are. Leave the flowers
for another day."

Ace of Grapes
A thing that is full turns empty,
a thing that is ripe stains;
conquests are not always glorious.

"Sweet as wine! Sweet
as pomegranate stains!
Sweet as melting warm cake on your tongue;
I said I'd show you butterflies, and so I did.
Moths is what the butterflies of the moon are called."

The Circling Staircase
Inevitability and hidden choices, the places
in which we hide our choices
to conjure a sense of inevitability; fear.

"I am tired now, want to find sleep in your arms.
I am so tired, but at least in your arms,
I can sleep."

The Well, Reversed
Chance encounters, chances that come
like the flip of a coin;
meeting old friends and faces from the past.

"My girl, finally you're home! Your mother said
she'd sent you to me. Do not take roundabout roads
and what are you babbling, dear,
my face isn't his, my face isn't his...?"

Five of Stones
Something that is resolved
with the stitching together
of two frayed edges; a weight.

"There you are, don't leave me
asleep in the wake of twilight; all the trees
are dead in this forest, there is nothing
in this place for you to return to.
I don't know much but I believe
that the greatest love is like hunger.
Come to me, I'll starve no more."

Alexandra Seidel's writing can be found at Strange HorizonsStone Telling, Mythic Delirium and elsewhere. She edits poetry for Niteblade and Fantastique Unfettered and really tries updating her blog once or twice a month:

The Witch of the Wolfwoods, By Amanda C. Davis

They sent a girl, a pretty pup.
I wonder if they dared to tell her,
While they filled her basket up,
Who is Granny, what befell her?

Does she know it took full thirty
Men to chain my wolfish wrath?
Ten to hunt me, ten to hurt me,
Ten to drag me down the path?

Cowards: as they fear to kill me
So they fear to let me die.
Now they send me bread to fill me.
I'd rather starve. But I'm still sly.

The chains have loosened from my feet.
This time, they have sent me meat.

Amanda C. Davis enjoys the occasional basket of sweets. Learn more about her and her work at

Alive in the Wolf's Belly, By Sarah Hans

eing eaten alive by the wolf was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was also the worst. 

The story goes that when he knocked on my front door I was so myopic or senile that I thought he was Jenny, my granddaughter. But my eyesight, and my mind, have never been keener. 

That’s the scandalous truth: I knew all along that I was letting the wolf into my parlor. 

There was a moment, after he knocked, when I shuffled to the door and heard his heavy breathing on the other side, that I remember well: A moment of decision. The porch creaked under his weight. The scent of his musky fur wafted in through the cracked window. I looked through the peephole and saw his huge, black eyes, peering back at me. 

I thought about my life. I thought about the endless afghan I was crocheting, the tea steeping on the stove that I made each day in the hopes of a visit from children or grandchildren who rarely bothered, the loneliness since my husband had died six years before. 

And then I opened the door. 

The wolf was bigger than I could have imagined. He flowed into the room and filled it with his bulk. He brought with him the scent of the forest, and the mysteries of the shadows were close on his heels. He was a creature older and greater than I could comprehend. 

His eyes as he regarded me were not full of malice, as you might think. They were wise, intelligent eyes...but they were hungry. 

He opened his mouth and I smelled the sickly-sweet scent of fresh blood and chewed meat.  His great jaw touched the floor, and I climbed into his mouth, as one would mount the steps of a carriage, using his fangs as hand-holds. Once I was comfortable on his tongue, his jaws snapped shut, and I was swallowed whole. 

Encased in darkness, I was squeezed into the creature’s gullet, and from there his stomach, where I rested in a pool of acid. It was painful and horrible and wonderful all at once. It reminded me of birthing my daughters, when the pain was so intense that it seemed to consume the world, and my focus became a needle-sharp point. All the loneliness and sadness and bitterness was swept away in a wash of pain. 

And then the creature roared, and I was jostled, and then a great split appeared, spilling light into the tight darkness of the beast’s stomach. Two pairs of hands reached in and pulled me out, into the light. 

Jenny and the huntsman poured water over me and scrubbed the acid from my skin. I trembled and wept. They wrapped me in Jenny’s red cloak and put me in bed with a cup of tea steaming on the nightstand. 

The next morning I found that the wolf’s carcass had been taken away, all except the head. The huntsman wanted to take that too, but I told him I wanted it. He gave me an odd look, but as so often happens, I got my way, because it’s excusable to be a bit eccentric when you’re my age. 

The wolf’s head is mounted on my wall. I wish I had his skin, so I could wrap myself in it, but I make due. The floors are still stained red with his blood, and on those lonely nights when no one visits me, and the acid burns on my legs itch, I curl naked on the floor beneath his massive jaws and remember what it was like to be alive. 

Brief bio: Sarah Hans was once a morbid child obsessed with vampires, ghosts, and werewolves. Now she's a morbid adult whose horror stories appear in anthologies such as The Crimson Pactand Candle in the Attic Window. You can follow her adventures at