When the curtain fell and a standing ovation crescendoed in the dark auditorium beyond with cries for an encore, she tore off her blood-stained skirts and leapt through the stage trapdoor onto a pile of discarded monk’s robes from Act I. Her red leather riding boots hit the ground running. She needed a headstart or she wouldn’t have a hope.
She ripped off her gloves as she ran, pulled the chain of rubies from her hair so that the thick dark coil of it unravelled down her back like rope. Her heels hammered concrete. The narrow corridor, an obstacle course of abandoned clothing, met an ash-stained brick arch and widened into a high-ceilinged hall. Cardboard castles loomed from the walls, painted vines glistening green, blistered with blood-red roses. She was running underneath the auditorium now. The applause was man-made thunder, calling down the lightning. She wished they would stop.
A second arch spat her into a different corridor. Her heel caught on someone’s abandoned crown and hurled her towards the floor.
“Shit,” she hissed. Catching herself on a claw-footed armchair inexplicably abandoned halfway down the passageway, she struggled to catch her breath, her lungs burning the oxygen before it could get to her thrashing heart. She bent her head, her fingernails digging through worn upholstery to the stuffing beneath. The weight of her hair lightened abruptly. White wisps fell into her range of vision and she closed her eyes, the better to concentrate. Steel grew around her sockets, popping from the bone as square rims, glass growing inside like a clear frost.
Her nose shrank. Damn. Her poor nose. She had hoped it wouldn’t come to this.
A piercing wolf whistle cut through the dizzying pounding of her heart in her ears. She jerked upright, twisting wildly around, searching the empty corridor behind her. Shadows leapt and pounced on the walls. There was no one in sight, not yet – but he was after her all right, on her trail already. God, he was fast.
She pushed away from the armchair, sprinting away on red leather heels. Her legs lengthened as she ran, propelling her faster and faster.
If he could recognise her by the time he caught her, he deserved his feast.
An strange little snippet of story incorporating elements of two very-much-not-favourite fairy stories with me, Little Red Riding Hood and The Red Shoes, with what might be the shadow of Dorothy and her ruby slippers and the soundtrack of Florence and the Machine’s Howl. For something so short, it has an awful lot of influences. I am attracted to fairy tales even when I am not writing retellings; roses find their way into many of my stories, roses and wolves and other sorcerous things. I don’t know why any of this is taking place in a theatre, although I’m rather interested in finding out. For those who want to know? I don’t think he caught her.
©Faith Mudge, 2012