The old woman lives alone in a cottage in the woods.
There might have been a town here once, she sometimes thinks. But all of the people seem to have left. Over time, their houses have fallen down, and trees have grown up through the ruins. Where there might once have been a busy road, now only a narrow footpath leads through the thick forest.
A young girl comes to visit her one day and brings her food. The old woman does not know her name, but she is grateful for the food and for the girl’s bright and caring face.
“Thank you, my dear,” she says to the strange girl. “You are very kind. Do I know you from somewhere?”
The girl smiles and laughs. “Of course, grandmother. You know me very well.”
“Do I? That’s good, that’s good. You are very kind.”
These days are bright, but at night, she can hear something slinking about in the forest. Outside her cottage it moves and mutters and growls, and she is afraid.
In the morning, her fears are gone. She looks about her. Her cottage seems smaller now. Were there not once more rooms? She thinks so, but cannot be sure. Now there seems to be just this one room, with her bed, and a window and a door.
A young man comes to the door. He must be a woodcutter, she thinks, working in the forest. Has she ever seen him before? He is tall and handsome and asks after her health.
“Oh, I’m fine, dear. There’s nothing ever wrong with me.” He smiles and goes away again. But he must not be working hard, because each day there seem to be more trees in the forest, and it grows a little darker outside her window.
At night, in the dark, she can hear something wild outside, something slinking amongst the trees, then brushing against her door with its long wiry fur, trying to get in. She lies as still as she can, her heart pounding in terror, praying for the morning to come.
In the morning, though, the bright light washes everything away. A young girl comes to visit and brings her food in a basket, with flowers she has picked in the wood. The old woman wonders who the girl is, and why she is so kind.
She moves about the room. There is a vase of flowers here, very pretty. She picks up each flower in turn to examine it. She wonders who brought them, and why.
Something is wrong with the door to the cottage. It will not open no matter how hard she tries. But she has the water and food someone has brought, and after a while she stops trying to open the door.
A handsome woodcutter comes to see her. He asks after her health, and she tells him that she is very well, that she is never sick. Perhaps she should ask him about the door? There was something wrong about a door, she thinks.
A tree grows right outside her window now, it fills her view. The forest must be growing close, she thinks. She wants to go outside to look at it, but for some reason she cannot open her door. After a while, she sighs, and gives it up.
Then there is a terrible night.
She is in her bed when a horrible slinking thing breaks into her cottage. It climbs into bed beside her and she feels its hairiness, smells its foul breath. It paws at her. She screams and screams, and after a moment a woodcutter rushes in to her room and drags the hairy thing out from her bed. There is noise and shouting and lights, and many people crowd in, people she does not know. But at last the evil thing is taken away. She sobs in terror, but the woodcutter tells her it is gone and will not come back.
A young girl comes to see her the next day, bringing food in a basket. The old woman cannot understand why she seems so upset.
“Oh, granny,” the young girl says with tears in her eyes, “you must have been so frightened. But you don’t need to worry, they’ve moved that horrible man away to another nursing home.”
“Frightened, dear?” says the old woman, admiring the girl’s red coat. “Frightened by what?”
by David R Grigg
© Copyright David R Grigg 2012. All rights reserved.