I Am The Woodsman

This piece was submitted to the Adelaide Plains Chapter and Verse – Fairy Tales Twisted Sideways competition in June of 2013, subsequently appearing in the compilation booklet of the same name a couple of years ago. As you can probably guess, the theme was Fairy Tales with somewhat of a perverted twist. Re-reading it now, there are a number of things I’d change, however, it’s posted here in the form it was submitted in two and a half years ago. I will at this point disclose an “Easter egg” in the text; the North American spelling of “fulfill” with the extra “l” is a reference to the “Gemini Killer” from The Exorcist III, who could be identified by his misspelling of words through the addition of an extra “l”, such as the extra “L” in “IT’S A WONDERFULL LIFE” spelled out in the blood of the murdered Father Dyer.

I Am The Woodsman

I’m The Woodsman. People know me for what I do by day; chopping down trees; moving logs; running the wood mill and selling timber. By night, what I do is secret.

The scene wouldn’t be discovered until the following week; gristle, black bones and crackle; black walls; charred collagen and the smell of bacon fat. The three little pigs had been roasted alive in the third brother’s house of bricks.

The doors were locked and the locks broken from the outside. Double glazed windows didn’t offer a better chance of escape. The fireplace was how it started; the porcine brothers thought their predator was coming down the chimney, so they started a fire to keep him out.

An accelerant was the first visitor down from the roof – probably olive oil. The high intensity burns of an oil fire could be seen splashed around, which would’ve spread to the rug and the lounge room furniture. Yeah, The Wolf used a lot of oil.

Bundles of hickory twigs would have followed, which in turn would be piled upon with split branches and trunk. This would have had the dual effect of adding flavour, all while asphyxiating the brothers. They’d have huffed and they’d have puffed until their little lights blew out.

I stood in the wreck of the aftermath on the night following full moon, observing bite marks on bone, and The Wolf’s leavings. He’d kill again. He always enjoyed a kill, but never more than on the night of a full moon.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t tell you what that means. I’m just The Woodsman.

Wolf tracks in the mud led back to the west – towards the woodlands; back towards my home.

***

People often ask what it’s like to be The Woodsman in The Land of Fairy Tales. I tell them that it’s all down to freedom. People don’t know where to expect me, so if I’m out somewhere doing my own thing, they just tell themselves I’m probably after some special timber or something.

For all they know, I could be doing a spot of fishing, or secreting myself away for an affair. It’s never suspicious when The Woodsman wanders around.

The good folk of The Land of Fairy Tales are trusting and honest, if a little unwise. I can leave a pile of timber for a customer back at the mill with a note, and I know they won’t cheat me. I’m pretty regular with orders, even if I’m not always at the mill to meet folks, but they give me that leeway.

Of course, all this trust can come with a price, and in The Land of Fairy Tales, that price is monsters.

***

Little Red Riding Hood was, if you listen to the villagers, as about as innocent as you could get in The Land of Fairy Tales. I’m not entirely sure that was true. In as far as it mattered she was innocent, as were most of the folk around here. This is to say, people were innocent enough to deserve avoiding a nasty fate. In as far as their innocence may otherwise be tarnished it was and still is nobody else’s business.

At any rate, Little Red Riding Hood was the regular recipient of all manner of advice on account of her alleged naïveté…

‘Don’t stay out after dark!’

‘Don’t show too much skin around men!’

‘Don’t talk to strangers!’

They’d tell her these things, strangely, as if it’d be her own fault if something went wrong, which to my mind, was entirely back-to-front. I mention Red, because she entered the tale at precisely the wrong point – while I was tracking Big Bad.

***

It was good to get back to the woods by morning, but I didn’t have much of an opportunity for a nap. At least I had my orders ready at the mill, and if anyone saw me here, they’d not suspect I’d have been doing anything out of the ordinary.

When I finally caught up with Big Bad, we were both within hearing range of Red, who was walking along the path in the woods to her Grandma’s that her parents had told her not to take.  Big Bad could have, if he was so inclined, attacked Red right there and then, but knowing the kind of predator he was, I knew he had something else planned. He’d be setting something up, the way he set up the three pigs – all in one fell swoop, and with the victim harbouring a false sense of security.

Big Bad had another victim in mind, either Red’s parents, or Grandma. It didn’t take long to find out which he’d chosen.

Assuming the posture he always did when talking to young women (polite, yet with strong don’t-let-your-parents-know undertones), Big Bad approached Red the way a cad would approach a lady a few years older.

It was all questions; ‘what are you doing today?’, ‘what have you got in that basket?’, ‘are you in a hurry?’ and the like. This was to give Big Bad control of, and to lengthen the conversation, which would increase the chances that a useful piece of information would slip from Red’s lips. The village denizens of The Land of Fairy Tales, unless they were utterly silent, were always able to oblige in this respect, which is odd, considering how many warnings they issued, and how moralizing they could be.

I simply sat in a thicket, listening to the conversation, as Big Bad exploited the way Red enjoyed being paid attention by a man in a manner her parents wouldn’t approve of.

Before long, it because obvious what angle Big Bad was going to take – Grandma. Big Bad and Red parted, and naturally, Big Bad was off towards Grandma’s via a shorter route. Only, I knew the woods better.

***

I’d seen it before – moonlight killers who went in for seconds while the moon was still bright at night. Big Bad would be planning to capture Grandma and Red somehow, and hold them over ‘till night time. Only, I had plans of my own.

Big Bad had to be fast to get to Grandma’s with enough time, and I had to be almost as fast to give me enough time to be waiting for him around the bend. It turned out that Big Bad was either too slow, or too careless to avoid taking the flat of my axe to the head.

Red’s encounter with The Wolf would just be one of those flirty chats with older men that thankfully went nowhere.

I bound Big Bad in rope, and made off with him to my second, secret mill, deep in the woods.

***

‘Oh what big eyes you have, Mr. Wolf!’ I told him as he awoke a couple of evenings later.

That was of course, because his peepers were bulging with effort as he groggily struggled with the ropes that tied him to my bench.

‘Who the fuck are you?!’ he yelled in near disbelief at his plight. Perhaps he thought he was having a nightmare.

At this point, he couldn’t feel or see his body, because I’d given him a herbal concoction to numb the senses, and he was wearing a tarp like a giant bib. He didn’t know he’d been there for days.

‘What a big sweary mouth you have, Mr. Wolf!’

‘All the better to fucking eat you with!’ he threatened in vain.

If I hadn’t drugged him, and whatnot, after the days he’d been laying there, he’d be ravenous by now. All I’d given him was some water to keep his throat moist.

Still, even without hunger, Big Bad had a fetish for the gastronomical.

‘Would you like some sausages, Mr. Wolf? They’re healthy free range meat, with rosemary, wrapped in fresh skin; lamb and rosemary, incidentally. And I do have mint sauce.’

This confused him. He should have been thinking of escape, but he was first and foremost, a predator, not prey.

He was obviously interested, but of course, there had to be a catch, didn’t there?

‘What’s wrong with the sausages?’ he asked.

‘Nothing.’

I dropped the sausages into a hot pan along with some of the finest butter you’ll find in The Land of Fairy Tales. I let them simmer and spit and caramelize, so that my mill filled with the smell of cooked meat.

Even in the state he was in, Big Bad couldn’t help but salivate.

I plopped two sausages onto a plate, alongside some mashed potato I’d also prepared, adding just the right amount of mint sauce, before tucking in. I only got half way through a sausage before Big Bad had had enough.

‘Alright, alright! I’m not hungry, but you’ve got my attention. Feed me some of those sausages, but forget the mint sauce and the mash.’

I fed him four sausages, before he greedily asked if he could finish off the sausage I hadn’t started on. I feigned mild shock at his gluttony, but acquiesced eventually, before dipping my remaining half-sausage in mash and finishing it off.

‘I know that lamb, and you’ve cooked it well, whoever you are. I’ve never been one for rosemary, but this time it was a treat. But let me know, where did you get the sausage skins?’

It’s at moments like these I wish it was possible to slow time down. You want to savour these things, but if you leave things too long, the penny will drop.

Theatrically, I pulled the tarp back from Big Bad’s body, like I was transmuting a surgical cape into that of a matador.

Big Bad looked at me pleadingly, unable to force himself to look down. I smiled in the affirmative, as he saw the truth in my eyes, while I saw the fear in his.

The intestines I used for the sausage were his own. I have to confess, I felt more than a small amount of pride at this revelation, and certainly more than was polite.

My laughter assaulted Big Red’s brain as it echoed off the walls of the mill, and perhaps he wished he was still caught in a nightmare. But he wasn’t – it was all quite as real as anything else in The Land of Fairy Tales.

I put on my chainmail gauntlet, grasped his snout and twisted it sideways. I told him he could have been an ordinary wolf, and stuck to wild prey and the occasional lamb. I told him he could have stayed away from the ordinary villagers who deserved better than monsters like him, or I.

And then I grabbed the dense hardwood haft of a large axe that’d lost its blade and I smashed Big Bad’s head in. Again and again and again I bashed – blood spattering all over me, my eyes bulging, biceps pumped with a pulsing flow, and a raging heartbeat banging in my ears.

***

Folks in The Land of Fairy Tales think that as a woodsman, the things that fulfill me the most are the sounds, sights and smells of the forest – the birds chirping, the gentle patter of light rain on leaves, the colours, and the fresh air. The reality though, is that these mundane things almost leave me numb.

It’s when my heart races and my blood pulses from beating a villain to death, or when I laugh at the fear of another monster, that I really feel truly alive. This is what I live for. This is what it means to be me.

This is what goes on inside my mind, or what I hunger for, when you see me pass through the woods with axe in hand.

I am The Woodsman.

~ Bruce

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