Just like that, I’d outgrown the hood that once trailed behind me like a cape. Grandma insisted upon my wearing it every time I went to visit, for her house was deep in the woods and she didn’t trust the ways of the wilderness. “If you get lost, Little Red, all the better to find you with.” Twirling in front of the mirror, the cloak is now a mere scarf. I don’t know how to tell Grandma that I cannot curb my hunger; that I cannot stop myself from growing. And that I simply cannot wear this ludicrous cape anymore. Outside, the moon is full and heavy; hanging like a ripe cashew. I salivate.
My sister and I help ourselves to dinner gone long cold – Mother is never at home, I cannot remember the last time we shared a meal together as family. As I sit down, I hear a rip loud enough to wake the neighbors. I’d torn another one of my pants. Most of my clothes had holes in them, which were now too large to be sewn back together. “Are you on steroids? You seem to grow every second.” My sister asks me skeptically, adjusting her hat, pulling it below her eyes. I don’t get her strange obsession with wearing a hat off late, even indoors. Whenever I ask her about it, she just shrugs mysteriously. “Grandma will stitch it back when we go see her this weekend.” I growl. At the mention of Grandma my sister freezes, and her slate-grey eyes fix upon the hearth in a deathly stare. Grandma has made it ample clear that I am her unrivalled favorite; and when she speaks to her she pretends as though she is addressing an invisible audience in a theatre. That is what my sister is to Grandma: invisible.
I distinctly remember how once, long ago, Grandma told me, “When I held your sister in my arms for the first time, she didn’t cry lustily like you did, Little Red. My, what a ruckus you made. I positively knew red was your color then. But she…she stared back at me coldly, with those grey eyes of hers. I cannot stand to look at them even today. Give me the heebie-jeebies, those eyes.” It was true then, it is true now. If you ever pass my sister you will feel a coldness wash over you like a lazy tide, to never feel quite dry afterwards. If I am red, my sister is silver – cold and heavy, swirling around you like a fog that won’t quite lift.
Needless to say, my sister and I share a tense relationship, stemming in large part, from Grandma’s prejudice. But now is not the time to address this growng divide. Tonight is for the outdoors; I cannot resist the deep tug of the low moon. After my sister is asleep, I set off into the night, the moonlight piercing through my formidable figure in dirty yellow beams. The woods are all too familiar now; I know every bristle, every bramble. Stopping right outside Grandma’s cottage, I forget to knock. Instead, my nails scratch the door excitedly. “Who is it?” mumbles a voice from within. Grandma’s voice sounds warm and thick and filled with the promise of sleep. “It’s me, Grandma,” I say, my breathing shallow, my voice coarse. “Little Red! Why are you not in bed?” says Grandma unlatching the door.
She stares at me in wonder. “Look how you’ve grown, Little Red, and my, what big teeth…”
I must say I did a thorough job, and when I head back it is cold, so cold that my bones rattle inside me. Not just my bones, but also Grandma’s. I left the scarf behind at her doorstep, but true to my name, I continue to see red through my bloodshot eyes.
Because I am so preoccupied with my own changes, it takes me a while to notice them in my sister. She refuses to take off her hat, a now permanent fixture upon her head. I am dying to know what her hair looks like beneath it, for I cannot remember. She does not look in the mirror, as if she is afraid of her own reflection. I know I am no match for her cunningness, and she will soon know about Grandma.
“She was old. She had to go,” I say quietly, almost feebly. We are outside Grandma’s house. My sister is shaking with rage, and the silver moon quivers with her. “You are so selfish! You won Grandma’s affection, but you didn’t give me the chance to destroy it!” So saying, she flings her hat to the ground, her hair springing out in wild curls. I shrink in horror when I realize they are not curls at all, but hissing serpents, twisting and coiling from her head.
My sister, Medusa.
I cannot bring myself to look at her, so I glance at the moon instead, awaiting my imminent transformation. Before she reaches out to grab my face and meet her gaze, I leap back, full wolf, summoning my lupine strength to take a swipe at my terrible, beautiful sister. My claws slash her skin, just as her eyes rise to meet mine. One final time. But when I turn to stone, it’s she who howls.