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Here you will find short stories from all genres, a few poems, and an occasional musing.
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Tiny Tales podcast episodes are posted every Monday.
Tiny Tales short stories are posted every Wednesday.

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Happy Reading!

~ R. E. Rule

All writing on this blog is the exclusive property of R. E. Rule and is not to be reproduced or retransmitted without permission from R. E. Rule. Link and email sharing is welcome as long as proper owner/authorship is attributed to R. E. Rule.

What Happened That Night at Greymouth Manor

               It was a dark night, and I was motoring home, rumbling along the twin ruts that led past Greymouth Manor. Masses of inky cloud had banished the moon from the sky. My headlamps dimly lit the trees lining the thin lane, casting a thicket of shadows across the road. I watched eagerly for the golden glow from the rows of stately windows, a beacon of prosperity and tradition in an ever-uncertain world, but through the gap in the hedges guarding the main entrance, I saw only a black shape against a black night. The windows were dark, and the manor stood brooding.

               A ghostly figure darted in front of me, and I slammed on the brakes. My motorcar shuddered to a stop. A face, deathly white and set with wild eyes, glowed in the light of the headlamps. The young woman stumbled to my door.

                “Please,” she said, lips trembling. “Help me.”

                The breath that had lodged in my throat from the fright of her appearance rushed out. “Are you hurt?”

                “Please!” She was clinging to the motor car to stay on her feet. “There’s no time. They’ll kill me!”

                When I opened the door, intending to get out, she scrambled over me into the empty seat. “Go!” she said, shoving my hands toward the wheel. “Go, now!”

                Her voice was urgent, frantic, her eyes panicked. I hurriedly obeyed, and the motor car jerked forward. Through the last gap in the hedge before the trees swallowed the manor, I caught a glimpse of dark figures, framed against the light of an open doorway, watching us.

                We sat silent as the motor muttered and the road rumbled past. I didn’t know what to do with the white-lipped woman next to me. She sat frozen, hands clutched in her lap, staring ahead unblinkingly. No respectable young woman would get into a strange car with a strange man unless some worse fate awaited her, and from her dress, I knew her to be respectable.

                “What’s your name?” I finally asked.

                The trees marched steadily by, and a sliver of moon managed to escape the oppressive clouds before she answered. “Elaine.”

                “Elaine Greymouth?”

                She nodded. I’d heard of her but only as a footnote to her father, the Lord Greymouth. What she was doing running into the road after dark, I couldn’t fathom.

                “Does your family know where you are?”

                She buried her face in her hands and wouldn’t say another word.

                My landlady was visiting family, so the narrow house where I lived, wedged into the tight row lining the street, stood dark and silent when we arrived. Elaine sat mutely. Not knowing where else to take her, I helped her inside, half-carrying her as she stumbled along, clinging to my arm. I set her on a chair in the kitchen, tucked a heavy blanket around her shoulders, and pressed a steaming cup of tea into her hands.

                “Now, tell me,” I said, sitting across from her. “Who’s going to kill you?”

                She tentatively sipped the tea, smoothing back her disheveled hair with a fluttering hand. “We recently discovered we had several distant cousins. My father wasn’t clear on the details, or perhaps he simply wasn’t forthcoming with me, but”—she took a shuddering breath—“they had a line of inheritance.”

               The tea in her cup wavered in her shaking hands, nearly spilling.

               “They came to visit,” she continued, the composure she’d mustered slipping away. “Mother was in bed, Father in his study.” Her teeth chattered. “Only, Mother was cold as ice, staring. The study… Empty. Auntie was gone. I tried! I looked.”

               I leaned closer. “Where were they?”

               “They killed them, don’t you see?” she cried, eyes wide. “They wanted the manor! Uncle was last. I begged him, said it was just a house, but he wouldn’t go. There was so much blood, pouring out of his mouth, then it was just me and—“

               The teacup slipped from her fingers, shattering on the table. She gasped in horror, but I caught her trembling hands. “It’s only china. I’ll clean it up, but first, I’m calling the police.”

               When I came back, she was trying to mop up the mess with a linen napkin. She cut herself on the shards and stood there, uselessly, blood pooling in her palm. I quickly wrapped her hand up and set her back in her chair, grateful my landlady wasn’t here to see the state of her linens. “The police are on their way.”

               She nodded quickly. “Who are you?”

               “My name is Clarence,” I said, squeezing her fingers to stop the bleeding. “But you can call me Clancy. All my friends do.”

                I offered a small smile. She didn’t return it, but she leaned her forehead on my hands, still clutched in hers.

                A weary-looking and skeptical sergeant soon appeared at the door to hear her tale. His demeanor changed when I presented “the Honorable Elaine Greymouth,” and we were rushed back to the manor, the police car droning and clanging in the still night.

                The manor was a massive affair of brick and twisted metal. The dark windows soon flared with light. Electric torches flickered and bobbed on the grounds, and voices shuddered off the brick as they searched. Elaine and I waited outside: she refused to get any closer. A peevish Inspector, his tie half-tied, arrived, gnashing an unlit cigar and barking orders at the uniforms.

                “We found blood!” came a call from the doorway, and he stalked inside, shoving his cigar back in his pocket.

                Elaine buried her face in my lapel. “You’re safe now,” I murmured, stroking her hair, but she shook her head.

                It was nearly dawn before we were taken back to the narrow house on the crowded street.  They had found blood but no bodies and no killers. Uniforms came and went all day, and Elaine told and retold her story until I thought she might go mad. She answered each question calmly, with composure, but when they finally left that evening, she looked transparent, like she might fade away.

                Besides my landlady’s rooms, which were strictly off-limits, there was only my rickety bed, but I could make do with the parlor. Elaine sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, vacantly apologizing for the imposition. I gathered up spare blankets and a change of clothes before bidding her goodnight.

                “Clarence!” she called anxiously as I pulled the door shut behind me. She was watching me, eyes wide and fearful.

                “I’ll be downstairs.”

                After a moment, she seemed to accept this, and I left her tugging at the buttons on her dress.

               I tossed aside my jacket and collapsed in a high-backed chair, not bothering to turn on the lights as the sky darkened, and tried to make sense of the past day. One moment I was driving home, the next, the potentially last member of the Greymouth family was asleep in my bed. My home was humble compared to her standard of living, but she’d made no complaint and shown no desire to leave. The police seemed to think we were already acquainted and didn’t question it when she clung to my hand, knuckles whitening, while they questioned her.

               I was nodding off when the floor in the hall creaked. Night had settled over the house, clumping in the corners. A dark figure appeared in the doorway. I started to call for Elaine but hesitated. Elaine would glow a soft white in the darkness, like a pale moonbeam, like she had when she appeared in front of my car. Whoever this was, was a shadow against the night, standing silent.

               Men who tend to motor after dark also tend to carry revolvers. I slid the small weapon out of my vest pocket. The figure didn’t seem to notice me and turned to leave. I stood up, and the blankets piled in my lap slid to the floor. The figure whirled, and I fired. The room blazed bright as daylight, leaving me blind, ears ringing. I crept forward, feeling around on the floor until my fingers found warm wetness. Blood.

               There was no time for relief. The floor above me moaned. I sprinted for the stairs, taking them two at a time, and crashed through her door. Another dark figure stood over Elaine’s bed, framed against the moonlit window. My gun flashed and crashed, and they crumpled to the floor. When I turned on the lights, Elaine was sitting up, white and stiff as a gravestone, coated in a red mist of blood.

               “Elaine?”

               Her wide eyes stayed fixed on the figure in the spreading red stain until I pulled her chin to face me, relieved to see the blood she wore wasn’t hers. Her dress had been laid over a chair, and she had on only a thin lace chemise. I wrapped a blanket around her, ushering her downstairs. She froze at the bottom of the steps where the other figure lay, sprawled halfway inside the parlor.

               “He’s dead,” I said, guiding her into the kitchen.

               The police were again called, and the house swarmed with uniforms. Elaine stared down at the bodies as they were carried out, the black masks they wore peeled back.

               “The sons,” she murmured before she went back into the kitchen and sat, staring ahead, the blanket sliding forgotten from one delicate shoulder.

               The Inspector, his cigar dangling from one corner of his mouth, hesitated by the door, glancing into the kitchen before he pulled me aside and dug a photograph out of his pocket. “Thought it best you see this.”

               I stared down at the grainy image of brick walls lined with shelves, a low ceiling, and a dirt floor. Four figures wrapped in gaudy drapes lay in a neat row at the bottom of a dirt hole, bound up by tasseled cords. “No survivors?”

               “Only the girl.”

               “What is it?” a thin voice asked behind me.

               Elaine stood in the doorway, her face pale.

               “They found your family,” I said, handing the photograph back to spare her the horror.

               “Where?”

               “The cellar.”

               She nodded. “And the killers? There were two more, the mother and the brother.”

               “Not a sign of them, ma’am,” the Inspector said, fiddling with his cigar. “I imagine they’re long gone by now.”

               I tugged the blanket back over her bare shoulders. “It’s over. You can go home.”

               “No,” she said flatly, her face expressionless. “They won’t rest until I’m dead.”

               She went back into the kitchen, her gaze turned to the ceiling to avoid seeing the blood on the floor. I shrugged helplessly, and the inspector laid a sympathetic hand on my shoulder before he strode out the door.

               I made the best bed I could for her on the chaise in the parlor and covered the bloodstains with sheets, but she wouldn’t sleep or eat. I couldn’t blame her for that. I tried my best, but I was no cook.

               “Please try,” I said softly, kneeling at her feet where she sat on the makeshift bed and setting a tray of food, long since cold, on her lap.

               She nudged the fork despondently, but we were interrupted by a loud gasp from the hallway that could only be Mrs. M. returning home to find one of her finest sheets laid over an enormous bloodstain on the meticulously cleaned carpets. If she was horrified by the state of the floors, I trembled to think what she would do to me when she discovered the kitchen.

               “What did you do?” she shrieked at me when I appeared in the doorway, shaking the bloody linens in my face. “Three days! I left for three—”

               She stopped, mouth open, staring past me. Elaine hovered in the doorway, her eyes seeming two sizes too large in her drawn face.

               When Mrs. M. heard the whole sordid tale, she insisted Elaine stay with us and would hear no argument. The only protests Elaine made before she agreed were halfhearted and I think more for propriety’s sake than anything else. The days fell into a bizarre rhythm. The search for the remaining killers swept the city, and soon there wasn’t an ear that hadn’t heard what happened that night at Greymouth Manor. Curious visitors, well-wishers, and gawkers tried to call when they learned where Elaine had disappeared to, but I sent them away, saving her from their prying and shallow sympathies.

               Mrs. M. fussed over her like an anxious mother. Elaine herself kept a brave face. Through all the horrors and fear she’d endured, she never shed a tear, but I heard the floor creaking as she paced at night. It was only at my coaxing that she picked at her meals and on my arm that she would venture from the house to stroll down the uneven street.

               “Poor dear,” Mrs. M. sighed as we stood in the parlor doorway, watching her halfheartedly play the out-of-tune piano in the corner. “One can’t fathom what kind of monster would do such a thing and to such a sweet girl.”

               “One never knows, Mrs. M.”

               “And heaven only knows what would have happened to her if you hadn’t been there!” She wrung a dishtowel in her hands as if she might strangle the killers herself.

               “A coincidence to be sure, Mrs. M.”

               “Don’t pretend you aren’t pleased,” she said, eyeing me. “I see the way you look at her when she takes your arm, like a man who’s found lost treasure.”

               “Mrs. M!” I said indignantly.

               My protest only seemed to confirm her suspicions, and she raised an eyebrow before bustling back into the kitchen.

               Elaine was sitting silently now, gazing at her hands in her lap. Her fair hair hung over her shoulders: she hadn’t bothered to pin it up. She turned to me, her eyes forlorn, before the golden locks again hid her thin face, and with a sigh, she began to play, picking out a mournful and naked melody.

               Three weeks after a crazed woman darted into the road ahead of my motor car, the last two killers were found on a steamer bound for America. The trial that followed, while a necessary course of law, seemed superfluous. No one doubted their guilt or the word of the thin, pale woman who accused them. One only had to look in her face to see the horrors they’d brought upon her. It was no surprise then when they were sentenced to hang. Elaine insisted on attending, dressed in stark black, and refused to leave until the hoods were removed and she could see the bloated faces of her family’s killers. She sobbed against my chest, though whether from horror or relief, I couldn’t say.

               When we stepped out of the courthouse, a pudgy man with a briefcase in one hand and a damp kerchief in the other that he kept wiping across his brow was waiting for us.

               “Lady Greymouth?” he asked.

               Elaine’s body jerked at the address, but she politely greeted him in response.

               “I oversaw your father’s matters. Now that this… beastly affair is dealt with…” He dug around in his stuffed briefcase.

               “Now really is not a good time,” she said.

               “I’m sure it will only take a moment,” I said, squeezing her hand. “Let’s hear the man out.”

               He presented her with a large envelope. “As the last surviving member of the Greymouth family, the whole of your father’s estate passes to you, including Greymouth Manor.”

               Her face contorted. “Board it up. I never want to see that horrid place again. I can’t… I can’t go back. I want none of it!”

               She dropped the envelope like a snake and rushed past him.

               “Sorry,” I snatched it up and shoved it under my arm, hurrying after her. “It’s been a long… month, really,” I called over my shoulder.

               I found her standing on the street corner, distractedly twisting her handkerchief, and took her dear little face in my hands. “You’re safe now, darling.”

               It was improper, and I knew it, but she smiled up at me, laying her hands over mine. “I don’t know what would have become of me if you hadn’t found me.”

               “Don’t you think about that. Not for a moment.”

               The horror of that night finally seemed to lay behind us, and there was a future to be looked to, one I had an increasing interest in. When she left the narrow house for furnishings more suitable for her station, I was a frequent visitor, feeling very out of place, but I needn’t have worried. Her solemn face lit up and she rushed to greet me whenever “young Mister Clarence” was announced at the door.

               Three months later, we were married and settled into the stately but modest Greymouth townhouse. It was a quiet life. As I told the few visitors we had before asking them to call again another day, the darkness still lingered. While a tragedy, it was less a surprise when six months later, my dear little wife, driven mad by what she’d endured, killed herself. She was too young and innocent to survive the horrors brought upon her.

               She was buried on the estate beside her family in a small fenced garden at the edge of the trees, and to stay close to her, I took possession of the manor, pulling the boards from the doors and letting light into the windows once more. But the truth of it is, when she came down the stairs that last night and I kissed her hand as I always did, she smiled happily up at me, never for a moment suspecting there was strychnine in her tea.


Photo Credit: The Building News, 16 July 1875
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haseley_Manor_-perspective_including_ground_plan-_The_Building_News,_16_July_1875.jpg

Tiny Tales: Ep. 22 – Waiting for Perry

Tiny Tales is a weekly podcast of short stories spanning horror, fantasy, comedy, and everything in between. Written and narrated by R. E. Rule. Music and production by Frank Nawrot (www.franknawrot.com).

Check out our website: www.tinytalespodcast.com
Support us on Patreon: www.patreon.com/rerule


This Week’s Episode:

The winning story from the Tiny Tales Writers Contest.

About the writer:
Grace Odell is a musician, pianist, teacher, writer, and entrepreneur. She opened the Odell Music Institute in 2016, where she teaches piano to both children and adult beginners.  Through OMI she also offers a wide variety of other musical education opportunities geared towards the general public. Check her out at www.odellmusicinstitute.com.

More soon!

~ R. E. Rule

Bread

I recently passed 100 posts on the Tiny Tales blog, 61 of which were original short stories (find them here). What a journey from when I started sharing my work almost ten months ago! I knew then that I needed to write and did so with wild abandon. Not everything that came out was, to put it bluntly, good, but it was finished. Each story taught me something new about writing, about myself, about what I wanted, taking me a little further down a path I’m discovering as I walk it.

If you’re wondering where that path is headed, I don’t know. I can tell you that I have a list of story ideas about a mile long that I am slowly carving my way through. Will you see them all here? No, probably not. I hope to have some of my work, the best of my ideas polished to the best of my ability, published. But there will still be stories here for you every week.

I can’t wait to see where the next ten months take me. But in the meantime, to celebrate this milestone, let’s revisit the very first story I posted, inspired by the writing prompt “bread.”


She tipped the bowl, and the mass of dough landed with a puff of white on the floured counter. Some clung to the inside, and she picked at it, wishing the sticky mixture would stick to itself and not her fingers.

“It’s healthier than store-bought bread,” she said to her husband, who was bent over staring into the refrigerator, and lifted herself on her toes to press the heel of her hand into the soft dough. This recipe was one she had seen on TV and decided to try on a whim, carefully measuring out the ingredients into a shiny stainless steel bowl.

“The Perfect Bread Recipe,” the show’s host had claimed, taking all the credit for the tens of thousands of years of experimentation with the ratios of ground grass, moisture, and time.

She shook her wrist, sending a flurry of white over the soft lump and continued kneading, oblivious to the countless women toiling over grinding mills contained in her innocent white bag of flour, shadowed by the inevitable escape of its contents.

“I hope the yeast rises,” she mused to herself, considering the silver bag in the freezer she had bought on sale six months ago. “How long does yeast last anyway?”

The store hadn’t had any messy starters in jars passed down from generation to generation, stuffed in the back of dark pantries or cool cellars, only bags and packets with big chunky letters on them. Instant, active dry, rapid rise. A thousand years of slow growth crammed into an innocuous silver packet.

“Should have done this in the mixer,” she sighed, picking at the stubborn dough clinging to her fingers. She lightly clapped her hands over the dough to free them of their floury coating and gingerly moved it into a bowl, topping it was a light pat and a cloth.

“Leave in a warm area until doubled in size,” she recited to herself, flipping on the light above the stove with a beep and placing the dough-filled bowl beneath it. Now she only had to wait. There were no villagers to feed, no chores for impatient lords or masters, no hungry customers, just time as the tiny organisms, finally reawakened, began their work. She peeked under the cloth once, happy to see the dough climbing its way to the edge of the bowl. The little fungi gorged themselves until she moved the dough into the waiting loaf pan, and then they gorged themselves again.

She slid the pan into the oven and curled up with a book and a glass of wine. No fires, no fuel, no smoke or charred loaves, only a soft whoosh and a click as the oven toiled away. Soon she was greeted with the unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread, no longer a necessity of survival but an act of pure decadence. Carefully retrieving her browned loaf, she pensively knocked on its crusty exterior, listening for the hollow echo, oblivious to the thousand years of human existence contained within.


Next week’s story is called “What Happened That Night at Greymouth Manor.” If you enjoy murder mysteries, make sure to check back in next Wednesday, and as always, you can subscribe here.

More soon!

~R. E. Rule

Tiny Tales: Ep. 21 – Butter & Honey

Tiny Tales is a weekly podcast of short stories spanning horror, fantasy, comedy, and everything in between. Written and narrated by R. E. Rule. Music and production by Frank Nawrot (www.franknawrot.com).

Check out our new website: www.tinytalespodcast.com
Support us on Patreon: www.patreon.com/rerule


This Week’s Episode:

Butter and honey spread thick on a flaky biscuit. It tasted like memories.

More soon!

~ R. E. Rule

The Folk of the Forest

Content Warning: Mild Profanity


                I’m sure you’ve heard tales of the strange folk said to dwell in the forests, folk not human. Go ahead. Laugh. Call ‘em nothing but fairy tales, stories to scare defiant children. There was a time I’d have joined you, but I’m here to say that whatever you’ve been told is probably true. Listen to your mother. Don’t follow the lights. And for the love of whatever god you pray to, do not piss off the folk of the forest.

                I was warned to stay on the path and avoid the dark parts of the forest, but no true wanderer can resist the call of untouched lands. I left the road behind and found where gray branches grow gnarled and brittle, the ground is soft with moss, and light hangs dim and shadowed beneath the trees.

                I made camp there as night fell. A fire crackled at my feet. The smell of my foraged dinner mingled with the wet sweetness of a forest after dark in the spring. A log collapsed in the fire. Behind the rising sparks, a pale face glowed out of the shadows.

                I jerked upright, blinking. An impossibly thin woman was perched on a fallen log, arms crossed, glaring at me.

                “Where the hell—?” Dazed, I looked around for where she could have come from. Cascading hair wrapped around her wiry body, but she didn’t have a thread of clothing underneath. “Are you lost?”

                She pursed her lips, angular face contorting. I blinked and we were nose to nose.

                “You’re the one who’s lost,” she hissed, bright eyes changing color with every blink of her translucent lids. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you it isn’t wise to interfere with the faerie folk?”

                She hurled a handful of mushrooms at my chest. I’d noticed they were growing in a circle, but that had seemed like good luck at the time. Half had been cooked for dinner, the other half, now scattered, set aside for my breakfast. She leered in my face, fingers digging into my chest.

               “You’ve wedged yourself in where you’re not wanted!” Her voice swelled from a growl to a shriek. I clamped my hands over my ears, but the noise reverberated in my skull. The forest erupted in waves of color, shifting, shuddering. The trees swayed. Lights flickered beneath their branches, and her scream rushed back through the dark trunks as soft laughter.

               “I—I’m sorry!” I gasped. “I’ll put them back.”

               Her twisted smile pinned me. The fire flared, crimson and emerald. Grotesque shadows danced across the trees. Other figures, faces pointed and bright, ivory and mahogany and ebony, whirled in the firelight. They tried to drag me into their wild dance, but I lay like a stone. So they flailed me with sticks and rocks and clods of dirt, dancing over me with sharp heels.

               The world pitched, and the ground surged up, threatening to throw me into the fire. I clawed at the dirt as the flames roared, climbing, licking at my heels. The monstrous shadows laughed. I was falling, tumbling, and the world went black.

               I woke in the pale light of dawn, face down next to the dead fire. The skin beneath my shredded shirt was covered in welts and bruises, and my mouth full of dirt. As soon as I could stand, by god, I put those mushrooms back where I found them.


I was bored with the writing prompts I’ve been getting, so I picked one for myself: a 500-word story about mushrooms. I know what happens when you step into a fairy circle, but what happens if you EAT a fairy circle? Inquiring minds want to know.

~ R. E. Rule

Photo Credit: Painting by August Malmstrom
(https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dancing_Fairies_(August_Malmstr%C3%B6m)-_Nationalmuseum-_18226.tif)

Tiny Tales: Ep. 20 – Wings of the Mountain

Episode 20 of Tiny Tales is now live on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, Buzzsprout, and the Tiny Tales webpage.

Check out our new website: www.tinytalespodcast.com
Support us on Patreon: www.patreon.com/rerule

Tiny Tales is a weekly podcast of short stories spanning horror, fantasy, comedy, and everything in between. Written and narrated by R. E. Rule. Music and production by Frank Nawrot (www.franknawrot.com).


This Week’s Episode:

Many come. Seeking power. Seeking riches. Peasants, beggars, kings, and lords of men, come to make their pleas. 

More soon!

~ R. E. Rule

Little Red – Part 2

If you missed Part 1, find it here.


               Only the brightest, most fragrant, most perfect blossoms would do, and the sun had passed its peak in the sky by the time Little Red continued down the path, downy stems clutched in her hands and the basket on her arm. Her stomach was beginning to grumble, and she hurried now, eager for the biscuits and jam carefully wrapped up in their basket. Around the last curve, the cottage came into view, and Little Red stopped and stared.

               The trees grew tall and close, lacing their green hands together over what looked more like a worn barn than a cottage. Rotting leaves blanketed the uneven roof, and furry, green moss crept up the water-stained wood. Little Red struggled through tacky mud, past a dilapidated well, to the door, stopping for a moment to examine the tracks next to her muddy shoes. A line of shallow paw prints ran from the door into the trees. Wondering if her grandmother had seen the wolf too, she hurried inside.

               Quilts hung over the windows, and the hearth was cold. Little Red stood a moment in the dark doorway before she noticed a figure in the cot against the wall. “Grandmother?” she whispered, timidly drawing closer.

               The figure stirred, turning, and the drawn face of her grandmother gazed up at her. “Red?” she murmured hoarsely. “You… you shouldn’t be—” A ragged cough shook her body.

               Little Red anxiously smoothed back the tangled hair streaked with gray. “I brought flowers,” she said, laying her small hand on the flushed cheek.

               Her grandmother clutched it, pulling it to her lips. “So… hungry…” she moaned, drawing a rasping breath.

               Little Red yanked away from the tightening grip, horrified to find both her and her grandmother’s hand coated in drying mud. “You need to wash up,” she said, pursing her lips. “Then we can eat. I’ve brought biscuits and jam.”

               Leaving the basket and the flowers heaped on the table, she hurried to the well, the empty water pitcher in her hands. The rope was rotting, blackened and stiff, and it bit into her hands, but she held on tight, her feet sliding in the mud as she struggled to heave the water up from the blackness. She had watched her father pull water from the well in the village. He had crouched down to look her in the eye, telling her never to use a well alone or to lean over the edge to look down, and she had solemnly promised she wouldn’t. But now there was no one to help her, and her grandmother was very sick. As carefully as she could, she leaned over the crumbling wall to dip the pitcher into the bucket before jumping back as the rope buzzed against the stones and the bucket landed with a splash.

               Water in hand, she turned back to the cottage, but she stopped in the doorway. The figure in bed was moving. The blankets shifted against the darkness, writhing, thrashing, contorting, growing larger and bulkier until the cot buckled beneath it.

                Little Red’s voice shook. “Grandmother?”

               Two glowing eyes blinked back at her. White teeth glistened through the shadows, and the wolf, the same wolf that had followed her on the path only seeming much larger now in the small room, leapt from the bed. A white nightgown tangled around its legs, and it crashed to the floor. Thrashing and snarling, it clawed at the fabric, sending the table flying and scattering the flowers, then it was back on its feet, advancing on Little Red, bared teeth dripping. The pitcher of water crashed to the floor.

               With a shriek, she ran, slipping and stumbling in the mud, and the wolf bounded after her. With a snap, its jaws closed on her cloak. She tried to scream, but the world pitched, the air driven from her lungs, as the wolf shook her. The fabric in its jaws gave way, and she tumbled into the leaves. Her head slammed into rough bark. The wolf advanced, claws raking furrows in the dirt, fur bristling, fangs dripping. With a snarl, it leapt.

               Little Red clenched her eyes shut, clamping her muddy hands over her eyes, but the bite never came. There was a dull thud and a sharp yelp, and when she looked up, a familiar figure stood over her, axe in hand.

               “Father!”

               He dropped to one knee, pulling her into his arms. The wolf struggled to its feet, but its legs shook and it crumpled back into the leaves with a shallow whine. Little Red’s father carried her into the cottage, setting her on the bed and anxiously checking her over, folding his handkerchief to press against the gash on the back of her head.

               “Stay here,” he told her, moving her hand to hold the handkerchief.

               He strode out the door, a quilt in one hand and an axe in the other. When he came back, her grandmother was beside him, huddled under the quilt, her face pale and bloodied. Little Red ran to her with a sob of relief, but her father snatched her up.

               “It’s gone,” her grandmother said, her voice thin.

               “For now!” He gripped the axe tightly, backing toward the door. “How long until it comes back? Until it’s brave enough to leave the forest?”

               She sagged onto the edge of the bed. “It’s… so hungry. I’ll leave. I’ll go further away.”

               “What good will that do?” he yelled. “This has to stop.” He pulled Little Red closer, leaning his forehead on her hair. “I can’t let this continue.”

               Her grandmother stared at him, eyes wide, before she sighed, shoulders sagging. “I know. But please…” She held out her arms. “Let me see her.”

               “No.”

               Her father left the cottage, striding down the path, Little Red still clutched in his arms. Behind them, her grandmother stood in the doorway, the quilt around her shoulders, hand over her mouth, watching, until the forest swallowed her up. Down the winding path and back through the dark mouth, they went, to where Little Red’s mother stood waiting, baby in her arms. Her face paled when she saw the tattered and muddy cloak.

               “What happened?” she cried, stroking Little Red’s bloody hair.

               “A wolf ate grandmother,” Little Red sobbed. “Father had to cut her out.”

               Her mother turned to him with questioning eyes, but he said nothing, guiding them away from the forest.

               The next day the meadow stood empty and the stream that ran along the dark wall of trees murmured to itself. Little Red sat next to her father on the bench outside their tiny house as he sharpened his axe, the whetstone grinding against the blade. Leaving a kiss on her head, he set the axe on his shoulder and strode down the road toward the forest.

               “Where is your father going?” her mother asked, stroking Little Red’s hair as she sat on the bench next to her.

               Red gazed out at the dark wall of trees, to the darker mouth and the path that wound through it. “To kill the wolf.”


Photo Credit: Painting by Fleury François Richard (https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Little_Red_Riding_Hood.jpg)

Tiny Tales: Ep. 19 – Wait! There’s More…

Episode 19 of Tiny Tales is now live on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, Buzzsprout, and the Tiny Tales webpage.

Check out our new website: www.tinytalespodcast.com
Support us on Patreon: www.patreon.com/rerule


Tiny Tales is a weekly podcast of short stories spanning horror, fantasy, comedy, and everything in between. Written and narrated by R. E. Rule. Music and production by Frank Nawrot (www.franknawrot.com).

This Week’s Episode:

Welcome to the future! A lot has changed since the twenty-first century… except used car salesmen it seems.
Guest Narrator: Joe Rule (www.joerule.com)

More soon!

~ R. E. Rule

Little Red – Part 1

I didn’t intend to make this a two-part post, but life happens. This is the portion I was able to edit in time for today’s post. The conclusion will be posted soon.

This story is an altered re-telling of the classic fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” In his MasterClass, Neil Gaiman encouraged writers to take a fairy tale, dissect it, ask what parts didn’t make sense, and write a version with those questions answered.


                On the edge of a brooding forest, there stood a little village, and in the village, there lived a little girl. She spent her days running through the flowery meadows that skirted the village and skipping from stone to stone in the stream that trickled along the dark wall of trees. In that dark wall was a darker mouth where the meadows ended and a dirt path fringed with ferns snaked beneath the towering trees. The little girl often peered down that path, wondering what lay around the curve where the mossy trunks swallowed it, but she had been told never to wander the forest alone. So she sat and watched and wondered, and when the sun began to set, she ran home to the village, to the small house where she lived with her family.

                On a day near the end of summer, when reds and yellows were just beginning to stain the leaves, she met her father as he strode along the road toward home, and he swept her up onto his hip. “Hallo, Little Red,” he said, tugging the scarlet cloak she always wore down over her eyes. “Have you been good today?”

                “I caught a frog!” she exclaimed and pulled the wriggling thing out of her pocket to hold up to his face.

                With a chuckle and a kiss on the head, he set her down by the gate outside their little house. “For your mother’s sake, let’s leave the frog outside, eh? Or there’ll be no dinner for either of us.”

                Little Red hurried along the fence to where the grass grew thick and green and the frog would be safe from trampling feet. She left it there with a kiss on its lumpy head. “Be good. Don’t wander off or there’ll be no dinner.”

                Inside the little house, her mother flitted between the fussing baby and the pots steaming on the hearth. She shooed Little Red to the washbasin and shook the little scarlet cloak free of dirt and grass with quick hands. They ate together as the sun sank below the horizon. Only the fire lit the room now, and the village outside was dark. Little Red filled her pocket with crumbs and scraps for the frog, but when she tried to go back out, her father shut the door and locked it tight.

               “The door stays shut after dark,” he said, bending down to look intently at Little Red.

               She knew there would be no arguing, and so she was left to wrestle stubborn peas from their pods by firelight as her mother cleared the table and her father paced the room, a crying baby on his shoulder.

               “The village blacksmith was by today,” her mother said to him, stacking up the dirty dishes. “Asking after your mother’s house. His son found a wife, and they need a place to live. I told them they’d just have to keep looking, that she would need it when she came back.”

               “She won’t be back,” her father said quietly.

               The dishes clattered back onto the table. “She can’t intend to stay in the forest forever! What—”

               “She’s taken ill. She won’t be back,” her father said with the same stern tone he used when he told Little Red to stop knocking her feet against the legs of her chair.

               Little Red, who had been listening intently, accepted this answer, but her mother stood still, dismayed, wiping her forehead with a thin wrist. “But the harvest, and winter, and then third one on the way.”

               Her father took her hand in his. “We’ll make do.”

               Little Red had never questioned why her grandmother lived in the forest instead of in the clattering village. She often thought that she would like to live at the end of a winding path herself someday, so it all seemed perfectly logical. But she was concerned to hear her grandmother had taken ill. The next day, she begged her mother to let her go visit. Her mother, who had been all morning trying to spin a basket full of wool into yarn and weed the neat garden rows while shooing the chickens out, all with a fussing baby on her hip, finally, tiredly, agreed.

               “Stay on the path,” her mother said, her hand tightening on Little Red’s as they walked together to the edge of the meadow. “Go straight to your grandmother’s and straight home. And don’t speak to any strangers.”

               Little Red bounced excitedly, swinging the basket of biscuits and jam her mother had packed. She stopped once inside the dark mouth of trees to wave before skipping down the path. The clatter of the village faded. The leaves whispered above her, the trees creaked around her, and everywhere birds chattered.

               At first, she rounded each curve in the path eagerly, but finding only more trees, she started paying less attention to the world around her and much more attention to the one in her head. She was so engrossed that when she saw a wolf loping along the path behind her, she didn’t pause to consider whether it was a real wolf or an imaginary one but instead greeted it cheerfully.

               “Hallo!” Fancying the wolf asked where she was going, as she guessed all polite travelers did, she said, “I’m going to visit my grandmother. She lives in a cottage right down this path. Perhaps you’ve seen it. Why, I bet you have, and—oh!”

               Little Red drew up short. Through the trees, she had caught a glimpse of sunshine on golden flowers and butterflies flitting from blossom to blossom. Her mother had told her not to leave the path, but only a few trunks stood between her and the clearing. Certain that a bunch of fresh flowers would cure whatever ailed her grandmother, she waited only a moment before darting into the sunshine and gathering up as many blossoms as she could hold. Once, she looked up to see the wolf sitting at the edge of the clearing, just beyond the circle of sunlight, but when she looked again, it was gone and was soon forgotten.

(Part 2)


Photo Credit: Painting by Carl Olof Larsson (https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Larsson_-_Little_Red_Riding_Hood_1881.jpg)

Happy Hobbit Day!

Today is September 22, the birthday of both Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. These stout little hobbits appeared in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien and were pivotal players in the War of the Ring. Today might be a good day to enjoy some tasty food and drink in true Hobbit fashion and chase down an ill-advised adventure or two (though be cautious of any magical artifacts you come across).
In honor of the day, below is a poem I wrote several years ago for a Fantasy/Science Fiction class. It was part of a project I completed on The Hobbit.


Colored cloaks, like misty ghosts,
Through silver shadows pass.
Thirteen of steely foot and eye,
A borrowed thief,
The tallest shuffles last.

Through hands that squash,
And fangs that bite,
Through shrieks and riddles in the night,
Through enchantment’s snare,
And Goblin lair,
To reach that mountain cold.

There awaits a mighty foe,
Guardian of his golden hoard.
Emerging to rain despair,
With thunderous wing and roar.
But to a brave man’s arrow,
The FireFiend will fall.

To the mountain, a battleground,
Fortress for a fevered king.
March the armies of desire,
Joined by tide’s darkening.
A noble tomb for son’s of earth.


As always, thanks for reading and Happy Hobbit Day!

~ R. E. Rule

Originally posted January 30, 2020. Republished with updates September 22, 2020.
Photo Credit: T-Jacques (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon-hobbit-couleurs.JPG)