BY SARAH PRISCUS
Red offers him the oatmeal cookies that she baked for her grandmother. He takes one, then lobs her entire body into his open mouth.
His canine fangs graze her skin and her blood drips onto his tongue as sweetly as summer Moscato.
Once she settles into the wolf’s stomach, she unlaces her scarlet Skechers sneakers and tosses them aside. For days, she just sits barefoot and cross-legged on the wolf’s gooey stomach lining.
She hums to herself. It’s bat-cave quiet. She opens her backpack and eats an oatmeal cookie, absently marvelling at how easily it crumbles under her baby teeth.
Loneliness sets in so she sets out in search of her already-swallowed grandmother. She wanders through the abdominal labyrinth until she finds Grandmother lying semi-dissolved in a low, growing pool of stomach acid. Grandmother greets her with a honeyed, dimming “hello.”
Red stares at how Grandmother’s legs look piranha-eaten, all bone and mushy cartilage. Half-skeleton and still sweet-faced.
She places an oatmeal cookie on Grandmother’s cadaverous lap. She doesn’t eat it. If she did, it would tumble right back out again.
Red leaves her.
She passes the time by pressing her ear to the slimy side of the wolf’s stomach, listening for sparrow calls and the rushing of water. A field of sheep. A siren.
Her bite wounds scab over. Her eyes adjust to the dark.
Red realizes that she’s begun to breathe with the same rhythm as the wolf. Their arms stretch and scratch at the same time. Red cannot decide who is copying who. She prowls the fleshy floor in search of sunflower seeds or scraps of raw meat. Sometimes she slushes through a puddle of stomach acid and doesn’t really mind that it stings her skin.
Just as her acid bath is beginning to rise and burn, some well-intentioned man with an axe and ambition slits her swallower open. Red is yanked from her sticky home, and blinks mole-blind and paling in the sunlight.
The wolf’s carcass lies flat and broken on the dry earth. She and him have never looked more alike than in this moment, both bloody and matted with autumn sweat and gunk.
The man with the axe dries her sprouting body with a tea-towel. She gazes back to the wide wound slashed into the wolf’s body. Oh, she thinks, how dark it was in there - how deliciously, decidedly dark and damp. In that darkness - in that beast’s belly - there was power.
The forest is dark too, and the mist settles as a slick slime on her skin, so she wanders it, lightblind and soaking, until someone pulls her into the sun again.
Sarah Priscus lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and currently study English and Theatre at the University of Ottawa. I have previously had work published in Rookie Mag, Atlas and Alice, and Every Day Fiction.