the girl in the red cape

the demons aren’t in my head

they are the voice of my mother telling me to be at grandmother’s before dark before the wolves come out of hiding looking for some fresh, innocent prey someone new and young unaware of the forest at night

they are shadows in the woods shadows that slink around, silent but deadly  their mouths salivating at the sight of the girl in the red cape walking alone their stomach growls, hoping for one tasty morsel they haven’t eaten in so long 

i can feel their breath as i pass them holding mine, hoping they will not notice that i can creep by and be left alone and once i reach grandmother’s house i will be safe because the wolves cannot reach me there

or can they?

they were once men, so i am told an old wives’ tale, i’m sure what kind of man is that foul?

the forest paves the way to the streetlight it is still a long way to grandmother’s house but the wolves do not like light they prefer the dark, where no one can hear them and you, as you scream while they devour you

they are hunters, patient and deadly never satisfied, they always hunt for their next meal this is their favourite game and i have unwittingly become a part of it

my red cape serves me little protection but i shiver from the cold and fear and wrap it around me all the same tighter, as if i can disappear under it grandmother made it for my sixteenth birthday “red is the colour of pride,” she said “a reminder that you are in your own control” then why do i feel so powerless as their stares follow me?

they slowly creep out of their hiding places, ready to pounce saliva glistening from their sharp teeth their mouths frothing at the prospect of fresh meat i turn and run, down the familiar road i have crossed so many times usually, it signifies my arrival at my destination tonight, safety

at last, the door shuts behind me the wolves unable to reach me behind the wooden door they are unable to open i breathe a sigh of relief as i watch them slink back into the night

the demons aren’t in my head but everyone says they are

Publishers note: this poem was originally posted on Hilary Tsui’s personal Tumblr blog (purpleraccoons.tumblr.com) on January 16 2019