The Other Road by Alexandra Seidel

Little Blue Ribbon chose the other road.
Her twin, whom all call Red Riding Hood, was distracted by a wolf
and went off, plucking flowers, hunting butterflies,
but Blue Ribbon, the girl who was petite as her sister and had her wheat-golden hair,
stayed on the road that led into the woods where their grandmother lived.
Blue Ribbon carried a basket of wicker in the crook of her arm with honey in it
and with dark cherries, sun-warm still and shaped like the hearts of tiny birds.
Her twin far behind her, Blue Ribbon was not fooled by the wolf. She ignored him,
flashed a conceited grin and turned away, the ribbons in her braided hair billowing
to her effortless canter. She walked on and as the road forked, she felt uncertain for
in spite of having walked that way before, she could not’”unlike her sister’”recall
which road to take to get to their grandmother’s house. As was said before, Little
Blue Ribbon chose the other road, the wrong road as it were, the one
that led not to the all-familiar house in the woods but to a castle dark and looming
with high turrets that greeted strangers from afar. The girl was cold with fear
yet the way back was long and winding like a maze and at the castle
she could ask for the way and possibly find friendly ears. Her little hand
formed a fist and she knocked on the huge door, made entirely from black oak.
The door opened, not just a crack, but wide, ever so wide, as if the little girl
were a princess with a glamorous retinue.
Little Blue Ribbon went into the castle.
Before the door closed, one of the summer-sky ribbons she wore in her braids
was touched by the wind and loosened with whirling fingers from her hair.
It flew away on the currents, high into the air and like the little girl,
was never seen again.
Perhaps Little Blue Ribbon found gold in the castle or a dormant prince,
enchanted dresses or talking gardens. There are no stories that would tell us
of her fate and so, all of which me may be certain
is that the grandmother would never again sweeten her tea with honey and that
she could not bear to look at cherry trees or at the corpses of birds. The other sister
drowned the wolf in a deep well beneath countless stones and sometimes
her red cape can still be seen flickering behind the trees
while the torn-twin voice that calls her sister’s name
fades into silence.

Alexandra Seidel is not entirely sure how to deal with fairy tale creatures but she suspects that trusting them might get you into trouble or eaten, whichever comes first. Her work about trust and other issues has been published or is forthcoming in Foundling Review, Niteblade, The Horror Zine, Danse Macabre, ‘˜decomP’, Apparatus Magazine, Word Riot, Star*Line and others.

IMAGE: Illustration of “Little Red Riding Hood” from Poems by Frances Sargent Osgood. Carey & Hart, Philadelphia, 1850.