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Anastasia Kharlamova lives in Saint-Petersburg, Russia with her parents and grandmother. She is studying for her PhD in linguistics, her thesis focused on the language situation in the town of Selenice in Southern Albania. Apart from her studies, she enjoys books, music, and cooking, and she has been writing poems and stories since her early childhood.

"Where are you going, little girl?" the strange-looking creature asked, almost gently, but with some threatening undertone in his voice Reddy couldn't quite place.
"I am going to visit my grandmother," squeaked Reddy. "I... I... she is sick, and I'm bringing her a bite to eat."
"Very good of you. Looks like you are a very caring girl. Where does your granny live, by the way?"
"Oh, it's just a twenty-minute walk from here. She lives right behind the largest oak of the forest, near the river."
"Do you remember how the fairytale ends?" the mother asked her son.
"Like all fairytales," he scoffed. "Last-second help appears, Reddy lives, Granny lives, everyone rejoices, blah, blah, blah."
"No," she said sharply. "Not at all."
"What?" the son's eyes grew round.
"That was an ending thought up for small kids, so that they wouldn't be too scared of the tale. The real story, the original one, ended tragically."
"Hello, Granny," Reddy edged inside shyly. She had always been slightly frightened of her formidable grandmother, and that meeting with the stranger on her way did nothing to calm her nerves, either.
"Why, hello, dear," Grandmother's voice boomed from the darkness, and Reddy shivered. After her eyes adjusted slightly to the lack of sunlight, she noticed Grandmother's dark coat in the corner.
"I brought you food."
"Come closer, Reddy."
There was something off about her... Probably she was just sick, but... but....
As Reddy did come closer and began to see even better, her heart leapt with fear.
"Oh, Granny, why are your eyes... and ears... and teeth... so small?" she gasped in shock. A mere second later, she saw the dim spark of metal.
The "bang!" that followed, however, Reddy heard not. Not anymore.
"The Man took both skins and made coats that he later sold," the mother finished grimly. "He wasn't just content with Grandmother's black fur, but he also took the red fur of Reddy which didn't even bring him much money. No animal is greedier and more dangerous than Man."
"But wasn't there a heroic Wolf that came to the rescue?" the son insisted.
"No. I'm telling you. No Wolf would risk fighting an armed Man. In real life, it's every beast for himself. Now sleep, and remember what I told you."
The little fox closed his eyes obediently, and dreamed that he would be the one to rescue Reddy. The mother sat by their hole's entrance, watchful, wakeful, and wary.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
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