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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Peter and the Wolf






The wolf is back. I can hear it when I press my ear to my pillow, its great paws padding and pacing about under my bed, ragged yellowing claws catching on the wooden floor.

Crunch, crunch. Crunch, crunch.

I press my ear against the pillow to block the sound, but still it comes.

Crunch, crunch.

I’m too scared to shout, the sound stalling in my throat. The wolf comes at night, a lone

male with yellow gleaming eyes and blood-blackened teeth. The hero on my pillowcase is useless against the wolf. His cape flapping, Superman throws his fist into the sky and does nothing.

The wolf has been visiting me for a long time now. I’ve learned that the more frightened

I become, the more frenzied it becomes, the sound of its steps getting faster and faster as it paces under my bed. It’s as if it’s learned to smell my fear. I slow my breathing, so the wolf stays calm. But one night soon, the wolf is going to eat me. Perhaps he’s waiting for me to be fatter, like the witch in ‘Hansel and Gretel’. He comes back most nights to see if I’m ready. I think it’ll be soon, because he’s getting bolder. I can smell him now, sharp and metallic, like the taste of blood after a paper cut.

The door opens, letting in the shaft of cheery yellow light from the hallway. Dad comes in. I

almost weep with relief. The wolf doesn’t show itself. It’s afraid of my parents. It slinks away somewhere. I don’t know where. ‘Michael, have you wet the bed again?’

‘The wolf is here.’

‘Now that’s enough. I don’t want to hear any more stories about wolves. I’ve told you, there

are no wolves in New Zealand, and there are no wolves under your bed. The bathroom is just across the hall. Just there!’ Angry, he throws out his arm. It’s the third time this week. ‘We expect this kind of thing from Peter. You’re eight; that’s too old to be wetting the bed.’ His face softens. ‘Come on, then.’ I scramble to my feet. He picks me up, his hands on either side of my waist, and lifts my feet clear of the wolf’s fangs. My face smooth against his stubble, he carries me to the bathroom. ‘Paula! He’s wet the bed again.’

In their room next door, I hear Mum slap down her book. She comes to the bathroom

where Dad is helping me strip off my wet pyjamas and leans against the door. Dad turns the shower on.

Mum asks, ‘You OK here?’

Dad says nothing, but I see the face he pulls. ‘I’ll strip the bed, then,’ she says, and she pads

away.

Later, when I am clean and dry, I lie on my back and watch the light from the hall. Under my

bed, the wolf is still. I strain to hear, but he can be cunning. For the moment, there are no footsteps. The light flickers for an instant. Did the door just move? Open – close. Yes! The wolf has gone! But where? Is it roaming around the house? I imagine the wolf nosing open the door to my brother’s room, where Peter is asleep in his low toddler bed.

My blood freezes and I tremble.

Peter!

Instinctively, I know the wolf is in Peter’s room. In my mind, I see it circling Peter’s bed

with its yellow teeth and sly eyes. There isn’t enough space under Peter’s bed for a wolf. Mum tried to slide my old train set under there to get it out of the way, but it wouldn’t fit.

I have to do something! Peter’s just a baby with chubby baby fingers and folds of skin at

his wrists. He can’t do anything for himself like I can. He needs help to put on his T-shirt or to do up his car seat. I get up. Sliding open the top drawer of my bedside table, I take out the pocketknife Granddad gave me for Christmas and prise it open, my fingers shaking and sweaty.

My heart races as I creep into the hall. Peter’s door is open. I was right. The wolf is in there.

I grip my knife hard, my knuckles white, and peep around the door. I see its hulking grey shape on the bed, standing over Peter.

It opens its mouth, dripping saliva, its yellow eyes gleeful.

No! I won’t let it eat Peter. I won’t! I charge at the bed, my tiny knife held high.

I thrust and thrust again. I’m close to it now, inhaling ammonia and milk. My blood pounds. The creature howls in frustration. It wasn’t expecting me but still it fights back, clawing at me. I slice out with my knife, knowing I must throw every bit of my weight behind it. The little blade ploughs deep, touching bone. Grinding. Warm blood runs down my hand. But the wolf isn’t dead. With a whimper, it bounds away. Then, in that instant, the game changes.

Suddenly, I am the hunter! I chase it, stabbing at it from behind.

Light floods the room.

Blinded, I don’t see the wolf make its escape.

‘Oh, my God!’ my mother screams.

My eyes adjust. The room is awash with blood: on the bed, on the floor. Peter’s fingerprints

streak the walls where he has tried to get away. Now, he lies on the floor in his Thomas-the-Tank-Engine pyjamas, his body ripped and oozing where the wolf’s teeth have sunk deep into his torso.

On her knees, my mother wraps her arms around him and rocks his little body to and fro.

I’m too scared to move. I think my brother may be dead.

My father approaches. Ducking down to my level, he uncurls my fingers and removes the

knife. ‘It’s OK, Michael,’ he says. ‘It’s over now.’

My fingers are sticky with blood. I look at them in surprise. ‘The wolf was here,’ I whisper.

And this time, Dad nods.


[First published in Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror, edited by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray, Paper Road Press. 2013.]

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