By Judith Buckingham

Stepping. Padding if you like. Quietly, through night streets. Now faster, now slower, now with a steady lope, sniffing at the air and things left to decay in dark corners; eyes moving from side to side. Watching, watching.

I hunt alone, like my mythical antecedent, though not like his reality – I am his dreamtime, as he is mine. We slink, we prowl – feared and fearing and howling with loneliness.

Come on in. Enter my dear. Welcome to my world. What did you imagine? Something that looked and smelled less of the carnal? Leather lounges and cocktail cabinets? Something with more style, more class? Being devoured is less damned if done with good taste eh? Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time… a fairy tale, a yarn, good for the night, good enough for you, the smooth line …once upon a time a little girl – and how old are you? Old enough to know better, or old enough to know what’s what?

What did you think you were doing? Didn’t mother tell you not to stray from the bright lights, keep away from dangerous places, stay in the suburbs where it’s safe? Of course she did. Mothers always do. And you thought, what does she know. Mother wouldn’t like it, but mother’s not going to……Poor innocent mother. Mothers are less innocent than they let on to their daughters. They know more than you think, know more than a thing or two. They’ve come across me themselves, been tempted, dared. What’s so wrong with a bit of fun then? Anyone can pick the flowers and I’m only going to go so far, not all the way. I can always turn back whenever I say. Dark is dangerous but it gives you a thrill, it’s warm and it’s exciting, and if I shut my eyes nothing will happen to me.

I was there. Still waiting. I taught these mothers. What they didn’t learn was how to warn their offspring without letting on. As for grandmothers – well wasn’t it grandma I had first of all? A very tasty dish, an older woman, begging for it half the time, she should be so lucky, died with a smile on her face, I can tell you.

Come on a little closer. What’s the matter, you think I’m going to eat you? Oh ho, it’s not my teeth that are so big, my dear. All the better to…..

Such innocence, the innocence of the worldly wise. You said: a woman should be able to walk where ever she wishes without fear at anytime of the day or night. So true. But saying it will not make it my kind disappear. Nor laws, nor guns, nor self defence classes. How did they eventually annihilate my most misunderstood, reviled furry ancestor: ? They cut down all the dark woods, destroyed the environment that left the dark festering gutters of reality to grow in ignorance and despair. And with no more trees to cut down, where did the woodcutter go with his merry axe and his strong right arm, ready to rescue little girls and grandmothers. He’s living in Rio in a fantasy land provided by the proceeds of timber wealth while the wolves and other indigenous creatures sloped off to the shanty towns, confused and bitter to pick revenge from the streets.

Better to have let the forests alone, better to have let the wolves howl. Little girls were safe if they kept to the path, did not stray, listened to what their mothers meant, not what they said. Here in this urban wilderness the predators still prowl down all the alley ways, wait with blood stained fangs behind every wall.

And when we are at last caught in the trap? We are punished, studied, categorised, hated and returned unforgiven to the streets, the wilderness, the haunted thickets of the mind – we are always there, you made us, and where else have we to go?