She lifted the red cloth from off the top of the basket and shook it out. The deep red cloth unfolded without a fold or crease. She flipped it around so it settled around her shoulders and tied the wide flat strings at the neck to hold it in place.
No, not cloth. She’d watched Grandma make the thread out of red bark and woody filaments in the lab, the robots patiently weaving it into the cape. At the time she’d thought it was an experiment in new cloth-making. She’d never expected to be gifted the thing.
She rubbed the fabric through her fingers. At least it didn’t feel like bark. She wouldn’t have worn it then, a gift from Grandma or not.
Why did Grandma insist she wear it anytime she journeyed away from the human city? She couldn’t find any point in it. The Gatherers never wore anything like it, preferring the muted tones of the forest floor. And it clashed with her purple and red hair.
The shuttle angled towards the forest floor again. It stopped mid-air and began a vertical descent. The limbs of the closest trees brushed against her window.
“We have arrived at the Blackstone Station,” the computer pilot announced.
The conversation didn’t pause for a moment as she worked her way down the aisle towards the door with her basket. Outside the door to the right of the ramp a door opened in the belly of the shuttle. Robot arms lifted several boxes out of the cargo hold and set them away from the body of the shuttle.
Kate looked around the small clearing surrounded by big fat gnarled trunks. A moist earthy scent hung in the air. Furry bunts of brown and white poked their heads over some roots, their large ears swirling around to study her. One of them squealed and all the curious heads disappeared. A few long tails could be seen on the other side of the roots as they scurried for their holes among the tree roots.
And nowhere did she see Grandma.
“Shuttle is launching. Please clear the area,” the computer pilot said.
Kate grabbed one of the boxes and dragged it after her towards the relative safety of the trees. The engines of the shuttle kicked in, causing air to billow the edges of her cape. One of the boxes still in the clearing tipped over, but the cover held.
With the shuttle safely gone Kate peered down the path leading to the cottage. Still no sign of Grandma. Setting the basket on top of the pile, she heaved a box up and started down the short path leading to Grandmother’s house.
She knew what she would find. Grandma would be hunched over an experiment somewhere, completely oblivious to the world despite the trip having been planned for weeks. Despite the noise of the landing shuttle.
And today she really would have appreciated having someone wait for her to arrive. To feel important enough. For someone to be glad to see her.
She shook herself. Grandma didn’t mean it. Grandma was just… Grandma.
The path turned a corner around a large bushy trees. Beyond sat Grandma’s house. Not a cottage, not a house like what would be considered a house on other planets.
The front door and windows nestled in the intertwined roots. The tree itself towered up into the forest canopy, disappearing into the tangle of branches and leaves from the trees around it. Even the porch consisted of the gentle curve of a root, sheltering the front door.
It looked like the home of a giant woodpecker.
A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…
“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.
For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.
An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.
Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.
And just where was Grandma, anyway?
A Science Fiction novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” by J.A. Marlow.
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