The Journey of the Foxes

The wind howled like a starving creature, forcing its way through the packed trees and stripping the drying leaves from the emptying branches. The world was getting colder, darker, and soon the night would be arriving, even though it was only early afternoon. This night brings with it that which was also dark and dangerous, and hunts in the darkness like death itself. The extra darkness gave them more time to reign, more time to prowl amongst the floor of the woods. One such creature was seduced to poke its white, pointed nose from its den. Just how safe was its surroundings? Was it time? Feeling confident in the conditions, the white-nosed creature emerged from its hole, revealing a sleek shape and handsome, clever face and knowing eyes that darted through the greying clearing. It snuffed a low noise and two more bound out, smaller than the first, leaping gaily over each other with joy and familiarity in their play. Softness spread fondly on the face of the first creature. She nipped lightly at them, then started picking through the roots of the trees, paws placed as gently as possible to move unnoticed- the smaller pair mimicked from just behind. This journey was for food.

Towards the edge of the thinning woods was a noisy place- a forest of brick and stone trees, standing incredibly tall and incredibly firm. The creatures came here as often as they may dare, for here they found their meals more successfully than back in their own wood of bark and leaves. Here, the foods bore more tantalising smells and, if you found the best places, a much greater variety.

However, this forest brought death closer and faster, for there were many large metal boxes that whizzed along flat concrete trails, mowing down anything in its path. The creatures knew this- they had seen it. The mother nuzzled affectionately at the smaller pair and slipped over the first of many concrete trails, unseen. She looked behind her to see her offspring dart neatly across before any more of the metal boxes charged past. Triangular ears pricked up, all 3 pairs, and utter stillness broke over the trio as they waited for signs of danger. A scuff from one side, a rustle of the wind pushing leaves along from the other- ears twitched and dark eyes flicked about. Nothing else came.

Swiftly, the larger creature darted amongst the alleyways, two smaller ones now like shadows as they slunk behind her. By now, this concrete forest was dark, and strange orbs of yellow and orange light shone beams above them, lighting up their trail as they emerged from alleyways, highlighting for a moment their auburn coats, and plunging them once again into darkness as they leapt back between the concrete trees. The wind howled down the alleys and through the streets, blowing at dried leaves and rustling packets left by the big folk. They knew this place well, the weird packages left by the tall ones no longer scared them; they followed this trail often.

They knew where to find the best food. They were nearly there. The scents drifted with the strong wind, swimming down the corridors of concrete ahead of them, tempting them closer- to devour it all. The pair of pups excitedly bound forward, knowing where they were and their brown eyes shining in hungry eagerness. The mother sniffed a warning to remind them they still had to watch out for danger, there may be traps in this concrete world, but she soon joined them in tearing open the strange black skins that covered their hunt of the day. Several of the large, round, black-skinned things could be found most days down many of the alleys, as the tall folk opened the mouths of the concrete trees and tossed out these shiny, fat carcasses. The creatures had no idea why the tall ones didn’t want to eat from these wonderful bundles, but they didn’t care; more for them!

Strange packets fell out of the wound in their bundle of prey, but the creatures merely nosed them aside; it was the softer flesh that they wanted. This was what they could smell on the wind. This they gorged upon happily; it was good, filling, and consistent. Sometimes, it was even warm! It didn’t take long for the two smaller creatures to snuffle their fill and resume their play from before, rolling amongst the spilled rubbish in an excitable frenzy. However, an overexcited bark erupted from their throats, followed by a low growl, and the mother suddenly perked up. The joyful skirmish of the two pups stopped and time stood still. A nearby concrete tree opened its mouth to reveal a hatch of light, and three small shadows shrunk away from the rectangular glow and vanished around the corner as one of the native folk of the concrete forest loomed to block the light.

“Argh!” It grumbled, “Foxes’ve been at the bin bags, again. Stuff’s gone everywhere!”

A laugh erupted from inside the mouth of the concrete tree, hidden behind the light. “At least somethin’ appreciates your cookin’, eh, Bill?” The shadow of the tall folk scoffed a retort, before disappearing back inside the light and closing the mouth of the concrete tree. The alley was dark again.

The mother fox looked at her cubs, silent, brown eyes filled with relief and warmth. She nudged them and they returned to their trail. It was time to return to the safety of the world they knew as home. They slowly picked back between the darkness and the orange lights, darting across the large concrete trails to avoid the metal boxes, missing a stampede as they skimmed past with their glaring yellow eyes blinding anything in their path. They slipped back amongst the wooden trees of the place they knew better. It smelled fresher, felt better. The quiet was welcome, and the wind’s howling fell to be less aggressive, blocked by the tall trees with leaves that protected them. They paused at the mouth of their den as the wind lifted the leaves and spiralled the small golden gems around the handsome faces of the creatures. Tiny, sleepy brown eyes observed them for a moment, before widening as the whole small, sleek body rolled over with the leaves, and tapped at them with their paws, yelping quietly as he and his sibling chased the floating gem-like leaves. The moonlight caught their colour, and the young foxes danced among them, spiralling and twirling to catch them and tap them and nudge them. The mother waited patiently at the mouth of the den. The moment the wind dropped so did the colourful leaves, and the young foxes gave in as fatigue dominated their senses. They trailed into their home, followed protectively by their mother. Here they would rest until their next excursion. Perhaps they would go into the concrete jungle again and follow the strange, captivating smells to the strange foods. Maybe they would stay amongst their wooden trees, and forage amongst the roots of the trees for whatever they could find.

The three foxes went to sleep, not knowing about the events that were to take place in a few days’ time: how the forest would be wakened by the crashing of the tall folk amongst the leaf-covered floor, and the baying of hounds as they followed the trail of a scent they knew and were rewarded for chasing. The tall folk would come upon horses, smaller creatures dashing to get out of the way- away from the horses, the hounds, then the tall folk and their loud death-bringing weapons that fired like thunder. Trumpet cries would echo and bounce off the trees, and the three foxes… well, we can’t know what would come of them and their home, just that we hope they will make a quick and successful escape, that the thunder won’t reach them and they come to safety in some new place.

Until then, they lay in the dark and the warmth- little ones dreaming of chasing the leaves and dancing amongst them as they shine like golden gems in the light of the moon.

***

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