“Will I ever be free?” I thought to myself. I looked up at the starry night sky and glared into the full moon, allowing it to put me at ease. “But how am I supposed to find peace?” I shook my head sourly. “Maybe it doesn’t matter…” I thought. “Maybe I’ll never find it...” I looked down at my paws and the cold earth beneath them, and thought, “Then why am I still searching?” For my entire life I have sought to be at peace, but chance would have it otherwise. Ever since I could remember, I have been alone… alone and afraid. Despite my efforts to amalgamate with people and their society, I have only grown wearier of them. They detest things that are different or strange, and so I could never be accepted. As such, I am forced to hide what I am, and pretend that I am nothing more than a simple animal.
As I stared blankly at the ground, I thought about what freedom would be like. I imagined a life free of cares, and filled with joy. I imagined a life without walls and cages. I imagined a life without pain and suffering.
I sifted my paw through the autumn leaves, trying to imitate the soothing sound of running water. To my alarm, I soon heard a pair of footsteps coming towards me. I instantly rose on all four paws and searched for the source of the footsteps. When I turned around, the sound stopped, and I saw a brown-haired boy, dressed in a gray outfit and carrying a black book.
We both stood motionless for a moment as we stared at each other. Instinctively, I felt the urge to run, but I could not move, no matter how much I wanted to. The boy continued to stare at me in my vixen form with amazement and wonder, while I stood with fear and unease. I knew that I shouldn’t stay near people for too long, but I could detect a sense of longing in the boy. He had been searching for something that night, and he found me.
The boy outstretched a hand towards me, but quickly withdrew it when I took a step backwards. Realizing that I had the power to move again, I sprinted away from the boy and hid under the first clump of dense shrubbery that I saw. I turned back towards the boy to see if he was to pursue me, but he had not moved from his position. His eyes scanned the moonlit forest, trying to seek me out. After a brief, silent moment, the boy gave up on his search and turned away. As the boy slowly walked away, I heard him give out a sigh of disappointment and say, “Yeah… I would be scared too…”
“That was too close,” I whispered to myself. I watched and waited silently as the boy made his way to a lone house in the distance that stood amidst the forest trees. After I heard the house’s back door open and close, I emerged from my hiding place and stealthily advanced towards the house. I knew that getting too close to people could potentially reveal what I was, but something about the boy made me feel sympathetic. Like me, the boy longed for something, and that something was just out of reach.
When I arrived at the maroon fence that encircled the house, I looked up to see that one room was still illuminated. Through the room’s second-story window, I saw the boy pacing back and forth. As I took a closer look, I saw that the walls of the room were covered with illustrations of foxes and wolves. “Perhaps he likes animals,” I thought.
Suddenly, the boy stopped pacing and turned his attention to the window. When the boy looked out the window, his eyes wandered for a brief moment until they fell upon me. Once the boy was staring at me, I bolted away as fast as I could until I was out of sight. “Wonderful,” I whispered to myself. “Just wonderful. You should have stayed away.” I then forced myself to erase the thought of the boy from my mind so I could put myself at ease.
As the night quickly grew colder, I frantically began to search for a warm place to sleep through the night. Aided by the moonlight, I hopped around until I came across a hollowed log that was big enough for me to crawl inside. When I was deep within the log, I wrapped my excessively long tail around my paws and nose, and waited until morning.
The next morning I was rudely awakened by the loud barking of a large dog. When I opened my eyes, I could see a set of large, white teeth trying to make their way through the hollow log. My heart jumped as soon as I saw the terrifying image before me. I turned to the other end of the log to escape, but was disappointed to see that it was buried under the ground. I began to panic as the dog’s teeth came closer and closer as it tore apart the log to get to me.
Once I saw that I only had one choice left, I closed my eyes, extended my paw, and whispered, “Fulmen.” The moment I uttered the word, a small, magical flash of electricity shot from my paw and struck the dog on his snout, singeing off most of its whiskers. The dog immediately withdrew its head and started whimpering in pain. With the dog out of the way, I fled, saying, “You deserved that, jerk.”
Before I had only gone a few meters, I could feel the after effect of the magic taking its toll on me. I was already feeling weary and a little fatigued, but I knew that I had to keep going. It was only a moment later when I could hear that the dog was chasing after me. My heart started racing even faster as the dog’s paw-steps grew closer and closer. Suddenly, I felt an enormous amount of pain surge from my back leg as it was pulled backwards. It felt as though a series of daggers had pierced my leg, harrowing its flesh.
I turned to see that the dog had caught my leg in its teeth, and was trying to drag me away. Frantically, I tried to free myself from the dog’s bite by clawing at its face with my other back leg. However, the dog was determined to keep me from getting away a second time and refused to let go.
Desperate, I whispered, “Fulmen,” and unleashed another, stronger, bolt of electricity. As the bolt struck the dog’s face, it immediately released its grip on my leg, and went cartwheeling backwards. When it landed flat on its back, the dog quickly returned to its paws and sprinted away, whimpering. Once the dog was out of sight, I turned my attention to my injured leg. “I’ll kill that jerk the next time he comes anywhere near me,” I vowed to myself as I saw a substantial amount of blood flowing from the wound.
Eager to get away from that place, I picked myself up from the ground and slowly limped away in the opposite direction of the dog. With the midday sun high in the sky, I knew that I could be easily spotted by anyone or anything, so I limped as fast as I could to the first hiding place that I could find. Soon, I came across the house of the boy that I saw the night before, and as I approached the house, I noticed a small crevice in the house’s wall. Using the very last of my energy, I squeezed through a gap in the fence posts, and ambled my way to the opening. Once there, I crawled into the gap, collapsed to the ground, and passed out.
When I regained consciousness, I found myself not in the crevice, but on a large, soft pillow inside of a house. Both curious and frightened, I gazed across the room that I was in, taking in as many details as possible. The room was perfectly square and had a door and a bed at one wall, and a dresser and a big window at the opposite wall. Next to the bed were a chair and a table that were covered with unorganized papers. In the corner across from the table is where I sat on an enormous white pillow next to the big window. Along the walls were illustrations of foxes and wolves that hung on the walls. My heart sank as I recognized the drawings, and realized that I was in that brown-haired boy’s room. “How did he find me that fast?” I thought. “And why did he bring me in here?”
Seeing that there was no one else currently in the room, I turned my attention to my injured leg. To my surprise, my leg had been cleaned and crudely bandaged. Even though the person responsible for this did a mediocre job, I still felt grateful for what they had done. “But why would someone do this for me?”
After briefly examining the bandages, I tried to get up on all four paws when I heard a voice outside the room shout, “I’m going to work on my book now, so don’t come in!” Seconds later, I saw the door open slightly and the boy’s head peaked into the room. After glancing at me, the boy slipped into the room and then quickly turned to shut the door behind him. Once the door was closed, the boy turned back around to see that I had already burrowed under the giant white pillow.
“Don’t worry, It’s just me,” said the boy softly as he slowly approached me. When I was within arm’s reach, the boy knelt down in front of the pillow and said, “It’s alright… I’m not going to hurt you…” As the boy started to remove the pillow, I clawed at his arm and darted under the bed and huddled in the corner. Although I knew that the boy’s intentions were good, I had to pretend that I didn’t if I wanted to keep my identity a secret. “Ah!” cried the boy as he retracted to his injured arm. After examining his injury, the boy said, “Oh, it’s just a scratch.”
“It’s alright,” said the boy again as he turned towards me. “It’s just me; I’m not going to hurt you. Trust me.” The boy lay out on the floor and approached me again, so I started growling at him. He stopped moving towards me and said, “How about some food? Maybe that will make you happy.” Without another word, the boy crawled out from under the bed, left the room, and then closed the door behind him.
Minutes later the boy reentered the room with a plate of cooked chicken in his hand. After closing the door, he quietly placed the dish on the floor and then proceeded to nudge it towards me. “Go on,” he said, “Eat it. It’s for you.” After having gone through what I did that morning, I was unable to resist the hospitality of a free, warm meal. Gradually, I inched closer to the plate until I snatched the largest piece of cooked chicken in my mouth and retreated back into the corner. As I gorged myself on the satisfying meal, the boy crouched down and said, “There we go; now we’re getting somewhere.”
Once the boy had crouched down, I suddenly noticed that he was drawing in a black book, and it only took me a brief moment to realize that he was drawing a picture of me. As I examined the book, I recognized that it was the same black volume that the boy carried the night before. Before I realized it, I had stopped eating and was staring at the boy’s book. After a moment, the boy saw this and stopped drawing. “Do you like it?” he asked, turning the book around to show me the drawing.
I ignored the graphite image and pretended to not understand the boy’s question as I continued to feast on the chicken. The boy closed the book, put it on the table, and sighed. “I guess I really am crazy,” said the boy dolefully. “Or just so lonely that I would resort to talking to a fox…”
The boy patiently waited until I had finished eating all of the chicken before he slid the empty plate to the side. Once the plate was out of the way, the boy lay down and slowly crawled towards me until I was within his arm’s reach. Cautiously, the boy extended his hand forward as he whispered, “It’s alright; I’m not going to hurt you.”
When his fingers were only inches from my snout, I raised my paw to claw at the boy’s arm again. As I did this, the boy quickly drew back his hand. “I’m not going to hurt you,” said the boy as he extended his hand again.
This time, when the boy’s hand came closer to my face, I did not retaliate. Instead I closed my eyes and let him brush his fingers through the fur between my ears. As he stroked my soft, golden fur, I suddenly realized how long it had been since I had felt the comforting hand of a friend. Before I knew it, I had begun to purr instinctively, and the boy started to scratch behind my ears. I slowly opened my eyes again to see an expression of great delight on the boy’s face. For what it was, the boy seemed to be enjoying this moment more than me, even though I was the one getting a massage.
At that moment I started to feel indebted to the boy. I felt that I should repay him, but how? What did I have that I could give?
For the next seven days, I resided within the boy’s room as he nursed me back to health, while I secretly used healing magic in order to accelerate the process. Not once did he ever allow me to leave the room, or allow anyone else to enter. For the majority of the time, the boy stayed in his room so that he could keep an eye on me. Besides monitoring me, the boy spent most of his time drawing and writing. As such, I deducted that the mountain of papers spread across his desk and chair were actually manuscripts of an unfinished novel.
At the end of the seven days, the boy unraveled the bandage on my leg for the last time. Once the bandage was removed, I could see that my leg had fully healed, save for the scars that would remain forever. “Man, that healed fast!” exclaimed the boy, surprised. “I guess that means that this is your last day here.”
When night came, the boy gently lifted me up into his arms and stealthily carried me out of his house. As we exited out the back door, the boy lowered me to the ground and said, “Bye… I guess…”
I looked back at the boy briefly before I turned and ran. I felt horrible for leaving him so abruptly, but I knew that I couldn’t bear to see his sad face one last time.
It was a little saddening to finally let the fox go. Even though I never expected to see it again, I kept looking for it, imagining that it would return someday. Every so often I would walk up to my large window to see if I could find the fox again, but it was never there. I’m not exactly sure why I sought after the fox, but I did. As I think about it, there was something about the fox that made me wonder, and left me seeking more of it. It was marvelous, enigmatic, and different.
After seven weeks of searching with hopes of seeing the fox again, I finally gave up. With no sign of the fox for some time, I had lost both hope and interest. In turn, I decided to focus more on my writing and illustrations in order to forget the fox.
One day, while my parents were at work, I found myself wandering the woods around my house, trying to come up with an idea for a story. As I trudged through the autumn leaves, I suddenly heard a pair of footsteps behind me. I quickly turned around to see that a golden-haired girl was following me.
The golden-haired girl, who seemed to be the same age as me, was dressed in an auburn shirt, navy blue jeans, and red tennis shoes. The instant our eyes met, she looked at me sheepishly and said, “Oh, uh… Hi.”
“Were you following me?” I asked.
“No… Well, uh… Yes, I was…” said the girl awkwardly, beginning to walk away.
“No, it’s alright, I’m not mad at you,” I explained, hoping that the girl wouldn’t run away. The girl stopped moving and looked at me with an apologetic expression on her face. “So, what’s your name?” I asked.
“Zelda,” said the girl softly.
“I’m Aaron. Nice to meet you,” I said extending an arm out to her.
Zelda cautiously advanced towards me and shook my hand, saying, “You too…”
“So, uh… are you new around here?” I asked.
“Why do you ask?” responded Zelda.
“I’ve just never seen you here before, that’s all.”
“Well, I live farther back in these woods, but I don’t explore them much.”
“Oh, OK. So what brings you out here then?”
“Nothing… I was just bored, really.” Zelda paused for a moment, and then asked, “What about you?”
“I’m usually out here so that I can be in peace.”
“Well, I hope you find it,” said Zelda as she looked up at the sky. Zelda then turned around and started to walk away again, saying, “See ya.”
Confused, I asked, “Wait, why are you leaving?”
Zelda halted and replied, “There’s a storm coming.”
As I opened my mouth to ask another question, a bolt of lightning flashed behind me and the sound of thunder rolled through the forest. When I turned around I saw that a large storm cloud had suddenly formed and was headed towards me. After I saw this, I looked back to Zelda, but she was already gone. At first I thought about trying to find Zelda, but when a second bolt of lightning roared all of a sudden, I decided to return home instead.
That night, after I returned home, I was constantly thinking about Zelda. Because no one my age has ever lived nearby before, I was curious about the girl. To some extent it was as though Zelda had breathed life into my dull world; life that had dissipated since I last saw the fox.
Once morning came the next day, I immediately grabbed my black sketchbook and set out into the woods to find Zelda. As I arrived at the same location that we met the day before, I found that Zelda was already there, and wearing the same clothes as the day before. “Hey, Zelda,” I said, walking up to her.
“Hey,” responded Zelda softly. She quickly glanced at me, and then proceeded to stare at my black sketchbook. “What is that?” she asked.
I held up the book and replied, “This? This is just my sketchbook. I use it to jot down ideas for stories, and draw characters.”
“Can I see?” asked Zelda, surprisingly intrigued.
“Sure,” I said, handing the black book to Zelda.
Without another word, Zelda took the book and began to explore the entities within. As she flipped through the pages, Zelda asked, “So, are you a writer?”
I nodded my head and answered, “Yeah. But I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with a good story.” Zelda suddenly stopped flipping through the pages and looked up at me with a thoughtful expression. “What is it?” I asked.
“Nothing,” said Zelda, instantly returning her attention to the sketchbook. As she continued to study the book, I could sense the world around me slowly growing darker. I instinctively looked upward and saw that a large grey cloud had enveloped the entire sky. Before I could open my mouth to speak, Zelda said, “Looks like it’s going to snow.”
When I returned my attention to Zelda, she was looking back at me with a smile. “Thank you,” she said, handing the sketchbook to me. “I really like your drawings.”
“Thank you,” I replied, grabbing hold of my sketchbook. The moment my hand made contact with the book, I felt a light prick of static electricity jump from the book to my hand. “Ow!” I exclaimed as I nearly dropped the book.
“Well, I should be going now,” said Zelda as though I had said nothing. “My… parents will be waiting for me.”
“Oh, OK” I replied. “Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Sure, why not?” said Zelda as she smiled again. “Same time and place?”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” The two of us then waved goodbye and parted ways. Once I was home, I found myself pacing back and forth, anxious for when I would be able to see Zelda again. Eventually, after hours of pacing, I resorted to watching the snowfall in order to put me at ease.
After night had come and gone, I raced around my house, preparing for when I would see Zelda that day. When I was adequately dressed for snowy conditions and ready to meet Zelda, I set out to the usual place to find her. As I went out into the white terrain, I began to ponder what it was that Zelda and I might do that day. However, when I approached the designated meeting place, I discovered that she was not there. Instead, there was a golden fox sitting there and staring at me, as if it was waiting for me.
Without hesitation, I immediately recognized the fox as the same one that I had nursed weeks ago. I then tentatively advanced towards the animal as it continued to stare at me. When I was only a few feet away, the fox rose on all four of its paws and then darted off in the opposite direction. Once it was out of sight, I saw that there was a pair of bright red shoes where the fox was sitting in the snow. As I approached the shoes, I noticed that there were words written in the snow beside them. I then fell to my knees in astonishment and wonder as I read the words, “Why not this story?”