This semester, one of the classes I’m taking is Fantasy Literature. One of our short writing assignments was to – rather than comment on a passage from our reading (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by the way) – come up with our own piece of animal fantasy. We were to either summarize what would happen in our story or write out the beginning of it, and I chose to do the latter. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I figured why not share it here? It doesn’t really have a title, and it’s just a short scene – but I enjoyed writing it.
As the forest grew darker, Meredith’s sense of unease grew greater. It had been two hours since she’d run away, climbing noiselessly through her bedroom window and escaping into the woods behind her house. After another torturous dinner with her mother and Richard—neither of them listening to a word she’d said or even acknowledging her existence—she’d gone to her room under the guise of fatigue and locked the door behind her. She knew they wouldn’t disturb her for the rest of the night, and then who knew how long it would be before they noticed her disappearance?
As she walked on, the long, black shadows of the trees seemed to be reaching out for her, trying to grab her and pull her back home. Meredith quickened her pace, and her backpack bounced lightly against her shoulder blades. She hadn’t brought much with her—just some warmer clothing, a water bottle, protein bars, and her journal. She never went anywhere without her black Moleskine, for she was constantly jotting down the extraordinary ideas and images that seemed to spring forth from out of nowhere in her mind.
In fact, just up ahead to the left she saw a flash of color that she couldn’t be certain wasn’t part of her imagination. It had looked like a trail of fire, appearing as if by the stroke of a paintbrush between two dark trees and vanishing just as quickly. Surely it was just in her head. This happened all the time—her imagination conjuring fantastical details and apparitions that could not actually exist—and habit made her pause to unzip her bag and withdraw her journal…
But there it was again: a red-orange blur. And it looked so real—it didn’t have that weird hazy quality and texture by which she’d learned to identify her mind’s projections and distinguish them from reality. She slowly approached the spot ahead where she thought she’d seen the thing, whatever it was.
The forest seemed to go still, and an unnatural hush fell. Meredith was hyperaware of the sound of her breathing and the crunch of leaves beneath her feet. She paused. The silence was broken by a whispery sound, though there was no wind, and she could’ve sworn she heard her name: Meredith.
She spun around abruptly.
Not ten yards away, in the misty darkness of the woods, stood a fox.
Meredith expected the creature to flee, but it watched her, unmoving. She waited, and a sort of stare-off began to take place.
Finally, after a full minute had passed, Meredith took a step forward. The fox tilted its head to the side, pawed the ground, and took off at a sprint.
Meredith let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. She watched the animal go, its bright orange fur blazing through the gloomy forest. Just when it would’ve disappeared from sight, it stopped and turned back to her. Waiting.
She hesitated, then took a step in its direction. When it still hadn’t moved after several seconds, she continued toward it. The fox dipped its head, almost as if to say, Yes, that’s it. Come with me.
When she had nearly closed the distance between them, the fox took off running yet again. And this time, Meredith ran after it.