Brushing another leafy branch from her face, Mary trotted on down the old and overgrown path, her camera swinging from her neck. The woods behind her new house seemed endless; she thought perhaps she had become quite lost. But, sticking to the path seemed a safe choice, so along she went, the immense green of the forest blocking out the sky, the far out, and time. So dense everything was. The trees leaned close, as if whispering, and the shrubs and wild weeds and vines snaked and laced together, overtaking all the moist ground and broken branches and stumps, a thick blanket of emerald shrouding all in sight. It was beautiful, no doubt. All the world Mary knew had been swallowed into the wood; the birds chattered, bugs buzzed, and unknowns rushed and rustled through the underbrush. It was a magical place; maybe moving here wasn’t such a bad idea. Attending her new high school would be a bummer, yes, but maybe she’d make some friends. However, at this she sighed, as she was quite horrible at making friends. Her pace quickened along the trail as her face reddened, thinking about her stifling shyness.
She shoved a wave of foliage from her way, and stopped, suddenly struck by a miraculous glade she had entered. An enormous fallen birch tree lay before her, its pearly whiteness striking among the thick jade and viridian coat of the dell, and from the sleeping trunk sprouted bright, rusty mushrooms, completely covering several sections of the birch seeming as crimson capillaries shining along the tree. The sun, pierced through, throwing a glorious beam of gold over, and she gasped as just then a fox jumped into view, sitting upon the trunk and gazing at her with bronze eyes, and she felt a tingle. Oh my gosh, a fox! A real fox! She had never seen one before, and carefully she raised her camera, sweat building on her palms; through the bifocal lens she could see, stare directly into its face! She prayed the creature of beauty would sit there for just a – few – more – seconds – !
“It’s very rude to stare.” the fox said.
“Wah!” Mary fumbled, the camera shutter clicking and it slipping from her fingers as she stumbled back, almost tripping herself. She looked at the fox, aghast. Did it just – ?
“D-did you just t – ?”
“If you are going to ask if I can speak, the answer is yes.” the fox suavely stated, and to the air he lifted his snout, sniffing, and then turned his attention back to Mary. “You seem to be in a bit of a panic. Never seen a talking fox before, have you. You humans; creating multitudes yet never discovering a single thing. I suppose the hind may be right about you.”
“Excuse me – but,” Mary pipped, “Just, how is it you are talking? I mean, I didn’t think foxes even could talk -”
“Oh for heaven’s, girl,” the fox said, “All foxes talk. Whether we choose to talk however is an altogether different story.”
Mary gave an eye of skepticism, “Well, I’m not sure that’s true. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but I feel maybe you’re a magical fox, or something.”
“What you call magic, girl, the wood calls nature.” the fox scoffed, “And all foxes talk. Who is the fox here, you or I?” The fox sprang from his perch, and sauntered up to Mary, the young woman leaning down and kneeling so to be more level with her fantastical new acquaintance.
“So, if all foxes can talk, why don’t more of you talk? I’ve never met or even heard of a talking fox before. Well, except from Disney…”
“Not surprising,” the fox mused, “as many foxes are just not interested in fox-to-human conversation. At least not anymore. Not since the Old Ways died.”
“But you’re interested?” Mary pressed.
“Mmm,” the fox purred, sticking his long nose to the air and flashing his canines in what seemed a devilish, sly smile, “It has been a slow summer, and you seem a decent human. You have a good smell. The sniffer is generally trustworthy.”
Mary felt herself blushing. She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. Her, alone, in a woodland glade, talking to a fox! She looked down and saw the sleek animal slowly encroaching upon her, setting his forepaws upon her knees and stretching his smart head and slender snout to her face, as if studying her. Her eyes she crossed while leaning back on her feet, feeling strange thrills and jitters. The fox smirked, sitting and settling himself on his hindquarters.
“You, have little fear in you. That is a good sign.” the fox said, “I think perhaps you would be an intriguing human to know. You attend school, like other humans?”
“Y-yes! Yes I do!” Mary yipped, then, said with fading enthusiasm, “Though, I don’t get on there very well…”
“Hm. School. Such a strange thing you humans do.” the fox said, his tail swishing, head tilted as if trying to comprehend. “Well, after your school, you should come visit me. You shall tell me of your school, and I shall tell you of the woods, and the Old Ways. I think perhaps, you and I, could become good friends.” The fox pointed with his left foot to Mary, his ears turning back and his triangle head raising slyly.
Mary felt a well of gladness swell in her heart. She could sense her eyes beginning to glass over, and she had to restrain her urge to reach out and swipe the gallant looking fox into her arms. However, she felt certain he would not particularly like that, so, she wiped her eye (hoping that her tearing would not turn off the creature) and nodded, smiling.
“I…would like that very much.”
“Then it is settled!” the fox declared, and with a dash and a dashing smile he turned around and ran and leapt upon the fallen birch, and standing in the glowing ray of the sun surrounded by the sparkling mushrooms he looked back at Mary, his fur glistening and radiant in the light, “I shall see you again, human girl. Tomorrow during the Disseminating Sun.” and as the fox went to take his leave, Mary called to him.
“Mary! My, my name… is Mary.”
The fox hesitated, and then turned round, his deep golden eyes gazing upon her, soft and knowing. Sharply, and looking noble in the glade, he seemed to give way to a small, graceful smile, and to her he spoke.
“My name is Talwst. Farewell, kind Mary.”
And with that, Talwst, like the fox he was, slipped out of sight into the emerald sea.