By: Lucas Smith
He lay curled up in a ball beside a small bed of roses, the knapsack on his chest moving up and down with the rhythm of his breathing. It contained many things despite its small size. A map, food rations, a candle, several charms his mother had made for him when he was a cub, a claw glove (A weapon specifically made for gem hunters.), and a glowing emerald crystal. He had obtained it during a lengthy dispute with a mole who, while trying to get it from him, continuously shouted: “It's life or death for a prize like this fox!”
The dispute ended in a death, as he had anticipated.
Hours passed as Foxlin slept. He dreamt of his mother and his old friends, and especially the day he was sent off on this quest by the elder foxes, as they had called themselves, to seek out 12 gems, which they claimed were the key to universal peace, and that there is an ancient evil which seeks to destroy them, thus attaining universal control. Ever since he was a cub, the village looked at him as “The Chosen One”, the great warrior among all of the gem hunters. Male cubs start training at a young age, tasked with finding hidden rocks in what Foxlin and his friends called “The Scarlet Field.” Trainers which had been retired gem hunters, hid the rocks and made sure every task was at its most difficult. But, as the village and the elders had foreseen, Foxlin had proved worthy, and had found the rocks faster than any gem hunter had ever done.
Thus, his training became more and more challenging, and he continued to prove to the trainers and the elder foxes that he was indeed The Chosen One. After those days, his training had been complete, and he had been sent off to fulfill an ancient prophecy, and ultimately save the universe itself.
As the sun rose over the horizon, Foxlin awoke from his slumber. He had dreamt most of the night; dreams of his mother, friends, and the life he had lived back home. Those days were behind him now, buried beneath miles and miles of treacherous land, forgotten like tears in the rain, but remembered like the pain of a suffering man. “I’ll miss you sweetie. Please, stay safe.” Tears now, lots of them. “Oh Foxlin, why'd it have to be you? Why not one of the other boys, or one of those goddamned trainers? Why my boy? Why…?”
The voice of his mother continued to taunt him as he awoke.
“I’ll be ok mama. Please, you're scaring the cubs.” He had said to her. But nothing could have reassured her. Even when Foxlin had been cast off, his mother stood there amongst the elders and some of the villagers with grave sorrow on her face. It was too much for Foxlin, so he had looked away. It wasn't long until his mother had fallen onto the ground weeping, a sound so unsettling to his ears, that he wanted so bad to just turn around and run to her, to tell her that everything alright. But he knew that was not true, that nothing was alright, that he didn't have a choice of whether to turn around or keep going. Pain struck him like a lightning bolt, and he found himself unable to get the distant cries of his mother out of his head. That had happened years ago. And now here he was, dreaming about and fighting those painful memories.
In a swift motion, he flung himself onto all fours, the knapsack hurtling over to his other side. Limping, he found his way out of the garden and back onto the path of which the map stated to go.
“Your skills are beyond anything I and the council have ever seen! Such courage and strength in someone so young; a rare thing among the village. Please, show us more, we’d be delighted.”
Foxlin shook his head when that voice ever came into his head. A voice of one of the elders, but of which one he did not know. Nor were their names of any significance to him. But that voice, that deep, hoarse voice haunted him as much as his mother’s did, and he didn't know why. There was something almost...Sinister about it. Or maybe it was just the voice of a fox whose days are numbered and whose body is basically a fragile vase on the edge of a table, its demise unpredictable and possible whenever.
That's exactly what he was, just an old fox. Still, the voice continued on, speaking things which foxlin couldn't even recall, and that made the voice even more bothering.
‘That's all my mind is now, huh? Just voices and memories.’
Hearing him say that to himself caused pressure to build in his chest and throat. A feeling of hopelessness engulfed him, and for the first time in many years, tears ran down his face.