Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fox Girl (copyright 2008) Wes Loder

The bleat was more scream than cry. The boy pivoted, put down his cup and stared out of the open dutch door. “Elsie? Elsie!”
A second cry hit his ears, but he was already taking the porch steps two at a time and tearing toward the barn, the screen door banging behind him. The barnyard’s gate was closed, but—never mind—he scaled it, spotting the cause of Elsie’s cries just before he dropped over the other side. His family’s favorite ewe and her three days old lamb were both outside. So was another, older lamb and something red—like flame and anger flashing—all four circling and jumping in a frantic dance together.
Without thinking, he charged right into this circle of snorts, bleats and sudden, high-pitched barks—the barks sounding like the horn at the start of a race, or a dog’s last cry as it discovers the inflexibility of a moving car’s bumper. The red-furred animal was the boy’s target. He swept aside the bigger lamb and dove at the creature still spinning in the manure pile, caught between Elsie and himself. He had a dim, break-of-dawn vision of a small, narrow-snouted dog, all flame-colored except for black feet and a white chest. Then it was under his body and he had it by the throat and jaw, his right hand clamping its mouth shut.
Suddenly his grip slipped, for the nose he had just held was flattening, and changing from black to white, the creature’s head growing rounder and its ears shrinking. The flailing, furry, dark paws were morphing into hands scarcely smaller than his own, a fuzzy red dress replacing what had been fur and bushy tail.
A moment later, and he was staring into frightened, blue eyes set in a pale face and framed by the brightest red hair he could ever imagine. “Hu, huh” the girl gasped.
“Wha …?” The boy let his hands go limp and panted several times before more words could come out. “Where’d you come from?” he finally managed.
“Ah-mm, Mmp?” the girl seemed to be able to manage only meaningless noises from deep in her throat.
“I’m sorry. I’m sitting on you, aren’t I?” The boy rolled off the girl. He was about to offer her a hand when he spotted the first drop of blood dribbling from the side of her mouth. He backed away, holding up his hands with the index fingers crossed. Yes, he could see that the older lamb was limping and the wool of Elsie’s near shoulder was turning a dark red. “Go away,” he cried. “Go, go back to your own world. Leave our sheep alone. Go on. I’m sorry I hurt you, but begone.”
The girl got up on her knees, then stood, brushing bits of straw and turds from her dress. She stared at him, her eyes wet and anxious, then she licked away the blood on her chin with a long, black tongue.

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