A Reason to Move
The fox refused to break its stare with me. Neither one of us was willing to move. Neither one of us seemed to have a reason to. The icy wind pierced my frozen skin and the whistling wind toppled me off balance in the soggy, treacherous ground. The fox did not flinch. The moon was veiled behind the black clouds and the stars were swallowed in the consuming mist. The world was empty except for the fox and me. We were alone in the sea of swirling darkness. I stared at the fox because I did not have a reason to stare anywhere else. He stared at me because I was there.
The faint lights of the City pierced the fog, but they were too far away. Their mocking illuminations did not reach this far out here in the darkness. The fox was frozen in its walk, one paw raised just above the snowy sludge of the ground. It had somewhere to go. My hands rested in my pockets and I stood as still as a frozen statue, swaying softly in the wind. I would’ve moved. It was not fear which froze me there in the middle of this empty field miles from the City. I felt no fear from the unfeeling, yellow gaze of the beast. I did not even feel the bite of the raw breeze. I felt nothing at all.
The fox suddenly moved, breaking our locked gaze. He scurried off into the hewn hedges surrounding the field and left me there, alone. I watched its fleeting shadow until it was lost in the darkness. I now had nothing else to stare at so I turned and stared at my own shadow. It was small, hunched, defeated. I didn’t recognize the shape anymore. I wished for the fox to return so I could look at its shadow rather than my own.
Anything but my own shadow.
A low roar stabbed the suffocating silence of the night. A truck trekked down the lone dirt road towards me. It passed me by without stopping, without noticing. I watched its shadow until I could watch it no more and then I returned to watching my own.
The fox returned, this time bringing others with him. They all watched me with one unified, unflinching gaze. Their eyes never left me. They noticed everything about me, studying my presence in this human-less world. I only noticed their small shadows. They were hunched, but they were not defeated. They were moving and alive. Mine was still and lifeless.
A rustle broke the silence behind me. I darted around, wrenched from my trance following the shadows of the beasts. More foxes were pouring out of the hedges. These were larger, faster, stronger. Their shadows fascinated me. Their sinister silhouettes moved in a synchronized chorus with the wind. They began to form a spinning circle around me. They moved as a singular shadow, their shadows morphing into one. Their eyes never left my face. I never looked into their uncaring faces. I only watched their shadows. Their shadows were consuming mine.
Another truck raced by, this one moving faster. I made my way towards the road. Its lights were coming to me, to rescue me from the night, from the shadows. But the truck did not stop. It’s lights pierced me, igniting the black field in a blinding, white blaze for one lingering moment. The truck rushed by and vanished in the night. As I watched its retreating form vanish into the darkness, I spotted something grey out of the corner of my eye. There was nothing grey in the darkness. The only colors in the world were the white snow, the black shadows, and the elusive flicker of the sallow, waning lights of the distant city.
I began to study the foxes themselves. Their shadows no longer interested me. I realized their shadows were all the same. In the gloom, I began to study their fur, but I could not make out the color. The snow stopped falling for a moment and the clouds opened up above me. In the misty moonlight I could now see the color of their fur. Their fur was not orange at all. It was grey.
I didn’t move. I was frozen, and not by the icy wind, but frozen with dread. I couldn’t look at their shadows anymore. I returned to studying my own shadow. It was shaking, shivering in the suffocating breeze.
No more trucks passed by to not take notice of me. No one knew I was out here in the fields, miles from the city. I looked up from my shaking shadow and stared out at the mocking lights of the city on the black horizon. The city was a blazing beacon in the darkness, so bright, so far, and a beaming reminder of her in the void of the night. I suddenly feel naked in the field. The darkness was not my home. The city was my home. The dark solitude of the fields were my escape. I couldn’t look at the city anymore. Everything had gone cold and the shadows were creeping in. They had a reason to move. I did not.
Conner is a twenty-one year old English major pursuing a career in writing and academia. He is currently a senior at Birmingham-Southern College planning to obtain an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Ph.D. in English Literature. He has been published in 221 Magazine and The Copperfield Review in prose and Transcendent Zero Press’s Harbinger Asylum in poetry. Additionally, his novel was considered in the First Annual Young National Writers Contest at age sixteen.