“Hey kid, what are you doing out here? Kid, can you hear me?”
When I woke up, I was sitting in the back seat of my father’s SUV. It was cold and my face was sticky. My back hurt alot and I felt sick with the smell of gasoline all around me. I was not sure what I was seeing because there was a red fox sitting on the seat next to me. And he was talking to me.
“Ugh. I am okay, I think. Where is my father?”
“Hmm, you might not want to think about that right now. I couldn’t do anything for him. Let’s get you out of that seatbelt.”
My fingers felt fat and clumsy. I was having trouble. The fox stopped and licked my fingers. They felt momentarily stronger and more sure. The release popped.
I opened the car door and stepped outside. It was night and cold. We were somewhere in the desert and the stars shone bright enough to see easily by. Nothing like starlight in the city. I saw my father’s car and another car crushed together. Both cars seemed as one, crumpled hulks bound together in a single terrible moment. I could see my father slumped over the steering wheel.
“Kid, lets go.”
“Go? Go where?”
“That is a harder explanation, but we need to keep moving. Things are about to be happening you won’t understand, if you stay.”
The howl of a wolf sounds in the distance, punching through the chill with a supernatural frost of its own. Worse was the echoing answer that resounded in the canyon all around us.
“Too late. They’re here. Follow me.”
“You are a talking fox.”
“You may call me, Fox.”
“Why should I listen to you?”
“Because if you don’t you will find there are much worse things than death to happen out here in the West. Look, girl, I do not have time to explain everything. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to be standing here in a few minutes. Run!”
And because I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, I ran. We ran up the hill toward a strange formation of cactus. It grew in a near complete circle. My heart was pounding as I looked down at my father’s car and could see the shapes of wolves slithering through the darkness. I wanted to say something but my voice froze in my throat.
“Go in there. Do not touch the thorns.”
He did not have to tell me twice. Each tip glittered in the starlight, shouting out their sharpness to anyone who was paying attention. I slid in slowly though the only opening. There were two large cacti with their arms outstretched standing near that entrance.
“Hurry,” Fox hissed. “They are coming.”
Fox jumped up, lightly and delicately proceeded to walk on the tips of the thorns. The wolves padded up to the edge of the barrier and looked in at me. Their eyes glowed in the starlight. A cold menace. They were dragging the body of my father with them.
“Now that the pleasantries are over, you should leave now.”
“We have not gotten what we came for.”
“And you shall not today.”
“And who shall stop us. Not you, Fox. You are a weakling.”
“And now you are rude, too. None the less, you will not be getting what you came for.”
One of the wolves walked toward the slender entrance. They seemed so much larger once they were standing in front of me. I was terrified. What did they want? Why were they dragging my father around? Why were all of these animals talking?
I am from Kansas City and until today, the only animals I knew that talked were cartoons like Winnie the Pooh. These things did not talk like Pooh or their friends. There was no love or friendship in their voices. They all sounded like my father when he was angry. Their voices low but filled with a sound that was clearly a threat waiting to be unleashed. I had a normal childhood. My mother passed away when I was young and my father did the best he could to raise me. I did my best to follow his rules. I rebelled. He punished me. It was how things went with us.
We were moving to Arizona because of a new job offering and to be fair, Kansas City wasn’t doing so hot. I was glad to be on the road and everything seemed so good until a few hours ago. I can’t seem to remember everything. We were driving down the road, a quiet one, wasn’t a whole lot of traffic. We had been looking on the map trying to figure out where the next rest stop was going to be. We had just fueled up, so it was my job to find the next stop.
My father never let me ride in the front seat. He never told me why, but he would always say it was safer in the back. I was looking at the map when I heard his shout and there was a terrible sound of ripping metal and my head snapped forward and hit his seat and everything went black.
Now I am sitting in a circle of cactus, surrounded by giant wolves, talking to a fox who can walk on the tips of said cactus and they are negotiating, with me as the prize. I think I am dead.
“No. Not yet. But if you lose your head, you will be.” Fox turned back to the wolves who had begun to circle the barrier looking for weakness.
“Did you really think you could hide Coyote in this girl and she would be safe from us?”
“Certainly worth a try. If she had stayed in Kansas City she would have remained safe.”
“How fortunate for us, we made her father a job offer he couldn’t refuse.”
“You did this? You made us leave our home?” My voice was shrill, even to me, but I think I was coming unglued.
“Yes, we did. You are just a pawn, child. We shall make your death quick, so that we can find and destroy Coyote.”
“Who the hell is Coyote and why should I care about him. You just killed my father?”
“Fox, you have not told her what she is have you?”
“I was getting to that before I was interrupted by your howling.” Fox turned to me and he began to shimmer in the starlight.
“Oh no you don’t, Fox. It would be best of she never knew.” The wolf next to the largest and most frightening of the wolves, ran toward me and leapt over the barrier. His high arc let him darken the stars and his shadow fell upon me. I couldn’t move.
The cactus rustled and whispered a sigh.
The wolf fell short of me, landed with a thump, twitched and died. He was completely covered in spines, no part of him did not flash in the starlight. Fox turned back toward the wolves he called Not Wolves, and sat down on the thorns with his huge bushy tail waving back and forth behind him. He may have seemed like a child’s toy when I first saw him but I was seeing him in a new light.
Then I remembered. My mother was a Cherokee and when I was a kid, she told me of the legends of Fox and Coyote. She said they were some of the oldest tales in the Americas. She said this was an America you did not hear about because native customs were obliterated when Whites came to America. They did not want to believe these tales, so they didn’t. She always told me they were just as real as machines and if you paid attention, you could see this world going on all the time, all around you. She said living in cities made the walls between the spirit world and our world dense and hard to see.
From where I was standing, there was not a city for a hundred miles in any direction. Not good.
“Caroline.” I heard my father’s voice. In the starlight, I saw him get up. He had a strange boneless movement, but his voice was right. His lips didn’t move.
“Caroline, these people are our friends. Come outside and we can go with them.”
I wanted to believe him. His voice sounded so good right then, the only normal sound I knew. “Daddy.”
“Yes, Pumpkin. It’s going to be okay.”
Fox bristled and his tail began to expand and fluff up even larger. “Kid, remember your father. Think about him, let his essence fill your every thought.”
I remember him last summer fixing a dirt bike for me, we took the whole thing apart and spent the summer finding parts and putting it back together, a piece at a time. He explained every aspect of its engine to me, taught me why everything worked. We had been having a hard time of it. My rebellions had grown more troublesome and I had gotten arrested. He decided we needed to spend more time together. I resented it at first. And then I began to see something in him. A sacrifice of his time, that he could have spent anywhere. But he spent it with me. I tried to be less of a bitch and just listen. It was the most fun we had together, ever.
And this thing was not my father. I turned to the apparition and he lost the shimmer of beauty. His broken body hung in space and slumped to the ground, with the thump of a dead thing.
“Goodnight, Not Wolves. Your last hope just ended.”
“We will just take what we want, Fox.”
“You could have. You might have, but if you look over your shoulders, you will see the eye of the Great Spirit has risen. For you, the darkness in which you can hunt, is over.”
I looked over and saw the moon cresting the horizon.
The wolves looked up and howled. The sound drove itself into my very bones. Fox jumped off of the thorns and landed in my arms. As the wolves howled, the pain increased inside of me until I screamed. I fell over and Fox just stayed in my arms.
“Get up, Caroline.”
“Yes. They can’t hurt you, now. But you are not safe yet. Fox will teach you what you need to know.”
“What about you?”
“I am always with you.”
Fox jumped up from my embrace, and shook himself. He preened for a moment and then looked up into my eyes. “We have to go. The eye of the Great Spirit can only protect us a few nights of the month. The rest of the time, we are on our own. You have a lot to learn in the next three days, Coyote.”
“Yes, Coyote, Slayer of Monsters, Protector of the Tribes, Defender of Man.” Fox jumped up to the top of the barrier and danced across the tips of the thorns. He hopped down and began walking West.
“You’re kidding, right?” I slid out of the barrier and rushed to keep up.
First Appearance: Fox and Coyote appear in my novel: Equinox, the Last Scion due to appear in print in late 2012.
Native Daughter © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserve