A wintry moon glimpsed through tree branches.

Fox In Moonlight

I gaze up through tangled branches towards the fading sky. The blanket of cloud above may keep the day's scant warmth contained for a few hours more but once the sun has gone complete, my breath will turn to mist in the cooling air and drift away to join the thousand other exhalations of my life. I must find shelter to survive this night and deny that wicked girl her prize. I pull my thin coat tight about me and stumble on.

The path I rode was quite defined, once used well by farmers in the summer months but forsaken now. All harvests gathered, the fields lie barren as a widow's belly. A journey through these blighted lands, although advised against by all, seemed saving time. What harm can come in desolation? But as the days progressed I came to feel that I was watched.

And watched I was one early morn amongst the trees a glimpse of skin. A hand withdrawn but not so quick. The trunk caressed. My nerves stretched thin I reined my horse and called, "Come out. Come out I say, I see you there."

The silent forest held it's breath. No branches creak'd to fill the void. Stunted grass like wax upon the ground.

But then a foot disturbs the blades, from round the tree, next fingers, face and silver curls the girl emerged and stood quite still. Her head aside and moist eyes wide. I saw no fear in her regard as I stepped down upon the path. A pretty thing, all dressed in white, hands clasped to lips as I approached. For me relief then something more. "And what fate brings you here to me?" My glove removed to touch her cheek but could not reach as stepping back, arms spread like wings she laughing skipped away.

I shuffle now between dark trunks deep with her inside the wood. On foot now since my horse was killed. I drove him hard o'er muddy ground and slipped and fell on a splintered stump. Blood stained the earth, his wound too deep for me to close. With no swift means to end his pain I knelt and stroked and wept until his ragged breathing ceased. All the time she stood and watched, a half smile played upon her lips. Through tears I cried, "Why me?" but still I followed on.

It seems my tormentor has deserted me. Perhaps she grows bored of our game. Surrounded by rough walls of bark I stop to rest against a tree, the roots a natural bench of sorts. It's frosted skin melts to my hand. I think it would not be such a bitter end to stop a while and let the cold seep through my bones. Then I hear the girl's bright laugh become a song, thin and high and full of sorrow. The sad music of icicles swept by broom from cottage eaves. That way perhaps, I follow as she leads me on this merry dance.

Ahead through bushes thick and gnarled I catch a glimpse, her silver hair a moonlit fox. My jacket snags and tears as branches whip around to keep their mistress safe. Slipping from my coat I fall and find myself on hands and knees beside a pond of broken ice. I see beyond my warped reflection a hapless frog his legs spread wide as if to swim, encased.

I look up and see her wait, patient there upon the ice. One outstretched finger beckons me then turns to point. Across the pond an open gate. I skirt as closely as I can, the frozen shore. Sliding once onto the ice, which crackling, groans beneath my weight. I glimpse the pale glow of her dress once more amongst the trees.

Through the gate a rutted path. Beyond a farm, or once it was, the buildings now just roofless walls. I will find no comfort here but shelter and the hope of warmth are distant to me now. In the the yard I see her stand, a rubble pile beneath her feet, triumphant on the ruin she no doubt wrought. She cocks her head as I approach and smiles her blue lipped smile, sad saucer eyes with milky swirls, a million years from the child I took her for and still I step forward into her embrace.

Now here I lie with broken back, the pile of rocks a ruined well down which I plunged. My fellow traveler’s bones press tight around, who knows how deep. Their bony fingers reaching up towards the sky where high above a circle of stars surround her silver face, the moon.