Foxfire

Foxfire

Enjoy this story with a coffee.

It must have come from the grounds about the school, from what’s left of the ancient forest at the base of the bricks bearing the height of the Overground. Your light pushes through the dark dim and yellow and alone in the street late at night, and you feel the cool of its streaking light even from the first floor.

You cross the living room curious, trying not to wake the couple downstairs with too loud steps and you pull an almost-dry coat from off the radiator as you close in to the open window and you pull it around you as you look out and you see it.

A cold white firefox, burning all over, its flames so stark against the suburban night that it looks cut out. It looks away when you look right at it but it turns its head down the road. You turn to go back to the dining table that’s your insomniac desk to get your phone for a photo but as you do the heat in the room fades fast and you pull the coat tight about you and you look back out to where the fox has moved to the middle of the road, looking up to you as you’re looking down to it. It gestures its head sideways, again, again. You watch and it begins to walk off before it looks back to you and wags its bushy burning tail.

You look back to the soft glow of the computer screen beyond which is another endless scroll otherwise ahead of you and you scoop up your bad shoes and you plunge with your keys down the stairs and out into the night and onto the street closing doors slowly but not quietly.

You can’t see it when you get to street level but you can see the white glow from between two cars and you move towards it as it comes out from the cars and onto the footpath down which you follow. It meanders as your breath catches as mist in the dark, your light still on, and it peers amongst the front gardens as you’ve done many times. You feel like you’re catching up until it darts ahead up the long road. So you chase.

Down the dip and then back up as the fox weaves between parked cars and up onto low brick fences and across the road as if dancing. Where the trees hang low it bites as leaves as it passes and the ends of twigs catch alight for a moment and burn quick and bright before fading to soft ash that becomes wind before it falls to the pavement. You fall behind as you watch. You left your phone behind after all in the rush and you know that you’d not get a good pace for this anyway. You excuse yourself by saying it’s after dark. That you’re not all together.

You’re still giving chase when you see the fox crest at the head of the road. You see it broadside for the first time and you slow and it makes no move to continue. Its tail whips forth and back like the whisper of the flame from a lighter. You’re unused to foxes, an Antipodean youth transposed here to the imperial heart, and you see that they’re not quite dogs like you know. This one distinct again, its chest bushy with long rough hairs of light.

As you approach it looks to you as you pass the second last fence, catching your breath and feeling the warmth left in its wake. Your coat is loose about you. You tell yourself the run was hard because it dragged in the wind behind you. You’re close enough to see its wide black eyes before it darts off across the junction away to the northwest, leaving sparks that sink slow to the bitumen before the short stretch of shut shops.

<>You walk up and around the corner and watch as it passes the glass facades; the fox caught both within and without each pane of the estate agent’s rounded windows. The wine shop’s dark bottles now alive with white flashes across vintages from Mendoza, Occitanie, the Margaret River. The windows of the salon each curve back to the door and the fox grows and rounds then flattens and shrinks then returns, embers dancing in the empty mirrors. Growing long into the brass door handles of the interior designer’s studio, sliding with grace across marble benchtops, tall in the thick glass of teak cabinets filled with fixtures. It watched itself, fighting the temptation until now, in the windows of the pub that abuts the street before the park.

 

It turns back to see you and it stands tall and its tail hardens and the air heats about it and comes towards you on the soft wind meandering in from between the trees towards which it darts as you approach. It does not check for cars. You do. You cross.

You think the Common is cold even in the summer nights and now on the edge of winter you have to pull your coat tight. The air is clear and crisp and you follow after the fox down the worn dirt footpath flanked by trees into the clearing. The sky above not black but deep blue away from the City’s lights. It stops as you reach the treeline on the inner side and it wags its tail now like the flames from a bonfire but it’s not looking at you. It’s looking at a black shape that’s bright somehow coming from across the grass, from beneath the shadow of the trees on the other side near the rail line. A calm wind pushes out over the field and you wait beneath the canopy in the dark and just watch.

The foxes, white and black, meet across the glade and brush against each other with love, their twin flames sparking a vibrant spread of colour where their furs overlap. Iridescence spreads across them both as they start to dance together in wide circles, swirling about the field, from treeline to treeline, the black fox around, the white fox following. Left and right and down and over and under. Red, yellow, blue join them in a spectacle that washes you and all you see from dark night green to a spectrum before, like floodlights switched off, it fades quickly and the foxes start to ember in grey and the cool deepens to frost. The foxfires blow out on the comfortable breeze and their fur falls now instead to burnt orange. They laugh with high pitch.

The fox that was black slips back away towards the shade of the other path. The white fox looks back to you again for a moment, for the last time, and it wags its tail as it turns and dashes off away.

You turn back home and you wonder why you were invited.

Back to blog
1 of 3