Said the Forest to the Fox

The fox-who-was-a-boy fled the wilderness into the wood, where forgetting has no place, into the wood that remembers every facet of the world, where all of history and knowledge flourish, where every tree tells a story made of words solid unspoken, as textured as bark. The boy-fox sought sanctuary in the thick, wrinkled skin of the forest, in its many branches of possibility, in its leaves that touch the wind and the sun’s golden gaze, in the rings of its ever-growing interior.

Deep in the forest, the boy-fox climbed up into a tree he found to his liking, a tree to represent all trees, a tall banyan that was itself a forest of trees, thick with roots and trunks and branches and leaves reaching up forever into the night sky, as if to touch the very moon and stars, where memory and knowledge dream.

In the arms of the tree, the boy-fox curled up to slumber, hugging his foxtail for warmth.  The boy-fox dreamt himself a gray fox, chased by hounds and nobles on horseback.  The hounds he alluded by scampering up a tree, not towering but squat, big around, and foreboding, not a banyan or any other sort of tree he’d ever seen before in any forest.  Its roots struck into the earth and rock like the giant hands of old witches.  Its branches spread like long, crooked gallows, and from them hung gray leaves like damp rags from men whose necks had long ago snapped.  The strange tree stood reminiscent of a swamp, though the earth all around was dry as dust.

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The Forgetter and the Fox

The Forgetter walked, wearing the clothes of the host and carrying the work of the poet in a pack on his back.  In his right hand, he held an empty cup, and in his left, a letter.  Or rather, not a letter so much as an envelope.

The Forgetter was also once someone else (as were the others), but he remembers not who he was or the names of those before him.  It has become his habit and his duty, as enemy and husband, to protect the present by forgetting the past.  In her one-room fortress, the Duchess waits for him, to forget, so she might continue preparing her dinner party.

But the Forgetter forgot his way home (to the house of the host), and instead found his way into the wilderness where he crossed paths with a gray fox who was a boy.  The fox-who-was-a-boy said to the Forgetter,

“When will the storms come?  When will you open the letter?  When will the Duchess throw her party?  All the guests were scheduled to arrive, but your dark cloak lingers longer than usual and your shield is wide.”

To this, the Forgetter replied, “Open the letter yourself.  I do not know its contents, or if I did, I’ve surely forgotten.”

And so the boy-fox snatched the envelope with his teeth and tore it open.  The fox looked to the cloaked figure who had held the envelope and beheld the Forgetter-as-Death, with sockets for eyes and gumless teeth.  The fox shrieked and fled from the Forgetter’s vacant gaze and bony fingers, but it was the Forgetter who feared most the envelope’s contents.

The Forgetter drew from the envelope, not words on pages, but only the letter F.  “What have I done?  How far have I gone, that I’ve reduced all words to this single letter?”

The Forgetter ran after the fox, but the fox was not to be found, so as not to be forgotten.

The Duchess

The Duchess fussed with white curtains and spoke aloud so no one would hear:  “Speak not of eyes because everyone knows eyes are everything, and to speak about what everyone knows means nothing to no one.”

I must take down the curtains, she thought.  No, first I must shred the curtains.  No, first burn the curtains, then shred them, then take them down.

There were twelve. Twelve from childhood, each with its own position in a circle, in relation to the others. But she could not remember them. She thought perhaps if she tried to write their names on a page, then they would all make themselves known. Or perhaps they would change. After all, they were only an idea, the twelve. An idea of completeness, complete aspects to rule one, equal to three times four, a cycle and divinity.

She left the curtains up and closed them to create a wall. Behind them, she would rest her giant head until the twelve bled from her ears, as her eyes and mouth were clearly preoccupied.