So there I was, lying in a ditch with my jean leg caught on barbed wire. I had been out playing in the forest with my brother, Matthew, and my sister, Paige when it happened. We wandered around for a while, keeping an eye out for foxes. They lived in this forest, and they could give you painful scratches. Soon we got bored and wanted to actually do something.
"I know! Let’s have a race! First one to the big pine near the riverbank wins," I suggested excitedly. They didn’t seem to like the idea too much.
"That’s not fun. It is too hot to run," my brother groaned.
"Winner gets my brand-new stone wolf statue," I coaxed. That sold them.
We agreed the starting line would be from the willow tree to the pink cherry-blossom tree. We all lined up a foot or so away from each other and then put one foot just behind the starting line. When we were all ready, I started the countdown.
"3....2...Move your foot back Matt, I can see it’s over the line.....1.....GO!"
We all took off like dogs chasing foxes through the forest. Soon I had sped into the lead, swerving around trees and bushes and leaping over rotting logs. Sunlight beamed warmly down on me, encouraging me, and I felt happier. I would easily beat them.
A few seconds later I glanced over my shoulder to see if Matt or Paige had caught up with me. I couldn’t see them through the thickening undergrowth so I figured I must be in the lead. I turned back to the ground in front of me and crashed into sharp barbed wire. It hooked into my jeans and tore my skin. I tried to tear it off while continuing to run fast, but the wire held and pulled me back, sending me careening into a muddy ditch, back first. Mud spattered my shirt and pants, and my leg was still tangled in the vicious barbed wire.
I realized that when I was looking behind me, I had accidentally swerved off the racecourse. I tried to call for help, but I was too deep in the forest for anyone to hear me.
Suddenly I noticed the sun sinking toward the ground behind the trees. Soon it would be nighttime, and the wolves and bears that roamed here would be out hunting. They would find me quickly, because I smelt of blood. The barbed wire had scratched me up pretty bad. All hope I had had drained from me. I probably wouldn’t survive to morning.
Then a face popped out at me. I almost yelled from the shock. In the shadows it looked like a wolf, but smaller, with a longer muzzle. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw its russet fur, white tail-tip, and fearful brown eyes. A fox! Fear racked my body as the slender creature slipped into the ditch through a narrow gap in the wire. It padded closer, its dark, smooth gaze reaching into mine as it headed toward me. I closed my eyes, bracing myself for the pain to begin.
After a few seconds, nothing had happened. Slowly I opened my eyes a crack, and saw that the fox was still there. It began rubbing up against my body, like my tabby cat, Grace; then it pressed its head on my shoulder, looking up at me with a soft, gentle expression in its eyes. Wow, I thought. I thought foxes were supposed to be vicious, rabbit-killing maniacs.
Eventually the fox left my side, and I figured that it was going off to hunt. But it walked over to my injured leg, sniffing it gently. Suddenly it grabbed a wooden part of the barbed wire and began to tug it, hard. It hurt for a few seconds, but after what seemed like a year and a half, the fox gave a final, hard yank, and the barbed wire was pulled free.
I sat up, rubbing my sore leg. Now that I was free, there was nothing that kept the fox from leaving. But before it left, I just wanted to know one thing.
"Wait! Hey, wait!" The fox paused and turned around. "I have to know something. How... how did you, like, know I was hurt and how to pull off the barbed wire?"
For a few seconds there was complete silence; I wondered for a moment why I had done that. I must be going insane, I thought. Talking to a fox, expecting it to-
"Wait," said a deep, smooth voice. I jerked my head up, seeing the fox staring back at me. The knowing way it looked at me guaranteed my thoughts: the fox had talked.
"Wait, wait, wait... y-you can... talk?" I gasped. The fox nodded briskly. "I have a unique gift; I speak your language."
I wanted to say more but I was frozen with shock. The fox nodded once more, then bounded to the edge of the ditch and began to bark.
After a few minutes I heard the pounding of feet from deep within the forest. The bushes rustled, and my father, Matt, and Paige burst into the area.
"Robyn! You’re safe! Thank heaven!" My father rushed into the ditch, about to help me to my feet, when suddenly he noticed the fox skulking into the shadowy trees. "Wait." His gaze flicked from the fox to my bleeding leg and back.
"What...Taylor, did that fox...?" He pulled his gun from his hunting bag, loaded it, and brought it up to his eyes. Slowly he began to pull back the trigger...
"No! Dad, listen!" I surged forward, my bad leg screaming in pain as I flung myself in front of the gun. He jumped back, his eyes wide. "Dad, the fox pulled the barbed wire off my leg and howled so that you would come to me. Oh yeah, and the fox ta-" A bark from the fox made me glance over. The fox was glaring at me, and I knew the secret of its ability was mine alone.
"Come on, Robyn, I can tell that your mother, Matthew, and Paige are going to want to hear the whole story." My dad caught my arm and gently steered me out of the ditch, toward home.
Matt and Paige raced in wide circles around us, badgering me with questions like "Is your leg going to fall off?" and "I finished first. Can I have the statue?" Just before we turned onto the path, I looked behind me. Where the fox had been there was only a soft shadow, yet the ferns were being stirred by an invisible creature watching me from the most hidden of places. I smiled. The craziest thing had happened to me, but I felt totally fine. Maybe even happy.