The Fox by Steph Power is the next piece of flash fiction in Wales Arts Reviews’ week-long celebration of the genre.
It wasn’t going away. What the hell was that beeping noise? Sam blinked and tried to ease out from her wedged position. Stiff muscles threatened to spasm, prompting the desire to sink back again and away, but the light was now too bright to ignore. Oh, that’s right, fuck. The car. I’m sleeping in the car. Awareness began to return in jolts as, slowly, she propped herself upright and fished around for the alarm clock. Bloody hell. What day was it anyway?
A dirty white morning was pushing its way in, past the rigged-up curtains. Peering between them, Sam could see the car park was still empty. A couple of crows hopped and cawed round a bin near the entrance, squabbling over rubbish. Well, here goes. In a lunge, the door was open and cool air curled about her face. After a moment, she felt her way out, gingerly now, feet looking for tarmac and connection with an outside that seemed suddenly thin as sandpaper.
Swaying slightly, she stood and breathed. Food? Something to drink? A pee. Shuffling into plimsolls, Sam reached for her jacket and headed for the broken fence, ducking into trees and undergrowth. A drizzle had fallen in the night, coating everything with moisture and muffling the distant traffic, swish, swish, in an embalming fluid.
The trees were sticky with it, and dense. Enfolded by green, she picked her way into the copse, away from the bright surface of the morning. Solace. Was that the word? Or was it by now some other kind of need? Gently, she lay her face against rough bark; warm and etched with age. The damp scent felt thick, like a creeper, holding her upright.
Dozing again, Sam was abruptly alert and aware of – what? Turning quickly around, she could sense nothing beyond the foliage and the breeze. Damn. Raining again. Instinctively she took her phone out of her pocket. Chiding herself for an idiot, she couldn’t help re-reading the text: ‘It’s ok, but give her an hour or two before you go’. That was, what, ten days ago now? And still she hadn’t gone. But today was going to be the day. Up early, she’d go, and those dark eyes would give her the right look and everything would somehow work out.
Fuck, what was she thinking? Jesus – the pain hit her like a sledgehammer, knocking her sideways into scrubby low plants, speckled with cans and wrappers and her own urine. It was too late, too fucking late. It was never – couldn’t ever happen. Nothing could be done. Nothing could ever be done again.
Sam lay like a stone, the wet ground absorbing her body heat as her mind drifted. Dimly, she heard the rain pattering and a part of her marveled at the sound. So pure and varied. All the rhythms of the world were here around her, and yet so far away. She turned her head, but could only dimly make out the fox staring at her with a steady, yellow-brown gaze.
The Fox by Steph Power is part of a Wales Arts Review series publishing original flash fiction pieces by some of Wales’ top authors in a celebration of the unique literary genre and National Flash Fiction Day.