Wren shoved her chair backward, coming up hard against the stone tile pillar behind where she sat. There was a real fox in front of her. A very large, real fox. She stared at the creature, unable to believe what she was seeing.
No one else seemed aware of the animal. The texting woman glanced at Wren surreptitiously, wondering why she was twitching and jumping around in her seat. The fox leapt lightly to the floor and tossed the doughnut high into the air down the aisle, playfully leaping after it and pouncing on it like it was a rat or mouse, reducing it to chunks and crumbs. It turned around and looked at Wren then dropped into a pose she had seen dogs do in play many times before, front legs extended and haunches up. It wiggled a couple of times like this, then ran quickly forward and past Wren, a streak of red. She watched it zoom around the perimeter of the tables and return close to where she sat.
No one else saw the fox. She scanned the nearby area. There was no surprise, no fear, no awareness at all of a woodland creature frolicking in such an unnatural environment. She could sense the fox but nothing beyond its presence. It dropped into a play bow toward her again and shifted its paws a little, brushy tail lifted. Come, it seemed to be saying. Play with me.
Wren hesitated, then stood. The fox leapt into the air like a kitten, spinning and hurtling down to the end of the aisle again where it stopped and looked back at her with an expectant air. It fascinated her that people walked past and around it like it wasn’t even there, minds registering the need to make room but not why. She hurried after the fox as it skittered quickly off toward the escalators, not wanting to lose sight of it.
It looked back often to make sure she was following and hung a right at the escalators. She did as well; prodding at it with her mind to try and see into its own but she could not. The ability to limit her perception of others as a mere presence was all she was capable of with the fox. Its mind was closed to her utterly and she could not tell if it was responsible or someone else was shielding it from her and controlling its actions.
They made their strange way past stores and kiosks and a growing number of lunchtime shoppers. Wren found herself inspecting the fox curiously, having never been so close to one before. She admired its healthy burnished red coat and bushy tail. It had white markings on its chin, throat and the tip of its tail, and its legs were almost black. She wondered if it would run up the stairs as they neared The Bay but instead it stopped near the comfortable chairs and benches just outside of the department store. It looked at Wren who had also stopped as soon as it had. It sat down as prim as a cat and stared at her, ears and whiskers forward, then slowly turned its head and stared intently at one of the chairs.
Wren looked to where it stared. A woman sat in the chair, shopping bags on the floor at her feet and an iced coffee held in one hand. She leafed through a magazine on her lap. She looked familiar. Wren tried to place her. Skinny, black hair and freckles with an upturned nose and tan complexion. Recognition struck, leaving her floored.
It was Amie.
Tags: Chapter Four