He dug himself a hole in the ground and slipped inside. The earth here was cold and rocky, but it was safe and it would suffice for one day of much-needed sleep. Silas curled into a ball, tucked his nose into his tail, and went to sleep.
Dusk had begun to paint the sky in fire and indigo when Silas awoke. He felt rested for the first time in days, ready to complete his trek across the Wasted Lands to the remains of the human city with its towering skeleton buildings. His siblings had said he was crazy, but Silas was only part fox. His father had been a human dog, living and traveling with the humans as they made their way to the old city. Silas had always felt the urge to join them, even as a kit. And when the coyotes had moved into his territory, Silas knew it was time to leave. Whatever destruction the humans had caused had also made the coyotes more ferocious. A fox – even a big half-breed like Silas – didn’t stand a chance against a gang of coyotes.
Besides, Silas knew he belonged with the humans. In fact, he had already chosen his human, and it was her scent he’d followed through the Wasted Lands.
Cautiously, he poked his nose out of the hole, sniffing the air and listening for any signs of predators. He had picked up the scent of fishers over the last few days, and while Silas believed he could hold his own against a fisher, he wasn’t keen to test that theory. Fishers were renowned for their savagery. But tonight, the air carried no predators.
Silas leapt from the hole and trotted down the nearby hill to grab a drink from the stream. He was delighted to discover it was teeming with fish. After a quick meal and a long drink, Silas resumed his journey, moving with speed and stealth through the night.
By dawn, he could see the silhouettes of the human city looming on the horizon, and he could smell the human camps, which were scattered around the outskirts. Silas slowed his pace, keeping to the low-lying vegetation. Humans were funny creatures and he knew they were just as likely to kill him as welcome him. He had to find her if he was to survive among the humans.
Silas was so focused on her scent that he didn’t notice the human dog before it was too late. It had probably circled around behind him as soon as he stepped into human territory. The only warning Silas got was a low growl. He spun around just as the dog tackled him, rolling him into the dusty ground and pinning him by the throat.
The dog could have killed Silas then and there, but he was clearly awaiting further instructions. From the corner of his eye, Silas saw dozens of humans approaching. He could smell their fear and their curiosity and their hunger. And then one of the humans spoke.
“Leave him,” the voice commanded, firmly and without fear.
The dog released Silas and sat back on its haunches. Silas scrambled to his feet and turned toward the voice. She was small, a younger human, but her scent was unmistakable. It was her. Silas felt enormous relief wash over him. He sat down in the dust and waited.
The girl approached Silas, unhurried and confident. She reached out her hand to stroke his face, then lifted his chin so he could meet her gaze.
“Hello Silas,” she said.
Silas licked her hand. He knew he was home.
This is my submission for this week’s Speakeasy challenge #106.
Okay, so here are the rules: This week, submissions must be 600 words or less and must begin with the following line: He dug himself a hole in the ground.
In addition, submissions must make some reference to the photo prompt, which is the following image:
Fox image credit: CoverJunction.com