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Quiet Fox loved winter’s silence. He liked the way he could feel it sitting inside of him if he stood still and alone. Now, perched on the dark ice of the creek, he heard his heart beat as if it were in front of him.
With a smile and swish of his tail, Quiet Fox woke from his trance. He hadn’t come to stand stoically, but rather to enjoy the winter scenery. He walked farther along the creek, observing what lied beneath the crystal floor, until he came across what he had heard Cheerful Rabbit speak of, the frozen falls. Where water normally babbled and gabbed, there came the uniform silence of before. The rush of cascading water had paused and become misty gray, and Quiet Fox thought it to be a beautiful sight. He gave a sigh and swished his tail another time, deciding to head back home before the snow came once more. The dreary sky overhead promised heavy, fat flakes.
These trips and tiny adventures kept Quiet Fox happy through the seasons. He loved to explore the woods he dwelled in and the mountain that rose above it. He was always hoping to do something thrilling that he had never done before, but as he grew into adulthood, experiences such as these were becoming less and less common.
Quiet Fox stopped a moment on the ice. The silence had been disturbed. There came a rustling in the thick of the leafless forest to his right, and he faced it in wondering. Who might be near the creek this time of year? He looked and caught a glimpse of yellow among the brown of the trees, and he wondered harder still. Yellow was only for flowers and fall leaves, and he knew of no animal on the mountain with yellow fur or feathers. It must be Biggest Bear’s attempt to frighten me again, he thought, and he resumed his leisurely pace down the mountain.
. . .
When he had arrived at his home tree, Bluest Bird was tidying up her nest, flicking out dirt and bits of ice with her beak. “Quiet Fox!” She exclaimed, flying down to a lower branch. “Wherever have you been this morning? I didn’t see you anywhere in the village.”
“I went to see the icy creek and falls,” Quiet Fox explained. “Up on the side of the mountain.”
“The mountain! Haven’t you heard?” Bluest Bird replied.
“There’s a Beast on the mountain.”
Bluest Bird let out a long whistle. “Quiet Fox, you simply must pay more attention.” She flew onto the top of his head for emphasis. “Last week Virtuous Deer was walking on the north side of the mountain and she told me she heard something in the brush. It made her jump, she said, and she looked and told me that there were eyes like she’d never seen staring back at her. They were like the sky.”
“Blue as the sky? I have never seen eyes like that,” Quiet Fox told her.
“Virtuous said that they were just as blue as my feathers.”
“Do you believe her to be telling the truth?”
“Why, of course! Virtuous would never tell a lie.”
“But how do you know it’s a Beast, Bluest?”
Bluest Bird flew to the tip of Quiet Fox’s nose. “Now, let me finish. Two days later, I heard a flock of geese making a huge racket up on the mountain, and later when I saw one I asked him what had happened. He let me know that a colorful creature had rushed at them and made a noise like they had never heard. He said that he couldn’t even describe it to me!”
“Perhaps the rumors are true,” Quiet Fox thought aloud. “I did hear something strange today. There was a noise in the brush…and I saw yellow.”
“Yellow in winter? Quiet, we’re both aware that such a thing does not exist! It is a Beast; there is simply no other explanation that makes sense.”
“But…I thought that perhaps it was Biggest Bear playing a trick on me. It would certainly not be the first time.”
“Why, you silly fox, Biggest Bear is in hibernation, remember?” Bluest Bird started to clean her nest once again.
“Yes, well, has he not been known to wake up for a snack?”
Bluest Bird chuckled. “Yes, I suppose he has. Well, either way, my dear, stay off the mountain. I would not want you to get eaten.”
. . .
The snows came that evening, the flakes sticking to Quiet Fox’s fur as he made his way to Cheerful Rabbit’s burrow. He couldn’t fit even his head into his friend’s home, so when he paid visits he always had to yell, “Hello!” into the mouth of the hole until Cheerful Rabbit came out. Today, he had to yell it three times.
“Sorry,” said Cheerful Rabbit, once he was face to face with Quiet Fox. “I was near the back, trying to keep warm. The ground can be chilly this time of year. Why have you come, Quiet Fox?”
“Bluest Bird told me news of a Beast on the mountain,” Quiet Fox replied.
Cheerful Rabbit’s ears pointed straight up toward the sky. “Yes, I’ve heard the rumors. Tell me, why does Bluest Bird think this?”
Quiet Fox explained what Bluest Bird had told him and included his own strange experience. “Well, rob me of a celery stick if I haven’t heard the news all over the village. It didn’t make much since until now, but truthfully, I don’t believe any of it. Not that Bluest Bird isn’t kind, but we both know her…” Cheerful Rabbit trailed off.
“Of course,” said Quiet. “I do wonder where Bluest Bird gets some of her ideas. I’m not inclined to believe it either, but…has the news really been all over the village?”
Cheerful Rabbit nodded. “Everyone was talking about it as if it were the biggest crisis since the drought a few years back! Truly, it doesn’t make much sense to me. Why worry? After all, a Beast is a Beast. Worrying will not change his plans, surely.”
Quiet Fox smiled. “Well, I wish all could see things as you do, my friend. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Goodbye, Quiet,” said Cheerful Rabbit. He then returned underground.
. . .
The talk continued for another week, and things only got worse. More and more reports of strange colors and sounds were heard, and if any were still brave enough to venture onto the mountain, no one would dare stay past sunset. Children were kept a closer eye on than before. Nearly the whole village was tense.
Even Quiet Fox had begun to wonder about the strange happenings. What intrigued him was that days had past and still no other explanation had been offered. Even Astute Owl, the most respected member of the village, was unsure of what was going on. In the evenings, Quiet Fox saw him pacing in the branches, thinking long and hard. If even Astute Owl is unsure, he thought, perhaps it is a Beast after all. Either way, he decided to get as little involved as possible. He would try his best not to lend the Beast even his smallest thought. There were better things he could be doing.
Eight days following his trip to the frozen falls, Virtuous Deer and her daughter, Curious Fawn, approached Quiet Fox. “Good morning, Quiet,” she spoke softly. “How are you faring?”
“Well, thank you, Virtuous.” He looked at little Curious Fawn. Her eyes were sad, unlike the wonder and expression that were usually there. “What might I do for you?”
“I was wondering if you might take Curious to the Honey Clearing. It’s so close to the mountain, and I haven’t been able to go near the mountain since I saw those horrible eyes.” Virtuous Deer shuddered. “Her father is busy, and I can’t let her go alone, not with the reports of the Beast; however, she’s been wanting so much to go lately.”
“Why, sure, we’ll go,” said Quiet Fox. “Cheerful Rabbit can come as well. He’s quite fond of the Honey Clearing.”
“Thank you so much, Quiet Fox. Curious, be good. I’m off to get breakfast.” Virtuous kissed her fawn goodbye and strolled into the woods.
Before Quiet Fox could say a word to his young friend, Bluest Bird appeared from her nest. “Now, Quiet Fox, be on your guard!” She landed on the ground between Quiet and Curious Fawn. “I know you doubt there’s a Beast, but there’s no need to put the welfare of a little one at risk because of it! Also, do not let your rabbit friend distract you. You know how he can be, always weeding out the troubling things from that head of his! It makes for an amiable soul, but you know it won’t help much in times of danger.”
“Of course, Bluest, we’ll be cautious. I wouldn’t put Curious’ life in jeopardy.”
“Well, I know,” Bluest Bird told him. “You’re too good of a Fox. Just…be careful, is all.” With that, Curious Fawn and Quiet Fox left for Cheerful Rabbit’s burrow.
. . .
“Mother won’t let me go anywhere by myself now,” Curious Fawn lamented. “She’s afraid the Beast will eat me.”
“She only means to keep you safe,” Quiet Fox responded.
“I know, but she and Father are busy, so I must stay around at home all day! I miss exploring.”
“Well, today, we’ll have an adventure of our own.”
“Is this where Cheerful Rabbit lives?”
“Yes. Would you like to call for him to come out?”
Curious Fawn yelled into Cheerful’s burrow until he came out, and they began to walk towards the mountain. While they traveled, Curious chattered about this and that while Cheerful Rabbit formulated interesting replies. Quiet Fox remained true to his name, keeping an eye out for anything that might cause alarm, until they arrived at the Honey Clearing.
The Honey Clearing was a marvelous sight no matter the season. In summer and spring it was alive with wildflowers, butterflies, and buzzing bees manufacturing delectable honey. In fall, a rainbow of leaves fell over the ground and felt like a soft cushion, and in winter, the snow coated it and made it clean, bright, and as radiant as a diamond. It was perfect for eager young fawns to play in.
As such, Curious Fawn pranced through the deep snow, throwing it up into the air with her nose. Today, the sun was shining, and it made Curious’ deep brown eyes dance with joy. Quiet Fox and Cheerful Rabbit journeyed around the perimeter of the clearing, letting their little companion enjoy herself.
“Cheerful, what’s that up ahead?” Quiet Fox asked. They had just laid eyes on a strange looking figure a ways in front of them.
“I can’t say I know what that is. It looks like it’s made of snow.”
“Is it…could it be…I mean, there does appear to be some color on it.”
“No, look, it’s not moving. I doubt it’s alive.”
“Curious Fawn!” Called Quiet Fox, suddenly feeling uneasy. She scurried over and joined them as they approached the strange, white, inanimate creature. Soon they were right in front of it.
It was just about as tall as Curious Fawn’s mother. It was indeed made of snow, and it had two long sticks protruding from its middle. On the top of it was something red and made of cloth, and on the front of it were rocks made to look…almost like some sort of face.
“What is it?” Asked Curious Fawn.
“I don’t know. But, surely someone made it. Do you know anyone who could have done it?” Cheerful Rabbit said to Quiet.
“No, not alone at least. It is fairly tall…”
“Well, whoever did it, I would like to know where they got a carrot in winter!” Exclaimed Cheerful Rabbit. “Curious, could you grab me that carrot towards the top of it?”
“No, don’t touch it!” Quiet Fox exclaimed. “It looks sinister.”
The three started at it for a little while longer before Curious Fawn said, “Do you think the Beast made it?”
“Well…perhaps. I didn’t believe in the Beast, but this is truly strange!” Said Cheerful. “I think that perhaps we should tell Astute Owl. He will know what to do, surely.”
“That is probably best,” said Quiet.
. . .
Later that day, Astute Owl and most of the other members of the community gathered in front of the strange snow being. For a time, no one spoke. Everyone watched as Astute Owl flew around the creature, sizing it up properly and inspecting its various odd features. Finally, he had reached a consensus. He sat on the ground in front of the village and cleared his throat. “Friends, I do believe that this strange figure is the work of a human. Perhaps more than one.”
Babble arose from the crowd as whispered questions filled the crisp air. Finally, Bluest Bird spoke for all. “But, Astute…we haven’t seen a human in years. Surely…”
“I find no other explanation. Although it is true that many of us were not alive when a human was last near the village, it has happened before. Tell me, friends, know you of any animal capable of making such a thing?” Astute Owl questioned.
“No,” spoke the small voice of Cautious Squirrel, “but…the Beast! What if this were to be the work of the Beast?”
Astute Owl shook his head and sighed. “Even if it is, Cautious, what of it? I see no threat in this snow figure. Friends, I believe that this crisis shall pass, and that until then, it is best if we calm ourselves and be wise. Good day.” He flew away, the sound of the rise and fall of his wings echoing through the trees.
The community fell once more into a murmur until Bluest Bird spoke up, perching on one of the snow being’s stick arms. “Astute Owl is the wisest of us all, this we know, but for the first time I doubt his judgment. We cannot stand idly by as a Beast ruins us and devours our children! It is coming closer and closer to the village, leaving traces of itself such as these! We must make a change! We must stand strong!”
Agreements formed and multiplied. Cheerful Rabbit spoke, “My dear Bluest, I have a bad feeling about this! Has Astute Owl ever been wrong?”
“Cheerful, you mean well, but no one is perfect, not even Astute Owl! I can no longer wait for the Beast to go away by itself like he is suggesting. We are desperate, and we must act as such. Tomorrow, I say we meet here at dawn. We will make a decision on what is to be done. Are we all in agreement?”
All said yes save for Quiet Fox and Cheerful Rabbit.
. . .
“I can only hope nothing bad becomes of this,” said Cheerful as he and Quiet strolled home after the meeting.
“You’re right, Cheerful, Astute Owl never has been wrong. I am unsure what to think. I still don’t even know if I believe there to be a Beast,” Quiet Fox responded with a sigh. “I am most weary.”
“As am I.” They had come upon Cheerful Rabbit’s burrow. “I am going to find lunch and take a nap. I suggest you do the same, my friend.”
“Goodbye, Cheerful,” Quiet spoke in reply, letting the silence of winter once again find him. As he let it sink in, his thoughts swirled still. At his home tree, he found himself glad that Bluest Bird was elsewhere. At the moment, he needed the peace. He rested in the snow and stared up at the bare branches, realizing that not one question in his mind had an answer. He would have loved to believe someone, be it Bluest Bird, Astute Owl, or even Virtuous Deer, but he could not, not until he found an answer for himself.
Quiet Fox suddenly felt the tug of an adventure.
. . .
That evening, under the declining sun, Quiet Fox headed for the mountain. He went the long away around the village, wanting to avoid being seen. It had been conflicting to decide whether or not to tell anyone about his trip. It wasn’t his intention to worry his friends, but he did not want the news to stretch. He had settled upon secrecy. Surely, he wouldn’t be gone too long, and even if he were, he would have even stronger motivation to get back home.
Quiet Fox focused deeper the farther he went up the mountain. He kept his eyes open and his ears aware, feeling the air around him and soaking it in. If there were a Beast, he would look it in the eye. Perhaps Quiet himself would be the one to destroy it forever. If there was no Beast, he would find the source of the rumors, and he would finally know the truth.
The weariness of before began to melt. The beat of his nervous heart gave him energy and life. Quiet Fox breathed in and out, watching the warm air coming out of him rise and whirl in a fog.
He heard a noise and halted. Heavy footsteps shook the earth below him, but they were like no footfalls he had ever experienced. The sound grew closer, and Quiet Fox was ready. He stared straight into the creature’s path. Color flashed through the brush just as before. Two blue eyes met his, and a face watched him in wonder. It was a boy. A human boy.
They studied each other for a long while. Neither one moved until a noise stopped them. “Jonah! What did I tell you about staying close to the house?” Quiet Fox ashamedly went to hide behind a tree trunk, but still watched. A human woman had taken the boy by his yellow coat.
“But Mama, I was exploring! I saw—“
“Well, you can explore close to the house. Or, maybe Daddy will take you back to the clearing, but you never know what’s out there. I don’t want you getting eaten by a Beast.” The human woman smiled and grabbed the boy’s hand.
“Mama, I know there’s not a Beast.”
“If you say so. Come on.” The woman led the child away from Quiet Fox and he watched in wonder. He finally had his answers.
Quiet Fox smiled as his exhaustion caught back up with him. He began to slowly descend the mountain, wondering if anyone in the village would believe him when he tried to tell them the news. Even if they didn’t, he would forever know the truth.
It had gotten dark by the time he arrived at his home tree. He curled up warmly among the roots and rested, sleep coming immediately. In the cold, numbing dark, Quiet Fox dreamed of a new friend, one who needed adventure just as much as he did, and he blessed him, promising that he would never forget him.