Word Count: 553
I don’t know why I watched instead of scurrying away.
Normally, I dance amongst the grass on sunny afternoons, chasing crickets. Or I lay in wait for rabbits to squeeze out of their burrows and into my stomach. Or play hide and seek with a butterfly or gnaw on some buttercups. Sometimes I scent a wolf and hide until he passes. You know, fox stuff. My days are spent in the forest, and in the meadow.
Today was different. There was a very different scent in the forest and it drew me even though I was afraid of what I might find. Truly afraid. Under a bright clear blue sky, hidden under a canopy of trees, I saw them. Five of them, naked as the day they were birthed. Females, like me, but peltless because they were human.
They had the smell of night and hunt on them, even though it was day. Their bodies were slick with sweat from dancing and they were making such a holler as to wake the whole forest. Guttural sounds, high sounds. It made my ears twitch.
I could smell their sex too, potent and ready. It was mating time for them. They had a male with them but there was no mating smell on him, just fear. He had the prey scent.
The male lay on a long flat stone and he shivered in the heat. He didn’t join them in their noise, he was quiet like the rabbit hiding in the grass. His brown eyes were huge.
The first woman smeared the heady coppery scent of blood on his body, then another climbed him and forced the mating scent. Then, while the others stood still and quieted, they mated.
Humans are such a strange species. They mate out of sync. They mate when there is no hope of kits. Can’t they smell the difference? Don’t their bodies know? This pair mated, and then the next female, and then the next. The final pairing would produce young; her scent was more refined, and his response final.
We foxes mate for life, so this was hard to watch.
The last human, the new mother, took a knife and I almost turned away, almost ran upwind of them, but didn’t, couldn’t. In the silence, she slit the male’s throat and the others gathered around with bowls, filling them to the top. Quietly, then louder and louder, they chanted, making a circle. Finally they upended their bowls onto the earth.
Barbaric. Humans are the most vicious of all the animals.
I left then, sliding into the underbrush unseen. I couldn’t bear to smell any more.
My mam told me stories about witches, long ago. Fairy tales to entertain her young. Until today they were only that: a rumor, a scary story, but now I know better.
Witches are real.
They live amongst us, here in the forest, and by YOU, in your villages.
In my village, too. I must travel now, reluctantly return to my skin. I must be the one to return to my village and tell the Birnbaums they have lost their son, Robin. I cannot tell them how I know, cannot give up my own secret. But I have witnessed it and now must bare the truth.