The sun rises from his bed, dawn breaks and the air is warmed by his touch. It feels like it is going to be a very muggy day. I sigh and stretch, feeling stiff and cramped having been curled next to the Rayburn myself alongside the vixen for the last several hours. I’m not sure what woke me but the vixen is finishing the last of the raw lamb Agnes left out for her last night, this morning, whichever it was, I am losing my sense of normal time. Her crunching and gnawing are quite loud even on the last few scraps of meat. I stand up slowly and head to the larder where I know the wood for the Rayburn is kept, take a small armful and load it into the belly of the oven. The ashes are still glowing so I breathe on them to get a spark on the new wood and before long it is aflame. I close the door and stretch again. Hearing the vixen lapping at the water in the bowl Agnes also placed out I start thinking again, wondering about her life. Agnes appears in the doorway, in her cotton nightgown with a light dressing gown, her hair simply tied back and pink bunny slippers on her feet. I start to tell Agnes that the vixen has just finished her breakfast but looks like she could use more when I suddenly think I should really call her by her name. I turn to the vixen and she speaks to us both my name will come in time, there is much to tell before I can reveal who I am. Mysterious as always it seems, hints at this and that, nothing firm except what she has told us of how she came to be this way and of her lack of offspring. I catch myself wondering if she may have fooled us and had left a cub behind to give herself an easier time and she catches that thought and her face contorts somewhat into disappointment and I am at once chagrined to have thought anything of the sort. “I am sorry, ” I say to her, ” I should not have thought that you might have left a cub behind for selfish reasons. You’re grace and pride and just the overall manner in which you hold yourself and speak belie the hurt you carry. I am ashamed for thinking that, I can’t say it won’t cross my mind again but it will be hastily dismissed if it does.” Her tail flicks and she nods her thanks.
After we all eat breakfast we sit around the kitchen table, including our guest who jumps nimbly onto the chair next to me. I’ll let her continue the story again from where she left off last night.
When she hit me across the face I stumbled back, numb with shock and yelping in pain, my voice didn’t register to me at first but as it did I found myself screaming, or barking I suppose, at her, asking her what she had done to me and to undo it right now. She looked as shocked as I did, I doubt she had ever polymorphed someone with such ease before. It must have been quite a shock for her to find myself with three of the men of her own family. She turned and fled from the barn and I stayed cowering for a time, the smell of the hay was a little comfort. It didn’t last long though, I heard movements coming towards the barn and thought it would be wise of me to flee. I ran out of the barn and headed for the nearest woodland. A shout had gone up behind me but I didn’t turn to look, I wasn’t sure what I was but from what I had seen of myself I appeared to be a fox, and as we were in a village close to heavy farmland where farmers kept all manner of livestock I decided it would be better to assume I was a fox and that it was someone coming to kill me for stealing chickens or eggs. The woods were at once familiar and completely alien to me, I had never been this close to the ground whilst running before, this close to the ground I would have been on my back and the only movements would be the usual ones of sex. I ran deeper into the woods, they were much bigger everywhere than they are now, everything is so sparse of nature in the towns and villages now. But that is getting ahead of myself. I ran and ran and ran until I was on the verge of collapsing and I fell to the floor gasping.
I must have lain there, unconscious, for several hours. When I roused the sun was low in the sky. I was being watched. I opened my eyes carefully and gazed slowly around. A fox was stood close by observing me cautiously. He lifted his head and sniffed the air. I felt suddenly quite afraid, I was in the middle of my cycle and he must scent that I was fertile. He took me by force, jumping on my back and holding my neck in his teeth. I was just grateful that it was quick. It did give me something else to worry about though. I could be pregnant with ease at any time as long as I remained in this form and this area. And I really had no choice but to remain. I could already be on my way to being pregnant. You can imagine the horrifying thoughts that ran through my mind. I had always been so very careful to take herbs I knew would prevent pregnancy. This was becoming even more of a nightmare than I had first thought. Bad enough to have to run to stay alive, worse still to be pregnant and running or running trying to keep a litter of cubs out of danger.
I looked myself over and discovered I had scratches and gashes all over me but thankfully I was not bleeding. I forced myself to rise and walk, despite the pain, humiliation and fear, to the nearby spring. I drank heavily and then tried to bathe in the water. The result was muddy paws and still uncleaned wounds across my back, shoulders, haunches and neck. I followed the spring downstream until it was deep enough to bathe in properly and I cleaned myself off thoroughly. I had enough to deal with without septic wounds. I spent the next several days wandering and living off what I could. At first I ate berries and herbs that I recognised as safe to eat but realised at some point I would have to eat as a fox would, mostly because the herbs and berries that were safe to me as a human made me retch violently as a fox. My first kill was horrible. I found a vole near the river bank, I had made a den close by, it had been injured somehow so was not as fast as it would normally I have been. I sank my teeth into its flesh and blood and entrails filled my mouth. More hideous was that it lived, if only briefly, and struggled in my jaws. I had to complete the kill so I laid it on the ground and pressed my paw hard into its throat and head, the skull popped and oozed. I moved away and retched again but I had not had anything stay on my stomach so all that came up was bile. I had to eat and so I took the mangled body and did what I could to strip it of its meat. It was hardly satisfying but it was something. Killing to survive became natural eventually, but the first twenty or so still stick in my mind. I was clumsy and starving, inept and squeamish.
I managed to eventually get the hang of it so the kill was quick and clean and I could strip a carcass to bone and entrails and the less palatable bits within minutes. Then I moved to larger creatures and that took longer but I stayed fuller longer. I had become a survivor. As the days passed the only thought was to fill my belly but as I grew more adept and went hungry less I found my mind turning to more pressing matters. I realised that my menses had not yet come and they should have normally been over by now. I started to grapple with the reality of being pregnant. It seems Karma can be a cruel mistress. I had caused misery to many through sex, now the misery was mine. I am just thankful my human form overrode the natural pregnancy of the fox and limited my misery to just one, albeit larger than normal, cub. Every time since then I have given birth to stillborns, that has never been easy even though the young are always deformed and hideous to behold. I am careful to move the limp and lifeless corpses as soon as I come to terms with yet another stillbirth. Years passed, I don’t know exactly how many, until I began to think I should by rights now be dead. I had to take action and find a human, a witch perhaps, or a druid, someone who could help me leave this nightmare behind by either dying or returning my own form to me.