Painting ©Bjørn Krogstad
Beyond the hazel thicket ran a stream full of bright pebbles and silent brown trout. The fox bounded across, where large flat stones lay just beneath the silvery surface. The girl splashed after him, and the trout slid away. Overhead, the branches hung low and heavy; the light dimmed. Blue black fox slid into the shadows, and the little girl hurried after him.
Follow, said the wolf.
Keep up, murmured the rose.
The girl pushed through a veil of wild clematis, the fluffy seeds tickling her nose, and she caught her breath. The fox was lying, belly to the ground, in a brown glade where no grass grew, only a clump of pale, mushroom-coloured flowers, leafless and pallid. His luxuriant brush stretched out behind him and his ears pricked forward as if he were listening.
The girl crept closer, her feet making no sound on the damp earth. She felt the sadness in the air, the sorrow that fell from the pale blooms, and she thought of the rose.
Why are they so sad? she asked. Where is their scent and their brightness?
The fox’s tail twitched.
Gone, he said. Drained through their roots, leached into the sterile soil beneath.
The little girl shuffled her feet and looked down at the brown earth. In the distance a wolf howled, a vixen barked, and a jay flew shrieking beneath the low branches.
Heal it, the fox said.
Find a way, the wolf said.
Make them see, said the rose.
The little girl nodded solemnly. I will. If it takes my whole life.