I opened my eyes. I was surrounded by towering pine trees. Sunlight filtered through their spiny branches, casting a deep, earthy glow through the shadows. The ground around me was littered with pinecones, but below me I could only feel the soft ground blanketed by pine needles. I watched as small, shiny beetles crawled through the shrubs. Some were large and fat, shuffling around clumsily, while others moved along in lines so fast and fluid they looked like tiny streams of water. I raised my head into the air, inhaling the delicious scent of a cold winter’s morning. I smiled and let my ears direct me towards the tinkling sound of water. I saw the silver band winding its way through the trees, and approached it silently, admiring its life-like quality. Ripples traveled across the glassy surface, blurring it slightly. I followed it’s meandering path, watching as the water broke and eddied around rocks, then smoothed back together again like a healing wound, only to be folded over as it rounded a sharp bend. I waded into the shallows, and the cold water sent chills down my spine. I lowered my head and lapped at the water, relishing the feel of the cool liquid slipping down my throat. As I was drinking, I saw out of the corner of my eye something bright. I turned my head the smallest bit to see a bedraggled fox lying at water’s edge. It’s mattered fur was greasy and wet with scars latticing it’s side. It’s tired body was dropping and I wasn’t sure whether it was really still alive, other than the frantic lapping. Suddenly, it turned dragged itself, quivering, back into the shadows. When my thirst had finally been quenched, I took off through the shadows, following nothing but my instincts. I leapt over fallen trees, ducked under low-hanging branches and swerved around rocks. I let the cool air take my breath away. I felt exhilarated.
I opened my sore, red-rimmed eyes to a total onslaught of the senses. Everything was way too bright, and yet still dark and unfocused. After a moment, I finally regained my sight, the brightness fading away. The trees were pressing in on me in a thick, unbroken line. My eyes watered from the too-strong sharp smell of pine, and I could feel cold stones digging into my side. Small creepy-crawlies skittered through the vegetation noisily, and the eerily shade of light was making the shadows dance. I jumped as a quiet sort of roaring reached my ears. I followed the sound cautiously, forcing my tired limbs to move. It lead me to small rapids, where the sound was amplified by a foreboding wall of boulders looming on the other side. I stared into the water as it tore at itself, ripped apart by the rocks jutting out and then smashed together, foaming at the surface, and was suddenly overcome by a dying thirst. Forgetting my pain, I began lapping up the water as fast as I could, droplets flying everywhere. When my thirst had finally been quenched, I raised my head from the water, dripping. A twig snapped behind me. I held my breath. Snap! It was enough to make my heart race. A slight movement caught my eye. I stopped. Not wanting to move, I slid my eyes sideways slowly. And sitting there, just in the curb of the creek, was a fox. It had beautiful, silky orange fur and was sitting with its head lowered, as if it had been quietly lapping up the water for a morning drink. It was watching me with it’s intelligent black eyes, small diamond-like droplets dotted across its healthy fur. I growled so deep I don’t think it even heard me. Deciding I had had enough, I gritted my teeth and hauled myself into the shadows as fast as I could. After a moment, the other fox disappeared. I heard crashing through the undergrowth and pricked up my ears wearily. As it came closer, my nerves got the better of me. I dashed for it, running as fast as I could away from the sound. It didn’t seem to be following.