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Bedtime

Perhaps if all life was completely unable to tell a lie, we could learn to live with the truth.

Alas, we can all easily mislead others from the truth, therefore leading us to be accustomed to using lies to benefit ourselves, often but not always hurting others on the path. Lies start out simple, and they spiral. 

If you are not careful, they boomerang back into your face and hurt you. If you are careful, you can end up saving yourself from numerous amounts of troubles. 

You could lie and say your paw hurts and be excused from hunting. But if your father finds out, you would be doing the sole hunting for the next fortnight. 

Being a fox, all the other species are already used to our lying. They expect it, accept it. But amongst ourselves, it’s all a battle to a fresh set of eyes with the real truth, which is often lost in the stars.

In the deeper parts of the forest, mysterious happenings are always at place. Rarely any foxes are found trotting about, lest we become part of the rumors. If you are a fox, you are suspicious, sly, secretive, unworthy of a second thought on your word. Of course, that’s why I was always there. They respected me to some point, the other animals. They thought me to be the only noble fox, the truth-teller. What they did not know was that I was just the best of the liars. 


When the self-proclaimed ‘gingerbread man’ came along into our neck of the forest, I was not too surprised.


*


At first, I was alarmed. All the animals who saw him were. He looked like a man. A human, which in the forest, is not a welcome sight. 

There were things about him that were inherently off, however. 

For one, he was very, very small. His face was no bigger than my front paw and his whole body less than the length of my tail. I’d never seen a human up close before, but from the stories I’d heard, assuming them truthful, they were much larger. And something else, his skin was odd. I don’t mean too dark or too light, rather it had a flaky look to it, like it would be easily breakable.

Easily edible. 

Not only that, but his features looked strangely artificial. Beady black eyes and a completely white, an almost sewn-on smile. 

All the animals who happened to be there when he arrived assessed his appearance, our ears twitching and our stances softening when we saw that whatever he was, he wasn’t human. 

That’s when he started running.

His peculiar flat body miraculously balanced itself on two legs and ran with impeccable speed. His solid features twitched and for a moment, I stood, whips of wind blowing in the slightly chilly September breeze. Oslac, a rabbit, hesitated for a brief second before running after the thing. The other animals gathered slowly dissipated, leaving me standing alone. 

Of course, I had to follow. 

Oslac was fast, his hops high and long and he never seemed to grow tired. If I really tried, I could get ahead of both Oslac and the man-thing, but I decided to stay steadily beside the rabbit, my paws barely even hitting the ground as I ran. 

I could see the thing right up ahead, and just as I thought, small little flakes of his skin fell with each movement. 

“My, my, what are you?” Oslac’s nose twitched as he spoke and we turned through the forest, tree after tree passing by in a blur. The thing stopped, and so did we, dirt and dust flying into the air as we nearly all collided. The thing blinked, or at least it seemed that way, for his unnatural eyes seemed to thin for a second. 

He didn’t appear to be breathing. In fact, he rarely seemed alive at all, if not for the fact that he was standing of his own accord. 

“I am the gingerbread man.” I could barely register his wink, one of his eyes thinning, before he turned on his ‘heels’ and was off again. Oslac sprung forward, jumping once very high and continuing forward. My ears twitched and dirt flew into my face before I followed, paws slightly aching from all the running. 

You might be wondering what was so special about a thing, about this gingerbread man that we should chase him, Oslac and I. Imagine if something strange were to walk into your home and promptly start running about. 

You’d be compelled to chase, would you not?

A guilty man runs, is that not what they say?

So we ran, the old spider watching us as we flew by, afraid we’d ruin his newly made web. 

There are certain situations, like with twisting truth, you must sabotage an opponent to win a game. Tripping someone else may be the only way to gain your own balance. 

Metaphorically or literally. 

In this case, literally. 

I swung my tail around and tripped poor Oslac who fell flat on his twitching nose. At least, I assume. I didn’t look back as I continued running after the ‘gingerbread man’, picking up speed and no longer being held back by the rabbit.

“You won’t catch me!” The thing spoke and laughed as it ran. It was absurd, I thought, that a thing so little could run so fast. 

I kept my eyes on his ‘back’ of sorts as we ran, never once looking where we were going or the animals passing through. I had taken it upon me that I would catch him, if it cost me my life. 

Dull pain coursed through my thin muscles, my red fur lined with sweat. 

I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to lose sight of the thing, didn’t want to lose at all.

As I was just losing hope, the thing stopped in front of me. I halted myself and panted, staring still at the back of his head. 

I darted my eyes around to see why he’d stopped, and I couldn’t help as a grin rose to my face when it fully dawned upon me. Up ahead was the river. 

Multiple animals of all different shapes and sizes were scattered about, drinking, gossiping, bathing. 

It was a thin river, thin enough that I could jump over it if I wanted to, and had done multiple times before. It was also shallow, shallow enough that I could float in it without worry of drowning. This little gingerbread man was far too small to jump, too thin to float.

He turned, but before he could do anything else, I pounced. 

I pressed my paws on his flaky skin and pushed him into the soggy ground. He didn’t struggle much, seeing as he obviously had no lungs, no need to breathe. As soon as I pinned him down, he tried to wiggle free. A small crack froze him in his tracks. I saw a small line forming between his shoulder and arm, right where my paw sat. 

He was breaking. 

I was intrigued. 

The only things I’d ever seen crack were the nuts the birds and squirrels were always dropping down as they ate. Food. 

Curious, I leaned my muzzle down close to the thing, sniffing long and hard. His scent was interesting, unlike anything I’d ever smelt ever before. 

He looked scared, strangely. 

“What do you want, why are you here?” I whispered straight at his face, exhaling my words so that he would only hear them. 

“I am here to pass on a message to the-” He coughed, which was strange for a thing that didn’t breathe, and I just barely released a bit of my hold so he’d continue. “To the king. The lion.”

At this, I re-pushed with all my strength, and another crack was heard. He whimpered. 

“This is the forest, not the jungle.”

He blinked multiple times at me, weird eyes thinning and thickening again and again. 

“O-Of course. What I meant was-” 

I pushed my paw on his mouth, muffling his words. 

“Are you here to hurt the forest?” 

His eyes grew cold, more lifeless than they had been before. I moved my left paw to let him speak.

“You and your species and the whole forest have already damaged the forest. I’m here to repair it.”

He had stopped struggling by then, just a thing sitting still under my paws. 

Something about the little circles going down his body, something about them shone like...a delicious mealworm, ready to be eaten. 

I couldn’t help myself and stuck my tongue out just to take a small taste of the thing. 

He tasted sweet, unnatural. He didn’t belong in the forest. 

“You need to cross this river?”

He nodded hesitantly. 

“I shall help you then, if you’ll only just climb on my back.”

The coldness disappeared from his eyes and he seemed to smile. I loosened my hold and he climbed onto my back, clinging onto my fur. 

All the other animals, I knew, would think I ate him. I’m a fox, after all, that’s all we seem to do- eat, lie, cheat.

I was not completely without morals, however. I would not eat a living thing while it sat living in front of me, after I lied straight to their face. 

No. 

I flipped over on my back once I jumped into the river, and the gingerbread man fell, falling into the waves, unable to scream for help. 

I drowned him, where no one would catch him ever again.


April 08, 2021 04:10

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24 comments

HI Amany, a little help, please. Kinda being bullied on Reedsy and I don't know what to do. Thanx EDITED- don't worry, I think I'm fine now

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Amany Sayed
22:47 Apr 11, 2021

Hi, sorry for not replying sooner, I'm taking a break(ish) from Reedsy while I work on other projects! Don't let the haters get to you <3

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Aww, thanks Amany. It's fine.

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05:58 Apr 08, 2021

Bruh, I have ran out of praise. Seriously, what do i say?

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Amany Sayed
14:35 Apr 08, 2021

kjdsaflksdjf this is praise enough ><

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14:35 Apr 08, 2021

:PP

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Claire Lewis
14:09 Apr 08, 2021

I love a good retelling from another perspective! The POV of the fox is incredible—vivid, full of tangible detail, and a little duplicitous. This is excellent. I caught a little typo: “ I’d never seen a human up close before, but from the stories I’d heard, assuming them truthfull,” (truthful)

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Amany Sayed
14:34 Apr 08, 2021

I was seriously so excited at your comment, you are the queen of bedtime story/fairytale syle writing. Thank you so much, it really means a lot. See, Grammarly didn't catch that one, and I knew it looked off. Thanks again!

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Claire Lewis
14:45 Apr 08, 2021

I wish there was more time in the day for reading stories! I always love yours; I need to be more diligent about keeping up with them And thank you—I’ve never been called the queen of anything before, I’m quite flattered 😂

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13:08 Apr 08, 2021

Hey! A surprise for you! Check out my latest story :))

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Amany Sayed
14:34 Apr 08, 2021

:D

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14:35 Apr 08, 2021

:)

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Sarah 🖤💖
12:41 Apr 08, 2021

Oh. my. god. This may just be one of my FAVORITE fairy tale re-tellings ever! The way you called out the trope that foxes in fairy tales are usually evil, and the way to added more to the original tale without completely changing it. It was all just amazing!

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Amany Sayed
14:34 Apr 08, 2021

Ahhh, really? Thank you so much!

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12:19 Apr 08, 2021

aAaAa those metaphors!!!!!!! Seriously, this was all like a poem... but you gave us so much character development without really any sort of action and AAAh. I guess I'm just trying to say that this is good!

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Amany Sayed
14:33 Apr 08, 2021

Thank youuuu! Aw, I caught that, thanks, means a lot :)

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Quinton Asuao
19:27 Apr 15, 2021

That was... interestingly grim

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Gerald Daniels
19:14 Apr 12, 2021

Great story, beautiful prose and intriguing plot. Super.

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Kristin Neubauer
20:23 Apr 11, 2021

Loved it! I am a sucker for fairy tale retellings and this was so well done. You captured the voice of the Fox perfectly - I loved the philosophical asides he had. I also loved the intro. I didn’t realize it was a retelling until you mentioned the gingerbread man and then I was like “aha” - it was a great surprise. No critiques, but just a thought to include something Of the scent of the gingerbread man as the Fox is trying to figure him out? A fox’s nose is so sensitive and a gingerbread cookie must have some aroma, right? Anyway, ju...

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Elaine Preston
18:30 Apr 11, 2021

Very clever. Great ending!! Xx

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Valerie June
16:29 Apr 11, 2021

Amany this was amazing! I loved this retelling so much and especially liked how you told it from the fox’s POV.

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Ann Tillinghast
05:14 Apr 11, 2021

I enjoyed reading your story 😊 I remember the fox and the Ginger Man story. It's been a long time since I read it. Please read mine and like it if you want 😊

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16:36 Apr 08, 2021

Oh wow, this is amazing! I love this retelling so much I read it three times! The perspective of the fox is so creative.

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Cookie Carla🍪
16:09 Apr 08, 2021

This. Was. A. Crazy. Silly. Amazing. Wondrous. Not-too-many-words-in-the-dictionary. To describe this story. This is probably one of the best fantasy stories I've ever read. Definitely top 5. I loved how you took fairytales and flipped them around so you show all parts of the story; like what the fox went through, what he grew up learning, how he handled things, etc. For once, this story really had me connecting with the fox. This story AT LEAST deserves to be shortlisted.

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