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.
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.
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.