Swiping Dignity


A dramatic monologue


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I should never have come here. The landscapes are beautiful, sure, but they are empty. I spend my days roaming, admiring waterfalls, caves, mountains, all manner of pastoral backdrops. I watch from the side of the empty, clean roads, standing too tall above perpetually neat grass. My every move is audible in the silent, blank blue.

Back on the East Coast, I was in my element. Traffic, buildings, smog. More than trees to hide behind. People. I wore my gloves for a reason then; the cops checked for fingerprints. And I wasn't the only fox out there. I miss that.

Here there are no police. I have no enemies, no matter what I do. No matter what I 'swipe'. The pathetic euphemism would stick in my throat if I ever cared to utter it.

My back is hunched, my neck curved to the ground, hiding from no-one. It's just easier to walk this way now. It hurts to straighten my body. I'm famished, too. Sometimes the villagers will see me shambling about behind their homes and freely offer me food in pity. But it's no good. I can't eat it if they just give it to me.

So I roam, waiting for an easy mark or the cover of night, whichever comes first. And finally, inevitably, she will come. The little girl.

I hear her coming, of course, just a she hears me. There is nothing here but us. Just us and her monkey and her backpack. The backpack, stuffed with random items. So many items. Slingshots, ropes, lamps, ladders. I watch her idling through the pack and I wonder, as if in a daze, why she brought such disparate equipment with her and how heavy the pack must be. As my attention focuses, I am aware that the itch on my snout doesn't bother me now. I couldn't wrench my attention to it now if I tried.

So many things in her pack.

My eyes sting me because I forget to appease them with regular blinking. The blue fabric of my bandana hugs them, warning them not to interrupt this. I need to lay my paws upon the contents of that backpack.

I look closer. She actually has a goddamn snowsuit in there. It won't fit me. It's useless to me. But I want it.

She moves her head a touch, and reflexively I dive for cover. My hardened fur slices through the air and she speaks. I close my eyes and they sting all the more.

'Did you see Swiper?' she asks, looking off to her right for some reason, staring at a tree perhaps.

I growl, not because I have been detected, but at the epithet itself. I am a thief. I am a sentient being who has come to rely on thievery, and furthermore I once had a name. Now that name is forgotten by everyone but myself, and thus it is lost forever. I can stomach this, but not the nickname the people give me. To them I am not even a villain...

The bandana rubs against my round eyes now; it must have been dislodged in my leap. Why do I even wear it? Originally it was to disguise my identity. The idea makes me laugh now. I have no identity!

I am Swiper. He who swipes.

That's all.

As she continues talking to herself, I wonder for the briefest moment what I would actually do with that snowsuit if I successfully took it. The thought is brief because I dare not face the truth. I know I would simply hide it, run away, and look for something else to take.

I don't want the suit, I just want to possess it. I want that little victory over her, over this place. Over what I have become.

The thought materialises too quickly, disgusts me and throws me off balance. The hairs on the back of my neck are hot now and energy wells in my legs, screaming for catharsis. I pounce. And it begins, as it always does.

'Swiper, no swiping!' she chants, smiling. Smiling. 'Swiper, no swiping! Swiper nooo swiping!' The elongation of the final 'o' is what does it. I wonder if she knows that.

I stop. Now my hair is lifeless and my legs ache. With three words repeated twice, they have made the act meaningless. I stand directly in front of them now, looking into her eyes, wondering what the point of it even was.

Swiper no swiping. The obvious contradiction fails to register on their beaming, naïve features. If I am their 'swiper', what would they have me do?

She says nothing and the monkey swallows. I focus on the sound and feel my pounding heart. The urge to leave them overcomes me. To cease. All I want is silence. I have been ridiculed further than if I had been stopped by them. They told me three times not to swipe, and I did not. Now I am less than 'swiper'.

The depression will not take hold. I have a mechanism to break it.

I click my fingers stylishly, and with that act I have strength again. I don't want to think about how it works. It does. I flee.

Like a fool, led by my unreasonable hunger, I head straight ahead instead of backtracking. I know she will walk the same way, even as I kid myself I'm simply taking a direct route home.

The next hour passes quickly, in a melancholy stupor. I move directly forwards, waiting for landmarks. I control my breathing. I hear them singing. They repeatedly announce their destination, as if goading me.

And finally, I reach their fork in the road. Her singing growing louder, she arrives too. Again she turns to her right and addresses bland, empty space, the vista directly behind her dominated by three perfectly-symmetrical grey rock peaks. Their tops are pure white, as if they have been dipped into fresh sugar.

'Can you see the snowy mountains?' she asks no-one. In confusion I shake my head. This place does strange things to people.

And so we scale the mountain, with me always staying just out of sight. We reach the summit and realise she will have to cross an ice-cold lake if she means to continue.

The backpack is brought out again, and in the freezing wind I can only feel myself salivating. There is no emotion now, just desire. I think she has a badminton racquet in there.

As I stare, losing control and failing to come up with a plan, she pulls out a collection of three beach balls, for use as makeshift floatation devices. She can hop over them, but apparently she needs to repeatedly yell 'farther' in Spanish in order to do so.

She hops happily onto the first ball, and then onto the middle one. The dextrous monkey follows.

Without thinking, I run. My short, stumpy legs are ill-equipped for the job, but then, they were not meant for mountaineering either. Neither were beach balls. Nothing here is as it should be.

I jump again, unable to close my sensitive, spherical eyes. Snowflakes land on them and melt away in the heat that moves me. I snatch the last ball with one claw, swooping down upon it and with one quick grab, nestling it into my open arm. I leap up from the monkey's head and grab the first ball.

They are mine! And I do not care how, or if, she will cross the river. Perhaps she will drown here, or the ice will take her more quickly. Either way I will snatch the entire backpack from her rounded little shoulders!

The entire backback. I'll kill her myself if it will get me that backpack!

'Swiper, no swiping!' she says, and the monkey joins her on the second wave. 'Swiper, no swiping! Swiper noooooooo swiping!' My arms physically hurt me as I drop the beach balls, blinking.

Gazing into her smiling, warm face.

Saving her life.

She hops across the path she has made and begins singing once more. As if it never happened.

What have I become? And how can I stop this?

This time I just can't bring myself to click my fingers and make it all go away. I fall to my knees, my back straight, and listen to the little girl's happy voice. Oh, man…

Oh, man.