Todd peeked out from his burrow, a speck of shivering orange against the shuddering whiteout of the winter season.
"It's that time of year again. Perfect."
He descended back into the tight opening and chewed a piece of bark to calm his nerves. This is the first winter he would go without his mate, Vixie.
You see, last spring Vixie happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when you're a fox… You end up mounted on someone's wall or hanging lifelessly in a closet with your fellow foresters. He had heard the initial gunshot and the cry of pain and indignation of his lover. Arriving just in time to see her limp body being harvested by the all too excited hunter. He was a wreck after that. What was he going to do? He shook, cried, that whole bit. Stowing away in his burrow for all the spring season. Leaving only to eat the most minimal and lap from the stream to keep the ting of dehydration from his head.
He took to chewing on bark from a fleshy hawthorn tree because it was easily removed and had a bitter taste. The taste suited his mood most days; call it a quirk. The bark was for his uneasy nerves that compelled him to obsessively grind his teeth. The chewing helped quell the pain residing inside him. He stared leaving the burrow more frequently. Taking no notice of the friendly glances from the blissful wildlife surrounding him. Why should he even live anymore? He never even fathered children, and it wasn't like this forest was booming with suitable mates. He had never been so alone. So, what would it matter if he just didn't exist anymore? Discontinued… Escaped into the universe.
This cliff. He had never been so high up, or so petrified. Chewing so hard his gums bled, shaking so hard the tears leapt off his cheeks.
"Why am I here?" He heard himself ask.
"Because you're alone."
"Because you cant tear the image of Vixie from your head."
"Because you're hurt."
"Because you're…" He paused.
"Weak." He didn't jump; instead, he went back to his burrow. Defeated.
Now it was winter. The hardest season to go it alone. Todd had been making minimal strides in his attempt at being mentally stable again. He started to forget what his mate even looked like, smelled like, sounded like… Or maybe his brain was just numbing. Inside his burrow he walked around in a circle, pacing, chewing. He decided he should go outside and scare up some food. So he hauled his butt from the mock grave he called home and set out on a hunt. Most animals will be hibernating. He crept low on his belly toward an unsuspecting rabbit, the snow working to his advantage by dampening any noise caused by his approach. Rabbits were fast so he usually only had one shot at a meal. The rabbit's ears perked. Head swiveled. Eyes widened. One stride, crack. Broken neck. Eternal rest. Its funny how the life of one serves the life of another. What a fate, to feed your captor, to keep what kills you alive. Funny. These thoughts accruing to him as he tore and ripped the flesh from bone.
"At least I didn't kill you for the novelty of your fur." He said to the bloody lifeless mess in the snow. Finished. Loomed away for another unsuspector.
After hunting he decided to see if the stream had completely frozen yet. He felt his meal didn't carry enough hydration to keep him keeping on. As he approached he could see that there was no sign of movement in the water. Standing at the edge of the stream only confirmed that fact. He looked for a thinning in the surface, dropped a rock on it. Crack. Water. Life. He drank heavily, the water cooling him rapidly from within. He pulled his shivering muzzle from the surface and let out a yell. The cold only reminding him of how alone he was, cold and alone. He shook his head from side to side screaming, yelling, crying. He pounded the ground with his paws. Once, twice, thrice, fell in a heap onto himself.
"What are you doing?" A voice from the sidelines hitting his unwilling ears.
"N-nothing…" Todd peeped out as he composed himself.
"Doesn't look like nothing" The figure appeared out of the brush and padded toward the flustered Todd.
"And just what fucking business is it of-" He trailed off as he saw that it was another approaching him.
"Well I don't think its my business, you just look like you need some help is all." The fox offered him a paw.
"I'm Mono." He smiled curtly.
"Todd." He replied and he took the paw and shook weakly.
"Don't think you can just come up to me and-"
"Okay okay, sorry to bother you." Mono turned away and trotted back to the tree line.
"Wait…" Mono's ears perked at Todd's word and turned around.
"Sorry, I'm just having a bad day it seems."
"That sounds like an understatement, but I wont press. Thought you could maybe use some company." Mono sat down next to Todd.
"Company." Todd repeated to himself.