Fox Moon
Fox reached the Moon after climbing the stars. It wasn’t easy— a bit like climbing a rock wall with hand and footholds the size of tacks. Fox fell many times, but each time, she got up and began to climb again.
Fox spent forty years climbing to the moon. She did not stop to eat, drink, or take care of her kits. Nothing could hold her back from reaching the Moon: not even her family. Fox kept trying.
At the beginning of time, Fox was meant for the Earth, and the Moon was meant for the heavens. Neither of them were supposed to be together. But every night, Fox would look up at the big silver puddle in the sky and wish she could drink from it. She knew that she would have to reach it before her dying days.
One evening, at sunset, Fox set off. She left her kits under the care of Mouse, who was her most trustworthy friend. When Fox reached the part of the Earth where the stars meet the ground, she began to climb. She only made it a few feet off of the ground before she tumbled from the stars. But Fox picked herself right back up again and climbed for all she was worth.
As midnight drew closer, the darkness began to recede. Fox followed it and climbed as fast as she could, in hopes of reaching the Moon before the darkness left her flailing in midair.
But the Moon, as you know, is very, very far away. It would take Fox days to reach it, which she discovered after a long night of climbing— and falling. So, the next night, Fox summoned all of her bravery (and her best climbing skills) and started to climb again. She didn’t fall once, and she managed to climb up a quarter of the way to the Moon. Miles of empty space stretched below her, and darkness clouded above her.
Fox clung to the stars for all she was worth. She kept climbing. Without sleep, Fox was exhausted, but she pushed on. She had to reach the Moon.
When Fox was about halfway up, she felt like she’d just run two hundred miles straight. She perched on a larger star to catch her breath and looked above her. The silver glimmer of the Moon shone back at her. Fox smiled and began to climb again, energized by her glimpse of the Moon.
The Moon had been watching Fox. She was very perseverant, and she tried harder than anyone he’d ever known. He wanted her to reach her dream, so he decided to bless her with a few gifts.
The first gift that the Moon gave to Fox was the ability to breathe in outer space. He strengthened her lungs and rerouted her internal parts, so that her brain could receive space must and still function properly. Any other being climbing to the stars would not be able to reach him without dying from lack of oxygen, but Fox was special.
The second gift that the Moon gave to Fox was the ability to climb the stars. He had given her this gift years ago, ever since she was a tiny kit, looking up at the sky. Her paws were padded in a certain way that helped her grip the hot balls of gas without being burned or falling through empty space. He had arranged the stars in a way that would compliment her climb: there was always something nearby to grab on to.
The third gift that the Moon gave to Fox was a special safety net. By the time she was high enough to fatally injure herself if she fell, he had woven a basket of extra-soft moonlight and cast it below her. Had Fox slipped, the basket would be only a few feet behind her, ready to catch her and deposit her back onto the stars. Fox did not know about this gift yet, though. She hadn’t slipped since it had been constructed.
The Moon watched Fox intently. As she climbed higher and higher, he paid more attention to her distance from him. As the days passed, Fox followed the darkness to the Moon. Her only light was the dull twinkle of the stars and the bit of quicksilver that managed to escape the heavy cloud below the Moon. She had not eaten anything for months, and her body was thin and emaciated. But despite her hunger and lack of light, Fox pressed on.
Back on Earth, though, the Moon could see Fox’s kits. They were growing rapidly, but they were nearly as thin as their mother. Mouse had passed away years ago, poisoned by dark berries that she had nibbled on one day. The kits had no food, and Fox had been in such a hurry to reach the Moon that she had not taught her kits to hunt. They weren’t ready to be in the world alone.
The Moon sent a large burst of energy towards Fox and watched her for a moment, before he sensed something behind him. It was Pluto, messenger of the Galaxy. He tossed a message towards the Moon.
The North Star may be sick. Her light isn’t as bright as it used to be— in fact, I cannot see it. Prepare another supernova soon. One more shine from the brightest star before she dies.
The message was from Jupiter, one of the North Star’s closest friend. The Moon remembered her fondly, as well: he and the North Star hadn’t seen each other in centuries. He felt terribly sad, and his light darkened a bit, just like the North Star’s.
Pluto tipped his hat as he spun away, carrying his messages. The Moon looked across the Galaxy, trying to find his old friend, but she was too dim to distinguish now. He turned his attention back to Fox. Maybe once she reached him, the two of them could save her babies— and his friend.
Fox was trembling, she was so tired. She feared that she would slip and crash back to Earth in a heap of splintered bones and organs. She could see the Moon above her, but she still had miles of stars left to climb. For the first time, she wondered if she had enough strength to reach the Moon. She thought about her kits. Was Mouse taking good care of them? She hoped she would live to see them again.
Too tired to push on, Fox stopped, stretched between four stars. She shifted around, trying to find a more comfortable position— but nothing was comfortable when you were thousands of feet in the air with only a few stars to carry your weight. She sighed, and her foot slipped. Fox’s paws tumbled from the stars.
She braced herself for the wind in her ears, then a horrible impact, but it didn’t come. There is no gravity in space, as you know, but Fox had been clinging to stars the entire time. She floated through the air and smiled for the first time in weeks.
Suddenly, Fox was bounced back to her stars. She shrieked, startled, and looked behind her. There was a glimmer of moonlight here, a glimmer there— Fox realized that the Moon was looking after her. She smiled again and climbed faster.
Fox could feel the moonlight on her face. Just as sunlight is warm, the moonlight was cool and refreshing. Fox closed her eyes and tipped her face towards it. She was close, so close!
Fox’s paws shook. She heaved herself up through the sky and reached for the Moon. Fox landed on the surface with a huge, relieved sigh. She had to walk only a few more steps before she reached a puddle of quicksilver. Fox bent down and drank the light of the Moon.
Energy pulsed through her. She was refreshed now, ready for anything. She’d always thought the moonlight looked beautiful, but she had no idea that it would energize her. The light slipped through her, leaving a cold, tingly feeling. When Fox looked down at herself, she could see the light protruding from her body. Her fur was thin enough and her skin was sallow enough that the silver shone through.
Someone laughed delightedly, and Fox whirled around.
“Who are you?” Fox asked. Her voice was stronger, thanks to the moonlight, but still a little hoarse from being unused for decades.
“I know you, but you don’t know me,” the old man said cryptically. He was dressed all in white— no, silver— and there was a twinkle in his eye that reminded her of—
“The Moon!” she cried, then coughed. “I didn’t know you were a human.”
“Oh, no, I’m not the Moon,” the man chuckled. “They call me ‘the Man on the Moon’. I’m only the Moon’s caretaker.”
“Oh,” Fox said. “Does the Moon speak? I would like to talk to him.”
“Does he speak?” The old man’s smile disappeared, and a look of fury swirled through his features. “Does he speak? The Moon does not speak. He can bend the light itself. The Moon can grant an Earth creature the ability to breathe in space or climb the stars. Of course he doesn’t do something as common as speaking! He invented poetry— the sounds he makes glide through space and time. The Moon’s speaking is not speaking, it is an art.”
Fox’s face fell. “I’m sorry,” she told the Man on the Moon. “I wanted to thank him.”
The Man shook his head and muttered something that sounded like “Earth creatures!” He strode across the Moon’s rocky surface. Fox watched him until he was too far away for her to see.
She sank to her knees and started to sob. Fox would never get to see her kits now— all those years of climbing to the Moon, she had not given the return trip a single thought. She would not even be able to thank the Moon for his gifts. She would have to live up here forever, drinking moonlight and floating around. Fox did not have enough energy for another forty years of climbing the stars, even if it was climbing down.
She decided to take a second drink of moonlight to make her feel better. But when Fox looked around for the puddles, they had disappeared. She turned again, and there, in front of her, was another figure that flopped and bent. He was glowing silver and appeared to be made of moonlight.
“You’re the Moon,” Fox breathed.
“Indeed I am,” the figure replied. As the Man had said, his words were not words exactly. They reminded Fox of flowing water and those wind chimes that humans put in their yards, all together. It was nothing like speaking.
“Thank you for everything,” she said. “Is there anything I could do to repay you?”
“I only wanted to meet you,” the Moon told her graciously. “But there is one thing.”
“Yes, anything!” Fox agreed, eager to help her new friend.
“The North Star is not shining as brightly as before. Jupiter believes she is not well, and I am also afraid of that. She is one of my closest friends, and I would like to visit her. But my orbital path only goes around the Earth, and I cannot reach her. I need someone else to bring her my message. Could you?” The Moon’s song was sad and slow now, and he looked like his heart was breaking.
“Of course,” Fox said gently. “I can bring her a message. Maybe I’ll have good news for you, too: she isn’t sick.”
“She is,” the Moon cried. “Her light would be brighter if she was well. We would be able to distinguish her from the other stars.”
“It’ll be all right,” Fox promised.
“Your kits are starving,” the Moon blurted out. “They need you. Before you help me, help your kits. Teach them to hunt. I will bring you back here.”
Fox blinked back tears. She could almost hear her babies crying. Of course she had to help them, but the Moon— he needed help as well.
“You need to go see them first,” the Moon urged. “They cannot live much longer.”
“All right,” Fox agreed reluctantly. “Send me now.”
There was a flash of silver, and the Moon was alone again.
Fox touched the Earth and didn’t even stop to enjoy the familiar sights. She set off at a sprint towards the forest that was her old home. She nosed through the brush until she found her old den, and there, huddled together in fear, were four of her six children.
“Kits,” she whispered. “It’s me. Your mother.”
They all had looks of uncomprehension on their faces, until they heard her speak. All four of them rushed at her, and she licked their faces in return.
“Where are the others?” she asked.
“They’re gone,” the oldest kit, Felix, told her. “They died months ago.”
Fox’s kits hadn’t known how to speak when she left. Mouse must have taught them.
“Mouse. Where is Mouse?” Fox wanted to know.
“She is dead as well. Long ago. She taught us to speak and what berries to eat. But we are hungry still,” Vapor, the second-oldest kit, piped up.
“I know,” Fox said, nuzzling them. “I’m going to teach you how to hunt.”
It took a while for Fox to remember how to hunt. It had been decades since she’d found her own food, and she was out of practice. But when a plump rabbit suddenly rushed by, Fox sprang at it and killed it quickly.
“Felix, try a squirrel,” she told her kit. The first one he lunged for quickly escaped. Another one slipped through his paws. But the third squirrel Felix sprang at wasn’t so lucky. He presented his catch to his mother with pride.
Vapor went next. All she caught was a small bluejay, but it was on her first try.
Seascape and Ransom, the other two kits, practiced as well, but they were too small to catch anything. Fox taught them to steal eggs from birds’ nests instead, and they enjoyed sneaking up like human robbers on unprotected nests.
Fox had to say goodbye to her kits then. “I’ll be back soon,” she promised. “I’ve got to help my friend.” Each kit nuzzled her, and she hurried away into the shadows. The Moon transported her back into space. For a split second, Fox felt torn between two places, then she landed safely on the Moon.
Both the Man and the floppy figure of the Moon were waiting for Fox when she arrived. They looked rather pleased with themselves. Fox had to ask why.
“We built something while you were gone,” the Man boasted. “The Moon connected pieces of space junk with his light. I told him where everything went.”
“Well, what is it?” Fox asked impatiently.
The Moon waved his hand and a small spacecraft appeared. It was just the right size for Fox. It didn’t look very stable, but Fox had learned not to doubt the Moon.
“You’ve got to use this to find the North Star,” the Moon explained. “I will steer it in the right direction. But it may not be trustworthy. If you end up crashing on another planet, there is nothing I can do for you. My light extends only through space. If you land on another planet, perhaps they will be kind enough to help you. This is a dangerous task, and I understand if you are not willing to complete it.”
“No, after what you have done for me, this is the only way I can repay you,” Fox told him earnestly. “Send me to the North Star right away!”
She climbed into the spacecraft and looked at the Moon expectantly. He smiled at her and handed her a small vial and a piece of silver paper.
“That’s some extra moonlight, in case you need it,” he explained. “My message for the North Star, too.” He raised his hands, and a beam of silver shot across the sky, pushing the spacecraft (and Fox) along with it.
Fox was scared. She was hurtling through outer space at the speed of light (for real). But she put her nerves aside and thought of the Moon, and the dying North Star.
Fox slowed suddenly. She looked around and spotted a star that twinkled a bit more brightly than the other stars. Could it be— the North Star?
Fox drifted towards the star. As she grew closer, it split into two stars— one brighter than the other. Fox laughed out loud.
“Excuse me,” she called across the galaxy. “Are you the North Star?”
The star twinkled in reply. Stars cannot speak, of course, or at least not the same language that the Moon and Fox could speak. They do have their own language, though— it’s a bit like Morse code.
“I have a message for you from the Moon,” Fox said. “Everyone thinks you’re sick and that your light is fading.”
The North Star blinked at her, signaling that she was just fine. Fox laughed again and handed her the silver paper.
“It was nice meeting you,” Fox told her. “I have to get going. If you can stop by someday, the Moon would love to see you!”
The star blinked again, urgently. Fox could tell there was something she needed to know.
“I’m Fox,” she said simply. “I’m from Earth.”
The North Star relaxed. Fox waved a paw at her, and then she was zooming across the sky again.
“How had is she?” the Moon asked, as soon as Fox landed.
“She’s completely fine,” Fox giggled.
“What do you mean?” the Moon asked.
“She was crossed with another star. It was blocking her light.”
The Moon smiled.
That explained everything.
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