by Nancy Watson, aged 13.
The trees flamed. The hills, which were a riot of red and gold, disappeared in a fog of mist. Myriads of leaves danced down from the branches like fireflies. Flowing beams of autumn sunlight seeped through the canopy. Hedgehogs and badgers scuttled amiably across the forest floor, which was covered in squelching damp mud. I held a flask of bitter black coffee in my hand, whilst listening to the sounds of crisp leaves crunch as I walked along the pathway. Spotted red mushrooms and fungi sprouted from the ground. They were small and gentle and soft to touch. The mushrooms underneath were covered in layers of their skin, a brownish white shade like their stalks. The fungi covered the fallen tree trunks like a blanket.
I heard small footsteps behind me. I turned round and glimpsed a furry orange animal. It had run away before I caught a good sight. I saw a bushy orange tail, straggled and knotted. I stopped in tracks and tried to peek around the tree it was behind. Must’ve been shy. As I stepped back it slowly emerged from behind the tree, unveiling itself: it was a fox. Its eyes fixated onto mine. Its nose sniffled to check me for food. Its whiskers grew from its snout like spider strings.
‘What are you doing here little foxy?’ I murmured under my breath.
It stood silently.
The fox took a step back, before turning its head around and nudging to walk in the same direction, as if it wanted me to follow it. It led me confidently along the pathway. The further along we went the more trees emerged from the ground, covered in damp green moss. The fox had gentle footsteps. It came to a break when we reached a small pile of leaves propped up by a tree. It was surrounded by piles of dry golden leaves. It entered the pile from a small gap behind.
Peeping my head into the gap, I saw four small baby foxes. all huddled together and nestled on a pile of more rich-dark leaves the colour of earths soil. They growled cutely in fear and anger. The smallest one squirmed away from me to its sibling for comfort. Then another tried to ward me off by almost hissing with an open mouth. I knew where I was not wanted.
“I hope you survive, cuties,” I whispered to myself, pulling my head out of the den and stepping back. The mother stared back at me before I walked off, trotting along the pathway. I had been to the forest, but taken back so much more than that.