He had been watching the rabbit with intent, focused eyes, from a safe and considerable distance. It didn't matter that he couldn't see the twitching of the muscles under the fur, or smell the stink of fear coursing through the air. He could hear a rabbit in distress. And a rabbit in distress meant that he was going to eat well tonight. Rev, you sneaky bastard, he thought, as he circled closer and closer to the rabbit. You pull this off and the rest of the clan is going to make you the king of all the foxes. You know how badly they all want a reliable source of food for the winter. This could be the answer you've been looking for.
He went for it.
From the second he got the rabbit into his mouth, he knew something wasn't quite right. It didn't taste anything like any rabbit he had ever tasted before, all cold and sharp where it should have been plump and juicy. He could investigate this curiosity further when he managed to get away from the noisy humans that lurked nearby, shouting words that were indecipherable to his ears.
He ran for it, running into the overgrowth nearby and then making his way into the nearby forest. He ran through thickets and darted around trees, before stopping to catch his breath.
He dropped the rabbit to the ground and stood over it, like a victor claiming the spoils.
It was illuminated, like looking up into the sky and seeing the sun basking down on his face. Except, instead of coming from the sky, it was coming up from the ground. He pressed his paw tentatively against it, and things moved in front of his eyes.
It wasn't a rabbit, that much was clear, although he had suspected it. No rabbit he had ever seen – or, to be more precise, eaten – had ever done that when he pushed his paw against it. Little screams of distress, like the one he had heard that had wound him up here, yes – but not flashes of something indescribable. There were not words that he could use to communicate what he was seeing.
And then a little beeping noise sounded, and something new flashed up on the screen.
hei, finne telefonen?
He pressed his nose to the object and sniffed it in investigation. The shapes on the object had some meaning. Was it like some weird form of scent-marking? If he dragged his paw in the dirt, none of the other foxes would get what he meant, but if he decided to mark his territory in the only way he knew how – pungent as it might be – then they would get the message loud and clear. Although he could follow his clan's paw prints, and knew from the scents associated that they were his clan and not another. Maybe it was like a trail of paw prints, or a particularly strong aroma, but for humans instead of foxes. Those screaming humans had seemed awfully possessive of this not-rabbit, after all.
He curled up with the not-rabbit and brushed his tail over it. He was tired, and apparently, not going to eat tonight, as much as he craved something succulent and juicy, and the clan could wait for him for a little while longer, at least until the sun rose. They wouldn't move onto the next forest without him. He could investigate this oddity more after he got a little sleep.
A little while later – after all, foxes have a poor sense of understanding time, but it was still dark as he opened his eyes – he awoke with a fresh determination to investigate the not-rabbit and figure out what it was, once and for all. There had been a few more of the strange beeping noises coming from it, which he thought was its call of distress, and with those beeps had come more shapes similar to the first. He prodded at it with his paw, and made the shapes move across the screen again.
His clan had always been notoriously shy around humans, so he had never been very close to them, and he certainly wasn't planning to start. But maybe – a sudden spark of something came over him, and he pressed his paw to the screen. If this not-rabbit was how humans let off their aroma to mark their territory, then maybe he could find a way to tell them of his clan's predicament. He had to admit that it had a certain finesse, although how could they tell one from another? Humans were strange creatures. But they were strange creatures with plentiful access to rabbits, he was sure of it, and they could make sure that he and his clan didn't starve with the coming frost.
He poked at it again and again, and finally got a screen full of the strange symbols. Pressing his paw to it, he poured all that he had into making his point clear, with an amazing lack of aromatic aides.
Jlv In ø \ a0ab 34348tu åaugjoi zølbmosdji jsøg ijio sjiw
He managed to get the symbols to leave the screen, and with a little yip and bark, he hoped that he hadn't just completely doomed him and his clan to an onslaught of hunters with their weapons – he could never forgive himself if he led to their downfall in any way. But if it worked, then maybe he had just given them a bountiful harvest of bunny rabbit that would last them until the first blossoms of spring poked through the dirt.
He picked up the not-rabbit and walked into the undergrowth, walking back toward where he knew his clan would be encamped. He wouldn't brag about what he had done yet – maybe he had completely misunderstood this whole thing, or maybe he had just been the savior of his clan. There was no way to know, not yet.
He'd hope for a bushel of rabbits to drop from the sky, but he'd still keep looking for them. He was the provider, after all – they all looked to him for their guidance and sustenance.
He kept the not-rabbit by his side, avoiding the questions of what this silly object was, and why did he have it when it was clearly not edible. They didn't understand. They couldn't understand. Until one day, just before the snow started to fall, the shapes stopped moving and it was no longer illuminating his fur with the comforting glow he had become almost accustomed to. No matter how many times he swiped at it, trying to make the shapes come back, nothing ever worked. It was gone forever.
And as the snow began to fall from the sky, sticking to his fur in a white, sticky blanket, he felt his stomach rumble.