The first time Vixen ran through the temporal gate, she’d been running from something large and noisy. She didn’t know for sure what, but a young fox didn’t wait around to find out if they had any sense at all. The charged air made her fir stand on end, and if she’d approached slowly enough to feel it ahead of time, she never would have gone through. The disturbing tingle wasn’t the only shocking change. It had been deep after moon rise when she had been out hunting, but suddenly it was just after dawn. The forest also suddenly held twice as many trees. In fact, she had to swerve in her run to avoid a giant trunk that sprung up in front of her.
She stopped, looking frantically around. Everything was different, but familiar at the same time. Some of the trees smelled the same, but there were new kinds, with new smells. The nearby creek smelled much stronger. Despite the change from night to day, the air was cooler. She crouched, remembering she was fleeing from a threat, but now didn’t hear anything but the wind.
Moments passes, and after a time, she heard a rustling nearby, but this time it was the noise of something tiny. Despite the strangeness of the place she knew prey when she heard it. She stayed crouched and still, watching the direction the sound had come from and was rewarded a second later with a wood rat crawling out of a pile of dried leaves. She was on him in a blink and the creature never knew what hit him.
Grasping the carcass in her teeth, she trotted toward home this time feeling the prickling along her skin ahead of time, but so hungry and anxious to get her meal back to her burrow that she pressed on despite the discomfort. She didn’t remember the last time she’d had such a big, plump rat. Possibly she never had.
She remembered that rat, and the tingling that came with it. It wasn’t too much longer before she searched for that tingle again. Her mate had stopped bringing food to the den. She had tried to search for him, but had no luck. Her pregnancy was advancing, and she was hungry often. She was drawn to the place of abundant smells and fat rats.
Over the next week she hunted there regularly. She would trot or dart through the gateway to minimize the discomfort with the transition. She lingered in the new lush land longer at each visit, until she began to tire and wanted to snuggle into her burrow back home. Then, completely by accident she found a nice cozy abandoned burrow. Not perfect, but a good fit, and it could be adjusted to be even better. It was near time for the kits to come, and living here would mean no more icky tingles. She’d caught a young rat this time, and took it into the new hole. She never went through the temporal gate again.
Unknown to Vixen, that decision marked the official extinction of red foxes in 2042, and their spontaneous reemergence in 2197 thanks to the Temporal Species and Habitat Restoration Program (TSAHR), and one of the Program’s greatest successes.
prompt – moon, skin, caught