fox games

the foxes have come out to play,

redfur russet shadow

swiftly here then there then gone.

see the twist of nine tails,

hear the soft bark of laughter

womanly, manly, nothing human at all.

a tap of the paw, and pebbles transmute to pearls

water to rice wine.

hands dipped empty into pockets

surface lacquered in gold, lacquered in old dreams.

dappled brush of smoke on stone

sink to earth and rise again and they are

never where you think they ought to be.


the foxes have come out to play.

moonbright dusk against the curve of

starship skin, they have slipped aboard,

made space for themselves

between metal sheen and the abyss of stars.

map every inch of vessel and still

you’ll never catch them in the act.

they loosen bolts, lick the rustproof from plating,

riddle the AI pilot until it, all confused,

swings the ship’s nose sunward.

like ghosts their giggles lick down your neck as you

curse, sweat, chase down the leavings of their mischief.

in space, all that stands between you and nothing

is the thickness of a fox’s pelt.


the foxes have come out to play

and you should have known the night belonged to them,

should have known better than to

cross their shadows with yours.

laughter spilled out from behind the gate of teeth is

laughter nonetheless.

all that’s left now is to run

and run and run, and tell yourself

the claw-pricks on your ankles are stones kicked up in flight,

the rasp of little tongues is sweat-sting and nothing more.

run and run and

run your hope into the ground.

nothing eats the heart like the hunger

of a fox’s whims.


Emily Y. Teng is a speculative writer based in Seattle, Washington. Her writing has appeared in Uncanny Magazine and in The Book of Witches anthology. She currently works full-time as a narrative game designer and is known to get way too competitive about casual game nights.


Photo by zhan zhang on Unsplash

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