Animals In The Train Station

“When’s the next train?” Sheela asked.

The conductor gave a start, looked around, then looked down, eyes widening at the extremely short person addressing him. In fact, Sheela wasn’t a person at all—she was a fox. Standing on two rear paws like a person, wearing a red-and-white plaid dress like a person… yet very definitely a fox.

“Holy shit!” cried the conductor. He made to fish out his phone and take a picture; Sheela gave a sigh, then slipped away into the crowd.

“No fear, Shae,” she murmured to herself (for, when she was particularly exasperated, Sheela fell into the habit of addressing her own person with the pet name her Nanna had given her), “we’ll find a train schedule ourselves.”

It had been years now since Sheela had put her inhibitions finally to rest and dived headlong into society. She was a woman’s soul trapped in a fox’s body, her Nanna had always said so, and Sheela certainly agreed. She loved people, felt herself one of them; loved their clothes, dressed herself in them; loved human conversation, engaged in it whenever possible… Sometimes her presence caused quite a stir… but sometimes it didn’t. “And really, Shae, it’s not as if you can ever return to your mother now—she ate your baby brother! She’s a perfect savage!” So Sheela consistently reminded herself—for, though she was quite happy with her human decisions and had no desire to turn back, she also missed her mother terribly. It was a constant ache in her chest, and she denied it fiercely, many times a day, with the same mantra: her mother had eaten Sheela’s brother for being a runt, she was a savage, not like a human at all, etc., etc.

The fox found a paper train schedule on the ground, smoothed it out on her dress, and after some consultation (during which no less than five people were stopped stock-still at the sight of her, three children began to cry, and one little girl ran to scoop Sheela up in her arms and was caught just in time by a vigilant father), discovered she had just thirty minutes left until her desired departure.

Sheela made her way to an out of the way bench, caught a rat with her lightning-fast fox reflexes as it tried to slip between the bench-legs, tore its head off, then took a seat and began to think, taking occasional nibbles from her fresh catch. Her thoughts turned to her Nanna.

Indeed, it had been many, many years since she’d made her (very brave, slightly world-shattering) entry into society… It had been just as many years since she’d seen that beloved nurse. Sheela had promised to write her monthly, but after discovering that her paws had years of practice ahead of them before they could even hold a pen, the promise, and the connection, had been broken. “Nanna will forgive her Shae,” the fox assured herself, responding to the ache in her chest (she noticed it only when she had anxious thoughts, like the thought of Nanna’s disappointment). “And if she doesn’t?” The fox took another nibble of rat, chewed, then, “Well, we’ll deal with that when we come to it.”

Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.