The clouds blanketed the April sky. They teased the thirsty earth’s seedlings with intermittent showers. Eliot was in his wooden work shed cleaning his gun collection. He painted the outside walls red, and the inside was a dark gray to keep it from being too bright with images of ancient senseis in ninjutsu and aikido. One mirrored window faced the Rocky Mountains, and the other faced the log cabin. He shared his home with his wife, Lynn, their three cats, and two dogs. One was a German Shepherd service dog and the other a Siberian Husky.

The shed shook like an earthquake struck the area. Eliot spun towards the door. Lynn used her thick walking stick to bang on it. The same one she uses because of a bad left hip and lower back. Eliot hopped down from his stool and put on the tinted glasses he needed to see. He could not stand the light after a head injury he sustained eleven years back from a factory mishap. He opened the door and smiled at his wife. “What is wrong, puddin’?”

Lynn’s chin-length purple hair looked like she had gotten out of bed. Her wide eyes peered through her glasses up at her husband’s hazel ones, and her body shuddered. “There…there…there’s something in the cabin.”

Eliot’s skeptical eyes fell on his wife. He placed his hands on her arms and drew her to him. He held her in hopes of helping her calm down. “What’s in the house?”

Didn’t he hear me the first time? Her voice rose, and her body floated up. “Something!”

Eliot patted her shoulders and guided her back down to the sidewalk. “It’s okay. I’ll check it out. You stay here.”

Lynn nodded as her husband let go of her and headed to their home.

He stopped midway and turned to his wife. “Where are the cats and dogs?”

Lynn tucked her chin to her chest and brought her hands up to it. “They’re in their playroom.”

Eliot looked at her with skepticism. “What did you do?”

Lynn shook her head. “Nothing, dear.”

Eliot nodded and proceeded to the cabin. She only looks at me like that when she’s done something wrong or up to something.

The house was an eco-friendly log cabin with strategically placed solar panels for optimal efficiency. The windows were like the ones in the shed, mirrored so no one could see in, but the family could see out. Snowdrops, Snowflakes, and Crocuses awoke from their winter hibernation and surrounded the cabin.

Eliot slid the glass door opened and inched his way inside to the front room and closed it. The air in the cabin was scented with sage. He unfastened the hidden panel next to the entrance and grasped the sharp sword inside and surveyed the room. The walls differed from the outside. Between the outside wall and the wooden second wall were old rubber tires to help insulate. Between the second wall and the third wall was a foot of fireproof and gun-proof insulation and hidden compartments. The last wall was a light wood, and it looked like the ends of the logs smoothed down. Lynn’s pictures of wildlife found around their home hung on the walls.

Eliot tipped-toed on the wood floor to the beige L-shaped queen-size sleeper sofa that faced away from him. A rectangular wooden coffee table, with a crimson epoxy river running down the center, sat upon a multicolored rabbit fur rug in front of the couch. He saw movement out of the corner of his left eye and turned to get a better view.

The fireplace divided the front room and the kitchen. Lynn used the fire on the kitchen side to cook their meals, bake the sweets, and make scented candles, while the other side gave the front room warmth. In the corner was a pile of firewood and on top of it sat a black fox.

closer,A light touch on Eliot’s back caused him to jump. He spun around and swung his sword and saw his wife smiling at him, and had used her walking stick to tap his back. He walked to her and placed both his hands on her arms. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.” He took one hand to her chin and lifted it. “If you were any closer I could’ve killed you.”

Tears ran down Lynn’s cheeks. Her body trembled, and she muttered a few words. “I’m sorry.”

Eliot held her close. “I know. But why are you in here?”

She shrugged. “I was curious about what was going on.”

When Lynn calmed down, they both turned and looked at the black fox, now laying on the pile of firewood. Eliot glanced at his wife. “Why did you lure it in with food?”

Lynn’s eyes about popped out of their sockets and her forehead wrinkled. “How d’you know?”

Eliot rolled his eyes and huffed. “I have known you for seventeen years, and we’ve been married for fifteen of those years now. I know you well enough to figure this out. Plus, I had a gut feeling when you said something was in the house; you did something to bring it in.”

Lynn hid her grin behind her hair and glanced up at Eliot. “Sorry, dear.” She crept to the couch, sat down, and curled up in a ball. She peeked over her arm and stared at the black fox who seemed to smile at her. She returned it with a grin.

Eliot smirked at her then darted into the kitchen and scanned his surroundings. On his right was a counter with a small indoor greenhouse for Lynn to grow herbs. Between him and the cast-iron wood-burning stove was a small counter. Next to the stove was more counter space with a trash can against the back wall. Next to it, was an energy-efficient black refrigerator. Eliot dashed across the light wood floor and opened the fridge. What do foxes like to eat? His eyes darted side to side until they fell upon the leftover rabbit from last night’s dinner. He grabbed the container, flung it open, and rushed back to the front room.

Eliot slid one step at a time with the bowl of rabbit in his hand to the fox and stopped a few feet from it. “Here, little foxy. Got some food for you.”

The fox stood up and sniffed the air.

Eliot slid back the same way, but towards the sliding glass door. “Lynn, slide the door open.”

Lynn rose and climbed over the couch to the door and slid it open and backed away. Eliot placed the food on the ground and dashed to his shed to watch. He stared at the fox as it ate until he heard a crying noise from behind him, much like a dog begging for treats. He stood and turned to find a second black fox. What the fuck? Eliot did a double take to make sure the fox was not the same one from outside. Great, another fox.

Eliot reached for his push broom and used it to shove the fox out. Before he knew it, a third fox materialized, and he pushed it out of his shed. He returned to his guns and finished cleaning them. Eliot turned everything off, locked up the shed, and went inside for a shower. Lynn was cleaning in the playroom with their pets.

When Eliot got out of the shower, he got dressed and went to the front room and noticed two black foxes sitting on the floor by the couch. He grabbed a broom from the cleaning closet in the kitchen and pushed the foxes out the back door. No sooner than doing so, more appeared inside. He swept the whole house and forced the animals outside.

Lynn came out of the pets’ playroom. “Wow, honey. The place looks great.”

Eliot leaned on the broom. “Well, I had help.”

Lynn swayed back and forth on her feet. “What do you mean?”

Eliot swung his free arm up. “More of those damn foxes were in here. You got to stop feeding the wild animals.”

His wife shook her head. “But I didn’t.”

Eliot squinted his eyes. “Lynn! What did you do?”

Lynn smirked at her husband then rushed to her office and brought out a pen and a deerskin journal. “Look, I bought this the other day from the occult store in town.”

Eliot slapped himself on his forehead. “You didn’t.”

The corner of Lynn’s lips turned up. “April Fools!”

Eliot tilted his head. “What do you mean April Fools?”

“There were no real foxes. Watch.” Lynn wrote in the journal, and a black fox appeared.

Eliot dropped the broom handle. “What the fuck?”

A few moments later the fox disappeared.

Eliot squinted his eyes at Lynn. “Why did you do it?”

Lynn looked down at the floor. “You’re always in the shed, and I wanted your help in cleaning the cabin.”

“So, you used a magic journal?”

Lynn nodded. “Yes.”

Eliot strolled to his wife. He placed his hands on her arms and gazed down into her dark, brown eyes. “If you need my help with something, ask. There’s no need to use your magic or any other magic.”

“Yes, dear.” Lynn had one of her hands behind her back with her fingers crossed. Yeah, right.


Published by T.L. Hicks

Tracie Hicks is a Speculative Fiction. You can read her work at Coffee House Writers, where she is an editor. Tracie has an Associate of Arts degree in Communications from UoPX. Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing (focused on fiction and screenwriting) from SNHU. She wrapped up her education with an MFA in Creative Writing from SNHU. She is working on two books and one short story collection. You can read her work at tlhicks.me

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