The Symbol for Human
Fox fairy tale flash fiction.
On their wedding day he burned the symbol for human into her shoulder, naming her, fixing her. Now she couldn’t change. Couldn’t make a fool of him. At midnight she would still shuck her clothes like ripe corn and run barefoot through the forest, calling for her sisters and brothers, but she could no longer shuck her skin. In the morning, he would find her exhausted in her bed and always the soles of her feet were muddy.
When he came to her in the night, he would press his fingers to the burnt skin of her shoulder for reassurance. Her eyes would glow so fierce in the moonlight, so alive with wanting, that he couldn’t stand to look at her.
The nights ate at him, her absences, the parts of her he had claimed but could not reach. One night he followed, watched her lie down in a glade, bare skin kissed by moonlight, long limbs stroked by blue-green ferns. From the shadowed trees slipped sly shapes, flowing from inky black to orange in the light.
She smiled as her sisters and brothers covered her, licking and pawing, crawling and caressing. A tide of keen eyes and orange fur. For a moment, she was all fox and no girl.