The Light and Shadow of the Forest

The Light and Shadow of the Forest
Illustration by Nic Lob

A blonde girl with a white dress walked through the forest, calling out to her parents, wishing they could hear her cries. Her name was Lily. She walked deeper and deeper into the dark forest. The trees all looked the same, with the same haunting era. She scrunched up her nose in disgust as she saw a fox, killed by a misplaced trap. She left it and kept walking. Tiny squeals sounded from a nearby withered bramble bush, she peeked in and saw a family of rabbits curling up around one another, the sight warmed her heart. As she went deeper, the more traces of life she saw, even more traces of death were uncovered. A bush rustled, Lily backed away, shaking with fear. A tiny speckle of light floated towards her, glowing fiercely. It flew around her and she was blinded temporarily.

Lily opened her eyes, staring at the two ghostly foxes in front of her. One was covered in scars, a dark aura surrounded it. The other was glowing as though there were stars in its pelt, its yellow eyes shined like the sun. The two foxes trotted towards her, one of them stared at her curiously, the other stared at her, snarling. The glowing fox stepped forward, “I am Light, the fox spirit,” she introduced herself. “I lived in a time when animals roam freely in the forest, safe from traps, hunters and plastic. I died naturally, no pain was felt, no tears were shed.” Light continued, looking up at the bright sky as though looking through old memories.

“The food chain kept going, no animals starved, no animals went extinct.” Light’s eyes glowed, sharing happy memories with Lily. She saw birds flying through the sky, singing a song in a cheerful tone. She saw rabbits, nibbling on the grass. Wolves ran through the forest, carefree and relaxed. Foxes roamed the forest, searching for food without having to worry about traps. Families of rabbits curled together tightly, sleeping and keeping each other warm. Leopard cats running on the fields, turtles enjoying the sun.

“All was well.” Light’s voice snapped Lily out of Light’s memories. Light dipped her head and stepped back.

“Until the humans came…” The second fox snarled and stepped forward, “I am Shadow, the fox spirit.” He introduced himself, “I live in a time when humans decided to cut down the trees of the forest, the roots of our home. At first the animals thought it was fine to share, but the painful cries of nature were endless. The humans kept coming, they started to kill us. I was trapped in a fox trap and killed by the humans. They ripped off my pelt and threw the rest of me into a foul smelling dumpster.” Shadow said, digging his claws into the earth.

“Every year after my death, more and more animals get killed. I explored the world, the plains, the fields, the oceans. I saw more and more. Animals were bred, trapped in cages and then killed for their flesh. Seals and turtles are trapped in fishing nets, choked to death, starved or suffocated.” Shadow said, looking down at his paws sadly.

He hesitated, then looked up. Shadow’s eyes grew dark and hollow, showing sad memories with her.

She saw farmers, spraying bug spray on their crops, scrawny birds flying over to taste the berries. The birds finished the berries, hungrily, after it finished, it was poisoned. It lifted off weakly into the sky, an eagle swooped after it, grasping it in its vicious claws. The eagle ate the bird, foxes hunted down the eagle and ate it. It seems that nothing can stop the food chain from going, animals eat animals. Animals share and spread the poison through the forest, more and more animals die through the spread of poisoned prey. Shadow led her to the same farm again. Lily didn’t want to be here anymore, but she didn’t have a choice. She saw baby chicks hatching from their eggs, people came and put them into a box, separating them from their mothers, the brothers separated from sisters. The time skipped, the chickens are now fully grown, the male chickens experienced the horror of watching their friends get killed while fresh blood sprayed their feathers. The female hens experienced sadness, separated from their chicks as miserable memories came rushing back.

Lily’s vision flashed again and she found herself back in the forest, at least it looked like a forest. Trees were cut down and carried off by trucks, leaving simple tree stumps. She saw animals fleeing as oaks and birches fell. Birds scattered as they watched their home getting carried off. As the time skipped to thirty years later, she saw trees growing back to their usual size. She was relieved, “This isn’t the end of the story yet.” Shadow’s gruff voice could be heard even though he wasn’t there.

Campers walked into the forest and began to set up camping sites and camp fires. The campers left the fire and went fishing, she was about to follow, but Shadow appeared out of nowhere and blocked her path, “Wait and see.” He said , shortly.

Lily stopped and sat down near the campfire, she saw tiny flicks of fire flying towards bushes and leaves. She reached out to stop them, but her hands just passed through the bushes. The time fast forward and now the whole forest was on fire. Shadow sighed and pulled Lily out of the memory lane.

Light stepped forward and said, “You now know what we animals have been experiencing.”

“You are all just animals though.” Lily said and shrugged casually.

Shadow frowned and his fur bristled, “How would you feel if you can only watch your descendents suffer? How would you feel if you could only watch as your descendents die and go extinct?” he hissed. Light’s eyes were burning with fury, “You are our only hope, if we, red foxes die out, it will unbalance the whole food chain. Even humans will be affected.” she said, coldly.

Lily thought of her family and friends, and all the animals out there and their sufferings, her heart melted as she said, “I understand now, and I’m glad to help, I just need to get out of this forest. You can trust me.” the spirit foxes looked at each other, and nodded.

“We will lead you,” Shadow finally said, “But you need to keep your promise.” Light said miserably.

The two spirit foxes merged together, flashing with blinding lights, “You are our only hope.” their voices merged together too, echoing through the forest. The blinding light stopped and Lily opened her eyes.

Lily found herself, tucked into her bed. She checked her digital alarm clock, it was six thirty. Lily got on her slippers and ran out to the balcony, it was dawn. The sun was slowly rising from the mountains, it lit up the sky in colors like orange, pink and yellow. She left a note to her parents and left the house. She went into the forest near her house. She knows she won’t be lost again because there was a feeling that the two spirit foxes are still with her. She checked the forest for traps and nets, and brought them back home. She buried the fox on her way, she covered the grave with flowers and leaves. Lily wrapped some berries in a leaf bundle and set the bundle open outside the rabbit family’s nest. She walked towards the little stream. She checked the rocks and water for trash and picked them up, placing them into the bucket that she held. The little fish in the stream laughed with delight, “Thank you young lady! We can finally breathe properly!” They smiled with happiness.

Lily wasn’t just surprised that she could hear them, she had never thought about how fish feel when their homes are polluted. She smiled back to the fish as they sang and performed a beautiful dance. Lily heard a clicking sound, she turned her and saw a few freshwater crabs. “Thank you for your hard work! I’m glad that we are not the only ones caring for the stream!” The first one said, “Yeah, thank you so much.” The second one said, “We could help out, too!” The third one said, and the three crabs began to squeeze into the holes around the rocks.

When they resurfaced, each one held a piece of plastic. They placed them into the bucket and kept working. Lily started to lift rocks to help the crabs.

After a long day of work, they cleaned the whole area near the stream. Lily said farewell to the crabs and fish and other animals in the forest. She lifted the heavy bucket full of trash and headed home. When she got home, she recycled the plastic and washed the cups. She went up to her bedroom and started working on her computer. When she finished, she posted the article she wrote about raising animal and environment protection awareness on social media, and she shared the article with her friends and family. She hoped it would help. When she finished, she went downstairs to the living room where her parents were. “Mom, I want to become vegan. I don’t want to hurt animals anymore.” She told her mom about the suffering the animals were facing and her parents agreed to become vegan along with her, and help her with her work.

As she finished her dinner, which was a vegetable feast, she finished her chores and things and went to bed, when she closed her eyes, something flashed.

She was in the forest, again. This time, it was brighter and more beautiful. The two foxes appeared again. Shadow’s scars had healed, and Light shone more beautifully. “Thank you for your help.” Light said, “With people like you, we can be at peace.” Shadow said, and the spirit foxes bowed.

Colorful birds flew up into the sky, singing. Fish jumped into the sky, splashing water that reflected the sun in a glamorous way. Lily was happy as she sat down on a rock and continued to dream.

Tomorrow, she is going to plant more trees for the animals, make sure they are all warm and healthy, and make a text that explains why farmers shouldn’t spray bug spray on their crops. With the support of her friends and family, she knew she could do it.