[October 31, 1967]
It was Hallowe'en, and the children were out wearing costumes they had made themselves in attempts to scare other people.
Some parents had not allowed their children to participate, for fear of meeting the hippies. Others had barred their children from attending because their children would not be brought up to be beggars. Some of the trick-or-treaters were themselves hippies, going around trying to spread the love instead of scaring others. It had the opposite effect on some families – they were certainly scared by the notion of older, teenage children walking up to their door asking for candy and giving away cannabis and flowers in return – instead of innocent little children, dressed up in cute little costumes walking around and asking for candy.
The doorbell rang, and Donovan opened the door to see three children – one wearing a white sheet, another wearing a witch's hat and cape, and a third wearing what appeared to be make up.
“Trick or tr—aieee!” The children ran away immediately, and Donovan could not tell what had scared them so much. Certainly his family had dressed up their house as an old, abandoned shack for the festivities, but the children must have known it was all a ploy.
He looked back himself, and found himself staring into the ghastly, leering face of a form such like he had never seen before – at least in real life. It resembled a formless ghost, rather than the white ghosts with twisted, distorted faces that were becoming popular around this time. They froze there for a moment, and then both of them uttered a blood-curdling scream that echoed through the neighbourhood.
* * *
[November 13, 1967]
The damage had been done – Donovan's house now became known around Bayesia Town as the “haunted house”, based on the eyewitness account of the three children, who had pleaded to their parents that they would never misbehave again.
Meanwhile, more and more reports were appearing everywhere about the “mutant monsters” that had started terrorizing neighbourhoods all over America. That morning, when Donovan picked up the newspaper, it decreed a headline that it had made a mistake four months ago: “THE HOAX IS A HOAX – GIANT BUG THAT ATTACKED BOY WAS REAL”.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a press release yesterday, saying that they made a mistake when they reported that there was no evidence – they released photographs of the original bug, dubbed “The Scyther” by one Michael Jamieson, uncle of the attack victim Donovan Silph.
Jamieson? So that was his mother's maiden name! He continued reading down, and found another headline – “REPORTS OF MUTANTS EVERYWHERE.”
There are more reports of such mutant animals attacking human residences now; there are concerns within Congress that the mass outbreak of these creatures could lead to the devastation of crops, industry, and technology everywhere.
Donovan did not need to read anymore. He headed straight for the town hall, and immediately found people lobbying to create a plan that would destroy these creatures once and for all. He did not feel at all at ease with this; he had more than enough reason to believe that these creatures were innocent and that they should really be living in harmony instead of humans trying to dominate them.
By now, he was trying to get back to school, but they couldn't take him in. This meant that he basically had the whole year off to do whatever he pleased before he could return to school again. Most likely, he would be trying to get another job, but it also meant that he could spend more time following the issues of the time.
He returned home, and heard the sounds of something struggling. He looked around for the source of the noise, and found himself standing next to a bush. He looked under the bush, and found a small fox-like creature who was dangling at a very strange angle. One of its rear legs was tangled in a branch.
It spotted him, and growled weakly. “Don’t worry,” said Donovan, trying to reach for it. “I won’t hurt you.”
The fox didn’t take it, and bit him on the finger, as soon as Donovan brought it close enough for the fox to do so. Donovan winced, but then reached over to the fox’s leg, and untangled the root that had caught it. It immediately let go of Donovan’s finger, and started walking weakly.
“You’ve been here for quite a while, haven’t you,” said Donovan. He sucked on his bloody finger, and picked the little fox up. “I’ll bring you in and get you something to eat.”
As he entered, he called out, “Mom? Are you home?” No response. He was in the clear. His mom was probably out shopping or something.
He scrounged the pantry for things that a fox might eat, and came across some leftover chicken from the night before. “Here,” he said, putting some of it on a plate and giving it to the fox. “I’ll get you some water, too. Just stay right there.”
However, the fox quickly got around to exploring the house, getting its dirty paws on the floors and wall.
When Donovan came back with a bowl of water, it was lying on the couch, curled up, and a mound of feces was on the tiled floor.
“You... I...” Donovan sighed. This would be just like owning a dog, wouldn’t it.
* * *
After cleaning up the mess that the fox had made, Donovan looked at the clock – it was now five o’clock, almost time for his father to return home from his work. Although he worked as an electrician and only four days of the week, he was known for sticking rigidly to a nine-to-five schedule, so his clients had to pre-arrange for him to come in and work.
When he finally did come home, Donovan ran up and showed him the fox that he had picked up.
“Where did you find that thing, Donovan?” asked Josiah.
“It was in our front yard, and was all helpless,” said Donovan. “Can we keep it?” He looked at his father with the pleading eyes of a small child, although taller than him.
“You’ll have to get it neutered eventually, son,” replied Josiah. “We don’t want to find ourselves taking care of thirteen of those things, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m sure that that won’t be a concern,” said Donovan. “I’d hate to see the poor critter lose its dignity when it’s just a baby too. It doesn’t look more than three months old.”
“If that thing makes more of itself, you’re taking care of all of them,” said Josiah.
“Sure thing, dad.”
* * *
When Hannah returned from shopping, she was holding two grocery bags, and when she saw the fox, she dropped both of them onto the ground in a moment of horror. Then, she calmed down and asked, “where did this come from?”
“It was in our yard,” said Donovan.
“I’ve never seen any fox like it before,” noted Hannah. “It looks like a breed that would come from somewhere in Asia.”
“How do you know this stuff?” asked Donovan. He never knew that his mother was an expert in breeding!
“Oh, you don’t know what I did before we had you,” she said, grinning as she picked the grocery bags back up.
* * *
[December 24, 1967]
Donovan was now well-versed in the ways of training his fox-like creature. Because he was forced to stay at home like his mother, he had all the time in the world to take care of his fox. The first order of business was to give the fox a name. He eventually decided on “Vulpix”, as it sounded like vulpes, the Latin word for fox. His parents had balked at that name, initially wanting him to go for something more adorable, like “Kitty” or “Rover”. Donovan would have none of that, and the name Vulpix stuck.
Every day, he brought Vulpix outside for a walk – Vulpix was more than happy to oblige, especially because he was now under Donovan’s care. Donovan slowly became in better shape as well, as Vulpix sometimes broke into a run, and he’d have to catch up.
Vulpix eventually learned to perform his excretory functions exclusively to the outside on its own, by observing that the door would always be open for him when he wanted to do so.
The little critter had managed to find his way through all the rooms of the house – it seemed like nothing could outfox him. One particularly interesting way that Vulpix had managed to paw his way into a room was to jump for the doorknob and actually rotate it a bit before the door would open.
By now, Donovan’s little fox had essentially become part of the family. He managed not to make a mess on the furniture, which was Hannah’s main concern. He was also undeniably smart like a fox – he knew everything that went on around the house after being in it for just a month, and even figured out how to operate some of the equipment in the house. Sometimes, he would even come into Donovan’s study and hop on the table, reading the books alongside him, his bushy tail brushing up against Donovan’s shoulder.
Tonight, it was Christmas’ Eve. They were eating a large turkey that Hannah had prepared, and Vulpix managed to eat as much as the rest of them did.
At the end of the meal, they were as stuffed as the turkey. Vulpix left the table first, sauntering over in the direction of the living room and the fireplace.
“Man, that was a good turkey,” said Josiah, holding a hand to his oversized belly. “You know, I think it was at least fifty percent your mother’s good cooking that led me to her.”
“Oh, you,” said Hannah. “You fell for my looks, and you know it.”
They all decided to go into the family room, and started singing Christmas carols. It was a clear, even warm night outside, and they decided to open the window and sing to the outside as well. Another family joined in, and eventually, they were singing as loudly as they possibly could, to try and compete with the other families.
After they contest died down, it was clear that Donovan’s family had won. Donovan went to the living room, where Vulpix was curled up on the rug next to a blazing fire in the fireplace. The tree had been set up, and the soft glow of the fire reflected off the greenness of the tree. Donovan was proud of himself for that tree – he had chopped it down himself at a stand, and the store owner gave him a five-dollar discount because of it.
He decided that he wanted to sleep besides his new pet this night, so he went upstairs, and brought his blanket down. He lay down next to Vulpix, the blankets covering him. He looked at the clock – half past ten. Then, he reached over and stroked Vulpix’s body once, patting him on the head.
It was just before Donovan fell completely asleep that he realized that nobody had set up the fire.
* * *
[December 31, 1967 – January 1, 1968]
“Come and count down with us, Vulpix!” said Donovan, as he and his parents crowded around the television set. There was a live broadcast coming from Washington, D.C. that counted down the seconds to the new year.
“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!” chimed the colour TV, as the digital display counted down to zero, and then back up again.
* * *
[January 14, 1968]
“Good morning, Vulpi—” Donovan reached for Vulpix’s tail to stroke it, and felt two tails where there should have been one. “Whoa! What happened there?” said Donovan, eyes shooting open in surprise.
Vulpix squealed once in question, tilting his head. “You... grew another tail,” said Donovan.
“Hello, Donovan. Hello, Vulpi—eeeeeeek!” Hannah had come in at this moment. “It has two tails now! Is it one of those mutants that have been on the news lately?”
“No, ma, don’t get the wrong ide—”
“Get it out of the house! Now!” cried Donovan’s mother.
Donovan picked Vulpix up, and went to look for his father. Perhaps he would set things straight.
* * *
“I don’t see why the fox can’t stay, even if it has two tails,” said Josiah. “Donovan’s taking excellent care of it, and it’s helping him too – he’s becoming a mature young man faster now because of it.”
“Don’t you see?” said Hannah. “Once our neighbours find out about this, they’ll be raiding our house to find it and kill it! I feel sorry for the poor thing, but we’ll never hear the end of it!”
“My son has a goddamn right to raise that thing! He’ll be prouder of it than any other person would be proud of their pet.”
“Now you’re just being crazy,” replied Hannah.
Donovan and Vulpix both peeked around the corner, listening to Donovan’s parents argue. “Vulpix?” said Donovan. “You’ll be coming with me for a while. We’re getting out of this place.” He was carrying a small backpack, which contained three hundred dollars, his diary, and a picture of him and his parents, taken at the photo studio just last year.
But it didn’t matter now. Wherever he was going, he was gone.