[This is the version I submitted to my course. I’ve titled it Night-time Takeaway. It’s my very first complete short story. I hope you like!]
Thus far, the search has yielded nothing. Wonderful. Another night of hunger. City living never comes easy for creatures like me; especially in the winter. Still, the onset of December means delicious Christmas scraps could be stuffing bin bags before long. Trotting along, I lick my lips at the thought, spurred on by the empty promises of consumerist dinners.
And at least I have my thick, rusty-orange coat to fend off the cold.
Overhead, the moon smiles down at me, ivory beams of light stroking my auburn crown and the tufts of white populating my face. She’s always been a smarmy bugger. A cloud passes in front of her, plunging the earth into darkness.
Survival instincts urge me on. I meander in and out of dark alleyways, then turn a corner sharply.
Ordinarily rife with bipeds in daytime, the street is void of all existence; no witnesses, no movement and no noise. Artificial lights litter the sidewalks with an unhealthy glare. Ideal circumstances for what I have in mind. I cling to the shadows as I scurry and scuttle past identical box-shaped houses with a grey patch of garden in front, framed by a disintegrating low brick wall. By night, being short-sighted is a serious disadvantage but I know this area well. I’ve been there before.
I have to find something. Anything. Anything remotely edible. Tossing my head this way and that, I scour the surroundings. So hungry.
Hugging the exterior of a brick wall, I am finally rewarded in the form of a wheelie bin. Disappointing? Perhaps. Ah, but appearances can be deceiving. I place my forearms on the lid and nudge it open. I inhale the powerful odour of discarded food fuses with the scent of cheap plastic.
My brown eyes gaze into the abyss gaping open beneath my paws. The lack of decent lighting render it incredibly difficult to assess the contents properly. But the smells…ah, the smells!
So much food! It’s a pity to let it go to waste. Fortunately, I am here to lighten the load. Oh my, is that chicken? And… mmm…wait a minute. I think that’s- yes, that’ll do nicely.
Carelessly, I dive in head first, teetering on my tiptoes. In an effort to reach into the depths of the bin, my upper body disappears into it, as if the bin is a monster slowly swallowing me whole. The lid has slammed back down, so I’m clamped in place, the hard plastic firmly grinding against my back. At least it didn’t slam shut on my tail – that would’ve been really painful. At the same time, I try to keep my black feet on the ground. The plastic bag rustles as I make first contact.
I stop and listen. What if someone heard? What if someone saw?
My weight shifts further. The wheels on the base skid forward. With me still attached. It halts, and then begins to tip. We hit the ground with a thud. My entire body winces at the sound. The impact doesn’t hurt enough to deter me, but man, it was loud! So much for being stealth incarnate. Confounded people! Why do they put such treats in such hard-to-get places?
The cloud concealing the moon floats onwards. I have to get a move on.
Quickly, quickly. Must dash before the noise attracts unwanted attention.
Growling a swearword under my breath, my lower end wiggles as I delve into the garbage again. Crawling into the plastic container, a hungry hoarder, I viciously rip open the bag and grab what I can. Digging through its contents, some of them spill out onto the icy concrete beneath my feet. A half-burnt, half-eaten, droolworthy chicken in mouth, I reverse out of the situation hurriedly. There’s no time. Unsurprisingly, in my haste, I whack my head against it. It’s sore, like the punishment from the lid earlier, but not enough to stop me in my tracks. Pleased with myself, I take my prize and turn to leave.
And then I see him.
There, across the street.
Gleaming eyes fixed on me, lips hanging slightly open.
I freeze from my ears to my tail tip.
How long had he been there? How had I missed that? What if he cries out? What if he reports me? What if he follows me? What if he attacks? A myriad of questions rushed through my brain, tension locking my body in place.
As the initial surprise fades, I study this specimen of the human race. I sniff in his direction, flicking my ears inquisitively. He smells… clean. A youngling of the species, his pale face doesn’t yet bear the dents and marks of Time. I estimate the bin would reach to his upper chest if fully upright. He’s a scrawny thing, giving the impression he was a carving that had been overzealously sanded down from a larger piece of wood. Wavy hair flops carelessly into his field of vision. Almond-shaped eyes twinkle as they examined me. Handsome as I am, I don’t think it was my good looks that caught his attention.
What’s wrong, little man? Never seen someone picking food out of a bin? I’m the invisible, urban scavenger – a rare sight, suffering quietly in the dark. I’m not proud of it, but it keeps me alive. I lifted my chin slightly in silent defiance.
Time skulks past sluggishly on both sides of the grey asphalt divide. My nose twitches. His relaxed stance tells me I shouldn’t calculate him as a threat. From the outside, I suppose it’s a comical sight to behold: a human staring at a fox with a plump, half-consumed chicken dangling from its jaws.
The clunky stiffness in my muscles oozes out of my body as I decide to move. Crushing my trophy between powerful jaws, I flash him a smile, and disappear round the corner. Trot lightly. Then run. I vanish easily into the derelict cityscape. All thoughts of the encounter evaporate.
I’m home safe.
And, more importantly, the chicken is delicious.