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MOMENT 12: FOXY TALE
Fox-Face slowed to walk between Jeremy and I. "The day you got out of the hospital, you made a phone, remember?"
With my hands in my pockets, I kicked a rock into the bushes. "Yeah, I called you, Shannon--er--Fox-Face. I was anxious to tell you all about what happened in the hospital. As far as I know, no one even told you I'd grown ill."
"I was out camping with my parents, so I had no way of knowing," she murmured.
Jeremy kept pace without a sound.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"It wasn't your fault." This time she kicked a rock, which thunked off a tree. "I got back to town the day you got out of the hospital. When you called me and spun the tale, I never would've expected to hear everything. We stayed on the phone for hours and late into the night. By the time you finished, I believed you had the most fantastical adventure anyone ever could. I felt so impressed; I wanted you to write it all down before you forgot and it was lost forever."
I found myself grinning. "You didn't think I was crazy?"
"No," she said. "If anything, I wanted to visit Strange World and see it for myself."
"If it counts for anything, I didn't think you were crazy, either," Jeremy said.
I chuckled. "Thank you, both."
Fox-Face picked up her pace a bit. "As I said, once upon a time...I went to sleep, hoping beyond hope, I would at the very least dream of Strange World. Guess what?"
"You did?" Jeremy asked.
"No, I physically entered Strange World. I showed up as I am now, looking like a fox. The first person I ran into called me, Fox-Face and the name stuck. Strange World looked nothing like what I'd imagined. Sure, I saw the Soda Pop towers, and violet fields, blue forests, and even the Circus, but something seemed odd."
I regarded Fox-Face, anxious to hear what she'd seen.
"The world seemed almost empty. I met an octopus ani-woman in a tent at the abandoned circus. The creature's name was the TRADER. It was she who called me Fox-Face."
"The fortune teller?" I remembered my encounter with the mysterious ani-woman.
Fox-Face nodded. "She told me Pa-Burger came out of hiding, and he sought revenge against Magna-Racha, for foiling Ma-Burger's plans. Also, the bullish overlord had formed a pact with the monster of Mt. Arkhamm. Pa-Burger used the monster to break the dimensional barrier and send his lackeys after Magna."
"But it didn't end there, did it?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I'd become trapped. I couldn't wake up from Strange World."
"What'd you do?" Jeremy asked.
"It was a scary decision, but I knew Pa-Burger wanted revenge against my best friend. I needed to stop him."
"You didn't have to do that for me!" I ceased walking.
"Why wouldn't I?" she asked. "You told me you loved me. If I didn't try to save you, I would never be able to live with myself."
"It sounds like you love him too," Jeremy said.
Fox-Face stopped walking but didn't turn back I sucked in my breath and said not a word.
"Did I say something wrong?" Jeremy broke the awkward silence.
Finally, at length, Fox-Face shook her head. "Let's keep walking. It's getting cold and starting to snow."
I held out my hand, and a few snowflakes landed in my palm. Did she love me? And if so, what about Inicula? I cared a lot about her, too. It all hurt my head.
We continued walking, and Fox-Face went on with her story. "I started my journey by heading to Cheesy City. I was told it would be the best place to look for information on getting to Mt. Arkhamm. Before long, I arrived, and a centaur calling himself a sheriff blocked my path."
I couldn't help but chuckle at that. I remembered Van-Wilbur and his ridiculous questions.
"He asked me a few questions, the first two were obvious; he asked me what his name and job were. He accused me of cheating and finally asked me a question about woodchucks and how much wood could they chuck. I gave him the most obvious answer, and he was furious. He said it took him forever to figure out the right answer to that question."
"So he DID figure it out." I breathed. "I asked him that question, and I stumped him."
"You almost got me shot!" Fox-Face rolled her eyes. "I had to think about it for a few moments and feared he would just shoot me instead of letting me answer."