The rooks cawed from their nests on high, breaking the silence of the crisp cold morning while the blue sky was only interrupted by long bare branches above, stirring gently in the breeze. On the woodland floor, nothing moved in the dank leaf-mould, save an odd fern or blade of grass patterned by a frost and swayed slightly by a passing rodent forager.
I lay on the frozen ground, staring up, wondering how long it would be before someone came to find me… The ground, cold , lumpy and hard beneath me, the chill permeating my thin clothes and making my body even icier, after such a long time, lying in one place. I could barely feel anything, my body numb and stiff. If I could cry, I surely would have.
Nothing stirred and time passed; perhaps I even dozed but was cruelly awakened by something sharp and heavy, landing suddenly on my midriff. I took in the sight of a large, densely feathered crow, sitting on my middle and slowly turning as his head bobbed up and down – the sharp grey-black beak exploring my frame, as the claws of his feet jabbed painfully into my body for purchase. He turned his black bright eyes to look at my face and an irrational fear suddenly threatened to overwhelm me. Didn’t they first peck the eyes? His keen bright gaze was unnerving as he slightly ruffled his feathers and continued to move across my stomach. Fortunately, his attention was caught a few yards away, as something more interesting moved under a bush, rustling the crisp foliage, and I was able to release my tension, gratefully.
My next visitor some time later, was a prowling fox, sniffing the path and stopping to see what kind of creature lay here, exposed and lonely, in his territory. His thick reddish coat and white muzzle came closer. He sniffed around me and I could feel his breath, hot and disgustingly musty on my face. Frightened, I waited to see what would happen next. His paw scraped through my tangled tresses, although he didn’t seem to enjoy that. Open jaws revealed very sharp teeth, which he sank in exploration into my left arm!
Despite the pain, I could make no sound until he tugged sharply, releasing a high pitched cry, which ended in a low moan that reverberated through the silent trees. Somewhere from a distance, a keen answering shout could be heard, then the sound of running footsteps and undergrowth being beaten aside.
The fox alarmed, gave one last sniff and bounded silently away gliding like a ghost into the grasses as if he had never been.
‘Daddy, Daddy… I’ve found Matilda! Look, here she is and her arm is hurt…oh, I shall have to take her to my dollies hospital and make her better! Poor Mattilda.’
With relief, I am scooped up, shaken briskly to remove leaf litter, and cradled in the crook of Emily’s arm. I am warmed by her woollen coat; now home we go, to the comfort of the nursery. What a joy to be found at last.