Darkness closes in like molasses, the bright sunset slowly moving farther away from the hushed wood.
“Could have at least helped me back,” a man’s voice breaks through the silence, “There’s got to be a shortcut.” He trudges off the path, sliding through the deeper mud and taller grass. He slips his hand into his right jean pocket and pulls out an intricate golden ring. What remains of the daylight gleams through an impressive diamond sitting atop it.
The man clenches his jaw, “GODDAMMIT!” He clasps his fist around the ring, and hurls it deep into the forest. It bounces off a tree with a faraway cling before landing somewhere among the brush. Another thing lost among the woods.
Out of nowhere, a fox carrying a miniature suitcase in its mouth trots along the foot path as if casually going to work.
“Fuck,” the man’s voice causes the fox to stop in its path, “First I’m lost, and now I’m going batshit. Fucking great.” He rubs the scruff of his narrow face and leans back against a tree, his legs giving way to the muddy ground beneath him. His clothes are soaked through.
The fox, studying the scene with some intrigue, sets down his suitcase and approaches the desperate man with hesitance.
“What do you want?” The man rolls his eyes and sneers at the fox, who sits only inches away surveying the person before him. “No, you’re not real.” The fox tilts its head, turns around to retrieve his suitcase, and sets it at the man’s feet.
“A fox with a goddamn suitcase! You’re not real, you can’t be real.” The man claws his fingers into his legs, and brings his head between his knees as his breath gets faster and faster, and farther and farther away from him. “Not now,” the man’s voice catches between short breaths.
In a matter of moments, he hears a thump and the clicking sounds of a metal dial being turned. The man’s breathing slows, and he looks up at fox in front of him, which is using its nose with an almost human-like precision to open the combination lock on the suitcase.
The animal gingerly enters the last number. Click.
Pop! The latches on either side of the suitcase flip up.
The fox pushes top of the suitcase open, and jumps in. The lid slams shut behind it, and the forest returns to an eerie stillness, punctuated by the impending darkness.
The man crawls over to the case. His hands hover above the latches as if something terrible will happen when and if he decides to open it. “Okay,” he pauses, “Three, two, and—”
The lid burst open—the fox leaps out, and beckons the man to follow it back in. He gazes down into the suitcase. The inside is the deepest black the man has ever seen.
“Great,” he leans back, “And now a bottomless suitcase. Might as well commit me now. Fucking nut job. Anna sure did dodge a bullet.”
The fox nudges the man toward the suitcase with slight distress.
“Go away,” the man pushes the fox aside and slides back over to the tree.
The fox huffs and bites onto the man’s sleeve, and pulls him toward the open suitcase. The man pulls back, but the fox tugs harder until he’s latched onto the man’s arm.
“Ow!” he yanks his arm back, throwing the fox to the ground, “Piece of shit, you bit me!”
The fox snarls.
“Okay, fine. Fine. I’ll go in the goddamn suitcase with you.” He stands above the open luggage, peering down into the darkness, “It’s not even big enough for me.”
The fox nudges the man’s legs.
“Fine, alright, okay. I’m going! Stop pushing me,” He steps one foot in the case with a wooden thud that echoes downward. He looks to the fox, and then back down into the suitcase before descending one more step. Stairs. These are stairs… inside of a suitcase. They’re very narrow and very steep, but it’s clear they’re wooden stairs.
The fox urges the man forward. Once the man has fully disappeared into the pitch black of the suitcase, it jumps in after him.
The lid closes above the pair with a thud, plunging them into an even thicker darkness.