test jpg.jpg

March 2021 Contest Winner: A Fox Hunter's Name

That morning, another fox corpse appeared hanging from the gate.


Judah Fa shuddered as he pushed his electric motorbike through. He didn’t like the air around here. It felt too... thick. Sickly and sweet at the same time.


“I saw your doppelganger again today,” the old man who sat by the gate called.


“Oh, yeah?” Judah stopped his steps. “Where is he? I want to go teach him a lesson.”


“Oh, he was eating noodles down the street. You sound angry.” The old man spat on the

ground near his feet.


“Well, of course I am! That jerk stole my bike and tried to pass himself as me at my job! I

only just managed to get this back! I’m lucky I wasn’t fired at the rate he does things.”


“Heh.” The old man grinned. “The things doppelgangers will do. What was your name

again?”


“Fa Judah.”


“Fa You-da?” The old man shook his head. “It’s so hard to say...why must you go by this

Western name? Surely it isn’t the one your parents gave you.”


“For protection, of course.” Judah kept pushing his bike forwards. “Seeing a doppelganger is already bad enough luck. I don’t need anymore.”


“Oh, speaking of protection...” The old man pulled out something from his pocket and

handed it to him. “Here. An amulet. Keep it on you; there’s been more fox sightings lately.”


“Fox sightings?” Judah took the amulet in his hand and looked it over; it was made of

porcelain or china or some sort of cold stone material, and it was shaped like a dog. Foxes hated dogs, he knew.

The old man gestured at the gruesome sight hanging from the gate. “Keep it with you,” he

said. “I have a feeling you’ll need it.”


“Thank you.” Judah put the amulet into his pocket and continued pushing his motorbike

down the street.


This area of the city was quite strange. It mostly consisted of old architecture transformed into modern buildings. Seeing the old slanted roofs next to the neon signs seemed fitting, however. Small businesses thrived. Tourists loved to take photos for their social media during day trips. To enter into this section of town, you came in through the gate at one end. Outside there was a section of wilderness: tall reeds and forest and the like.


Judah Fa had come here a few years ago for university. He’d found a part-time job as an

express delivery worker. Sure, sometimes he turned in his homework late, but they paid him enough for him to eat.


Judah thought again of what would have happened if he had actually gotten fired because of his doppelganger, and was once again filled with rage that burst out when he saw him sitting outside at a table eating noodles.


“You!” he cried. “There you are, you jerk! What do you think you were doing, stealing my

bike?”


His doppelganger jumped up, almost spilling the noodles on himself. He truly looked like

Judah Fa; the same black hair, except long, and the same eyes, nose, face... He looked in every

aspect like Judah, except that he was wearing light blue traditional robes.


“Where do you think you’re going?” Judah ditched his bike against a pole and ran after him. “Come back and look what you’ve done to my bike! You’re going to be paying for the expenses, you know that, right? Hey, get back here!”


His doppelganger, somehow, had darted onto one of the low slanting roofs. He squatted

down to look at Judah.


“Sorry about that, man. I swear, I had good intentions.”


“Good intentions? I nearly got fired! You make a terrible delivery boy!”


“Aw, I thought I did good as you! Give me another chance, will you? I’ll do better tonight- ”


“No.” Judah shot him a glare. “Stay away from me, okay? And don’t touch my bike ever

again! By the way, your tail is showing.”


The doppelganger’s expression changed from disappointment to surprise, and he glanced down at his robes to see the fur peeking out from beneath them. “What the...?”


With another glance at Judah, he scurried off, much like a fox. Judah sighed and went back to retrieve his bike, and began pushing it towards the repair shop. Foxes...he remembered foxes. Foxes and forest and reeds...


It had been a long time ago, hadn’t it? When he was just a child. And there, beyond the

forest...


A sharp pain shot through Judah’s head, and he shook himself. He couldn’t really remember what happened next. There was only a gap there, and a feeling that he had inhaled too much mist.


He dropped his bike off at the repair shop. “You again?” the shop owner asked. “Just what

have you been doing? Chasing foxes? Look at what you’ve done to your tires! And the front

light...oh, my word.”


“I’ve been trying,” Judah sighed. “Sorry about all the work. I’ll take better care of it.”


“You’d better! It pains me to see such a fine bike in this condition.” While waiting for his bike to be repaired, Judah sat down with the old man near the front of the gate.


“You still have that amulet I gave you?” the old man asked.


Judah held it up for him to see. “Of course.”


“Aye, good, good.” The old man nodded. “It’s best to be prepared. You never know when

harm might befall you. You seem like the type of kid to be prepared.”


Judah mentally checked his pockets. “I’m always prepared when I can.”


Across the street was a seller with all sorts of wares, such as jade jewelry, charms, and fox masks. The fox masks were made of porcelain, some plain, some with colored stripes. The seller saw Judah staring and waved.


“You want to buy another one?”

“Another one?”


“Weren’t you the one who purchased a white mask the other day?”


“You must have mistaken me for someone else.” To the old man Judah added, under his

breath: “Must be my doppelganger again.”


“Oh, all right. Even so, would you like to buy a mask? They’ll do wonders for you!”


“I’m good, thanks!” Judah waved the amulet at him. “I’ve got this.”


They settled back into silence again. Judah could smell fresh food coming from down the street, and his stomach growled. He hadn’t eaten anything all day.


“You have a girlfriend, young man?” the old man asked.


“Eh?” Judah thought about it for a moment. “Not that I know of.”


“Kids these days...” the old man sighed. “You look like an eligible youth.”


Judah thought of that girl who sat two rows in front of him in class. Yang Lihua, was it? She

liked to wear a red ribbon in her hair. He’d seen her at the convenience store often when he was making his rounds. She was pretty, and nice, and he had planned to ask her out.


But now her seat was empty. And the convenience store windows were boarded up.


A man stopped by them to hang up a missing poster on the wall. “Have you seen him?” he

asked, though he clearly expected them to say “no”. “He’s the eighth one already in the past three months.”


“Eight people aren’t going to disappear off the face of the earth like that,” the old man said.


“Yes, but there have been sightings afterwards...” The man gave a sigh, and continued on

his way, the posters underneath his arm. “Do alert the authorities if you see any of them.”