When the past is splayed across the sheets in bright, beautiful shades of red, there's no running - only slipping, only the twist of a quick hand, and a house of crumbling cards, and the bullets we caught in our teeth.
MAVKA Mavka (aka niavka, navka, from Old Slavic nav ‘the dead’). A mythological female figure, tall, round-faced, long-haired, and sometimes naked. The nymphs known by this term represented the souls of girls who had died unnatural deaths. They were believed to live in groups in forests, mountain caves, or sheds, which they decorated with rugs. They made thread of stolen flax and wove thin trans
parent cloth for making clothes for themselves. They loved flowers, which they wore in their hair. In the spring they planted flowers in the mountains, to which they enticed young men, whom they tickled to death. On Pentecost (known as Mavka’s Easter) they held games, dances, and orgies. A demon accompanied them on a flute or pipes. They are depicted in literature, most notably in Lesia Ukrainka’s Lisova pisnia (The Forest Song) and Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky’s Tini zabutykh predkiv (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors).
A long time ago, when trees could still talk and when branches could still stretch far enough to catch children’s laughter, before the first man has cast his first stone and before the fist woman has cast her first spell, the world was made of fairy tales. Everything was simple, there were no rules or rulers and magic flowed through everyone’s fingers before they were even born. Nobody went scared, sad, or hungry. The world knew no turmoil or fear. People were still curious, people still believed in kindness, and everything was common and shared. Nobody was better than anyone, boy – but there were the foxes.
A fox is a rare sight these days. Some say they are all but extinct – that is not true, look at the mantle. This is what foxes looked like.
Foxes knew the world better than anyone could. They carried the fairy tales at the tips of their busy tails and swept at their footsteps in the dust and the snow so that they can never be found. Foxes took the magic before it was taken away. Bit by bit, they stored the magic in their never-ending burrows that were bigger on the inside than the entrance would ever let on. A man once slept at the lip of a fox’s burrow and woke up to find himself ten years younger – and ten years ahead. A little boy, just like you, dropped into a hole marked by small claws and scattered feathers and never returned. They look for him to this day.
Foxes are tricky. Foxes know the woods, and the woods know the foxes. There are bends and twists in the woods, where the canopy is so thick that the morning never comes, and they say that this is where every fox-burrow leads. They say, that at every heart of the forest is a great big nest where they meet. Silver and white and black and orange and red fur, all. And each night, they bring in a trinket. Each night, they bring a piece of magic with them. Each night, the great pile of stolen things grows, but it never reaches the tallest branches.
The world grew large, and the world grew greedy. Cities bloomed like oil stains, and even the deepest hearts of the forests were ripped from their still-beating chests. Magic is finite, boy. And so are the foxes.
Look at the mantle, now. Go on. Touch it.
Nothing can disappear so long as it is remembered. Nothing is gone so long as there are mouths to sing and tongues to talk and ears to listen. One day everything will change and nothing will matter more than the fairy tales you’ve stolen away.
One day the burrows will tear open with a thousand sharp claws and two thousand bright eyes will light up the forest and quick paws and sharp teeth will take back what was rightfully theirs.