Foxes, like the fennec Karpat here, were born of the World Tree, and rarely left the comfort of the vast forests and plains of the dara (”gift of life,” called wilderness in more vulgar places).
Karpat pulled at one of the vines running up the ancient, long-abandoned skyscraper. Lines of green and red wound their way in and out of broken windows, up the statues of foxes, otters, and other species that adorned the old, crumbling metropolis. He looked down the cracked asphalt road, considering his decision, then back up.
Decision made, affirmed by a few deep breaths, he pulled again, then hefted his weight up, planting his feet on a horizontal section of vine. The plants crunched under his weight, squeaked against steel as they shifted, and smelled of mint when they broke.
Covered in and sated by the minty, nutritious life blood of the Tree, he pulled himself into a room halfway up after sunset. He spent the night there, then set out in the morning.
Karpat held on to the wall and planted one foot on a vine outside the window, then the other foot. He grabbed a higher portion of the vine with one paw, then moved the other to it, but it broke as he put his full weight on it. He plunged to his death clutching a falling column of vine, then awoke in a white room.
The Daramour, the consciousness of the Tree everyone meets after death, appeared before him, a mirror image of himself. “Hello.”
Karpat screamed and writhed from the pain on the floor for a while, until he smelled the mint again and stood up. “Can’t you make it not hurt?”
“Yes, but then what incentive would you have to avoid death? I need my foxes outside as long as possible to bring new experiences and knowledge to me. Each of you has a unique perspective, and it’s what keeps me from losing my mind in here. I depend on you.”
“Sorry. I forgot you’re stuck here. So what happens now?”
“I’ll send you back out, when you’re ready. Take some time to relax, think, and study. You have access to the wealth of my knowledge while you’re here, but I limit how much you can take with you.”