The crows had taken all the meat off a dead old fox that was lying up on a fairy mound, beside a standing stone. Birds call each other from miles around for fox meat if they can get it, to take revenge for their own kind.
But now all the flesh was off the bones, and the sinews and muscles gone, and her red fur tugged off with beaks and carried away to make nests. All that was left were little dry bones that went click-clack in the breeze. Her family came to bury the bones, as foxes did in the old days.
But the wind hadn’t finished with the bones yet, and on the night when the foxes arrived it was clicking and clacking them, rolling them together on the ground behind the fairy mound, tapping them against the stone to make bone music. And when it saw the foxes, it decided to have more fun still. It swept the bones up into the shape of the old fox’s skeleton and danced them like a puppet around the stone, as if she was still alive without her flesh and fur. It took a bit of work to hold them together.
When the other foxes saw this coming, most of them were frightened and ran away. But the big Daddy fox and one brave daughter stayed to see what would happen next. The wind hadn’t expected that at all, so they all stood still, the fox skeleton hanging in the air with the leg bones turning underneath it.
And the Daddy fox stood guard, and his daughter spoke to the bones.
“Grandmother,” she said, and the wind moaned out through the bare eye sockets and in between the ribs, and the small bones of the feet clinked together.
“Grandmother,” she said again. “We have come to bury you.” But the wind had no words to answer, either for itself or for the dead.
They stood a while longer, and none of them knew what to do, until the Daddy fox took a step forward. The wind drew back, and it was as if the fox skeleton reared up on its hind legs before them.
“There must be a burial,” said the Daddy fox to the bones. “We have come to bury you, old mother, and bury you we will.”
But the wind was tired of the trick, and of holding the bones for so long in their shape. With one last fling it swirled the bones away up into the air and screamed through the ribcage, lashed the dead tail and rained teeth down on the daughter and the big Daddy fox. The two living foxes turned their tails to the mound and ran until their paws left a trail of blood behind them. The old fox was left scattered over the field where she should have been buried.
From that time on, the foxes stopped burying their dead, and the wind can make bone music all through the night.
First published by NewMyths.com, Issue 18, in March 2012