Ellen was at the warehouse party where red, green and white lights pierced the stale air. Where the bass carved out all grains of thought. Where the quiet girl in the small mask had offered a line of coke with nothing more than a simple nudge.

On the side she tapped out a neat slug from a small silver capsule. Chopped from bigger clump to small clump with a driving license. Ellen remembered staring into the eyes of the girl on the ID card, the sideways face rapidly elevated before being slammed back down into the spongy white.

Mesmerized Ellen drifted to the tapping face.  Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap – it drew her in… she drifted back to her own ID, to her younger self, to her first time ‘tapping’. It was about six years ago, she had been 19 and still in college. In Lucas’s room before the night out, she could feel the pulsing vibe of the pre-drinks still seeping under his bedroom door. Lucas had drawn out a small baggie and smiled.

‘Want some?’ he’d asked, and Ellen froze– she should have thought of this decision before this moment.

I shouldn’t. But why shouldn’t I? They do it in the movies all the fucking time. From rap stars to rock stars, porn stars to gangsters.

The whole damn world was shoveling this idyllic feel-good fun stuff so why shouldn’t she?

She leaned down, held a finger to her left nostril and inhaled sharply – feeling the shards of Hollywood race through her veins until nesting itself in that little nook under the front of the skull. A sigh of relief, followed by a sigh of high serenity.

“Fuck yeah,” chuckled Lucas, holding out his hand for the rolled up bank note off her. Copying Lucas from earlier, Ellen slid her thumb and forefinger along the rim of the card and licked it; she felt like a million bucks.

The memory of looking down at the card drew her back to the warehouse party. The girl was still staring with titled head in leering anticipation.

“This stuff,” jabbed Ellen, “it’s fucking pixie shit, no market cutting bullshit.”

“You have to tell me how you get this.”

The silent girl looked directly into Ellen’s eyes and titled her head awkwardly. She looked somewhere on the spectrum just after alert and before petrified. Slowly she stretched out the crumpled note in her left hand. Ellen took it and read, albeit somewhat confused by the peculiar request, and went to ask the girl who had disappeared from sight. She hadn’t said answered her question.

Leaving the party, she her feet falling in step, one after the other, leading the way to Regent’s Park, just as the note had said.

What the fuck am I doing

Ellen began to take her shoes off and step into the water. The long grass was nodding; the human intervention had caused a large ripple disrupting the otherwise peaceful surface.

What exactly is supposed to happen now? What the fuck was she expecting?

The water began to tremble.

word by Sam Fresco

colour by Young Wavey

From the author: “One of my best friends has just moved to Tokyo. I caught up with him recently on FaceTime and he told me about their New Years Eve procession which gets the whole city to dress up as foxes and march from shrine to shrine. Legend has it that on New Year’s Eve, foxes gathered from across Japan under a large tree and disguised themselves in human costume to visit the Oji Inari-jinja Shrine.

I researched and found that Kitsune (狐) is the Japanese word for fox. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shape shift into women. 

Amongst the spaghetti of stories I discovered, two things jumped out at me that I found utterly fascinating;

1 That some folktales speak of Kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

2 – Tales distinguish Kitsune gifts from Kitsune payments. If a Kitsune offers a payment or reward that includes money or material wealth, part or all of the sum will consist of old paper, leaves, twigs, stones, or similar valueless items under a magical illusion.True Kitsune gifts are usually intangibles, such as protection, knowledge, or long life.

So in modern society what really is material wealth? And where would a Fox find a woman to ‘take over?’ If so, under what illusion?”