City of the Darkest Light

Anna Nguyen

Anna Nguyen

"I will call you back after work. Thanks!"
I hung up the phone, went back to my desk, and continued working, building reports for my clients. Our clients are demanding, especially that bull shark named Junior III. Thank god he does not visit our office this month.
"Make sure you stay hydrated and keep practicing, okay?" said the Coach. He's a Muay Thai fighter and a great teacher, he has been teaching us ever since I came to his gym to train. Being one of the few female animals in his class, at first I thought that the odds were against me but the Coach reassured me that I could do anything if I believed in myself. He's a weasel born with a small body but his heart is not small. "When will you meet your dad?" Yimby- my gym buddy, chimes in on our phone conversation. I can see that he is in a good mood because he moves his silver foxy ears back and forth.
"How's work?"
"Not bad."
"They pay me well, I have $500 left in my bank account each month. You?"
"Good. I'm taking care of the gym like usual, and I will meet this girl through an arranged marriage. She is a silver fox just like us, she lives in Chestville. Anyway, will you meet your dad?"
I put my ears back. "Not sure. He does not care about me." I'm about to cry. If it weren't for better job opportunities, I would never come here. Nobody loves me. 
"You are sensitive. Try making new friends and be positive." Yimby grins at me.
"You know that I have had confidence issues ever since my dad left me and I got bullied in school, right?"
"Lux, you are having it better than some folks out there, it was a dream for you until you got that job. Your dad sponsored you and your mom paid for your college expenses. Anyway, I need to drop now." Yimby walked away, only the Coach and I were left.
"He worries about you. Keep calm and stay hydrated, okay? I need to go now."
"Sure. Bye Coach." I hung up, got out of the office, and walked towards the parking lot.
I finally came back home after driving for several hours. I parked my car in the driveway, stepped inside the house, and said out loud, "I'm home!"
"You came home late! It's almost 10!" Lana- my housemate, screamed at me. She's a fennec fox with iconic ears.
"There was a traffic accident on Highway 9." I yawned.
"Last time you also came home late. You went to the casino and did not come home until 3:00 a.m." She referred to that time I gave my dad a call and I got mad at my dad for sending me a picture of his new family so I gambled my life away that night.
"I'm too tired to talk. Good night." I walked to my bedroom and closed the door, ignoring her gibberish.
As I lay down in bed, my dad sent me a message. He asked me if I wanted to come visit his bakery this Sunday morning. I responded "Yes".
My dad worked for the Lion Kingdom as a baker in the 80s when he was a teenage fox, making chinchilla bread. Then a war broke out between the Lion and Tiger Kingdoms. The Tiger Kingdom invaded lands owned by the Lion Kingdom. The Lion Kingdom fought back. In the end, the lions were defeated. Afterward, the tigers control everything. Too fed up with the authoritarian government, my dad decided to migrate overseas. He left me and my mom for Light City before I entered elementary school. Once he moved to Light City, he did several menial jobs to save money. After saving enough money, he opened his first bakery in Chestnut Valley and it is still thriving to this day. I heard from my mom that he fell in love with a red fox who worked at his bakery and they started a family together.
Sunday comes.
I drive to a city named Seasalt where his bakery is located. It's still 5 miles until I reach my destination and then I get a missing animal alert. My dad has been missing for 5 hours.
I arrived. Once I step inside the bakery, I see a cashier answering questions from a police officer.
"Can you please step outside for a moment? I will be back with you soon." said the cashier to me. He has a human face with thick eyebrows, wolf ears and tails, and fiery amber eyes. It's rare for an animal to have a human face.
Once I'm outside, I take a walk around the parking lot. Then out of nowhere, a raven flies closer to me and whispers in my left ear: "To find your dad, complete these tasks: join a Muay Thai tournament and be in the top 10, go to Whale Island, and go to entertainment district."
"What?" he was gone before I could say more.
Before I know it, I will have to connect the dots between these tasks.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. My beginning.

Age 18+ category | Fall into Fiction Short Story Contest 2023 | San José Public Library

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