Cobwebs of the Past
A Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers story by Morgan Kohl
What woke Foxglove was not a sound, but rather the complete absence of one. Being a bat, there was literally never a quiet moment in Foxglove's life. With her amazing ears, she could hear the smallest insect's footsteps, the flutter of a single leaf, Gadget's singing to herself in her workshop when Foxy hadn't even landed at RRHQ yet. Even on the stillest night, she could still make out the sound of the air outside, the sound of Dale's blood flowing through his body, the sound of his blanket rustling, of her perch creaking, of Monty snoring across the hall, of the cupboard door squeaking as Chip got himself a midnight snack.
But now there wasn't a single sound around her. Not one. Not even the sounds of her own body, which she had grown so used to she didn't usually notice anyway. She couldn't even hear her own breathing.
For the first time in her life, Foxglove was experiencing complete silence.
At first she was afraid she'd gone deaf; her very worst nightmare. But there was something strange about this silence. It seemed right even as it felt wrong. Something *was* wrong here, she knew that. Something was very different. Yet it didn't feel like something that would cause her harm.
It was then that she noticed she couldn't feel the ground below her, even though she was quite aware that she was laying on her side. It wasn't like flying, or floating, or hovering; it felt to her like the ground was simply Not There.
Despite her confusion and growing fear, Foxglove took her wings away from her face and opened her eyes.
That was all there was as far as she could see, in any direction. Pure, soft, white light. She looked up: whiteness. She looked down: the same. Which was even stranger because she had to have been laying ON something, yet she couldn't sense it in any way.
She stared, gaping dumbly, into the nothingness for a while, trying to make sense of what had happened to her. Eventually she built up the courage to get to her feet. She looked around in all directions. Absolutely nothing. No sights, sounds, smells or even anything tangible. There didn't even seem to be any air, which was good in a way because she had also come to the unsettling realization that she wasn't breathing.
The last thing she remembered was of something very bad happening to her involving a lot of water and broken glass. She looked down at herself, glad that she could at least see that, and was puzzled by the fact that she didn't have a scratch on her. In fact, she felt perfectly healthy in every way. Even though she still wasn't breathing. And, to her horror, she found that her heart was no longer beating, also.
There was only one conclusion to make. "I must be dead..."
The words hung in the air, echoing off into the infinite distance.
"Don't worry, it's only for a little while," a voice said.
Foxglove whirled around. There, standing a foot or so away from her, were two bats. A male and female, they looked like a mated couple. The male was tall for a bat, with one ear that bent downwards and eyes so blue Foxglove could see them clearly from as far away as she was. The female was much shorter, and quite pleasingly plump as well. Her wings were folded in front of her and her light orange hair hung down the sides of her face to her shoulders. They both had fur that was similar in color to Foxglove's own, and they were both smiling in a warm, knowing manner.
Foxglove felt sure she had never met either of them before, and yet they both seemed so familiar to her. It felt extremely important somehow that she deduce who these two bats were. And then it suddenly came to her. Given that her earlier theory about being dead was true, there was only one possibility of their identities.
Tears of pure joy came to Foxglove's eyes. "Mom? Dad?"
Their smiles widened, and they opened their wings to her.
She leapt into the air and flew into their embrace, hugging them both with all her heart. She was lovingly hugged back. Tears poured down her face. She nestled into the warm fur on their chests and felt the pure love that emanated from them both. She couldn't speak, though she wanted to say so much.
She looked up into the two caring faces, and saw her joy reflected back at her. They were both crying as well. "My darling daughter..." her father said softly. He gave her a kiss on top of her head and nuzzled her affectionately. Her mother did the same. Foxglove melted into their affection, nuzzling and kissing them both as well. There was no doubt in her mind. She was finally reunited with the parents she'd never known. It wasn't possible that the unconditional love she was feeling from them both could have come from anyone else.
Foxglove looked up again and tried to speak. She couldnÕt, and instead just hugged them some more. She could count on her wingtips the number of times she had felt this fully, truly happy, and all of them so far had been with Dale.
After a long, intense period of wordless hugging, the three bats separated and looked into one another's eyes, exchanging glances of bliss.
Foxglove finally spoke. "You... You really are... my Mom and Dad, aren't you?" That was silly, of course they were!
Both bats nodded proudly. "Yes, Foxglove," said her mother. "And you are our own beautiful daughter."
"Oh Mom! Dad! I've waited my whole life for this! I never thought I'd ever see you and now..." Foxy squeaked in pure joy. She felt like she could float away, her heart was so light. She felt like a little girl again. Her greatest wish had finally come true.
Her father took her wing in his. "We've been waiting just as long, sweetheart. Ever since the night we died and we lost you, we've been looking down from Heaven, watching you grow up, seeing you becoming such a fine young woman. And your work with the Rescue Rangers!"
"We are both so proud of you!" finished Mom.
Foxglove grinned ear to ear. "Thanks, mom. Thanks, Dad. I've always wondered if you could see me from up here and if you were proud of me."
"Heck, proud isn't even the word," Dad said. "I can't _think_ of a word that says just how wonderful you are to us. You have the kindest heart and most giving nature of anyone I've ever known. And to top it all off, you're a very pretty girl, too!"
Foxy blushed. "Aw, stop it Daddy!"
Mom smiled. "You always were sensitive to compliments, dear. I remember I used to hold you while you were nursing and tell you what a cute little baby you were. You'd blush every time!"
Foxy laughed. "Really? Gosh, I hardly remember my childhood at all." Then, out from her happiness, a harsh thought suddenly struck her. She lowered her head and bit her lip. "Um, you two aren't disappointed in me for all the things I did when I was with Winnifred, are you?" she asked quietly.
Her mother pulled her into a gentle hug. "Honey, there are things in everyone's life that they regret. No one can ever be perfect. No one can do the right thing *all* the time. Let's just say that we understood why, and that we worried and cried right along with you during those hard times."
Dad joined the hug too. "And you certainly did a good job of getting yourself out of that mess! You showed some real courage standing up to a human like that. And a human witch no less!" He gave her a hearty pat on the back. "Besides, if you'd never met ol' Freddie, you'd have probably never met the Rangers, either. And I'm sure you wouldn't want that! One thing you learn up here, Foxglove, is that the old saying's true. Everything really DOES happen for a reason."
"Does that mean I was destined to meet Dale?" Foxy asked
Dad shrugged. "Probly. Who knows? We're only mortals after all. Save the big questions like that for when you meet the Big Guy."
"When will that be?"
"Actually, not for quite a while," Mom replied.
This was puzzling. "Why? Is there a really long line?" asked Foxy innocently.
Dad chuckled and patted her arm. "No, sweetie. You're just not ready to die yet."
Foxglove's eyebrows went way up. "What?! But then why am I here now?"
Both of her parents paused, trying to figure out the best way to explain things. Mom finally answered. "You see, dear, this is what some people call a near-death experience."
"About as near as you can get, actually," said Dad.
Mom continued. "You were hurt pretty badly a few moments ago. In a medical sense, you are dead right now, at least your body is. But you still have some very, very important things to do back on Earth. Lives to save. And there's a certain red-nosed chipmunk you know who would be very sad if you left him now."
She felt her heart in her throat. The night's events came snapping back into her memory. "Dale! Oh, I hope he's allright!"
Her father looked somber. "Sweetheart, that may end up depending on you."
"What does that mean?" she asked him, a hint of desperation in her tone. She couldn't bear the thought of her body laying helpless back on Earth while Dale was in trouble.
Mom gave Foxglove a big, comforting hug and a kiss on the cheek. She looked her daughter in the eye, making sure she knew that her next words would be very important. "Foxglove, when you go back, you're going to have to make a choice. A very, very, very difficult one. We're not allowed to tell you what it's about, but it will be a hard decision, a very important decision, and you'll have to make it very quickly after you return. There may be grave consequences to either choice, but you're my daughter and I believe you will know in your heart the right one to make."
This was almost too much to take in. Foxglove suddenly felt as if she carried the weight of the world in her wings. "Are you sure you can't tell me anything about it?" she softly pleaded.
Her mother shook her head sadly.
"Sorry, sweetiepie," her father told her, "but not knowing right now is kinda important just by itself. You'll understand later." He ruffled her headfur. "But don't worry. You'll do the right thing and I'm sure everything will turn out okay. Just remember that your friends love you just as much as we do. No matter what happens, nothing can change that."
It made her feel good to know her parents had such confidence in her. Doubly good, considering what her father had told her about the other Rangers. She thought about them all, and knew in her heart it was true. It was one of the Rescue Rangers' biggest strengths; they were more than a team, they were a family. And she knew she loved all of them just as much as she was loved by them.
She thought back over what Dad had said and giggled. "Dad, Dale calls me sweetiepie!"
"Well, you certainly are sweet. No debating that!" he said, giving them all a smile.
"By the way," said Foxy, "what _do_ you guys think of Dale? I'm sure you've seen how, um, cuddly we are together." She couldn't help a little blush.
"He's a very lucky chipmunk, that's for sure," said Mom. "And you're lucky too, Foxglove. I've seen how good he is to you. How much he adores you, how he accepts you just as you are and treats you as his equal. You've got quite a catch in him, dear. Not many men out there anymore like him," she told Foxy. Then she tossed a grin at her mate. "Well, at least this big teddybat is, anyway!"
He snickered and shared a quick, loving kiss with her. "I could certainly say the same about you, my sweet." To Foxglove he said "Dale may be a goofball, as he calls himself, but he's a goofball with a heart the size of Disneyworld. You keep him close, dear. You and him are going to be very happy together for a very long time."
"So then, when are you two getting married?" said Mom in a very motherly sort of way.
Foxy laughed out loud. "Soon, Mom, soon!" She gave her mother a squeeze. "And if you two can find a way there, you're definitely invited to the wedding!"
"Oh, we'll find a way," said her father. "I know I wouldn't miss it for the world!"
Foxglove smiled, then thought of a question she had never had an answer to, and her happiness fell a little. "Mom, Dad, can I ask you... How did you die?"
Both elder bats took a deep, sad breath, and turned to each other for strength.
"Sorry if I made you sad by asking..." Foxy told them quietly.
Her mother waved her concern away. "Don't worry, sweetheart. I know you've wondered all your life, and you should know, too. It's just..." She sighed. "It's just that when you die like we did, it's not something that ever really leaves you."
Foxglove nodded, then gave her mother an extra hug to show her she was there to comfort her if needed.
The older batfemme smiled, so proud of her daughter and her boundless heart. She patted Foxy on the head and gave her a kiss. "It happened when you were very young, but you know that already. You weren't more than a year old then. We lived with many other bats in an old cathedral on the edge of the city. We had been giving you flying lessons for a month or so, and you were quite good at it. I remember you loved doing loop-the-loops." She smiled bittersweetly, remembering those happy times so long past.
Foxy giggled a little, imagining herself as a baby bat, just learning of the joys of flight.
Her mother continued her tale. "It was a very warm evening in late June, and we had decided to take you to the park for the first time. There was lots of room to fly there, and plenty of places to perch and hide. I knew you'd love it.
"We had been there for a few hours and were about to head for home. You'd tired yourself out, and we had to carry you in our footclaws." She closed her eyes and tried to hold back a sob.
Sensing his mate was having some trouble recounting those terrible events, Foxglove's father took over. "We were just leaving, when an owl swooped down on us. Neither of us heard her coming. She caught us, and we let you drop. We knew it was the only way to save you, and we hoped you'd be able to fly away to safety. We also hoped that we'd be enough of a meal that the owl wouldn't bother going after you. She didn't, but we watched as we were carried away, and we saw you fall. You didn't flap your wings at all. I watched you fall into a patch of wildflowers and I remember that being the most frightening moment of my life."
He paused for a moment, trying not to cry, keeping in mind that Foxglove was just fine, that he was holding her in his wings at that very moment.
"We couldn't think of anything but you as we were taken away." He put his wings over her shoulders. "Foxglove, dying can be a wonderful experience for some; a release from pain, or an end to a long happy life. For us, it wasn't." He paused for a second to brush away a single tear. "All I can say is that at least the owl was quick about it. She wasn't cruel, she only wanted to feed her young, which was a comfort to us in a way. At least our deaths meant something. At least we were able to help others to live..."
"When we reached Heaven, all we cared about was finding out if you were okay," Mom said. She chuckled quietly. "I remember the both of us badgering everyone we saw, asking over and over again how you were. When we finally saw that you had escaped unharmed, we were so relieved. And while we wanted more than anything else to go back and to be with you, eventually we were able to accept our fate, and to be content with watching you from afar. We never forgot about you for an instant, dear. Not once."
Foxglove felt her tears returning to her eyes. It hurt so much that her parents had cared so much about her, and she had never had the chance to know them. In her life, being loved was something she'd encountered only recently. She could only imagine the memories of what it could have been like growing up with these two wonderful, kindhearted bats who loved her so very much. She hugged them both, letting them both know how she felt without having to speak a word.
After a long, quiet hug, Foxglove looked to both of them and said "I've never blamed you, Mom and dad. I never knew, but I always felt like something like that was what must have happened. I wish I could go back in time so I could have spent my life with you. But I want you to know that just knowing you're here, and how much you love me, it makes everything feel okay now."
Many more hugs, kisses, nuzzles and other signs of affection were exchanged among all three bats, until their wings ached from so many hugs, and they all had fur in their mouths from so many kisses.
Finally, Foxglove asked "If I'm going back soon, do you know how long it'll be before we can all be together again?"
"You mean, do we know how long it'll be before you die for real?" Dad asked.
He ruffled her headfur in a fatherly way. "Sorry squirt, but that I don't know. From Heaven, you can see what's going on all around the world, and on special occasions you can even change fate a little, but the only one who can really see the future is the big You-Know-Who."
"But don't worry, darling," Mom added. "I'm sure it'll be a long, long time. The world *needs* good hearts like yours, Foxglove. Fate won't be quick to snatch away folks like you and the Rescue Rangers. You folks with courage and kindness and the willingness to give it all to make things right, who can do so much for everyone else down there."
Foxy smiled bashfully at the loving words and looked up to her father when he put his wing around her. "And don't be in a hurry to get back to us, sweetiepie," he said. "We'll be allright up here. It is _Heaven_ after all! And keep in mind that whenever you need us, we'll be there for you. We'll always be ready to listen when you need us. And while we might not be able to reply by a telephone call, or an email or something, we'll be sure to let you know we've heard you nonetheless. You'll be able to feel us, right here." And he touched her heart gently with his wingtip.
Mom looked up over Foxglove's shoulder. "Looks like it's about time for you to go, dear," she said.
The little pink batfemme looked around to see a circle of golden light hovering in the midst of the whiteness. It seemed to be coming closer. Its beauty was mesmerizing. "Will that take me back to my body?"
"Yes, sweetheart," her mother told her. "Remember, you'll soon have an important choice to make. It's one that will affect your whole life from now on. But we'll be watching, and we'll do what we can to make sure things turn out allright."
Foxglove nodded solemnly. "Okay, Mom. I'll just listen to my heart and try my best to do what's right."
Her father smiled knowingly. "Very wise, Foxglove. Very, very wise. Make all your decisions that way and you'll do well, whatever the choice may be."
Foxglove heard the pride in his voice and blushed a little. Again, she wished she could have been with them when she was young, wished she could stay with them now. But the golden light was coming closer, and she knew she still had important work to do. And she knew as well that they would always be with her, watching over her and loving her.
Foxglove looked into the approaching circle of light. It was incredibly beautiful. It seemed to call to her. She felt herself longing to run to it and jump right in.
But she had one more question she wanted to ask. She turned back to her parents, who had begun to slowly float away from her. "Mom, Dad, can I ask, what was my real name? What did you call me when I was born?"
They both smiled. "Would you really be better off knowing?" her mother said. "It would only cause confusion. You wouldn't know what to call yourself anymore." Foxglove reflected on the wisdom of this. She was right. "Besides," Mom added, "Foxglove is such a pretty name anyway."
"Better than the one we came up with!" Dad said. Mom elbowed him and Foxy laughed. "If you really want to know though, I can tell you that your middle name was Melissa."
Foxglove smiled brightly. "Melissa... I like that! Wow, I finally have a middle name! Melissa. Foxglove Melissa Fairmont!" She said her new full name over to herself a few more times, liking it more each time she heard it. "Golly, I really like that! Thanks for the neat name, Mom and Dad!"
"You're welcome!" they said in unison. They had now drifted so far away that Foxglove couldn't see Daddy's blue eyes anymore.
The golden light was coming ever closer. Foxglove wanted so much to dive into it, to feel that beautiful golden color all around her. But she also wanted her reunion with her parents to last as long as she could make it.
Suddenly, one more question came to her mind. One she had worried over for years. One she had to know the answer to. But was there time? She called out to them. They seemed so far away now. "Dad! Mom! I have one more question! Do vampires get to go to Heaven?"
She had pondered that question for more nights than she could count. Ever since she'd become aware of her condition, she had believed she was evil because of it. Only Dale, with his understanding and his love, had helped her see that being a vampire didn't make her a bad bat. That she really was a good person inside, and that all the stories and movies about vampires had been wrong.
But she still wondered if it was ALL untrue. Was vampirism just a medical condition, like Dale thought? Or did it really carry a dark curse like she'd always feared? Was she damned? Was she? She had to know.
So when she heard her parents' laughter, she felt sweet relief flow through her. "Of course they do, sweetheart!" her mother called back to her.
"After all, where did you think you got it from in the first place?" added Dad as they both jokingly bared their fangs at her.
Foxy felt like laughing, sighing and crying all at once. Her heart finally felt free. She had no more reason to worry herself over what she was, and she vowed to herself in that moment that she would never worry about it again.
The circle of light was almost upon her. Her parents had just enough time left to call out their goodbyes to her. She responded in turn, waving and smiling and saying goodbye and "I love you!" Her heart was saddened at seeing them go so soon, but she also felt an incredible joy from being with them, if only for such a short time. So many questions and worries had been put aside in these few moments. And while she was well aware of what she would have to do when she returned to her body, she did not fear it. She almost looked forward to this formidable, life-changing decision she would be making soon. Bring it on! She knew she had her parents' love, and the love of her friends too, to give her strength. Whatever the choice was, she would face it with her head held high and with a heartful of confidence.
Foxglove took one long last look at her mother and father and tried to think that she wasn't really leaving them. That actually, she had finally found them, and now she knew they would be with her always. Foxglove turned and faced her future with a smile on her face and a calm in her heart. She closed her eyes...
And when the golden light enveloped her body, she felt a joy and serenity such as she'd never known before.
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