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Bunny Man

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Copyright 2017 ©Kelson Hargis

 

License Notes

This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental. This ebook licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please provide each recipient a link to download their own copy.  If you’re reading this book and did not download it, or it was not downloaded for your enjoyment only, then please return to your favorite retailer and download your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Cover Art: bunnyman coloured by rollingrightinuit on Deviantart.com. All images are used under Fair Rights and the use thereof does not implicitly or otherwise indicate any endorsement on the part of the image owner in part, or whole of the content contained herein. A full disclosure of the Creative Commons legal use of these images as displayed here or otherwise may be obtained at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

 

Cover design by Doug Strong

 

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Also by Kelson Hargis:

 

Junky Requiem” Flash fiction (about a thousand words) day in the life of a Miami, FL junky. “Oh god, this was dark and effective. The description of drugs entering the body was particularly graphic and realistic.” —Mike White, Smashwords.

 

Nuked” an essay on personal heroes (about a 5 min. read). “Sublime, magnificent, deeply meaningful. You have created a masterpiece of human emotion.” —Marcus R., Readwave.com.

 

Brilliance” A thriller short 15 harrowing minutes in the life of can-man with amnesia. “Wow! This is brilliant! As Lianne pointed out, the character’s confusion is expertly evoked with the way it’s written. The opening is especially good.” —Tom B., Readwave.

 

HorrorByHargis

 

Festival of Ghosts” A horror short: “Kelson Hargis displays the same story telling chops in this one that he has in his other, albeit tamer, ghost story, “Quarry Lake.” —Martini47, Smashwords

 

Elijah’s Phone” The first in a series of horror shorts called “The Elijah Chronicles”

This is easily one of the best short stories I've ever read and I love reading short stories.

Mitsy, Amazon.

 

Acta Somnium” (The Dream Journal) a horror, thriller short: All your dreams will come true (about a 15 min. read). “—Chilling, disturbing in a way reminiscent of Stephen King.” Second look video reviews by S.I. D., Wattpad.com.

 

Introduction

 

The Real Bunny Man

 

Based on actual events is such a loaded term. As a professional writer and analyst, I just can’t help but feel obligated to quantify this for you dear reader. According to the Wikipedia article and other sources, yes, in Fairfax County VA, 1970 a man in a bunny suite did, indeed, have an altercation on a porch threatening someone with a hatchet while chopping a post (significant if you read my story below).

According to verified police reports, about a week later a man in a bunny suit did throw said hatchet through the windshield of a couple’s car who were parked near the Colchester Overpass one night. (Presumably doing what all young couples do when parked at an out-of-the-way overpass at night.) In fact, also according to Wikipedia, The Colchester Overpass, a Southern Railway overpass spanning Colchester Road near Clifton, Virginia, is “Where most of the stories occur…” (Wikipedia, 2017).

Then while investigating this urban legend, I saw that, “In the weeks following the incidents, more than 50 people contacted the police claiming to have seen the "Bunny Man".” (Wikipedia, 2017). The phrase preyed on me, settling in my mind the way a splinter does in your foot. (Writers know what I’m talking about.) What happened those other 50 times? You see, my research also revealed that 2 young women also went missing in the Fairfax, VA backwoods in 1973 (North American Missing Persons Network, 2017).

Some of the other stories were unsubstantiated hearsay but unsettling none-the-less, like railroad workers insisting that they found a group of skinned bunnies hanging from a bridge along the same railroad line. I mean, why? That’s I come in. Personally, I feel that, as a storyteller, it’s my job to weave as many marginally real aspects of this urban legend as possible into a narrative that will, hopefully, grab you by the throat, and not let go. Hopefully I have. Enjoy.

 

***

 

1970

 

Guinea Road, Fairfax County Virginia was the perfect shortcut for Michael Dillinger on his way to Lake Royale to meet up with Dave, James, and Bob, maybe a swim, and a little something else. Summer decided to linger a bit longer this September, spreading its humidity, making an ice-cold Schlitz sound even better than the water—if Dave’s older brother took their bribe to get it. Michael’s mind wondered about the coolness of it in the midday sun and when Tom, Dave’s brother, might’ve scored for them, where Dave hid it, whether it was still cold…

His worry about the prospect of gagging up hot Schlitz on the lake was chased away by Bread “Climbing on rainbows” to “Make it With You” over his black and silver Sony pocket radio. He turned it up, taking in the rural peace of the forested road. No one for miles. The Wendell’s empty home around the corner before the train underpass was the only reminder of town before him. He stopped, fishing a Camel cigarette, he stole from his dad out of his shirt pocket, cradling the small radio between his jaw and shoulder to strike a match, two actually before lighting it completely. He lifted his chin to blow the smoke out with a light cough, gently tapping the two remaining ones in his plaid shirt breast pocket for reassurance. Dave would get one for the deal but not Jim, or Bob. Tom always had his own. Maybe they would bum one from him while swigging beers.

The Wendell’s empty place appeared as he rounded the corner, inhaling the Camel deeply feeling a little buzz, making him aware of the swoosh of his bell bottom jeans against his calves. He’d almost passed it completely before noticing something out-of-place. He paused, blowing the Camel smoke off to the left with a turn of his chin before directing his sight back to the Wendell’s large white porch with colonial pillars. And there sat…a giant rabbit in a rocking chair. The first shock passing, he noticed it wasn’t a rabbit, but a large man in a rabbit suit made from varying shades of rabbit pelts, all sewn together and mottled like some sort of…rabbit Frankenstein’s monster. Old work boots like his father’s but stained black poked out of the pelt bottoms serving as some type of Indian breeches.

He chuckled after a moment, continuing to eye the perfectly still man quietly staring at him from behind the rabbit shaped mask. The humor in his face sagged into confusion. Ragged, widely set eye holes were filled with rounded, black sunglasses. Hippie sunglasses he thought. The type that protrudes out a little like the ones they sold in the Ben Franklin Five and Dime in town. The ones that stick out just like rabbit eyes. What was that called? Not concave. The nose was almost perfect, sewn together in a triangle, resting perfectly atop the man’s. His ragged, wild, salt and pepper beard was fully exposed below it where the hood rabbit mask ended. There was something dark red caked in it and around the hole Michael supposed was his mouth. ‘Convex,’ that’s what his teacher called round glasses that poked out a little, convex.

Even the ears were convincing with one hanging, the other propped up, flipped down at the tip as if listening for something. But there wasn’t anything to hear. Michael became acutely aware of a deafening silence in the dead air between Bread’s “Make it With You” ending and the following Tootsie Pop, How Many Licks commercial. A whistle from the train soon to cross over the underpass whined in the distance. The man mouthed something as “War!” by Edwin Starr blasted over the radio. He spun the volume down, squelching it. He stepped forward just a little into the yard before, stopping upon rethinking it. The Bunny Man—Bunny Monster mouthed something again dispelling Michael’s notion that he was some weird scarecrow.

“What?” Michael shouted with a nervous chuckle. A motion beneath the shade of a huge old pine tree drew his attention to the right. He had to adjust his eyes to see because of the darkness of the thick woods beyond but…there hanging from a rope slung around a low branch were four rabbits skinned from the neck down. Two were still alive, kicking, clawing, and biting at each other as if locked in some desperate game of survival. Michael’s stomach turned.

The man jumped to his feet suddenly. Michael, startled, stumbling back over where the yard rose to meet the road, falling, cracking his elbows on the hot, black asphalt there. His handheld radio, tossed into the air, smashed to the ground in pieces beside him a moment later. A wave of panicked confusion overcame him. His head swam to make sense of it as he eyed the For-Sale sign in the yard and bare windows revealing the Wendell’s empty home beyond the porch.

The Bunny Man whacked the porch post with something causing a loud thud. Michael noticed for the first time that the man had a hatchet in each hand. He whacked it once more, mumbling something inaudible followed by yet another whack at the pillar. The Bunny Man sprang from the porch with surprising vitality, suddenly rendering the yard smaller than Michael had imagined. Michael caught a glimpse of the man’s taught, muscular frame. His dark skin beneath the rabbit furs, reminding Michael of strong farmers hardened by constant work he’d met.

Panic struck, gaping his mouth, the dangling Camel falling out, rolling across his chest as he sprang to his feet into a desperate sprint.

Michael’s heart pounded, lungs burning as the train whistle, right on top of them now drowned out the man’s voice. He pushed through, arms pumping, wondering if he could make it up the embankment to hop the train rolling from left to right, almost crossing the underpass now. His heart seemed to pound in time with the wheels thudding along; it was going too fast. He’d have to traverse the long, dark tunnel of the underpass. He hazarded a look over his shoulder just long enough to see the Bunny Man gaining on him, right arm arched back above his head, about to throw the hatchet. Michael’s mouth gaped into a scream silenced by another whale of the train whistle and its thundering pass as he made his way into the dark, cool tunnel. 

 

v      

 

“I don’t like it Marsha! … I’m not comfortable here.” Cybil glanced around at the dark secluded road and creepy underpass wondering how close it was to her 11:30 pm Friday curfew.

Marsha sighed, rolling her eyes in the back of the new, cherry red ‘71 VW Beetle Mark’s parents got him for graduation. He was on to the Naval Academy soon, not far away, and Marsha was damned if she was going to let Cybil ruin what she had to do to make sure he didn’t forget her—anything she had to do. She was only a junior after all. And he was so big, strong, cute, and rich. She examined her brown leather clogs topped with yellow flowers that she’d propped atop Cybil’s lap, measuring her following words carefully. “I know Stevie’s wicked acne doesn’t make him the cutest boy in school and he’s only a junior like me but—”

“That’s not it stupid! My daddy saw something in the Gazette last month and told me to stay away from here.” Said Cybil almost pleadingly now.

Gawd!”

“What?”

“Daddy? Really Cybil? Come on. Please don’t do that in front of Mark.”

“Okay, dad…”

Marsha eyed her, annoyed more than ever, forcing Cybil to look away, tucking her long, straight, dark hair back over her left ear.

“Try Rick. That’s your dad’s name, isn’t it? Try for once to act your age. I’ve always said your parents should’ve sent you to manners school like I did.”

“Okay—Rick said stay away from here, it’s dangerous. There’s some crazy guy around here.”

“Says who?”

“A kid. I’m trying to remember it, but it was right before school and you know how they drone on and on about everything. …Oh, he saw a giant bunny guy!”

Marsha tried stifling a laugh but was caught by Cybil anyway.

“Marsha!”

“What was he smoking? Oh! Oh! I’ll bet he copped acid off Lance, purple microdot, or blue sunshine! And he went crazy like that senior girl did when we were still in eighth grade!”

“Are you girls done with your make-up, or whatever?” Said Mark, his face suddenly appearing in the driver’s side window, above Marsha, making her jump out of her skin.

“Damnit Mark!”

Mark and Stevie laughed taking pulls from their beers. Mark opened the door as Marsha pulled her clogs off Cybil, pulling the seat handle, flipping it up to get out with a stern look back at Cybil. She reluctantly followed suit, flipping the passenger seat up, grabbing the door handle before Stevie could round the front of the Bug. He reached out to her.

“I’m fine—I got it.” She said more harshly toward Marsha than Stevie.

Marsha was playfully slapping bursts of laughter out of Mark. Stevie stepped back, his laughter trialing into an uncomfortable wince. His aura of discomfort around the opposite sex settled between them making Cybil uncomfortable herself.

“Uh, want a beer?” He said waving his toward the underpass where they’d left the case of dark, long neck bottles. She considered it a moment—anything to ease the awkwardness—before Marsha answered for them.

“Yea she does. I know my girl.” Marsha was tight in Mark’s arms, knocking him off balance, feigning an attempt to pull away. They all started toward the tunnel, Cybil trailing, not liking how the darkness there made her feel. Stevie turned halfway at the forty yards or so there, marveling at the brightness of the full harvest moon and the way Cybil’s straight, black hair shined in it. The over-sized, horizontal zig-zag sweater she slipped on over her suede mini-dress, dark hose, and “pilgrim” shoes did nothing to detract from her graceful, full, athletic shape. She wasn’t as petite, or feminine as some of the other girls but more beautiful none-the-less. He wondered if she knew he watched her more than the other girls on the track team after school. He looked away embarrassed by the rise in his snug, straight-legged, khakis after she walked the whole distance without looking up.

Cybil stopped, turning back upon hearing a faint pop from the Bug. Her eyes struggled to make it out despite the bright moon, “Did you hear that?” She said to no one in particular.

“Yea,” said Stevie. “That happens sometimes when it cools down after a warm day. Nothing to worry your pretty little head about.” He winced with the realization of what he’d said, turning his beer up, finishing it, walking ahead more briskly now.

Cybil lingered, marveling at the riot of colors on the ground Mid-October always brought to Fairfax. Branches of the trees lining the road were already long, black, knobby fingers reaching skyward for the bright moonlight, reminding her of the weird hand chairs she’d seen in magazines.

Cyb! It’s your daddy’s favorite beer, Strohs!” Called Marsha to her with a laugh. “Oh, she’ll drink this.” Marsha said to the others. Cybil shrugged off her feeling of ill ease, turning back to them with a smile, only wanting the closeness of company now, “You bet sister!”

Mark had already wrapped his buckskin jacket around Marsha, stupid enough to come out only in a flowered mini-dress and white, shear sweater. Her big blue eyes and flipped back blond curls always reminded Cybil of Goldie Hawn. Especially when she accented it all with flower patterns. The resemblance, and Mark’s attention awakened old pangs of jealousy in her again. Mark’s hounds tooth, silk shirt with the righteous collar and tight, bell bottom jeans, exposed his physique perfectly. And his black, quarter zip boots were so mod. He’d even let his dirty blond hair grow messily way past his collar the last couple years.

Cybil glanced over at Stevie’s acne and thick brow. Unlike Mark, his brown crewcut, and penny loafers were the quintessential uncool—the good schoolboy, looking like he stepped out of the nineteen fifties. He was a well built, good wrestler though.  

“I know what will kick this party off.” Mark said, reaching for the inside pocket of his jacket Marsha was wearing, producing a joint. Cybil’s heart fluttered, fear settling in her stomach. She took comfort in Stevie turning away. Mark noticed the change in their mood. “Awe, come on, don’t be squares.”

“Nope, my old man will kill me and he’ll know, trust me, he’ll know. I watched him beat the shit out of my brother one night.” Said Stevie.

Marsha glanced over at Cybil who just took a long pull of beer, shaking her head, “No.” “Same,” she said. “I’ll be grounded for weeks if I even smell like it.”

“I’ll head back to the car,” Stevie said, making Cybil wonder if it was some kind of move. Her heart pounded with fear now.

Naw, we’ll go around here so, you kids ‘don’t smell like it,’” Mark said with a laugh, ushering Marsha before him, torching it with the smooth flip of a Zippo lighter as they disappeared around the left edge of the tunnel, down a little path into the woods.

The prospect of being alone right here in the tunnel with Stevie didn’t help her anxiety. She chuckled, finishing her beer. “Got another?” She said to break the awkwardness again. Stevie got it for her, popping the Stroh’s open with his keychain, handing it to her. He started to offer her his Sears standard issue, plain, square, navy jacket. She stayed him with her hand. “No! No…I’m fine, not as stupid as Marsha back there.” She chuckled.

“I just figured, it’s fogging up, you know, meaning it’s cooling off, that happens when the leaves—the brush is moist and warm.” She glanced out of the tunnel. He was right. It was fogging up a lot. She heard Marsha somewhere out in it, giggling now, after just a couple of hits. Going to be a great night, she thought. Stevie really wasn’t so bad floated into her mind next, especially in the dark of the tunnel. Then she remembered his acne and being sweaty when wrestling, wondering if it bothered the guys, he wrestled like it did her. She wondered if he knew that she knew he stared creepily at her and the other girls during track practice. He always smelled when they passed him, from wrestling practice she assumed. She wondered if she should tell him.

“Sorry,” he said.

“For what?”

“Getting stuck with me—”

“—Oh! No, man. I mean, come on. You know?” She felt herself coloring. Why was every moment around this poor guy so painfully awkward?

“Cybil, look, it’s okay. I know, I’m not like Mark, or …whoever else; it’s just my family. We’re different. I actually try to listen to my mom and dad, our pastor. You know?”

His naked sincerity gave her pause, making her think, she may have misjudged him. What was it momma said? ‘Boys are a dime a dozen, young men are rare.’ His weight shifted offering her a view of the end of the underpass beyond him and …something was there, a shadow with tall, pointy ears. Her breath escaped her like when falling during a sprint, “Stevie…”

He grew distraught at her expression. He laughed. “I just can’t say anything right! I mean, what is my problem?” Cybil hit him hard in the shoulder, pointing. He turned, startled, “Shit!” He screamed, backing into her, knocking her into the stone underpass wall. The shadowy figure stepped into the moonlight, its onyx eyes shining in the pale light. Cybil screamed upon seeing them and the rough sewn rabbit skin suit.

Mark and Marsha ran into the other end of the underpass, him buttoning his shirt wrong, her tucking her breasts back into her flowered jumper dress top. “What? What? Is it the pigs?!” He said.

Stevie began laughing. “Dude, check this out!” Then to the shadowy bunny clad figure, “Dude, it ain’t Halloween yet. Who is it? Jason, Tom…?” His mind raked over who he might have mentioned tonight with Cybil to—all of the wrestling team. He began walking toward the figure.

“Stevie! No! My daddy mentioned this guy. He’s nuts!”

“Obviously,” he said, spurred on by her fright, certain it was some practical joke. He grew excited at the prospect of some teammate relieving the pressure of the evening in search for a free beer. Then he noticed something…. The figure had a full, graying beard. One caked with something around where his mouth would be. No one at Fairfax High had anything approaching it. He cocked his head back toward the others, frozen where they stood other than Mark, frantically tucking his shirt back into his tight jeans, just in case it was someone’s dad. “Mark, dude, this isn’t anyone we know.” Then to the bunny clad figure. “Can I help you mister? Is there something you need? I mean, are you a perv, or something?”

The bunny clad figure said something too low for them to understand despite the echo from the arching, brick underpass. A train whistled in the distance. “What?” Said Stevie, growing irritated, territorial, and even a little excited at the prospect of impressing the others. “What freak? Speak up perv.”

A hatchet seemed to materialize, cleaving his forehead just above his eyes with an echoing, dull thwack. Cybil and Marsha screamed. Stevie fell back to the ground, jerking uncontrollably.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!” Mark yelled, grabbing Marsha by the hand.

Cybil ran after them, “Stevie! He’s still alive!”

“It’s too late! Get in the car!” He said, running off toward it. He and Marsha, hopped in, Cybil jumping into Marsha’s lap. Mark fumbled for the keys. Once in the ignition and turned, nothing. “It’s dead! It’s dead!” He yelled instantly regretting showing his fear in front of them.

The Bunny Man slowly retrieved the axe from Stevie’s skull, stepping on his face to do so, leaving him writhing on the road. He brandished one in each hand, sauntering toward the car now.

“Oh God! Oh, God, no!” Screamed Marsha.  The popping Cybil heard around the car earlier floated through her mind just as the windshield was suddenly shattered, a hatchet buried in the back seat behind them by some miracle. The doors sprung open as all three took off in different directions into the trees. “Mark!” Yelled Marsha as she stumbled in the clogs, ankle bending under her, collapsing, screaming at the edge of the foggy woods.

Cybil kicked her pilgrim shoes off, finding a clearing in the trees, sprinting away, despite feeling guilty. Daddy’s voice danced in her consciousness as it usually did when running. ‘Know when to run,’ he always said. And she did. The approaching train whaled, thundering in the distance. She heard horrible screams of ‘No!’ from Marsha, drawing her gaze off into the fog tainted silver by the moonlight. Marsha’s screams eventually trailed off in volume as if careening away.

Marsha wasn’t getting away though. No. She screamed when the ground beneath her gave out on the trail she’d found. She laid there in the ten-foot wooden pit, a sharpened stick pike piercing her thigh, blood running from the top of it. One in her back carved its way through her ribs with every move, every shift. She groaned, coming back into lucidity, noticing for the first time, one piercing her forearm. She struggled to pull it off, freeing it with a scream before noticing something else. A buzzing beyond the pain surrounded her, landing on her face, climbing into her mouth and nose in droves, forcing her gaze to the left in the faint light of the moon through the top of the hole. A macabre caricature of a woman’s swollen head and hands in a stockade sat beside her. She sat “Indian-style” in some wrinkled, leathery, dark red pantsuit so tight it revealed every muscle of her lean frame even in the thin, pale moon light. “Mark! Someone! Help me!” She screamed before trailing off into tears again. Flies swarmed from the girl’s mouth, propped open with wood stakes and overflowing with rotten milk and honey.

A buzzing calm overcame her, consciousness leaking away with her blood. She wondered absently if this was shock, struggling past the buzzing of flies mingled with the one in her head. She began screaming herself back into lucidity uncontrollably. The screams shifted in pitch to ones of pain as she struggled to pull her leg off the sharpened, barbed stick, unable to. “Mark! Someone! Anyone help me! I’m trapped! Help!”

She heard a shifting in the leaves above her while gasping for air between screams. “Oh, thank God! Mark! Cybil! Down here…. Help!” …The shadow of the Bunny Man appeared in the faint light of the hole above. “No…!” She screamed over, and over again. “No! No! No!”

He turned his head, training one of the dark, bulbous eyes on her with the quick ticking of a real, alert rabbit; it shined in the faint moonlight leaking in as foggy shafts split by his tall figure. She could see a thick, round wooden top to the hole in his hand, caked with thick mud around the edge for a good seal. “No…!” She screamed as he dropped it into place. She could hear the thud of dirt being dropped on top in her gasps between screams. “No! No! No! …Mommy! Daddy?”

Mark’s trail found him deep in a thicket, almost unable to make progress as briars, limbs and sink holes seemed to thwart his every turn to bolt. The roar of the train, still not far enough away for his taste, drowned out what he thought might be a girl’s screams in the foggy night, Marsha’s or Cybil’s he didn’t know. He began crawling through the damp underbrush in desperation to advance. “Too late… Too Late,” crawled his mind repeatedly in the same manner, pangs of guilt for leaving them so readily weighed his limbs down until he felt like someone exhausted by drowning. “Too late… Get help….” That’s what he needed to do. “Get help. Everyone will understand. Stevie was killed for fuck’s sake!” That’s what he’d say after reaching town, feeling his mom’s warm embrace. Dad, rubbing his head with tears in his eyes, understanding his cowardice—no, his sense for running off for help. There seemed to be a clearing up ahead, driving him to his feet, bolting. Only the ground gave out beneath him as he tumbled head over heels through jagged, thick brush, tearing through his cloths and skin as rolled down a steep embankment alongside the train screaming down the tracks, high above his right, overhead.

Cybil paused, bent over, hands on knees, trying hard to take back control of her breath on the wide, flat path in the woods she’d chosen just like coach Gregovich taught them during track. She’d sprinted too long, too far, wondering if this was an endurance, or speed competition. She rose, her face brushing something, solid, wet, and sticky. She jerked away after a searing pain in her cheek. Whatever it was flailed, pulling a scream from her before she covered her mouth to stifle it. Her eyes finally adjusted and focused, she noticed it was a rabbit, hanging from a rope on a limb, skinned from the neck down. Calming herself, she focused on either side of the path continuing in the distance. Rabbits skinned from the neck down lined it every ten yards, or so. Some still alive and squirming like this one, others in various states of decay.

Realization disguised as sheer terror dawned over her before becoming a panic, radiating with every thud of her heart. She was going exactly where he wanted her to. Steeling her nerves, she took a deep breath and bolted off into the pathless thicket of woods she felt was most promising to lead her as far away as possible. The war stories Daddy’s friends told from the American Legion that she spent too much of her childhood in floated into her mind as she struggled through the branches and briars tearing at her skin and sweater. Not Korea or Viet Nam, the Great One, they called it. She once naively asked Mr. Alshire what he’d learned from it. “I learned when to get my ass out of Dodge!” He said with a boisterous laugh. Dad’s buddies all joined in, causing her to color with embarrassment.

“Get your ass out of Dodge girl!” they all chanted in her mind now, “Get your ass out of Dodge girl!”

Lucidity quietly crept back to Mark like mom waking him while putting laundry away in his room Saturday mornings. He felt a great, dark abyss stretching out below him reminiscent of his late-night swims with the guys in the middle of Lake Royale. He let his consciousness slip back to the star-studded blackness of the last time when the horizon and water were indistinguishable, his head buzzing with cheap beer. Panic slapped him back into reality. What he’d mistaken for a clearing in the dark beside the tracks were really tree tops. He’d fallen only God knows how far. He jolted to his hands and feet, trying to bolt again, feeling a large, calloused hand gripping his long hair. He heard a pop, feeling the most intense burning he’d ever known in his anus. The burning churned in his lower abdomen and groin in sharp pangs, robbing him of breath. His balls ached worse than any swift kick groin pull he’d ever had.

He collapsed immobile, his life draining from him into his pants as a warm, sticky liquid. A whisper floated to him from somewhere far away. He struggled to rise, opting instead to crawl forward, elbow over elbow. Coach Alderman’s distant shout of ‘Push through the pain!’ during football two-a-days filled his reeling mind. A tremor racked him now. The whispering continued. He foggily stitched it together in his mind like some message of grand import from the great beyond, a coaching like Mr. Alderman’s, or dad’s. A short, barking scream sounded from a great distance off. He sensed the movement of someone standing over him taking notice, weight shifting. The figure grabbed him by the hair again, wiping blood from a thin fisherman’s knife off on his cheek. He heard and felt his shirt and pants being sliced and pulled from his body, he shivered in the cold intensified by blood loss.

The knife flashed to his neck with a hurried, shallow slicing all the way around only deep enough to feel like an intense paper cut. He felt it continue down along his spine now followed by a ripping sound and excruciating burning on his back. A deafening, desperate bellow escaped his throat as a fog filling the cold, damp air, the whispering stitched together now, crowding out his father and coaches’ voices from his mind, ‘Run rabbit, run, no need to plan. What’s going to catch you? The Rabbit Man can!’

Cybil froze in her tracks upon hearing the terrifying, low shriek, calling to mind the bestial cry of large animals falling prey. She struggled to calm the rush of terror it instilled in her, deciding to hone in on the location instead; it had to be a mile away, maybe more. She continued struggling through the thickets bruised and scratched from head to toe, hair caught in low branches ripped from her scalp, rabbit blood streaked across her face. She slipped occasionally, thinking that the ground was wetter before realizing it was her bloodied feet. Exhaustion lulled her into believing the cry had to be the—the freak that killed Stevie. Stevie’s face, words, his every subtle movement played out in her mind repeatedly as a macabre home movie, looped endlessly, a lesson of fate, an accounting of the inevitability of tragedy. Who screamed though? She knew. She collapsed broken and sobbing.

…A not too distant rummaging in the wood stole the breath from her. Her eyes widened into a feral, darting stare in the dark wood like silently twinkling stars. She bolted. The rustling hastened, growing louder. She bored through the thickets and briars, legs burning, arms pumping. Fatigue made her consciousness a floating specter in the darkness without the pain and inconvenience of a body. Only her disembodied head flew toward something instinctively it seemed—a thinning in the brush. She paused, steadying herself against a thick tree, feeling the cool roughness of it on her cheek. A hatched thudded into existence just above her head there. She bolted again. Find the thinning. Find the thinning. Her breath thinning. Her consciousness thinning, opening into the vulnerability of her back now in the opening, grassy landscape to a miracle.

A dog barked frantically, obviously startled by the apparent danger. She caught a glimpse of the German shepherd tethered to a post there before a bright light blinded her, causing a starburst in her vision as she closed her eyes, barreling for a wide porch. The dog ignored her, struggling hard against the rope at something in the edge of the woods. She reached the door with a loud thud, screaming uncontrollably. “HELP ME! GOD HELP ME SOMEONE!” The door opened just as Cybil managed a glance back, seeing the Bunny Man sulking at the edge of the pitch-dark woods. She fell against someone there, clawing to get past them, screaming.

“Hey! Hey! Calm down girl!” Came a gruff voice. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Said the bald middle-aged man in an old, stained tee-shirt and pajama bottoms, looking back at her from the doorway, holding a shotgun. There wasn’t anything at the edge of the wood beyond the doorway now as he closed it on the dog, straining against his rope, whining. “Damn drugs!” He said eyeing her with the veins in his temples and neck bulging. She scooted back along the floor until jerking upon feeling a women’s warm embrace.

“No!” Cybil said, shaking her head, desperately trying to convey the danger they were in.

“That ain’t what it is! Look at her William.” The woman said, embracing her from behind on the floor. “Whatever, or whoever it was out there can’t get you now honey…” She said stroking Cybil’s hair, shushing her.

“You don’t understand” she said now almost whispering it to herself, “The Bunny Man can.”  

 

 

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