She came around the corner slowly, fingers gripping the wall. And gasped.
The white rabbit was there, waiting. It did not move, its whiskers did not twitch. It had known, it had waited.
Alice wanted to run, but froze.
The rabbit’s lips quivered and its mouth opened, revealing a single, gleaming fang.
Alice turned and ran, heart pounding in her breast. The walls of the rustic lane grew and grew, becoming a canyon rising to the sky. She ran faster and faster, but the earth started to spin like a treadmill in reverse, her footfalls echoing as if in a dream.
She felt a presence just behind, tight air on the back of her neck. There was a whoosh of air and a great claw thumped her on the side of the head, throwing her into the air. Her body flew, time slowed.
Next thing she knew, the head of the beast was over her, saliva dripping from its mouth. It snorted, hot breath on her neck, smelling the blood trickling there. It snarled as it reared back to bite her neck.
“Stop!” she cried. “Stop! Don’t eat me or…you’ll regret it!”
The rabbit stopped, “What?”
“If you eat me, you’ll regret it for eternity. Or whatever part of eternity you have left. Leave me be.”
“Nice try,” the rabbit chuckled, “That’s what they all say.”
The rabbit opened its mouth wide and bit down on Alice’s jugular. She struggled and hit the creature on the snout. Blood sprayed into the creature’s nostrils, tickling them. The rabbit shook its head violently.
A few moments later it was all over.
Later that day, the rabbit stopped by a sparkling brook deep in the forest. A small dab of blood stained its snow-white chest.
The rabbit took a drink of clear, cool water.
Suddenly, it stopped and jumped back from the edge, sensing something in the wind.
It was nothing.
The rabbit’s stomach growled, and it felt discomfort there, a sharp pain. Then, it was gone.
The rabbit thought it would sit down in a small patch near the brook and take a nap.
As it walked across the meadow, dodging the open spaces and looking skyward from time to time, the pain came back, stronger than before.
The rabbit felt the heat of rising nausea.
“This one is not going down so easy,” it thought.
The nausea bubbled up and the rabbit wretched and spat out a bit of bloody bile.
A twig snapped.
“What’s that? Who’s there?” the rabbit said.
No one answered.
The wind whispered and the whispering grew louder.
“I…I…I,” a voice emerged from the woods.
“Who’s there?” the rabbit demanded.
There was only laughter. A girl’s laugh.
“I told you…I warned you.” It was Alice’s voice.
“Where are you?”
“Silly,” the voice said. “I’m in your head.”
The rabbit shook its head and gazed at its reflection in the brook.
“Jump,” the voice said. “Go. Jump in the river.”
“Go. Go in the open field. Sit there and wait.”
The rabbit turned and ran.
A few days later, the rabbit staggered to the edge of a large field on the edge of town. It laid down, panting, leaning its head on the soft grass.
Unseen insects chirped in the long grass. Falcons’ shadows crisscrossed over the burned-out midsummer grass. The rabbit could hear the brook lapping gently in the distance.
The rabbit had not slept in days. That was the only way it could silence the dreams. And her voice. Its mind was one half-formed, slow-moving thought after another.
“I told you. But you insisted,” the voice said.
“Shut up,” the rabbit said. “Please.”
“Do it…do it already. I’m sick of this. So boring. Walk out into the field. Do it. If you want to stop my voice, you must do it.”
“It’s easy now, we’re so close. It will be so fast. Faster than when...”
The voice in the rabbit’s head laughed and said, “Falcons are so efficient, don’t you think?”
“Quiet! Get out of my head.”
The girl cackled, “I warned you. I told you! It’s only fair.”
A falcon’s shadow clipped the edge of the field where the rabbit sat. He noticed that he had cringed half a second too late.
“Really? Is this any sort of life? I’m more you than me now. Or is it…you’re more me than you? Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m just about to push you out. It’s just a matter of time now…maybe tonight the fox will get us? I know where he lives, down at the bottom of the hill. Really, how many more days can this go on? Better to end it now!”
“Shut up! Alright. I’ll do it, just be quiet.”
“Yes, can you just be quiet? Be quiet until it’s over?”
“That’s more than you did for me.”
The rabbit felt light-headed, warm. It gazed at the field. It was bright, beautiful, quiet. Peaceful.
“So, this is it,” the rabbit thought. “After all my days. Killed in the meadow by a drifting hawk.”
The rabbit stood, ran out to the middle of the field as fast as it could and stopped in the center.
It stood erect, proud, unflinching. For a moment, there was nothing. No sound or movement.
A dark shadow fell, there was a loud thud, and for a moment the rabbit was flying. Up, up, up. Then, everything went dark.
The falcon picked at the rabbit’s innards, ripping away its flesh. It threw the bloody, furry tissue up in the air and swallowed it. The kill was old now and parts had started to stink.
Suddenly, the wind blew and the falcon stopped, cocking its head to one side as if straining to hear.
“You know, I always wanted to fly,” a voice said.