The Rabbit Race and a Very Large Dog
“Who’s Alice?” Jamal demanded.
The Hare fell over. “No, no--nay, no it can’t, can’t be. Alice… don’t you remember? Me, the hair?” He stood back up. “Oh, of course you do. You're just pretending, Alice, now really.
“I don’t know who the heck you are, and I don't give a crap who Alice is. I’m looking for Chicago. You seen it?”
“Chi-ca-go? Never heard of it. Is this like the London you live in?”
“Kinda, but a little more rad and hip-hop.” Jamal said, finding it hard to believe that he was talking with a rabbit.
“Hopping? I can hop. Oh-ho! That reminds me-- I've got to get to my race. Do come Alice.”
“I ain’t Alice, I’m telling you, you got me wrong.”
The rabbit grinned a buck-toothed grin. “Come now, Alice. You love racing. Your friends, the mice will be there. Follow me!” He hopped off through the tall grass, leaving Jamal no choice but to follow. They traveled for almost a mile, the hare hopping in front with Jamal in a slow jog behind. He was glad that he had been on the varsity basketball team, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to keep up. That hare could really move! The terrain was somewhat hilly and as they rounded the last bend on a minute deer trail they came across a clearing.
It was filled with some of the strangest animals he had ever seen. There were hedgehogs the size of large dogs, hundreds of rabbits, badgers that walked on their hind legs, and finally a huge swarm of mice that seemed to move as one mind, running in a large blob all over each other until it seemed that they weren’t mice but a large species of alien goo.
The hare strode into the center of the clearing and cried out a greeting. “Hail thee and well met! As we gather together on this fine day for our annual rabbit race, we are once again graced by the strange and majestic lady from the tediumland of London--”
“I’m not a lady, and i’m from Chicago, not London. Who the hell is tediumland? And don’t you dare call me Alice again.”
“Who’s this, hare?” one of the larger badgers spoke up. “Have you brought the wrong Alice?” he said. “You do know the punishment for doing that, don’t you?”
The hare stepped back, intimidated. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. As he retreated the badgers formed a circle and the large one spoke again
“DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE! You’ve doomed us all! How do I go home and explain this to my pups?”
“Come on, Barkus. We can at least avenge ourselves against our enemy, can’t we?” the other badgers began cracking their knuckles eagerly. The hare tried to defend himself, but he couldn’t bring his snout to form any noise at all. When he finally mastered his throat all that came through those buck teeth was a high and terrified peep.
Barkus sighed. “There's nothing i can do for you now, hare. I’ve stopped them before, but this is the last straw.” he waved for the badgers to have their way with the hare.
Seeing the hare so helpless, and seeing the brutal way the badgers looked at the hare, Jamal felt something move in his heart. Not entirely sure what he was doing, he cried out. “Wait!” when everyone stopped and looked at him he said, “i’m not Alice--”
“That much is obvious.” Said Barkus.
“But this is where i’m supposed to be. It… the change was ordered.”
“Absolem ordered this change?”
“Who-- Oh, yes, it was Absolem.” Jamal couldn’t believe his luck.
“Is that so?” Barkus wasn’t convinced
“Yes, and so you better let that hare go, because Absolem would be very angry if anything happened to his hare.”
Then, to his surprise, Barkus began to laugh. No-one else joined in, but Barkus didn’t care. He laughed so hard he could barely stand. Finally he composed himself enough to say, “A fools own mouth will always be the undoing of him. So you think that Absolem wouldn't like us to hurt the poor little hare? There wouldn’t be anything Absolem would like better than to throw this miserable rat into the nearest hell-shaft. You should’ve left it off where it was. You nearly had me too.”
Another badger spoke up. “What are we going to do with not-Alice? Can we have him too?”
Barkus sized Jamal up, and saw that his fists were ready for trouble.
“No… i don’t think that that would work well. I have a better idea.” Then, to the hare, he said, “Give me your watch! Now!” The hare practically threw it at him in his haste. Barkus examined it for a second, then said, “Right on time. You wouldn’t have happened to lock the door you came through into wonderland, would you have?”
“No, I didn't see no lock. Why?” Jamal said.
“Perfect. Now, to the business of the hare. What would you do if we ignored your plea to stop and continued on to finish his miserable existence? What could you even do against all of us?”
Jamal thought fast. He didn’t remember much about badgers from school, but he knew that they were often very fierce fighters. The only predator he could think of that would pick a fight with a badger was a wolf or dog. Suddenly as he looked around the ring of animals and realized that they were all hunted by wolves and dogs. Inspiration struck.
“You better not. I’ve got a dog. He’s so big, he could eat y’all in one bite. If y’all don’t listen up, i’ll sic em’ on you, and that ain't a pretty sight.”
They all staggered back in fear, but Barkus remained unmoved. “Really. How big is it exactly?”
Jamal hesitated. He didn’t actually own a dog, so he didn’t want to say something too big. He remembered that Mardinon’te owned a dog, and that it was kinda big, but he decided to say that it was a bit bigger. “It comes up to about here.” he said, holding his hand up to his belly button.
Several of the rabbits took off running, but Barkus was skeptical“Does it by any chance have red markings around its eyes?”
“Red markings around its eyes? No. Why?”
“If it did, you would have just described a young hellhound. Even a young hellhound has the strength to tear all of us apart.”
“Yeah he can, and if you don’t get lost, i’ll send him after you.”
“If you were telling the truth, i still wouldn’t be afraid. You agreed that it was the size of a young hellhound, but, as it turns out, i have a large one.”
The air around him rose at an alarming rate and he heard a snarl from behind him. Turning, he saw the beast from the room with the doors pawing the ground with its teeth bared. Barkus grinned and said, “sic ‘em, Cerberus.”
It charged, but jamal dove out of the way. Snatching up the hare he bolted off into the woods in hopes of losing the dog amidst the trees. He was hardly into the bushes when the trees around him burst into flames. “So much for cover,” he thought. Sprinting in a zig-zagging pattern around the trees he searched wildly for anything he could use.
“The hellhound crashed into the trees as he raced after Jamal. “You can’t run forever.” it growled, then it unleashed a torrent of fire from its mouth that was so hot that it sliced right through several trees.
Jamal willed himself to run faster as they began toppling behind him. On and on they went, until Jamals side began to ache and he felt himself getting dizzy from the hellhound’s heat. As they went farther from the prairie the air seemed to get wetter, and Jamal feared that they might run into a lake, or worse, a bog. There would be no way for him to outrun the beast in mud. The air around him was still very hot, but he could see that outside the hellhounds heat aura there were bits of bluish fog floating about, and the trees were stopping almost all the sunshine.
Then to his right he heard a burbling stream. In a final and desperate dash he leaped across by running on the tops of several stones. Exhausted he fell to his knees, dropping the hare and turning to see if that had stopped the hellhound.
It skidded to a stop, but it couldn’t halt in time, and one of its feet splashed into the icy water. It instantly began to steam, and the hellhound jerked it back out and howled. “I will find you eventually, and then you will never be able to run.” With that, it turned and limped off back towards the caucus race.
Jamal had caught his breath, so he stood and looked about him. The hare at his feet was still unconscious from the intense heat. Not a creature stirred as far as he could see. It was kinda spooky, not having any noise. Wherever he went in the city he could always hear cars honking, people talking, sirens, airplanes, and whatever else was going on. But here there was nothing but silence. He kinda liked it.
Bending over he shook the hare gently. “Hey bud, wake up.”
It moaned and stretched. For a second it looked like a normal rabbit, aside from the pocket watch and coat, but then its eyes opened and jamal saw that they were almost entirely white with only a small dot for the pupil. The hare looked around, then bolted off into the semidarkness.
Exhausted as Jamal was, he went to run after him, but a voice from behind him said, “Don’t bother, he is of no importance to you at the moment.”