Jacks had been scared of bunnies ever since she was little. For the life of her she could not remember why. But she so wanted to impress her new girlfriend that she was ready to swallow her fears and pretend really REALLY REALLY (teeth gritted) hard to love them. And make it as convincing as poss.
Her friend Tom had provided her with a mantra; ‘It’s just a bunny. Bunnies are harmless’. She would run this through when the bile rose in her throat and the desire for flight became present. They also implemented some ‘casual bunny exposure’, getting Jacks to Google pictures of bunnies, creating flash cards of positive things to describe them. She also downloaded a Japanese game that encouraged her to collect them and maintain their habitat, hoping to kick off a shred of empathy toward their beings.
It had been pretty hard going. The nightmares were frequent, with Jacks being chased across fields by a mob of fluffy cottontails and Amamis, their noses twitching with sheer rage as they wielded pitchforks and tiki torches. Well we told you she was scared of them. So weren’t kidding.
Her disrupted sleep was enough for Kale to notice. Kale was Jacks’ new girlfriend. She was very very very funny, clever and good looking. Jacks felt she had hit the jackpot, in a manner of speaking because obvs women are not objects or prizes for our pleasure etc. Anyways Jacks was pretty happy and Kale seemed likewise. They would spend weekends on the couch watching classic movies like Spiceworld and Labyrinth. There was A LOT of laughing. Sometimes it was irritating in a ‘so sweet I am going to fucking puke’ way. But that’s couples for you. It was nice that they got along so well in a world that always seemed in conflict or some shit.
The only problem was the bunnies. Some people were (rightly) freaked out by dolphins, poor harmless spiders triggered others and many wouldn’t have a bar of snakes. Jacks had seen people physically react to pictures of spiders and snakes on the internets. Clearly that was a bit much. She suspected that some childhood trauma had instigated her fears but it was buried deep down in her subconscious or wherever memories hid. I don’t know, I’m not a fricken psychologist.
Point being that Kale, blissfully unaware of Jacks’ speciesist tendencies, had organised a romantic sexy weekend away at a mother flipping bunny farm. IKR? Quelle horreur.
The bunnies were also free range (obviously to a perimeter) so they’d be wandering in and out of the little cottage Jacks and Kale would call home for the weekend. ‘YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK’ said Jacks’ brain.
‘Are you OK?’ Kale asked ‘You look like your face might explode?’.
‘Gosh sorry’ Jacks tried to recover, ‘Was just thinking about work – it’s been pretty stressful lately’.
‘I know darling, which is why I think a break would be a good idea’.
‘Totes would’ replied Jacks, knowing this break would be anything but. SO being the super anal organised human that she was, Jacks prepared herself. She sought advice, Googled ‘Can bunnies kill. And how?’, she secured a Valium script from her sympathetic GP. Said GP advised Jacks to tell Kale of her fears, honesty being the best policy and all that.
‘But I can’t’.
‘Of course you can’.
‘I don’t think I can. It’s the honeymoon period; she thinks I’m great. Surely it’d be better to wait until we’re in a rut and then lay it on her?’.
‘Look I see your point, but I’d like to go on record as your medical professional that I advise against this. I hope you choose to let her know’.
Jacks wasn’t gunna. She totes wasn’t. Her GP, a clued in being, seemed to sense this.
‘Look even if you ease into this. Go to the Children’s Farm, hang out near the bunny section, watch them being the gentle beings they are. Next week, go back and touch one for 10 seconds. Desensitise yourself’.
‘I’ll think about it’ Jacks replied rather unconvincingly.
As we know she did think about it and discarded her doctor’s advice. She had many excuses for doing so, all of which sounded great in her head but would never stand up to scrutiny outside of it. So she built coping strategies.
Soon the day came when Kale and Jacks hit the road, doing an obligatory stop at a country bakery, grabbing some local cellar door specials and heading up the winding country roads that would lead them to their destination. Jacks grip on the steering wheel had turned her knuckles to white, prompting several concerned comments from Kale.
‘Just still tired from work’ Jacks deflected, I’ll relax once we’re there.
And, seemingly, all at once they were there.
Oh the bunnies. They were everywhere, mounds of furry cloud hopping along, resting, sniffing at everything. Otherwise the hosts and the little cottage were perfect, there was even a view from the bath.
The girls unloaded, with Jacks stealing a moment to scoff a Valium to calm her nerves. In a moment of pre-calm a voice came out of nowhere.
‘Got the jitters have ya?’.
Jacks looked around. There were no humans in the vicinity. She noticed a large, white bunny with brown markings staring at her intently.
‘Yeah ya numbnuts, of course it’s me. Gawd you humans are a bit thick’.
Jacks swallowed hard and fast.
‘What do you want from me?’ was possibly not the best way to start.
‘I don’t want nothing from you. No wait. That’s a lie. There are two things I want’.
‘If you leave me alone I’ll do anything’.
‘And if you don’t we’ll get ya. Deal?’.
‘Do you remember when you were a little girl? Had a bunny named Minky’.
‘Yeah, I remember Minky. I loved her’.
‘Then why don’t you love us bunnies now?’.
‘I honestly can’t remember’.
The bunny made a tutting noise and appeared to slap its head with its paw.
‘Yeah. If I could remember what happened then maybe I could figure out why you all terrify me so much’.
‘It’s not us you should be scared of’ the bunny replied.
As their conversation progressed more and more bunnies came to see what was going on. Jacks’ hands were shaking. Where the hell had Kale gone? If she saw what was happening maybe they could go home and never speak of bunnies again. But Kale was in her element on the balcony; unpacked with a glass of wine in one hand, book in the other and a bunny on her lap. The bunny was a deliberate decoy, sent in by the colony so they could have a word with Jacks.
Back on the other side of the house, Jacks was repeating her mantra again and again.
‘If you know why I’m scared, why don’t you tell me?’
‘All in due course. We still have to go through my terms’.
‘Do go on…’.
‘Firstly, we wish you to repent for what has happened to our sister Minky’.
Here Jacks felt a little confused; she was pretty sure Minky had a pretty nice life.
‘Secondly we decree that you never eat another of our kind and leave us on Sunday promptly before check out, never to darken our door again’.
‘That’s three things’.
‘Do we need to add a fourth to deflate your big stupid dumb head?’.
‘No. I agree to your terms’.
‘Great. We’ll be visiting you in your dreams. Until then most of us will keep a safe distance because cripes you smell bad’.
The human and the bunnies went their respective ways.
After pouring herself a really biiiiiig glass of wine Jacks joined Kale on the balcony on one of those cool old school double swing seats.
‘What took you so long?’
‘Was just talking with the locals’.
‘Were they friendly’.
‘Ummmm…’ Jacks began. Decoy bunny met her eyes and wouldn’t let go.
‘Yeah they were adorable. So fluffy and soft’ she said, staring straight back at decoy bunny (its birth name was Ralph) with cynicism.
The two (plus Ralph) sat in their chairs without interruption for a while. It had been a long, warm drive and rest was needed. Plus Jacks was out of her fricking mind palace not knowing what would happen that night in her dreams. The wine and Valium eventually did their work though and she started to nod off as the sun went down (and not in a sexy way).
Jacks awoke, still on the swing, but covered in one of those rad crocheted blankets. The sight that awaited her caused Jacks to nearly fall of the swing set.
A committee of bunnies sat patiently before her with the large, white bunny with brown markings, at the head of the group. Her name was Joan, just FYI.
‘So nice of you to finally join us’ Joan said facetiously rubbing her paws against her face.
‘What have you done with Kale?’, Jacks was really concerned. She didn’t trust them one bit. Plus she really really wanted to vomit and have someone rub her back as she did so.
‘Like you, she is in her dreams’ Joan told her. Jacks still seemed unsure.
‘Wow, you humans are really suspicious. And you’re the ones who eat us, pot: kettle much?’.
‘I still want to see her’.
The bunnies led Jacks to the lounge room. Sure enough Kale was passed out on the couch in front of the fire, book draped across her eyes and snoring the snores of the wine encumbered.
‘You guys really know how to have a romantic getaway, don’t yas?’ Joan offered. She would have laughed but being a bunny this was not an option.
‘Whatever, fine. What do you need me to do’.
‘Follow us, we’ll lead the way’.
The way wasn’t actually too far so it was probably an exaggeration to call it thus. The way was actually a few metres beyond the cottage in a building Jacks had and hadn’t seen before. And yes, that is possible.
She knew the building because it was her childhood home. But she didn’t see it when they had booked in.
‘It wasn’t there then ya womble. We’re in your dream, remember?’ Joan told her.
‘You know we may get through this a lot quicker without me running away if you’re not so mean’.
‘I’m in no hurry’ Joan replied.
Jacks felt as though her brain was going to punch its way out of its shell. She remembered her mantra and began saying it out loud which triggered a general murmur from the bunny committee.
‘HOW OFFENSIVE!!!’ many of them were muttering to themselves and each other.
But Jacks wasn’t going to back down on this one. The mantra was the only thing tying her sanity together, albeit very loosely. They continued to move forward amidst the mutters and the mantra, heading towards Jacks’ childhood door.
Jacks had loved this house. And she had loved Minky, who was a present for her third birthday. Minky was fluffy and cute and she pooed in pellets and did that thing with her nose. Her ears were long and soft. Jacks’ attitude to her bunny kidnappers softened a little, but she was also scared.
What was in the house?
How did it relate to her bunny fear?
What if she got stuck in there and couldn’t get out.
‘You’ll be fine’ Joan said, ‘we just want to fix your attitude, which sucks arse. You think you’re scared? Try having a world of giants wanting to kill you and everyone you love, only to put them in a pie or wear them to the theatre, hang their feet in cars for good luck, caging you, painting make up on your face. You’ve got nothing to be scared of you privileged little human shit’.
Whilst Jacks could see her point, she was still wary and felt shivers as they stepped and hopped across the threshold.
The lounge room was off to the left and there sat little Jacks in some kind of frou frou excuse for a frock, even littler Minky on her lap. Jacks was in her element, patting Minky, brushing her soft ears and watching the little twitch, twitch, twitch of her nose. After a while she set Minky on the couch, promising to be back soon with some delicious lettuce.
But, being a child, Jacks got distracted. Time sped up as she was watching her history unfold. It was half an hour later before anyone re-entered the lounge room. It was dad. Jacks let out a sigh. She missed her dad. He was tall and awkward and her mum divorced him because quite simply, they didn’t click. He was a good egg. And then he died.
Dad set down his coffee and, with the morning’s paper under his arm, went to settle into the couch Jacks had left Minky in. She could feel herself screaming out ‘Noooooooo’ but of course Dad couldn’t hear her. She heard a squishing noise, a pop and watched Dad’s bewildered face as he tried to figure out why the couch was so uncomfortable. At that moment little Jacks walked in. A look of horror spread over her face.
‘DAD, MINKY!!!!’ she screamed. The look of horror was then shared, spread over parent and child. Her dad stood up slowly, holding out one hand to keep Jacks at bay. But she was too quick.
Minky was a mess. An eye had popped out and blood was oozing from her. Dream Jacks started screaming. Real Jacks started screaming.
‘You killed our sister’ Joan said, pointing a paw at her.
The dream characters faded and Jacks fell to the floor, sobbing.
‘I’m so sorry. I should have looked after her’.
The committee of bunnies looked very sad.
A grey bunny with an officious manner shuffled to the front. It would not look Jacks in the eye.
‘You seem remorseful, yes, but how can we tell you are sincere?’.
‘I’ll do anything, give you anything to convince you, what do you want?’.
‘We need you to tell Kale of Minky’s murder’ officious bunny said very solemnly.
‘If you do not do so by midnight tonight we will haunt you for the rest of your days’.
‘I promise, I’ll do it as soon as we wake up’.
The bunny committee started to get harder to focus on. Eventually their image dissipated as Jacks eyes forced themselves open.
‘There you are, crusty face’ Kale greeted her.
‘Hurry up, breakfast is almost done’.
Kale lent in to kiss Jacks, screwed up her face and headed back into the kitchen.
‘And please, for the love of chips please brush your teeth’.
Jacks did as she was told.
Settling down at the table Jacks looked at her newish beloved.
‘There’s something I need to tell you’ she began.
Kale looked nervous, swallowing down on a noice piece of rye.
‘It’s not about us. It’s about me. Something that happened in my childhood. Something I need to tell you’.
And she did.
Jacks and Kale never ate a bunny again. They were eventually married (with Joan’s permission) at the cottage, surrounded by both human and bunny friends.
It was a lovely wedding.