Copyright © 2018 Alby Stone
‘Oh, man,’ said Tripsy Bunny, picking himself up and dusting himself down. ‘The comedown’s always the worst part. Where the hell am I, anyway?’
The last thing he remembered after that hookah-smoking caterpillar had given him some kind of mushroom was hopping dreamily across his home field, under tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Then there had been the kid in the wheelchair, a brown-faced girl in her early teens, who had called to him, then spun her wheels rapidly as she gave chase. After that…
‘Oh, bugger.’ He remembered now. The girl had grabbed at his third-luckiest foot – rear and left – just as he’d tumbled down an unfamiliar hole, one he would swear hadn’t been there before. He looked around him and, in the gloom, he saw the chair lying on its side, the uppermost wheels still turning lazily. Beyond the chair, an outstretched leg, unmoving.
Tripsy regarded the leg thoughtfully. He really ought to take a look, see if the chick was okay. On the other hand, he was still stoned into the middle of next week on that mushroom, so it might just be a hallucination. But, he thought, did it matter? It was his duty as a leporid to ensure good luck, happiness and plenty of whatever makes you feel good. ‘A bunny is not just for Easter,’ as his kind’s motto went. With a sigh, and a little unsteadily, he hopped over to see if there really was a girl and a wheelchair, and if they required assistance.
The girl was just regaining consciousness when he reached her. She gazed up at him, at first with confusion, then with delight. ‘You’re real!’
‘Of course I’m real,’ said Tripsy. ‘The question is, are you?’
‘I’m quite sure I am,’ she said, a little crossly. ‘But I wasn’t sure about you. I’ve never seen a bunny like you before. I mean, wild rabbits aren’t usually white. And they don’t wear those.’ She pointed.
Tripsy looked down at his Hendrix t-shirt. ‘This one does. Oh, you must mean the shades. They’re prescription. Cool, though, huh? Took me ages to find proper round ones. Some spaced-out hippie must have lost them after that festival they had round here a few years back.’
‘No, I meant those.’ She pointed again. ‘The rabbit in Alice wore a waistcoat with a pocket watch, so I wasn’t surprised about the t-shirt. But jeans?’
‘Hey, that rabbit with the waistcoat was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-recurring grandfather. Alice? We still talk about her. Crazy girl, totally off her head. Not surprised she blabbed. Couldn’t keep her mouth shut for five seconds all the time she was down here. Must have been the ‘shrooms. So what’s your name? They call me Tripsy.’
‘I’m Fern. I was with my friend Kate but we had an argument and she went home and left me here all on my own. She can be a right cow when she wants to be.’
‘Not the kind of thing you do to a friend,’ Tripsy agreed. ‘Do you want a hand to get back into the chair?’
‘I can manage,’ said Fern. She managed to right the chair then laboriously clambered into it and made herself comfortable. ‘So, is there anything interesting down here?’
‘Well, there are rabbits,’ said Tripsy. ‘Lots of rabbits. More than four. I expect most of them are making silflay right now.’
‘I’ve read Watership Down,’ said Fern excitedly. ‘Can we go outside and watch them eat?’
Tripsy rolled his eyes. ‘Richard Adams got that one wrong,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t mean eating above ground at all. It means – you know.’
‘No, I don’t. What does it mean?’
Tripsy sighed. ‘Look, we’re rabbits, okay? What are rabbits famous for?’
Fern shrugged. ‘Lucky feet? Floppy ears? Soft, cuddly fur? Cute twitchy noses and bobbed tails?’
‘Never mind,’ said Tripsy, wishing he had a joint to smoke now the ‘shroom had mostly worn off. ‘So you’ve read Watership Down and think you know all about rabbits, huh? Well, let me tell you, nearly everything Adams wrote was bullshit. He got all his information from a hare, and you know what liars they are. Most of them are mad anyway.’
‘I thought that was a myth.’
‘Yeah, and you thought silflay meant al fresco dining. You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, especially if it’s from a hare. Anyway, why are you that colour? Most of the humans round this way have complexions like plucked chickens, but you’re as brown as a nut. No offence.’
‘None taken. I think. Well, I’m brown because I’m of mixed heritage.’
Tripsy was puzzled. ‘Mixed heritage? What, you mean you’re half human and half something else? Like a mule?’
‘No, silly. I mean my parents were different colours. Like rabbits. It’s very important to humans. Why are you white?’
‘Technically, I’m an albino. White fur, pink eyes. It happens sometimes and we don’t care about it. Rabbits don’t mind what colour they are. Only one heritage, and that’s rabbit. Is it different for humans?’
‘Oh yes. There are different kinds of human. We call them races or ethnicities, and they’re usually defined by their colour. We’re all very proud of our heritage and wouldn’t want to be anything else.’
‘So brown humans are better than white ones? That doesn’t make any sense.’
‘Well, no. No colour human is better than another.’
‘Then what is there to be proud of? Human is human, just like rabbit is rabbit.’
‘Yes, but some humans like to think their colour makes them better than the others.’
‘The brown ones?’
‘No. Well, yes – some do, I suppose. But mostly it’s the white ones who think they’re better. Though quite a few don’t, come to think of it.’
‘Where do these white humans hang out? I’ve never seen one.’
‘Well, I suppose they’re not really white as such. Actually, everyone’s one shade of brown or another, from very light to quite dark. But we do have albinos, just like rabbits, and they can be any colour.’
‘So one colour isn’t better than another, but some of you think they are, and some don’t – and you’re all brown anyway, but even the albinos think they’re different colours. That’s as crazy as hare-talk. Makes me glad to be a rabbit.’
‘I’m glad you’re a rabbit too,’ said Fern, smiling. ‘I think rabbits are so nice.’
‘You haven’t met my cousin Dylan,’ said Tripsy. ‘He’s just plain weird. Spends all his time hanging out at the kiddies’ playground a couple of fields from here with a bunch of strange humans and a cow – and, get this, he sees giant snails. And my other cousin Bugs is so crazy he should have been born in a form.’
‘Do you have many cousins?’
Tripsy shrugged. ‘More than four. Plus more than four brothers and sisters.’
‘That sounds a lot.’
‘We’re rabbits,’ said Tripsy. ‘You don’t get just a couple.’
‘So what else do you have down here, apart from quite a few rabbits?’
Tripsy shook his head, more to dispel the residual psilocybin fog than out of annoyance. ‘Oh, lots of things. We’ve got bouncy castles, candy-floss machines, sarsaparilla fountains, chocolate grottoes, puppies, the Queen of Hearts, kittens and unicorns. Honestly, what do you think? You just fell down a rabbit hole and this, surprisingly enough, is a bloody warren. It’s pretty much rabbits all the way, kiddo.’
Fern was disappointed. ‘Is that it? I mean, I love bunnies – but you can have too much of a good thing. Is there really nothing else?’
‘Well, if I’ve got my bearings right, somewhere around here there’s a secret side burrow where I keep a magic pony that can grant wishes and heal the sick.’
‘Fern’s eyes widened. ‘A real magic pony? Can it cure broken spines? I’m really fed up with being in this wheelchair. I wouldn’t be in it at all if Kate hadn’t pushed me out of that mango tree when we went back in time to see Bob Marley at the One Love Peace Concert.’
Tripsy nodded sagely. ‘You’re right. She really is a cow. And you shouldn’t trust strangers who offer to show you a magic pony. Lucky for you I’m on the level, even if logic and proportion appear to have fallen sloppy-dead today. Okay, let’s go and see the nag. Tell you what, you can even keep it. I’ve had it up to here with hauling bales of hay down here for it.’
He led the girl through a maze of tunnels. Sometimes it was a tight squeeze and Tripsy had to push the wheelchair really hard to get it and its passenger through. But, at last, they came to Tripsy’s secret burrow. And there, sitting on a silver throne carved with mystical runes and munching spiced hay from a golden manger, was the magic pony. Its hide was like a velvet rainbow, its silky mane shimmered, and its eyes were as blue as two huge sapphires. It neighed when it saw Tripsy and Fern, rising politely to tap out a welcome in Morse code with an elegant front hoof.
Fern gasped at the wonderful sight. ‘Magic pony,’ she cried. ‘Please would you heal my broken spine?’
The pony snorted and reared back on its hind legs. There was a flash of purple light – and suddenly Fern was standing upright, her fractured bones now whole and strong. As Fern ran around testing her regained mobility in a joyous, tearful frenzy, the pony looked enquiringly at Tripsy, who shrugged and said ‘Sure, why not? The usual, Dobbin.’
There was another purple flash and Tripsy found himself holding a large joint with a smouldering end. While Fern was hugging the pony and squealing her thanks to Tripsy for his wonderful gift, the rabbit smoked the joint then settled down for a nap and a sweet dream or two. Maybe later he’d go and see if Jessica was interested in a spot of silflay, now that her loser boyfriend had finally succeeded in getting himself eaten by weasels.
The kid and the pony could find their own way out. If they were lucky they might even get past that fierce bad rabbit that had come to visit from Wales. But they’d need to be very lucky. That bunny had a killer streak a mile wide.
With apologies to David Gleave and – well, just about everyone, really.