The rabbits of Sage Hollow were a fickle bunch, falling in and out of love with each other as well as whatever fads and sensations they brought back from their travails on the outside. Ian Arbutus had tapped into the secret of his species by ingesting timothy-grass and pulque which he’d brewed from the maguey plant’s sap. With the body temperature driven to dangerous levels, the rabbit collective of Aztec mythology, Centzon Totochtin, shared their secrets with him. As the fever broke, Ian waited for a sign of Two Father’s arrival. He clenched his lucky rabbit’s foot (his own, which he’d lost the previous summer to a tractor blade) and meditated on it, intoning the vibrations that permeated his body. He thumped his tail with urgency as he awaited the next communication.
Ian thought he saw movement from the furthest burrow, but it was just his shadow which loomed large to swallow up every sunbeam that reached into the leparidae’s earth. It hadn’t been his imagination. Something was approaching through the warren in digitigrade form like most rabbits did mid-run. Two Rabbit greeted him with detached reverence. Ian gave the slightest dip of obeisance in order to receive the newest sacred communication. As many times as Ian had summoned his cryptic visitor, he didn’t get the impression that Two Rabbit was physically incorporated into the environment. Instead, he seemed to move like fog or condensation against the glass of the humans’ automobiles. Something else which he frequently noted: Two Rabbit’s faces, married by inches so that everything to one side was the mirror image of the other. Despite this, Two Rabbit’s multiple visages never moved in absolute harmony. One set of eyes would flinch or squint as he used the other set to peer into the nature of the communer. Two Rabbit unraveled a human fist and furtively dabbed out the latest secret into Ian Arbutus’ waiting paw. The rabbit god walked backward as shadows pooled over him. When the rolling blackness lifted, Ian observed only weeds.
The secrets always came in the form of walnuts which he cracked open with his teeth, then he would let the information coalesce over him as a season of genetic memory. As he broke the nutshell, a stick figure with the resemblance of a bipedal humanoid performed a lethargic dance in the center of his paw. He stared for so long at the vertigo swaying that he’d lost the need to blink. He had to will himself to breathe again. The stick figure bent itself backward and tumbled as if trying to pass under a limbo pole on the lowest rung. Then it collapsed. For a split second, he was sure he saw the gloss of tiny wires compelling the movement of the tulpa. He waved his hand above it and found no such wires. That’s when they became separated. The stick figure tulpa waved goodbye as it slid down his arm into another reality.
Ian was beyond the rabbits of Sage Hollow. He savored the transcendence, moving through stages of enlightenment and ennui, then moving beyond that as well. It was like having his own genus. That was the only way he could describe it to the others later. He baffled himself as he realized he’d already codified his current situation to the rabbits in the past tense. He already had the words stored away in his mind for what he was now experiencing.
After he became human, he found himself busking on a street corner. There was a new walnut in his hand. Failing to break it with his human teeth, he dropped it to the ground and crushed it under his Doc Martens.
At his feet, there were two stick figures like the one he’d seen earlier only these were made from folded paper like little origami men. He could definitely see wires controlling their movements. He gazed up from the lively origami to find a sea of people transfixed on his spectacle of Siguijor. Somewhere in that crowd, Ian could see Two Rabbit trying to reach him though he was visually absent. He squinted until he could see his way back to Sage Hollow. Closing that pair of eyes once again, Ian used the other pair to cajole the paper puppets into the nutshell. The wires resisted his pull at first but the tulpas eventually settled in for transportation. They did finally release their tenuous hold after a short struggle. He thought he saw more wires glistening over his head, hanging there like ominous floss, but he waved his hand overhead and found no such wires. A disturbing thought occurred to him then that made him stall in his transition back to lagomorph. That thought was this: What if we’re the stick figures, and there are enough wires for all of us?
Jeremy Maddux is Co-Editor of Surreal Grotesque magazine and hosts the podcast of the same name where he interviews authors on the cutting edge of underground fiction (Horror, Bizarro, Slipstream). He served two years as Vice President of a local writer’s group and has a story forthcoming in the Fireside Popsicles anthology this spring via Fireside Press. He may or may not look like Blanka.