OUT THERE—G. Hogg peers out from below the stairs—surprisingly alert for having just woken moments ago from her usual six-month nap. Her sharp eyes scan the people-less landscape before her. Directly across from her under-stair lair sits a dwelling, presumably occupied by humans, for it is drab and square like humans typically are. This building irks her. Its ostentatious black shutters feature rabbit-shaped decorative cut-outs. Hogg considers this stylistic choice. Her feelings on rabbits are largely ambivalent. Encounters with them are limited to the occasional turf war over neighborhood gardens, that sort of thing. Nervous critters, they are. Probably could stand to cool their hoppity heels a bit. But on the whole, no, she doesn’t think much of rabbits. And so—having now extracted herself from beneath the stairs—she turns with a rankled shrug from the sight of those leporine silhouettes and undulates off into the shrubbery.
Dashing through the undergrowth, G. Hogg picks up speed. She whips recklessly through vegetation that has thickened and sprawled. Her eyes are still ticklish to light after her long nap and she blinks and shakes her head.
What is it she sees when she blinks? It’s those blasted rabbits. Blotchy black rabbits on a white field.
Thus distracted, G. Hogg careens head-on towards a tree. At the last instant a large foot materializes and provides an impediment—WHUMP!—though striking the large, heavy foot was no more pleasant than striking the tree would’ve been.
Attached to the foot is a tall personage of regal bearing, who makes a shallow, creaking bow. It’s the tree’s guardian spirit, Mother Wood.
MOTHER WOOD: Hello, G. Hogg!
G. HOGG (shaking it off): Hello, Mother Wood. Thanks!
MOTHER WOOD (bows again): Any time.
G. HOGG: Hey, where did everybody go?
MOTHER WOOD: You mean the people.
G. HOGG: I woke up and they’re all gone!
MOTHER WOOD: Yes, it’s a fairly recent development. You’ve just come from the Nobody Zone, I take it. Tell me, what did you see there?
G. HOGG: You haven’t been?
MOTHER WOOD: Not since it first came into existence, no.
G. HOGG: Well, there’s not much to see. Lots of boring boxes.
MOTHER WOOD: Buildings, I believe they were called.
G. HOGG: Right. All empty. No people anywhere. Zippo.
MOTHER WOOD: I see. And what about other entities?
G. HOGG: Other whatities?
MOTHER WOOD: Have you seen any beings who . . . aren’t people?
G. HOGG (exploring the bump on her forehead with her paws): I’m not sure. What would the non-people persons be doing?
MOTHER WOOD: That is the question.
As the smarting pain on her forehead recedes into a tender ache, G. Hogg is again irritated by the blotches in her vision, which even a kick to the head have failed to dislodge.
G. Hogg blinks her eyes. . . Rabbits . . . Mother Wood . . . Rabbits . . . Mother Wood . . .
MOTHER WOOD: Are you okay? You seem twitchier than normal.
G. HOGG: There’s something wrong with my eyes!
MOTHER WOOD: Here, let me have a look. Lean back. . . . Hm. . . . Yes, I see! You have ghost rabbits in your eyes. What an interesting development!
G. HOGG (drops her head): I should’ve guessed it’d be something like that. Is it fatal?
MOTHER WOOD: Not usually.
This fails to cheer up G. Hogg.
G. HOGG: I’m not a big fan of rabbits. What should I do?
Mother Wood is silent for a moment. Then she grins and bends down with a great squawk of her wooden spine and creak of her limbs and whispers into G. Hogg’s ear.
As Mother Wood’s whisper rustles on, G. Hogg’s ears slowly flatten until they lie like strips of velvet upon her head. When Mother Wood ceases to speak, the ears prick back up.
G. HOGG: Flags, you say? Hmm. And they’re attracted to the colors? How strange. What do I do once the little buggers have amassed in the clearing?
Again Mother Wood leans down—bark snapping and peeling off her sides—and murmurs into the little animal’s ear.
G. HOGG: Ah, I see. Right, then! I better get started if I’m going to finish setting this up before nightfall.
She lopes off, Mother Wood smiling after her with the closest her wretched countenance comes to resembling benevolence.
G. Hogg arrives breathless in the rabbits’ favorite clearing. She suspects their warren lies below it, though the long-legged fiends are so clandestine in their movements that she has never once caught them in the act of ducking below ground. Mind you, not that she’s been particularly interested enough to spend much time studying their cryptic behavior. She has far more crucial demands requiring her attention than the observation of a band of meddlesome cabbageheads.
In the day’s fading light she rushes around stabbing into the ground the flag markers she procured from the shed above her burrow, following Mother Wood’s precise instructions. Her preparations now complete, she surveys the scene with a contented shiver before creeping behind a large rock to await the arrival of her nemeses.
As night deepens, G. Hogg becomes sleepy. This is odd after having so recently taken a long nap.
In the evening blue half-light, the clearing grows bleary. Red flags become radishes that weigh down their vines in thick ruby clusters. Orange flags become carrots that grow in bunches among dried carrot-flower bracts and petals. Yellow flags become summer squash that have plumped up from the earth amid a tangle of rhizomal filaments. Is G. Hogg dreaming? This is not how food works.
But the rabbits in G. Hogg’s eyes have become restless. They flicker and stir in her field of vision, superimposed over this spontaneous night garden of culinary delights. Dozens of them leap like sparks among the vegetation, munching and devouring. At the moment there are more rabbits in G. Hogg’s eyes than there have ever been. But as the vegetation is eaten down, closer and closer to the ground, the rabbit shapes follow. They follow the vegetation down into the earth and keep devouring until they have disappeared, seeped down into their secret warren. G. Hogg hears the faint rumble of them gnawing deep underground.
Well, that was a lot for one day. G. Hogg decides another nap is in order.
In the morning she wakes, feeling fresh and bright eyed. The clearing is empty. No flags, no strangely configured food, and no rabbits. Thank you, Mother Wood!
Not far from the clearing is an ancient site—G. Hogg scampers through it without noticing and is happily on to other excavations—which has aged as only things in an After-People world can age. Here lie the remains of a rabbit, bones changed by time into petrified wood. Long rabbit legs extended. From the hardened stump of a skull its rabbit ears are still erect and alert.
Study of the site suggests it was a domesticated rabbit. A pet. Its name was Bun-Bun and it lived its life in a hutch, fed by the hand of its owner. It didn’t know where its food came from or how it grew. It had never seen food growing. Then its owner disappeared.
And so Bun-Bun began to disappear, too, withering away to bones, growing very still, and ever dreaming of what lay beyond its drab, gray box.
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