Run, Rabbit. Run.- Vamplit #fridayflash fiction by Paul D. Dail

What does the future hold?

Some of you may have noticed that this isn’t what I promised last week.  I’ll explain shortly.  And to maintain the variety, I won’t be posting another story next Friday (you’ll just have to wait).  Instead, I’ll be talking about book censorship, book banning, and how we white guys need to remember our place.

But without further ado…

Last week I touted how my story this week (Waiting for the Train) at just over 1,700 words was the shortest piece of fiction I had written in years.

That was until I ran across Friday Flash Fiction, hosted by Vamplit Publishing.  The goal?  Take the weekly topic (in this case, Hidden Places) and compose a complete short story at less than 1,000 words (for most of us, that’s less than four pages).  My first draft was 1,210 words, which meant I had to cut almost a full page while still maintaining the crucial content of the story.  This was an amazing exercise that tested not only my sentence structuring, but also decisions about which details were essential to the story.  So at a final count of 999 words, I hope you enjoy… Run, Rabbit. Run.

 

There was something about jackrabbits that always creeped out Pete Cantrell.  Something about the way they moved.  More gangly than their cuter cousins, they loped along when they walked, as if evolution got stuck somewhere between a cottontail and coyote.

Not long after Pete and his wife Wendy moved into their house in the middle of twenty undeveloped acres, Pete had a nightmare in which the world was a scarred apocalyptic landscape.  The only humans that had survived were distorted into twisted creatures scouring the wasteland on all fours.  In the nightmare, these aberrations loped, and they had the same glassy, lifeless marbled eyes of the jackrabbit.

Ever since, it seemed like whenever Pete went outside, there was one standing there.  Staring at him.  Watching him with those glassy, lifeless marbled eyes.

But not this morning.  On weekends Pete liked to get up before Wendy and go for a walk out on his property.  He would follow the deer trails through the brush and juniper trees, crossing a wash where the land dropped down, ending at a small copse of junipers, a quiet spot where he liked to go be by himself.

There was a chill in the air this morning.  Autumn was getting ready to give way to Winter.  It was late enough for the sun to have risen over the mountains, but it was hidden behind gray clouds.  Even the birds were silent as Pete made his way away into the maze of sagebrush.

As he walked, he kept his eyes down, scanning for arrowheads or fragments of chipped stone from tools that had been worked.  Several hundred years before any white faces found this part of the world, this land had been Fremont Indian hunting grounds.  To date, Pete had only found chipped off pieces, but where there were chips, there were usually tips to be found also.

He was almost to the clump of trees–his “thinking spot”–when he spotted something metal off to his right.  He stepped over some brush, bent down and picked up a metal lunchbox with pictures from the old Lone Ranger TV show.  It even showed Tonto.

Something shifted inside when he picked it up, and Pete opened it.  “I’ll be damned,” he said, pulling out a plastic baggie.  The lunchbox also contained some cigarette rolling papers and matches.

Pete hadn’t smoked grass in years, but the familiar scent wafting out of the lunchbox brought back old cravings.  He looked around to see if he could spot anyone.  The closest road was back by his house, probably a half mile, and the next house was at least a mile.  Kids must be going to some pretty great lengths to get high these days.

“Their loss,” he said.  Figuring some teenager must’ve ditched the lunchbox, he continued to the trees where he sat down in the dirt and rolled a joint.  The weed was potent, and it only took a couple puffs to feel the effects.  He was about to lie down on his back when he saw a flash of gray movement not ten feet away behind a clump of sagebrush.  He jumped up, his first thought being, Coyote!  He was ready to make a dash, but before he could, he saw a jackrabbit instead.  Probably the biggest one he had seen, the size of a small mutt.  And almost as mangy.

Pete’s heart slowed, and he laughed at his previous panic.  The jack just stared at him.  Pete reached down, picked up a rock and threw it at the rabbit, but the rabbit disappeared.  “What the…?”

Tentatively (it wasn’t a coyote, but it was still a wild animal), he stepped toward where it had been.  There was a dark hole in the ground, probably a foot in diameter, like a little cave slanting underground.  Even with all the rabbits in the area, this was the first time Pete had found the entrance to one of their hutches.  It surprised him how big the hole was, and he hesitated before getting much closer.  He didn’t see the jack, but he knew it was down there, probably just out of range of the light.  He raised himself up on his tiptoes to try and see a little further into the hole.

That’s when he spotted the arrowhead lying in the dirt a few inches past the lip of the hole.  Possibly obsidian.  Black in the center, but like smoky glass at the edges.  Beautiful.

Just a few inches into the hole.

Just before the line of shadow.

Pete broke a dead branch off one of the junipers.  Holding it in one hand like a club, he reached slowly down towards the hole…

* * *

Wendy Cantrell woke with a start.

Had she heard a scream?

She dismissed it as a remnant from a nightmare.  She swung her legs off the bed and hopped across the cold hardwood floor to her slippers.  She wrapped herself in her robe before walking into the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee and heading out onto her deck.  Pete was usually back from his morning walks by now, but sometimes he lost track of time.

Just as she was sitting down, a jackrabbit scrambled out of the sagebrush.  Wendy didn’t hate the jackrabbits like Pete did.  In fact, she sort of liked them.  They were survivors in a world full of predators, including gun-happy rednecks.  But one thing she could agree on was that there was something a little unsettling about their eyes.  Staring, unflinching, cold.

But this one was different.  It appeared more frantic.  Panicked.  It stepped one direction, looked quickly side to side, then started in another direction.  Then it spotted Wendy on the porch and stopped.

For a brief instant, Wendy had a crazy thought.

Peter?

But before she could make sense of the thought, a coyote bolted out of the brush in a snarl and tore the jackrabbit off the ground in its maw and disappeared back into the wild.

What do I want from you?

While part of me wants to know what you thought of the story, I’m more curious to know if there are any creatures out there (real creatures, that is) that give you the creeps.   And if you liked this, be sure to check out Vamplit Publishing to see other examples of #fridayflash horror fiction.

And don’t forget to check back next Friday for my discussion of book censorship, book banning, and how we white guys need to remember our place.

Advertisements

36 responses to “Run, Rabbit. Run.- Vamplit #fridayflash fiction by Paul D. Dail

  1. I like it! I am a fan of flash fiction – have posted and written a handful myself, mostly because I was intrigued by the concept of telling an actual, complete story in so few words. (Incidentally, there are some sites that limit you to 500 or even 250 words – to me, much under 1000 and you are heavily into anecdote territory, because it’s tough to get an arc in 2.5 paragraphs… But that may just be me.)

    I think one of the special beauties of the flash fiction gig is the twisty ending – mine tend to go that route too, leaving things just a little unclear, just a little “huh, did that REALLY happen?”. I like reading stories that leave the reader able to do some interpreting, so even tho I tend to prefer long books on the whole (my list of little stories that you so kindly posted last week notwithstanding), I find that I often prefer flash fiction to standard short stories.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Oh – as for animals that freak me out, I’d have to go with squirrels. They have beady eyes like rats (I’m with you there Blaze), they chitter away like alien babies, and they have the creepiest little hands… BLECH!

    • Thanks, Jill. I can’t imagine a “story” under 500 words. 1000 was tough enough. I appreciate your comments. I think given the word count, there is not much choice except to leave some things up to the reader to fill in. I read Blaze’s story last week and had one point that I really wondered about that was left up to the reader, I believe.

      Oh, and I was curious to hear more along the lines of your “free book” story. When you mentioned that it was a little darker, my mind started taking off on the possibilities.

      • My “no such thing as a free book” story is running on the blog now, actually – part one yesterday, part two today. I have no idea how many more parts – at least two, set for next week, but the story is still not done (teehee – whether I’m brave or stupid for starting to post a story that isn’t finished remains to be seen…) and the characters keep making their tale a little longer/more drawn out, so I have no choice but to follow them!

        And I hear you – 1000 is tough.

        And squirrels, rats, jack rabbits, spiders, opossums and miscellaneous rodents are ALL creepy-family in my mind!

  2. Great story, Paul! The double twist at the end is pure genius! You did a great job for your first flash.

    As for real creatures giving me the creeps, I hate rats! It stems from bad experiences with them in ‘Nam. There are others, but those are and will be discussed in shorts and novels. Hey: writers should use the good stuff in their tales. 😀

    Blaze

  3. Squirrels and rats are related. So are rabbits. AAGH!

    Blaze

  4. I have never heard the term flash fiction. I appreciate the challenge and I liked your story, especially the sudden translocation from the rabbit hole to Wendy’s bedroom as well as your descriptions. If in a contest to preserve the story in the fewest words, the part about finding the kid’s stash could be abbreviated or even taken out. “Run Rabbit. Run” has left me wanting to fill in the spaces with some kind of accelerated, food chain facilitated reincarnation of the Fremont spirit.

    Although a gun owner myself and part-time (loveable) redneck, I must say gun-happy rednecks are the creatures that give me the creeps.

  5. My father was kind enough to not publicly mention that, in my haste, I had mistaken “hutch” for “warren.” I hope you will all forgive this oversight.

  6. Can one LOL on a writer’s blog? Or are LOL’s just for facebook and texting? Anyway, I just LOL at Dan’s creature comment. I liked the story! I even liked the marijuana part. It built a little tension and excitement. Had me thinking he was going to have a drug induced Alice down the rabbit hole adventure. Which I guess in a way he did, it just turned him in to Peter Rabbit. Nice twist. As for creepy creatures– I would have to go with rats and it has to do with their tales and their overgrown teeth. Opposums are a close second though. Again, it’s their creepy hairless tales and beady eyes. They’re probably related to squirrels, rats AND jack rabbits.

    • I believe I’ve seen LOL’s on blogs, so you’re probably okay 🙂

      Glad you picked up on the Peter Rabbit. My main character’s name was actually a play on “Peter Cottontail” (Pete Cantrell).

      And yeah, opossums are pretty gross, too. I remember them from living in the South. And I feel like Stephen King’s Night Shift dealt with overgrown rats. A common theme.

  7. I like it a lot! I had a little trouble getting into it at the beginning and couldn’t figure out why, but I put my finger on it: it’s the back-story dump at the beginning. I know that’s one of the limitations of flash fiction that drives me bonkers – how do you convey enough information to get a sense of the character without falling into data dump territory. I think if you cut some of that front end off and relate some of that through his reactions when he spots the jackrabbit, it would be even stronger. Otherwise, I really like it, and it has a cool twist.

    As for my real creatures, it is without a doubt spiders. But of course that’s well-trod literary territory, so I’ve never done anything with it. I also eye squids suspiciously…

    • Thanks for the critique. Even after posting this, I still wasn’t completely satisfied with my first couple of paragraphs. It’s difficult to get backstory in smoothly in any length story, I believe, let alone one so short.

      As to spiders, if you can find your own spin, I think the fear is universal enough that people will always be interested. But you certainly should write a story about squids.

  8. Enjoyed the story. Amazing how so much can be told in so few words. To answer your question about creepy creatures, you know my feelings about any form of rodent!!

  9. Welcome to our group of sick- and crazy-minded #fridayflash contributors, Paul. After reading your first story, it appears you will fit in nicely. Loved your story! Can’t wait to see what you do with “Grotesque Love” next month.

    • Much thanks WJ. I’m loving being a part of the group. Such good stories, information, support, etc… I also liked your Lost Reality. I tried commenting but not sure if it went through. Let me know if it didn’t. I don’t want to duplicate it here (with spoilers) in case someone wants to go to your site and read it.

  10. Excellent and very well written, Paul.
    I found it very ominous, very creepy.
    Also thought these ‘jackrabbits’ I think they’re called hares (?) here in England seemed like an alien kind of rabbit from a twin earth but a different earth, like a ‘funhouse’ rabbit.
    Also I loved this about the nightmare: ‘ The only humans that had survived were distorted into twisted creatures scouring the wasteland on all fours. In the nightmare, these aberrations loped, and they had the same glassy, lifeless marbled eyes of the jackrabbit.’ Zowie! that was good, loved that.
    Also, hit home because I was my dogs on farmland every day and we often see jackrabbits, never scared me before but now–! don’t know!
    really good Paul!
    Looking forward to more!

  11. should be i WALK MY DOGS ON FARMLAND! sorry!

    • Much thanks, Carole. I mentioned to Blaze that he is one of the writers I was trying to impress with this piece. You’re the other. Both of your amazing demonstrations of support, generosity and helpful information has really given me the push I needed to do more than I’ve been doing lately.

      And for anyone reading these comments, please be sure to check out Carole’s Friday Flash piece. Creepy. Without giving away too much, it will make you question your previous notions on a certain topic.

  12. I think it’s a brilliant first flash! I definitely did not see that ending coming, which I love! And you managed to develope the character of Pete, describe the setting and establish a mood all within 1000 words! Great job!

    I know how hard it is- my first flash I had to shave off 500 words! But gradually it gets easier and now I get really close to the target 1000 on the first try. It makes you realize how superfluous some of your wording is when you have to pare it down.

    Stacey

    PS- I’m pretty sure coyotes are out to get me sometimes.

    • Stacey, thanks so much. And I have to say, I can tell that you’ve had some practice. Your story has an amazingly smooth flow to it that I’ve only seen in a handful of pieces that I’ve read. That was one thing that I struggled with (and don’t think I fully achieved) with my piece, but yours felt very polished.

    • Oh, and coyotes probably ARE out to get you. In American Indian lore, they are traditionally the tricksters. (I’ve always loved coyotes, but they’re pretty freaky when I hear them at night, especially if they’ve caught something).

  13. Awesome story! And spiders…spiders creep me out. And horse flies. Actually horse flies make me scream.

  14. An overall comment for anyone reading this post. If you like what you see here and want to read more Friday Flash Fiction Horror, please go to http://www.vamplit.com. They have all of the pieces listed. As you might have noticed, many of the comments here have come from others who are doing the same thing, so I would hope you would go there and support them also.

  15. That’s a creepy tale! Well told. The only creatures I don’t like (being a crazy animal lover) are bugs. 200 million of them to each one of us, perhaps watching us, creeping close..

    • Nice. Yeah… bugs. I actually don’t mind the jackrabbits (although the nightmare that the main character had actually came from my own unconscious wanderings). Thanks for stopping by.

  16. “Just a few inches into the hole.”

    – that’s what she said.

    • I couldn’t resist approving this comment. At least whoever you are, you read my story. (and who doesn’t love a good “that’s what she said” joke?)

  17. Hey Paul, I just read it. Yep, it was creepy all right. Pulled me in right from the start. Great job. Neat twist at the end. I finished wishing there was more. But that’s how it is with Flash Fiction. The creatures that give me the creeps are humans. Not all humans, mind you. But you gotta admit, serial killers are way creepier than any animal.
    -E

    • E, thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed it. Have you tried any Flash Fiction? This was my first (obvious by the title, eh?). And I agree, humans can be pretty creepy creatures. They’re my favorite topic. So how is the reception going for Boyfriend from Hell?

  18. Great read Paul! I enjoyed it, especially the twist ending. Welcome to Vamplit Publishing’s Friday Flash Fiction! Look forward to more of your stories.
    As for creatures, I live in Florida so gators lurking in lakes scare the hell out of me. I am so afraid of swimming in lakes that last summer when I visited friends who live on Long Lake, Wisconsin they laughed at me when I wouldn’t get in the water!

    • Much thanks, TK. Gators, eh? I can see that. I visited the Everglades when I was a kid and was surprised to see the alligators just hanging out next to the boardwalk trails. Yikes! For me, though, unless it’s the ocean (in which case, I would blame Jaws), it was probably the Piranha movie (where the government engineered them to be freshwater fish) that makes lakes a little freaky for me.

  19. Paul,
    Great Flash Fiction piece. One suggestion made me nod. The pot spot could be shorter, but I really like that it clouds Pete’s judgment making the observer doubt him. Well, except it’s Flash and the readers are cued in to something hinky. Ah well, I still like that brief moment of “is it the pot?” It was a fun read and I’ve never thought about the eyes of Jack Rabbits. Now I will! For me, I am very generic and must go reptilian. I am creeped out by snakes. I’ve tried to appreciate them, to not see them merely as scary. Cotton Mouths, Copperheads…. shiver–they are the essence of sinister but even without that element, they way a snake moves creeps me out!

    • Ellen, thanks for the comments. Yeah, the pot has come up a couple of times. So hard with Flash Fiction. My intents were to have all of these circumstances be a trap from Indian spirits (for whatever reason… encroaching on the land, not liking the rabbits? I dunno’). So the pot in the lunchbox (I tried to find a box that would play into this theme, ergo, The Lone Ranger and Tonto) was also part of the trap. And not that I’ve been entirely innocent for all of my years on this earth, but I liked that it had the feel of the old 70’s & 80’s horror movies. If you’re having sex or doing drugs, you’re probably going to be killed by something.

      Snakes. Yeah, they can be pretty creepy. I have a friend who is a park ranger and avid defender of snakes, so I’m sure she’d appreciate that you are at least trying to appreciate them. But c’mon, they’re snakes! 🙂 Thanks again for the visit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s