Peter Rabbit weighed a heavy chocolate egg in his hand and looked carefully up and down the street, making sure there were no witnesses. Satisfied there was no one about, he arched his back and hurled the egg through the front window of the house he’d stopped at. The sound of breaking glass filled his body with warmth and a grin spread across his face – the tortoises had never stipulated how the eggs were to be delivered, had they? He picked up his basket and walked up to the front door of the next house, being careful to break the hollow eggs he was meant to deliver. He opened the letterbox slot and tipped the broken egg into the house, giggling as he did so. In the two hours since the tortoise had paid him a visit Peter had had a wonderful time exploiting loopholes in the Easter Bunny system. It turned out that as long as he didn’t question his role as the Easter Bunny or defecate inside the wrapping foil he wouldn’t interrupted by a clerk. It was strange considering everything else he was capable of, but he wasn’t going to question the system, he was going to work quite happily within the confines of the occupational prison in which he had been placed.
He stood proudly, hands on hips, and surveyed the street of broken windows, broken eggs and violated garden gnomes – no house had avoided his brilliance. It was as he was admiring his vandalism that he was crash-tackled by a pale yellow rabbit with wild eyes and terrible teeth. Peter let out a muffled yell and kicked at his assailant until he was free but didn’t go as far as pulling a knife because he recognised who it was. ‘Oh wow,’ he said, ‘it’s you. Time has not been kind.’
The broken rabbit that stood before him had seen better days, but those were long gone – all the bad days he’d seen since left their mark.
‘Hey, Pete,’ he said. ‘How you doin? Good? Good! Yeah I’m good. It’s good!’ Rabbit scratched at a bare patch in his mangy yellow fur as he bounced from foot to foot, a manic smile on his face.
Peter dusted himself off and stood up. ‘Yeah I’m good, Rabbit.’ He peered closer. ‘Good God, what have you done to yourself?’
‘Done to myself? Nothing, I’m good, always good. You good?’ Rabbit wiped his nose with the back of his hand, and Peter caught a glimpse of a white powder. He shook his head. Years of heavy drinking had given Rabbit a permanent case of jaundice which yellowed his fur, and an out-of-control cocaine habit gave his eyes a wild and bloodshot look that never seemed to go away. His constant manic behaviour made it unbearable to spend any length of time with him, but he seemed to crash into other people’s lives every few months, completely oblivious to any harm he might be causing.
Peter warily looked at his sort-of-friend. ‘Yeah. Yeah I’m good, Rabbit,’ he said again.
‘Good, good.’ Rabbit looked around conspiratorially. ‘So, got any coke?’
‘No. I never have any coke. I don’t do coke. YOU do coke, Rabbit, remember?’
‘Ah crap, yeah, I remember. Shit.’ Rabbit looked downcast for a second, but perked up immediately and said, ‘It’s ok though, I have some right here. You want some?’
Without waiting for Peter to respond, Rabbit tipped out a rough line on the back of his hand and inhaled deeply. He closed his eyes for a second, gave another sniff, wiggled his nose, and opened his eyes again. They seemed to bulge out of his head. He stared at Peter, then at the basket at his side.
‘Oh ho, shit! You’re an Easter Bunny this year! Oh wow, that’s terrible news.’
‘Tell me about it,’ said Peter.
‘Yeah, sucks what’s gonna happen, hey? Yeah, the tortoises must REALLY hate us, yeah? Want some coke?’
Peter usually zoned out when his jaundiced friend rabbited on, but, for whatever reason, he was listening this time. ‘What’s going to happen? You make it sound like something bad.’
‘Yeah, bad, terrible, really bad and horrible and bad,’ said Rabbit. ‘Come on, walk this way in case the street’s bugged.’
‘Yeah, they have ears everywhere. They can see and hear and smell and taste everyone, man, can’t be too careful.’ Rabbit winked and tapped his nose. A small white clump fell out and landed on the pavement. In an instant Rabbit had plucked it up and tossed it into his mouth. ‘Can’t waste it!’
The pair walked in silence for five minutes along the dark street and, when it became apparent that Rabbit had forgotten why he was there, Peter turned to him and gave his scattered brain a nudge.
‘What’s going on, Rabbit? You’re more jittery than usual,’ said Peter as he continued to walk along the street. ‘You haven’t been kicked out of Hundred Acres again have you? That place was good for you.’
Rabbit shrugged and scratched at his nose, madly searching for a hidden, un-snorted stash. ‘Nah, wasn’t kicked out. Left. Too many pigs. Baby ones. Crazy bears too. Bears everywhere, man. Hopped up on the sweet stuff worse than me. Terrible people. Terrible. I’m no bigot, I love bears, some of my best friends are bears, but the bears there? Mannnnnnnn.’ Rabbit twirled his finger near his ear.
Peter walked on in silence for a bit, hoping Rabbit would pause for a second and get back on track. He didn’t, so Peter had to ask. ‘What’s going to happen, Rabbit? Something about tortoises.’
There was no response, so Peter glanced back and saw Rabbit standing under a streetlamp, stock-still, ears drooped down his back, arms slack at his side, mouth hanging open, eyes staring intently at the moths fluttering in the light.
‘Man,’ Rabbit started, ‘I’d love to be a moth. Just look at ‘em. Carefree and floaty-as. Not a care in the world.’
A moth flew too close to the broken light, caught fire and spiralled to the ground.
‘Cooooooooooooooooooool!’ Rabbit lay down on the ground and rested his head on the pavement, his eyes never leaving the smoking moth. ‘That’s gonna be us tomorrow, how cool is that?’
Finally! thought Peter, we’re getting to it.
‘What’s going to happen, Rabbit?’ he asked patiently.
Rabbit stood up so fast it made Peter jump. He held a finger to his lips and appeared to be listening for something. ‘Can you hear it?’
‘Shhhhhhhhh!’ Rabbit waved Peter into silence. ‘He’ll hear you.’
‘It’s ok, he’s gone,’ said Rabbit, and he started walking down the street. Peter jogged to keep up. Even though Rabbit was making no sense, he had piqued his interest and he needed to get to the bottom of Rabbit’s stranger-than-usual behaviour. ‘Rabbit, stop. Tell me, what’s going on?’
Rabbit grinned and Peter could see several teeth missing. ‘The tortoises are gonna wipe us out. They sent Foo Foo; I heard it in the city tonight, so I came looking for you. You good? I’m good.’
Peter froze in his tracks. ‘Are you fucking kidding me? What’s that sell-out fuck got to do with anything?’
‘Everything, man. The tortoises have hired him to wipe out all the famous faces. They said that once they’re gone people will have no reason to like rabbits anymore. They’ll see them as vermin and finish what the shellies started,’ said Rabbit without blinking. He cracked a huge smile. ‘How mad is that? I’d hate to be a rabbit tomorrow. The tortoises REALLY hate ‘em.’
Peter was still frozen to the spot. He knew ‘Little Bunny’ Foo Foo’s story as well as everyone else. He knew that he was violent and unforgiving and that he’d had a run-in with a fairy which had left him bitter and even more unhinged.
‘Hey, Pete. You ok?’ Rabbit poked Peter in the ribs. ‘Want some coke? It’ll clear you right up. No? It’s ok, I’ll have some, you’ll be alright.’ Rabbit did another line off the back of his hand.
Peter’s brain stirred again, and he frowned. ‘I… you’re a rabbit too, Rabbit. You’ll be wiped out too.’
‘What? Oh, yeah, right. Yeah I’m a rabbit. I’m Rabbit. I’m friends with that bear and that pig and that fucking bouncing tiger. Everyone knows me!’
‘You’re a famous face,’ said Peter grimly.
‘What? Nah, I’m not famous. Everyone just knows me is all!’ Rabbit’s ears drooped further as his own words sank in and his eyes rolled in his head. He dropped to the ground. ‘OH SHIT,’ he wailed, ‘I’M FAMOUS! What am I gonna do? Where can I go? You gotta help me!’
Peter pushed Rabbit off of his shiny new waistcoat. ‘You hadn’t thought that through, had you? You’re probably more famous than the rest of us.’
‘Oh shit, this is bad, man, this is real bad, this is really bad,’ Rabbit buzzed.
As Rabbit pulled tufts of fur out of his arms in panic, Peter took a second to think. How the hell did coked-out Rabbit find out about this plan? Could it all be in his head? He turned and asked, ‘Rabbit, how do you know about this?’
Rabbit stopped tearing at his fur and looked up at Peter, his bloodshot eyes seemingly staring straight through the worried bunny. ‘Because I heard Foo Foo tell Brer before he spread him all over the pawn shop on the corner of 6th and East Avenue with a shotgun. What are we gonna do? I need a hit of coke is what I need. Yeah, that’ll set me straight.’ Rabbit rummaged in his pockets for more cocaine, but found them empty and he burst into tears.
‘You saw Foo Foo gun down Brer Rabbit?’ asked Peter as Rabbit sobbed on the ground in front of him. ‘I think it’s bullshit. This is all some sort of drug trip you’re on. You didn’t see shit. Fuck’s sake, why do I believe this shit? You’re high off your tits, you mug me, you scare the piss out of me, and now you’re telling me Foo Foo is gunning for me. You’re probably just trying to trick me into giving you money. This is fucking stupid.’ Peter went to walk off, but Rabbit grabbed his waistcoat and held him back.
‘You gotta believe me man. Hell, if you want to hear it from someone else talk to the White Rabbit, he knows all about it.’
‘The White Rabbit? The one with the watch? He doesn’t exist. He’s a myth,’ said Peter, a frown still fixed firmly on his face.
‘He exists, man. Oh yeah he exists, you just gotta find him, see? That’s the trick. I’ll turn a trick, want me to turn a trick? I need my fix man.’ Rabbit wiped the tears away with one hand but maintained his imploring stare.
Peter pushed Rabbit away. ‘Even if White Rabbit did exist, what use is it to us?’
‘He’s mad-wise, man. He can solve any problem you want. He solved my friend Alice’s problems, remember? The chick who broke into the museum and crashed that tea party? He knows things, man.’
Peter stared into space. What choice did he have? If Rabbit was lying, which he probably was, all he would lose would be his time, and since he’d nearly finished all his deliveries, that didn’t matter. If Rabbit wasn’t lying however, it meant that his lovely new waistcoat would be filled with holes and that he’d develop a fatal allergy to lead sometime in the near future. He made up his mind and took a deep breath.
‘Ok, I’ll play along. I’ll meet White Rabbit if you can take me to him. Where is he?’
Rabbit got to his feet and smoothed his ears back. He grinned. ‘White Rabbit plays host at this sweet-as opium den about ten minutes away.’ Rabbit went running off down the street.
‘Oh that sneaky crackhead bastard,’ said Peter, accelerating down the street after Rabbit. ‘Now I have to chase a damn dragon as well.’