What a lousy week I've had. Every time I hear the explosions outside, I jump. I can't help it. The family laughs, sympathetically, and says, "Poor Trixie! She must be gun shy." But that's not it. Every screamer, every M80, every roman candle sends me up the wall with terror, but it's not just the noise that bothers me.
I'm terrified because any one of those noises could be Them...
I told you I don't trust those rabbits. I knew they were up to something. These aren't just your usual lazy, good-for-nothing lapidary menace. I could tell by the way they run just far enough away so I can't reach them, and then stand there taunting me. They wink, they tease, and they never quite leave... which is what I want them to do!
One of the cheeky little buggers even sits in the middle of the yard, waiting for me to come out so he can bait me. The family puts me on a lead when I go out, and he knows exactly how far I can go. The first couple of times, I thought he was as startled as I was, but then I noticed that he would dart around the corner of the fort, and then run around it and sneak up behind me while I was barking at the corner where I saw him last. Oh, he thinks that's great fun!
Two can play games, though. I started sneaking along the wall whenever I came out, hoping to get enough of a jump on him to at least put the fear of dog into him. And a couple days after my last post, it worked!
I came through the gate at full speed, and there he was. He had heard the door, but I managed to keep the chain from clinking. His ears went flat, and his mouth made a great "O" as he turned to take off. I felt my teeth in his fluffy little tail, too, just before the line jerked me off my feet. That hurt, but even before I landed, I had twisted and shot around where he usually sneaks up from behind. No sign of him!
Satisfied, I went and curled up next to the pool to pant. He wasn't done with me, though. He came sidling back to peek around the corner of the fort. "You think you're pretty clever, huh?" he said. "That was good, but it won't work twice."
I sniffed, and acted like I couldn't see him. Maybe he'd come a little closer, and we could have another shot.
"A bit of friendly advice, though," he went on. He wasn't fooled one bit. "I wouldn't try that with One-Eyed Jack. If you do, you tell him I warned you."
"And who are you supposed to be?" I asked.
"I'm Peter," he said. "The kids might have mentioned me; they named me, long before you came along. Just remember, you might be the predator type, but you're not the one in charge around here."
I shudder now, but at the time I laughed. "Bring on the One-Eyed Jack!" I snorted. "I'll take on any of your type that get within 30' feet of my pole, there."
But Peter was gone.
The next night, after a good walk around the block, I was lying down under the rose bush while the family swam and sat around the patio, reading their books. None of them smelled the thick rabbity effluvium on the air, but I knew they were out with a vengeance. Then I heard an odd, muffled thump.
I looked over at the fence, and there was a huge jack sitting there, holding something strange in his mouth. He thumped it on the ground again. "Know what this is?" he asked.
I hadn't moved, yet, trying to think of a way to get at him. I shook my head, no, to answer his question, and eyed the fence line. No way I could get to the end, and dash around in time to grab him.
"This is an explosive device," he said. "You know those loud bangs you keep hearing?" I nodded. "That's the humans, blowing these up. You know how many my people have managed to gather?" Rhetorical questions I ignore, especially from a stupid rabbit.
"We've got enough of these to take out this whole block," he said. It wasn't like bragging, because I could tell he meant it. But why tell me? "I'm telling you so you know to stay out of our way. You're new here, and I don't think Peter really got through to you the other night."
"And who are you to tell me who's in charge in my own yard?" I growled.
And then he turned. You know how rabbits, being prey animals, usually can't look at you straight on? They usually have one eye on each side of their head, and only really look at you from the side. Well, he turned to face me, and instead of two eyes staring off in two directions, he only had the one. The other side, where an eye should have been, was a mass of scar tissue. Part of the ear was even missing. The scar ran from the ruined base of the ear, down through the eye socket, and pulled up his lip, so he looked like he was snarling.
Without another word, One-Eyed Jack picked up his firecracker, and disappeared into the tall grass on the other side of the fence.
And now, every time I hear one of those pops, bangs, or cracks, I wonder... is it Them?