Here's a short story from my
sci-fi/fantasy/horror anthology
He Never Came Back

Christopher Rabbit was one confused little bunny. Not only had Christopher Rabbit not listened to his mother when she warned him about staying out of Mr. MacGregor's garden, but also about staying away from Mr. MacGregor's tool shed! Oh, if only Christopher Rabbit had listened to his mother!

After a delicious salad from Mr. MacGregor's vegetable patch, Christopher Rabbit had gone hippity hop right into Mr. MacGregor's tool shed to sleep off his esurient orgasm, where he curled up under a tarp, by a bale of straw, and went fast asleep.

Christopher Rabbit slept and slept and slept. He slept right through Mr. MacGregor entering the shed. He slept right through Mr. MacGregor pulling the tarp off his latest invention, the "Zeppelin Tube," or "Z-tube." But when Mr. MacGregor, dressed in his finest radiation suit, turned on the Z-tube, Christopher Rabbit awoke rather abruptly from a very pleasant dream concerning the Hare sisters, Gladys and Gloria, a bottle of ranch dressing and a couple of rather large carrots, into a nightmare scene lit by purple light and a strange feeling that pulsed through him in waves of pure energy. After Christopher Rabbit knew the effects of the Z Tube "first paw," was when "Christopher Rabbit's Big Easter Adventure" really began! ...

Ten thousand suns exploded into a black swirling funnel into which Christopher Rabbit was thrust, around and around the blue event horizon. Faster and faster he was spun, until everything went red, then blue, then white, then black...

"Oh, Mr. Rabbit... Mr. Rabbit do wake up," said a rather exquisitely-dressed Hedgehog named Gerald, as he gently slapped a rather-startled Christopher Rabbit back to reality.

"Oh, Mr. Rabbit," Gerald said again, as he back-handed a now wide-awake, very confused, and sputtering little bunny. Whap!

"Please, Mr. Hedgehog; stop hitting me; I'm awake; I'm awake," cried Christopher Rabbit.

"Indeed, you are," said Gerald, as he slapped Christopher Rabbit one last time for good measure! Whap!

"Welcome to Easterland," said Gerald. "I assume that you've come for the job?"

Massaging his well-slapped cheeks Christopher Rabbit cringed a bit and asked Gerald, "What job?"

"Why, the Easter Bunny job, of course," replied Gerald!

"My word," said Christopher Rabbit. "I always thought that the Easter Bunny story was a fairy tale!"

"No, indeed not," said Gerald. "The Easter Bunny has always been the sign of Spring virility; and Randy Rabbit, our last Easter Bunny, just died, after eating a couple of Viagra-laced carrots and stumbling into the Hare Sister's apartment for a wild weekend. He died with a smile on his face, and left two very satisfied ladies; so we need a new Easter Bunny for this Easter, and I'm betting it's you," said Gerald, quite assuredly.

"How can you tell if I'm the one? What would I have to do? When would I have to start? Will I get to meet the Hare Sisters, too? What's it pay; is there per diem, too?" asked a stammering Christopher Rabbit.

Suddenly, Gerald knew what he had to do to calm the overly-excited bunny, and immediately began to backhand the little bunny -- once, twice, and a third time for good measure. Whap! Whap! Whap!

When Christopher had calmed down, Gerald said, "There is one who can answer your many questions, and who will know if you're the true Easter Bunny."

"Who's that," asked Christopher?

"Why, the great horned owl Aristotle, who else? He lives 2 days walk from here -- if anybody knows if you're the one, it's him. He's lives in a great tree in the middle of 'Hero's Death' Woods, deep in the dark forest. I shall put you on the right path; but you must beware; there are things in the forest -- things that you do not want to meet in the dark," whispered Gerald with an evil-looking grin.

This sent shivers down the little bunny's spine, and started to give him second thoughts. Before he could have those thoughts, Gerald spun him around into the right direction; and, taking one of his exquisite boots, he brought it up smartly into Christopher Rabbit's rump -- WHAP! Which sent the now-scurrying little bunny hip-pity-hop-pity down the old bunny trail, and into the deep, dark, dank, scary woods!

Just as Christopher entered the forest, Alfred the Ferret peeked out behind a tree where he had been eavesdropping on Christopher and Gerald, and broke down in gales of laughter as he high/low slapped Gerald's hand, exclaiming, "The great horned owl Aristotle; that's just an old wives' tale! We both know the only thing that poor little bunny is going to find in 'Hero's Death' woods is LeRoy, the Dire Wolf. That's 500 pounds of savage, bone-crunching hell! Aristotle, oh, please," chuckled Alfred, "that poor, stupid little bunny."

With a practical look on his face, Gerald said, "I send LeRoy the occasional would-be Easter Bunny; and he leaves us alone here -- seems fair; and besides, I warned Christopher Rabbit that there were things in those woods that you do not want to meet in the dark; and that certainly describes LeRoy, does it not! C'est la vie, bunny!"

It had been a bright and sunny day, just approaching the noon hour; but after walking for about ten minutes, it now looked to be about dusk; and when he climbed a hill and looked behind him, it was still bright sunshine in the little dot of light where he'd entered the forest. I wonder what it will be like at midnight, thought Christopher; and that thought sent a shiver down his spine. At about the time that he realized it was getting really dark for early afternoon, he also noticed that it was perfectly quiet in these woods. When he entered the woods, there were plenty of birds singing, with little animals scurrying here and there; but now it was silent -- not even wind got in here to make a noise. This can't be good, thought Christopher Rabbit! And it wasn't good. Something far off in the deepest part of the forest was deep in sleep, reliving a particularly-bloody slaughter of his last victim, a would-be Easter Bunny named Richard Rabbit. Even though he was in the deepest part of REM sleep, LeRoy was becoming more and more aware of Christopher. His subconscious made a mental note to look Christopher up at the stroke of Midnight, and went back to its relived savagery! At the same time, many miles away from the Dire Wolf's den, Christopher Rabbit felt a shiver go up and down his spine.

"Well, what is this thing that I've found,?" said a mysterious voice from somewhere overhead.

"I'm not a thing, I'm a rabbit; to be precise, I'm Christopher Rabbit!" Christopher Rabbit exclaimed to the darkness overhead. "Who, who are you,?" he then timidly asked.

"Rabbit," exclaimed the voice overhead. "I love Rabbit," said the mysterious voice. "In fact, Mr. Rabbit, I'd like to ask you to join us for dinner!" "Oh, yes, dinner, dinner, yes, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner," echo'd another dozen voices, high up in the tree.

"I'm not sure," said Christopher. Realizing that he was getting a little hungry, Christopher asked, "What are you having for dinner?"

The first voice asked the others, "What shall we have for dinner tonight, my children? We could have that old favorite, Hasenpfeffer, braised in a red wine gravy flavored with bacon, shallots, currant jelly, and herbs? Of course, nothing beats a good old Louisiana Back-bay Bayou Bunny Bordelaise, a la Antoine; am I right? Oh, and Mr. Rabbit, I'm Cornelius! Cornelius, the Great Green Tree Spider, Mr. Rabbit," said Cornelius, as he lowered himself into Christopher Rabbit's view, as did dozens and dozens of other Great Green Tree Spiders, both large and small. Or, at least, Christopher would have seen them, had he still been there; but because Christopher's skin had begun to crawl like it did whenever something dangerous might be about, so when Christopher Rabbit heard the word "Hasenpfeffer," he went hippity hoppity right back down the bunny trail -- at full speed. Praying, feet don't fail me now!

Spiders are fairly dumb; but it didn't take them too long to realize that dinner was running away at a fairly good clip; and if they didn't hurry, he'd make his escape across the great divide! So, young and old, big and small, they began running along the various spider paths from tree to tree to tree, all calling out in their low pitch voices, "Christopher, Christopher, we want to have you for dinner!"

Christopher Rabbit ran and ran and ran, and then ran some more. He ran faster and farther than he had ever run before; but the spiders' chants kept getting louder and louder, sounding now like they were almost overhead. Just when it seemed it was hopeless, he saw a small dot of light ahead, and, with the last of his strength, plunged from the darkness into a new sunrise and a clear space of about 100 yards between the forest, running as far as the eye could see in both directions.

Christopher Rabbit lay on his back in the field and desperately tried to catch his breath; and, above and behind him, Cornelius jumped up and down, yelling great curses at Christopher Rabbit as the little bunny was beyond his reach; he was a dozen yards from the nearest tree; and Great Green Tree Spiders never leave the tree tops, except to slide down on a web strand to catch a meal; so, in case of danger, they could climb back and be way out of range. Worse yet, the direction he was traveling when he crossed the field and fell down gasping was toward the land of the "Great Blue Tree Spiders," and their King, the dreaded Shadrack! Shadrack and Cornelius never, ever, got along; and Cornelius would rather see Christopher Rabbit escape, than fall into the eight hands of the evil Shadrack!

By now, Christopher Rabbit had caught his breath, but was far too tired to get up and move onward, so he just lay there as the sun rose and soon fell fast asleep.

Two hundred yards back in the woods, the great Dire Wolf sat watching Christopher Rabbit napping--had he been here 15 minutes earlier, Christopher Rabbit would have been a resounding burp, echoing through the woods; but Dire Wolfs never go out in the sunlight; so, eventually, LeRoy, too, succumbed to sleep as the morning moved onward. The spiders didn't bother LeRoy, catching and eating a little bunny was one thing; but catching and eating an angry, snarling, 500 pound, Dire Wolf, was another! So Cornelius and his tribe went back to catching tree frogs, caterpillars, and birds!

Christopher Rabbit awoke with a start as a shadow passed over him; even in a tired sleep, Christopher Rabbit knew death from above when it crossed his closed eyes. Christopher Rabbit nervously checked the sky to figure out which way to run but it was only a man machine and not the red tailed hawk that he feared. Eventually, his heart stopped pounding; and he realized he was quite hungry, and looked around the meadow for something to eat and found some lovely polk salad and dandelions, which filled his belly up quite full; and over by where the woods began again was a little stream with ice cold, flowing water and Christopher Rabbit stopped to drink his fill and then attend to his toilet. He washed his face and paws, brushed his whiskers, and then brushed his teeth with a thistle. He then brushed off his velvet jacket and picked a briar off his top hat as he wanted to be at least presentable to the great horned owl, Aristotle.

He was soon off and back into the woods, which didn't seem so overgrown as the other side had; you could, from time to time, see the sun overhead. It was about noon when the forest closed up and became quite as dark as the other one; suddenly Christopher Rabbit's skin began to crawl; and he thought he heard little deep spider voices; so, off he went hippity hop at a frightful pace; and didn't slow down until the sun had set and the gloomy dark became almost total darkness. Christopher Rabbit became aware of that exact time through telepathy, because that was the moment that LeRoy awoke with a howl and began to gallop after the bunny. A few seconds later, he had crossed the meadow at full speed, running down the very path that Christopher Rabbit took. "Easter Bunny, Yum, Yum," thought LeRoy, and he let out another bloodcurdling, howling-roar!

Christopher Rabbit had stopped at a lovely patch of wild carrots and strawberries and had eaten his way about halfway through it, when he heard LeRoy's roar and stood straight up and began hopping off toward the center of the forest--but only after loading his pockets with baby carrots!

Christopher Rabbit had about an eight hour head start; but a couple of hours later LeRoy had halved the distance; and, even though Christopher Rabbit began running in earnest, at that point, because the Dire Wolf had let out a mighty roar that even Christopher Rabbit could hear -- LeRoy was gaining ground; and he knew it!

As they approached the center of the woods, and the area known as the 'Hero's Death,' the forest canopy began to thin out to where that brilliant full moon could penetrate to the ground and cause shadows -- not a good thing with a Dire Wolf on your tail! Suddenly, up ahead, Christopher Rabbit saw the biggest tree that he had ever seen. From a huge base, many, many hops around it soared into the air, where it split into four great limbs that soared even higher into the sky. Such a tree, thought Christopher Rabbit, could hide a hundred hawks, a thousand hawks, and at such a thought Christopher Rabbit came to a screeching halt and stood shaking before it. Then he remembered that Aristotle lived in such a tree; and at last his journey was over; and he walked into the clearing surrounding the great tree and timidly said, "Oh, Aristotle... Please, Mr. Aristotle, might we have a word?" Christopher Rabbit thought he might have seen movement high up near the top of the tree, so he cried out a little louder, "Please Mr. Aristotle, can you help me?"

A deep and disturbing voice behind Christopher Rabbit said, "He can't hear you, Christopher; there is no great horned owl named Aristotle; it was all just a lie to make you my dinner, little bunny," said LeRoy, and he made lip-smacking sounds, and rubbed his belly while smiling, thus showing Christopher Rabbit his mouth full of razor-sharp fangs. The Dire Wolf stood looking into the air, stroking his chin as if in deep thought, then turned to Christopher and said in a whisper, "I think I'll start by biting off your head and eating it! Rabbit heads are so nice and crunchy, hmmm, yum, come here, Mr. Bunny...."

As LeRoy reached for Christopher Rabbit, it seemed Christopher Rabbit was frozen under the Dire Wolf's spell and couldn't move a muscle. LeRoy sprinted the few yards between himself and Christopher Rabbit; and just as he was about to wrap his claws around Christopher Rabbit, another set of claws grabbed Christopher Rabbit and took him away, while at the same time something hit the Dire Wolf hard and sent him rolling end-over-end for about 50 yards. When he stopped rolling, his head was ringing; and he put both paws over his ears to stop it and then he looked around for the truck that had hit him. Only then, he saw the great horned owl Aristotle with Christopher Rabbit in one clawed hand, flying higher and higher into the night, over the trees and out of sight! Just before he disappeared, Aristotle said to LeRoy, "Gerald sends his regards!" LeRoy, hearing this, let out a roar that shook the countryside!

When Aristotle had plucked him from the jaws of death, Christopher Rabbit had fainted dead away. Had he remained awake for the flight, he would have seen that Aristotle was flying him back the way he had come -- to where he had been when first he had awakened. About an hour after dawn, the great horned owl gently landed on one foot and gently deposited Christopher Rabbit on ground with the other. Christopher Rabbit awoke to look up into the wise eyes of the old owl. He was no longer afraid, but felt safe, and so asked, "Mr. Aristotle, am I an Easter Bunny?"

"I thought about as much," said the great owl as much to himself as to Christopher Rabbit. "You are indeed the Easter Bunny my fine, young friend," said Aristotle, almost cooing, to Christopher Rabbit. However, when Aristotle looked up and over to where Gerald stood looking very nervous, gallons of flop sweat soaking his fine clothes, he said in a very different, deep, dark voice, that seemed to echo, "Get over here, Gerald! NOW!"

Gerald, upon hearing this first, almost jumped out of skin, and then made a bee line to stand in front of the great owl. Gerald was a lot closer to Aristotle than he'd like to be; and he couldn't take his eyes off that beak -- oh, that beak! Aristotle saw what was going through Gerald's mind, and said "I should nip off your head and feed it to my babes. Every creature in Easterland knows that there is no test, no quest! Everybody knows that any rabbit that makes it to Easterland is the Easter Bunny. Now give him his magic basket, his i.d. badge, and get him to the bunny trail at once as tomorrow is the Equinox; and then it's only 11 days to Easter; and with a few billion Easter eggs to deliver, he'd better get at it."

Gerald rather sheepishly got the basket and handed it to Christopher Rabbit without ever looking him in the eye, muttering how sorry he was for his little "joke." As Gerald slinked away, Christopher Rabbit examined the Easter Basket. On the outside, it was a regular Easter basket, nothing really special; but when he looked inside, he saw a most amazing machine that held but a single egg; but what it was somehow attached to was truly an awe-inspiring sight! For around and around and around the center of the basket spun a black hole; and around its event horizon spun a billion, trillion eggs, each with different colors and designs. When Christopher Rabbit removed the egg from the top of the basket, another egg came up from down below to take its place.

Christopher Rabbit gave the first egg to Gerald, and the next one to Alfred the Ferret, who came out of hiding when he realized there was something in it for him to eat. When Christopher Rabbit turned to Aristotle to offer him one, the great horned owl shook his head and said, "No, thanks, Christopher; I'm thinking of having a helping of Hedgehog and Ferret! Now, Gerald, show Christopher where the bunny trail begins; and be quick about it."

Gerald asked Christopher Rabbit to follow him just over the hill, and there it was -- you could hardly miss it. The trail was covered with jellybeans in every color of the rainbow, and then some; and they all seemed to be glowing from within.

As Christopher Rabbit looked over the scene, Aristotle rose into the air, and called to Christopher Rabbit in his gentle voice, "Good luck, my little friend; we're all counting on you; and I know you won't let us down!" Then he turned and flew low over Gerald and Alfred, and said in his other voice, "Although I should eat you for what you've done, I won't. Besides it wouldn't be fair to poor, old LeRoy; I snatched the bunny from out of his jaws; so I know he must be hungry; and as I flew away, I mentioned your name, Gerald. That really seemed to upset LeRoy; so my guess is he should be here by Midnight tonight. Midnight tomorrow, at the latest!" And with one last dive inches above their heads, Aristotle was gone.

Christopher Rabbit was soon hopping down the bunny trail, leaving a colorful egg under every tree and bush in the entire world. It was hard work; and he never thought he could do it on time; but he did; and when he finally got home to his family's warren, they all celebrated his great achievement. The mayor made a speech, and he was given many awards; and then, at one particularly-boring party, he looked around -- and suddenly there, in the flesh, were the Hare Sisters! And even better, they were coming his way! The next thing he knew, they had dragged him away from a perfectly-awful party and back to their apartment to an epicurean feast, ending with a bottle of ranch dressing, a couple of rather large carrots and the sisters. And unlike Randy Rabbit, Christopher didn't "need no stinkin,' Viagra-stuffed carrots," and easily survived the lost weekend.

Then Mr. MacGregor turned off the Z-tube, covered the machine, and then left the shed while Christopher Rabbit snapped awake, under the tarp beside the bale of straw in Mr. MacGregor's shed. It had only been a dream. Christopher Rabbit was heartbroken; it had been the best and worst time of his life; and it had only been a dream -- it had never happened, oh, heavy sigh!

It was just then that Christopher Rabbit's mother, Rhonda Rabbit began calling her children for supper; and Christopher Rabbit trudged along back to his home. "Oh well, I guess mother was right; I should go into Chartered Accountancy -- no adventures for the likes of me," Christopher Rabbit moaned.

It was just then there was a knock on the door, and Mrs. Rabbit answered it, speaking for a moment to someone, then closed the door and came into the kitchen. She was carrying the Easter Basket, "Gloria Hare just dropped this off; she said you'd left this in her apartment; and she wondered where you wandered off to?" Christopher Rabbit was all smiles from that day forward!


He Never Came Back
A Death Wish
The God
Hansel and Grethel Revisited
The Lady And The Dragon
Murder In The Museum
The Trouble With Earthlings
Winky Tinky's Christmas Adventure

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