Horror & Dark Fantasy

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Creative Fiction

Bunnies

I spent years thinking of writing this down, but I postponed it because I didn’t want to add another “creepy kid” story to the world—sometimes, kids are just sad and lonely and making them feel creepy for the sake of horror feels cheap. But this happened when I was also the creepy child to someone else’s story, maybe even to this creepy child herself, so maybe it’s worth telling, after all.

—DL

This happened when I wasn’t a man, or even a boy. I was a girl, seven or eight years old, and I had a little friend called Priscila.

Priscila was a blonde and sickly-looking child—the serious, quiet companion to my goofy boyish self, the same kind of dynamic that kept repeating itself whenever I had friendships with women. We only spent a couple of school years together as best friends, a long time ago, but I still remember a few things about her.

I remember a story she wrote for class, about an alien named after an off-brand detergent, which my past self found very silly, but now, every time that I see this product at the supermarket, I think about her. I remember her surname—German, second-generation—because she lived in the same block as an unrelated mega-store with the same name, which led me to also remember part of her address (the things our brains retain, I guess).

What I remember the most, however, were her bunnies.

• • • •

My dad has a scrapyard, Priscila told me with an apologetic tone as she pulled my hand to enter the front gate of her house, the first and only time I ever did so. Scrapyard is a Brazilian euphemism for my parents are hoarders, and that must have been the case, because she kept pulling me away from the empty broken freezers, cardboard boxes, and endless car junk from the front yard. Luckily, it was my dad that took me to her place, after a bus ride, because my mother would never let me go inside. There’s something I wanna show you.

The something began with a hole in the green walls of her living room. She crawled inside it and asked me to follow her—it was the only access to their backyard. The hole led to a short and narrow tunnel, child-shaped, like it had been dug into the soil, and it ended in front of a couple of thorny bushes, dry and dying in the middle of autumn.

The backyard was the opposite of the front garden of the house: it looked like a vacant lot, with several lime trees with worm-eaten leaves, tiny fruits filled with maggots scattered on the tall grass, tall enough to remind me of a wheat field. And, behind the lime trees, behind the fruits, behind the grass, a little house, all pink.

At first, I thought it was one of those Wendy houses for children, the regional equivalent of a tree house, but it wasn’t. It’s my bunny farm, Priscila told me, taking me by the hand toward the house. Mine, she repeated, just mine. I stared at the ground as she led me toward it, stepping on little brown balls that multiplied as we reached the playhouse, squashing them under our sneakers and leaving dark spots behind. My little bunnies.

And, indeed, there were bunnies. Endless, enormous bunnies, one piled over the other. The house was taller than we were and, as I stood outside of it, I could see through the windows several wire cages above our heads. One, two, three, four, five, six little cages, each one with five, six, seven, eight, nine bunnies. The bunnies might not have been as big as I first thought, but they were too big for such a ridiculously tight space. They ate the fruits that fell from the backyard trees. They ate the little brown balls on the ground. They ate each other. They gnawed on each other’s ears, blood dripping from their filthy, matted fur. One of the bunnies, the biggest of them, bit the other so hard it squeaked, smashing against the suspended cage as it tried to run away.

I wanted to throw up, but Priscila didn’t notice. She told me to play with him, with that huge rabbit, redder than the others, chewing on what seemed like cartilage. I shook my head no, but I caressed him between the ears when she picked him up, nestling him on her arms. He looks calmer, I thought. Priscila tried to clean the animal, telling me in a low voice that bunnies can’t take baths, you need to wipe them with a wet cloth, or they will mold away.

I nodded, turning my eyes away from the cages. I kept petting the bunny, my eyes almost shut, trying to ignore his little teeth and the meaty piece of something he kept chewing, chomp, chomp, chomp. I was ashamed to tell her that the cages scared me, so I kept nodding for the rest of the day.

I don’t remember coming back. I just remember being inside the bus, blinking, thinking of teeth, blood, and those little brown balls. Many years later, I told my mother the story, and she said that Priscila’s parents might have had a clandestine bunny farm. Or maybe the girl was also a hoarder, and no—she wouldn’t have ever let me go inside in if she knew. Some people hoard animals, she said, and I nodded like I did when I was a child. How sad.

My mother told me to google Priscila, to see if she remembered her. And I did, I searched for every single variation of Pri, Pris, Scila, tried all the possible ways of writing the German surname she shared with the mega-store. Nothing. And, in my memory, I didn’t find anything else either, just the essay about the dishwasher alien, the store, the scrapyard, the pink house, the red teeth. How sad, my mother told me, and that night I dreamed with bunnies and blood.

Dante Luiz

Dante Luiz is an illustrator, editor, and occasional writer from an island in southern Brazil. He’s also art director for Strange Horizons, and has edited an anthology and two magazines while he juggles art, fiction and non-fiction. He’s the interior artist for Crema (comiXology/Dark Horse), and his work with comics has also appeared in anthologies, like Wayward Kindred (TO Comix Press), Mañana: Latinx Comics From the 25th Century (Power & Magic Press), and Shout Out (TO Comix Press), among others. His rare prose pieces can be found on Constelación Magazine, Professor Charlatan Bardot Travel Anthology (Dark Moon Books) and Mafagafo Revista. Find him online on Twitter (@dntlz), Instagram or his website (danteluiz.com).