It was a late evening in early October. I was called over by the owner of a large mansion several miles south of the city. According to the man, there were strange sounds coming from the large open fields behind the mansion. The fields were not owned by anyone in particular, but until recently, no one would ever go there. As a private investigator, it was my task to find out what was going on. My guess? There were probably some teenagers from the nearby village that found a nice hangout in an open field. I remember being a kid and finding secluded spaces to hang out with my friends. I figured this was going to be an easy job, where I would just have to tell some teens to find a different spot to hang out, and then cash in quickly. I was very, very wrong.
`Good evening, Mister Durond. The master has been expecting you.’ The butler, a man in his late seventies with a gray mustache and a balding head, graciously took my coat as he led me towards the main room. Sitting there was a man in his late twenties. He was wearing a salmon bathrobe and his short-cropped hair was still wet from the bath. No, when I say it like that, I don’t think you have the right image. He was wearing a white bathrobe with salmon fish embroidered onto it. If it were koi fish, I could understand, but salmon? I swear, I will never understand rich folk. `Mister Durond! How good to see you. I hope the weather wasn’t too harsh on you?’
I gave a quick smile. `Unfortunately, I took the brunt of the rain on my way from the taxi to the front door, so I’ve been better. But it is no big deal. And please, just call me Bob.’
`Bob it is then!’ He pointed to one of the empty chairs. I took a seat as he poured us both some wine. `I’ve heard from Harrold that you are very good at what you do, so that is why I hired you.’ He put the wineglass down in front of me and I graciously accepted. It’ll help get rid of some of the rain’s cold. `I’ve worked for Harrold a couple of times, and every time I got what was expected of me done.’
`That is exactly what he told me.’ His face turned grim. `I briefed you a bit in the letter I sent you, but I will go over some additional details before I send you off. First things first, the reason I called you over at this hour is because this only happens in the evenings. If I walk through the fields during the day, there are no traces of anything strange happening. And although it is embarrassing to admit, I am not brave enough to go out there in the evening. The sounds and lights are eerie and even if it’s just some rowdy teenagers, that is not something I am prepared to deal with myself.’
`And that is where I come in.’
`Exactly, that’s where you come in. I would like you to go to the strange lights in the field and see what is happening over there. If it is really just a bunch of rowdy teenagers having a party, please tell them to take their fun elsewhere, as it’s bothering me a great deal. I did not pay a fortune for this mansion only to have a bunch of hooligans in my backyard.’
`I understand, I shall see to it.’ I finished my wine and took out my notebook. `Now, I will warn you ahead of time, due to the changing times my prices have gone up a bit, I hope you understand.’
`I’ve heard your price from Harrold, how much has it changed by?’
`It has gone up by ten percent.’
`Very well, Jonathan shall see to your payment when you return. I will be out on business for the majority of the evening, so I do not think that I will be here when you return.’
I nodded. The butler seemed like a nice chap, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue. I stood up and put down my wine glass. `If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get to work right away, so I can get back home at a reasonable hour.’
`Excellent, I wish you good luck!’
The butler escorted me to the back of the estate. I saw quite a collection of hunted animal trophies on the wall. Between all the deer skulls and bear heads, there was an assortment of rabbit trophies. Strange things to hang on your wall, as rabbits aren’t exactly big, strong animals, but to each their own, I thought. The butler opened the door and walked me down a narrow pathway. The place had definitely seen better days, and the farther we got from the main building, the more desolate it looked.
`The fields you are looking for are over in that direction.’
As I peered where the butler had pointed, I saw a light. That had to be it.
`Very well, thank you, good sir.’
The butler nodded and then turned back towards the mansion. I started walking towards the light in the distance. It wasn’t long before I was soaked all the way through to the bone. I hoped it wouldn’t take too long. I had a lunch planned with Lisanna the next day, and I didn’t want to arrive all tired. It was a very important date for me, I’d been wanting to invite her for a while. I even had some nice flowers ready for her. I needed the money from that job to make sure I didn’t have to worry about any expenses.
I reached what looked to be the edge of a small forest. There were some trees sparsely spread out. Further down seemed to be a clearing. That was where the lights were clearly coming from. I walked down a narrow pathway. It looked recently travelled as there were broken branches on the ground and still some water filled muddy footsteps. I followed the footsteps and as I approached, I started hearing some weird chanting. That couldn’t be good, what were these teenagers up to?
As I got closer, I was able to make out some hooded figures standing in a circle. They were surrounded by what looked to be several rabbit corpses. Great, these kids were clearly on something. I could tell from their statures that they were likely not adults; they looked a bit too short for that. My guess was that it was a bunch of fourteen-or-so-year-olds from the nearby town. I crossed the edge of the clearing and at once all of the figures turned towards me. What was under their hoods didn’t quite match what I had expected. There were disfigured rabbit heads under them. Big scars and nasty looking warts covered most of their faces. Their eyes were all bright red. `Oh shit,’ I said as I started to stumble backwards. I’m in way too deep; whatever this is, it is way above my pay grade. I turned around and started to run back to the mansion. The figures started screeching at me and fear started to hit me. The rain was still pouring and at this point the lightning began to strike. What the hell is wrong with this place. I dashed through the woods. With every glance over my shoulder I saw the strange-looking rabbit creatures closing in behind me. They were running on two legs and looked almost like weird humans. Maybe it was just a bunch of teens with perverted masks? That could have been it, there was no way a strange rabbit-faced creature actually existed. At the edge of the woods I turned around and took out my gun.
`Whatever you kids are doing in that forest has to stop. You’re bothering the people living here and those masks are downright creepy.’ It seemed to have an effect, because the kids stopped running. They gathered in a half circle around me, not charging, but also not backing off.
`Say something, you weirdos.’ I was quickly starting to lose my patience. Not only that. A feeling of dread started creeping up. Ever since I left the mansion, something had felt strange. I had regained some of my confidence after realizing they’re probably just masks, though it was still very creepy. I really wanted this night to be over. I pointed my gun at the closest youth. `You there, what’s your name?’
The rabbit head tilted to the side and looked at me puzzled. It blinked and took a step forward. It blinked! Masks don’t blink. The moment that realization hit, the creature screamed and charged at me. I pulled the trigger.
The sound of my gun pierced the rainy evening sky as the youth fell over backwards. I hit him precisely in the chest. My body was pumped full of adrenaline and my thoughts started racing.
What did I just do? What if it was just a kid? Will I go to jail for murder? What should I do next? I looked at the rest of the youths and they were all standing still, staring at the fallen body of their friend. Of course the mask didn’t blink, I must have been seeing things. As I started to stumble backwards, something even scarier happened. The body of the youth that I had shot moved. It rose from the ground in a single, stiff motion- and cocked its head. Then it looked at me and started screeching again. I tried to run away, but my legs gave way under me, and I fell into a hole in the dirt behind me. I reached towards the sky and watched as the rabbit faces peeking over the edge slowly turned into blurs in the distance. Something hard hit the back of my head and I lost consciousness.
When I came to, I could hear the sound of water dripping. I seemed to be in some sort of underground cavern. There was nothing around me. I couldn’t find any light. I touched the back of my head and felt something wet on my hand. I remembered that I had a torch with me. It was still in my back pocket and luckily, it still worked. I turned it on and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. The walls were lined with rabbit corpses. Blood was everywhere, both dried and fresh, still dripping from the corpses. I looked at my hand to see it was covered in blood from when I touched the back of my head. I hesitated about pointing the torch at the ground but as I did, I saw the pool of blood that I had been lying in before I regained consciousness. I looked around trying to find my gun, but I couldn’t seem to locate it anywhere. Did it fall from my hands before I stumbled into this pitfall? I looked up, but there was no sign of the hole I fell through. I started inspecting the walls, suppressing the feeling of nausea that had started washing over me. Whoever made this room was clearly insane and I was starting to get worried that I was dealing with a psychopath, as opposed to some crazy teens.
There was nothing useful on the walls as far as I could tell. I moved to inspect the ground, which was covered with rabbit blood. At least I hoped it was all rabbit blood and there wasn’t something even more sinister going on. I carefully moved my feet along the ground. I hoped to find something by touch, because sight wasn’t very useful with this much blood on the ground. The blood rippled slightly as I pushed it and some of it started to dry and coagulate already, turning into a nasty combination of fluid and clots. I touched something that felt like a mechanism under my foot. I hesitated about inspecting it closer, but decided I had no choice. I used my coat to try and scoop the blood away and revealed a strange looking pressure plate. I carefully pushed it and as I did, the floor fell out from under me once more. I plunged in a waterfall of blood and lost consciousness yet again.
This time there was light in the room when I woke up. There were no sconces on the walls but there was something that looked like magma flowing around the room. The hard rock from last time was replaced by dirt. I got up and looked around again. My gun and torch weren’t there. I’m starting to really freak out right about now. I’m in way over my head. `Hello, can anyone hear me?’ I banged my fist on the wall and some of the dirt came loose. No response whatsoever. I started tracing the walls. They felt like dirt but strangely warm. It was like I was getting closer and closer to some sort of heat source. I felt droplets of sweat as they started to trickle down my forehead. `Anybody? Hello? I could use some help!’ I waited for a few moments, but heard nothing. Eventually I made my way around the entire room, but there was no exit. The one thing I did find was a drawing of a rabbit and some writing. I scrubbed the dirt off of the wall where the writing was. Slowly the words were revealed one by one. They spelled out a short phrase.
Down the rabbit hole.
`Down the rabbit hole, what does that mean?’ As I spoke the words, I heard a rumbling sound. `That can’t be good.’ The center of the room started to light up in bright red. The floor slowly crumbled. I pressed my back against the wall as the floor started to disappear. `Let me out of here!’ I yelled, but there was still no response. The floor was disappearing faster and faster now. `No, no, no, no!’ Below me I saw a hellscape that was something straight out of my nightmares. Right as the last bits of the floor were about to disappear below my feet, something pulled me through the wall. `I’m saved,’ I thought, as I passed out from pure fear.
As I woke up, I could feel the heat around me. My body ached all over. I tried moving, but couldn’t. Something held me in place. There was blood in my eyes and I couldn’t see too well. Why do my arms hurt so much? Where even am I? Something came closer to my face and I closed my eyes to avoid it. It felt like cloth. As it vanished I opened my eyes again. Two of the rabbit figures stood over me. I looked around and all I could see was fire. The walls were on fire, the roof was on fire. I saw the sky through a hole in the ceiling. One of the figures injected something into my arm. I tried to let out a scream, but my mouth had been sewn shut. What the hell? I looked down and what I saw horrified me. One of my arms was missing and the other was mangled in ways that should not be possible. Some sound escaped through the sutures in my mouth as I screamed as hard as I could. One of the creatures held up a rabbit’s head, blood still dripping from it. He looked at it, then at me, and grinned. I could just barely see the moon overhead as I felt a knife being thrust into my neck.