A story of the furry kind
“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run, don’t let the farmer use his gun, gun, gun. All day long you’re running through the fields, run rabbit run rabbit run, run, run. Now you say it.” Catherine laughed breathlessly and waited for her young son to repeat the rhyme.
He tried, making Catherine smother a bout of laughter, as he did so. “Won wabbit won wabbit.” He looked at her helplessly while trying to remember what came next.
“The farmer.” Vincent whispered, trying to jog his son’s memory.
Looking blankly at his father, young Jacob whispered back, “What farmer?”
“The one that’s after the rabbit.” Vincent told him. “And don’t you dare say what rabbit.”
Jacob giggled, as did Catherine, “You are funny daddy, I know there’s a wabbit in it.”
“Rabbit.” Vincent corrected him.
“That’s what I said, wabbit.”
“No, you said wabbit. It has starts with an R. Say R Rabbit.”
A toothy grin spread across Jacob’s face as he regarded his father carefully aware that his mother was finding something extremely funny and for a moment, Jacob said nothing.
“You try it darling,” Catherine told him. “Say rabbit with an R.”
Jacob looked to both his parents in turn gauging their response to his reply. He giggled before saying, “Arh Wabbit.”
Catherine burst into laughter, “You little rascal.” She ruffled her son’s honey curls, “You did that on purpose.” And she tickled him all over making him squeal.
Father chose that moment to pay his son and daughter in law a visit, “Hello Jacob, I thought you were in class.” Father frowned at his young grandson causing Jacob to grin from ear to ear. “You are funny granddad, its Saturday, have you forgotten again!”
“Oh My!” Father exclaimed clapping a hand to his mouth, “I had forgotten. The days fly by so quickly down here since you arrived. Never a dull moment. So what are you doing this morning?”
“I’m learning a rhyme.”
“Oh, which one is that?”
“The wabbit one.”
His eyes crinkling at the corners, Father tried not to laugh at how cute Jacob said that, and it didn’t help to catch the humour on Vincent and Catherine’s faces either. They were almost his undoing.
Still he was unable to help himself from telling the child, “You should try it with an R, Jacob.”
Grinning impishly and quick to respond Jacob commented, “I have, arh wabbit.”
Almost choking at the unexpected response amid the amusement it stirred up Father reached for the nearest chair, eager to sit before he fell down laughing.
“Tea Father?” Vincent reached for the kettle.
“Yes, thank you Vincent. So tell me what have you three planned for today?”
The couple looked at one another, they hadn’t really made any plans, but they knew Father only too well, and if he had forgotten it was Saturday…
“More to the point, Father.” Catherine replied, “What do you, have in mind for us today?”
“Am I so transparent?” Father grinned, and more so as his son and daughter in law nodded eagerly.
“Well, since you’ve guessed, there is something you could do as it happens. Mouse reported some strange goings on in the upper levels. Nothing to worry about.” Father quickly reassured them, “I don’t think so anyway, no, more like a Mouse problem, something and nothing I expect.”
“Tell us what he told you.” Concerned despite his father’s assurances, Vincent listened with interest. Anything happening on any levels, strange or not concerned him greatly. If Mouse had seen or heard something and thought to report it, then it could be serious. It was unlike Father to act so blasé about it and Vincent looked at his parent shrewdly, “Are you certain you know nothing more?”
Indicating Jacob’s rather large ears in the listening department, Vincent understood at once, “Jacob why don’t you go and see if Luke can come here to play today?”
“Yes, Jacob, you do that. With the new baby due any day now, I’m sure Olivia would be glad of Luke spending the day with us.” Catherine added gaily, hoping her clever son did not suss that he was being sent out so that Father could speak about something without his overhearing.
She needn’t have worried, a day spent with Luke was just what Jacob needed, it beat reciting poems any day, and in a flash he was gone needing no second telling.
Vincent chuckled, “Was I like that at his age, Father?”
“You most certainly were, both you and Devin. Any chance to get out of chores or lessons and you took it. Well before he returns with Luke in tow I’d best tell you what’s on my mind.”
Vincent placed a steaming cup of tea on the table at Father’s side and took up his own seat opposite the old man. Catherine walked round to the back of Vincent’s chair and leaned over, her arms draped over her husband’s shoulders and both prepared to listen to what Father had to say.
“Its nothing bad, I just didn’t want Jacob overhearing due to the nature of the poem you were discussing earlier. You see my dears, Mouse tells me that rabbits have dug runs in the earth above the upper level, or rather beneath the park and are causing havoc with the soil up there. Mouse reckons that we may need to reinforce some of the beams lest the rabbit runs cause a mudslide. It won’t bother us too much down here, but it could cause a obstruction in some of the upper tunnels that would prevent some of the members of our community getting about safely.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad, that is as far as Jacob is concerned, why didn’t you want him to know?”
“Well just in case we have to use the last resort. It might be that the damage done by the rabbits is too colossal to repair and everyone knows how they breed. We may need to gas them if worse comes to the worse and Jacob wouldn’t want to know about that. I had this sudden thought of the tunnel children rescuing bunnies and hiding them down here, and at the rate they breed…well you know…do I need to say more?”
“No Father,” Catherine giggled picturing it all, “We understand perfectly. And yes you are right, the least the children know of it the better.”
That said the three set about making plans to tackle the problem, and so absorb were they in their venture that neither noticed the hours slipping by, or realised that Jacob hadn’t yet returned with Luke in tow.
*** *** ***
“How are you Olivia? You look worn out.” Jamie entered her friend’s chamber later that day, looking around eagerly expecting to find Luke within, “Where’s Luke?”
“He’s off with Jacob, they’re playing in Vincent and Catherine’s chamber today, giving me some peace and quiet and believe me, Jamie, I need it. I have never felt so tired, it wasn’t this way with Luke.”
“Well when the baby is born, you’ll know you have no need to ask for all the help you will be offered. You’ll get all the rest you need then.”
“Well it can’t come fast enough that’s all I can say. No matter how I lay these days, something hurts. Either a foot in my kidney or a foot in my ribs, sometimes I think I am carrying an elephant.”
Jamie laughed out loud and attempted the unforgivable, “Any ideas on a name yet?” she asked matter of factly, as if she wasn’t really bothered at all. Olivia saw straight through her, “Now Jamie, you know the rules. No one must know the name but the parents until the naming ceremony. But as you asked, no, we still haven’t decided.” She laughed gaily. A sound Jamie was happy to hear. It seemed too long since she had heard Olivia laugh like that, and she hoped that the baby didn’t cause complications. Olivia was awfully large. There and then, Jamie prayed for a safe delivery for both mother and child.
“You should rest while Luke is out of the way, I’ll leave you to do that Livvy, can I call back later?”
“Of course you can, there’s no need to ask. If you are going Vincent’s way though, perhaps you could just check on that son of mine and make sure he’s behaving himself”
“I will, and yes I am going that way. See you later Liv.”
“Thank you, Jamie. See you later.”
*** *** ***
“Hey its Bugs Bunny!” Eight-year old Luke accompanied by six-year old Jacob pointed up the tunnel with obvious excitement, “See it Jake?”
Jacob could, and he could hardly believe his eyes, “Yes, hey neat. Do you think we could catch it?”
“Well we could try. Come on.” The two broke into a run startling the wild brown rabbit that dashed this way and that searching for escape, and finally finding none, headed straight toward them and between Luke’s legs and was gone.
“See that! See it move! We are gonna need a net.”
“No leave it, maybe there’s more of them.” Jacob wondered. There were an awful lot of droppings over the floor for one rabbit.
“Really? Why do you think so?”
“Look.” Jacob pointed to the droppings, “He wouldn’t have done all of that would he?”
“Dunno. Hope not. Won’t want to go again for a year if he did.” Jacob giggled. He liked Luke he always said the funniest of things.
“Hey look.” Jacob followed Luke’s gaze to the roof of the tunnel, “Bet he fell through there. Where do you think it goes? Can you give me a lift?”
Jacob looked at his friend sceptically, “Don’t think so. You might be able to lift me up there though. I could pull you up, once I’m there.”
“Okay, here climb onto my shoulders.” Luke bent down enabling Jacob to climb aboard. Soon he was reaching through the hole above and heaving himself up.
“I’ve done it. Jump up and grab my hand, you can climb the tunnel wall to pull yourself up.” Jacob had seen Luke do similar things before, he knew he was not asking too much of his friend, and soon both boys had climbed from the tunnel below to the one above, and were delighted with what they found.
“Wow, look at all those wabbits!” Jacob exclaimed as he took in the sight around them. There were rabbits of all sizes everywhere.
“Where did they come from?” Luke, eyes wide, couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“No idea, but its cool, this could be our secret. If we tell anyone then they might want to get rid of them especially Grand Father.” Jacob groaned as the thought presented itself. He knew the rules against pets in the tunnels. Only Arthur was tolerated.
“Yeah okay, we’ll keep it to ourselves then. We could feed them!”
“That would be great. Yes, lets go see if William has any lettuce or carrots in the kitchen.”
“Yes, and we’ll bring a rope so we can get up and down easier.” Luke said still rubbing his shoulder where Jacob’s boots had dug in.
“That’s a good idea, come on then let’s go.”
*** *** ***
The weekend came and went, and by the following Thursday, William was most concerned that his supply of vegetables was diminishing faster than anticipated and he couldn’t understand it. Even after the celebration from the birth of Olivia and Kanin’s new baby boy, there should still have been vegetables left. They hadn’t used many of those. Mainly it had been sausage rolls and pastries to help the celebratory wine go down and it was only a mild celebration. The naming ceremony would be a much larger affair.
Even the work party that had been gone a couple of days to deal with the rabbit problem hadn’t taken vegetables with them… “mmm… rabbits… vegetables…” William pondered, “I wonder?” He scratched his head, surely it wasn’t possible, not rabbits down here. He hadn’t noticed any nasty little calling cards in the storeroom, but then he hadn’t really been looking for them. Awful as it may sound, if he had of seen them on the floor, and not have known what they were, he may have concluded that someone had spilt the raisins. With that thought in mind he decided he’d best go and take a look to satisfy his curiosity.
*** *** ***
It was Saturday again. The work party had returned happy that they had done their best to eradicate the rabbit problem, and each were looking forward to the naming ceremony of Kanin and Olivia’s baby the following day. Those involved in its organisation were gathered in Father’s chamber going over the last minute details as well as holding a council meeting. The problem of William’s decreasing vegetable supply was causing great concern, and no one had a solution.
“Can’t be the rabbits.” Cullen ventured, “We gassed as many as we had to, and the rest are unable to get down here. As well as the fact that a couple of helpers have sent ferrets down the runs since in the hope to frighten the bunnies away from this part of the park. So, it’s just not possible for the vegetables to be taken by the bunnies. Must be a thief of the two legged variety.”
For some reason everyone looked toward Mouse, “Why me?” He asked nervously, knowing the reason. “Arthur likes fruit best.” As if that answered everything.
True though, as everyone nodded, if Mouse wanted to steal anything, he would take what Arthur, his beloved raccoon, loved the most rather than food he ate at a push but wasn’t terribly fussy over. So, it was still a mystery.
“None of the children would take vegetables. Its hard enough getting them to eat them as it is.” William barked.
“Maybe that’s the answer.” Father looked up regarding William sceptically, “After all if there are no vegetables to be offered at dinner, they wouldn’t have to eat them would they?”
“Do you think they’d go to such lengths?” William wanted to know, “They have never tried it before.”
“They may only have just thought of it.” Father replied nodding, “Yes I think it is a possibility, and we should all watch the children more carefully. Someone is stealing the vegetables that’s for certain the thing is where are they hiding them? They will soon be going off and stinking. We ought to look under beds and in cupboards I think, just in case they are being hoarded that way. And we all ought to notice any strange smells that might signify rotting food. The last thing we want to encourage down here after those rabbits, is rats and mice.”
Everyone nodded, and each knew that he/she would do their bit. One way or another they would find out who was stealing the vegetables and why.
*** *** ***
Having boarded off the runs from the park entrances and from the entrances below the only rabbit population that was left behind, after the visit from the ferrets had accumulated in the tunnel where Jacob and Luke had first discovered them and they were reliant on their new regular food supply brought to them by the two boys. Not only that but the source of vitamins they were receiving from such a rich variety of food was helping them to breed most profusely. It wouldn’t be long before the rabbit problem was as bad if not worse than it was before.
Jacob and Luke didn’t see this though. To them the rabbits presented fun they would not normally have and when some of the rabbits became tame enough to touch and stroke the boys were elated.
“We have to tell some of the other kids, Luke. They’ll love the wabbits.”
“Just what I was thinking, ‘sides, we need help to bring more food. I’m sure there are more here today then there were yesterday.”
Jacob thought so too. In fact, it seemed to him that the wabbits had multiplied with each passing day and it was beginning to worry him a little if truth be told. As well as the fact that the novelty was wearing off and he was fed up nicking the vegetables to feed the wabbits. They didn’t do anything but eat…oh and the other of course…and they did a lot of that. Some days Jacob went home with wabbit droppings all over the seat of his pants and the soles of his shoes. It was a wonder no one had noticed…
He never knew that just as he was thinking it, someone was just about to do that.
*** *** ***
“Vincent, what do you suppose this is on Jacob’s jeans?” Catherine was asking at that self same moment as she collected the dirty linen for washing.
With his keen sense of smell, Vincent first scrutinised the flat brown mass upon the seat of his son’s trousers and then lifting the material gingerly to his nose he sniffed…just once. It was enough!
“Poo!” He exclaimed, rubbing his nose to remove the smell.
“Yes,” Said Catherine “Just what I was thinking. I’m surprised to hear you say the word though.” She grinned at him, her husband was full of surprises and somehow the utterance of the word poo didn’t seem to fit his vocabulary at all. Even when Jacob had been a baby in diapers he had never used the word. And so, it amused Catherine no end to hear him use it now.
“No, I mean poo it stinks.” Vincent exclaimed crushing her high spirits, “but as it happens, you are probably right. I do think it is… that. The question is where would Jacob have picked it up from?”
“Curioser and curioser,” a voice from the doorway told them, and they both looked up to see Kanin striding in holding a pair of Luke’s dirty jeans. “The same marks are on Luke’s trousers. I came here hoping you two might be able to throw some light on what it could be.”
“Well we think its…” Catherine hesitated as Kanin interrupted her.
“Yes I know, I overheard that bit too. It would make sense. Livvy said it looked like rabbit muck, and since we have just had that problem, it’s a possibility. The question is how did the boys and the rabbits come into contact, and more importantly are they still in contact?”
“Oh no.” Catherine exclaimed, “You aren’t thinking what I’m thinking are you?”
Kanin grinned, “Vincent might be able to do that Cathy, but not me. What are you thinking?”
“You know the missing vegetables, two boys and rabbits…need I say more?”
Kanin and Vincent shook their heads. No, she didn’t need to say more - they had got the picture, what they needed now was the proof.
*** *** ***
Watching their children was one thing the parents of both boys were excellent at. They might miss a few minor problems but the moment they were in on it, they were mindful of every look, every passing of hand over hand, every whispered word, every written code sent to one boy from the other. They were watchful and they were cunning, and downright deceitful when questioning, subtly so, the whereabouts of their offspring. And they were exceedingly good at laying a trap.
“Jacob, can you take these peelings to the trash for me.” Catherine was preparing meat and potato pie for a snack lunch. It was filling, but not so much that it would ruin the fare that William provided every day for dinner. Taking the bag of peelings from his mother, Catherine pretended to be absorbed in some other task, while she watched her son out of one eye corner. She was both dismayed and surprised when rather than place the peelings into the bin he stuffed them inside his rucksack, and announced that he was off to see Luke.
At about the same time, Olivia was also undertaking a similar ploy, and she too was surprised to find that Luke took the apple peelings from the pie she had just prepared and stuffed them into a bag before telling her he was off to meet Jacob and taking the bag with him.
Quickly she went to the pipes, and tapped out the appropriate code, organised before hand, and waited for Vincent and Catherine to arrive. Kanin had discreetly followed his son out of the chamber and would report back for Vincent to meet him somewhere when he had further news.
*** *** ***
“Have you told anyone?” Luke asked as he met Jacob at their secret spot.
“Not yet have you?” Jacob had been unsure of who he could trust. Yesterday when they had fed the wabbits, there had been several litters of babies born amongst them and it had worried him greatly. He and Luke had counted them all roughly and were surprised to find that the numbers had increased by thirty in a week!
“No, but we’re gonna have to tell someone soon. They are eating more than we can bring them, and I was thinking, do you suppose we ought to provide water for them?”
Jacob hadn’t thought about that. “Can’t they find their own?”
“Dunno. I guess that they could dig for some, but where? Remember the hole the first one fell through, it only led to the tunnel below. Most of the tunnels are solid rock, so that one must have been lucky to find soil, or unlucky. He fell quite a way down, it’s a wonder he didn’t break his legs or something.”
“Wonder where he went to? He couldn’t climb back up could he?”
“Don’t know where he went. Maybe the work party found him.”
“What work party?”
“Didn’t you know? I heard some of the kids talking about rabbits in the tunnels, and a work party went out to move them. Guess they haven’t found our rabbits though.”
Jacob wished they would. He and Luke had taken an awful lot of vegetables over the week for their wabbits, and someone would surely start noticing soon, then they’d be for it!
“Well we’re here. Oh no!”
“What is it?” Jacob looked up to where Luke was gazing. The rabbits had dug through the tunnel ceiling and there were gaping holes where the rock had broken apart over the years from constant use.
“They’ve broken through, come on, let’s make sure the babies are still safe.”
The two boys swung themselves up their rope and alighted onto the tunnel above within seconds and were relieved to find that the downy nest of furless babies were still intact, though some hovered dangerously near to the holes.
“We ought to move them.” Jacob said surging forward to do just that.
“No, wait! Can’t touch baby rabbits, or the mother will eat them. I’ve been reading about it. Once you get your scent onto them the mother kills them.”
“That’s terrible. But we gotta move them, they are too close to the holes.”
“Their mothers will know that. We have to let them move them if the need be. The best we can do is try to fill in those holes.”
“That’s a good idea. What can we use?”
“Anything you can find. Come on, let’s get passed the rabbits and see how far this tunnel goes. I know it hasn’t been used for several years, and was shored up when Paracelsus was about, but we might find something laying around.”
They put their packs down, spreading out the peelings as they did, and then walked carefully between the rabbits looking for anything that might help, with their flashlights swinging to and fro as they searched. The eyes of the rabbits sparkled as the beam picked out their faces. They looked eerie and Jake shuddered. It looked as though there were millions of them.
Suddenly Jake yelped and his flashlight flew from his hand as his feet slipped from beneath him and he felt himself falling, “Luke help!”
Swinging around Luke was just in time to see Jacob disappearing through the tunnel floor, his arms flailing out at his sides and fortunately saving his fall through to the tunnel below. Caught by his armpits with his body trapped through the hole Jake pleaded for Luke to help save him. Luke turned, flung himself down, and promptly began to slide also. He struggled tried to gain his ground, but he was doing the splits, a leg going in each direction until both legs were sunk and held fast between solid rock. “I can’t move!” Luke cried, “My feet are trapped.”
Jacob began to cry. It was pitch black, they were both trapped, and the only light from their torches were cast the other way around so that all that could be seen were the ominous glints of a thousand eyes, and they were edging closer, and closer, and closer…
They went this way.” Kanin told Vincent as his friend approached. “It’s a dead end isn’t it?”
“Yes. We blocked these particular tunnels after Parascelsus last used them and they have never needed to be reopened. It was as well because the floors were deemed dangerous at that time and we could not afford to have them repaired. Since they are tunnels that are not important to us anymore the decision was made to leave them closed off. I believe some of the children have made camps here in the past, though this is not encouraged because of the risk of mudslides. If Luke and Jacob have gone this way, they might find themselves in trouble.”
Swinging their lanterns, Vincent and Kanin strode on searching for any sign that would signify any existing dangers as well as looking out for their two sons.
“Listen?” Vincent’s acute hearing picked up some sounds long before Kanin could hear them.
“What is it? What can you hear?” Kanin strained his ears but heard nothing.
“Someone is crying. It sounds like Jacob.”
Kanin marvelled at Vincent’s ability and hurried forward with his friend until he too could hear something.
“That’s Luke too. He’s hurt. Come on.”
Breaking into a run the two men hurried until the light from their lanterns picked out a very strange sight, that was almost humorous if it had not been so serious. Jacob’s legs were hanging through the ceiling of the tunnel they were in and pitying wails were coming from both of the boys.
“Hold on, we’re coming.” Kanin cried trying frantically to hoist Jacob back up by pushing at his feet, all to no avail.
“How did you get up there?” Vincent asked, directing the light from his lantern to the ceiling. As far as he knew there was no other way in up. Both ends were blocked that he did know. Only this one, below, could be entered from the main tunnels, but there was no exit.
“Through the ceiling, dad.” Jacob cried, recognising his father’s voice at once. “A bit further along.”
Vincent scrutinised the ceiling carefully, walking the tunnel’s length until he found the hole Jacob had spoken of but no way would he get his body through that hole, and neither would Kanin, and they couldn’t risk probing to make it larger or the whole ceiling might cave in.
“Kanin is with me. He’ll stay with you, while I fetch your mother. She might be small enough to squeeze through the hole. Hold on, I won’t be long.”
“That’s okay dad, I’m not going anywhere.” Despite himself Jacob giggled, such was his relief that they were to be rescued. Luke sounded as though he was hurting real bad, and they had both thought that no one would ever find them and they’d be eaten alive by the rabbits when they grew hungry. It was a horrible thought, and they were both scared silly.
Still it seemed ages before Vincent returned with Catherine, Jamie, Mouse and a few other tunnel dwellers.
“The cavalry have arrived, soon have you boys out of there. Can you tell us where Luke is stuck?”
“Yes dad, his feet are trapped. He hasn’t fallen right through like me, only up to his knees, but he can’t move his feet.”
“This could be a problem.” Vincent whispered. “We might need some beams to hold up this ceiling before trying to get Luke out. We may have to dig around his legs to free him and that could bring down the ceiling. Does everyone agree that we can lift Jacob out first?”
It was the obvious decision, but Vincent was afraid it would sound like favouritism if he put his own son first. However, everyone understood, and Kanin squeezed Vincent’s shoulder, “Its okay Vincent, pull Jacob free and then we can all concentrate on Luke.”
“Thank you.” Vincent whispered, before turning to Catherine to indicate the hole in the ceiling above and asked her, “Think you can squeeze through there if I hoist you up?”
Catherine nodded it looked big enough to her.
It was. Soon she was in the tunnel above and with the light from the boy’s torches aimed straight at her she found herself blinded momentarily, although there did seem to be a lot of movement round about. “Where are you?” She called.
“Over here, but be careful the floor is unsafe and mind the wabbits.”
“The what?” Even as she asked the question she understood. All those fuzzy things picked out by the blinding light were living things, living four legged, hopping things, and could only be one thing - rabbits.
“Its full of rabbits up here, Vincent. Hundreds of them. We’ll need some cages, or some sacks.”
“Don’t touch the babies!” Jacob cried, “Or their mother’s will eat them.”
“It’s alright Jacob, we’ll be careful. But they can’t stay here. We may have to dig around Luke’s feet and that could bring the ceiling down, so we will have to move the rabbits first.” The last thing Catherine was concerned about was a bunch of bunnies in light of the two trapped boys but neither could she see animals suffer. A rock and mudslide could injure some of them badly in the fall.
“Now can you lift your arms up if I hold onto your hands?”
“You won’t let me fall?”
“No. But don’t worry, should you slip your father is waiting below and will catch you. You’ll be alright, trust me.”
One at a time, Jacob lifted his arms, taking his mother’s hands in his until he felt safe that she bore his weight. He relaxed then and with a wiggle of his body released the soil around him as Catherine lifted him away from the hole. “Watch out below!” She cried as soil tumbled down but Vincent had anticipated this and had already covered his face.
“I’m lifting Jacob through the other hole now, can you help him down Vincent?” Catherine called as she hugged her son tightly, her features outlined with concern as she looked at the pinched and pain filled face of Luke beside her. He looked awful. It was probable that it would take quite some time to free him and she didn’t dare try to wiggle him free until she knew what they were dealing with.
“Out of the way rabbit.” She stepped around the furry creatures, surprised that they did not run and cower as she approached them. They were indeed quite tame, which in itself should make the task of collecting them all so much easier for the sooner they had done that, the sooner they could get Luke out of there.
As she passed Jacob down to his father, she was surprised to see that the work party had already arrived and were busy shoring up the tunnel beneath her. She marvelled at how quick these people worked in any emergency. In such a short space of time they had done quite a lot and she hadn’t even heard a thing.
As a team they worked while Catherine stroked Luke’s brow and massaged his back careful not to put too much pressure upon him and was happy to note that despite his pain and discomfort he was quite chatty and she learned all about their rabbits and where William’s vegetables had gone over the past week.
“I didn’t know the rabbits were having babies.” Luke told her. One day there was just a few, and then all of a sudden there were lots of little fluffy ones that must have left the nest when their mothers had some more.”
“Well nothing breeds faster than rabbits Luke, except maybe other rodents such as mice and rats. They all have babies every four weeks, and their babies can mate at a month old and then they can have babies four weeks later. It doesn’t take long to have a whole tribe of them. And it wouldn’t take long to have rabbits throughout all of the tunnels. You should have told someone Luke. Although good has come out of the bad. You see obviously these tunnels were more dangerous than anyone supposed and this ceiling could have come down at any time on unsuspecting people. Though most of us know they lead nowhere, I know several children make camp here from time to time. Any shouting might have brought the ceiling down on them, so in a way what happened here with you and Jacob and the rabbits may have, in the long run, saved some people’s lives.”
“Yeah, guess so.” Luke agreed, though Catherine felt sure that under his breath, he was adding but why did I have to get hurt first?
It took the rest of that day before the rabbits were carefully handled and taken out through the gap wide enough for Catherine and before they had a chance to suffocate in the sacks and boxes they were carried in, they were taken up to the park and set free as far from the original rabbit runs as possible. It was probable that the baby rabbits would be abandoned but at least the carers had done their best to keep them safe.
Finally, with the tunnel below shored up, and the safety team in place, Catherine came down from her place beside Luke and while everyone spoke encouragingly to the boy from below, Vincent worked at the gap with his sharp claws, making it wider bit by bit, until it was deemed large enough to let two men through.
Once beside Luke, they worked steadily, chipping away at the rock around his legs, taking it apart piece by piece until first one foot could be released and then the other. In all it took four painstaking hours to free Luke’s feet, and in that time the tunnel below was vacated although the beams seemed to be holding up the ceiling reasonably well. Vincent felt sure though that it would have come down had the beams not have been in place. It looked awfully treacherous as piles of soil collected on the floor of the tunnel below. Once Luke and the team were safely out of there, they would block the entrance for good. No other child would ever use those tunnels again.
*** *** ***
The following day, when all that remained of their adventure was sore ankles and bruises Jacob and Luke received the ticking off they had anticipated by the patriarch of the tunnels, Jacob Wells.
Luke cringed as he listened to the rules and regulations of their world, of how they could so easily have jeopardised everything the tunnel dwellers relied upon by their foolhardiness and how they would both be punished for stealing William’s vegetables for the whole of the next week. Luke thought that was a bit steep and said so and was further punished for his cheek by having it extended to one month after which he kept his comments to himself. Jacob took it all without question, he had known all along that it would come to this, even though he thought that no punishment handed out to him, however severe, would help him remember what happened. He didn’t think he would ever forget it punishment or not. In fact, he dreamed about man-eating rabbits all that night and hoped he’d never see a rabbit in the tunnels again.
Luke on the other hand hoped he would forget despite having to do chores for a whole month. In fact he hoped that he would soon forget everything Father had said and told his mother so when they returned home after the visit to Father’s chamber.
“Stupid old geezer.” Luke cried as he flung himself down upon his bed startling both his parents as they overheard him.
“Who?” Olivia asked concerned.
“Father. That’s who.” And he mimicked in his best Father’s voice, “Things are not always as they seem Luke, you may think that the punishment is too severe but it’ll give you time to reflect on the things that you and Jacob did and you’ll come to see that every cloud has a silver lining… Yeah right… how scrubbing dirty floors for a month can help me to see anything good, beats me!”
“I think you’d best be careful what you say young man.” Kanin admonished his son, “If it wasn’t for…”
“I know if it wasn’t for stupid old Father…”
“Now that’s enough Luke!” Olivia exclaimed, “Didn’t you learn anything yesterday?”
“Yeah I learned loads, watch where one treads for one thing.” He sniggered.
“You’d do well to apply that metaphorically speaking too.” Kanin told his son. “If Vincent or Catherine, or Mary hears of you speaking about Father like that you’ll be for the high jump.” Kanin was clearly annoyed. Luke ignored him. His pride was hurt, being caught trapped like that, having to be rescued, being ridiculed by the other kids for falling down a hole, two holes actually one for each foot had been more than Luke could bear. Whereas Jacob seemed to take it in his stride, he couldn’t. He was older and what people thought of him meant more to Luke.
“So what?” He sneered even now, angering his parents even more.
“So you’ll be punished further. We don’t like your attitude young man, and your punishment issued by Father will be extended by us. From today you are grounded. Every moment that you aren’t doing tunnel chores you can help with the new baby and anything your mother might need doing. One way or another you won’t forget this Luke, you mark my words.” Kanin told him angrily.
Tears threatened Luke’s eyes, but he resolutely forced them back. He didn’t mean all that stuff, had no idea why he had said it. He’d been riled enough today, he was just biting back where the hurt had bedded in.
“I’m sorry.” Both Kanin and Olivia were taken aback by the turn around of their son. He sounded genuine and truly apologetic. But if he were angling to get out of working it wouldn’t work. Very soon though they learned the reason for his defiance and relented a little on the household chores. “Alright, as you’ve explained how you’ve been treated by the tunnel children, you need only help with a few household chores, no more than is reasonable expected, but you must still obey Father’s rules, and you must understand that something like this cannot be forgotten Luke. What you and Jacob did was wrong, and it’s not something you should forget.” Kanin told him sternly.
“I wish I could.” Luke replied. “But I can’t with you reminding me all the time.”
“Hmm…well you shouldn’t. And we won’t.” Kanin turned toward Olivia, with a look of absolute dismay on his face. How could they get their son to remember this incident so that he might never do anything like it again without constantly reminding him about it? What Luke didn’t seem to realise was that if his father hadn’t of followed the two boys, they might still be trapped even then, perhaps for days. In many respects, Kanin wished that were so, for then Luke was more likely to never forget what had happened.
“No, you shouldn’t” Olivia echoed her husband, “Luke, you seem to be missing the point here. Its not that we want you to remember the incident as it was but to remember the consequences of your actions. By keeping the rabbit population a secret and by stealing the vegetables what the two of you did was deceitful and wrong. Not to mention that Mouse almost got the blame for the missing food.” Olivia was concerned that Luke found that funny and the tone of her voice rose, “Luke, I’m surprised at you. Whether your friends ridicule you or not, its not like you to act so rebelliously and I’d like to know where you are getting it from. Not from Jacob I’m sure. He has accepted his punishment graciously.”
“Only cos he had to. Father is his grandfather.”
“There you go again. What’s the matter with you? You never used to answer me back in that tone of voice.” Olivia was becoming distressed.
Kanin was thoughtful. Luke had been doing a lot of reading just lately, as all of them did below, true, but Kanin had seen some comic books upon his son’s bed recently and he wondered to the contents now. “Where are those comics I saw you with yesterday?” He asked his son.
“What comics?” Immediately, Olivia and Kanin suspected by the tone of their son’s reply that the comics were precious to him. He guarded their whereabouts with an almost vicious intensity.
Without replying, Kanin strode to his son’s bed and lifting the mattress thought ‘bingo’ when he found a stack of the self same comics and before Luke could snatch them away had leafed through the contents and briefed some of the stories within. “Here’s the culprit.” He held a handful of comics above his head out of his son’s reach and toward his wife. “These my boy, are not the sort of things you ought to be reading. Olivia, do you know where he got these from?”
Olivia shook her head. “I’ve seen him with them, I just didn’t examine them. Luke, these are awful.” Olivia scanned one of the comics with a story about children doing whatever they wanted, with no parental guidance and no laws to stop them and having no conscience to bother them from doing anything they deemed possible. There were even stories about children killing other children. Olivia was horrified!
“Its alright Liv, I don’t blame you, how could I? We have both been taken up with the coming of the new baby, we have neglected Luke more than we ought, but I truly felt he could be trusted. Luke, you should have known not to read this stuff. Where did you get it?”
“Who from?” Kanin and Olivia were doubly concerned now. Luke was not allowed above on his own. How was it possible that an older tunnel child would allow their son to bring such material back below?
“From nobody. I found them. They were discarded in a bin. No one wanted them, so I brought them here. What’s wrong with them? They’re interesting. I learned all about rabbits from one of them.”
“Bits of every magazine can be interesting it’s the main articles that are important. Stuff like that desensitises all the good things you have been taught, makes even black appear white. In no time at all you’ll be believing that everything written is alright to do. These kind of magazines are evil Luke, written by evil people and I don’t want you reading them ever again. Does anyone else have any copies down here?”
“No. Just me.” Luke refrained from saying anything else. He was dismayed to admit even to himself that his parents had a point. At first, some of the reading material had shocked him and then as he read more and more, he found that he began to enjoy it. There was a series undergoing of several characters and he liked them, so much so that he wanted to be them, live like them, talk like them, think like them and behave like them. But deep down inside Luke knew that his attitude had altered so much since reading them that he didn’t have as many friends as he once had. Only Jacob played with him nowadays and he was two years younger and still quite a baby.
“Well I think this doubly shows that what happened yesterday should never be forgotten. The principle behind it will guide and shape your future if you let it Luke, and bring out the better person that you are inside. Go to the dining room now, your mother and I will meet you there later, we have a few things to discuss first before your brother’s naming ceremony this evening. Come straight back after you’ve eaten okay?”
Luke nodded, said nothing, and made his exit. Outside the chamber he let out a long sigh of relief thinking that the sooner he forgot about yesterday the better. And he knew where to get some more of those comics. Hopefully he’d find the next issue to the last one so he could see what happened to his favourite character. Despite what he had thought only moments earlier he reasoned now that the comics weren’t as bad as his parents made out, they just hadn’t moved with the times that was all. Luke thought on these things as he headed toward the dining room and then realising he wasn’t hungry he back-tracked. There was no time like the present, he could go above and be back before he was missed. As soon as the thought took root Luke acted upon it and at a steady trot, he headed for the entrance leading up into the park.
*** *** ***
With the naming ceremony only hours away, Kanin and Olivia had other pressing problems to content with. They had chosen a name for their son, true, but it was a name neither really cared for rather more of a compromise of two names either liked but one that wasn’t entirely supported by the other.
“We ought to think of something before the ceremony, Kanin, something that really suits him I know that, but right now I am finding it hard to think past anything other than Luke and rabbits. I wish there was something we could do to make Luke understand that what happened yesterday could have had dire consequences on so many people, not to mention the rescuers. Now there’s this comic problem and I think much of Luke’s rebellious streak over the rabbits had a lot to do with the material inside those books.”
“Yes I do too. Yet, he seems set to forget about the whole incident yesterday and it couldn’t have been nice for him. When Pete and Dan chipped away at that rock Luke told them he had been sure that the rabbits would suffocate Jacob. Apparently they had all crowded around when Jacob fell into the hole.”
“Jacob told Catherine this morning that he had thought they were going to eat him. He had some terrible nightmares last night about man eating rabbits.” Olivia chuckled despite herself and Kanin grinned.
“I doubt Jacob will forget in a hurry, but it doesn’t change the fact that we need to find a way to make Luke remember it for always. Pity we couldn’t give the baby a name that would constantly remind him, that would kill two birds with one stone, if you pardon the expression Livvy.”
“I do, and I understand…and….” Olivia smiled joyously, “You’ve just provided the answer. Walls have ears, come close and I’ll whisper it to you.”
Grinning, Kanin listened carefully as Olivia whispered into his ear, and then kissing her cheek he smiled gleefully, “Its perfect Livvy, I love it. It’s a terrific name and I can’t wait to see Luke’s face when we announce it tonight!.”
*** *** ***
Up above Luke carefully stole around the shrubbery toward the area he knew to find the comic books. He hadn’t been for a week, and they had always been left in the same place but he was nervous about being above on his own.
“You’ll be okay.” He told himself, “Those books are good for you. They’ll make you strong and powerful. Yeah no one can hurt me if I act like Meatloaf, (the name of his favourite comic book hero), no one would dare. And silly old Father and his stupid rules can go jump.” Yet even as he said it he despised the gut feeling that told him his thinking was wrong. “Pooey” he told himself, “Stop being a cissy Luke, forget the sugar and spice stuff, and get out into the real world. That’s what makes a man a man, not all that fancy poetry and music stuff.”
Luke knew nothing of the crime his father had committed or the prison sentence he had served, or he might have thought differently, then again reading material television programmes and movies had a lot to answer for, for the way of evil mankind in modern society. Much of the content had been the cause of crimes and murders by people who had relied too heavily upon the characters portrayed by their wanting to be like them. Some even believed that those characters were real and worshipped their actions.
Edging closer to the spot, Luke was surprised to find that for once he had company. A group of kids were arguing over the comics, and Luke was dismayed to find that they were ripping them to shreds. He hoped that by the time they had gone there would be something left for him. He crouched low and prepared to wait. If he had to stay for hours, he would. Having come so close to what he wanted Luke was prepared to sit it out and wait.
The kids, he presumed were older than he, about ten or twelve. They were dirty, unkempt obviously street kids. And they had filthy language, such as he had glossed over at first in the comics, only taking it in when doing so helped him follow the pattern of the story. Still he decided to reject it as he heard them now, reading and hearing were two very different things, and Luke covered his ears every time he thought one of them might issue a swear word. That so, he only heard bits of the argument that was taking place.
“Gimme the …. Comic…you….thing. Its mine…”
“Tisn’t, I saw the …thing first. I got some more see. Sides I showed you the …ones I got last week. If it weren’t for me you’d not ….well be here now.”
“Yeah, so what did Meatloaf do to Snyker?”
“Dunno, didn’t …well get that one. Weren’t here.”
“Well I’ll show you what shall I? Bet he did this…” Horrified Luke watched as the lad talking drew a knife and plunged it into the other child’s body crying loudly over the screams, “Bet he did this…and this…and this…yeah good ole Meatloaf. Take that Snyker.”
Bile rose to Luke’s throat, followed by vomit. He retched petrified that the sound would alert the killer, but he seemed oblivious to anything but the sight of blood and the evil he was causing. The other boys depending upon their disposition either ran or remained at his side laughing heartily, as the younger boy died at their feet.
“Yeah, Meatloaf wins again!” The older boy waved the blood soaked knife in the air, triumphant and not a bit remorseful for his actions.
Sick to the pit of his stomach in heart as well as physically, Luke moved carefully and silently away from the area. His heart sank and he hated himself for wanting to be his hero Meatloaf knowing now that his parents had been right. Just the same as reading the bible made people good and spiritual reading evil material did make evil people if they truly believed in it and Luke had been wrong to assume that it would never happen as his parents had maintained that it would.
That poor kid, Luke thought, then decided that he wasn’t a very nice kid either as it happened, still though no one deserved to die like that. The enjoyment the killer had got from the act sickened Luke. He would have to tell Catherine about it, describe the kid to her, maybe she could do something about getting him put in jail or something. And maybe she could see to it that the publishers of such comics could be stopped from selling any more of it. It turned kids evil.
Luke checked his watch, he’d be late back, but he knew it didn’t matter. His parents had been right about the comics, about his attitude about everything. And he had a lot of apologies to make and they would be angry that he had gone above, upset that he had witnessed a murder but in the end they would be happy to know that he now knew the hard way and that they had been right all along.
Luke was almost correct. His parents were angry that he had gone above, were happy that he had seen how reading such material on a regular basis could change a person and make them bad, but they were not happy that he had witnessed a murder at his tender age of eight. That was something they would have given anything to have saved him from.
“You don’t have to worry, I won’t ever forget that.” Luke told them. “Nor will I forget that some reading is bad for you.”
“Its not what I would have wished for you Luke. And I wish that you could forget such a thing. It will haunt you for years believe me.” Kanin told him from the heart knowing as only he could the truth of those words. He had killed too, accidentally yes, but killed a child nonetheless and the memory of that was with him night and day. It never went away, nurtured at the back of his mind festering there. He wished he could forget, move on, get on with his life without it being there, but he couldn’t and he knew he never would. It hurt him to know a similar thing would haunt his son. He’d wish such a thing on nobody, not even his worst enemy if even he had any.
“What of the other things?” Olivia asked. All at once, the name they had chosen for their new child cried out at her, was it still appropriate? Would it remind Luke of this new turn of events rather than the one with the rabbits and stealing and the principle behind such a thing? If so, then they would have to change it yet again. She didn’t want anything further to remind her son of the things he had witnessed above that day. It would be hard enough putting it behind him as it was.
“What other things?” Luke asked. In light of what had happened since, stealing vegetables was nothing and he’d soon forget all about that.
His reply gave Olivia her answer. Luke would still need that reminder. Still she sighed perhaps they should postpone the naming ceremony until next weekend. Luke still looked a bit green and he hadn’t stopped shaking since he had witnessed the murder.
“It doesn’t matter.” She replied, knowing nothing she said right now would penetrate her son’s mind. He needed something to take his mind off of the events and then perhaps they should seek Peter’s advice and Father’s for as physicians they would know how to treat Luke for the shock he had had.
Not knowing his wife’s thoughts, Kanin told Luke, “You must get ready for the naming ceremony. Do you feel up to it? Should we postpone it?” He looked with concern at first his son then his wife gauging their reaction. Maybe they should cancel the event.
“And wait another week calling him kid? No way!” Luke cried. “I’ll be alright dad. Unless you can tell me what you have decided to call him now?” Luke looked appealingly toward each of his parents knowing that he would far rather stay at home.
“Well its irregular but you are family and under the circumstances…the thing is can you keep it a secret?”
Luke smiled, “What and spoil the event? Course I can keep a secret dad.”
“Well then in that case…”
*** *** ***
A week went by. The naming ceremony had been postponed until the following Sunday, and now everyone was gathered in Father’s chamber awaiting the name of the new baby with relish.
What would it be? Luke had been acting like the cat that had the cream all week. Obviously, he had been enlightened by the child’s name, but no amount of tricks subtle or otherwise would get him to tell anyone anything.
Catherine had been filled in to the description of the young killer and the comic books and had been above to try to put a stop to their publication along with issuing a conviction order upon the killer himself. It wasn’t difficult, even in a city that size, and within the week the young killer was remanded in custody where he would eventually be charged and sent to an institution for young offenders or to death row depending upon his criminal history despite his tender years of fifteen.
That too, had emphasised to Luke how life above could treat a person, and how lucky he was to be living below with people that cared about him even though they weren’t family in the truest sense. Blood may be thicker than water, but water was often purer.
“It is said that the child is the meaning of life…” Father’s voice cut through Luke’s thoughts as he began the celebration until finally ending with, “Olivia, Kanin have you a name for your new son?”
“We have. We name our son…
Luke knew what was to come and for a moment his mind drifted. There was just the final thing to contend with, and he wondered what his friends would make of the baby’s name. Because, for all the knowledge he had gained this past week, (be it things Luke would rather not have known), his parents still wanted to impress upon him and Jacob the principles behind the wrongs they had done. And to remind everyone in the tunnels of the day that the rabbits had almost turned their home into a giant rabbit run.
“Warren.” Olivia and Kanin awaited the humour they knew would come and were not disappointed.
“Oh that’s good, that’s very good.” People surged forward eager to hug and kiss the couple and their children.
“How apt in the circumstances.” Father drawled, tapping Luke upon the head lightly with one end of his cane.
Luke turned bright red, and slunk away hoping to go unnoticed. His friends giggled and ridiculed him, and let him know that they understood perfectly why his parents had chosen such a name. And Luke was highly embarrassed. Still though he couldn’t help but grin, it was a good name, and by it he would never forget, and even if his friends did laugh at him, so what? At least he had friends. And at the end of the day, that was all that mattered. The kids up top weren’t always so lucky.
Friends and family, people that loved him - yeah, Luke could ask for nothing more but huh…Warren…that was so funny! Luke grinned impishly – rabbit warren - he just couldn’t wait ‘till he could tease his little brother about that! He might even get to call him Bugs! Yep thought Luke, things were never as bad as they had first seemed and Luke had to admit that what Father had told him was right - every cloud did have a silver lining.
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.