Rabbit Stew: The Perfect Bait

“How on earth did your bunny get stuck up in a tree, honey?”

Wren accepted the rabbit as the kind stranger passed it down. The tall man stood on the middle rung of the ladder. She bit back a growl of frustration,he’d stopped just below the rung she’d sawed half way through, reaching easily to the limb where she’d placed the paralyzed pet.
“I don’t know, mister. Maybe a dog chasedhim.”

The man opened his mouth as if to comment, but hesitated as she hugged the bunny sweetly and smiled to him with seemingly genuine gratitude. “Thank you, mister. I sure am glad to have him back.” She kissed the small, fuzzy head and held the bunny forward “Stew says thank you. He wants to give you a kiss.”

This was the third time today Wren had disarmed a would-be rabbit rescuer with the sugary sweetness of a little girl offering bunny kisses. So far none had pressed her on how a rabbit, any rabbit, could climb a tree, much less one lacking the benefit of working limbs. Unfortunately, it was also the third time a person had retrieved Stew for her without breaking the rung and plummeting to their death.

The Samaritan placed the ladder back by the shed one hundred feet way, right where she’d left it for him to find, and Wren skipped off in the opposite direction, her bunny tucked under her arm, limp legs swinging with each of her bouncing steps.

Half an hour later she was sitting at the bottom of the tree again. Stew was on his limb, patiently waiting for the next hero. In order to avoid stepping on the damaged rung, she’d had to toss the poor creature into the tree. But she was getting better. It only took her three tries this time.
She saw another man round the corner and bit her lip to tamp down her excitement. He was three hundred pounds if he was an ounce. As he came closer, the benevolent smile lines around his eyes smoothed and turned, dressing his face with an air of concern as he saw the little pig-tailed child with her face in her hands, sobbing. It would take a harder heart than his to ignore the sad display and within two minutes, the large man had pat her back, offered her a piece of taffy, and retrieved the ladder, leaning it against the tree.

Wren sucked the candy stuck in her molars as her eyes followed him climbing slowly and hesitantly up the ladder. She liked him and thought he’d make an excellent soldier in The Scientist’s army of reanimated corpses. She looked forward to many more pieces of candy once he was alive again.

The man looked down behind him and offered Wren what he intended as a reassuring smile. Wren beamed back. If she’d truly been concerned for her bunny, his perspiring lip and flickering smile would have done little to comfort her, but as she was anxiously awaiting his demise, his expression seemed just right to her. She picked at her teeth with a fingernail, trying to dislodge the last of the taffy.

Distracted as she was by the candy in her teeth, she almost didn’t notice the heavy foot come down on the vandalized rung. She spotted it just in time as he shifted his substantial weight to the step. The moment seemed to hang when the crack of the wood rang out a half second before the audible gasp of her victim.

What Wren hadn’t anticipated the way he would land quickly and with unexpected force on the rung below, breaking it as well. His soft body jiggled as he bump, bump, bumped down the next two rungs, breaking them, but the third only cracked. How he managed to keep clinging to the rails of the ladder, Wren wasn’t certain. Nor could she understand why he didn’t let go when the ladder began to tilt back and away from the tree. The silent “oh” formed on his lips matched his wide, round, surprised eyes and stayed that way for the entire slow motion pivot as the ladder moved back in an arch, taking his frozen body with it. There was a surprising number of simultaneous cracks when he hit the ground, both from his body and from the ladder.
Wren dashed forward to take a closer look at her work. The hands still clung tight to the ladder. His slack face was framed by the rungs he hadn’t managed to reach. Wren spent a full minute searching for a pulse in his thick wrist as he lay there, not moving. She poked him and got no reaction. She pinched close his nose, again, to no reaction. She gathered the paper her taffy had been wrapped in and lit it on her pilot light, then blew it out and wafted the smoke under his nose. Once more, there was no reaction.

Wren stood, bowed her head for a solemn moment, saying a sincere prayer for his soul, then jumped straight up in the air and did a victory dance.

She was singing, twisting, and clapping her hands when she suddenly stopped short, recognizing the fatal flaws in her plan. She now had a very large body to move and a beloved pet truly stuck in a tree. After a moment’s consideration, she decided the first order of business should be to rescue her loyal pet.

She drew her tattered skirt up from the back, passing them between her legs, and tucked it into her belt in the front. This way, she managed to fashion a sort of trousers from her inconvenient clothing. Stepping up to the tree she gripped it around with her arms and legs, and managed to shimmy up the trunk as she’d sometimes seen the boys do. It was hard going, and her little legs were scraped terribly, but as she inched her way toward her bunny, she was overcome by her sense of pride. With her bunny tucked into the front of her coat, Wren slid back down the tree trunk, landing hard, but not nearly so hard as the man on the ground.

With that done, she hugged Stew’s warm little body close to her with one hand and pulled the ladder from the man with the other. She still hadn’t worked out how she would manage to get him to The Scientist, but she felt such a fortifying sense of accomplishment, she was certain she’d work something out. She looked down on his relaxed face and bent near him to kiss his cool forehead.

Wren sat back on her heels, her thumb moving absently over Stew’s head. The man wasn’t cool at all. In fact, he was rather warm for a dead man who’d been lying in the snow for at least ten minutes. As she mused over how long it takes a body to cool, the man’s eyes suddenly popped open wide.

Wren screamed and shot backwards as fast as her little legs could push her. The man groaned and reached for her. His intention was to reassure her he was alive, but to Wren, the gesture seemed very similar to a corpse trying to exact revenge for its murder. She scrabbled to her feet, nearly spilling Stew out of her jacket.

Wren clutched her bunny and ran, leaving the poor stranger lying on the ground with his concussion and broken ankle.

Not At All As Planned

Wren supposed that to another rabbit the differences between the two would be easy to spot, but to her, the creatures were a pair of tweedy doppelgangers. That is, of course, excepting for the little portal in the side of the one, exposing gears, tubes, and small pilot light inside its chest cavity.

She paused in her work to stroke the paralyzed bunny and offer it a cabbage leaf which it accepted after some mistrustful twitches of its nose. She chatted as it ate “I want you to know that just because the other bunny will be better, what with its being able to walk and all, doesn’t mean I’m going to love you any less. I’m not one of those fickle females who give and take their attentions every time the next best thing comes along. I’m nothing if not loyal, even to the infirm and inferior.”

“Why, my friend Stewart had a limp and I always liked him just as well as any of my properly walking friends. Well, except for when we were picking teams to play ball. Nobody wanted Stewart on their team ‘cause he was a lousy runner. That’s why he didn’t stand a chance of getting out of the way of that runaway team of horses. Boy that was messy. He was smooshed right in the middle. A newspaper man came along and talked to me for the paper, ‘cause I was right there and saw it happen and I told him all about Stewart’s lame leg. “ She finally took a breath after her stream of consciousness monologue and stared a moment at the bunny, who had by then finished the cabbage leaf. “I’m going to call you Stewart.” She bit her lip, perched her chin on the table in front of her floppy pet, and smiled as she stroked its head with the back of her fingers “Hello Stew.”

After reassuring the pet of her uncompromising love, despite his obvious insufficiencies, she set to work on his replacement.

It could hardly be called easy going. Reanimation is not a task for hobbyists, but her work with Stew had given her some practice and the job on the second rabbit was a much tidier affair. It also helped that her father had given her another dose of the serum, returning the feeling to her little fingertips. She’d even managed to avoid answering awkward questions about her progress over dinner, though she hadn’t worked out how she could ask for more of the reanimation serum without raising suspicion. So it was that with the mechanical heart placed in the new rabbit’s body, and its little pilot light lit and ready, Wren resorted to stabbing a large needle into her slender arm to draw a small amount of serum from her own vein as she’d seen her father do for her.

Lest the gentle reader think this was a nonchalant task for a nine year old, one should understand the difficulty of trying to aim a large syringe into a tiny, rolling vein. Even an experienced adult would have difficulty, and though the rabbits had given her some practice in dealing with such things, it was a different matter all together to introduce the needle into her own flesh. By the third try, little Wren was weeping from the sting of her near misses, by the fourth, she was sobbing with self-pity, and by the fifth, she was fully prepared to admit defeat and tell The Scientist she’d failed. But on the sixth… on the sixth jab of her bruising inner elbow, she managed to hit a vein and draw out the precious serum which had given her back her life.
She took a moment to wipe her tear blurred eyes and savor her victory. With a sniff and a swipe of her nose with the back of her sleeve, she aimed the needle into the small creature’s chest.
For three full seconds which seemed to last three hours, nothing happened. Then, with a twitch of its ear, the bunny was alive. It’s black eye rolled toward her and with a kick, it leapt from the work table. Wren had barely time to be surprised before it had made its way across the room, nails scratching for purchase on the hardwood floor, and hid under the floor length drapes.
Wren approached slowly, easing toward the frightened thing. She stopped five feet away and crouched. Speaking in as soothing a voice as she could manage, she tried to reassure the bunny.
That was when she smelled the smoke. Cowering behind the drapes, the reanimated rabbit had the window to its mechanical heart open, the pilot light burning steadily. In a flash the heavy drapes were smoldering, then blazing.

Wren panicked and raced toward the door as the bunny raced away from the now burning drapes. She paused in the doorway, then turned back to scoop up Stew in her arms. The second rabbit was by now hiding under the worktable, its cotton tail burning like a candle and charring the wood which would soon be alight.

She was a pathetic sight as she emerged onto the street, calling for help and clutching her limp pet. A passing couple, out for a brisk winter’s stroll heard her cries and came to help, he with a long cloak to swat at the flames, and she with a crate by the side of the building, filled with snow. The fire which had so quickly sprung to life was also quickly dealt with and within a quarter of an hour the bedroom laboratory was safe, albeit somewhat worse for wear.

Alone again in the lab after many reassurances of her well being for the kind strangers, she looked down at the singed and suffering rabbit. With sigh, she carried him outside, leaving Stew in his drawer. She collected a palm sized rock for the second time that day and took aim for the burned bunny’s head.

A Christmas Wish for the Jew Girl

Her glowing green eyes blinked open and a moment later her lips curled into a smile. Even for Jewish children, Christmas morning is a time when wishes might be fulfilled, though it’s an admittedly rare occurrence for the little Israelites.

Reality has little bearing on the optimism of a nine year old though, and so it was with great expectation she buttoned up her blue pea-coat over her threadbare frock and pulled on her scuffed little booties, two sizes too big. Before The Scientist was awake, his daughter was skipping down the street with images of vivisection dancing in her head the way another child might daydream about a favorite toy.

At the edge of town, where the road was lined not with sidewalks but with sparse grass, she spotted it, her Christmas wish come true. With a squeal of happiness she clapped her hands and cried out “thank you, Santa.”

Her smile was angelic as she searched for and found a palm sized rock and then clubbed the ensnared rabbit over its head. She tucked the warm corpse into her satchel, thinking to herself all the while that Santa was a pretty good guy for someone who slips into people’s houses in the middle of the night.

Merry Christmas Everyone

The Assignment

Wren prodded the limp bunny with fading optimism. It squeaked miserably. Hours of experimentation had only served to teach her that bunnies were capable of making a sound much like a scream.

She frowned. The rabbit was a test and she had a gnawing anxiety that she was failing. She’d found the maligned creature by the side of the road, the victim of a badly timed dart across the highly trafficked road.

Hours earlier, she’d gone to the scientist with the dead rabbit and a hopeful expression, asking to keep it as a pet. His response was to inject it with a small amount the reanimation serum and tell her the rest was up to her. He called it a homework assignment.

She’d managed to save its damaged cardio-pulmonary system using a mirror to her own mechanical heart as a guide, along with her father’s notes on her reanimation, but the creature’s crushed spine was more than she could repair. She was a clever child perhaps even a little sparky, but her young mind, while able to understand well enough to copy what she’d seen, was not masterful enough to repair a severed nervous system. Her most recent attempt to insert small copper threads along the rabbit’s spine had resulted in mangled mess of oozing reanimation fluid. Fortunately, the rabbit’s paralysis prevented it from feeling the gory experiment.

She rubbed her hands, trying to get the circulation to her numb fingertips. The longer she went without an injection, the more deadened and less coordinated her hands and feet would become. Wren considered her options. If she went to The Scientist now for another injection, he would ask about the rabbit and she would have to admit what she perceived as her failure, but without the injection, her hands would become useless. If only the bunny hadn’t broken its back. A dead bunny with an intact spine would have been perfectly healed by now.

Wren’s sucked in a soft gasp of surprise as the solution came to her suddenly. She picked up the bunny with its tiny mechanical heart so similar to hers and with a kiss to its soft head; she hid it in her dresser drawer.

She hummed as she gathered the supplies to make a rabbit snare and skipped out the door to catch a more easily reanimated bunny.

The Witch List

Propped on her elbows, belly on the floor, the child scratched a list on to her slate in wobbly block letters, copying the words from a battered old book.

How To Spot A Witch

1. Witches are ugly, usually with warts.
2. They keep black cats.
3. They can’t recite the Lord’s Prayer without making mistakes.
4. They live alone.
5. They often have a squint.
6. They fly on broomsticks.
7. They float when you drown them.

The last was underlined three times.

Wren pushed herself into a seated position and stared down at the words, diligently repeating them to herself, memorizing them. She had little interest in witches in and of themselves. For that matter, she wasn’t convinced there could be anything beyond a mundane explanation for most of the supposed indications of witchery. But she was a pragmatic child and had determined that a witch trial could be an excellent source of good corpses, if one were to disregard the warts.

Below the first list, she began a second, this one, a list of names. She felt no compunction about accusing women who were likely innocent. If indeed they were not guilty of witchcraft, their bodies would sink during the drowning test and their names would be cleared. As an added benefit, the Scientist would reanimate them, making them better than they’d been. He would give those solitary women a purpose and a sense of camaraderie in their noble mission. Whether they be witches or innocents in this life, in their next, they would evolve into soldiers of good.

In the distance, a church’s bells called its congregation to service. Wren sprang up, snatching her slate and chalk. She skipped off to join, hoping to catch a potential witch fumbling as she said the Lord’s Prayer.

The Construct's Dilemma

The ragamuffin girl kicked her heels against the casket upon which she sat. The corpses she’d managed to find so far would never do. They were all either decayed or somehow damaged. Were they to be reanimated, they would undoubtedly be clumsy and awkward. The one she perched above would never manage to march down the street without having its dried and brittle limbs breaking right off.

Her father’s journal seemed quite clear to her though, he wanted an army of creatures like herself, a tiny Frankenstein, reanimated from death. His ambition was well intentioned, he wanted a force patrolling the streets, protecting vagabond children from unscrupulous adults who would use them as slaves or else leave them neglected and starving in the streets.

An indent formed between her smooth brows as she considered a conversation from the day earlier. The Scientist had been discussing his success in reviving her and mentioned wanting to further his work, but needing supplies. Her thoughts must have been plain on her face, because as if reading her mind, he ordered in no uncertain terms that she was not to kill anyone in an effort to bring him fresh bodies.

Her little fingers drummed on the coffin lid beneath her.

Above the catacombs, she could hear the dim laughter of children running and throwing snowballs at each other. If she were fortunate, one might trip and fall into the freezing canal. After much consideration, she’d decided recent drowning, freezing, and asphyxiation deaths to be ideal, providing the most intact bodies.

She lowered smoked spectacles over her glowing eyes and dropped down from the coffin with an optimistic notion she might spot an imminent death or two. As she stepped out from the dark onto the street level, she saw a boy slip on the ice as he raced past her, snowball in hand. The boy righted himself and darted off, laughing the entire time.

Little Wren posted herself in a spot where the road curves close to the canal, and the ledge was worn and low. Certainly she it wasn't murder if she tripped someone as they ran past. After all, even if they landed in the water below, they stood a good, sporting chance of getting to a dock where they could climb out. Provided they could swim.

Wren hummed to herself and smiled as she waited patiently for an opportunity to come running past.

About Me

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I have a mechanical heart and green reanimation serun for blood. I have glowing eyes that look like The Scientist's, but they're not his, they just look the same. I don't like swimming on account of I think my pilot light might go out.