I watch the giant rabbit on the bed. The size of a small teenager and ugly, it’s watching me and grinning maliciously. I can’t help but think of Pipkins and Hartley Hare, a dark demonic looking creature; scruffy and dirty with a grubby red military coat and black facings. A dark mist floats about its head even though we’re indoors.
“Do you see things?”
I turn to the young doctor and he smiles sympathetically. I can’t remember his name. It doesn’t matter. “Do you see things?”
“What do you see?”
I look at the rabbit.
The bed is at the far end of the room, and it’s a big room. It might have once been a ward. We’re in an old hospital, the young doctor and I, one that’s gradually being closed down by cuts. Even so it still smells of disinfectant, white walls and tiled floor washed clean with iron-barred windows that let lots of light in. Old posters hang from the walls and the bedsprings squeak under the rabbit’s giant leaps; old springs.
It points at me and pretends to hang itself; rolls its dark eyes and sticks its tongue out.
“Sometimes the world melts,” I admit.
“The world melts?”
“Yes,” I ignore the rabbit’s antics and turn back to the doctor, “…like a watercolour. Everything blurs and runs into each other.”
“That must make it difficult to function.”
We sit quietly for a moment, the bedsprings squeaking at the far end of the room as the doctor makes a note on his sheet. It’s his checklist for the insane. I refuse to look at the rabbit.
“What do you do when it happens?”
“Can you walk when it happens?”
“Oh yes,” I smile brightly, “it’s just I keep walking in front of cars. If I’m in the country I keep going though.”
“It happens in the countryside too? When no-one else is around?”
There’s a choking sound from the far end of the room. I ignore it. It gets louder and I can’t help but glance, out of curiosity you understand. The rabbit’s lying on its back, legs in the air and arms thrown out to either side. It’s pretending to be dead now.
“And what happens then?”
“It’s like I’m drunk.” I try not to give the rabbit attention. It thrives on it and so I focus on the doctor again. “I imagine if someone else was watching me they’d think I was drunk. I sway from side to side and it’s like the ground’s moving under my feet.”
The doctor nods. He scribbles with his pen again.
“Do you ever think of killing yourself?”
There’s a hoot of laughter from the rabbit. More a cackle really that reaches for the ceiling. I look at him on the bed and he’s pointing a gun at me now. It’s an old musket. “All the time…”
The young doctor scribbles madly now.
On the bed the rabbit pulls the trigger. There’s a load pop from the musket and a cork flies across the room. It lands, bounces and then rolls. The doctor turns, surprised. He frowns, bends down from his chair and picks the old piece of cork up. He looks around himself, bemused, stares about the room: at the bed and up at the ceiling.
“Where did that come from?”
“I’ve got no idea,” I lie.
So it seems I know more than the young doctor. I go back to watching the rabbit on the bed where he’s pretending to hang himself again. He wants me to join him. I hate that rabbit…
I sit in the corridor, on an uncomfortable plastic chair. It’s one of six in a row, all blue and all of which have known better days. The only other thing in this bit of corridor is a giant water fountain. It’s quite a modern one by the standards of the hospital, a plastic stand with one of those upside-down giant, plastic bottles on the top. It’s empty though and has been for some time judging by the dust. There are no little cups either. It’s just another sign of closure.
The young doctor with no name has called my wife into the room with the rabbit to see him. She’s in there right now, poor girl. I didn’t like him much. He kept looking worried by the answers I was giving to his questions. I could sense the panic in him. What’s the point in asking questions if you don’t like the answers? I was only being honest. And he had a big spot on his neck that needed popping.
At least the rabbit stayed in there though, waving at me as I left.
I have no idea how long Bex has been in there now. It could be a minute, a second, an hour or a day. It seems the concept of time eludes me. And so I just stare at the floor, then at my shaking hands and then back at the floor again.
The floor is very clean.
At last the door squeaks opens and Bex steps out. She looks tired and who can blame her, all this worry. I look up and smile, stand. She smiles back and then turns to the doctor who’s followed her out the room. I peer past him, to see if the rabbit follows. It doesn’t.
“Thank you,” Bex smiles, turning to the doctor and playing with some papers he must have given her. She puts them in her bag and pulls out the car keys. It’s a big bunch with a silver heart key-ring.
“It’s a pleasure,” he nods. “And you’ll do everything I said?”
“I will,” she promises.
I wonder what they’re talking about. I’ll ask her in a minute. But I don’t get to think about it for long because the young doctor turns to me. “Nice to meet you, Paul… I’ll be in touch with your G.P.”
I nod. Then we leave.
“What did you say in there?”
We’re in the car now, sitting next to each other outside the hospital buildings. They’re old buildings, brick built with large panes of glass that remind me of an airfield in one of those old World War II movies.
Bex shakes her head. “He wants me to take all the knives out the drawers at home, hide the medicines from you and not let you near the car.”
“Bloody hell…” I pull a face.
“At one point I thought he was going to hospitalise you.” She sighs, holds my hand. “I had to convince him you’d be fine at home.”
“That’s a bit extreme. Good job I lied then.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I could see the panic in his face when I started telling him what I was really thinking and so I downplayed it all after that.”
“You don’t mind?”
“No,” she grins. She shakes her head at me half in humour, half in despair and half thankfully. It was quite a headshake. “Do I have to do all that?”
“Hide the knives, medicine and car keys?”
“No,” I laugh reassuringly, “…of course not. I’m not going to do anything stupid.”
She looks at me. She’s very pretty and she believes me. She nods. “Let’s get you home.”
“Yes,” I smile, “good idea.”
Bex starts the car and cruises slowly out the car park. At least the hospital isn’t far from home, three miles or so. When it closes down the nearest one will be at least twenty odd miles away; Bedford or Cambridge I suppose. We turn right and head through the countryside towards Potton. It’s very pretty, all green fields and trees. It’s a world away from Australia where we once lived. As we drive through Sutton I see the rabbit. It’s at the crossroads, hanging by its neck from the signpost.
How did it get here so quickly?
We drive by and I stare up at it through the window. It grins maliciously back.
About the Story:
‘Follow the Rabbit’ is a short story written in November 2014 following the strangest of weeks. There were skeletons and carcasses hanging in trees on my favourite walk, visits to the psychiatrist at a small hospital that was being closed down and then the police and wildlife crimes turning up with a CSI van to take them to where the rabbit carcasses were hanging. As a result I penned a darkly humorous take inspired by the events with me, a man battling mental health issues, sitting not so helplessly at the centre. I must also admit I am tempted to explore these characters further in a novel…
I'm quite mad, a mixed cauldron of issues but dominated by BPD. It all went strange a few years ago, around the time I wrote 'Follow the Rabbit', and the madness bit has been weird (very, at times) and hard. Since falling ill, I’ve focused on writing as a cure and a dream and I love it. I'm currently editing 'Nightjar' (a novel) and have a number of short stories and anthologies available on Amazon. I used to work too hard and play in bands in the UK and Down Under, which meant my writing was very much sidelined.
Not so anymore.
Now I am Paul Jameson, beanie et al.