He was only ten. It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon when he was walking home from school and he had forgotten his umbrella. Everyone believed it would be a cold but sunny day. Instead, his shoes filled up with mud and his glasses were too speckled with mist for him to have any clear idea of exactly where he put his feet. And so it was that his left shoe caught against the edge of something metal and he slipped into the mud. His glasses fell from his face, and as he reached around for them, his hand landed on a metal box that had once been buried, but was being reborn with the rain. It was cold and slimy to the touch, naturally, and he almost didn’t notice the faint tremor from within.
Soon enough, he had found his glasses and restored them to their perch. The rain had nearly unearthed the metal box, about the size of a loaf of bread, and made its excavation quite simple. When finally he returned home, he placed the box under his bed. He was soon so filled with pleasure and warmth after his ordeal that he duly forgot the box. Dressed again in dry clothes, he enjoyed a hot meal with his parents and younger sister. They, too were displeased with the weather, having trudged through it on their way home from the elementary school. Once they had addressed their sogginess, they decided not to dwell. Instead, they encouraged the children to take a spoon of medicine and go to sleep early. His sister in the bed next to his, the young boy fell swiftly into a dream.
In his dream, his mother praised him and his sister for suffering the storm and gave them a present to share. He was warned not to be selfish and covet his prize, as it was for his sister as well. Her eyes gleamed with delight as they unwrapped it, revealing a jolly green tin box embellished all over with tiny gold lettering. On one side of the box was a spinning handle, which jingled as it raised open the lid. Out popped a beautiful rabbit! His sister clapped her hands for joy and reached towards the rabbit. The rabbit’s eyes glittered, as though alive. Before the girl could touch it, the rabbit’s fur trembled.
It turned to look the boy in the eye and said, “Thank you ever so much for finding me. Now and forever, I will love only you.”
The boy replied, “What do you mean? You were a present to both of us, and we will share you.” He looked at his sister reassuringly, her hand halted midair.
“May I pet you?” she asked the rabbit gingerly.
“No,” he said coolly, “Unless you want me to bite you. I have only one friend.”
The girl looked at her brother, pouting. He saw the shine in her eyes and remembered his mother’s warning.
“If you can’t play with my sister, too, you are no friend of mine!” The boy felt very proud of himself for his selflessness.
The rabbit laughed, his ears curling over with glee. “Very well,” he said. “Little girl, you may touch my fur if you wish.”
He had very beautiful, tempting white fur. It shone pleasantly in the warm light of their bedroom. The rabbit’s nose twitched and his fur rippled so enchantingly the little girl fell into a dumb trance. Her hand brushed the rabbit’s face softly, and for a moment the rabbit seemed pleased.
With one sharp twist, he bit off two of her fingers. They snapped like carrots. One he began to crunch on immediately, as she wailed in shock and pain. The other finger was still attached by a string of cartilage. Blood ran from her hand onto her yellow night dress. The rabbit’s glistening white fur was now stained with blood, but he seemed too preoccupied with scraping the meat from the bones of the girl’s severed finger. The boy was in shock. A moment passed in petrified horror before he snapped the box shut. As he wrapped his sister’s hand in the hem of her nightdress, he could hear the rabbit struggling to free himself.
The boy tugged his sister to her feet and called out for their parents. A long silence returned. He pulled on her arm and they began to search the house. Her hand was still bleeding heavily and each time she moved it, a sharp agonizing fire flooded over her and fresh blood oozed from her wounds. They called and searched the house high and low but could not find their mama or papa anywhere. It seemed they had vanished. The house was dark now, except the light seeping under the door of their shared bedroom.
They made camp in the dining room, though the walls seemed to be slow long tilting in. The boy gathered what medical supplies he couldfind and, placing a large swath of gauze on the dining table, told his sister to lay out her hand. She began to cry again, her whole body shaking. She shook her head. He begged her, he told her it would feel better soon, that mama and papa would be so proud of her if she did.
She looked at him, saw the fear in his eyes, and was filled with guilt. She unwrapped her hand and rested it tenderly on the gauze. Each motion gave her a new wave of pain. The room seemed to rock back and forth like a teeter-totter. Her breathing was fast and strangled and she but her lip to keep from crying out. The bleeding had stopped. Her skin was red and angry, the puckered stump of her pointer finger still oozing. The half-severed middle finger was twisted sideways, a fish gone belly up. The boy tightened his jaw and, one hand pressing down on his sister’s, lifted and turned the finger so that it looked almost normal. A cry escaped her lips, her good hand clawing the table.
A clear gap lay between her knuckle and the bone, with one line of pale white tissue bridging them. He reached for the scissors and his sister closed her eyes. She steeled herself. Until now the most horrid experience she’d undergone was her father using a pocketknife to remove a splinter from the arch of her foot. She couldn’t imagine the pain that was about to come. Just as her brother began to close the blades shut around the cartilage, a soft jingling tune echoed through the house. He cut off her finger, and the sound of the rabbit box opening was buried beneath her scream.
The next morning, the rain had stopped. The children lay peacefully in their beds and their parents went to wake them gently. Nothing seemed to have changed in the children’s bedroom, the boy’s glasses sat on the nightstand and the girl’s yellow nightdress was lovely as ever. It wasn’t until they attempted to wake them that the parents noticed- their son’s eyes crawled back and forth beneath his eyelids like a beetle under the skin searching for escape. Their daughter was missing two fingers, a phenomenon they didn’t remember happening and yet, her hand was healed – clean pink scar tissue hugged the nubs of her fingers as though she had been born with this defect, or it had happened years before. The children never did wake up.