“I. Am. Not. An. Illusion.” Again, the rabbit confirmed what Dragon had said. He spoke slowly and distinctly, as if talking to obtuse children. My Old Dwarf, Dragon, and I stood, speechless, gaping at the six-foot-tall creature.
“Jes’ wot be ye, then?” My Old Dwarf glared at the giant rabbit but lowered his axe.
“My name is Hab’itt.”
“Hab’itt the rabbit?” I raised an eyebrow and shook my head.
My Old Dwarf brandished his axe again. “Yer name do na be makin’ no nevermind ta ussins. I been askin’ wot ye be. Ye be claimin’ ye do na be illusive . . .”
“Illusory.” Dragon corrected him.
“Aye, wot the beastie be sayin’. Ye be sayin’ ye do na be thet, so jus’ wot do ye be?”
Another voice asked, “Are you sure you’re not an illusion?”
We all whirled around to see the new speaker.
“I am quite certain, child. I told you that before.” The giant rabbit looked down at our young neighbor, Marisol, and twitched his whiskers at her.
“Marisol! What are you doing here, child, and what do you know of this creature?” Dragon frowned.
Our young neighbor remained silent. She bowed her head and shuffled her foot back and forth in the grass.
“Eh, come now, lassie. Iffin ye be knowin’ anythin’ aboot this ginormous critter, ye be needin’ ta be tellin’ us. Ye do na be needin’ ta be afeared.” My Old Dwarf spoke to Marisol, but kept his eyes on the rabbit, towering over them.
Hab’itt ignored the dwarf and hopped down from the gazebo steps. He spoke gently to the little girl. “You may tell them, child. No one will harm you.”
I frowned at the rabbit. “Of course, no one will harm her. We’re Marisol’s friends.”
“Indeed, we are.” Dragon looked at Hab’itt and sniffed disdainfully. She turned back to Marisol. “Child, I asked you what you know of this creature. Prithee, if you have knowledge, I ask that you share it with us.”
Marisol continued to shuffle her foot back and forth while she spoke. “The big bunny was hopping around my yard. He was sniffing at mommy’s garden. I saw him, but mommy didn’t. When I told her a big bunny was about to eat her plants, she looked where I was pointing, and she turned sort of pale for a minute. Then she shook her head and pursed her lips. She said she was going to call Talia and ask her to work with me some more.” Marisol’s lower lip trembled. “Did I do something wrong again, Dray?”
“Of course not, child.” Dragon shapeshifted into her familiar guise of the delicate and exotic maiden, Dray. She leaned down and scooped Marisol into a gentle hug. “It is not wrong for you to have power, and it is not wrong for you not to be in full control of it. You are still young, and you and Talia have more work to do. Eventually, she will teach you how to fully control your talent.”
“Talent?” Marisol scoffed. The child, who had just celebrated her seventh birthday, looked at Dray with a sadness too deep for her few years. “More like a curse. I see things others don’t see. I tell them what I see, and then they see it, too. Then they are afraid . . . not just of whatever I caused them to see. They are afraid of me. Mommy’s right. People think I’m a witch.”
“But you know you are not. You are a conduit. You are affected by magic, and you cause others to be affected by it as well.” I could see Dray struggling to find the right words to comfort and reassure the child. “Eventually, Talia will train you to control your ability so completely that you alone will see what others do not. You will not cause anyone else to see things they should not, and no one will label you a witch or a sorceress.”
“But it is so hard!” Tears started to spill down Marisol’s cheeks. “Talia makes me practice the exercises she taught me for hours each day. I don’t have time to have any fun anymore.”
I smiled at the little girl. “You had fun at your birthday party, didn’t you? You received some nice presents, and Dray made your special wish come true.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/08/30/a-birthday-wish/
Marisol brightened at the memory. “Oh, yes! It was the best birthday I ever had!” Then the smile faded, and the tears started again. “But Talia has made me do an extra half-hour of exercises every day since then. She said seeing Dray in her true form and seeing the illusions of the horses and the Pegasus set me back in my training.”
“Hmmmm. And how did Talia happen to know of these events? I believe I swore you to secrecy.”
Marisol hung her head. “I’m sorry, Dray. Talia seemed to know something. She asked me about my birthday party. I started telling her about the one mommy and my aunt and uncle had for me, but she said not that one. So . . . I told her.”
“I see.” Dray frowned. “I am sorry if I am the cause of you having been given more work, but I fail to see how the events of that day would set you back in your training. I will speak with Talia.”
Marisol nodded. She wiped away her tears and tried to smile. “Dray, if the big bunny isn’t an illusion, why couldn’t mommy see him until I told her about him?”
“I do not know. Perhaps Hab’itt can explain.” Dray turned to the giant lagomorph, who was still watching Marisol. The rabbit’s whiskers were still twitching, but he remained silent.
“Well?” Dray demanded.
“Well, what is it you wish to know?” Hab’itt looked at Dray, a curious expression on his face.
“Let us start with what you are, whence you hail, and for what purpose you are here.” Dray cocked an eyebrow, folded her arms over her chest, and waited.
Hab’itt frowned. “You are quite an inquisitive creature.” He sighed. “Very well. I am a rabbit. I have no idea what you call the place whence I hail. And I have no real purpose here, other than to find my way back home.” He paused and watched Dray’s reaction. “These answers do not satisfy you?”
“They do not.” She frowned.
My Old Dwarf scoffed. “How kin ye be a rabbit? Rabbits do na grow thet big.” He scowled at the giant creature.
“Perhaps in your experience they do not. But be assured, whence I come, I am considered a runt.” Hab’itt bent his head and smoothed his whiskers with his paws in what seemed to me a gesture of embarrassment.
“And where is that, exactly?” I frowned.
“As I said, I have no idea by what name you call my home.” The rabbit wrinkled his nose at me disdainfully.
I scoffed. “Well, suppose we narrow it down a bit. Maybe we can figure out what we call it if we know what you call it.”
“Home.” Hab’itt stretched and yawned, as if bored.
Dray raised an eyebrow. “And is your home in this world, or have you entered this world from another?”
“Define world.” Hab’itt seemed to sense our impatience, and quickly continued. “To me and my kind, there is only one world. Wherever there is life, it is part of that one world. But I can see you define the word differently.” He stopped and scratched behind his ears with one enormous back leg. “I would hazard a guess and say no, I do not come from this world as you define the word.”
“Then how be ye gittin’ here, ta this world . . . as we be definin’ tha word?” My Old Dwarf fingered his axe blade and narrowed his gaze at the big beast.
Hab’itt thought about that a moment, scratching behind his ear again. “I . . . I just walked. I am on a journey, a journey taken by each of my kind at a certain age. We travel the world . . . as we define the word . . . and learn things.”
I interrupted him. “I thought you said you had no real purpose here save finding your way back home.”
The rabbit shrugged. “I have no real purpose here . . . in this yard. I had a purpose, but my journey is over. I have completed my quest. I have learned things. But in the process, I lost my way back home.”
“What have you learned, Hab’itt?” Marisol asked softly.
“I have learned that, in most places, to be different is to be shunned or feared, to be discriminated against, or to suffer intolerance or even violence. I have learned that the way of life enjoyed by my kind, a way of life marked by inclusion and tolerance and acceptance and peace, is rare and is not to be taken for granted. I have learned that I miss the comfort of that acceptance, and need return home.”
Marisol patted the rabbit’s huge paw. “I understand. That is what happens to me when people realize I’m different. They avoid me, or they are scared of me, or they call me names and threaten to hurt me.”
A tear slipped down Hab’itt’s face. “I am sorry you are treated this way, child. Some day, perhaps, things will change for you.”
After a few moments of silence, the rabbit sighed. “Well, I have enjoyed this conversation, but it is time for me to go. I must find my way home.” He looked around, shook his head, and thumped a back foot. “I must find my way home!” A note of panic entered his voice.
I raked my hand through my hair. “Can’t you just retrace your steps to find your way home?”
Hab’itt cocked his head and scratched behind his ear again. “Perhaps. Perhaps I have been overthinking the issue.”
“Dray, have you figured out how I was able to see the bunny right away, but mommy couldn’t see him until I pointed him out to her?” Marisol looked troubled.
Dray furrowed her brow and stroked her chin. “I believe it is because the rabbit is not of this world . . . as we define the word. You can see whatever exists in this world, no matter its place of origin, just as you can see through most spells of concealment, and just as you can see the true nature of any entity that has shapeshifted, transformed, or disguised their true nature through magical or physical means. But it is only through your power that others can see what you see.”
Marisol nodded and smiled. “I understand.” She looked at the big rabbit. “Well, I need to go home now, too, before mommy misses me. If you need to retrace your steps to find your way home, you need to go back to my yard, where I first saw you. Do you want to walk back there with me, Hab’itt?”
“It would be my pleasure, and my honor.” Hab’itt gave a sort of stiff bow and hopped slowly beside Marisol as she walked away. The little girl turned several times and waved goodbye to us.
Just before they turned the corner of the house, Hab’itt called back over his shoulder. “Dwarf! Tell the insufferable screechy one he is wrong. The rabbits in this yard enjoy your game. They realize they are in no true danger from you, and they are amused by your . . . colorful language.” He winked and disappeared around the corner.
“Eh, thet big critter be pretty smart! Tee-hee! Tha elfie will na be happy ta be hearin’ thet he be wrong aboot tha bunnies an’ I be right!”
I chuckled as I watched one of the backyard rabbits stretch up to sniff at my Old Dwarf. It almost looked as if the rabbit were trying to entice the dwarf to chase him again. The dwarf absently started petting the animal.
I turned to Dray. “So, where do you think Hab’itt came from?”
“Not from this world . . . as we define the word.” She winked. “But how he traveled from his world to this one, I could not say.”
“I would na be worrin’ much aboot it. The big critter dinna be seemin’ dangerous.” My Old Dwarf was still petting the rabbit.
Dray nodded but frowned. “No, I daresay the rabbit meant no harm. However, if creatures from his world are in the habit of making these journeys, mayhap the next one that wanders through here might not be so benign.”
As Dray and I mulled over that dire possibility, my Old Dwarf suddenly yelped. “Ye consarned little scamp! Ye been nippin’ me!”
And the chase was on again, with the rabbit staying just out of range of the axe being wildly swung about by the dwarf, as the rotund figure huffed and puffed along behind the little critter, turning the air blue with his colorful language.
I looked at Dray and smiled. “You know, I think Hab’itt knew what he was talking about. That little bunny looks perfectly happy.”
Dray nodded. “As does the dwarf.”
As the chase headed along the side of the house, toward the front yard, I called after them. “Stay on this property! We don’t want any problems with the neighbors!”
I hoped my Old Dwarf heard me.
I hope you’ll visit with me and my little band of displaced characters again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.