At the crack of noon, I woke to my body being jostled around. I slowly opened my eyes to find the culprit. I assumed it was Snowball shaking the tree I hung from, but no. Funny enough, it was an earthquake this time. Everything in the forest rustled for about a minute.
See, the Daft-Rabbit was too busy sitting on the top of the branch the snare was connected to, gnawing through the rope with his sharp teeth.
“Hey, wait a minute… if you eat through that aren’t I gonna-?”
The rope snapped and I fell, though the large pile of smashed berries broke my fall. Now drenched with sticky berry juice, I sighed. I looked up and he stared back at me. The smugness on his stupid little face was unmistakable. After a moment of reveling in his victory, Snowball ran along the branches and fled deeper into the forest.
“Jerk,” I got up and tried to brush the berry sap off, but it clung to the fur on my hands. I had to find a river.
Walking was… difficult. My stomach ached and I don’t know why. It was still only the second day, I shouldn’t have been hungry until the end of the third. My best guess is I was still heartbroken from the betrayal. I swayed this way and that, stumbling over myself, bracing against trees and rocks. My head hurt too, to say nothing of the lingering pain in my heart.
I finally made it to an ankle-high stream and fell in. The cool water felt good against my fur, and the stream smelled fresh and clean. The berry juice washed away, and a number of fish swam over to gobble it up. I thought for a moment, then took off my shirt so I could use it as a makeshift net and catch a bunch of them. For some reason, a couple of them dropped dead. I figured they had a rare fish disease or something, so I tossed them away.
I walked out of the river with a wide smile. A plan started to form in my mind. A brilliant plan. A three step plan.
Step 1: Collect a bunch of vines, grass and sticks to weave into a net.
Step 2: Hang that net high above the ground.
Step 3: Cook my fish in a fire under that net, and when Snowball comes to steal my fish and make a fool of me once more, I drop the net on top of us both! Daft-Rabbit’s can’t look up because of their large antlers, so he won’t see my trap. Plus, the grass net will burn once it touches the fire, roasting him instantly!
Now, Master, you’re probably seeing the problem with my plan already. I’ll be honest, I’m not proud of such an obvious, glaring flaw.
I sat next to my fire, in the middle of the clearing. My left hand held a long vine hanging down from the treetops. When I let go, the net would fall. My right hand held a stick, which I used to poke and prod the fire. Around the fire was a dozen savory, sizzling, succulent river fish skewered and leaning into the fire. I’m a good cook, so they were the embodiment of perfection. The heavenly scent overpowered the normal forest smell of trees, sap and dew.
My stomach roared, my belly ached, and I had to wipe my chin of drool more than once. My desire to eat was only overruled by my desire to see my right of passage completed.
A rustling sound off to my right made my heart soar! I turned to a nearby bush and out popped a large to mid-sized bear.
“Hmph.” I pursed my lips, “you’re not who I’m waiting for.” I grabbed three fish and tossed them over. “Here! Just take them and don’t mess up my plan Mrs. Bear!”
Happily, the bear grabbed the three sticks in her mouth, gave me a wave, then walked off back into the brush.
I steadied my heart and acted casual. If I looked too eager, Snowball would know something’s up.
More rustling to my left. I turned, and it was a malnourished-looking wolf, growling at me.
I rolled my eyes, then tossed a fish over. The wolf cocked his head and looked to me. I paid him no mind, of course, and continued waiting for my prey. The wolf scarfed it down, then walked over to start licking my face.
‘Maybe if I do nothing,’ I thought, ‘it’ll go away. I can’t give it any more fish! My supply is running low!’
Once he was finished showing his affection, Mr. Wolf sat down beside me. His wagging tail slapped my back repeatedly.
Next came a large bird. After it ate a fish, it used my right horn like a perch.
A baby bear waddled over. I gave him a fish, and he laid down on my lap as he ate. Once finished, he chewed on the warm stick.
Then a group of squirrels got curious and came over. As they couldn’t eat fish, I taught them how to roast their acorns on the fire.
A creature I never saw before -but later learned was a ‘tortoise’- lumbered through the clearing. He didn’t want food or anything, he was just passing through. My animal friends and I gave him a polite nod, and he slowly returned it.
Mrs. Bear came back at this point to collect her son. I don’t speak bear, but I suspect the growls and roars I heard as they left was Mrs. Bear lecturing her son about wandering off alone.
A group of small birds came around and started feuding with the squirrels, small squeaks and chittering filled the clearing. Before I could put a stop to their nonsense, Mr. Wolf barked and the large bird squawked, cowing the two sides into submission.
At this point, I started to think Snowball would never show.
But then, it happened! It finally happened! Right before my eyes, Snowball hopped into the clearing!
I could hardly contain my excitement. “Oh! Uh, I mean, oh. Hey there, buddy. Want a nice, safe, and delicious meal for your travels?” I gestured to the fire and fish, “eat up!”
The Daft-Rabbit looked to me… then looked straight up at the net, then back down to me.
I… I really thought Daft-Rabbits couldn’t look up. I guess it’s just one of those legends, like how myertets don’t actually drop rocks on their eggs to see which are strongest.
Now, despite me being wrong, Snowball hopped closer anyway!
“Ha!” I startled the animals, “I guess ‘seeing’ a trap and being able to avoid it are two separate things! Nobody can resist the expert cooking of Ashley Vera Vestiture!”
The Daft-Rabbit bit the stick and pulled the fish out of the fire, but it didn’t eat.
This was my second mistake. Despite the sharpness of a Daft-Rabbit’s teeth, they are purely vegetarian. He wasn’t attracted by the smell of my cooking, he just came over to make a fool of me. Not that it really mattered though, he was under my net, just as I wanted.
A wide smile crept across my face. I whispered, “say goodnight, prey..!”
I was about to release the net. Just a single release of the fingers and I could return to my village in victory!
…But… I looked around. All my new animal friends were there. If I released the net, they’d all die in a fiery inferno as well…
There was no choice. I didn’t want to become an adult by slaughtering friends.
I had to sit there and watch as Snowball pulled my fish out of the fire, fed my animal friends, and fed any animal that happened to walk by. My tummy ached with every fish he gave away, like a gut punch each and every time. Not only that, he called his friends. A dozen Daft-Rabbits sat on the other side of the fire, cuddling against each other, enjoying its warmth. So many targets, but I couldn’t do a thing.
I sat there, seething, for four hours. Once the fire died and the animals said their goodbye’s, my arm was too sore to try anything. I laid back, the net fell on top of me, and I passed out right there in the clearing.