[Guten Tag, Wundervilla! It’s six o’clock in the a-m and a balmy sixty-five degrees out this morning as we head into work. Traffic down Dorfstraβe nineteen is backed up, looks like a herd of Braunvieh wandered—]
Alice hit the snooze button on her alarm clock and yawned, pushing her wild blonde hair out of her face. It was her third day in a new house—in a new country. It would be her first day in a new school. She really didn’t want to go.
[—released. If anyone knows whose cows these are, please call the station, or better yet, call the owners, before someone—]
Alice hit the snooze button again. Ugh, she thought, what a boring station! They’re still going on about cows! She sat up and stretched. I know this is a small town, but seriously…wow.
Her morning began the same as the two before. She dug around in the half-unpacked boxes on the kitchen counter, found a bowl and a spoon, and hoped the milk was still good. It was tasting a little off, but the chocolate cereal covered it well enough to eat. She set her bowl on the dining room table and gladly accepted the orange juice her mother, Lucy, handed her. She took a seat beside her little brother, who was still playing with the last bits of cereal floating in his milk.
“Eat your breakfast, then go wash up,” their mother told them. “School is a bit different here. I want you there early today so you can get settled in.”
“Listen to your mother, Max,” Alice’s father chimed in as he walked into the kitchen, straightening his tie. “Morning honey,” he said, kissing his wife on the cheek. “Coffee ready? Or, no, wait… Ein Kaffee, bitte. Is it ein or einen? Oh well, I’ll get it eventually.” Lucy just laughed and handed him a steaming mug.
“You know more than I do already, Nathan. I can’t believe you’ve learned so much in such a short time.”
Nathan had been ecstatic when he came home bragging about how his boss had informed him that he was being offered a corporate position in the company, with a lucrative raise—but his jaw dropped when the call came in to tell him that it was in Germany. It had taken a month of discussing it with Lucy before they finally conceded that a change of scenery was a good idea. The kids didn’t exactly agree.
Ten minutes later, Alice was climbing into the back seat of her dad’s used car. The drive to school was quiet, save for the hum of the engine. As they pulled up to the school, her dad turned around and said with a wink, “Okay, here we are. Don’t follow any Kaninchen!” Alice shook her head as she exited the car.
The day was a blur—learning new things and making new friends. She was glad to see English was such a popular language here. It made it a lot easier on her. Bianca, the girl she sat next to in the classroom, had already helped her tremendously. Her English wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, and she was kind and friendly. They had become instant friends, and Alice was grateful to have someone to turn to as she adjusted to this new life.
The following day—just like the one before—as Alice’s father dropped her off at school, the last thing he said as she got out of the car was, “Remember, don’t follow any Kaninchen!” Alice just rolled her eyes.
After school, Alice was waiting for Bianca to come out of the building. As she set her elbows on the picnic table in front of her and rested her chin on her hands, something caught her attention. She turned in time to see a dark shadow move behind the wide green base of a spruce tree. Curious, she wandered over to the tree and slowly circled the dense boughs of pointy green needles. A branch shook, and she reached out and pushed it to the side. She leaned forward and squinted, but she just couldn’t make out the huddled mass wriggling by the trunk. She was suddenly knocked backwards as a giant, blurry shape leapt at her.
She yelped, then let out a sigh of relief as she realized it was just a rabbit. Laughing, she exclaimed in surprise when she saw the size of it. The steel-gray rabbit was nearly half her size. It was thick and fluffy, with a wide face and a round body. It wrinkled its nose at her, and its ears pricked up, though the tips still hung forward. How adorable! she thought. It turned and slowly hopped away, using its powerful hind legs to propel the large, heavy body forward one thump at a time. Alice followed it across the schoolyard until it reached another wide spruce and squeezed into a hole at the base of the trunk.
“It was amazing,” Alice told Bianca when she finally came out of the building. “It was this humongous rabbit! I didn’t know they could get that size!”
“Rabbit?” Bianca asked, a confused look playing across her fair features. “I do not know of this English word.”
“Hm.” Alice thought out loud. “Well, I don’t know the German word for it either. Oh! Hold on. Let me check.” She pulled out her German-English Pocket Dictionary and looked it up. “It’s a…Kaninchen. That’s weird, that’s what my dad said, don’t follow the—oops.” She realized she had followed the rabbit anyway. That’s what he gets for not speaking English. Oh well, it’s just a rabbit.
Her dad’s car pulled up, but it wasn’t her dad behind the wheel. Instead, a large, steel-gray rabbit—exactly like the one she had followed—sat in the driver’s seat, it’s long ears brushing the car’s headliner. She stood gaping, blinking slowly, expecting the odd vision to disappear every time her eyes fluttered open again.
“No time to explain, Alice! Get in the car!” Although it was obviously not her father, it spoke clearly enough in his voice, and it sounded anxious.
“O-okay…” Alice slowly reached for the handle on the back door, not tearing her eyes away from the rabbit’s fluffy face until she was sinking into the seat. She shut the door and looked over to her brother, shocked to see that he, too, was a rabbit. Although slightly smaller than her father, he was the spitting image of the rabbit that now drove the car. Nathan—or at least, the rabbit that assumed his position—had slammed on the gas and was now steering wildly as the car swerved down the street. The passenger seat held a rabbit as well, another dark gray. The passenger rabbit turned and cocked its head to the side, looking at Alice.
“Are you okay sweetie?” The rabbit spoke calmly with her mother’s voice. “It’s nothing bad honey, we’re just in a rush. It doesn’t take as long to explain as your father would like to think,” she glanced at the rabbit behind the wheel and chuckled. “He just spilled coffee on his tie and needs to hurry home to change into a new one before his big meeting this evening.”
Alice’s head was spinning almost as much as the car. What is going on here? Alice wondered, her mind in a daze. Rabbits and Kaninchen and everything swirling… Thinking she was going to be sick, Alice quickly rolled down her window, stuck her head out, squeezed her eyes shut, and waited.
Opening her eyes, Alice realized she was in bed, with her head hanging over the side. The room was black. She assumed it must have been after sunset, and her curtains must have been drawn. It was the only explanation for the intensity of the darkness around her. Yawning, she blinked until she felt awake, then suddenly remembered the crazy car ride with the oversized rabbits. She shook her head. It must have been a dream.
She felt lopsided and heavy, and felt around to figure out why. She was padded in thick fluff, and thought that she must have been tossing and turning in her sleep to the point where she had inadvertently swaddled herself in her comforter. Holding the thick warmth against her skin, she crawled out of bed and stumbled in the direction of her bedroom door. Her feet weren’t cooperating properly. They must still be asleep, she figured. As she reached the doorway, she found her door was already open. She meandered down the hallway until she saw the soft glow of the lamp in the living room. As she reached the lit area, she discovered she was not in her house, but in a large underground burrow.
The light streaming in was coming from the exit hole that led to the surface. The scent of fresh green grass and clover wafted into the room, and Alice twitched her nose excitedly, her mouth salivating at the thought of such delicious greenery. Suddenly, her long ears perked up, detecting an unknown sound. Alice was nervous. She knew something wasn’t right, and glanced down at her giant gray paws. Realization hit her. Oh my God! I’m a…a…a rabbit! Alice screamed.
Above ground, a few meters from the burrow, a young girl with wild blonde hair sat in the schoolyard. Her legs stretched straight out in front of her, her arms hung limp by her sides, and she slowly spread her fingers and closed them again, feeling the earth beneath her palms. She had a faraway look in her eyes as she absentmindedly chewed on a blade of grass. Her expression was one of simple content, and when she heard the tiny squeak screaming from the direction of the rabbit hole, her smile broadened.
Sorry, Alice, the rabbit thought, admiring her new body. You should have listened to your father. Never follow a Kaninchen.
This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:
This was a picture prompt. The image was a small white rabbit behind the steering wheel of a car, saying, “No time to explain, Alice! Get in the car!”
If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!