A short story excerpt
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
“Charlie?” she choked out, brow furrowing as she reached forward and took hold of the rabbit’s wrist. “What if it doesn’t open again?”
Charlie said nothing, simply looking down at his feet. It was then that she knew the answer to her question. There was no guarantee that she would have this chance again.
“Guess we better get moving then,” she said with a weak smile, trying to conceal the fear she felt bubble up.
Charlie sighed, nodding slightly as he drew her into a gentle embrace with frail arms. “Will, will be makin’s it my Kara.”
The girl wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, trying not to be obvious as she stepped out of the hug. “Thanks Charlie,” she murmured, offering him a true smile before turning from his velveteen face and heading down the road with new vigor.
The woman sipped from her water bottle, washing down the hard bread of the stale sandwich. It was two o’clock in the morning, but nightmares had kept her awake. The hospital was as silent as a morgue, the comparison sticking like a lump in her throat. She set aside the rest of the sandwich, her appetite lost as blue eyes flickered to the still body of her daughter. Kara’s face had haunted her dreams. Memories like photographs floated by her mind, dragging out until they mingled with the images of that twisted hunk of metal that had once been Kara’s car.
“I love you,” she whispered sleepily. “I love you, I love you, I love you…” She repeated the words like a mantra, unwilling to stop for fear that the night would end too soon.
Kara walked till her legs ached, though Charlie seemed unaffected by the distance. The girl paused, and to his credit the rabbit didn’t complain when they had to take yet another break. She collapsed at his dainty feet, watching his twitching nose with mild amusement.
“What happens when we get there?” she asked, biting her lower lip. Kara wanted the change of the city, but also was worried about what to expect.
“Yous go. Yous know what be ‘ere, what’s this is.”
“A dream,” she said flatly.
Charlie nodded with a crooked smile, glad he didn’t have to chase the girl’s understanding. “’Phoria the city where all humans be goin’. In ’Phoria, be no more dreamin’.”
“Euphoria is home?” Kara asked, something desperate jumping up inside of her.
“’Phoria is yours. Dreamin’ gotta ends. ’Phoria be home, if end means home.”
“That doesn’t make much sense,” Kara chided.
“Knows, sorry,” Charlie chuckled with a faint shrug.
Kara eyed him for a moment, feeling a hint of friendly annoyance. Charlie couldn’t answer the question of what Euphoria was; all he could do was tell her it was different then where she was now.
The rabbit watched her intently, keen on any trace of reaction. His care was evident, as was his hope his answers wouldn’t make her cry once more.
Kara held out her hand, allowing her companion to help her to her feet. “Better get going,” she stated, now with new things to contemplate as she stared down at the way the blue chalk of the road stained her toes.
“I love you, Charlie,” she murmured, standing as tall as she could to press a quick kiss to his soft cheek. Even then the rabbit had to duck in to meet her. “Thank you for helping me.”
Charlie smiled, brushing a blunt and clumsy paw over her back. “No times for goodbyes yet. Loves you my Kara.”
Dawn came far too soon for the woman, her eyes heavy with fatigue. She watched the golden light crest over the tops of the buildings below before turning to mindlessly flip through the channels of the television. She grew frustrated when nothing kept her attention long enough. She knew she should sleep, but she feared those familiar nightmares. The red numbers of the digital clock glared their stagnant call that not once seemed to heed her prayers and turn back. The woman looked to her daughter, making a great effort not to let her eyes rest on the unfamiliar face, wrapped in gauze and brutally mangled with tubes that breathed for a body that could not. Tears filled her eyes as she smoothed the blanket across Kara’s lap, quick to pick up a fallen stuffed toy. The woman tucked the small brown rabbit back under her daughter’s elbow, hoping that the childhood staple would offer her some sort of subconscious comfort.
The woman looked up as a doctor entered, sucking in a breath at the stack of papers in his hand.
Kara looked out over the cliff, seeing the glimmering pearl bricks of the walled city. “So, what happens when it’s not open?” she asked, looking to Charlie as the rabbit simply crouched down next to her.
“’Phoria closed, no roads to be walkin’. ’Phoria open, roads be takin’ yous there.”
Kara’s brows rose at the admission. It didn’t make sense, yet so little did. Here she sat with an eight-foot-tall rabbit that she had imagined as a child, looking down at a purple field and a pearl city.
“Charlie, you can’t come with me, can you?” she asked, cocking her head to the side curiously.
Her companion shook his head, looking to her with sadness in his eyes. “Will be’s missin’ yous,” he chirped.
Kara smiled weakly, feeling the impending parting with a sore heart. “Not the time for goodbyes yet,” she chuckled, repeating the other’s comforting words. “We still need to get to the bottom of the cliff.”
The woman signed her name with a shaking hand, pushing the pages away as soon as she was done. She could feel the tears sting at the corner of her eyes as she fell back into a chair. It was hard for her to speak or even breathe as nurses and the doctor flitted around the bed like crumpled pieces of wrapper in the wind. They pressed buttons and turned switches; none of it made any sense to the woman who had to bear witness, but she refused to leave.