Run Rabbit

A cat pursued a rabbit. It was twilight in Autumn.

The rabbit had trouble seeing the cat, which meant trouble. Rabbits have eyes on the sides of their heads, pointed in opposite directions, so they can see almost everything at once. The only places they can't quite see are the spot right in front of their noses and the spot right behind their tails. So because the rabbit could only partially glimpse the cat, he knew the cat must be too close for safety.

It was hard not to think about the cat. The cat was terrifying. The rabbit had been watchful, he had thought he was being watchful, but all at once there had been a cat almost on top of him, exploding into motion before he realized what was happening.

This cat was a grey tabby, with feral, glowing yellow eyes and tufts on the tips of his ears. He was all cabled muscle, like a striking snake, bladed like an owl, like a stinging nettle. And those eyes--those terrible straight-ahead eyes, focused all on the rabbit, nothing else.

He tried not to think about it. He concentrated on the path, the shifting and flickering pattern of trees, of hollows and rises. He tried to concentrate on weaving when not expected to, on finding narrow paths that wouldn't leave him cornered, and above all on maintaining a perilous velocity that no cat could hope to sustain.

It was difficult. He could hear the breathing of the predator on his very tail. An open field, he thought desperately--I could outspeed him in the open. He could not fling the ground away fast enough.

I may hear my voice, he thought. Every rabbit knows that rabbits have voices, mighty voices. But a rabbit only ever uses its voice on its day to die. Now the rabbit found himself wondering what it would sound like, when it came.

Don't think about it, he thought: his mother's lullaby, murmured long ago in his ear, to be remembered always. "Don't think about the fox," she said. Any predator on feet was a fox to her. "Look ahead, and think about the running, but not the fox. Remember it can never run like you can run, if you step true.

"If it's an owl, go down, get under, as fast as you can," she said, "but if it's a fox, bunny, run and run, until it's long since gone behind you, and keep running until you're too tired to run." And every rabbit knows no rabbit is ever too tired to run.

Tom chased the rabbit, wheezing in the October chill with his ears laid back flat, determined to hold out, to keep close until his prey made a wrong step. He was far too close to miss his mark. He could almost reach it now.

In his head he heard the voice of his mother, muffled as she spoke with her mouth clasped on the skin of Tom's own wriggling infant neck. "Someday when you're big, like me," she said, "then you can chase rabbits if you want to."

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