The Beginning of the Fable of the Rabbit in Chains

The Beginning of the Fable of the Rabbit in Chains


Once upon a time, there was a rabbit called Zarathustra who lived in a massive warren with dozens of other rabbits. Most of the rabbits were either her siblings or her step-siblings. Her mother was always pregnant, and she wasn’t really all that sure who her father was, although there was a rabbit she called “Dad” who sort of looked out for her, when he wasn’t busy getting other rabbits pregnant.


Anyway, Zara (for short) hated living in the warren. She loved going out, but everybody kept telling her how dangerous it was – there were people out there with guns, there were wild animals and birds of prey that would eat you, it could get ever so cold – and she ended up spending most of her time at home. Her Mum would tell her it was about time she had a few babies, her Dad would shout at her for being sulky, and all her brothers and sisters (especially the sisters) would make fun of her for hiding away in the corner and not joining in their fun, which consisted mainly of getting each other pregnant. Occasionally, she would go out for a quick walk, sniffing the air, nibbling the odd root, feeling the spongy grass under her paws, but then somebody would come charging after her shouting, “Weirdo!” or “Get back into the warren at once!”, depending on whether it was a sibling or a parent.


One day, Zara decided to run away. She would have liked to plan her escape more carefully, but her knowledge of the world was somewhat limited. She had no idea of what was out there, except for wild beasts, birds of prey and people with guns, but she’d seen hills and trees not that far from the warren. “I’ll make a dash for the trees”, she thought, “Maybe I can find a place to live there, by myself. And, if not, I’ll look for somewhere else. There must be loads of places out there that I can’t see from here”.


So, one morning, when most of her family were copulating or sleeping, Zara hopped out of her hole and raced for the nearby trees. Tense, she held her breath as she bounded across the grass, going further than she’d ever been in her life. She dived into a pile of dead leaves at the foot of an oak tree and gasping, her heart pounding, looked back at the distance she’d covered. Her warren was still visible; she wondered if anybody had noticed she wasn’t still there. Everything was quiet and still. A few birds were singing, and the wind made the leaves rustle, but there was no sign of a rabbit search party, no cries of, “Hey, Zara, where are you?”


She looked around and decided not to stay where she was. It was too near the warren, she decided. Somebody was bound to find her, sooner or later, even if they weren’t looking for her, which they probably wouldn’t be. There were some stones or something down the hill; it looked quite a long way, but Zara didn’t mind. The further, the better. Cautiously this time, she hopped down the hill, stopping every few steps to have a look round. As she got nearer the stones, she realised she could hear something, and it was a noise she’d never heard before. The only sounds she’d heard was rabbit-talk and the sounds of nature, but this was a mysterious thing unlike anything else.


The stones were much bigger than she’d thought. When she reached them, she found that she couldn’t jump over them or even see over them. And they were flat. Just like the ground, flat, but going up towards the sky. “Wow”, she thought, “What can this be”. By now the noise was clear and loud. It sounded like an old rabbit shouting in pain, or the noise that the wind made sometimes when it echoed and boomed in the warren. She was looking up at the stones when suddenly she heard a new noise, a growling sound that was totally new to her. Instinctively, she leapt backward and started to run away.


“Hey, you!”, came a voice. Not aggressive, but not familiar.


Zara, trembling, turned round and saw a strange thing looking at her. A bit bigger than a rabbit, a completely different shape, though, with short legs, small ears and a long nose and what seemed to be a huge mouth. Oh my God, she thought, it’s one of those wild beasts! I’m done for!


“What are you doing round here?” asked the strange thing.


“Nothing! Honest, I was just looking! Please don’t eat me!” , pleaded Zara.


The thing burst out laughing. “Eat you? Ha ha, yeah, right, like I’m going to eat you!”


Zara remained rooted to the spot, panting. She had never been a great runner, and this weird animal looked perfectly capable of catching her if she dared to make a dash for it.


“What’s the matter? Can’t you see I’m not going to harm you?”


“I’m not running away. I’m not afraid of you”, lied Zara, pretending to be brave, not daring to look at the thing she was talking to.


“Uh uh, yeah, whatever you say”.


The animal walked towards her and she froze. He wasn’t actually ugly, she thought. He wasn’t like the wild beasts she’d been told about.


“Mind if I sniff you?” asked the beast, not waiting for an answer.


Maybe he is a rabbit, after all, thought Zara. She tensed every muscle in her body as the thing gave her a good going over.


“I must say, you’ve got a lot of nerve”, said the beast. “I’ve never met a rabbit who’d just let me have a good sniff. You’re female, right?”


Zara nodded, fearing the worst.


“Maybe that explains it. Whenever I’ve seen a rabbit, or he’s seen me, I should say, he just legs it and I never get a chance to get to know him.”


The beast seemed to be satisfied with his body-check, and took a few steps back. As he sat down, he asked politely, “So, what brings you to these parts?


“I was just looking, I told you”, explained Zara. “I didn’t mean to trespass or anything.”


The animal laughed again. “Trespass? Ha ha, what a word. Sheesh, I’ll have to remember that one.”


“Why do you always laugh at what I say?”, asked Zara, getting a bit annoyed now. The animal wasn’t much bigger than her, she thought, and probably younger. “And, anyway, what are you?”, she asked, suddenly emboldened.


“I’m a Jack Russell terrier”, said the beast.


The word “terrier” made Zara think of “terror”, but there wasn’t anything terrifying about this thing.


“Are you a … a dog?”, she asked






“I mean, yes, correct, I’m a dog, I’m a Jack Russell. My name’s Andy”


Zara took in the information and tried to process it but it didn’t make sense.


“My name’s Zarathustra”, she said after a while.


“You what? What a mouthful.”


“My friends call me Zara”, she added.


“Ah, cool, like the shops”, said the dog.




“Zara. The shops. Clothes and stuff. You know.”




The dog sighed. “Zara. Your name. It’s the same as the shops. Zara. You know. Inditex, Amancio Ortega. Pull and Bear.”


Zara wondered if he was speaking a weird language. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about”


Andy the dog shook his head and smiled. “Don’t get out much, do you, Zara?”




“Oh, for God’s sake, stop saying “what” every time I say something”


“Well, I don’t know what you mean”


“But… but…”, began the dog, “Are you really fresh out of the warren?”


Zara flinched. I bet he’s going to rape me, she thought. Perhaps he’s a bird of prey or something.


“OK, OK, my fault, sorry, didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”


Then suddenly a thought came to Zara. “How come I can understand you and you can understand me? I mean, I’m a rabbit and you’re a rustle”


Andy stifled a laugh. “I’m a dog, you mean. Jack Russell is my breed. Pedigree, I might add.”




“Pedigree!” shouted Andy. “Sorry, didn’t mean to shout. Er, let me see, how can you understand me and I can understand you… must be because we both speak the same language”.


“But I thought all animals spoke different languages?” said Zara, much more relaxed now, even when this dog shouted at her.


“Bullshit. That’s just what humans say, because they don’t understand us. They’re the ones who speak a weird language!”


Zara was going to say “What?” but managed to change it to, “What are humans?”, which wasn’t much an improvement, but even so.


“Humans? You don’t know what humans are? Oh, man, you are something special!”, exclaimed Andy, leaning back as if in admiration.


“Are they the same as people with guns? I know all about them.”


“Er… they’re just like people with guns except that they don’t all have guns”


“Ah. But are they like rabbits, or … dogs?”, asked Zara, trying out this new word.


“Neither. They’re like humans, that’s all. I mean, rabbits and dogs and cats and mice and horses and cows and sheep and all that, we’re all animals. Humans are different.”


“I don’t know what you mean”


Andy was lost for words. “Shit, this is hard for me to explain. I thought I was good with words, but you are really hard work. Look… Zarathustra, right? Can I show you something?”


Here it comes, thought Zara, he is trying to rape me.


“Follow me. At a distance, OK? Make sure nobody can see you.”


The dog trotted round the corner. Zara gingerly followed him.


The noise that Zara had heard before was much louder on this side of the stones.


“What’s that noise?” she whispered to Andy, who was creeping into a sort of hole in a board of wood.


“Shhh. It’s Bruce Springsteen. I don’t like it, either, but what the hell. Nobody ever asks me about my musical preferences. He plays Bruce Springsteen and she plays Michael bloody Nyman, which is even worse. Mind your head. This flap is a killer” Andy and Zara moved into what looked like a huge cave, where the noise was deafening. Something was moving in the far corner.


“Don’t make a sound. I’m going to say Hi to Geoff. You keep still and watch. Won’t be long.” And with that, Andy trotted over to the figure in the corner.


It stood up, picked Andy up and starting laughing or shouting at him. Andy made a barking noise and wagged his tail. He turned round to look at Zara who was cowering in a corner, fascinated but terrified.


Andy had been strange, but the other creature was even stranger. Huge, standing on two legs, multi-coloured, and making weird noises. The dog was licking its hand, and they were probably talking, but Zara could hear nothing above the bruise prince teen or whatever it was.


A few minutes later, the creature started screaming as though he had been injured, and Andy withdrew. He walked up to Zara with a broad smile on his face and they both left the place.


“That’s Geoff. He’s my owner.”


Zara’s face was blank.


“OK, I’ll start again. This is a house. It’s a building. That thing there is called a door. And it’s got a flap in it for me. That was the living room, that place where we were just now. And that was Geoff sitting there, playing air guitar, listening to “The River”, which is an album by Bruce Springsteen. And he’s a human, Geoff, I mean, and so is Bruce Springsteen.”


“I see”


There was a pause as Zara nibbled the grass and Andy weighed up the situation.


“Do you know what I’m talking about?”


“Not really, but I’m a fast learner”


“Do you want me to explain it all to you?”


“Only if you’ve got nothing better to do”


“It’s going to take a long time. How long have you got?”


How long did she have? How long was Zara going to stay out of the warren? Was she ever going to go back?




This story is called “The Beginning …” because it stops here. In the rest of the story, which I’m not going to write, we learn that Andy’s real name is Gandhi and he’s a vegan, racked with guilt and embarrassment. Zara convinces Andy to run away and start a new life with her, challenging conventions and flying in the face of nature. Zara discovers things about herself she never suspected. They savour genuine happiness for the first time in their lives, but tragedy cannot be averted… 







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