Fudd puts a shell into the Winchester and racks it. “Be very, very quiet,” he says, too loud, and then catches himself. He surveys the familiar null space of the cartoon forest, the green somehow too green and not green enough, grassy but composed of no individual grasses. The blue box of sky is flat and unchanging. He listens for the scurry and chatter that will signal the animal’s arrival. Fudd doesn’t know much but he knows this: it is rabbit season, and he is rabbit hunting.
He scans the landscape, ignores the fake or real trees and keeps his eyes on the forest floor. The animal’s entrance might be made through a cave or a simple hole in the ground, an elaborate doorway or a stage that magically appears, draped in velvet cloth. It might arrive in any number of ways, might take any number of forms. The only thing for certain is that it will be here soon, and Fudd will attempt to kill it.
“Ah….what’s up doc?” Fudd jumps, whirls, pans with the Winchester like a federal agent entering a suspect’s motel room. He does this once, twice, three times, and still nothing. He slows. Breathe in out in out, he thinks. In…out…
Finally he sees it, leaning against a tree not ten yards away. Again, it has taken the form of a beautiful woman, this time a southern belle in a full hoop skirt and bonnet. “What’s up, Doc?” it says again, sultry and smooth, nothing like the rabbit’s native guttural coo. It has long blonde hair, a button nose, thick lips and eyes that are slightly too large. It looks like a beautiful anime version of a southern belle. Like everything else in this uncanny valley it is real and not real, one brush stroke past glossy.
She holds a lollipop – large, thick, multicolored, the kind he remembers from carnivals or street festivals. She looks him in the eye and takes a long, slow lick. Subtle, he thinks. Sometimes when it appears as an actual rabbit, it will munch on an over-sized carrot, an affectation like a dictator chewing a cigar. Always, he knows, the lollipop or carrot or cigar (here, of course, as he has learned time and time again, always of the exploding variety) is not just a lollipop or carrot or cigar.
He closes his left eye and measures the shot from here. She pulls back behind the tree, dangling the lollipop out in the open. He has more ammunition in his pocket, always has more ammunition in his pocket, knows that he will never run out, but still, a certain conservation is in order when rabbit hunting. From behind the tree she licks the lollipop slowly, allowing her tongue and the tip of her bonnet to be exposed to his rifle sight. He could knock that bonnet off her head from here, could pop that pretty nose right off her face. He follows the tongue up and down, up and down, gently moving the Winchester in rhythm with her attention to the sucker. He closes his left eye and squeezes the trigger.
Explosion and then nothing. No bonnet floating gently to the ground, no bloody nose landing with a liquid plop, no beautiful southern belle limping wounded into the artificial backdrop of the forest. No rabbit. Nothing.
“Ah…over here, Doc.” He whirls to see that the animal has again taken its most hideous form, the massive, bipedal rabbit. It flicks a carrot in Fudd’s direction, like a femme fatale motioning with a cigarette. Fudd puts another shell into the Winchester and racks it.
Things he could be doing: taking a bath, working on the crossword, shopping for online MBA programs, setting his fantasy basketball lineup, google-stalking his sophomore college girlfriend, cooking the Blue Apron sitting unopened in the refrigerator.
“What’s it gonna be, Doc?” the rabbit asks. His voice has changed again and it is high and teasing, with a carnival barker’s hint of an old fashioned Bronx accent.
Maybe this will be the time, Fudd thinks. He wonders again what will happen after he kills the rabbit, whether he will be allowed to go back to his own devices, or will find himself in some different landscape, a new level presenting a different boulder to push up some glassy mountain. Maybe he will be hunting a duck. Maybe he will find himself halfway across the country or the world, in the desert or Australia or some evil scientist’s lair. Maybe he will be home.
He could be working on the short story he started a few weeks ago, or busying himself with the puzzle that’s been sitting out on the kitchen table. He could be getting his estate in order. He closes his left eye and lines up the shot. The rabbit is gruesome, taller than Fudd himself. He is cavalier and unaware, twirling his massive carrot like a baton. The animal is careless and careful. He is cruel.
Fudd closes his both eyes. It is rabbit season. He is rabbit hunting. He squeezes the trigger and waits.