By Mark Crocker
The winter had been very hard for Merwyn, Athena, Cat and Rabbo and some day’s when there had been very little food, but with the help of Cat they had made it though the winter. Rabbo had continued his classroom time and had taken 4 exams over the winter and passed each one.
Each exam was harder than before and each set of lessons had gotten harder and harder to the point where Rabbo felt that all he did was sit in front of the computer read type, listen watch and learn. In fact at times his head felt so full that he would wake up with a start and find himself thinking about the lessons he had and was unable to go back to sleep.
In the dark winter nights when he would wake up and not be able to sleep Rabbo would sit on the window sill in Athena’s room and think about what had been done to him and why. He also started to understand that he needed a little more done to him so that he could do something’s better.
It was on a very cold day when he asked Athena to fix his paws so that he could hold things better in his paws and so that he could use the computer keyboard better. She had been in the bath when he had asked her and he had been floating in the nice warm water looking at her long fingers. The idea had come to him when he saw her picking up the soap to wash herself.
The idea was to add extra bones to his paws and that she could make muscles for each extra bone and graft them onto the bones so that instead of paws he would have hands.
Athena pointed out that it would take a lot of painful work to make him have hands but would be simpler to just add one extra bone to each of his front toes and to do something called cloning of the muscle of those toes. So the next day they had sat together and Athena had drawn on paper what they both thought and agreed should be done to make his paws hand like but still look more like paws than hands.
The following day they went to work. Merwyn was in the little room to help and once Rabbo was a sleep Athena and Merwyn started to cut into his paws. When he awoke his paws felt like they were not there and they had thick heavy bandages wrapped around them. The bandages at first were removed and changed three times a day and Rabbo could not at first look or watch as this was done.
Only once was he able to look at his paws when the bandages were being removed and changed. What he saw was bare skin and long looking paws that were red and swollen. They looked like huge red lumps and he had wondered if they would ever work right. So he turned his head away so that he would not be able to see them.
Yet he did not miss a single day of his classroom time as he still wanted to learn.
Athena and Merwyn spent week’s hand feeding him until the day came when the bandages were removed for the last time. Rabbo looked at his paws and apart from lack of fur they looked much better than the huge red lumps that he had last seen.
Gently he moved each new part to his right paw. They hurt a little but they worked like he and Athena had planned. Then he did the same with his left paw and was happy to see that they worked as well and that the pain was not as much as in his right paw
The next few days his classroom time was watching and listening to videos and answering questions that Isis would ask him. It struck him as strange that Isis would talk to him like her daughter yet seem to know that he was a rabbit at the same time.
He had asked Athena about it and all she did was shrug her shoulders and say that the programming was very good. He also asked Merwyn about it and he refused to talk about it and had changed the subject to what he was planning for the garden when spring arrived.
The weather slowly changed and the snow slowly melted away. The tree’s that had dropped their leaves in the fall started to sprout little tints of green and then full bright green leaves. It had been months since Rabbo had his operation to make his paws more useful for doing things and he had learnt how to use a pencil and hold things. He had found that he could pick things up and use them far better than he had ever been able to.
It was mid morning as Rabbo hopped down the garden path happy to escape from his morning class. Hopping down the pathway towards the garden Rabbo passed under an old oak tree.
Eyes that watch all, seeing everything
Watching all that moves, everything is seen
Hidden in plain sight so none can see
coat of fur that blends in with all around
Ears sharp and pointed that hear all
Listening to every sound that is to be heard
Sleek and fit watching and waiting
Watching and waiting laying so still
Long ears with long legs and a white cotton tail
Bouncing, hopping along unknown of what a waits
Fat and fit on carrot tops, so well fed
Stopping and listening with ears so very long
Hopping and bouncing on powerful legs
Furs glistening as each bounce shows how fit
Nose sniffing the air seeking what danger there is
A hop a jump a gentle bounce seeking fresh carrot tops
Sleek and fit unaware of what is ahead
Sharp pointed ears picking up the sound of gentle hops
Muscle tighten and now the hunter hunches
Watching waiting as long ears hops closer
Eyes watching seeing only what comes near
Listening to each beat as long ears comes near
Powerful legs move ready to leap
Tensing ready to leap when long ears is in reach
Claws unsheathe ready for that leap
Licking lips at the thought of food so near
Long ears thinking of carrot tops hops closer to the tree
Stopping listening and then hopping closer still
Ears oh so very long scan and listen hearing only bees
Without warning a sound is heard
All is still as if a breath is held
Not a sound is to be heard all is still and waiting
Again a sound is heard and long ears stands so still
Without warning out it leaps “Good morning brother rabbit” “good morning brother cat
Again the sound is heard “Here kitty kitty kitty” and off goes the cat
“Hey, silly rabbit. Watch where you throw stones that almost hit me” said Merwyn from beside the tree.
Rabbo lowered his head and then turned around and hopped to where the young carrots were. He remembered what Merwyn had told him about planting more carrots and that the seeds would be in the broken plant pot at the end of the row were the young carrots where. He also remembered that he was not to eat too many and that once he was done planting he had to turn the water on in the area of the carrots.
Rabbo enjoyed his time in the garden and had found that he was really good at digging. A few times he had not used the little shovel that Merwyn had made but instead his front paws. And that was fun so much fun that he would often dig using his front paws.
Rabbo stood up on his hind legs and looked around. He could see his mother cropping the grass in her run. The front was open but she would not come out unless he was very close or Merwyn or Athena was around. But if Cat was around she would stay in her hutch and just look out and watch until the cat went away.
Rabbo had just finished planting a second row of carrots and was taking a break as he had gotten warm while digging and planting when he heard faint foot steps in the woods.
The foot steps were far off but with his ears he could hear them very well. He guessed that they were not those of Merwyn’s or Athena’s as they were heavy and clumsy.
Rabbo hopped up the path as fast as his legs would go almost bumping into Cat who was running down the path as fast as he could go. At the same time they both said “people in the woods”. Rabbo laughed and the cat gave him a sour look and then headed off in to the woods as fast as he could go.
Athena was standing in the door way waiting for Rabbo to arrive. She wore a short toga with a simple belt of silver rope. Her hair was pulled back in a bun. Her sandals were simple sandals without any leg straps. Athena looked towards the woods and closed her eyes. Rabbo had seen her do this before but rarely while standing up. He did know that when she closed her eyes while standing up what she was looking at was not far away. Too far to see with the naked eyes so she was using what she called her inner eyes to see further.
Merwyn walked up next to Athena and Rabbo and waited until Athena opened her eyes.
“I will make the house and gardens invisible if you will blur their minds my dear daughter”.
“Dad, let’s wait until Cat gets back before we do anything. He might have information. And I think the older man is from the village”.
“Dam I knew this would happen. We might have to move again” said Merwyn.
They waited for Cat to get back and Rabbo could feel the unease in the air at the thought of strange people from the village coming to the house. It had to of been half an hour before Cat came running up the pathway and straight into the house where Merwyn, Athena and Rabbo were waiting.
“Three humans from village old man younger man and young woman with big belly. Old man wants advice and talk much with younger man about goddess helping. Young woman want to know about baby and that it not kick much. Old man not have working eyes, young man is helping him and young woman is grand daughter of old man” reported Cat.
“We have to help at lest the pregnant woman and advice we can give. That’s always helpful” said Athena in a sweet almost pleading tone.
Merwyn looked down at Cat. “How far away are they”?
“A mile maybe a little less” answered Cat.
“Ok this is what we will do. I will make the house and garden look different. And you will talk with them Athena” Merwyn thought for a moment then added “if they think you are a goddess we can go with that. It might be useful”? Merwyn looked down at Rabbo. “I have a job for you. Go and hide in the tall grass and listen for them. When they get close thump your hind leg hard so that your mother does like wise. That should give us warning. Then when Athena is outside waiting for them I will change the look of the house and she can play the goddess. Cat I want you to be close to Athena and listen to what the humans say and do. Rabbo you do the same”.
Merwyn looked at Athena Cat and Rabbo “Ok people ok people let’s move.”
Athena went and changed to look more like a goddess while Cat and Rabbo went back outside to keep watch.
Rabbo listened and could hear the people closer but they sounded as if they might be lost in the woods. Rabbo looked over at Cat and shrugged his shoulders as if to say “well”. Cat look backed and smiled and listened.
Soon the people from the village were close so Rabbo started thumping his right hind leg hard on the ground. Soon he heard his mother doing the same thing inside the house.
Athena came walking out of the house. She turned and faced the house and suddenly the house looked very different. It went from a simple cottage looking house to a house with white marble pillars and a tall white roof. In front of the entrance to the house two huge flaming torches appeared and started to burn. The garden faded away and was replaced with a meadow of grass and buttercups.
Athena had on silver metal shin guards a short silver metal pleated skirt a silver breast plate and a silver helm. In her right hand she held on to long spear. On her left arm was a huge round silver shield. Around her waist was a thick leather belt and from the belt hung a long sword in a leather scabbard.
Athena stood still and suddenly she seemed very tall. Her head seemed to be touching the sky and she seemed to be looking down on the whole world.
The three villagers came out of the woods and stopped and looked at Athena in total amazement.
“Who comes to the home of the gods” her voice boomed out across the meadow.
The villagers started to walk forward and again Athena’s voiced boomed out across the meadow “Halt”. She pointed the long spear at the villagers and spoke again in a loud booming voice “who comes before the gods and what do you seek”?
The villagers halted and knelt and bowed their heads low. “Oh great Pallas Athena we seek wisdom and knowledge. I wish to know if the people from across the sea will come again to raid. My grand daughter wishes to know if her unborn child is well as it is not kicking inside her”.
Athena looked down at the villagers and spoke softly her voice carrying on the wind “the people from across the sea will come again. Young woman come closer so I may look inside you”
The young woman walked forward and it was clear that she was very far along in her pregnancy.
Her belly was round but had not dropped yet. Athena shrunk down to her normal size and walked up to the young pregnant woman.
“How old are you” asked Athena.
“I am 18 summers” said the young woman. She stood proudly yet great fear was in her eyes.
Athena pointed to large round rock that was in fact a chair that had been transformed to look like a rock. “Sit please so I can look inside you”.
Athena closed her eyes for about 5 minutes and then opened them. “Your baby is ok. But you need to eat better and stop drinking wine. Only drink boiled water. Boil the water for as long as you can. Lastly no more eating laurel leafs”.
The young woman looked down at the ground with tears in her eyes. “Thank you Pallas Athena. But I must eat laurel leafs. I am a priestess in the temple we are building in thanks of you for driving the sea riders away. We have changed the name of our village in honor of you”.
“If you don’t stop eating those leafs you will kill your daughter and yourself. I forbid you to do so” this time Athena’s voice was not soft but once again boomed out across the meadow. “Now return to your village and do not return to the home of the gods unless your need is dire”.
The villagers started to turn. The blind old man turned back and spoke “We brought a gift but the horse pulling the cart would not enter the forest. We will leave the gifts at the edge of the forest”.
Athena closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them “leave only half of what is in the cart. Give the rest to the poor in your village”.
Later that day Athena returned in her cart loaded with fresh bread, fruit, vegetable, three very large sealed Anthropomorphic jugs full of wine, two live cows and one live bull.
She looked down at Rabbo and Cat “Not sure what we are going to do with the cattle as I don’t think dad has an area for them”?
Rabbo nodded and looked at the smelly cattle.
The cat walked over to one of the cows and sniffed her and then looked her up and down. Then the cat just walked away licking his lips and muttering “she know not what to do. Fresh milk fresh milk happy me”
It was well after sun down before all the food had been put away and room had been made for the wine and the cattle bedded down in the shed. The fire pit was burning bright and Merwyn Athena Cat and Rabbo were sitting around talking.
Rabbo hopped on his hind legs and started to dance around in circles. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his mother munching on fresh carrot tops. He was surprised to see that she was sitting near Cat and under Merwyn’s chair. But what caught is eye was that around her nose was a hint of gray.
Merwyn reached under his chair and picked up Rabbo’s mother. He looked at her and smiled. “Well girl, you don’t know what today is but I remember and so does Athena my dear daughter”. He turned and looked at Rabbo. “Come here silly rabbit and have some wine”.
Rabbo had drunk wine before and liked the taste and enjoyed the feeling it gave him as long as he did not drink too much.
Merwyn held Rabbo’s mother in his lap and poured three glasses of wine. “To the birthday boy Rabbo. Happy first birthday my dear rabbit”.
Athena stood up a little unstable on her legs as she had been sipping on the wine far more than Merwyn had. She spun around and started to dance around the fire pit. Her hair flying wildly and her skirt bellowing out as she danced lightly yet a little drunkenly around the fire. Rabbo put his glass down and joined her. His feet moving fast while he clapped his paws to make the sound of music.
It was early morning when Rabbo woke and his mouth felt as if he had been cleaning his own fur without washing his mouth out afterwards. As he sat up his head felt as if it was about 3 times heavier than normal and the pounding was not coming from Merwyn working on something outside.
In fact Rabbo was sure that throbbing sound was coming from inside his own head and the wine while tasting good was not the best that it could have been. Or was it the fact that he had drunk far more wine then he should have in the first place.
As he thought about drinking the wine he remembered that Athena had drunk so much that she just curled up on the grass and went to sleep.
He also remembered Merwyn reaching down and picking her up and placing her over his shoulder and taking her inside and putting her to bed.
Rabbo looked over at Athena’s bed and noticed that it was empty.
Rabbo slid slowly and weakly off the window sill and hopped very slowly out of Athena's bedroom and down the hallway. He could hear her in the bathroom so he hopped over and tried to push his way in. But the door was firmly closed and unlike all the other doors it did not have a second door knob that was at his height and connected to the main door knob.
From the bathroom he could hear softly giggling and splashing. As he sat there wondering what to do and how to fix the feeling of his very heavy head his mother hopped past him from Athena’s bedroom. She started down the stairs gently taking one step at a time. Rabbo looked at her and thought that it was too much work with his heavy head and the pounding in his ears.
Rabbo hopped over to his little elevator and pushed the levers so that he could go downstairs and not risk hurting his poor heavy head anymore.
He hopped over to the table and slowly like a very old rabbit he hopped up the ramp to were his breakfast bowl would be. Beside the bowl was a note that read “Silly Rabbo you drink too much. Please drink the liquid in the covered cup. Drink all of it before you eat. Love Athena”.
Rabbo looked at the covered cup and gently removed the cover and sniffed the contents of the cup. It smelt awful but Athena had never given him anything that had harmed him. So he picked up the drink and started to drink it slowly. It tasted worse then it smelt and getting it down was worse than how his head felt but Athena has said to drink it all. So that is what he did.
He then hopped over to his breakfast bowl and picked up the small spoon that Merwyn had made for him from wood and he started to eat slowly. As he ate his breakfast the heavy feeling and pounding in his head stopped but was replaced but a soft thumping sound. After a while that too stopped and Rabbo started to feel much better.
Athena came down the stairs into the kitchen wearing a towel wrapped around her and helped herself to fresh milk that was in the cooler. She looked over at Rabbo and smiled before she started too headed back up the stairs. But before she could head back up the stairs Rabbo’s mother hopped up to her and stood oh her hind legs as if she wanted to be picked up. Athena bent down and picked up Rabbo’s mother and went back upstairs to get dressed.
Rabbo finished his breakfast and was about to head into the library when Athena came skipping down stairs carrying his mother in her arms. She held up Rabbo’s mother and danced around with her. Rabbo had not seen Athena act like that before and his heart felt glad as it was clear to him that she was very happy and that the horror of the fall had gone from her mind. Or had at lest been replaced by something that made her happy.
Rabbo hopped into the library and hopped up the ramp to the computer. He sat down and gave the command to the computer to start his morning lessons. Isis spoke in her normal voice explaining to Rabbo his latest lesson and what he would be learning over the next few months. He would be learning history of the home planet that Merwyn and Athena came from, astrometry, physics and chemistry.
Rabbo was not sure what astrometry was and what it had to do with him but he liked to learn and it would be something new for him to learn. He did know a little about physics and chemistry as Merwyn and shown him a few things. His class had seemed longer than normal but at last it was over and Rabbo was free to eat take and nap and work in the garden.
Rabbo hopped into the kitchen had his lunch and then hopped outside to a nice shaded spot that he could nap in and see what was going on in the garden. As he hopped to his spot in the shade he saw Merwyn wearing the same style cloths that the young villager had the day before.
So instead of taking his nap Rabbo hopped over to Merwyn and asked him why he was not wearing his normal clothes?
“I need to go to the village. What they said yesterday worried me and I want a closer look at what I saw with my minds eye. I should be back by late tomorrow as I want to spend some time there and I need to blend in” answered Merwyn.
Athena came skipping out of the house and looked at her father and smiled. “I have brought you a cloak that will help you blend in plus it will be warm if you have too sleep under it”. She leaned in and kissed her father on the cheek before she skipped away.
“Women I will never figure them out” muttered Merwyn as he put the cloak on and started to walk off down the path into the woods.
Rabbo returned to his shade spot and curled up to sleep. But no sooner was he a sleep than Cat was pushing him gently with one paw.
“Come see” hissed the cat.
Rabbo got up and followed the cat down the garden path. At the far end of the garden Rabbo could see about 14 young wild rabbits hopping along though the tall grass. As he and the cat watched one rabbit stopped and sniffed the air. It stood up on his hind legs and scanned with his long ears. Rabbo hopped forward and slowly moved towards the other rabbits. The other rabbits all stopped and looked towards Rabbo and then as one they hopped right up to him and started sniffing him.
Rabbo was about three times their size but there was something familiar about 6 of the rabbits. Almost as if he knew them? Some of the rabbit started to eat the sweet grass while 6 of them looked at Rabbo. Then they started to make strange sounds to each other as if they were talking. Then one hopped forward and started to make the same sounds to Rabbo. At once Rabbo knew that they were speaking to each other but it was a language that he did not understand.
Rabbo moved closer to the biggest and sniffed his head. Then with one paw he parted the fur and saw a scar running the length of the rabbits head.
The wild rabbit chatted at Rabbo trying to make him understand something. Rabbo then hopped over to another rabbit and she lowered her head and Rabbo parted her fur and he saw the same scar along the top of her head.
Rabbo sat back and thought for a moment and the realized that these had to be his brothers and sisters that Athena had told him about. She had never told him what happened to them and now he knew. But what had she done to them? They were clearly able to talk among themselves but he could not understand them.
After he had checked 5 of the 6 wild rabbit who had separated themselves for the other rabbits he was totally sure that they were his brothers and sisters. The last one he checked had a very fat tummy and Rabbo placed his paw gentle on it to see why she had a fat tummy. One of the other wild rabbits hopped over and placed himself between Rabbo and his sister.
“Don’t worry I am not going to hurt her” said Rabbo to the wild rabbit that had placed himself between Rabbo and his sister.
His brothers and sisters started to look at each other and then chatted among themselves.
One of his brothers pointed with his head towards the end of the area that they had been hopping though and eating as if he wanted Rabbo to follow.
Rabbo shook his head and pointed his head towards the house.
One of his brothers stood up on his hind legs and looked towards the house.
Suddenly one of the other wild rabbits started to pound his hind leg on the ground and all the wild rabbit including his brothers and sisters bolted for a low mound that was far down the area in which they had been feeding.
Rabbo stood up on his hind legs and looked around.
Skipping down the pathway was Athena who was heading towards where Rabbo had been with the wild rabbits.
Athena skipped up to Rabbo and stopped. “They left” her voice sounded a little sad.
“Yes they left. Those where my brothers and sisters” asked Rabbo?
“Yes they were. We think that your mother came from the warren that’s in the far end of the meadow” Athena said as she sat down next to Rabbo.
As if reading his mind she added “When they were old enough we put them outside in a hutch until they were big enough too go to the warren. And yes I did some work on them. I wanted to make them smarter so that they could get out of trouble if they needed to”.
Rabbo looked up at her “Why are you so happy” he asked.
Athena laughed “because I got what I needed.”
“And what was that” asked Rabbo.
Athena just laughed and stood up “follow me down to the end of the meadow. I have my little watering hole I like to swim in”
“Swim - you do that in water”?
Athena got up and ran down though the meadow with Rabbo running along behind her. When they got to the stream Athena started to get rid of her cloths and then she walked to a rock and dived into a large pool of water.
Rabbo sat and watched as she swam around for a few minutes before she slipped totally under the water. After a few moments her head popped up and she swam back to the rock and pulled herself out of the water.
Athena walked over to a huge flat rock and laid down on her back to dry in the sun. After a few minutes she rolled onto her stomach.
Rabbo looked at her and mused to himself that without heavy clothes she looked very different and younger than the female with the fat tummy from the village.
Rabbo looked at Athena “How old are you” he asked. Remembering that the female from the village had said she was 18 summers.
Athena thought for a while and looked at him. “I am over 800 years old. When mom went away I was 8 years old and we had been on the planet for 3 years then” her face turned sad. “I don’t remember much about my mom just that she loved me”.
Rabbo hopped up close and placed one front paw gently on her skin to try and bring comfort.
From the flat rock Rabbo had a good view of the lower end of the meadow and saw the wild rabbits close by the low mound that they had headed to. He watched them closely and counted the heads he could see. He was not sure if they were his brothers and sister as they were too far away to get a good look and he did not want to hop down from the rock as that would mean leaving Athena.
After a while Athena stood up and walked back to her clothes. She turned and beckoned Rabbo to follow her. She reached down and picked up her clothes and started to walk back to the house.
As they passed the oak tree Cat hopped out and looked up at Athena. “No coverings” asked Cat.
“It’s a nice day and no one is here so I am doing as I please” said Athena with a laugh in her voice.
Athena then skipped off up the path and into the house.
Rabbo turned to Cat and looked him up and down.
Cat had a faint odor of blood about him and his whiskers had dark stains as well as his front paws. Cat sat down and started to clean his paws parting each toe and licking between then before moving up and biting and pulling at each claw.
Rabbo watched at how neat and tidy cat was about keeping himself clean and it reminded him that Athena was always washing her hands and took long showers and baths.
He thought about how keeping clean was important.
Neither Cat nor Rabbo heard the soft foot steps behind them and it was the nose pushing into his fur that made him turn at last.
A wild rabbit sat next to him and started to chat at him in the rabbit language of his brothers and sisters. He sniffed the rabbit and felt strange. The wild rabbit was female and Rabbo stood up on his hind legs to see if she had a scar along the top of her head.
There was no scar. The young female rabbit chatted again at Rabbo and this time she pointed with her nose behind Rabbo.
Rabbo turned and saw another female rabbit that was a little larger. He hopped over to her and sniffed her. She smelt different and very interesting to him. The smaller female rabbit chatted at Rabbo again and hopped off back down the garden path towards the meadow. The big female rabbit moved closer to Rabbo and sniffed him before she moved so close that she was pressing against him.
She looked at Rabbo and started to turn away. “Don’t go” said Rabbo.
And at the tone of his voice she pulled away. She looked around and stepped back away from Rabbo. Then she raised herself up and looked around.
Rabbo moved towards her again and wondered if he should make the chatting sound that the young female rabbit had made. But he was not sure if he would get it right and if she would understand. But she was so very interesting to him.
Something about how she smelt and looked that really got to him. He did not understand the feelings that he was having and yet all he could think about was how she smelt and how she looked.
She hopped back up to him and leaned close against him. She pressed her nose into his fur and sniffed.
“Hey, Rabbo, come inside you will be late for your afternoon class” shouted Athena from the doorway.
Rabbo turned to look at the female rabbit wondering if he could get her to come into the house while he was having his class but she was running down the pathway as fast as she could run.
Rabbo thought about chasing after her but well he like to learn things and he had been learning so much. He mused to himself as he hopped back up to the house “I must ask Athena about these strange feelings.”
It was at the dinner table that Rabbo finally got to ask Athena about his feelings and why he felt strange around the bigger female rabbit from the warren down in the far meadow.
She thought for a while and then started to explain about normal urges and spring time and what that might mean to wild animals. She went on for over two hours about the need of the species and offspring was what mattered and that was how a species continued after the parents had long gone and turned to dust.
Rabbo ate and listened while she talked and talked. And he learnt that Athena and Merwyn where not the same race or even species as the people on the planet that they were currently on. And while the peoples of the planet looked like Athena and Merwyn they were not the same.
In fact they were two very different species.
It was very late when Rabbo hopped over to his little elevator and went upstairs to sleep in the window sill in Athena’s room. Cat was already curled up on Athena’s bed with his tail over his nose and his front paws stretched out. His mother was curled up at the end of the bed as far away from Cat as she could be.
Athena walked in pulled off her shirt and slipped into bed to sleep she looked over at Rabbo, smiled, and turned off the lights.
For a while Rabbo sat looking out of the window thinking about the female rabbit that he was so interested in. Slowly sleep over came him and he drifted off in to the lands of dreams.