I turned around and was astonished to see a huge number of other hares locked up in their respective cages. All of a sudden, people started heading towards me. I felt frightened with their every single move. Their persistent gaze made me more uncomfortable.
‘Isnt that a hare?’ somebody from among the crowd spoke. I saw a little girl beside him with large eyes who kept staring at me all the while.
‘Rabbit, Sir!’, said the man standing behind my cage, ‘Pure breed, totally domestic, very well groomed. Just the kind of stuff you’d want for your garden’s hutch.’
‘Dad, I love it. Please buy it for me’.
And with a yank at my collar – or was that my fur now – the man pulled me out of the locked cage. The little girl was beside herself with excitement as she cuddled up, and exclaimed ‘Oh Dad, hes so cute. What are we going to call him?’
‘Percy!’ I yelled, but what came out was a whimper.
I had forgotten I was a rabbit. The girl and her Dad decided to call me Blue Bell, because of the colour of the pendant around my furry neck. I had no idea how that came on me, but I missed the gold one that used to hang around my neck. The pendant given by my mother. My mother… I wondered where she was now. I closed my eyes and tried to think of the last thing I could actually remember, but everything was a haze… I recalled flowers, and greens of the fields. And me prancing along with the kids of my neighbourhood.
We were having a game of hide-and-seek, and I was losing. So in search of a better hiding place, I had gone near that old well my mother had warned me of. I knew every kid was warned never to venture near it, but Hans, my best friend said all these were attempts to keep us from the beauty of the world only adults were entitled to. He said there was an entirely new world beyond the well. But I was scared to go on too far.
So I just sat on the old iron bucket hanging by the well. But I had never expected it to buckle under my weight and fall down into the inky depths below. I screamed, but my voice was muffed by the hollow walls around me. I closed my eyes, steeling myself for the impact, but it never came. Instead the bucket seemed to glide now. I knew it had hit water, but there was no splash. But what I saw around me was the clear blue of the well water. I had no trouble breathing. It was as if I was in some huge aquarium designed for small kids like me! I couldn’t wait to tell Hans my story. As the bucket went on its own accord, I spotted land, and stepped down as the bucket came to a stop.
There was air now, but no sight of any building, I was hungry now, and started missing my mother. The other kids must have given up looking for me by now, so that meant I was the winner this time. I couldn’t wait to get back home. I just wondered how I would manage to get the bucket back up. There was a crashing noise. I looked behind to see a lady wearing black robes. Her back was turned towards me, so I couldn’t see her face, but something about her told me it was not a very good idea to disturb her, I started to back off….
An excited cry brought me back to reality. My surroundings told me I was in a car of some sort and the little girl had me on her lap. I realized I could not remember any further than the black robed lady. I wondered if she was the reason behind my predicament, but my rabbit brain was tired after thinking so hard.
We reached my new home. I wondered for how long it would have to remain my home. The girl seemed to be understanding, but I had no idea just how to make her understand. As my rabbit eyes got accustomed to the environment, and my rabbit ears could hear more clearly, I realized that this girl was none other than Pansy, my play mate. A deep sadness filled my heart as I realized Pansy and Hans and all my other friends would go to school, play hide-and-seek and do all the things I used to, and I had to live for the rest of my life as a rabbit.
As I started getting used to my new life, Pansy spent more and more time with me.
‘Blue Bell, do you know what happened in school today?’ And thus she would start telling me stories of how everything had changed after I left. They all still missed me, but nobody played hide-and-seek after I disappeared. I always wished I could tell her that Percy had not disappeared, he was right there on her lap. But all these was wishful thinking.
One day, just after she had bathed me, I looked into her eyes with so much yearning, that she asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me, Blue Bell? Are you hungry? Oh is the pendant too tight? See how you have grown after I got you. Let me try and take it off”
She took the strange blue pendant off me. Immediately a strong wave of happiness rushed over me. I didn’t know if this had to do anything with my being a rabbit, but I wanted to sing out loud.
“Oh that sure feels great”, I exclaimed. To my surprise, Pansy dropped me on the grass and ran away.
“Hey Pansy, what happened?” I called out behind her. And then I realized I was no longer saying those words in my head.
I could actually hear myself. No doubt Pansy had heard them too.
Incredulous I pattered after her, “Pansy, don’t be scared. Its me Percy”
She recognized my voice. Thankfully. “Oh Percy” she picked me up “How I missed you. Where have you been?”
“Here. I was here all along. With you”
“But how did you end up as a rabbit?”
And I explained her as best as I could. “And that lady with the black robes suddenly appeared out of nowhere. And I don’t remember much after that”
“You must help me Pansy.. I don’t want to live the rest of my life as a rabbit”
“Oh Percy, I would, definitely. Just show me to that well. I will try my best to bring you back among us”
So I led her to that deserted clearing where I had seen the well. She was scared, but she went on. And I showed her the bucket. She gave me a last smile, and went down. I only hoped she did not meet the same fate as me. It would be heart breaking if it turned out that I lead my friend to such a fate. I waited, hoping for the best. Minutes passed, maybe hours. And I waited there.
Maybe I had dosed off, but my reverie was broken by an excited shout. And there was Pansy in front of my eyes! She looked overjoyed, and I tried to smile at her, but my rabbit whiskers would not allow so exultant an expression.
“Perce!!! I did it!!! I got the potion that evil witch used on little boys like you!”
“Witch?” I asked, puzzled.
“Oh yes, Perce. She is a witch. An evil one that too. And that is why our parents warned us against going near the well. Oh how you must be missing your mother. Let me take you home, and I will tell you my story on the way.
As she hurried towards my own home, Pansy continued with her story. “The bucket came to a stop at the exact place you had described. And true enough there was the lady. I knew she was a witch because she told me so. She called me a pretty little thing, and said she would keep me there as a princess if I assisted her in making the potion.
“I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I accepted the offer, thinking it was the best way to bring you back. She took me to her secret chamber where there were many cages with rabbits inside, and several girls of my age were cutting some roots with silver knives. All of them had the same glazed look in their eyes – as if they were under some kind of spell.
I was terrified she would try the same on me, so I tried my best to appear as servile as possible. And apparently, it worked! I learnt that these girls were helping her in brewing a special potion she used on unsuspecting little boys. I took a table and started cutting roots. I pretended to be amused by her plans, and asked her if there was any antidote to this.
She explained me the exact recipe as she was pleased someone was so amused by her genius. And as I was listening, I was also secretly putting all the ingredients into my cauldron. When the potion was properly brewed, I hid myself behind the wall, as she put all the other girls to sleep. When she left the room, I ran to the place where the bucket still lay. I had no idea how to get it back up. But I sat inside. Sure enough the bucket began to retrace its path. Soon there was water all around me, and I was back in front of your eyes.’’
As she finished her tale, I realized I was on familiar terrain again. I saw my little house in the distance, and was overjoyed to see my mother come out to greet Pansy. She explained the story to her, as she took out the potion from her pocket. And she fed it to me.
As the first drop touched my mouth, I had a strange feeling. The air rushed into my lungs, and my skin stretched as I started growing in size. The rabbit fur withdrew back into my skin and I saw my own skin again after such a long time. As I finally reached my own size, I realized I had lost all my rabbit-like qualities and was back to being me.
I could see the clear skies, the open meadows. I could see the hanging twigs in the large shady trees, the silvery water droplets on its leaves and the shrubs around. I could hear the harmony in the soft chirping of the birds, the rhythm in the riverside. I could see my mother at a distance. I belonged here.