Kurt’s pirate-face flashed crazily in the light of the candle that burned, between us on the floor, underneath the three blankets we had spread over the backs of six Shaker chairs.
I no longer thought of him as Mr. Vonnegut. Sharing a camp, sitting Indian-style under blankets created a sort of intimacy I had not known since I was five years old.
“You have got to get me out of here,” said Kurt.
“Why me?” I asked. “You said Isaac Asimov is here, that Einstein is here, that Jesus is here, for Christ’s sake. Certainly you have enough brain power and skills to get out of here without my help. I just got here. I don’t know anything about anything.”
“That’s why you are the Chosen One,” he said.
“Your ignorance and lack of skill is the only thing that can help us escape,” he said.
“Whoa, wait a minute,” I said. “Do you want me to spring you out of this place, or am I supposed to stage a general uprising?”
“That’s up to you,” he said. His Mark Twain moustache appeared to be on fire. The shadows and the smoke were getting to me.
“I can’t breathe,” I told him.
“Imagine how I feel,” he said.
Without another word, he disappeared. So did the candle. So did the blankets and the chairs. I was sitting in the dark on the floor. All alone.
It wasn’t so dark as the Mammoth Cave blackness I had experienced outside: it was more like that gray that covers the world just before dawn. My eyes began to pick out details. I rolled over and pushed myself up. When I had stretched myself up to my full height, I looked behind me and a rabbit was perched, sitting up on its hind legs, staring intently at me. It was an Agouti Dwarf bunny.
“What’s up, Doug,” it said.
“My name is George,” I told it. Oh crap, I thought, another dumb bunny.
But I was wrong.
“I said ‘Doc’. Get a hearing aid,” it said.
“Oh, now, you are just a cliché,” I retorted.
“It takes one to know one,” it said. “And quit thinking of me as a sexless hermaphrodite, you tool.”
“There’s no need for name-calling,” I retorted. “It’s just hard for me to sex a bunny, certainly from this angle. And ‘sexless hermaphrodite’ is sort of an oxymoron.”
I was building up a head of steam, now, and, I had to add, “You’ve got a nerve, reading my mind.”
“Light reading,” said the bunny. “You can call me MISTER bunny, by the way.”
I turned my back to MISTER bunny and crossed my arms in front of my chest. There was no way I was going to let a tiny little rodent talk to me that way.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” said the rabbit.
“Now you’re just quoting Joseph Campbell,” I said. I booted him to the side of the room.
Snarling, he bounded back at me. Before I knew it, he was shredding my stockings and gnawing at my ankles with his nasty yellow teeth.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, already,” I sobbed, pushing him away.
He wiped his bloody jaws with his furry white paws, sat up on his haunches and considered me.
I, in turn, considered him. What, in fact, would I consider him to be? He was, to be certain, a talking rabbit. That was a novelty, and not a bad thing in this peculiar alternate universe I had found myself in. I really was a bastard for kicking him. I felt honestly contrite in that moment and told him that. Again and again.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t gone through too many changes in the last two hours. I recapped the events of my evening and concluded with how difficult it was for me to cope with a rabbit that insisted on telling me things I had heard countless times in my past.
With nervous, skittering movements, he sidled up to me and said, “I know all that. Quit wasting my time.”
“You don’t seem like any dumb bunny,” I conceded. “but I have a hero’s quest in front of me and I don’t have time for foolishness.”
“Yes, you do,” he said.
“No I don’t,” I argued.
We went at that for some time.
Before I knew it, the sun was rising and a path was glowing in the East. I had no choice but to follow it. Or, did I?