Chasing the Hare

It’s cold, and the grass is wet with dew. I keep the drifting mist at eye-level. Tall wet grasses stick to me, painting me with dew-slime and wet seeds. The sun may be peeking above some horizon somewhere, cooking off the mists and fogs, but it isn’t here. The sky is still rubbing the sleep from its eyes, not sure what colors it’s going to wear today. When it finally decides, it won’t be dressing for me. I don’t look up.

I’m shivering so hard it hurts all over. My teeth chatter. I try keeping myself off the ground on just my hands and feet, and that’s much colder than crouching down with my knees and elbows crushing the grass. I get low and clench up like a stone beneath the mist. I feel dew rolling down my back. I am naked except for dew and grass seeds. I feel the shivering eventually start to abate, unsure whether my core is warming up or if it’s hypothermia setting in. My hands and feet are like stone, like metal. I can’t feel them.

Away ahead there is a rustle. A hare in the grass, or maybe something smaller. I envy the thought of moisture-repellent fur. Also I am hungry. The idea of trying to run down a hare amuses a bit more than the conceit of trying to breakfast on grass or grass seeds, and even abject failure would warm me up. But so would waiting for the touch of the sun, should it ever get here.

Every morning I wake up naked in a different place. In a dead-man’s float on a sluggish river. On a rocky beach in a salt-water mangrove, complete with crocodiles. Stretched on cold stone cut by forgotten ancestors. Covered in ants on the edge of a desert. Belowdecks on a deserted boat in an unknown ocean. On a cinder-covered slope below a smoking volcano. Curled among the enormous roots of trees that rise through two tiers of rainforest canopy. On the guano-tiled floor of a cave halfway up a cliff I could neither ascend or descend. On the salted shore of a dead lake. Fifty yards away from the edge of a huge flaming portal to an unknown hell, a literal lake of fire. Underground in a tomb of stone and earth. On a broken rain-washed sidewalk in a busy city where everyone speaks in a strange language. On a rough bed in a jail cell. On a broad girder of an unconstructed skyscraper among unfamiliar skylines.

Some days I eat. Some days I don’t. I am always hungry. It doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Most of the time I draw my name wherever I can, or rearrange stones, or do my best to cut a mark I might recognize if I were to ever happen across it again. Sometimes I find marks left by others. Some I almost recognize. Some I wonder if they are marks I will leave in the future — have left in the future? — but I rarely find anything that counts toward being an answer I can make sense of. Sometimes all I have to go on is a familiar set of smells. An arrangement of trees. Sounds from birds or distant rumbles of industrial equipment. Footprints of predators or prey. An occasional tuft of down or a pin-feather. Striations in layered rocks carved by a swift-moving river.

I’ve gone days, weeks, not making any marks, not drawing my name, not making a sound of any kind in case that’s the spell that’s trapping me in this … this … whatever this is. Nothing changes, except everything, every time I go to sleep in exhaustion and wake up elsewhere. My eyes start to close, and I look up, and the trees or building or clouds or stars overhead wheel drunkenly.

And then I wake up. Cold. Hungry. Chasing the hare.


March 31, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


One Response to “Chasing the Hare”

  1. Rebecca Sherman on March 31st, 2012 5:23 pm

    This is really beautifully written.

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