Where have you disappeared my dear boy? Why did you run away? Did you hear again some strange noise? Did someone scare you? Those hunters scared you; I know that. But why?
But let me start from the beginning and explain to you who I am and who the boy is.
My name is Flora, and I live in the small hut at the end of the village, where the road starts leading into the forest. And the very entrance of the forest is my garden, full of marigolds, wild roses, wild strawberries, mushrooms. That garden doesn’t need much care. It takes care of itself. And it makes me happy.
I lived alone for many years. Since my husband died, I had no one to talk to, read to, feed, take care of until the day I found the little boy.
One sunny day, I was walking through my garden picking up the mushrooms. And since there were no many mushrooms nearby, I went deeper into the forest. The air was fresh and morning dew kissed my ankles and calves sending some pleasant chills through my spine. It was a nice autumn day.
When I picked up enough mushrooms and decided to go back, I noticed something next to the old oak tree. It was not an animal since it had no fur or feathers but white skin instead. When I approached the old oak tree, I realized it was a boy. The boy was a dark-haired little creature with deep blue eyes and full lips. He didn’t seem lost, but I saw some strange fear in his blue eyes. His ears were pointed and a bit bigger for his head size, but he was a cute little child nonetheless.
I asked him how he had ended up there and where his parents were, but he didn’t say anything. He kept quiet with his eyes gazing into the distance. It seemed as if he had been expecting some evil creatures to come and grab him. He was cautious and scared. I sat on the ground next to him and asked him if he had parents. He shook his head no. I asked him if he had anyone else. And his answer was the same. I asked him again how he had ended up there. But he didn’t answer. After a while, I took his little hand in my big and coarse palm and asked him to come with me to my house where I would give him food. He obeyed.
His appetite was good, and he ate everything I gave him: the mushroom soup, vegetable stew and a piece of carrot cake. Then I set up the small sofa for him and let him sleep. He slept few hours, but every now and then, he woke up and looked around, as if the slightest noise coming from outside had disturbed his sleep. The wind, the birds, the fallen leaves. His sensitivity to sounds was something peculiar.
The next few days the little boy stayed in my hut. He started feeling more comfortable there, and he even started talking to me. Not much though. I learned that his name was Pellet and his parents had died. When I asked him how they had died, he didn’t want to say. Talking about that obviously disturbed him. So I decided not to ask about them anymore.
He told me he was only a year old which was impossible. He looked like a 7-year-old boy. I thought he was not good with numbers. He also told me that he had lost his tail when he was running away from the dogs, which was something hard to believe. Tail? The dogs running after a small child in the middle of the forest? He sometimes talked silly things. But he was the sweetest boy I had ever met.
We spent the next few weeks picking up the mushrooms, cutting firewood, and repairing the roof of my hut which was damaged due to the exposure to rain, wind, and sun. Sometimes, while I was busy preparing lunch or dinner, he would run to the meadow and play alone there. He ran so fast that I was shocked how it was possible that a child could run that fast and ferociously. He was a peculiar child, and I liked him even more because of that.
Once, unfortunately, the hunters were passing by my hut with their dogs, and Pellet after hearing them coming our way, ran away and disappeared in the forest. The hunters were nice people from the village and after wishing me a good morning and asking for my health, they continued on their way. But Pellet, my little boy, didn’t return to the hut hours after they left. Therefore, I went to look for him. I found him hidden in the bushes not that far from the old oak tree where I had seen him for the first time. He was shaking in fear, and his eyes were lost and empty as if he had seen the ghosts. I told him that there was nothing to ran away from and to fear of. But he didn’t seem to believe me. However, when I hugged him, his little body started releasing the tension that had deformed his delicate child’s features. We went home, to our modest hut.
Pellet and I spent days more or less in the same manner: working in the garden, repairing what needed to be repaired and while I cooked and sewed his or my clothes, he played outside. Often he surprised me with his unbelievable stories, but I ascribed them to his child’s imagination and shock of losing his parents. He particularly liked wild rabbits. And sometimes, he even tried talking to them. What was surprising, they were not afraid of him. Those wild animals that ran crazily in front of hunters and stayed away from people, approached Pellet easily and with not much hesitation. He whispered to them and petted them as if they were domestic animals. Of course, after seeing me they ran away, but I often hid behind the trees and watched him playing with them. I was amazed. This child had some peculiarities that were outstanding and made him unusual. He was an odd one out. And I loved him even more. I felt that I had to protect him, take care of him with more than a mother’s care, watch out of some strange evil things that might take hold of him or diseases that could take him from me. And when he went to play alone in the forest, I often followed him, keeping my distance so as not to be seen and uncovered. I watched him playing and running and I swear, there were moments when he resembled a wild rabbit and not a child. His sprinter legs, pointed ears, his full cleft lips, and fearful eyes were the traits that made him look like the rabbit.
Often, on Sunday morning, we had breakfast in front of our hut and looked butterflies playing and listened to the birds’ song. I loved those mornings. But one Sunday morning, two hunters were coming back from the forest carrying in their hands two dead rabbits that they had killed that day. When my little boy saw them, his face became pale, his eyes filled with terror and his body started shaking. He ran away behind the hut and before I stood up and went after him, he was already gone. He ran away as if he had seen spooks and not just other people. The hunters chatted with me for a while, and they went on their own way. But Pellet didn’t come back home until the rest of the day.
I went to the forest to look after him and searched every corner where a child could hide: caves, bushes, hollow tree trunks. But there was no sign of Pellet. My heart ached, and I feared that he would spend a night alone, outside, but I didn’t know what to do. No one knew about him, and no one had ever seen me with him. So if I reported the missing child, the people in the village would think I had gone insane. Another lunatic in the village! And no one would help me.
After a thorough search, I went back to my hut exhausted and dispirited. I left all the lights on in case my little Pellet appeared in the middle of the night. But he didn’t come that or the next day.
A week went by, and Pellet didn’t show up. My sadness turned to sorrow, and I was worried that something bad had happened to him. I knew he was a peculiar child and had his way of doing things, so maybe he just ran away and was hiding somewhere. I wanted to believe in that.
One strange thing happened though. A small brown male rabbit which had a tail with a white tip started coming to my garden. He was not afraid of me. But in the beginning, he kept his distance and didn’t let me come to close to him. If I did, he ran away. However, every morning he was there, soaking up the sun and resting. I started bringing him carrots and some other vegetables and after few days, when I tried coming closer to him, he didn’t run away. I didn’t dare to touch him since I knew these animals were easily frightened by people. But I kept talking to him as if he could understand. And he seemed to listen to carefully. Sometimes, silly me, it seemed to me that he nodded to my stories. But that was probably only my old woman’s imagination.
One night, I had a very strange but beautiful dream. My little boy Pellet came to my dream, and he told me that he had to run away and that he was sorry. He was afraid of the hunters since they had killed his parents, brothers, and sisters. They were all rabbits including my little Pellet. He was the only one to survive thanks to the old forest fairy who turned him into a boy. She told him he couldn’t be the boy forever only for some time. And he did live the life of the boy. And that life was beautiful.
He thanked me for everything and told me that he wished he could stay the boy forever, but that was unfortunately impossible.
When I woke up in the morning, I was puzzled by this strange dream. I kept asking myself where Pellet had gone and what had happened to him, but this dream bothered me with its improbability and peculiarity. What if Pellet was really a rabbit?! And what if it was true what he had told me in my dream?! Silly old woman! Stop thinking nonsense!
That morning, however, I paid special attention to my little wild rabbit. His small body really resembled the one of Pellet: pointed ears, full lips, his movements, cautiousness, fearful eyes. I started believing that this little rabbit was Pellet. But there were moments when I laughed to myself for being like a child who believed in fairy tales.
Anyway, that dream had changed me. Somehow, I stopped worrying about Pullet. I still wondered where he was, but something inexplicable and strangely persuasive told me not to worry. Some inner voice convinced me that he was fine and that he was closer than I thought. Well, sometimes I thought the same watching my little rabbit. And as time went by, I was becoming more and more convinced that this rabbit was my little boy. I just hope one day he would let me pet him and he would start eating from my hands. But I am patient. And hopefully, my patience will be rewarded.
And maybe my silliness really comes with my age, but I know that the lack of common sense doesn’t always have to be foolish. There are some dreams and moments in real life that seem as if they were the strange phenomenon and unfathomable mystery, and maybe, our minds interpret them the way they want, but I do believe that they appear for a good reason, to serve as the guidelines and indication marks, and to show us that mysteries and miracles are part of this world and that we just have to dare to believe in them.
Ana Vidosavljevic from Serbia currently living in Indonesia. She has her work published or forthcoming in Down in the Dirt (Scar Publications), Literary Yard, RYL (Refresh Your Life), The Caterpillar, The Curlew, Eskimo Pie, Coldnoon, Perspectives, Indiana Voice Journal, The Raven Chronicles, Setu Bilingual Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Madcap Review, The Bookends Review, Gimmick Press, (mac)ro(mic), Scarlet Leaf Review, Adelaide Literary Magazine, A New Ulster. She worked on a GIEE 2011 project: Gender and Interdisciplinary Education for Engineers 2011 as a member of the Institute Mihailo Pupin team. She also attended the International Conference “Bullying and Abuse of Power” in November, 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic, where she presented her paper: “Cultural intolerance”.