Golden day

scared rabbit

It was one of those warm autumn days when everything in the world turned golden in the bright sunlight and the sky was crystal clear and heavenly blue. Chipped Ear, the head of the rabbit family, stepped out of his home to take a breath of fresh air. Rich, pungent smells of wet earth and fallen leaves reigned in the forest. The smells of oncoming winter were also present, so faint, so distant yet, but unmistakable already. That day promised to be one of the last golden days of the autumn, maybe even the very last.

A bunch of Chip’s children ran out of the rabbit hole and now played tag in the withering grass. Their mother watched them closely least they would run too far.

“What times we live in!” thought Chip. “When I was little, children could play wherever they wanted, no one had to watch them, no one made them stay close to their holes.”

There was a movement in the bushes nearby that alerted Chip. A moment later he saw what it was: a black shadow sneaking up on his family.

“Wolf!” he cried and hurried to help his wife, Daisy, gather the children.

The dry bushes parted with a loud crunch, their leaves, yellow and red, flew into the air as the wolf broke through. The predator landed softly on his feet, snapped his teeth at the rabbits and laughed.

“Hi, Chip!” the wolf called. He reached the rabbit hole in one jump and unceremoniously poked his nose into it, “Hi, Daisy! Hi, kids! False alarm!”
“Hello, Tooth,” answered Chip. He was still out of breath. “You frightened us.”
“Oh, c’mon, pal. I’ve known you since we both were little. You’ve never been a coward.”
“You don’t understand, Tooth. You have no family. And the times we live in…”
“Interesting times, agreed.” The wolf’s face was very thoughtful as he said that. “Strange things are going on.”
“Which things?”
“Well, I’ve been to the forest police council today and…”
“What now? Have they raised the child tax again?”

The child tax was Chip’s sore spot. He still couldn’t forget the five of his children he had to give to the foxes. The loss still hurt. But he had always been an obedient forest dweller and respected the Laws.

The Laws were created by Celestial Mind countless generations ago to stop the endless struggle that hurt herbivores and carnivores both. They limited the number of children each couple could have and commanded the extra children, as well as the old and sick, to be devoured.

Rabbits are known for their remarkable fertility, so the child tax was especially hard to Chip’s family.

“No, pal,” Tooth shook his shaggy head. “They decided to cancel the tax.”
“What?” Chip’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe his own ears.
“Here’s the situation for you: the police is losing control. Too many herbivores refuse to pay the tax, some carnivores do as well. To provide for the extra children, they hunt everyone, even the honest taxpayers. The wave of crime we are facing is too much for us. It’s the end of the Laws as we know them. Sorry, pal.”

The silence fell, a dark, ominous shadow among the splendour of the golden day. Both friends stared at each other with their ears set back.

“It will be war tomorrow, Chip,” said Tooth with a deep sigh. “I’ll be honest with you: I’m excited. All carnivores are. But I’m also sad. I will miss our chats, pal. I really will.”
“Thanks for warning us, Tooth…” uttered Chip, nearly choking on every word.
“We’re friends, after all!” Tooth smiled. “For everyone else the war will begin without warning. The council decided so. Goodbye!” The wolf reached the edge of the glade in one strong jump. “I hope we will never meet on a hunt, Chip!”

The golden day was sinking in the early twilight, the very last day of the Golden Age.

(July 12, 2005)

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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.