By William Thompson
The field reaches beyond the gate, inviting, beckoning him forward. He closes the gate at his back and begins to walk, following a rough path between stubble fields. The sky opens before him, swallowing the sun. He tramps along—boots crunching half-frozen mud and broken stubble.
An autumn walk. His walk—a time to find solace and solitude, away from the security of lights and books and couches and furnaces that hum.
A flicker of movement. He pauses to look. Another flick, then a gleam. And he sees them—a row of crouching shapes, lined up to his left, eyes catching the spent light of the sun. They are motionless, save for a twitch here, the flick of an ear there. Their coats are shedding summer brown, now dappled with white that will prepare these creatures for winter.
They crouch and they stare, and he takes an involuntary step backwards from the uncanny line. Their black pebble eyes follow him, as he stumbles from the path and into the crunching field. The biggest, crouching at the left end of the row, moves a paw, reaching a clawed foot forward, like a runner preparing to sprint. He doesn’t like the deliberateness of that movement. And they are big—are rabbits supposed to be that size? Rabbits—or hares? They are the size of small dogs but built low to the ground, with hind-quarters made for gripping the earth.
He backs farther into the field. The sun gleams weakly, then vanishes; he hears a thump, like the sound of a fist on the half-frozen earth. And blinded by darkness, he begins to run. A flash and flicker of movement ahead and to one side—crouching shapes, cutting through the stubble of the field. He staggers forward, tripping over hummocks and tussocks of autumnal debris. They are fast, swishing passed him, feet thumping hollowly on the ground, eyes reflecting the barely perceptible light. And he is aware of another sound—a low chuck, chuck, chuck—a sound like eerie laughter upon the arching silence of the evening.
And he knows he is being driven, inexplicably herded across the field, farther and farther away from the street, where pools of light interrupt the darkness, far away from the comforts he has willingly abandoned this evening for the sake of the silence and solitude of an autumn walk.