We live in the forest, but never far from the border. Never far from open spaces and busy towns where the creatures won’t go.
You can survive them. My parents would tell me. I used to wonder why their voices strained with held-back desperation. You can survive them, but you cannot befriend them.
They have fangs. Sharp, hollow fangs, dripping with venom. The strands of their fur are colored black or brown or red, sometimes a blend of all three. Their little paws hold sharp claws inside, and their long ears can hear you tip-toeing over moss. They have tiny gleaming eyes and a nose that’s always quivering with anticipation. Often, you can spot them among the roots of the trees, under the thick of bramble, or inside the hollow of rotting wood.
Sometimes, if you look up, they are in the branches. Sometimes, if you get too close, they spread their feathered wings and dive for you, their mouths an unnatural bright red.
You can survive them, but you cannot befriend them.
My grandfather tried once. He almost died from their venom. I wanted to see. He would always say. I wanted to see the wings up close.
Now his legs are paralyzed and his hands shake.
My cousin tried. She found a nest of babies and tried to take one. Its shrill cries of fright would have had any adult bounding to rescue it, but in the end it was its own bite that caused her to put it down and flee. You’d think the venom of a baby bunny would be small. Diluted.
My cousin lost her arm and laid in a coma for two years.
My family knows the warnings, but they can’t seem to stop us. Not all of us. I understand the desperation in my parents voices now. It runs in our blood.
They are dangerous. I am drawn to dangerous things.
They can be survived. I’m looking into its dark beady eyes.
You cannot befriend them. It is staring back into mine.
The rabbit is watching me from across a small clearing as I sit cross-legged in the grass. I have done this every week for months, my back straight as a ruler, my eyes bright as the full moon, my hands trembling with excitement.
I want to touch its fur.
My parents would be distressed if they saw me, but not surprised. The rabbit is red and black, and it keeps returning every week to watch me. I have made myself into a riddle, one that is just hard enough to keep wondering about.
Its ears point at me like two daggers, its nose twitching like aspen leaves in the wind, its predatory gaze full of malice.
It wants a reason to attack.
I am unraveling the knotted reasons why I am drawn to them. Why we all are drawn to them. Slowly, I am learning.
They are the dizziness of looking off the edge of a cliff and they are the held breath of swimming in depthless water.
More than that, they are the mystery of something that cannot be touched.
It is the game they play. The bait they use to lure us. They wait until the unknown becomes unbearable. They wait until one of us breaks. It is how they lure in lone dogs and stray cats and reckless crows.
But I think their weapon is also their curse. Born to exploit their preys’ curiosity, they themselves bear a dangerous amount of it. Dangerous enough to hold one back from attacking me. Dangerous enough for it to creep closer with every encounter.
Dangerous enough for it to check itself and forget its venom.
Sure it can be survived, but I want more.
I want to touch its fur.