Claws scrabbling on the floor and “Stop barking, goddamn dogs!!” came from overhead.
She froze in a crouch, nose mid-wiggle.
Mouse had lied. Mouse was a fucking liar. She said there was all this food and, instead, there were dogs.
The dogs barked again, and she stayed still. She thought she was so silent.
Nothing but cans here. And the smells of good food, but nothing to eat.
She licked a stand mixer and a touch of sugar, a hint of flour melted into her tongue. If only more of this.
The kits waited in the corner of the window well outside. Only two left out of a litter of seven baby rabbits. A hard spring. And Mouse would tell her there was food in the house? She should check once more and wriggle back to her babies. There was nothing here to eat. Fucking Mouse.
“Outside, dogs?” The damned beasts barked and scraped against floors overhead.
Her babies outside with the dogs? Her heart clenched. The babies knew what to do, freeze into shadows of fluff.
Was Mouse playing her? Did Mouse do this on purpose? After everything she’d done for Mouse, after helping her and…
A dog barked. The bark of There’s something over here!
No no no no!
She ran back to the crack she squeezed through. It was tight coming in, but she should be able to get back out. Around the piles of junk, the cans of food and bottles of water. All these riches beyond her reach.
But the way the wood shattered around the crack, the points and shards. She couldn’t get out this way. Mouse could. But not her; not in time that would make a difference.
The other dog barked, and she batted at the wood. Futility. The slivers of wood poked her feet, drawing blood. She ran to the window and looked out. The kits still crouched in the corner.
Back to batting at the cracked wood, the slivers stinging and burning. A shard of wood cut into the soft pad.
Limping back to the window, the kits were still hidden. A flash of black and white dog passed by and her heart stopped. The kits know what to do, the kits know what to do.
Blood from her paw seeped on the windowsill.
The inevitable was coming. She would be trapped here and…
The black headed dog came back. He trotted along and stopped, nose flaring, whiskers catching the sun. A second dog, a brown one ran and jumped on him, then froze and sniffed too.
She jumped up and pawed at the window, bloody smears from her paw obscured the horror. The dogs jerked their heads at the noise and rushed the window. A mouthful of brown fur in each dog’s mouth, heads jerking back and forth, predator frenzy overtaking them.
She threw herself at the window, blood smearing on her shoulder. She must get out. She must, she must, she must.
“Dogs? What do you have?” Footsteps, then, “Oh no! Oh God. Mine! Dogs, MINE!”
Her babies. Her destroyed babies pulled from slavering mouths by human hands.
She slumped to the floor, pain filling her and the pragmatic realities of the world whispering this is just what happens some seasons.
She limped through the basement, trying to find something, anything to make this journey worth it. Nothing could make up for this. Her entire litter lost. An entire season gone.
Back to the window. The human picked up a trowel and was digging a little burial for her babies. She thought back to her den, the warm cozy dark and her babies would have their own little den. Dark and quiet and free from hunger.
She dropped down, head resting on her paws, watching this human give her tiny rabbits a funeral. The human’s grief matched her own. Humans. Always tangled in everything. Mourning tiny rabbits that only wanted to steal her food and eat her garden. Humans that were living where rabbits lived and ran and played for thousands, millions of years.
The black dog ran to the human and nudged her arm with his nose. She shoved him away, tears streaming down her face.
Her nose pulsed with sadness, the whiskers wiggling with each wave of grief.
Perhaps the human would have helped her more than Mouse. Maybe she was wrong in what she thought was safe. Maybe those dogs would catch Mouse and…
The human was putting a big stone over her babies’ new den. Warm and safe and free again. The human rose, wiping her face and the footsteps were overhead again, human and dogs.
She hunkered down, watching the rock. A big chunk of granite, mica sparkling in the sun. Different mica sparkled as the sun slid across the sky.
She jumped as the door to the basement opened. Footsteps, human footsteps came down the stairs. Maybe she’d be safe. Maybe she could…
The human picked up the mixer, tucking it under her arm and the dog nails clicked on the stairs. If she could get to the human before the dogs found her…
She jumped out from the windowsill and looked at the human. The human dropped her mixer, and yelled, “Mine!”
Everything in her quivered as the human touched her, the inborn revulsion, the horror, the visceral distrust, but the human scooped her up, held her to her chest and carried her outside.
“I’m sorry, momma,” she whispered. “Were those your babies? I’m so sorry.”
She sat in the grass, looking up at this human, the loss of her kits hurt this human so much. It was just… life. It was how things are.
Maybe Mouse would know of a new birdfeeder with sunflower seeds. That sounded just about right.
She twitched her nose, then turned and bounced away.