Resembling Lepus - story snippet

Chapter 1. One of us

The figure lay still and strangely flat against the grass, as if death had deflated it somehow.

I stared, not quite accepting what my eyes would have me believe. When the call came in, I
presumed an alarm falsely raised – or a natural end-of-life event, confused for something more
diabolical. In the Auto on the way to the scene, watching the quiet streets slide past, I waited to be
proved wrong and sent back to District, heart intact.

Arriving at the Sanctuary, passing through the tape, I didn't want to believe it.

But here we were; all my petty wants tore apart at the sight.

I swallowed repeatedly against a tightening throat, until my mouth became too dry and began
to tickle. I crouched. Wet fur darkened and tapered to perfect points; light brown marred with red,
turning dark. A flash of blue.

There was no smell. It was a bitter, cold morning on which to die, and delayed decay was the
only blessing for those of us bearing witness. I cleared my scratchy throat. "Who found her?" I asked.

I didn't know if she was a doe by looking, but calling the slight figure 'it' didn't sit right.
The uniform – young – pointed. "Yonder in the gathering crowd. Red beanie and scarf."

I shifted on my haunches, my left hip protesting with a sharp jab of pain. A group of kids
milled behind the barrier. In the middle, a small girl in the aforementioned red beanie stood, with
about five different hands on her shoulders and back, rubbing, patting. Her wiping tears away.

My own eyes stung. You could hold yourself together until another, proximate someone came
apart; that was my experience.

"Poor child," I said. My voice cracked and again I coughed it clear.

"Yeah. Hell of a thing to discover in so pristine a place." A long pause. "What do you think,
Detective? Natural causes? Predation, I mean?" His voice lifted, high and childlike at the end. Like a
child's, it was full of hope.

I turned back to the rabbit, curled, supine, almost serene. 

I had already ruled out canine, feline, avian. No tell-tale teeth or claw marks – an eagle would
have taken the body with it. Moreover, non-human animals didn't use tools. They certainly didn't use
ribbons. When the breeze wafted just right, I could see a gleam of blue beneath the fur.

She might have been a permitted animal. Perhaps once owned and loved, but I doubted it. Something –
something other than her murder – wasn't right.

I lifted my chin and looked across the sanctuary, from the rolling greens, to the dark
silhouettes of the trees, to the shadows deepening as the sun rose. Thickets, briars, low stone fences.
Home to an unseen multitude that, until now, had been safe.

I let my breath out, pushing with it words I never thought I'd utter. "No. This was one of us."