Welcome to the Call Me MAYbe Flash Fiction Challenge!!
All stories begin with "The phone rang" and are no more than 1,000 words. Deadline to submit is May 31. For full contest rules and prize list, visit this link: http://mystiparker.blogspot.com/2013/04/next-month-call-me-maybe-flash-fiction.html
#16: The Rabbit Man
The phone rang, its shrill tone hooking Evelyn out of sleep. For a moment she couldn’t work out what the noise was and when she did she hesitated. A phone call in the middle of the night was not going to be good news. It went on ringing and she reluctantly fumbled it off its port.
“Evelyn, listen, you have to look out. Watch out for the Rabbit Man!”
Then she was gone. Evelyn continued to hold the phone to her ear, but there was nothing – just the lonely sound of empty wires thrumming in the wind.
Bemused, she put the phone back on its rest. It couldn’t have been her mum. Her mother was dead. But it was. That clipped, upper-class accent was unmistakable.
That didn’t happen, she thought. I’m not going to even think about it.
But she lay for a long time staring at the phone and longing for her mother. Her mother, who had always been there when she needed her. And now wasn’t.
The next morning she awoke from disturbed dreams in which a giant, shadowy rabbit was pursuing her down endless corridors. “Watch out!” it called. “Watch out for the Rabbit Man!”
She felt dreadful. Her head seemed to be stuffed with sawdust, her face in the mirror was blotchy and her hair hung in lank strands.
“Oh God,” she muttered. “I can’t go to the Easter Parade looking like this. It’s going to take me forever to sort myself out.”
As it happened, she got there early. There was only a scattering of people lining the procession route, although more were arriving by the minute. Families settled down on the verges with picnic baskets and thermos flasks. Children ran about excitedly and parents made half-hearted attempts to calm them down.
Evelyn clapped her hand over her ridiculous Easter bonnet just in time to prevent a sudden gust from blowing it away. “Silly me,” she muttered and tied the ribbons more firmly under her chin. She had managed to get a place right at the roadside, but when a family arrived with two small children, she ushered them in front of her so they could get a better view.
“Thank you. That’s very kind of you.” The father smiled at her and then looked down fondly at the boy and girl, both jigging up and down with excitement.
Evelyn bent down towards them. “And what’s the best thing?” she asked.
“The Easter Egg Hunt,” both children cried in unison.
Evelyn laughed, straightened up and smiled at their parents.
“Goodness, that brings back memories,” she said. “We always used to do that when I was a child.” She was assailed by a sudden sharp memory of her mother directing operations as she and her sisters ran up and down the garden, looking under bushes and in the branches of trees. “I didn’t know they still did it.”
“Well, not so much these days.” The mother gave her a shy smile. “I think this is the first time for years. I do like this sort of thing, don’t you?”
“There’s going to be a huge procession and everything,” the little girl suddenly chimed in, “and a competition for the best Easter bonnet.” She eyed the extravagant creation on Evelyn’s head. “I think you might win it.”
Evelyn fingered the ribbon at her neck. She had wondered whether the bonnet wasn’t a little over the top, festooned as it was with ribbons and lace and feathers, but what the hell? It was a holiday, wasn’t it?
“Do you really think so?” The little girl nodded, her eyes bright with excitement.
“It’s starting! It’s starting!” The little boy was jumping up and down on the spot, completely unable to contain himself.
Evelyn watched him indulgently. She had never had children, never married. Too late now.
She looked up as the procession hove into sight.
A Salvation Army band led the way, playing a slightly out of tune rendering of “There is a Green Hill Far Away.” It seemed a bit solemn for the occasion. On the other hand, it was all too easy to forget what Easter was all about.
The band was followed by a series of floats containing cavorting mermaids, fairies and pantomime characters. Dancing alongside was a pantomime horse and Puss in Boots, every so often taking off his feathered hat and bowing to the cheering crowds.
“Hurrah! Hurrah!” The little boy was now in an ecstasy of excitement. “Look, it’s him! He’s coming! It’s the Easter Bunny!”
Evelyn had never heard of the Easter Bunny. Was it something from America? She shaded her eyes against the glare and looked along the road. There, skipping along and carrying a huge basket, was an enormous pink rabbit. Well, a man in a rabbit suit. You could see his face inside the rabbit hood. Every so often he reached into his basket and pulled out a handful of brightly coloured chocolate eggs which he threw into the crowd. On his face was an expression of unholy glee.
Without a moment’s thought, Evelyn reached for the children in front of her.
The people round about watched in amazement as the woman in the ridiculous hat threw the two little
children to the ground and threw herself on top of them.
“Hey!” the father bent forward to intervene just as the Easter Bunny pulled a gun out of the basket and sprayed bullets into the space where a moment ago he had stood.
“Christ!” He fell on top of the struggling heap of Evelyn and children and pulled his wife down after him.
Over their heads they could hear the rattle of the bullets and the mad voice of the Rabbit Man shouting, “Happy Easter!” over and over again.
Evelyn lay with her arms protectively round the children and tears running down her face.
“Thank you, Mum,” she whispered.
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and doing fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
Her first book, Take One At Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second,Domingo’s Angel, was published in July 2011. Her novella, Doppelganger, was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, Uncle Vernon, was published in Spellbound, in November 2011, Jamey and the Alien and Uncle Albert’s Christmaswere published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011, Mantequero was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011 and Away With the Fairies, her first self-published story, in September 2012.
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