Finding the White Rabbit
I couldn't say when the rabbit first appeared, time is something way too complicated inside my head right now. All I know is when he did, I started following him. I had to find him. The first place I can remember being was this circular room full of mirrors - some were small, some were big, square, round, oval, every size and shape imaginable. The white rabbit approached this small round mirror with a silver ornate frame, and I followed behind, calling for him, but he didn't answer. I got annoyed.
- Why is that? - Dr. Hatter asked me.
- Well, he ignored me, - I answered.
The white rabbit went through the mirror and I stopped in front of it, hesitating for a little bit. I had to find him. I finally decided to go, kneeling down so I could pass through the mirror too.
I found myself in a small glade, dark green all around me. There was a river cutting through the trees, but the water didn't make any noise. I looked around, and the white fur was nowhere to be seen. I called his name again.
- How many times did you call his name? - Dr. Hatter asked.
- How is that relevant? - I shot back.
A noise came from the trees above my head, and when I looked up, there was a cat there, lying in a branch. She was smiling. Why was she smiling, I wondered.
- Why not?
- Your hat is crooked.
I stared at the cat for a moment, then asked if she saw the rabbit.
"What rabbit?" asked the cat, smile still in place.
"The one who just passed by."
Kitty looked around, as if expecting to still find the rabbit in sight, then after a few moments, looked back down at me.
"Are you a rabbit?" She asked me.
I gave her a blank stare.
- Told you it was mad, - I told Dr. Hatter.
- The story? - She asked me. - Or the cat?
- The story. The cat. Me.
- Well, aren't we all, though?
"If you're not helping, I'll be on my way," I told Kitty, starting to walk away.
"And where would that be?"
I stopped and looked around for a second. She was right. I had no idea where to go. I was lost. I pondered what to do. I was already a little mean to Kitty, although she was still smiling, and it was not my intention to be rude. The logical thing to do was to ask for her help, and not only did my mind tell me that, so did my heart. I really needed to find that rabbit.
"Would you please help me find him?" I asked.
"Oh," said the cat.
I waited for her to say something else. She didn't.
"Sure." She stretched her body on the branch before jumping off to the ground in front of me. "Is he your relative?"
She started walking and I quickly followed her, although I had my arms crossed over my chest.
"Do I look like a rabbit to you?"
"'Dunno. What are you?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but all the words slipped from my mind. What was I?
Kitty stopped and smiled.
"Don't you want to find out?" She asked me.
I looked down at the blue slippers on my feet, clocks ticking inside my head.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
"And how do I do that?"
"I don't know," said the cat, "but maybe you oughta figure it out."
I was puzzled. Kitty wasn't helping at all.
- Wasn't she? - asked Dr. Hatter.
- Neither are you, - I grumbled. - Your hat's still crooked.
It wasn't long before we found a way out of the woods, and then we were back to the mirror room. Kitty didn't seem as lost as I felt when she stopped in the middle of all the mirrors and looked at me.
"Where should we go next?" She asked me, like I knew the answer.
I looked at all the mirrors, trying to figure out what to do, when I saw him. The small rabbit ran through the mirrors, a hopping flash of ivory fur, and he jumped into a full-length mirror with a dark wooden frame.
"There," I said, going after him, and Kitty followed me.
Once again, the moment we passed through the mirror, the ivory rabbit was nowhere to be seen.
- Are you sure he's the one you're looking for? - Asked Dr. Hatter.
- Who else would it be? - I responded, frustration letting through.
We were now standing in an endless sunny field, tall grass all around us, and white flowers growing here and there. Kitty started walking around the field, smelling the flowers with a calm I envied.
"Where is he?" I asked, although it was to no one in particular.
I walked around aimlessly, looking for the ivory rabbit, but it was to no avail. I'd lost him again. With a small cry, I let my body fall to the ground and started picking some grass out with my fingers.
"I like it here," said the cat in an annoyingly happy voice.
"Well, I don't," I grumbled back, hating the sun in my eyes, when my fingers touched something other than grass. I looked down and realized I was holding a painting brush. "That's odd."
"What's that for?" asked the cat.
"Painting," I said, looking around me, but there was no canvas or paper in sight.
"And what will you paint?"
I thought about it for a second, then lift my arm up and grabbed a flower nearby.
"This will do. I don't like this place, anyway," I said.
And I started painting the flowers. From white, they went to blue, pink, purple, red… Anything but that boring and annoying white.
- Was it nice to change the colors? - Dr. Hatter asked.
- It was, at first.
- So, you wanted to change the reality of what didn't please you, - she said.
- At first, - I repeated.
Kitty had sat there and just watched me while I painted all the flowers, not saying a word. I didn't pay too much attention to her until she got up and started sniffing the first flower I had painted a while back.
"Didn't you paint this blue?" she asked me, and I looked up from the flower in my hands full of paint.
The flower I had painted a bright blue was now an ugly gray and getting darker by the second. I dropped the brush on the ground and looked at all the flowers I had painted so far… They were all dying.
"Oh my, what did I do?"
Despair filled my insides and I couldn't breathe anymore. Was I a murderer? It was my fault, wasn't it? I did that. I killed them. I killed them because I was frustrated.
Suddenly, the ground started trembling. Cracks started forming beneath us, one after another, and I knew it was about to end. We were about to die. I did that, and I was taking Kitty with me.
- So Kitty was collateral damage? - Dr. Hatter asked.
I didn't answer.
Dr. Hatter poured some tea into the cups while I watched. I had my feet over the armchair cushion, chin laying on my knees.
- So, how are you feeling today? - She asked, passing me the teacup.
- Same thing, I guess, - I said, before taking a sip.
It's been three weeks since I've been institutionalized, and although it was hell at first, now it felt almost like home. I couldn't remember what my real home was like, so I couldn't complain much about the few things I had in life right now.
- Have you been feeling alone lately?
I put the teacup down and sighed.
- Will it sound too crazy if I say that Kitty has been keeping me company?
- Not at all, - said Dr. Hatter. - Animals are as good a company as any. Sometimes even better than people, dare I say, - she smiled at me.
- I can't disagree. People are the worst kind of living beings. There is no evil intent in animals.
- Is that why you're so keen on looking for that rabbit?
I stared at her for a moment, thinking about her question. Why did I want to find that rabbit so much? Why was he so important to me? Why did he keep appearing in my dreams? I chewed on the skin on my thumb.
- I don't know. I just know I have to find him.
We were now back on the room full of mirrors, and Kitty was humming a song I could not recognize at the moment.
- Did you like the song? - Dr. Heatter asked.
- It was... calming.
- That's good, right?
- I guess...
I had done this enough times now so I knew what was coming, and I was ready. I was waiting for the moment I would see the rabbit. It might have taken a second, or maybe an hour. I listened to the clocks in my head.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
And finally, there he was. The gray rabbit hopped between mirrors until he found a square mirror with no frame.
"Come on, Kitty," I called, and we followed after him.
We found ourselves in the hall of what looked like an empty castle. All the windows were boarded up, so there were only a few rays of sunshine here and there that got in to light up the place.
"Talk about depressing," Kitty said, walking down the hall where, once again, the rabbit was nowhere to be seen.
We went down many hallways, passing bedrooms and sitting rooms, all seemingly abandoned and empty. We walked for what could be hours, up and down staircases, until we found this one big room. It was mainly empty, like the rest of the others, but there was one difference: the big throne sitting in the center.
"A Throne Room," Kitty said, walking towards the throne, and I did the same.
That room was a little bit more lit than the others we had passed by, so it was easy to see the details carved into the giant chair. From the bottom up, it looked like the whole animal kingdom was represented, where the bottom of the chair represented the bottom of the food chain, and right at the headrest, there was the animal anyone could expect: the lion. Except, it wasn't a lion, but a lioness. A lioness face carved inside a heart, at the top of the throne.
- So you could say it was a Queen's throne, - said Dr. Heatter.
- You could say that, - I agreed.
Looking at the queen of the animal kingdom gave me a really bad feeling, and I didn't want to be there anymore.
"Let's go, Kitty."
We left the Throne Room and kept wandering the castle, now with the sole purpose of finding an exit. That place was weird and didn't give us any answers, and the rabbit was nowhere to be seen.
Finally, we found what seemed to be the only other furnished room in the whole castle: we were back in the mirror room. And now I was done waiting.
I was running, it wasn't wanting to find the rabbit anymore, now I had to. Finding him was as important as finding the truth, because suddenly, he was the truth. I watched as his shiny black fur hopped around the room, from mirror to mirror, and followed close behind, Kitty running right behind me.
The black rabbit passed through an oval copper mirror, and I did not hesitate one second to follow him. Now, for the first time since this all started, as soon as I was on the other side of the looking glass, I did not lose him from my sight.
We were in front of a small suburban house, as normal as could be. The black rabbit hopped up the front stairs, and I followed him promptly, and inside the front door, we went. To the right, there was a small living room, and there was a lioness sitting there, waiting. The queen of the animal kingdom, wearing a heart necklace, tail moving from side to side, just waiting.
But it was too late. As soon as the little black rabbit got inside the room, the lioness lift her giant paw and hit him in the eye with it, throwing the small animal violently across the room and against the wall. At the same time, images blinked in my mind, and I could see clear as day: My dad was lying on the couch of that same living room, passed out, an alcohol bottle in hands. His girlfriend, the one he had trusted with his own children, had something shiny and long in her hand, and was waving it towards a little girl, about eight years old. An older boy then appeared, maybe 10 years old, and threw himself in front of the girl, defending her.
He got hurt, she didn't.
The rabbit got hurt, I didn't.
I took a step back, tears in my eyes, but the light against something metal was blinding me - it was the heart necklace that the lioness wore, my dad's girlfriend wore.
- You remember now, - Dr. Heather said softly, no hat on her head.
Tears were falling from my eyes, and I couldn't forget all the blood.
- Yes, I do.
My feet stumbled against the carpet from the hall and I fell down, staring at my still passed out father on the couch. Couldn't he see what was happening? Couldn't he hear? Wouldn't he do anything? I looked around me, looking for Kitty, but she wasn't by my side anymore.
- Ali, look at me, - Dr. Heather called me. - It was not your fault.
She wasn't with me, or the lioness, or the rabbit. But she was there with my father, and my brother, and my step-mother. She was on the other side of the room, standing on my brother's blood, meowing at him as if telling him to wake up and get up. The blood made lines in her fur, like a smile on her face. Like she was smiling at me. Kitty was now smiling and meowing at me.
- Repeat after me, Ali - Dr. Heather said. - 'It was not my fault'.
- It... was not... my fault.
- Again, Ali.
Now there were police lights everywhere and there were a lot of adults, but none of them were my father. I was scared and alone in the middle of a crowd of strange people, and all I could do was stare at the coffee table, where the small book I was reading with my brother earlier that day stared back at me, the little blonde girl in the cover with a blue dress and white apron floating around in the nothingness. That's where I wish I was then: nothingness.
The clock was ticking inside my head.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
- It was not my fault.