Cotton Tails and Lucky Feet

It was a glorious morning. The countryside was green and alive. We hiked up the hill for around half an hour to get a better view of the valley. Passing some other morning walkers, we said hello and made polite conversation. After five years we’re still the new couple from the city. That’s alright though. It’s worth it and most people don’t make us feel like complete outsiders.

On the way down the hill is when we saw the first body. It was a lamb, torn to shreds. It must have wandered off and gotten attacked by a fox. At least that’s what we told ourselves. It’s not uncommon. Out came the phones and a few snaps and a call to the farmer all done quickly and efficiently. This land was owned by the McTernan’s who we knew from the council meetings.

We stayed around until Harold arrived in his ancient Land Rover. A couple of nods and Trevor pointed him to the body. Harold put on a pair of latex gloves and took a look at the body. It was obvious the throat was ripped out and the carcass was eaten but according to him it wasn’t a fox. He checked the tag on the lamb, and it was one of his.

There was an offer of a lift and we accepted. Handing around up the side of the hill, even on a summer day, got cold and my back was getting sore from standing about.

On the way back to the town Harold told us that he had lost four lambs now. At first, he also thought it was a fox, but he got the vet in to check. This was where he was going now. To the vet to have a proper autopsy done on what remained of the lamb. We wished him well as he dropped us to the bottom of our lane, and we made our way home.

It was a Saturday so no work and not much to do. We mooched around the house. Tidying up, watching tv and reading. In the evening we wandered down to the pub for dinner. It was nicer than cooking and got us out to meet other people.

Naturally we ran into Harold. He was in an alright mood and we ended up talking with him. We ended up asking about the vet visit. He said that there was some tests to be done but the mouth of whatever did the damage wasn’t a fox. Maybe a badger or even a very small dog. We nodded and wished him the best. Dinner arrived at our table and we ate with gusto. We stayed until well after dark then wandered home. It was cold and we could see our breath. A beautiful night. In the distance we heard something, but it was only a fox. Those screams always gave me a shudder.

Sunday morning which meant a lazy day of coffee and watching the news. The presenter was looking professional and coiffed as normal. There was news of a number of attacks on livestock all over the country. It wasn’t limited though, household pets and even some small children had been attacked. It was a wild animal but noting conclusive.

I saw my neighbour and her young daughter looking around outside. Waving her over to have a chat and find out what she was doing in my garden. I asked with smile, of course.

Her daughter had lost her rabbit, Bunny.  As the daughter moved away to look under the hedge, her mother mentioned the hutch had been attacked and there was blood but no Bunny. It was the nod of knowing that they were on a fool’s errand, but she needed to go through the motions for her daughters sake.

I offered her a cup of tea while her daughter looked around but she needed to get on.

In the distance a field hare ran across the lane. It was followed by several more. It reminded me of ‘Watership Down’. I wondered which one was Hazel.

The day rolled on and turned into a very lazy evening. Anyone who thinks the countryside is quite really doesn’t understand the nature of nature. The screams started again outside. Foxes when they get into heat, fight or are just wandering around, they scream and make noises like young children. It always makes me shudder and puts me on edge. This time was no different, but they were getting closer, that or they were getting louder.

I couldn’t take the noise any longer. I got up and pulled the curtains to the side. It was a swarm out there. Not foxes but rabbits, everywhere. The ground outside was writhing with hares and rabbits. In the mix I could see a few domestic rabbits too. One of them was definitely Bunny. It looks like they got the foxes instead of the other way round.

There was so much blood on the fur. Why were they here outside my house and why were they burrowing? What was going on?

The news went on, the television ruining my night vision, but it was worth the risk. Information was vital now. Nothing on except for a documentary about how women were surviving in slums in some South American country. It would have been interesting on any other day.

The next logical step call the police. The operator didn’t seem to take us seriously but said they would send someone out to look at the situation.

We had a part time police force but even then, someone normally worked the night. We watched from the upstairs window at the mass of fur moving, fighting, and digging. This was not normal.

About thirty minutes later we saw lights in the distance, it was the police. They would know what to do. The Land Rover moved slowly up the lane towards the house and slowed when it got to the mass of rabbits. There was silence as they moved a light across the sea of fur.

There was a squawk on the radio and they were obviously calling this back into the station. The phone rang and it was the officers from the car. They asked if we could get out. We hadn’t even thought of that. Shoes and coats on over nightwear and down the stairs to the door.

Once we opened the door we were the centre of attention. Hungry eyes and bloody teeth turned to us. They moved as one to the door which was slammed in their face. They started chewing quickly we were already heading up the stairs and barricading ourselves in.

The police Land Rover pulled up to the building underneath the window. We had to jump. It was that or stay stuck in the house with rabid rabbits trying to get into our room.

We held onto the roof as the car slowly pulled away from the house. Squashing anything that got in the way. There was several sickening pops. We crawled in via the side windows, then we sped up to get away from things. Behind us we could see the others swarm on their fallen brethren.

We were all shaking at the station where we all provided a statement of what happened. The police officers who rescued us, allowed us to give them a hug and our thanks.

We sat in a room, blankets wrapped around us and warm tea in our hands.  We weren’t the only ones there either. The ground shook while we were comparing stories with the neighbour.  Trucks, lots of trucks showed up. We were going to be transported to a town nearby and it was hoped that we would be safe. Apparently, the local damn was nearing collapse and we needed to be evacuated. Of course, we went with them. They looked vaguely like the army with guns and the air of authority. What’s the old joke, resistance is futile.

We left our town behind in the cold dark morning. By the time we arrived at a reception centre in a church hall about fifteen miles away, the town was gone. The local damn had burst and washed away everything our homes, our livelihoods.

In the weeks following there was a blur of activity. News everywhere, talk of a new kind myxomatosis, non-disclosure agreements for a higher pay-out, help relocating.

We live in suburbia now near the city. A concrete Jungle and I never want to see a rabbit of any kind for the rest of my days. I still get nightmares, the screams and the blood and the bodies. That’s in the past, at least I hope so, I pray so. Only my nightmares are now and that’s where I hope it all stays.

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