[Fiction] Noli Timere Messorem by Vladimir Valchev

3/12/2021

Early mornings were his favorite, but a part of him yearned for more rest. He felt light—were he a dandelion, the winds could have scattered him in all directions. Lucidly, he tried to refocus his attention to the thinnest and longest hairs behind his ears, to imagine the gentle caress of the wind over his jet-black fur. With groggy eyes, he tried to sneak a peek of his surroundings. 

He could not. His eyelids were heavy—something tremendous weighted on them like a burden. Maybe he could shake it off with one of his legendary stretches, he thought. Maybe he was still asleep.

YOU ARE NOT ASLEEP, an echo insisted. 

It should have startled him. It should have jump-started his heart and sent shivers down his spine—whatever it was, he was going to make for the safety of the couch and then he was going to be okay. It was all going to be okay. Instead, he remained prostrate and still. Why wasn’t he scared? He used to be so good at it. 

A tiny hand ran its fingers through his fur and gave him a pat on the back. It was neither soft nor loving. Something about it defied all promise of emotion, just like the echoing voice somehow defied punctuation. It parted the darkness of his slumber like a veil, and the oddest thing greeted him with an expressionless face. 

Rabbit skulls were difficult to look at because they lacked anything that was supposed to look like a rabbit. The skull glared at him with orbits filled with wandering flames of blue, and its yellowed maxillary incisors made his muzzle look like a beak, or like the claw of a sun-bleached crab. The lack of ears or fur was also unnerving, to say the least. The thing scrunched up its face, devoid of physiognomy. It pawed at its white whiskers for a second, then pulled back the black hood to reveal the rest of its features. Its other hand held a tiny scythe whose blade still had tiny flecks of hay stuck to it. 

YOU MUST SURELY BE OVERWHELMED, it said. BELIEF IS NOT SOMETHING OUR KIND DOES. WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES, THE FLOODGATES OF IT ALL WASH OVER US. IT IS TOO MUCH. OF COURSE, I EXIST BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE I SHOULD. SO HERE I AM.

The voice was grating like the granite door of a tomb. It was cold like stale air, with an emotionless cadence that had some somber serenity to it. It paused for effect, then pointed at the void with a milky phalanx. 

AND SO ARE THEY, it added while slicing through the hazy veil with its miniscule instrument of harvest. 

In the distance, he saw two familiar figures with wet faces hidden behind masks—a man and a woman. They sat slumped over with terrible postures in a white room. Stainless steel everywhere. In a bundle of blankets, they held a rabbit that looked just like him—sleepy, motionless, and outstretched. They were petting the black rabbit and sobbing uncontrollably, and the sleepy bunny was shaking as they did. The skeletal hand of the rabbit reaper ruffled his shaggy mane and the image became much clearer. 

YOU ARE NOT ASLEEP, it repeated, this time with less rigidity. It waited patiently for what seemed like an eternity and a half before it broke the silence. SAY SOMETHING. ANYTHING. 

“Are you the Death of Rabbits, then?” It finally spoke. It surprised itself as it did, for it never moved a single muscle. Words simply blossomed out of thin air then evanesced into the void. 

AND OF HARES, AND PIKAS, TECHNICALLY, it specified. LIKE I SAID, I EXIST BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE I SHOULD. THEY LUMPED YOU ALL TOGETHER THINKING IT WAS CLOSE ENOUGH, said the Death of Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas. 

“Quite rude!”

IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. DEATH OF RATS WAS THE FIRST ONE TO ARRIVE AFTER THE ORIGINAL REAPER. THE GRIM SQUEAKER ESCORTS RATS, GUINEA PIGS, GERBILS, AND EVEN HAMSTERS. BUT YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE, AND I AM THE METAPHOR WHOSE PURPOSE IS TO ESCORT YOU, JET THE RABBIT.

Jet finally shuddered. Remembering his name brought back many memories, and with them, he expected the pangs of remembrance. He was now floating a foot or so above the still remains of his body—a loose manifestation of stardust confined with constellation-like borders of dim lights in the shape of a rabbit. For the first time in his life…no, wait, that was not it. For the first time ever, Jet actually wanted to feel sadness or fear. He wanted to run away from his destiny, to hide from his mortality, to console the inconsolable couple beneath him with a nuzzle or a never-ending session of licks. Oh how he wished to feel afraid. 

NON TIMETIS MESSOR, whispered the Death of Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas. 

Jet shook his starry mane. “I’m certain Vlad would have corrected your Latin, you know,” he insisted. “You can stuff your fear where the sun don’t shine. Just get on with it. Have I been good or bad? What happens to me now?” 

I MIGHT BE A HUMAN METAPHOR, I ADMIT, BUT EVEN HUMAN BELIEF HAS ITS LIMITS. LOOK AT THEM. YOU MADE THEM HAPPY.

“Did I? Look at them. They are a mess! I ruined so much furniture. I scarred Kayla’s lip for life because I was an arsehole hungry for grapefruit chapstick. I also scalped Desna, even if she deserved it. I was always messy and smelly and acted like I was the center of the universe. I have never seen them more sad.”

I SEE ALL, JET. MUCH LIKE A COIN YOU HAD YOUR SIDES AND WORTH, said the tiny Reaper while pulling up his hood once again. BUT IT IS ARROGANT TO BELIEVE THAT YOU’D BE JUDGED BASED ON YOUR DEEDS BY A GRAND JURY OR SOME ARBITER. THEY… And he pointed with the back end of its scythe to the grieving man and woman still sobbing at the Vet, THEY HAVE ALREADY PREDETERMINED YOUR JOURNEY. THEIR FAITH DICTATES YOUR FUTURE ESCAPADES.

“Look, If I could thump at you, I would’ve done so already. Speak plainly, Death of Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas. What’s next? Will they be okay?”

LET US BEGIN THE JOURNEY. I WILL TELL YOU ON THE WAY, JET THE RABBIT.

And so the slightly anthropomorphic skeletal rabbit in robes of black gently grabbed the starry rabbit by an ear and began to escort him through the veiled void. Weightlessly, they levitated through the clouds until the confines of the Material Plane seemed small and insignificant. The world beyond was like a maze of burrows through which they both sprinted at breakneck speeds. The void was like a sea of violet ripples, and… 

FOR AS LONG AS THEY ARE ALIVE, THEY WILL HURT, BUT IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. THEY WILL SEE YOU AS A BLESSING, AND WILL ONE DAY GLADLY BEAR THE BURDEN OF IT ALL. YOU WERE LIKE A CHILD TO THEM, DESPITE THEIR PRETENDING. YOU WERE THEIR COMPANION, JET THE RABBIT. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

They had begun to descend now, and a plane of lush and exotic nature was now rapidly materializing beneath them like an infinite jellyfish of emerald greens. It hungrily devoured all emptiness until its infinite, larger than life greatness stretched as far as Jet could see. It was a garish, yet elegant world of unexpected oddities—mushroom forests taller than the clouds, floating mountains, and cascading rainbows adorned the wild in a way which spoke to Jet in the most primal of ways. Both of them landed triumphantly on a meadow of fluffy dandelions whose tiny seeds scattered in all directions. 

Something within Jet stirred. 

“Where are we?” He asked. 

SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE WILDEST DREAMS OF THOSE WHO WILL FOREVER MOURN YOU. LONG AGO, THE IMAGINATION OF THEIR KIND PLANTED THE SEEDS OF THIS PLACE, AND NOW IT HAS BECOME….UNIMAGINABLE. IT, LIKE ME, IS A METAPHOR. IT IS TOO UNFATHOMABLE. TOO OUT OF PLACE FOR THEM TO CALL THEIR HOME AFTER DEATH. THEY BELIEVE IN IT, BUT IT IS ALL TOO FAR-FETCHED. NOT FOR YOU, HOWEVER. YOU WERE INCAPABLE OF FAITH AS YOUR PAST SELF, SO THIS PLACE STILL WELCOMES YOU, AND HERE YOU SHALL REMAIN. THERE IS HAPPINESS HERE, BUT YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND IT AGAIN. THINK OF IT AS A NEW LIFE. YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO LEAVE THIS PLACE, OF COURSE. BUT, HERE, YOU CANNOT DIE. YOUR SOUL IS SAFE HERE, JET THE RABBIT. WELCOME TO THE FEYWILD.

Jet gingerly took a single step—just enough to dip his toes in the greenery beneath him, much like humans did to test the waters of a lake or a bath. It was…pleasant. His fuzzy feet were tickled by the sea of dandelion seeds, and he had to shake his mane to dislodge a myriad of them from his shiny, black fur. He glanced around and raised his neck to see as far as his eyes could see. Instinctively, he crossed his paws as he got on his hind legs, but his sense of balance surprised him. Something was off. He looked at his paws and his heart skipped a beat. 

“Hands!?” 

The Death of Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas gave him a sagely nod. He was now much shorter than Jet, whose new bipedal and anthropomorphic form allowed him to tower over the flowers. 

HAPPY? Jet shook his head. It was all too raw. 

“It’s too good to be true! Look at this place! Is there a trick or something?” 

This time, The Death of Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas shook his head. Then he paused at the end as if contemplating something. 

WELL. THERE IS ONE THING. A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS WORLD AND YOUR OLD ONE, I SUPPOSE. THE COST OF LIVING IN A METAPHOR. SOMETHING THEY’LL ALWAYS HAVE AND YOU WILL SOON LOSE FOREVER, I’M AFRAID.

“What is it then?” Jet asked.

A pleasant aroma wafted over him then, and his new form perked up. It was almost too much to consider—so many fragrant flowers! Soporific poppies, gentle irises, shy snowdrops, and decadent violets. And berries, so many berries. He heard the sound of crunchy leaves hitting the ground and fresh cherry blossoms being carried by the warm winds. The air was sweet, and it all became too real and too much for the newest denizen of the Feywild, whatever that was. He leaped in the air—the way only the happiest of rabbits ever could, and he took his new body for a spin in the meadow of dandelions.

Motes of bluish flame flickered inside the Reaper’s eye sockets, then he stared in awe at the galloping rabbit. He twirled a white whisker and then fastened the clasp of his robe as if to congratulate himself on a job well done. He always felt bad about interrupting their joy, so he never did.

And while the newly reborn rabbit was awkwardly zooming, stuffing yellow petals in his mouth, and zigzagging among gnarled oaks and purple pines, Death of Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas tapped on the ground with the blunt end of his scythe and whispered to the wind.

SOMETHING THEY’LL ALWAYS HAVE AND YOU WILL SOON LOSE FOREVER. THE MEMORY OF YOU, it said. 

It looked at the beautiful scenery once more, then at the prancing rabbit of flesh-and-blood. 

It decapitated a tiny dandelion with its scythe, then poofed out of existence. 

Only once he was out of breath did Jet the rabbit feel truly alive. He looked around eager to find the tiny Reaper for he was certain he was full of questions he was meant to ask. He parted a patch of daffodils looking for his escort. 

“The memory of whom?!” He asked. “The memory of what? Remind me how I got here again.”

And he kept on looking and looking until he felt rather foolish and his belly rumbled with hunger. 

All he could remember was that his name was Jet. Jet the rabbit. 

“What an odd afternoon,” Jet thought to himself. 

Then he looked back one final time before he parted the patch of daffodils and scampered off following the pleasant scents of the Feywild. 

About the Author
Vladimir Valchev is a Bulgarian fan of all things fantasy and yearns to do the things worth telling. He loves putting a smile on people’s faces with a story or while plotting behind a Dungeon Master’s screen. Beer and old things are his favorite things, and the BA in Classics and BS in Fermentation Science almost within his reach make this more than obvious.

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