A couple of miles from Japan’s coast, there is an island that belongs entirely to rabbits. Rabbits roam there freely with no predators or human supervision. Tourists come to take pictures in which they are surrounded by crowds of adorable rabbits of all colors and breeds. They bring snacks, so rabbits usually tolerate their attention.
With one exception – there is a gang of badass rabbits the tourists know better to avoid. Their leader is known as Steve, and he has quite a reputation among humans and rabbits alike. You can easily recognize him because he is always covered in black soot, not to appear in any way adorable. His routine mischiefs involve pooping in tourists’ bags, knocking off their smartphones, or nibbling on their headphones and chargers. But when he is in a bad mood, some unfortunate visitors will leave the island with bitten fingers and scratched faces.
Very few humans or rabbits would guess that, when Steve was young, he was a white and fluffy pet rabbit kind. They would be even more surprised to learn that what he is trying to cover with soot is a cute heart-shaped spot on his bum. That spot, an object of his siblings’ jealousy, promised a bright future to young Steve, a life of luxury and Instagram fame.
But the promised life was stubbornly evading him. His first owner was a little girl who liked to hurt him and kept forgetting to feed him or clean his toilet. From that early experience, Steve learned to show teeth, and that’s how he became a warrior rabbit. He decided he would fight for his right to be adequately treated by his owners. While he was passed from one home to a shop, to another home, and a shop again, he never gave up hope to find the place that would be fitting to his talent.
He became so experienced in changing hands that he could now predict the character of his next owner by the entrance door to the house. Ornate and showy – probably a gay couple struggling to rescue their relationship with a pet. It would not work in the end, and none of them will want to stay with Steve. Barn-like door meant he was there only to help make some babies, to which he said, “No, thank you! You’re not getting my heart-shaped spot until I get the life I deserve.” And no matter how hard it was to resist the advances of rabbit ladies, Steve stubbornly abstained until he was back in a shop again.
Now he was brought to a plain steel door of which he didn’t know what to make. On the way there, Steve observed his new owner appraisingly and so far liked what he saw. It was a cool-looking guy with tats on his arms and a goatee. There was a “no bullshit” sense about him that made Steve think they could bond. The steel door was suspicious, but, hey, at least it was something new.
Inside, Steve was met with unpleasant news — he was not the only pet. A fat red cat was sitting on the table and watching him with lazy green eyes.
“Ehm, hello,” said Steve.
Cat did not reply.
“Can you hear me?”
Cat gave out snorting laughter and said, dragging the words like drunkard’s feet, “Of course I can hear you. Haven’t you seen me move my ears?”
“Then why didn’t you reply the first time?” Steve was getting angry.
Once again, the cat did not accommodate him with an answer. He just walked to the other side of the table, waving his fluffed-up tail. Then he sat there staring at nothing in particular.
“Weirdo,” Steve muttered to himself and started exploring his new home.
The place was a spacious studio with minimal furniture made up of light modern materials, mostly glass and steel. Steve nodded approvingly, noticing the apparent absence of a woman’s touch — no further division of owner’s attention. He was also pleased to find a tray full of delicious grass and a comfortable bed. It smelled of another rabbit — some passed away sweetheart, no doubt. Steve was not worried about filling in somebody’s shoes. He was much more relieved to learn that his owner had some rabbit handling experience.
Suddenly, he heard the cat mumbling. He pricked his ears to hear better but could only catch a few words, “… another one, kill me.”
“Hey, is there something you want to tell me?” Steve confronted the cat.
“I was just informing Ferdinand of the happy addition to the family.”
Steve approached and saw that the cat was sitting next to a ball-shaped tank with a goldfish in it. So, they were three pets. Some fauna enthusiast, this guy, Steve thought bleakly, but aloud he said, “Hello, Ferdinand. How do you do?”
“Ferdinand does not speak,” explained the cat.
“Look, Mr. Cat…”
“Mr. Marquise, I know that my arrival may be hard to adjust, and you might be missing your friend who passed away —“
“Missing? That noisy vanity of a rabbit?” Marquise laughed with surprising energy until the tears poured from his eyes. Even the goldfish Ferdinand appeared to be laughing, making jumpy loops in his tank. “Oh, what a joke,” Marquise finally said, sighing and falling on his side from exhaustion.
Steve was deeply offended, but he didn’t want to begin his new life with a fight, so he tried to change the topic. “Are you happy with your owner?”
“Oh, we are very happy,” said Marquise making a weird emphasis on “we,” as if leaving Steve out of it.
Steve could not understand why the cat was being such an ass to him, even preferring the company of a num fish over a potential intelligent furry companion. He must have really hated the previous rabbit. Steve once again decided to be patient and prove himself worthy of a conversation. He asked, “So, what do you enjoy the most about living here?”
“The feeding, for sure,” replied Marquise enthusiastically. Ferdinand seemed to support this answer as he began to swim much faster. “The master really understands what we need in terms of food to feel happy and alive,” he continued, “We get anything we ask for.”
“I am pleased to hear that. Though I am usually not very picky with food.”
“That’s because you eat plants, and it does not matter how you get them — it’s enough for them just to be in front of your nose.”
“Sure, what else do you want from your food?”
Marquise rolled his eyes and sighed. “See, that’s why we have nothing to talk about. You don’t understand the pleasures of life.”
“And your friend Ferdinand does understand you?”
“Oh, he does!” Marquise rubbed his side on the fish tank, and Ferdinand froze still in the furthest end from him. “Watch this.” Marquise pawed on a tank from one side, and Ferdinand jumped to the opposite side. Then Marquise pawed again, and for a while, it appeared as if he was playing ping-pong with himself, catapulting the goldfish from side to side. His face was a sight of ecstatic pleasure, with his tongue out and eyes half-closed. Then he stopped abruptly, sat back, and began to wash his face in slow lazy movements. Ferdinand was recovering from the shock on the bottom of the tank.
“The play,” Marquise continued as if he was a lector returning to his notes, “The chase, the waiting, the glimmer of hope, and then bam —“ with a lightning speed, he suddenly snatched Ferdinand out of the tank and shoved him into his mouth. For a second, Ferdinand was beating inside of the cat’s mouth; then, Marquise spit him back into the tank.
“This is what I call a happy life!” he purred as he jumped off the table and walked to his bowl of cat food on the kitchen floor.
Steve watched as Ferdinand pretended to be dead for a while and then started swimming again. The goldfish had mad eyes. “I don’t think Ferdinand enjoyed it as much as you did,” Steve finally said.
“He will enjoy it even less when one day I eat him.”
“And what would the master say when he sees that his fish is missing?”
“Not his fish. It is my fish, and he will just buy me a new one. I told you, we are very happy here.”
“So when you say we, you just mean yourself?” Steve felt a sudden revulsion against this pretentious prick.
Cat did not reply. Instead, he jumped up the backrest of the sofa and started walking back and forth along the long glass wall, humming some silly tune. This behavior was so obnoxious, Steve turned away and made a mental note, never to talk to the cat again.
When Marquise noticed that Steve lost interest in his performance, he spoke again.
“When I say we —“he paused and stretched, “I mean myself and Casper.”
Steve looked at the cat, puzzled. Something moved behind the glass wall. Something thick was folding and twisting there. Steve jumped up, and in a split second that he was in the air, his blood chilled to ice as he glanced at what was behind the glass — a giant, thick, spiral coil of a boa constructor.
Steve was hiding in the furthest darkest corner of the room, trembling. The sense of betrayal was so devastating, it overshadowed even the mortal terror in him. Here he was, dreaming about a happy life with a human, while in reality, he was no more than a feed for some boa constructor. He glanced back at his heart-shaped spot, and his eyes filled with tears. Life was so unfair!
“Waterworks already?” Marquise sounded bored. “Casper just ate. He won’t wake up for another week. So — please — save me the nuisance of listening to your sobs just yet.”
“How can you be so mean?” The words barely came out from Steve’s tightened throat. “I am a pet like you. My purpose is to be a human companion. To be loved and —“ he trailed off, realizing how little sense he was making.
“Well, some pets are simply better than others,” said Marquise and marched away.
Steve was looking at the feline’s rear and thinking, what was it that made Marquise better? He was lazy, close to obese, had a terrible character and his fur was blotchy red. Not even remotely cute. Who could understand humans and their whims? And then it hit him. How silly it was to rely on creatures he could not control nor comprehend. He gritted his teeth. At the end of the day, he only had himself to blame and to rely on.
By the time Casper woke up, Steve already had a plan. There was only one place to hide. Ferdinand would not like it, but that fish had little to lose. In the week that passed, Marquise frequented elaborate games in which he almost ate and then released Ferdinand. Steve expressed his protest quietly by chewing through the cats’ belongings when he was not looking.
On the day of the feeding, the human brought his friends to watch. What a pervert! But Steve was determined to spoil their fun. Still, nothing could prepare him for the terror he felt when an enormously large boa constructor slid out of his glass tank and slithered towards him in large undulating curves. The snake’s head was facing Steve with one side then another; each side stared at him with a cold amber eye of a natural killer. Steve was shaking violently, but he forced himself to stay put. There was nowhere to run anyway. He had to remain still until the very last moment. When the snake was only a few feet away, he noticed that the muscles in its coils flexed in preparation for the bounce, and he told himself – now!
He dived into the fish tank, replacing most of the water in it. From behind the glass, he saw the stretching gape of the snake’s mouth, and then there was complete darkness. Ferdinand was fidgeting in panic around him. The walls of the fish tank were cracking but still held water. Now it was a gamble. Either the tank will eventually give and break, and this would be the end of Steve, but also a severe injury to the boa’s gut; or the human will bring his beloved pet to the doctor and remove the tank surgically. Steve waited. It was harder and harder to breathe. The acid juices were rolling down the tank walls and dripping into the water.
After what seemed like an eternity, a slit of light burned Steve’s eyes, and two gloved human hands carefully removed the tank from the snake’s body. As soon as the opening was clear, Steve picked up Ferdinand, leaped out of the tank, and ran for his life. He raced down white corridors and into the street, and even then, he kept on running, dodging human feet and car wheels until he reached the sea. There he parted ways with Ferdinand, hoping that the poor fish can one day recover from what he had been through.
Sitting on the pier and watching the vast stretch of the ocean, Steve felt reborn into a new free life. Right there, he decided that he will never be anyone’s pet again. And the rest is history.