The significance of bunnies
Li Touten had just swallowed the herringbone and was beginning to choke while attempting to cough it out when he heard a deep, somber, deathly voice say
It was a very noticeable voice; the kind that disdained the use of the cochlea, eardrum, hammer, anvil, nerves and whatever other tools there were inside the ear and made itself known directly in the brain.
It also seemed to inspire capital letters.
It also, he noted dimly through his rapidly narrowing field of vision, seemed to stop time.
The herringbone appeared to be out of his throat.
His vision cleared again, and he realised somewhat regretfully and somewhat detachedly that it wasn’t so much the departure of the bone from his throat as the departure of him from his body that had caused his sudden recovery.
His shoulders slumped. He had a very very good idea who it was had just spoken — three guesses only, and the first two don’t count.
EXACTLY, the skeleton in black robes which was standing beside him said cordially. I HOPE YOU WILL NOT MAKE A FUSS. IT PUTS ME OFF SCHEDULE, AND I DO NOT LIKE BEING LATE. ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE PEOPLE AROUND ME ARE.
It looked at him expectantly (if, indeed, a skeleton could look expectant).
Li Touten goggled.
HA, HA, HA, Death added helpfully when it became obvious that he was perplexed.
‘What?’ he squeaked.
A JOKE. NEVER MIND.
It was an accident, a sheer accident. Gods weren’t supposed to die in accidents, of course; they weren’t supposed to choke to death on herringbones at dinner. It was undignified, unbefitting someone of his stature, intelligence and power. It was utterly inexplicable.
Yeah, well, Fate can be a bitch that way.
And thus it was that Li Touten found himself at the Gates for the first time in his existence.
The Lord of the Afterlife peered down at him through wire-rimmed glasses. ‘We don’t see many of your kind down here,’ he observed astutely.
Being only a vaguely anthropomorphical representation of a ball of sourceless, infinite energy, the dead god couldn’t nod, agree, make a sarcastic remark or flip him off.
At the moment, this seemed disproportionately unfair.
The raise of a silver eyebrow implied that the Lord of the Afterlife had heard anyway. ‘Well, you seem to have a long list of crimes down here,’ he said, eyeing a roll of parchment that went down some twenty feet from his head to his iron-clad toe. ‘Let’s see. We have shilly-shallying, gobbledygook, assassination, gerrymandering, pilfering, larceny, bribing, accepting bribes, illegal parking, mass murder, treason, heresy, blasphemy, adultery, using helpless children as puppets, extracting money under false pretences, burglary, ordering killing, attempting murder of heretical beings, lying, deflecting, cheating at cards, cheating at dice killing demons, killing humans, killing gods — my, you do a lot of that, don’t you? — fixing books, spiking drinks, bullying, tattling, teasing, prattling, pettifogging, filibustering, jaywalking.’ The roll of parchment rolled itself up and disappeared in a puff of paradox. ‘Well, as you can see, you’ve not done very well in the last thousand years or so. We’re gonna have to stick you into a fairly low lifeform. No, actually, you’ll have to be an inanimate for at least seventy or eighty births.’
An aide darted up to him and whispered in his ear. The Lord frowned. ‘It also seems that you have karmic links to some mortals. Apparently, you ordered them killed, and that puts you in their debt since they didn’t do anything to you in return; you’ll have to spend at least one lifetime connected to them in some way. Let’s see.’
Another roll of parchment appeared.
‘All right, then,’ the Lord of the Afterlife said, and waggled a nonchalant finger at the god. ‘Off you go. Oh, and there’s just one more thing……’
What am I doing here?
Where am I?
What am I?
Oh, there’s a mirror near me. Wish I could edge in enough to be visible.
Oh dear, I don’t seem to be able to move. But I can see a bit of myself.
Fur. White fur. I’m an animal?
There’s other animals around me.
No, not animals. I can’t move, can’t blink. They aren’t either.
Something is very weird about my thinking process. My vocabulary seems to have slipped.
I’M A WHAT!
HOW DARE YOU!
LET ME OUT IMMEDIATELY! I DEMAND — hey.
Hey, who’s this?
Get away from me.
You look creepy! What’s with that labcoat and the glasses? Don’t tell me you’re Tenpou reincarnated! Go shave or something!
No, no, wrong eyes. This guy has dark eyes. Thank me.
Who the hell are you anyway?
No, hey, no. Don’t pick me up. Don’t pick me up, I say!
LET ME GO, YOU!
I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! Leggo! Ow! You’re insane!
(At this point, the former Li Touten made an important discovery: Not being able to move really sucks at times.)
Wait. What’s this?
No. No. I won’t turn into a bunny! I won’t forget! I will not! I will not adore my master! He is not my master! I hate him! Hate him! I am Li Touten, a very important person in Heav-
I am Li Touten, a very import-
I am Li Tou-
I am L-
‘Will you be paying cash or credit, sir?’ the cute shopkeeper said, blushing slightly when the hot guy in the white coat tipped her a flirtatious wink.
‘Credit. Just tell Lady Gyokumen that Dr. Nii bought it. You’ll be repaid.’
‘O-of course,’ she stammered, the red deepening.
Nii stepped out of the shop and pulled the stuffed white rabbit out. ‘Happy Easter to me!’ he chuckled. ‘I think we’ll get along very well indeed, don’t you, Bunny dear?’
He lifted it and moved its mouth. ‘Of course we will, Doctor. I love you more than anything else in the world!’
‘Do you, Bunny? Really? Truly? Absitively? Posolutely? Hmmm?’
‘Of course, Doctor. We’re going to be best friends!’ the bunny said as he helped its jaw open and shut. ‘Best friends forever. It doesn’t matter if nobody else understands you; I do.’
‘Do you really, Bunny?’
‘Of course I do, Doctor!’
And in those empty, glassy eyes, there was nothing Nii could see but sheer adoration — and his own reflection.