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Koko's Rabbit | Audio
By James S. Dorr
James Dorr's current collections, DARKER LOVES: TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET and STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE, are available from Dark Regions Press, while other work has appeared in ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, NEW MYSTERY, ABORIGINAL SF, FANTASTIC STORIES, DARK WISDOM, GOTHIC.NET, CHI-ZINE, ENIGMATIC TALES (UK), FAERIES (France), and numerous anthologies. Dorr is an active member of SFWA and HWA, an Anthony (mystery) and Darrell (fiction set in the US Mid-South) finalist, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a multi-time listee in THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR.

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       Sometimes Koko's rabbit would tell her stories.
       These weren't pleasant stories, by and large. Mostly they tended to be stories about things with fangs and claws, the sorts of things rabbits feared.
       Koko feared these things too. "No, no, Bunny," she often exclaimed. "Your stories scare me too much." Yet she still listened.
       She listened to stories the rabbit told about werewolves in forests, and girls who wore red hoods. Koko was twenty-three years old herself, yet she still liked to think of herself as a "girl." She also heard stories about giants and vampires, zombies and ghouls and cats that wore boots. Bluebeards and redbeards and men with bristling, purple mustaches -- one story that the rabbit told her was about another girl, this one a beauty, and how one day she married a beast.
       Koko liked that story most of all, not so much the beast part, but how the girl, a woman really, ended up being married. Koko imagined she'd like to be married -- especially the "happily ever after" part. All of her friends were doing it all the time. But whenever she told them about the rabbit, her friends had a way of looking at her oddly and tapping their heads. And, afterward, they tended not to invite her to go with them quite as much.
       That last, no doubt, was because they had, after all, gotten married, Koko thought. Or at least had plans to. She remembered how her mother had told her once, a long time ago, that being married was a full time job. No doubt it was, too, but she still thought she'd like to give it a try.
       After all, if it didn't work out -- well what was the point of having divorce courts?
       She asked her rabbit about that once, that is, divorce courts, but the rabbit told her a story instead about a vampire who, irked by companions who asked stupid questions, sucked out all their blood. Then he married three women in a row, and sucked their blood too when they asked silly questions, but, because they were nice, he still kept them around. Then he went to England to find new women who he might marry who wouldn't ask questions, but then a mean man named Van Helsing showed up and stuck a stake in his heart.
       Koko didn't care for that story. She didn't like stories with unhappy endings.
       Her mother had died when she was little. Of some kind of blood disease, Koko recalled. That made her unhappy too.
       Koko didn't like to be unhappy.
       One day in December she got a new boyfriend. She took him home with her. Within three days they were sleeping together. She liked him that much.
       She didn't tell him about the rabbit. She didn't want him to look at her oddly, or tap the side of his head with his finger. When her friends did that, she often didn't see them for months afterward, and she didn't want this to happen with her new boyfriend. Rather, she hoped that maybe they might get married instead.
       She did miss the stories, though.
       Then one night her new boyfriend raised his voice to her. They had begun to have arguments sometimes, which she remembered from when her mother had been alive was what married people did. Mothers and daughters too. She had hoped that this might lead to their getting married, since, if that was what married people did, wouldn't that mean that they were halfway married already?
       But, instead, he frightened her.
       He had a mean temper. But then, she recalled, all men seemed to her to have tempers, especially when she started to ask them questions about when they were getting married. They'd put it off sometimes. Or joke about it. Or even say perhaps they ought to set a date, but not quite yet. And then, like so many of her other friends, somehow they wouldn't see each other nearly as much anymore. Just like the friends who looked oddly and tapped their heads.
       She started to cry.
       Then suddenly the rabbit appeared from the closet where it had a tiny cot, and a hot plate and a refrigerator, and stayed when it wasn't telling her stories. But it growled and had fangs and claws, just like the beast that had married the beauty. Except that it didn't turn into a prince, like she recalled the beast did in the story. Instead it bit the boyfriend.
       Koko fainted.
       Women always were fainting in the stories the rabbit sometimes told Koko, the nicer stories where huntsmen and princes and men who made livings chopping down trees, and sometimes even very little men who lived together and were in the mining trade, came to their rescue at the story's end. Who didn't have mean men stick wood in their hearts, or other men shoot them with silver bullets. Or be forced to go out in the sun when everyone knew they had skin conditions and could die in an instant from melanoma. The nastier stories.
       When she woke, she was all alone. Her room was messed up and there was sticky red stuff on the floor which she had to use a mop to clean up. When she tried to call her boyfriend later he wasn't home. She thought she might leave a message for him, for him to call back. But she thought better of it -- they rarely did. She decided she'd probably do better trying to get a new boyfriend.
       Later that night Koko's rabbit told her a new story, this one about a woman in part of what was now eastern Europe, who liked another woman very much. These were young women, really almost girls. But it was a sad story too because at the end the first woman got a stake stuck in her heart.
       Sometimes the rabbit disapproved of Koko's new friends. Her last boyfriend, for instance. She got the idea it told her sad stories as a kind of warning. The rabbit also disapproved of Koko eating Italian food, especially with garlic.
       "It isn't healthy," the rabbit maintained.

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