by Nalini Haynes
A few weeks back I started a series on searching for Gamma Pink SF Rabbits, intended as part spoof of the SF community, part broader social comment. One of my lecturers set an assignment – it’s a nasty habit they have – so the series of quick sketches I had in mind became something more serious to comply with the brief. This story is still intended to be part of a series but it replaces the first episode because, well, the brief said it was meant to be stand-alone. You can’t really have a ‘stand-alone’ story that doesn’t start at the beginning. Anyone who’s read the first installment will notice this story is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Apart from the search for fluffy pink bunnies, that is.
You walk into the state-of-the-art editing suite in a major television studio to find today’s task in your inbox.
FOLDER: Game of Pink Rabbits
README: This raw footage needs major editing to fit one or two 45 minute timeslots suitable for family viewing on television. A___ provides on-site narration to help editing. Script-writers and scene editors are to construct a family-friendly nature documentary.
You open the file, bringing up the footage on your screen. Leaning back in your comfortable chair, you pick up your coffee – this industry runs on caffeine like cars run on petrol – and you settle in. This could take some time.
The camera pans from left to right across a eucalyptus forest under a pale cerulean sky. In front of the trees is a fence, four strands of wire strung between aging wooden posts. Spear-tipped faded green clumps partially conceal tufts of short but wide cadmium-green leaves edges and tips the colour of dry blood; the occasional forest-green leathery-leafed bush looms above pine-green heather. A rutted track runs parallel to the fence exposing light-grey sandy soil.
Like a well-worn carpet, brown grass struggles across the floor of a once-cleared field whose boundaries are blurred, overshadowed by bracken-fern dust-bunnies; native bushes and trees furnish the cluttered living room of innumerable rabbits grazing like feral zombies.
A familiar voice – a trusted masculine voice – speaks, narrating the footage in person. ‘We’re searching for Gamma Pink Rabbits that might be found in eastern Tasmania.’ As the camera pans across the creatures nibbling on the parched grass, he continues: ‘Little is known about Gamma Pink Rabbits. Some people believe they’re a myth like bunyips or legendary Tasmanian Tiger sightings. Others believe Gamma Pink Rabbits have evolved from feral rabbits. If they exist, it’s believed Gamma Pink Rabbits prefer unspoiled native bush or reclaimed land. We’re standing in a cleared field that is in the process of being reclaimed by the bush while a few metres to the west is bushland that, although not pristine, has never been cleared. There are few better places – and no more-accessible places – to look for Gamma Pink Rabbits.’
Cut to a new scene: the sun is setting. A creek runs through lush green pasture cancerous with clumps of waist-high dusty-emerald reeds–every blade a spear–despoiling the picturesque scene. The sunset reflects pink in the water, giving the scene a rose hue.
Blue jeans, a brown jacket with sheepskin collar and brown hair under an akubra fleetingly appear to the right of the scene holding a microphone.
A voice, not the usual narrator, snarls: ‘Mike! Get out of the fucking shot!’
The figure retreats. A voice – presumably Mike – says, ‘Sorry, mate.’
The narrator sighs. The camera focuses again on the picturesque scene before the narrator resumes his commentary.
‘We’re being very quiet while rabbit-watching. You can see lots of herbivores – plant-eating animals – have come out to graze in the cool of the day before the chill of night sets in.’
‘Look! Look over there!’ hisses a voice as the camera zooms in on a group of rabbits near the stream. The scene is pink, VERY pink.
‘What is it, David?’ snaps the older man.
‘Aren’t they – those rabbits – they’re PINK. We’ve found the Gamma Pink Rabbits!’
The older man sighs. ‘Give me that!’ The camera is knocked askew to settle looking up at the sky. Hands appear like giant spiders dancing across the screen. A black-lined disk is lifted away from the screen. ‘See this? It’s a rose-coloured filter.’
‘We’re losing the light. The rabbits are heading back to their burrows now – especially after all the noise certain people have made. Let’s try again tomorrow.’
Cut to a new scene, late on a sunny afternoon in the same green paddock. Fluffy white pebbles stipple the pale cerulean ocean above. In the shadows below, rabbits lope from clump to clump of luscious tender shoots.
‘You don’t have the rose filter on again do you, Rosie?’
‘Rosie’ – formerly David – sighs. ‘No, I don’t have the rose coloured filter on. Am I ever going to hear the end of that?’
Laughter ripples across the field. ‘Probably not,’ replies the narrator. A kookaburra laughs, heralding a resurgence in human laughter.
Mike adds, ‘Definitely not; even the birds think it was funny.’
‘Enough fun, to the business at hand. Notice the brown rabbits… no sign of any pink rabbits here,’ returns our narrator.
As the sun sinks, the clouds turn to rivers of fire, orange and rose-gold. The sky blushes; bruising concealing cerulean beauty. A moon rinsed in blood rises silently, fading to gold while waltzing through the throng of trees to emerge in the centre of the dance floor.
Throughout this spectacular light show, rabbits and larger creatures – wallabies? kangaroos? – creep along the boggy ground, testing the bouquet at paw like a wine critic before moving on to the next delicacy.
As the light fades, like creatures group together before withdrawing.
‘Let’s try again tomorrow,’ says the narrator.
Cut to a new scene: a wealth of diamonds sparkle in the velvet midnight-blue sky, both diamonds and velvet fading in the oceanic pre-dawn glow to the east. A branch cracks under the weight of one of the intrepid crew. You shiver on their behalf, taking an extra mouthful of hot coffee.
‘Can you manage to be quiet just this once Rosie?’ hisses the narrator. ‘Rosie’ mutters under his breath as the camera shifts, the view moving from trees to reclaimed field. They’re back in the first location, near the trees but – now – facing the semi-cleared field to the east.
As the sky grows lighter, small animals bob around, nibbling the dried grass that survives in the sandy soil.
‘In times of hardship – drought and bush fires – grazing is limited so more species may forage near to one another than is usual.’
‘Hello old girl,’ says Mike. The camera pans to the left, revealing a wallaby confronting Mike in the predawn gloom.
‘That is NOT a girl,’ says the narrator.
The wallaby stands erect, nearly as tall as Mike. In the dim light it’s a shadow with a long slender tail, oversized-rabbit legs, forelegs like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a triangular face like a badly-photoshopped dog. Maybe it’s a kangaroo? Damn, it’s big. Mike steps forward, almost nose-to-nose with the creature.
‘Hey, Skippy, old girl,’ says Mike, reaching forward.
‘Stay back Mike! That’s NOT a girl and – ‘
Skippy puts up his front paws – his black-clawed T-Rex hands. Mike reaches forward, grasping Skippy’s hands in greeting.
‘NOOO!’ screams the narrator just as Skippy rears up, leaning on his tail, clawed hind legs pedalling forward, rending Mike’s jacket, slashing Mike’s belly. Viscous dark liquid sprays Skippy, drenching Mike’s jacket and jeans as his scream resounds, echoing through the bush. Mike releases Skippy’s claws as he slumps forward.
‘OhMyGod, OHMYGOD…’ The camera shakes in time with Rosie’s hysterical chanting.
‘Help, damn you! Call an ambulance. NOW,’ barks the narrator.
The screen goes dark.
You pause the playback, gulping. You check your folder. You have several hours of unwatched footage but you decide you need a drink. A stiff drink; not the caffeinated kind. Shaking, you pack up and leave work for the day.