I picked at the last shreds of the meal almost numb to the flavour. After a day of drinking the preparation and delicacy taken in creating the banquet had been wasted on me. All I wanted to do was fill myself with as much bread and offerings in the vain chance it would soak up any alcohol that had been stewing. I was pickled and buzzed. I pressed my forehead down onto the dining table and closed my eyes. The wood was cool and refreshed me more than any glass of water could. I hadn’t seen one glass of water the entire afternoon. Every time I requested one or reached for a jug it was always the same aniseed alcohol. A few cheered in the background as I kept my eyes shut. They were playing some game and I needed to rest for a brief moment before it was my turn. A loud bang shook through the room and the women cheered. I couldn’t look, I had to stay in this brief moment of peace before I was yanked up to play more games.
‘Are you sleeping? If you are then we can’t have that.’Rosemary said as I felt her hand stroke my back.
‘No – I’m just resting… Eugh how are you all so fine? You should all be passed out.’
‘You can’t sleep here. You’re next.’
‘I don’t want to be anything.’ I knew my head was going to feel like a pumpkin carved out by a fork tomorrow but I was enjoying myself. I could smell the gin and spa salts on my skin.
‘She’s wasted look at her.’ Yarrow shouted from across the banquet room. I could feel the breeze from the glass doors leading to the outside graze the back of my ankles. A gunshot went off again.
‘Aren’t you afraid of the police?’
‘No, not at all. We are real far out from any neighbors to complain. Yarrow she’s just resting for a moment before we begin.’ Rosemary said as she got up from her chair.
‘Get up and play. It’s your turn to hunt.’ Yarrow was behind me now. I could practically feel her towering over me. ‘Water is for the weak.’
I rose up and heard clapping from afar. I was ready what ever stupid drinking game they had in mind. Yarrow gave a big beaming smile and placed the rifle in my hands. I moved past the table as myself and a few others followed Yarrow through the glass doors and into the night. I padded over the cool grass as I saw three others ahead.
‘When do I pull the trigger.’ I asked.
‘First we spin you round…’ All at once I felt them grip me by the shoulders and twits me round catching my whole body off guard.
‘Get the scent. Whiff it. Catch it. Kill it. Hunt hunt hunt.’ They span me harder as the crowd jeered and emptied their glasses on the floor.
‘Catch it. Kill it. Hunt hunt hunt.’
Like a divination rod the rifle began to lower and I worried I might already fire the blank.
The others had fired theirs before me. Running out after the white rabbit.
The rabbit masked lady would skip out and always come back through the other door.
‘Hunt’ My mind was whirring. Their hands all over me making sure I kept on spinning. I clenched my jaw and hoped I wouldn’t puke.
‘Hunt…’ I settled my gaze down to the grass. A white blur stepped out. The plastic ears flopped down. Another’s hand twisting their arm. Faces. Rifle. Hunt. Hunt.
They shook me loose and my legs sprang to catch the ground. The rabbit was off. Darting from the light. I followed and fumbled but they were not quick. In the darkness we ran. I was lined up to them. Catching their scent amongst the cold air. Almost ready. I raised the gun but stumbled on a muddy patch. The rabbit increased the distance. I was losing sight of it now. The liquor was rising out from every place in my body. My lungs were burning. Legs shaking but still going. Never wavering. The rabbit twisted in the darkness and hit the ground. They had hit a low branch from the dotted trees. I slid forward and pressed the rifle down. Squeezed. Hunt hunt hunt. A crack ran through my arms. The rabbit flopped down and played dead. I had caught it.
I waited for the game to be over. I turned to hear screams for joy like a Guy Fawkes crowd finally hearing the bang from the rockets. I could see a few running over. Like a pack of dogs. Black eyes and smiling.
‘Come on now get up.’ I nudged the rabbit with my foot. It didn’t move. Kneeling down I looked at the still plastic face reflecting the moonlight. The seeping stain that was growing over the white shirt. The others bounded across the grass with abandon. Their feet drumming louder and louder. I placed my hand on the rabbit and felt the wet warm blood coat it. I brought it up close as I saw another rabbit broken against a tree. A few paces further another lied down face first with its mask blown off. The women were closer now but not slowing down. As if they had picked up the scent a new rabbit.