At least I wrote something during my extended hiatus. It’s just a short story for school, which I submitted for a scholarship application which focused on creativity and it’s not very polished. “The Story of White Rabbit” is inspired by German history, Alice in Wonderland and a friend asking me to tell him a story one night.
The Story of White Rabbit
By Stephanie Lee
“War is nothing more than a big argument with weapons”, White Rabbit said simply as he flopped down next to me in the rubble that had once been our house.
“Throw that old thing away, Hope”, my mother said. Her voice sounded hoarse, like she hadn’t drunk anything for days; hoarse and tired. She was always tired and her eyes looked past me as if there was something only she could see.
“Do you think mom has someone who’s there for her too? Someone like you, only that I can’t see him?” I asked White Rabbit once I was sure she couldn’t hear us anymore.
But White Rabbit just shook his head. His left ear was hanging at an odd angle even now, but his eyes blinked at me full of life.
“No,” he said quietly. “There are no others like me and even I cannot be seen by anyone who does not want to believe in me. Your mother has given up a long time ago. All she sees now is your brother.”
I nodded, biting my lip. I didn’t like to think about Johann. White Rabbit said he’d lost the Game, that he had been too slow and that he shouldn’t have gone back into the house to get Daddy’s gun when the bombers came. Johann had been twelve, only three years younger than you had to be to join the army. That had always been what he wanted and Daddy’s gun was his most treasured possession. He said Daddy had given it to him before he left for the War. That was before I was born. I think I saw Daddy once, but he scared me with his talk of blood and death. I think he scared Johann too, but he would never admit it.
White Rabbit had been very angry with Johann for wanting to join the army. He said Johann didn’t even know what war was like. But Johann never listened. He never believed in the Game and that White Rabbit was talking to me either. He said that games were for children and that I was making things up. And then he died and since then mom didn’t laugh anymore. Since then, all she did was cry and sit in a corner, staring holes into the rubble.
Sometimes I hated Johann for leaving us. White Rabbit said that I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it.
“Johann lost the Game, but you need to go on, do you understand?”
I nodded and followed White Rabbit though the empty street. My mom had told me that all this had been a great city before the War, but now all that was left of it were ruins and rubble and dust. I think the dust was the worst. It got everywhere, on your clothes, on your skin, into your eyes and mouth. It was always worst right after an air raid. Sometimes the bombers came three or four times a day.
“We are winning!” White Rabbit kept saying. “The Game is almost over!”
“But everyone says we are losing. They say that they won’t stop dropping bombs on us till everyone’s gone. Just like Johann.”
“Don’t say that”, White Rabbit said, suddenly very angry. “Do not ever say that. It will be fine, you will see. Just trust me and play the Game and you will see. It is almost over.”
I don’t know why, but I believed him. I believed him with that kind of trust that I now know I wouldn’t have been able to keep if it hadn’t been for him. Later I knew that it was what saved me.
For years White Rabbit had been nothing but an old, stuffed rabbit, his eyes replaced with two brown buttons and his left ear nearly torn off.
Nobody had ever bothered to fix him. Nobody knew where he had come from. Mom probably thought I had found him somewhere in one of the houses that had been abandoned before the War. But White Rabbit had been with me long before that, long before the night when the first raid happened and he came to life.
“For a while you have to become like me. Nobody else must see you and the most important thing is that you have to play the Game. Can you do that?”
“I think so,” I said. “But what Game are you talking about?”
“About the only Game there is. Life.”
I nodded, but I wasn’t sure I understood him then. All that I did understand was that he had come to be my friend and that he was the only thing around me that made sense.
And so we played the Game. Day after day we went through the rubble, going into empty houses to hunt for hidden treasures that disappeared in a big bad that we had brought along. When we didn’t go on treasure hunts, we played hide and seek in the rubble with the soldiers or tag when the sirens went off and the bombers came back.
Whoever made it to the safe places in the basement or the bunker was still in the Game, but not everyone made it. It was like playing “Sorry”, only that the people who had been kicked out of the Game couldn’t get back in.
White Rabbit said that though it often depended on chance and luck whether you lost or not, it was also yourself who threw the dice. You could lose by chance just as you could by making the wrong decisions.
All this came back to me the day the War ended, the day my mother decided to throw her dice for the last time.
That day I came home early to find my mom with a strange man in a strange uniform.
“This is John Turner, Hope. He’s an American soldier and you will go with him.”
I shook my head, not understanding. I was afraid of the strange man, even though White Rabbit whispered into my ear that it was okay.
“John and his wife life far away in America and they will take good care of you,” my mother said, as if everything was simple.
“But I don’t want to go with him! I want to stay here and I have you to take care of me!”
My mom only sighed and I saw that she was holding Daddy’s gun in her lap, looking at it as if it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She had never looked at me that way.
“No, Hope. I haven’t taken care of you for much too long now and it’s time for me to go and see your brother again. Trust me, you’ll be better off with Mr. Turner after all this is over.”
I shook my head and looked at the strange man who smiled at me and took my hand.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “For a while you have to come with me. Nobody else must get you and the most important thing is that you play the Game. Can you do that?”
For a few seconds I just stared at him. I wanted to turn back to White Rabbit to see if he was still behind me, but I instead I heard him whisper at my back, “It will be fine, you will see. Just trust me and play the Game and you will see. It is almost over.”
My mom didn’t even look at me when I left with the soldier, but I still thought I heard a single gunshot as I walked through the streets. She had thrown the dice one last time, but I think she lost the Game long before that. I was sad, but at the same time I knew she would see Johann again and that was what she had wanted.
The streets were full of soldiers talking about something they called capitulation. Nobody ran from them anymore. Nobody seemed even frightened. In fact they didn’t look like they felt anything.
“It is over. We have won, Hope! We made it, just like I told you. We have won the Game!”
“Yeah we did,” I said, but for some reason I couldn’t make myself be happy about it. “Do you have to leave now?”
“Not as long as you keep playing the Game.”
“But…you said we won. So the Game is over.”
“Yes, but this was only part of it. Now the interesting part comes. The War was just the beginning. Now it is time for you to play the real Game.”
“But how am I supposed to play it?” I asked, but White Rabbit had already gone.
“You will have to find out,” a small voice echoed in my head.
I looked at the rubble one last time before I followed the soldier and left everything behind. Somewhere out there was a new Game to play. The only thing that I took with me from that time was an old, stuffed rabbit, his eyes replaced with two brown buttons and his left ear almost torn off.