The last image of the dream burned in my mind. A tall man, a stranger, thin, in a pair of overalls, his dark, hollow face in shadow. He held up a limb rag of rabbit fur. My rabbit. Dead.
I swallowed, listening to the sound of my heart thump, and stared at the dark ceiling. My rabbit. This was her first night to sleep outside in her new hutch. Always before we’d brought her in at night, to keep her safe. She’d slept in her cage in the corner of my room. She was only a baby. Was she all right? Was the hutch safe? What if a cat got her, or a weasel? What if she was scared, or cold?
I rolled over and looked at the red glowing numbers of my digital clock. Only a little past midnight. Even if I checked on her now, she would still have hours to go before sunrise. Why did night time have to be so long?
In my bare feet I felt my way down the stairs, hand on the railing, nearly blind in the dark. Down on the ground floor a splash of moonlight spilled in through the sliding back doors. I put my nose up to the glass. There was the hutch out in the yard, but I couldn’t make out if my rabbit was in there.
I slid the door open after undoing the latch and stepped out onto the cold cement of the back porch. Now I could make out a small white shape behind the wire, huddled on the dark grass. Dew soaked through my thin pajama pants as I knelt in front of the hutch.
“Hey, bun?” I whispered. “You okay?’
My rabbit opened one liquid black eye and stared at me in the moonlight. In the dark, with her eye closed, the side of her head had looked blank, but now the dark spot appeared, staring back at me. Calm, a little curious, as if she wondered what I was doing out here in my pajamas. Of course I’m all right, she seemed to say. Why wouldn’t I be?
Rabbits, I guess, sleep outside all the time in the wild. Or maybe they sleep in their burrows, but that’s still sort of outside.
I wondered why my rabbit hadn’t gone inside her little rabbit house. Why was she sleeping out on the grass in her run? Maybe she liked the moonlight, and the stars. I liked them too.
I watched until my rabbit closed her eye again, the black spot vanishing again into her soft, white fur. Then I quietly stood up and looked around the yard. The bushes whispered in the wind, and the trees overhead sprinkled flecks of moonlight over the grass. Right now the yard seemed safe, quiet, but what about the rest of the night?
I slid the back door open again, then closed it behind me. Instead of going back upstairs, I turned on the light and went to the closet where we kept the sleeping bags. I dragged one outside, then went to get my pillow. It was my rabbit’s first night outside, but she wasn’t going to have to spend it all alone.