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It was warm and soft, and I could hear my brothers and sisters around me, searching for our mother’s belly. My stomach was full and I felt content to be in the midst of the jostling and small noises, cozy in our nest of straw and our mother’s plucked-out fur. I ate and slept, ate and slept, and felt safe and secure.

One day I experienced a new sensation: light. My eyes had begun to open and at first I could only see shadows, then blurry outlines of my surroundings. Eventually, I could see my family. My brothers and sisters, and my mother looming large and powerful. She left us for hours at a time in our little nest. We only had each other for company, but I was never afraid.

Once my vision became clearer, I was able to distinguish the human that came once a day to fill our water and food bowls. My mother was never very far, because our world was small, and eventually my siblings and I were able to make our way on shaky limbs out of the nest to gather around her, insistent and demanding. More often than not, she would hop away to the other side of our hutch. This was our life. We played rough and tumble, began to eat the hay and pellets the human brought, and badgered our mother endlessly. She only allowed us to nurse twice a day, and we eventually learned to leave her alone the rest of the time. Our days were full of playing, eating, and sleeping.

As we grew, our hutch seemed to shrink. I had such an urge to run, to stretch my legs and to leap into the air, but there was no space for that. My body ached for movement and freedom. I could just see a great open beyond our hutch. I would put my front paws on the wire-mesh wall and stare. Birds flitted about, and I saw an occasional dog or cat amble by or run with the freedom we caged rabbits could only dream of. How I longed to be out there, even for a moment, to be able to stretch my legs and feel the joy of really using my body. But alas, I could only hop back and forth in our little hutch, jumping over my siblings and feeling the innate power of my limbs slowly dissipating.

One day my world changed. Our human came as usual, and I assumed she was going to give us our food and water. Instead, she opened the top of our hutch, reached in, and grabbed one of my sisters. We were all in a terrible panic, but our mother only sat silently in the corner. One by one, we were snatched up, flipped over and prodded, and placed in a crate. I was put in the crate with my sisters, my brothers in another. Then, our human lifted the crate off the ground, a most curious and frightening sensation, and carried us out into the wide world.

I was very scared, but I kept one eye pressed to the side of the crate, watching the world go by. There was my dream land, a grassy, open expanse. Then I saw a different human. I quickly backed up as far as the crate and my sisters would allow, my heart beating rapidly in my chest. The two humans talked for a few minutes, then the crate was placed in the back of a truck, the new human got in the front, and the engine roared to life. I was overcome with the unfamiliar urge to go underground. I didn’t understand where this yearning came from. I had never set foot on the ground in my life, but the need to disappear into the earth was so powerful that it was excruciating.

We drove for what seemed like hours, and when we finally stopped, the deafening roar of the engine continued to reverberate in my sensitive ears. My new human lifted our crate out of the back of the truck and carried us to a covered area with a row of hutches. The human began placing each of us in a separate hutch. My sisters all reacted in their own way. Some struggled mightily when they were picked up. Others, like me, didn’t move a muscle. The sensation of being picked up was shocking. I was used to physical touch, my siblings and I were in constant contact, but the human touch felt wrong. I felt violated, and my fear was so overwhelming that I couldn’t move. When I found myself in my new hutch, I sat petrified, my heart pounding furiously in my chest. Finally, the human left and we were able to explore our new homes in peace.

At first, I was delighted to have so much space to hop around in, but I soon began to experience a deep sense of loss. I missed my mother dreadfully. Although in recent times she had thwarted our attention more and more vigorously, she had always been our rock of stability, our shelter. Now she was gone. And I longed for the comfort and warmth of my siblings. Even when they kicked or crawled on top of me, at least we had been together. But now I was so very alone. I could see my sisters through the wire, but without being able to touch them I felt like a limb had been brutally severed from my body. This was my new, limbless life.

Like before, I was able to look beyond my hutch and see the outside world. I dreamed every night about what it would feel like to run, to be free, to dig. But my days were spent sitting in a corner, eating the greens and pellets our human brought us, and, as always, feeling the power in my body fading little by little.

I had become accustomed to our usual routine—our humans coming once or twice a day, bringing us leafy green plants and pellets, filling our water bowls—but this day was different. Today, I was lifted out of my hutch. Again, that horrid sensation of hands on my body and the stomach-wrenching feeling of being suspended in midair. I was then placed in a hutch with another rabbit! I was in total shock. I hadn’t been this close to a rabbit since my siblings and I were separated. I backed into a corner, making myself as small as possible. The other rabbit was huge, and I could tell he was male. We touched noses, and suddenly he jumped on me! I leapt away as fast as I could, but there was nowhere to go. He chased me around his hutch, and finally I had to stop. He threw his body on top of mine, and I felt my body yield. It was over in a matter of minutes. Then we were both quiet.

After a little while, I inched closer to the male rabbit until I was stretched out beside him. What a luxury it was to feel the touch of my own kind after so long. He nuzzled my neck and I suddenly felt as if I were back with my mother and siblings, safe in our nest. Then the human came and reached in to pick me up. This time I wasn’t going to sit motionless. I did not want to be handled, and I tried to run away but, of course, there was nowhere to go. She caught me, and put me back in my own hutch. I was alone, so very alone. I looked out at the great open, and felt my heart beating in my chest, slow, constant, never ending. Just like my life.

I settled back into my routine of nothingness, but things were different now. I could feel my body changing. I had an overwhelming urge to dig again, but there was only wire at the bottom of my hutch. My human brought me extra hay and newspapers, and I began to shred the newspaper to build a nest like the one I was born in. I pulled fur from my body to make the nest soft and cozy. When I finished, I felt so restless. Again and again I stared out into the great open. I could feel something happening in my body, so much commotion inside. I knew I was no longer alone.

One day it happened. My babies were born, one by one. I felt something I hadn’t felt since I was with my family so very long ago: I felt content. My five babies were tiny, wiggling masses of pink flesh, but my heart felt like it was going to burst just looking at them. I cleaned them carefully, and nudged them towards my belly. They latched on and began to nurse, and I felt a rush of pure happiness.

My babies were a joy to me, and they grew quickly. I was grateful for my human who brought me extra food every day, because I couldn’t seem to fill the emptiness in my stomach no matter how much I ate. I watched my babies as they tumbled around, trying to find their legs, learning how to eat the grass and other plants our humans brought, and always demanding more milk from me. I only allowed them to nurse once or twice a day, in the early morning or late evening when I felt safest, but of course they wanted more. The hutch was getting more crowded by the day. I longed for a little peace. I didn’t want to feel the sorrow of being so lonely, but I desperately wanted to put a little distance between me and my babies, so I could watch them from afar. But our hutch was too small. Eventually I stopped nursing altogether, and we settled into our new routine, quiet and companionable.

One day, everything changed. The human came and took my babies away. They were so frightened, and there was nothing I could do. I felt so helpless. One by one, my babies were lifted out of the cage and put into a crate. Then the crate was carried away. I was in shock. I sat in the corner of my hutch, heart beating, beating, beating. Suddenly I heard a terrible cry, cut short, but devastating and blood chilling. I knew it was my baby. One after the other, my babies cried out. I stared out at the great open. I felt so much all at once. I could do nothing. My heart continued to beat.

Over the years, I had many visits with the male rabbit, and many litters of babies. Every time it ended the same, with those agonizing cries and my beating heart. My sisters, in the hutches surrounding mine, suffered in the same way that I did. Eventually, even though I had made several visits to the male rabbit, I stopped having babies. I watched as my sisters had litter after litter, and I remained alone. I stared out into the great open, and my heart continued to beat.

Then, another change. The human opened my hutch and lifted me out. By now I was used to being handled, after so many trips to the male rabbit’s hutch and back, but it still made my skin crawl to be picked up. This time I was placed in a crate, and like the very first time, I was put in the back of a truck. The noise was deafening, and the smell of the exhaust terrible. We drove for a long time, then stopped. I was lifted out of the truck and carried to a new place. I saw yet another human, and she opened a hutch while my previous human picked me up and put me inside. I sat motionless. This was a new place, and the smell was completely different. The two humans sat in chairs near the hutch, talking and watching me. I didn’t know what to do. Slowly I explored my new hutch, which was the same size as all the others. But this one was a little bit different. There was an opening on one side. A hole. I moved as far away from the hole as possible, to the opposite side of the hutch. The two humans eventually left, and I was alone. I cautiously approached the hole, sniffing along its perimeter. I could see that through the hole that there was a ramp leading down to the ground. I backed away to the other side of the hutch, and there I stayed.

The routine here was similar to what I was used to. My new human brought me greens a few times a day, and often would stop and put her hand in the hutch. I didn’t trust that hand, and always moved away from it, but after a few days I allowed her to touch my head. I couldn’t stand it when she touched my back or side so when she tried to do that I would move away. My new human never forced me, and for that I was grateful. I still avoided the hole in the hutch.  I tried not to even look at it. One day my human opened the top of the hutch. I expected she was going to give me greens as usual, but this time she tried to push me towards the hole. I panicked, and tried to get away from her hands. After a few minutes she stopped, and I was again alone.

The next day later my human again opened the hutch, and this time grabbed me and picked me up. I struggled to free myself but she was too powerful. She lifted me out of the hutch and put me on the ground! Oh, what a sensation that was. I was completely stunned. My human backed away slowly. I was used to her moving around near my hutch, and so once she put some distance between us, I felt more secure.

My mind was reeling—I was outside! Cautiously, I began to explore. I quickly discovered this new environment was about three times the size of my hutch, and that the ramp connected my hutch to this new area. There were just a few sprigs of weeds here so I nibbled delicately—my first truly fresh food.

Suddenly I felt the need to run! I tried hopping. Although in my mind I knew what I wanted to do, my body wouldn’t comply. My hind legs were so weak that I didn’t know how to move them properly. I crawled under the ramp to lay down, overwhelmed and exhausted. My human put food and water in bowls in the new area, then left me alone.

Later that night, when everything was quiet, I made another exploration. I went up the ramp and into my hutch, then immediately turned around and went back down. I desperately needed to feel the ground under my paws. I laid back down under the ramp, and slept a dreamless sleep.

I quickly became accustomed to my new environment. My legs grew stronger, and I was able to hop around, though I still couldn’t run like I’d longed to do when I was a young rabbit—the space was too small. One day, I started scratching the ground and I couldn’t stop. It felt so good! I dug and dug, and dug some more, until I was completely exhausted. The next day I dug again, and the day after that. I wanted to dig a deep tunnel, but the ground was made of cinder, and my tunnel kept collapsing. But still I dug, using my now powerful back legs, and pushing the cinder out of the hole with my chest.  My human spent a lot of time watching me, and one day she put a metal plate over my hole, and suddenly I had my den.

I spend a little bit of time each day in my new den. It felt so right to be able to go underground. I could breathe under there, and relax. I still had my greens delivered every day, and plenty of pellets and water, but now I had the space to move.  I spent a lot of time under the ramp, or lying on top of it, watching the world. There were chickens who came by, but although I always hopped up to greet them through the wire fence, they took no notice of me. And there were two cats. How I wished they would come see me, but they too ignored me.

My life went on. I began to accept my human as a part of my life. Except for that one time when she put me in my new area, she never picked me up, and she brought me tasty things to eat. When she gave me carrot tops, I couldn’t believe anything could taste so good. It was a taste explosion. I started to look forward to her coming, hoping that she would bring more carrot tops. She brought me lots of interesting plants, and sometimes a whole carrot, but carrot tops were my favorites.

Late one evening, something quite amazing happened. My human walked up to my area, and I could see she had a rabbit in her arms. She put the rabbit in my area and I completely freaked out. I didn’t know what to do, what to think. The other rabbit seemed as stunned as I was. I felt at once giddy and territorial, and didn’t know which impulse to act on. I hopped over to the new rabbit and touched noses, then started chasing her. We ran around and around the enclosure, and finally the new rabbit hid under the ramp. My heart was beating wildly in my chest. My human watched us for a while, then left us alone. It was very dark by then. I felt so many things all at once I couldn’t begin to sort them out, so I just sat panting in the corner. Then, the new rabbit slowly came out from under the ramp, and approached me cautiously. We touched noses, and suddenly my jumble of emotions coalesced, and my heart felt huge in my chest. I nuzzled the other rabbit’s face and neck, and she did the same with me. At that moment, for the first time in my life, I felt truly happy.

My life began that night. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a dream. I felt such strong emotions whenever I looked at the new rabbit, and had to continually go up to her and touch her nose with mine to make sure that she was real. She was big and beautiful, with silky grey fur and deep eyes. We were constantly beside one another, I never wanted to be more than a few inches from her, and she made sure to stay close to me, too. We would play together, running around our little area and up the ramp to our hutch, and when we were tired, we would both stretch out side by side on the ramp. The world had opened up for me, colors were brighter and the smells sweeter. I wasn’t alone any more.

My dream life lasted exactly fifteen days. Fifteen days only. On the last day of my happy life, a man came. The grey rabbit knew him, I could sense it immediately. She even hopped up to the fence to be closer to him—she wasn’t afraid. My human spoke to him earnestly, pleadingly, but in the end, he reached over, picked up the love of my life, and carried her away.

After that, the colors faded, the smells weren’t so sweet. My food, even carrot tops, lost their flavor. I went on as before, alone, my heart beating its steady rhythm.

My human spent a few days working in the yard near my hutch. One day, to my great surprise, she completely removed my enclosure. Suddenly I had room to really move! I hopped around, exploring my new environment. I could hardly believe my senses. There was a fence all around, but the space was so big I could actually run for the first time. Somehow my legs knew what to do and I found myself flying across the ground, doubling back and moving as fast as I could. It felt amazing. And so many more plants to explore and taste! A few days later, my world expanded again when my human built another addition, and for the first time I stepped on grass, living grass. What an exquisite sensation for my paws. Now, my enclosure included a tree. I had never been near a tree before. I was giddy with excitement, and immediately started digging. I had no plan, no purpose, I just needed to dig.

And so my life continued. I began to look forward to my brief interactions with my human. She would always bring me something to eat, and eventually I allowed her to pet my back. She was always very gentle with me. When she was in my enclosure, I would come right up to her. I was no longer afraid.

The cats would come in sometimes, and I would hop up to them and try to make friends, but both would end up trying to swipe my nose with their front claws. I was undeterred, and kept trying, but it never worked. The chickens continued to ignore me as always, so my only companion was my human. I was grateful, but still I couldn’t help longing for more.

Then my human bought another rabbit, a young one, and put her in my enclosure. For a brief moment my heart leapt, but quickly I could see this rabbit would be no friend to me. She was terrified of her own shadow, and wouldn’t even look at me. Every time our human would come near, she would go into a full-blown panic. She was like the chickens, another creature with whom I had no contact.

One day my vision began to fail. At first the edges of my field of view began to look grey, then black. I felt my head getting heavy, and my body seemed strange to me. I carried on as always, eating, resting, hopping around, digging, but something was not right. There was a pressure in my skull, something I couldn’t quite figure out. I felt myself becoming thinner. My thoughts became muddled. My only comfort was when my human companion would rub my cheeks and ears. I rested more often, and watched the world slowly go dark. I began to confuse my dreams with reality. Was I still in my second hutch, bearing babies only to hear them slaughtered? Was I still with my mother and siblings, safe in our nest of straw and fur? Was the grey rabbit a fantasy, or had we truly spent those fifteen blissful days together? Had I ever really touched the ground, run, dug burrows, or was that all just a dream? I didn’t know. My head felt too big. I couldn’t hold it straight.

I wanted to spend time under my tree, but it was getting harder to move around. My human came often, and stroked my fur, but the sensation wasn’t like before. Everything felt so distant. I no longer knew when I was awake or when I was dreaming. I tried to go back to my hutch, my first home in this place, but suddenly my back legs stopped working. I began to drag myself along the ground with my front legs, until I could do no more. Then I laid my head down. The world was completely black. I could feel my heart beating, beating, beating. Then my heart beat no more.


Susan English is a born adventurer, a world traveler with an insatiable intellectual curiosity. She holds a master’s degree in physics, once lived on a sailboat in the San Francisco bay, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, and spent five years on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she owned an off-grid, completely self-sufficient farm in the jungle. Now she is happy to be living with her partner in beautiful Medellin, Colombia, the city of eternal spring.

You can find more of Susan’s works, including a travel memoir and a feminist science fiction novel, on her Amazon author page:

Visit her website at


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