The fastest of them all

Pips was sitting in the middle of the green meadow, lazily chomping on a single strand of grass. He was surrounded by his family and friends. It seemed like everyone had chosen to be outside today, but that wasn’t strange because it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the grass was green and the only wind present was a soft, warm, caressing one. Pips scanned the field slowly for any sign of Dandelion. Not the flowers of course, they’d never been his taste. No. Pips was looking for the most beautiful doe of the colony. Today, this beautifully perfect day, would be the day. Today was the day of the annual Rabbit Race and therefore the day that he would show Dandelion he was the fastest bunny of their warren. She would of course instantly want him as her mate and they would wed and go on having more kits than any other bunny ever delivered to their colony. He would be the hero of the warren. Oh yes, sweet victory would be his. Now where could she be hiding?

He jumped a little from the unexpected sound of his name coming from behind him. But the startled feeling quickly subsided as he looked into the beautiful blue eyes of the fair snow white bunny sitting mere inches away from him. He puffed out his chest a little as he cast a dazzling confident look her way.
“Dandy! My dearest! Come to wish me good luck?”
Of course bunnies can’t blush, but Pips could have sworn that the bleak cheeks of his lady friend turned ever so slightly pinkish as she looked up into his eyes.
“Yes! of.. of course!” she stammered, “I really hope you win”
She said it with a little too much enthusiasm which our hero could only find extremely endearing and before he could reply to her she hastily hopped away leaving him infatuated, chuckling to himself.

All of the spectators to the race had positioned themselves in front of the south side of their burrow, overlooking the orchard. The race would consist of five laps around the orchard and the contestants were mentally preparing next to the finish line that was, coincidentally, also their starting line. Pips gave his fellow runners a bored look while washing his front right paw for the third time. He needed to look exquisite for when he’d win the race and tell Dandelion he would take her as his mate. He uttered a soft snort when his eyes rested on Darren. The silly buck was stretching and groaning fanatically, as if the poor bastard had any chance of winning. Poor souls… Especially Bubble, who was already panting from hopping from the field to the orchard. Yes, this would be so easy.

The thumping to announce the start of the race was given and all the contestants lined up. The crowd fell silent as their anticipation grew. Pips stretched out his right hind leg as far as he could, put his front paws right in front of the line, crouched down and waited. A small tension rose deep in his belly as the other contestants got into position. The warm comforting breeze that he’d felt earlier on the meadow was now a whispering focus.

And there was the start sign! A dozen rabbits spurred into motion almost exactly at the same time, but Pips was already ahead of them. With the agility of a hare he sprinted ahead, leaving a cloud of dust behind him. He laughed aloud as he heard some of the quicker rabbits cough behind him. An exhilarating sensation filled him as he soared ahead, his paws now barely touching the ground in between leaps. Oh yes. Today would be the day.

Halfway through the second lap he peered through the apple trees to the other side of the track. He could spot at least three competitors who were now exactly half a lap behind him. He saw the dark brown coat of Bubble trying to catch up with the rest of the group in last place, but a couple of seconds later he was nowhere to be found. Strange… Maybe he had given up his struggle. Pips tried to glare through the trees to see if he could spot Bubble somewhere but he couldn’t, so he gave up and concentrated on his victory once again.  It wasn’t long until he started to catch up to the rabbits in last place. He could clearly spot Spot and Digger now only a few meters away from him. He accelerated even more to show off his overtake to his audience but when he caught up with Spot there was a flash of orange before his eyes and then Spot was gone. He scurried to a dusty halt and frantically watched the trees where the orange flash had disappeared with his friend. He carefully hopped a little towards the trees and narrowed his eyes to pinpoint… anything. Any sign of Spot, any movement. A couple of the faster bunnies were now coming into his lane, he heard them running towards him but he couldn’t stop scanning the trees.

Three runners were now almost upon him, slowing a little because of their confusion. For they had no idea why the fastest rabbit of the warren would stop in the middle of the race, especially since they knew him very well. And that’s when he saw the fox’s head peek out from the underbrush.
“Run!” he yelled to his friends as he kicked into a sprint once more.
All of the rabbits in his vicinity kicked into action too as the fox started to follow them. Damn this creature was fast! Of course they had been racing on the point of the track farthest away from the warren. The quickest way there was through the orchard, but that was also the way the fox came from. They sprinted back the way they had come from, yelling at the competitors coming their way to turn around, to get to the warren. Suddenly there was chaos. Bunnies who ran towards the trees, backtracking the course or running off completely. The fox was howling with pleasure as he haunted them, plucking bunny after bunny from the group whenever he could sink his teeth into one.

Pips saw that the fox was faster and killing just for sport. He needed to hide, and fast. He darted into the trees when he saw the fox was distracting himself with tearing into one of his cousins and hurried toward the thicker part of the orchard. He was not alone, five more rabbits followed suit and hid behind the larger trees or under some branches. Pips found a tree root sticking up a few inches and it was just enough to squeeze under. His heart was pounding in his tiny chest as he heard the screams of his family and friends grow silent. They were the only ones left. He glanced into the orchard from under the root for any sign of the fox. He was panting severely but tried to keep as quiet as possible. There. Not 12 feet away he saw the orange butcher prowling towards a tall tree. When the fox rounded the tree he heard the voice of one of his brothers.
“No, please, no! No!”
One yelp later the orchard grew quiet once more.

He knew he had to get out of here, knew he had to make a break for it towards the warren. Where had the fox sneaked off to? He needed to time this right to make it. It would be about forty yards to the warren. Yes, he would need to time it right. He perked his ears and listened for any sign of the fox’s activities. It wasn’t long before he heard a yelp once more and at precisely that moment he kicked of again, this time racing for the sake of his life. The three other rabbits who were left had had the same idea and were sprinting alongside him, straight for the safety of the warren. The fox didn’t enjoy his latest kill for long however, and was quickly on their tail once more. Thirty yards and he grabbed Digger, the slowest of the four. Twenty yards and he bit into Grey. Ten and he sank his teeth into Velvet. Pips could see Dandelion standing in the burrow’s opening, looking at him worriedly. Five yards, the fox was coming. Four yards, Dandelion scurried backwards into the burrow to make space for Pips. Three, the fox was on his heels. Two, he felt the hot breath reaching for his neck and… he was inside the warren. The fox hit his head hard on the edge of the hole and was now disorientated, falling from one side to the other as he tried to scurry away. Pips sank to the floor howling in remorse of his lost friends. It had indeed been the day that had proven him to be the fastest rabbit of them all.

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