Robert Whiting In search of awesome

Exploring the Grounds


Erin woke up at 6:23 and looked over the railing on her top bunk to see if any of her roommates were awake yet. They had stayed up well past lights-out the night before getting to know each other.

The early morning sun was just coming through the windows, and she could easily see the bunk across the room. Emily, on the bottom bunk, was curled up into a sight ball with the blanket thoroughly kicked down below her feet. Harper, on the top bunk, wasn’t visible, but the lump indicated that she was still here, somewhere.

Erin leaned over the rail to find Zoe sitting on her bed reading a book. “Want to go exploring?”

Zoe looked up, smiling, “Sure, as soon as I’m done with this chapter.” She looked back down at her book.

Climbing down from the top bunk, Erin changed out of her pajamas and into jeans and a bright green sweater. It was summer, but the mornings were still cold up in the mountains.

The common room was empty and dark with only a hint of red coals in the fireplace under the grey ashes. The two girls walked to the front door of the dormitory. Outside, the morning light filled the valley.

“Are you sure we’re allowed to just walk around?” Zoe asked.

“Breakfast isn’t until 7, so I don’t see why we can’t look around first.” With that she pushed the door open and stepped out into the crisp mountain air. Zoe followed–glancing once more around the common room before shutting the door behind her.

The girls dorm was nestled into the treeline of a large clearing that centered on a large log building–the Lodge. To their right, they could hear a river pounding over rocks, but the trees hid it. Trees covered the hills on either side of the valley, and all the way up and down it except for the clearing with the lodge.

As they approached the lodge, it became obvious that the main entrance was on the opposite side. On the left, what looked like stables, from the main lodge smoke rose lazily from three chimneys, and on the right, a patio with picnic tables and a fire pit. Erin led the way up the trail in silence took the path left toward the stables.

“Rabbits!” Zoe ran past Erin into the stables. Erin caught up and stared up at the rabbit hutches lined up against the wall. They went from a foot off the ground all the way to the ceiling.

Zoe seemed to notice their size too. “My rabbit houses aren’t like this at all. It seems like a waste of space, besides, how is the rabbit supposed to get up there?” She pointed at a series of ledges and boxes at least six feet in the air.

The rabbits began to emerge, hopping from their boxes to the edge of the ledges and peering down at the girls. Each hutch had 2 to 4 pairs of tiny eyes staring down at them. All except the last hutch, where a dark shadow moved, then froze.

Zoe stood by the first hutch staring up at the rabbits and back down at the food pail, while Erin walked down the row to the last hutch. At the top, a jet-black rabbit stared down at her, it was much smaller than the rabbits in the other hutches.

Grabbing a handful of hay from the bail next to the hutch, Erin held it up to the cage as high as she could reach and made a kissing sound, “Here, little rabbit.”

The little black rabbit looked at the hay and wiggled its nose, then it looked over the ledge at the bottom of the cage and jumped. Erin screamed, “NO!” But the rabbit disappeared out of the air before it even started to fall.

Zoe ran over to Erin, “What’s wrong? Hey, how’d that rabbit get down?” Pointing at the black rabbit, now standing up against the wire with its feet on the floor.

Erin turned a little red and glanced at the floor. “Sorry, it jumped from up there and disappeared! I…”, she trailed off looking at the little rabbit. It was entirely black except for a white star on its chest. And folded on its back, the rabbit had the most beautiful black feathers she had ever seen.

Zoe and Erin stared at the rabbit-with-wings for a long time before Erin followed the rabbits intense gaze to the hay in her hand. “Oh! You’re hungry.” She held the hay up to the cage and the rabbit ate several handfuls of hay. The Zoe even ventured to scratch its head while it ate.

Erin took out a small notebook and started sketching. It was the most beautiful and cute creature she had ever seen.

Suddenly, the rabbit perked up its ears and looked toward the open door, after a moment it laid its ears back and Erin heard a tiny little growl. Then in one swift movement, it turned and leapt into the air, spread its wings, and disappeared.

An angry muttering voice came from just outside the door. Erin and Zoe looked at each other and without a word ran behind a large stack of boxes in the corner.

“Not even the first day, and those kids are already leaving doors open and messing with me animals.” A tall man wearing a plaid shirt, jeans, and boots stalked in and grabbed a pail by the door, scooping pellets out. The rabbits appeared at the cage floors almost immediately, except for the black rabbit. He poured a scoop into each hutch, and they began devouring the pellets.

He stopped at the last cage. “Ya still sulking? Well fine with me. Yer still going to that university in the Fall, and yer going to plump up first if I have to force feed ya.” The sound of a horse’s whinny came through the open door. The man looked up and yelled, “I’m comin. Keep yer hooves on.” He stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

Erin and Zoe ran for the door, looked out, and then ran for their doom. They burst through the door and smell of bacon washed over them. There were two tables filled with girls, with mostly empty plates covering the bar by the kitchen.

“Zoe, Erin,” Ms Joy stood in the kitchen with a flowery apron on and a spatula in one hand. “Next time you decide to go out, please let someone know where you are going. The camp is kept very safe, but I still need to know where you are. You’re late for breakfast. Grab a plate, we’ll be starting orientation in 15 minutes.”

After breakfast, Erin took out her notebook for orientation. She opened it to the first page to take notes. But to her surprise, centered on the first page, was a sketch of a black rabbit with a star on its chest, black wings spread from its back.