There are, I’ve been told, a few existential questions that man is likely to ponder at some point during his existence. Our search for meaning is inborn and natural; we yearn to solve the puzzles, to unlock the doors of life’s great mysteries, to grasp the very ideas that keep us awake at night. Why are we here? Where are we going? Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? All valid questions worthy of thought. There is another question, though, a question that boggles my mind and leaves me unable to sleep at a very specific time of the year. How is it possible that anybody thinks the Easter Bunny is anything other than disturbing and creepy?
I remember it started for me back in childhood, as I’m sure it does for most people. I was vaguely aware of the Easter Holiday and what it meant, but only on a very limited scale. My parents were never what you would call “pious.” My dad is a Lutheran, my Mom a Catholic, but really only by title alone. Nevertheless, I was double baptized, first Lutheran, then Catholic several years later. I like to think my parents were covering their tracks “just in case.” It’s not that they didn’t try. My brother and I had to attend bi-weekly religion classes at the Church to get a good base knowledge of Christianity, and we went to church sporadically, it just never really took. Around the time I was ten, I think we collectively gave up as a family, and resigned ourselves to a life of debauchery and possibly an eternity of roasting in a lake of fire. I digress.
I don’t remember how old I was when I really knew what Easter was. There are pictures of me as a small child in a little bow tie with my Easter basket, adorable, smiling pictures. I may have even been aware of the Easter Bunny, a kind of rabbit Santa that brought me toys and candy. I was not ungrateful, and I appreciated the Easter Bunny, at least at first. He wasn’t up to par with Santa Claus, though. Santa always brought me better presents. The Easter Bunny tried his best, but he was obviously impoverished. Candy and one or two cheap gifts? Poor little bastard.
When I was in 1st Grade, and I remember this vividly, my mother asked me if I would like to go see the Easter Bunny at the mall. I was thrilled. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was excited to see this vagabond second tier gift giver. The only rabbits I had ever seen were small and fluffy, mostly the wild ones around my house. One Easter, when I was small, my Grandfather (who had a knack for giving gifts that he didn’t think through) bought my brother and I two small pet rabbits that had been dyed black and brown. We named them Blackie and Brownie (we were original as hell). Of course, my mother, who is deathly afraid of even the most adorable of animals, wouldn’t let us keep them, so we played with them for a few days and let them loose in the woods. Now, years later, when I think about how painfully brief a life those poor little brightly colored rabbits probably had in the wild before a dog or a Coyote picked them up, it still gives me a twinge of guilt, but again, I digress. The point is I thought I knew what rabbits were. Turns out I didn’t have a fucking clue.
I don’t remember any of the trip to the mall; I imagine it was pretty mundane and average. We were probably listening to any number of the Kid Song cassette tapes we had that were supposed to foster intellectual growth while entertaining the child with catchy educational songs. They were also annoying as hell, and how my poor mother was able to survive that dark period without driving the car into a ravine I’ll never know. I do not remember how we got to the mall, but I sure as hell remember what happened after we got there. I don’t think that memory will ever leave. It remains branded in my subconscious, unyielding, refusing to let go. What I remember most are the screams. Some nights I still hear them.
The colors were the first thing I noticed. Vivid springtime colors, a beautiful rainbow of light purples, robin egg blues, sunny yellows, light greens. They surrounded a stage of fake flowers with smiley faces on them, happy suns, grinning lambs. Sprouts of artificial grass shot up all around, and a beautiful array of Easter eggs blanketed the area, seemingly rained in from the heavens. They were colored in innumerable arrays of shapes and shades. I was mesmerized. It was like Santa’s workshop, only better, and without the dwarves and domesticated deer. Clearly this Easter Bunny had been holding out on me, because his palatial wealth was very apparent. It had to be the largest enclosure ever for a tiny little rabbit, and I was scanning the ground looking for the creature, when I became aware of a presence. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.
I noticed the feet first. Giant, purple things, roughly twelve inches across, probably a good eighteen inches long. They were heavy looking, dangerous. The rest of the creature came into focus shortly thereafter. Six feet tall, purple fur, a large puff ball tail on its gigantic ass. Its ears stood straight up, terrifyingly erect like the horn of a Rhinoceros. It had gigantic hands, monstrous hands, the type of hands that looked as though they could snap a neck as easy as you or I can twist the top off of a jug of milk. The eyes, the eyes were fucking terrible. Huge unblinking orbs, wide eyed. The pupils were fixed and dilated. Its sadistic smile never changed, revealing huge buck-teeth. I was looking at the most terrible creature I had ever seen, some kind of mutant rabbit beast, and my mother had brought me here willingly, no doubt as some sort of pagan sacrifice. I felt betrayed.
I don’t know how long I stood there staring at the beast before I felt my mother’s hand on my quivering shoulder. It felt like years, it was probably only a few seconds. She said something to me, but I was too frozen with fear to comprehend English. She asked me again.
“Would you like to take a picture with the Easter Bunny?”
Was she fucking serious? No. I most definitely did not want to get my picture taken with the Easter Bunny. I wanted to run away and hide until somebody killed it. What had I done to deserve this? Why was my mother trying to let a giant rabbit eat me? It was then I noticed other mothers and their children, some panicked like me, some calm and seemingly happy. The happy ones probably didn’t know yet what was in store for them. I knew I couldn’t let myself go quietly.
“Fuck no I don’t want to get my picture taken with the bunny,” I said. “Do you see THE SIZE of that motherfucker? Look at those teeth!” I’m aware I most likely did not swear vulgarly at my mother in my moment of trepidation, but I am quite sure I muttered the child’s equivalent of terrified obscenities.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” my mother said. “He’s friendly. The Easter Bunny has been to our house lots of times. He’s just like Santa Claus! You love Santa Claus.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. THIS big bastard had been in our house? Lots of times? I pictured him hovering over me, large foot ready to strike me down like some sort of a bunny raptor. And how could she bring Santa into this? Santa was a sweet, obese, elderly man that watched me sleep, had me sit on his lap, and had a fetish for dwarves. THIS was a creepy rabbit, with teeth the size of television remote controls. And aren’t living things supposed to blink? This thing had not blinked since I’d been looking at it.
Not once. That was clearly a sign of brain trauma or psychosis, and my mother wanted me to sit on its lap and get a picture taken. “Sure mom, we’ll get a great one. I hope that photographer is quick, though, because it’ll probably swallow me whole. Might be able to get a shot of my legs hanging out of its mouth. That’d be swell. Grandma would love that!”
According to my mother, I began to cry at this point. I don’t really want to believe that. I like to think I faced my fast approaching death with manly stoicism, but I guess I have to take her word for it. She didn’t mention anything about me pissing myself with fear, so I guess that’s something. She must have talked me into it, into accepting my demise, because the next think I knew we were in line, so smiling mothers could watch their little darlings get gobbled up by a mutated rabbit. I was trapped on both sides by a white picket fence bordered by cartoon lambs and smiling flowers. They had seemed happy and welcoming only moments before. Now they struck me as dark and menacing, the giant rabbit’s evil little minions, ready to pick off any child that dared to escape their furry master’s buck-toothed jaws. Up ahead, at the death chamber where the rabbit sat on its devilish flowered throne built on the tears of children, I could make out the sound of a camera shutter and a cartoonish laugh. It wasn’t bad enough that the rabbit would murder me. It would laugh good naturedly as it did, and one of its henchmen would get it on film so they could watch it later, some kind of sadomasochistic bunny smut film. My mother must have seen the terror on my face. She tried to calm my nerves and assure me everything would be alright.
“There is no need to worry. It’s going to be fine! I promise. The Easter Bunny is very friendly, you’ll see!”
I was quite sure she was wrong. No, mom. It was not going to be fucking fine. I remember the time she had me spend the night over at my friend Davey’s house. Davey had the chicken pox, and I was aware that I could catch it. I didn’t really want to go, and I found it odd that my mother had insisted. She had told me that night would turn out “fine” too. She “promised.” Shortly thereafter I had the chicken pox. She had explained her treason by saying that sometimes mommies have to fib to do what’s best for their children. Back then it was chicken pox that were best for me. Now apparently a six foot tall carnivorous woodland critter was best for me. If I survived this, what the hell else would be “best for me?” Putting a dryer bag over my head? How about playing in the road? Would that be “best for me” too?
As we neared the Easter Bunny and his awful little platform of pain, I began to look around hurriedly, trying to find any avenue of escape. I could see none. My mother had my hand pretty tight. Short of gnawing off my own limb like a wolf caught in a bear trap I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I was surprised I couldn’t hear any screams. Only an occasional cartoonish laugh and the snap of a camera. The Bunny must be eating them before the kids could even manage a squeak of protest. In a way that was comforting. At least it might be quick.
Finally the moment had arrived. I was standing there, next to my mother, at the Easter Bunny ticket counter. A bored looking teenager with acne and bunny ears looked down at us.
Welcome to “The Bunny Trail,” your Easter Bunny headquarters,” he said in a monotone voice. “Which one of these adorable picture settings would you like to immortalize your child’s Easter Bunny visit?”
He proceeded to rattle off a number of fanciful options and potential festive Easter backgrounds, if memory did not fail me; I believe my mother went with the standard option, a run of the mill smallish Kodak size picture of me and the Bunny. My mother was going to let this thing do God knows what to me, and she wouldn’t even spring for the awesome larger picture with the baby lamb frame? At least then my death would have some meaning and dignity. Now it just seemed mean and pointless.
After the transaction was complete, and my mother had handed over her blood money, the bunny eared teenager took my hand and led me over to where the bunny sat slovenly on his feed trough chair, waiting to be fed. In my fascination of the picture money transaction, I had neglected to even watch what had happened to the child that went to his demise before me. I had been aware of him, but then he was gone. I hadn’t seen the rabbit eat him, but the poor little bastard was gone now, no sign of him, so I assumed the rabbit must have been quick about it.
Its funny, the moment of calm that comes over us in our final moments. I’ve heard about bright lights, of hearing angelic voices, of life flashing before our eyes. I was roughly seven, I didn’t have much of a life to flash, nor do I recall voices or lights. What I do recall was an odd floating sensation and peering up at those unblinking rabbit eyes with awestruck terror. They were like tractor beams, slowly drawing me closer to the bunny, hypnotizing me. It’s mouth was frozen in a large mocking smile. I was done. There was no getting around it now. We all must face a death at some point in our lives, and here was mine, at seven years old, at the merciless hands of an abomination of the animal world.
I had to be lifted up onto the creature’s furry knee. I don’t really remember if it was because I couldn’t climb up, or because by this point I was catatonic with fear. I like to think it was the latter. The bunny eared teenager lifted me and placed me on the Easter Bunny’s knee, and then it all went momentarily black.
The next thing I recall with any degree of certainty was a cheery cartoonish laugh, a booming jovial chortle that seemed to resonate throughout the mall, zapping me back into consciousness and awareness. Looking up I saw the Easter Bunny peering down at me, its eyes aglow with primal hunger, it’s mouth dangerously close to my seven year old head. He may have tried to converse with me. Any memory of this is gone, blocked out perhaps. If the bunny had tired talking to me, I have no idea what it could have been about. Santa asks what you want for Christmas, if you’ve been a good boy or girl, stuff like that. What could this fucker have asked me? “Are you ready to die, little boy?” Something like that perhaps? Whatever we may have talked about I can only guess at, but I knew there was only one thing to do. I began to cry.
I use the word “cry” fairly loosely, because it was much more than crying. It was a panicked, full body shriek. I thrashed about like a demon possessed entity. I made such a commotion that for a few moments, I don’t think anybody knew what to do. Bunny Ear teenager was the first to make a move. He snapped my picture, and told my mother to take me home. I didn’t stop crying until we were halfway home.
The picture of the Easter Bunny and I is still in my families possession. Its tucked away in a photo album in some dusty box in the basement of my parent’s house. I’m crying my eyes out, and the Easter Bunny is posed uncomfortably, but my parent’s held onto it for all these years. They held onto it because it’s the only one they have. I never went back to visit the Easter Bunny, as much as they asked I never went back. I knew I was lucky.