A plush rabbit I got for the children moves by itself. I bought it for my eldest on his fourth birthday. It wasn’t his favourite toy but he didn’t hate it. He cuddled it for a few days and then it was put into a storage bucket under his bed.
After that it only came out when a certain number of creatures were required for role-play, like a tea party or playing shops or – more troublingly – a military battle. My son transitioned to war games at one point and the rabbit was sometimes enlisted as an enemy conscript and killed.
I always liked it, more than my son did. Perhaps I bought it more for myself than him, a kind of compensation for the fact my parents never bought me plush toys.
The rabbit has a strangely small head for its body and wild, asymmetrical eyes. I take these as elements of its charm, although to see it, one might need to be of a certain age – or a certain temperament.
And although it was called a “rabbit” on the box, there might have been other interpretations: that it was a bear, for instance, or a beaver. Its rabbithood was nervously underwritten by the manufacturer, who sewed a carrot into its hand. The carrot was later coloured black with a Texta so it could function as a handgun.
My son grew up and moved out but we kept his room, as parents often do, so that he could move back in or stay for a bit if he wanted.
A week after he left, I noticed that the rabbit (never named) was out of the bucket and on top of his bed; the following day, the rabbit was on his bookcase; the day after this, it was hiding in a baseball cap.
One might have thought someone came in and moved it. There are always “rational explanations” for such things. But I’ve lived alone for seven years. To be clear: I never saw it move. Maybe it waited for me to leave before moving, or perhaps it moved with imperceptible slowness – but there was no doubt it was mobile.
I’m aware this isn’t common, for toys to move by themselves. But I’ve come to think that it’s probably more common than people realise, just rarely noted. People are habitually unobservant and the way they explain away the unusual is usually geared so as not to disturb their sense of reality.
I became even more fond of the rabbit – became friends with it, I’d like to think – and often wondered what it might be thinking, whether it was lonely or bored or frustrated, and what I could do to help. As time went on, I engaged with the rabbit more. Some afternoons I would lie next to it on the bed and read it a story – usually something by Dr Seuss or one of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I told it jokes, sang to it and sometimes thoughtlessly unloaded some problem or another on it – worries about money or romance or internet dropouts.
I wasn’t terribly surprised when it eventually did speak to me. I had sometimes wondered whether the rabbit could speak and even whether conversation would one day become inevitable, when it was time to take our relationship to the next stage.
Then, two weeks ago, I’d just finished reading it a story and its eyes seemed to communicate to me a desire for deeper connection. I drew close to the rabbit’s face, just to see. What it said was clear and unmistakeable: “I want to die.”
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 25, 2023 as "Rabbit".
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