The Baum Rabbit
A flagon of pumpkin juice sipped by candlelight
I have had two encounters with the Baum Rabbit in my life. The first took place during the winter months of 1964 when I was still a young man. I have always lived in Rochdale, and as long as I have lived here I have been aware of the local legend.
‘There’s this rabbit,’ they used to say when I was a kid, ‘not a rabbit in the traditional sense, but something demonic that takes the form of a rabbit, and if you pass by St. Mary’s Church at night, the Baum Rabbit’ll get you, and it’ll get your soul.’ I can’t remember specifically who ‘they’ were, but they used to say things like that when I was a kid and it stuck with me, as these things do. My friend, Jack Carrow, and I would sometimes run through the old churchyard on our way back from school, hoping desperately to catch a glimpse of the fabled Rabbit, but we never did. It wouldn’t be until over a decade later when I would have that unfortunate privilege, and on that night I was painfully alone.
It was past midnight, the moon was out and there was a thin ground fog shrouding the cobbles of Toad Lane. Also, I was blind drunk. I thought about conveniently leaving that particular detail out, but I feel it is perhaps best to recount this story as accurately as possible. I don’t wish to cheat anybody, least of all myself. Like most nights back then, I had spent it frequenting the local pub. Nowadays I very rarely leave the house, but I was a young man that night and the world was still mine to roam as fully and as naively as young men will, although as I recall after my visit to the pub I was doing considerably more swaying than roaming.
As I staggered and stumbled onto Park Lane, I came upon St. Mary’s Church, a looming, spectral structure. The streets, and indeed the churchyard, were empty and silent and all of a sudden I felt a chill prickle my nape and descend down my spine. I thought back to the old stories I’d heard as a child. The Baum Rabbit. A ghost rabbit that terrorised the surrounding area. It sounded so silly to me then, a tale so obviously made up that I wondered how I had ever entertained the notion that it might be true. There were no ghosts. There were no Gods. There was just getting sozzled and getting your end away, and in my early twenties it was to my eternal shame that I had far more experience in the former of those two certainties.
But of course, that was when I saw it. It emerged from the shadows, seemed to simply materialise from the ether (alright, yes, I was drunk, but I remember it so clearly), and then it stopped, spotlighted by the moon – a rabbit, ghost white with red malevolent eyes that really did seem to look deep into my soul and threaten to take it hostage. I remember my heart thudding against my ribcage. I remember wanting to run and remaining still. I remember sharp breaths. But it was those eyes I remember most. Those cruel, crimson eyes.
Then it disappeared. I don’t mean that it darted off somewhere, I mean it simply vanished. (Again, I realise how this sounds.) For a moment, I simply stood where I was, staring at the patch of grass inside the grounds of St. Mary’s Church where I had seen the Baum Rabbit. Just stood and stared. Then I went home and slept a thin and uneasy sleep.
The next day I did what any sane man would do and reasoned away what I had seen. It had been an illusion brought on by the combination of drink and an anxious mind. Nothing more. It couldn’t have been real. I knew that. And so I didn’t breathe a word of what I’d seen to anybody. I put it to the back of my mind and tried to forget about the whole thing.
A couple of nights later I was out patrolling. I waited until the midnight hour and ventured out with a torch, a flask of coffee, and a camera strapped around my neck. There was no fog this time and the night was still. Perhaps the silence was broken only by the hoot of a distant owl, I don’t know, I can’t remember, but it would certainly have seemed fitting. I made my way back to St. Mary’s Church, not really sure if I might not be in the process of going crazy. I waited there for maybe half an hour feeling faintly ridiculous, and then I trudged back home.
And that was it. For years, that was it.
As I say, I don’t get out much these days, but last night I decided to go for a stroll. It was a warm night, but there was enough of a breeze in the air to make it pleasant. I had no real destination in mind and yet somehow I found myself staring up at St. Mary’s Church like I had done all those years ago. And as I did, I thought back over everything I have recounted here so far. Back to the night I saw the Baum Rabbit. And I found myself wishing that I had sought out the Baum Rabbit one more time, just to know. Just to be absolutely certain of what I had seen that night. Because I have had my doubts over the years. Oh, yes, I’ve had my doubts. How could I not?
I no longer have those doubts.
Last night I saw the Baum Rabbit again. In the same spot. It had the same ghostly white aura, the same red eyes, glinting ever so slightly like two rubies at the bottom of a well. I am much older now, but it was the same. And now I have no doubts. I know what awaits me. I know that one night as I lie in my bed staring up at the ceiling, on the very edge of slumber, I will see the pale figure of a rabbit leering down at me. I will see those eyes. And I will know that my time has come.
‘The Baum Rabbit’ll get you,’ they used to say when I was a kid, ‘it’ll get you, and it’ll get your soul.’
About the Author
Daniel Lamb is a biped humanoid with a good memory and a vivid imagination. He lives in a small village in the North West of England where nothing much ever happens and he has to make things up instead. He is still coming to terms with living in the real world. He has been featured in the Best of CafeLit 2013 anthology and is currently writing a novel.