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Thrill of the Hunt
by Sly Squirrel
©2003 Sly Squirrel -- all rights reserved

They were alone. Perhaps that's what Max feared most, in the face of all the torture and threats his captor had thrown at him. There were already burn marks on his arm from where Sergeant Harry had worked on him with toaster wire, each coil looping around the still-raw bullet hole that matted and clotted the fur all around it. No, all the pain in the world couldn't hold a candle to the simple idea of isolation. It was Max and Harry, the rabbit staring down his killer, unable to run.

He struggled to stay awake. The Sarge got mad when he wasn't conscious.

Harry sucked on a cigarette as he paced around the tiny room, looking at the white walls with absolutely no features on them. A mountain of butts stood at attention in an ashtray. The table looked like a winter wonderland, since no one came in to clean up the ash. It was Harry's way; he would put a little pain into the rabbit, step back, smoke a cigarette. Go, stop, go. Pain, void, pain.

The butt in his mouth became part of the mountain. Time for pain.

"Where is it?" he asked of the rabbit, getting close enough for the bunny to smell his tobacco-and-morning-breath stench, more than enough to make his brain go into flight reflex frenzy. Deeply set in that man's eyes was a sort of hidden passion, as if he truly enjoyed the way his shackled rabbit prisoner cringed on a level still not fully understood by human beings.

Max understood. It was the same gleam every predator had when the prey was in sight. The thrill of the hunt... and kill... was upon him.

"Where is the Tank, Max?" Harry smiled, blew the last remaining wisp of smoke from his lungs and right into the rabbit's glazed eyes. "You have to tell me where the Tank is before I'll let you go."

"I don't know."

Sergeant Harry sighed a sensuous sigh. "Max, I know this can't be good for your health. Rabbits aren't supposed to be exposed to high stress - it's bad for their hearts. Now, I know you're probably not in the best of health --"

"You want to kill me!"

"Just tell me where that Tank is and it'll be all over. You can go back to your cage and lay in that warm, safe timothy hay, and I can go save a a hundred people from losing their humanity. It's a win-win situation, Max!"

"They blindfolded me before I went to the Tank!" Max pleaded. "I don't know where it is!"

A cold slap to the face followed. "Come on now, Max! I know better than that. You full-rabbit types are all the same. You all have the same goals! Just tell me where the Tank is and we can get this all over with."

"I can't."

"The Tank that your kind uses to brainwash children into your cult!!" Max could feel the toaster wires on his arm heating up again. "You have to give up the information; it's going to cost thousands their humanity if you let it go on. Thousands! Does that number mean anything to you?"

"I would like to help, if I could." Smoke started to rise in the room, smoke that smelled of burned fur and singed flesh. It made the rabbit's nose turn up in disgust, long before the pain settled into a far-off, partitioned portion of his mind.

It was for the better. Hours of this sort of abuse could drive a man insane, let alone a rabbit.

And then Sergeant Harry had his pistol out: a beautiful, wood-stocked, well-oiled Glock. He chambered a round and flipped off the safety with a heinous grin. "I can't believe you rabbit types. You get a wild hair up your ass and think that the world owes you some sort of debt. You push and push and push until someone gives in, then you just push some more. You want amnesty here, new regulations there... hell, it's like we have to build a whole new system just for you!"

"I can't help what the others do. I just want to live my life like a normal person."

"But when someone refuses it comes down to bunnies like you, bunnies that brainwash our youth and send them to the Tank. So, tell me --" he pointed the gun at the rabbit's long, stiff ear. "Where is the Tank?"

Max felt very weak, as if his body had left his mind thrashing about in a pool of fear and anxiety. He gasped for breath, found only the smoldering smoke of his burning arm, and choked. The gleam in Sergeant Harry's eyes bled over to his half-smile, a smile that carried on it a glitter of plaque-stained teeth.

"Tell me!" the Sarge screamed. Max shook his head and begged for the human to believe, but the man was beyond words now. "People are losing their humanity! Tell me!"

Max pulled together the last remaining shreds of his reserves and swallowed a lungful of the bitter, smoke-filled air. The gun pushed threateningly on his ear, Harry's finger pressuring the trigger, eyes gleaming with that thrill of the hunt, the room electric with nervous energy. Harry pushed, Max started crying. Harry screamed, Max screamed. Harry's muscles tensed, Max grew stiff as an iron gate. "Tell me!" came one screech, "I don't know!" came the other.

Finally, the room exploded.

The walls helped keep the sound alive in that tiny room. On one wall a single blemish now stood, a small indentation where lead flying at high velocity had impacted the soundproof concrete. Around that minor dent were spatters of blood, as if Jackson Pollock had come in for a session in crimson.

Max would die of blood loss, Harry knew. Rabbits' ears are so full of blood vessels that he'd be gone within an hour. For now he could only watch as the rabbit went to shock; soon enough he'd get one last chance to ask the question still burning in his mind.

A buzz came over the tiny intercom. "We lost our signal on this end," a tech came over the air, "Any word from the guy yet?"

He still had an hour. One more hour.

The Sarge laughed. "Nothing. Just give me a little longer."

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