You are exploring in the woods with a friend when you get lost. You meet a
person who offers to lead you out and you accept. However, before long you get
the feeling you are being led somewhere nobody would want to go.

Ani Harutyunyan

“Are you lost?” A voice says softly from behind the dry pine tree. A person in big clothes stepped forward and smiled at me. Their features were notable, to say the least: they were a child, most likely going through puberty, bald with a face that wasn’t feminine enough but not masculine either. No body structure was distinguishable under the big long coat this person wore, and the soft voice was neither high and girly nor cracked or low with a man’s tembre.

“What are you?” I blurted out without thinking through my words. The child smiled and came closer to me.

“Why so rude? Or perhaps you don’t know English well. I am Al, a villager who lives near this forest.” Al called out once again, “Are you lost?”

“I am, I lost my friend too. Please help me.”

“Oh my little rabbit”, said Al, holding out a hand, “Your friend Maab has already reached safety. I helped her out. Why don’t I help you too?”

“Will you? Please do”.

Al smiled widely and grabbed my hand. Al began running, forcing me to run through the tangled forest with them. I almost tripped many times as we ran, and gasped “Stop running! Stop running! I’m exhausted!”

A cold childish laughter came out of Al’s mouth, “Why? Isn’t running fun, my little rabbit? You’re friend ran like a magnificent jaguar!”

Al didn’t listen at first, but after running another 200 meters though the densing forest, stopped. Al looked at me with their same smile and told me, looking straight into my eyes, “I guess rabbits get tired quickly, not like jaguars”. Al continues staring at me, occasionally moving around my body to view all of it.

Jaguar? Rabbit? Why is my friend Jaguar? Is it perhaps of her African descent or her skin colour? Is it her body type, her muscular legs and arms?

“Al, but why am I a rabbit?”

Al stopped looking around and set their gaze upon mine, asking, “But aren’t you a rabbit? You’d be a great rabbit with your cute height and coward personality.” Something in me wanted to protest against my “savior” but I remembered that it’s better to just listen to the kid and get home rather than get angry and abandoned.

Seeing that I didn’t respond, Al looked down, sighed and continued, “Shall we go? Only a little bit is left.”

“Only a little bit? But the forest is so dense!”

“Trust me!” Al said, hugging me and looking down from above with their smile. “Don’t you trust me?”

Gasping from surprise, I looked up at Al and whispered, “I do”. However, I felt how I got used to the smile. The same trick doesn’t work twice, as they say.

But the shock of the hug got to me. As we walked on, I felt less and less sure. The forest wasn’t clearing up, and I looked around from side to side constantly.

“My little rabbit, are you ok?” Al asked, not looking back, “Are you nervous?”

“How did you know?”

“I can feel it.”

“And Al, aren’t you too small to call me ‘my little rabbit’?”

There, Al stopped and slowly looked back. “I’m a mother of many children, my little rabbit.”

A mother?

“Of course! I have my little hummingbird, who was my first child, who brought wonderful news at birth. I have my screeching owl, who almost died when born. My little fox always steals food, but I love him anyway.”

“Oh, so you have animals?”

Al thought for a second or two, the answered, “Technically you can say that. Oh look, here’s my home. We’ll stay here for now.”

A pretty looking house appeared suddenly from behind the tree. From far away I could see animals running around. As I was about to ask something, Al said:

“You know my little rabbit, I just got another child. And I’m about to have another”.

“Really? What?”

As we got closer I could see a still baby with stitched on hummingbird feathers and hummingbird legs. It looked weird and fascinating, even surreal. Until it moved.

“Ooh it’s that baby over there. It isn’t done yet. It’s my little jaguar”.

I sharply turned my head to see Maab, my friend, bald, with jaguar ears and tail stitched on crying “Roar, roar!”

I turned back at my ‘savior’, who continued:

“And now I’ll have a little rabbit”.

I felt a sharp stinging on my neck, and slowly I fell asleep.