Anders couldn’t sprint for much longer.
After 250 meters of adrenaline-fueled flight, he and Eirik desperately closed in on the cottage’s slate grey door on the far side of the field. They shouted – screaming ‘hello,’ hoping someone was home. Neither stole a glance behind them. They didn’t need to. They knew it was still there because the panda that Eirik carried over his shoulder, with a front row view of their pursuer, wailed like a siren.
If nobody opens the door, thought Anders, we’ll go through it.
The cottage door creaked. Whoever was there must’ve recognized the danger because, an instant later, the door flung wide and Anders and Eirik barreled across the threshold at full tilt. However, Anders’ pants pocket caught on something on the doorpost and momentum threw him headlong across the hardwood floor.
The sound of a slamming door had never sounded so good.
They had arrived in a kitchen. Measuring cups and spoons, stacks of baking pans, and bags of flour and sugar cluttered shallow counters. A whisk stuck out of a bowl of batter, incompletely mixed, along side several broken egg shells and a 12-cup cupcake pan on a flour-sprinkled table for four.
Face flushed from exertion, Eirik peered through pale pink curtains, wary. “I don’t see it.” The panda had fallen silent. Eirik tried to peel the it from his shoulder but the bear clung to him like an acrophobic octopus at the top of the Space Needle. “Panda. Hey. Hello?”
Anders climbed to his feet, breathless. “At least he’s not freaking out anymore.”
Dropping his arms, Eirik pulled a face as the bear remained attached to his torso like a koala. “Or we broke him.”
“That was close,” said a prepubescent boy’s voice from by the door.
You have no idea. “Thanks, kid,” said Anders. “You really saved our – you’re a rabbit.”
A brown and white rabbit the size of Anders’ boot hopped right up to the man’s toes and looked up at him. “Alfred doesn’t usually chase hikers,” it said. “At least, he never used to when Nana was here. The butterflies always did make a mess, though.”
“You knew Nana…” Nana had a rabbit friend. Rabbit. Talking rabbit. Anders considered the numerous impossibilities that had occurred in the last 24 hours – and they had been numerous. And now, the adorable domestic animal being adorable at his feet. Why not? “I’m her grandson.”
The rabbit’s black eyes lit up. “Anders?! Wow, hello! Forgive the mess, I’m baking.” It binked over to some drawers and tugged out two light yellow kitchen towels. Dropping them on the tile, it pushed the towels their way with its nose. “Use these to clean up, I’ll be but a moment. Don’t worry about making a mess!”
It scampered away down an ordinary-sized hall.
Anders picked up the towels and handed one to his friend. “We need about fifty of these and a hose.”
“We need something green.”
The kitchen connected with a living area. In it, a single uncommonly large, tall backed sofa with matching beige pillows faced a dark hearth. The room twinkled with pinks, pastel yellow and whimsical blue accents. Glass figurines were poised on every surface: of deer, owls, bunnies and blue ferns. The charming wooden décor framed an enormous handwoven rug – warm ambers and royal reds. After a hard look there was no mistaking.
Wiping bug guts from his jawline, Anders paused. “There’s no green.”