Bunny Derek had been out all morning foraging in The Forest. Or at least that’s what he had told The Village elders. The Bunnies lived a simple, peaceful, life in the land that they called Nob. They knew nothing of life beyond the boundaries of The Forest. In fact, they thought life started and ended in The Forest, that The Forest was all, ubiquitous, everything and everywhere, well everything and everywhere in the horizontal plane at least. And, to all intents and purposes, it might as well have been just that.
It is not completely true to say that Derek had been foraging. He had, in fact, been exploring. Exploring was in this Bunny’s blood, his father had been an explorer and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father, and his father’s father’s father’s father and, well … you get the picture. The sum total findings of countless generations of explorers exploring had come to the conclusion that The Village was entirely and completely surrounded by The Forest and that The Forest was very big indeed. So big, in fact, it was all at once, everywhere.
Derek had told The Village elders that he was foraging on account of the fact that exploring had been officially abolished as a Bunny profession. “’Tis nowt but idle wandering!” proclaimed the village’s new Prime Bunny, Dave Daveson, who had come to power on the strength of promised tax-breaks for small businesses and swinging social reform, “and no Bunny henceforth, not even the Dereksons, will explore The Forest. It is everywhere, I think we all know that by now. Derek Derekson, you should get a proper job of work, like foraging or something. You wouldn’t want to end up like your father?”
Derek Derekson loved exploring though, and—thankfully for Derek Derekson at least—exploring and foraging were practically indistinguishable. Only with foraging Derek had to make sure he returned to The Village at the end of the day with a bag full of nuts and berries or—as Derek tended to do most days—a sack filled with firewood for The Sacrifice.
Foraging for firewood in The Forest was pretty straightforward. “You just need to be able to see the wood from the trees,” Derek’s foraging friend Duncan Duncanson had once told him. Foraging was not quite so noble a profession as exploring in Derek’s eyes, however, it did pretty much enable him to wander around all day in The Forest unencumbered and unhassled.
With the time fast approaching noon, Derek had been foraging south along The Stream since dawn. It would be time to head back for The Sacrifice soon. This was, Derek figured, the principle reason why exploring had thus far managed to discover only that The Forest was everywhere.
Village Law, you see, requires that every Bunny, Doe and Kitten be present at The Sacrifice, on pain of death, and since The Sacrifice started daily at the very moment the sun passed beneath canopy height, it made it very difficult for explorers to get very far away from The Village before they needed to head back.
Some Bunnies had, of course, ventured too far and not made it back to The Village in time for The Sacrifice, and had either a) been thrown upon The Sacrifice, b) disappeared for a while before returning, only to be thrown on The Sacrifice, or c) never been seen again. Derek had no intention of following his father, Derek Snr’s footsteps, by falling into category c.
Derek was not bitter about his father’s disappearance, it was a simple fact of The Village life. Explorers almost inevitably during the course of their career, or perhaps more accurately at the end of their career, would at some point not make it back in time for The Sacrifice. It was a hazard of the job. Derek felt sure though that he could discover more of The Forest with a bit more time exploring, but he also felt quite strongly that the only role he would be playing in The Sacrifice that day would be one of a passive, reverential, observer. So, with that thought fresh in his mind, he turned around to head for home.
Upon turning back upstream, Derek’s eyes were drawn skyward by a flash of brilliant light crossing the heavens faster than he could possibly comprehend. An airborne Pyre, as bright as The Sacrifice itself, shot overhead at twice or possibly thrice times canopy height. Followed by a bang so loud the shockwave knocked Derek clean off his feet and back into The Stream. He landed with a clonking splosh, and lay unconscious on the far bank.