ORLANDO — The Freeline Productions novel “Bloody Rabbit” takes readers on a dark journey into a world where people are desperately struggling to find stability, as they cope with a grim and lingering economic anxiety. The book’s author, Michael W. Freeman, views this anxiety through the eyes of the book’s lead character, R.T. Robeson, a resident of Orlando. It follows him on the sometimes darkly comic, sometimes terrifying path his life takes.
The book — available on Amazon.com and on Kindle in eBook form — also explores the ways in which a serious economic downturn causes some people to look for scapegoats. As R.T. Robeson so painfully discovers, he has become one of those symbols with a huge target on his back.
Explore “Bloody Rabbit” through this excerpt from the novel.
Robeson still had a headache when he got back to his apartment that evening, and all he wanted was peace and solitude. Mercifully, he found that he was alone. The tiny apartment was in darkness, and Ryan was nowhere to be found. He hadn’t left a note, either, indicating when he would be back.
Robeson took out a shot glass and then a bottle of vanilla Vodka from the refrigerator, and poured himself a drink. It only took one, plus a few minutes relaxing on the couch, for Robeson to feel sleepy. Although it was only 9 o’clock, Robeson crawled off to bed.
When he woke up, it was still pitch dark in the bedroom, but as he glanced at the clock, he saw it was now 11:16. Robeson had only been sleeping for a few hours. His headache was now gone, but he didn’t exactly feel refreshed yet. Wondering if he was still alone, Robeson laid there perfectly still in bed and listened silently, to see if he could hear if Ryan had come back.
There had been a few other times when Robeson had gone to sleep before Ryan had gotten home, but fortunately Ryan tended to be very quiet if he showed up and Robeson was already in bed. So Robeson figured he might not even hear Ryan in the next room.
So he listened again.
At first, there was nothing but silence.
Robeson laid there, in the pitch darkness. He made sure not to move or do anything that might obscure the sound. He felt himself starting to drift off again into sleep ….
And then …. he heard it.
Robeson opened his eyes, and glanced over at the clock by his bed. It was 11:32 p.m.
And then –
He heard it again – like water dripping.
Robeson sat up. That made no sense. Surely he must have slept through the sound of a dripping faucet many times before. Why did it now seem loud enough to wake him up?
He got up, and tossed on a t-shirt and shorts. As he opened the door of his bedroom and peered out into the main room, it was still in darkness.
“Ryan ….?” he whispered as he flicked on the light. But he was alone. There was no sign of Ryan sleeping on the couch tonight.
He heard it again. It was almost as if the leaky water was falling onto a drum and not a sink. It sounded like it was coming from the bathroom.
Robeson opened the bathroom door and flicked on the light. It was quiet and still in there – nothing looked out of the ordinary.
And then –
A drop of water fell from the faucet into the bathroom sink. Robeson reached over and tightened the faucet, then waited for about 30 seconds. Nothing. The dripping had stopped.
The odd thing, though, was that last drip had been so much softer than the others. It’s almost as if it had quieted down once it knew Robeson had come into the bathroom.
Robeson flicked out the light, then went back to the bedroom. He tossed off his clothes and crawled back into bed, shut off the night light and was ready to drift back to sleep. He was surprised that Ryan wasn’t back yet. It was possible he was staying with Nadine.
He was starting to fade off when a sound shattered the tranquility and silence in the unit – a loud crash and the unmistakable sound of glass breaking.
Robeson sat up in a wave of near-panic. He looked at the clock and it was now 11:45.
He waited a moment, but got no response.
“Are you out there?”
Again, nothing but silence.
Robeson turned on the light and again tossed on his shirt and shorts. He opened the door to the main room quite apprehensively, and cautiously peeked out.
Robeson reached along the wall and turned on the main overheard light. Brightness suddenly illuminated the entire room – and no one was there.
It appeared that Robeson was still alone.
Now clearly nervous, he moved toward the kitchen, going extremely slowly. As he did, he moved past the front door – and reached over and turned the doorknob to be sure it was locked. It was.
He moved to the kitchen now, and before he got there, he noticed it: the plate that had broken into pieces on the floor.
Robeson kneeled before it and picked up a couple of the pieces. He couldn’t recall having used this plate anytime recently, and oddly recalled that it had been securely placed inside one of the kitchen cabinets – unless Ryan had used it. But as Robeson looked at it, the plate appeared to be clean – no sign of food crusts or anything else on it.
And somehow it had fallen to his kitchen floor and shattered.
Robeson picked up the biggest pieces and tossed them in the trash, then got out a dustpan and brush and swept up the rest. It was a good thing he’d heard it, because otherwise he could have walked in the kitchen the next morning, and stepped on it with bare feet.
Robeson tossed the last of the broken pieces into the trash. He walked back to the bedroom and shut the door behind him, then sat down on the bed for a moment. Robeson no longer felt particularly sleepy, and was wondering if he should have something to drink.
There was something unsettling, Robeson thought, about that entire Bloody Rabbit concert he had just worked. Was everyone in this world now determined to be miserable all the time? Had unhappiness become a social trend, like they were elite members of a private club? Thinking back on the concert itself, the audience seemed captivated by the band’s brutal assault-like tactics and efforts to bring them all down. But where exactly was the pleasure in being miserable?
He was absorbed in these thoughts when the sound jolted him back to his apartment: He heard a door in the next room open and shut.
Suddenly there were goose bumps all over him.
“Hello ….?” he practically whispered in a trembling voice.
There was no response.
Robeson stood up cautiously, with the speed of an aging turtle. Clearly frightened, he slowly opened the bedroom door and scanned the main room. The first glance again showed he was alone.
So Robeson walked over to the front door and checked it. It seemed securely locked. No one could have come in through that door.
The only other door, outside of the two closets, was the one to the bathroom.
It was now shut.
Robeson walked over to the bathroom. He hadn’t shut it all the way when he’d gone in to check the leaky faucet, and there was no breeze in the apartment that could have pushed it shut.
Was someone in there?
His heart now pounding rapidly, Robeson reached over and took hold of the doorknob.
Then he stopped.
He remained in that position for a few seconds, holding onto the knob, although a bit more loosely now. Robeson couldn’t quite bring himself to turn it. He just had such a terrified intuition about why that bathroom door was shut.
Did he absolutely have to open it? Couldn’t he just go back into the bedroom and lock the door behind him? Then he remembered there was no lock on the bedroom door.
As Robeson stood there holding that doorknob but not quite being able to bring himself to open it, he almost felt like he was in a chess match where he couldn’t decide his next move because he was facing a possible checkmate. And for some weird reason, he had a momentary flashback to an incident that happened when he was a little boy. Robeson had grown up in a large turn-of-the-century home in Massachusetts, and one that had a basement with four rooms in it. One evening while sitting in the living room watching television, he heard his father yell from the basement for him to come down there to help him with something.
Robeson got up off the couch and went into the kitchen, then into the hallway that led to the door to the basement, and ….
…. he stopped dead in his tracks.
There was nothing particularly ominous about the doorway leading into the stairs for the basement. He had gone down there so many times, even played down there with friends.
But on this one occasion, something held him back. It was that same eerie intuition, that it wasn’t a wise idea to go down there. And the boy then began to wonder: had he really heard his father’s voice down there?
But why was his father so quiet now? There were no sounds coming from the basement at all. It was dead silent down there.
And awfully dark, too.
The boy was about to call out to his father and ask Are you down there? when instead his gut instinct told him to turn and rush away from there. The boy did, running back to the living room and flopping down on the couch, where he suddenly felt so much safer.
A few minutes later, his father charged into the room, furious.
“What the hell are you doing?’’ his visibly irritated dad hollered. “Didn’t you hear me calling you in the basement?”
Well, yes, Robeson wanted to say, but you see, I got awfully scared when I went to the top of the stairs ….
But it all sounded a bit silly, so he pretended he hadn’t heard a thing.
Now, standing there in his apartment holding a doorknob, Robeson felt equally silly. The front door was clearly locked – no one could have broken in, and if it was Ryan, he was probably sitting on the toilet with one of his gun or hunting magazines for reading material. I’m perfectly safe in here, Robeson assured himself, as he finally turned the knob and opened that door, and peered in ….
…. and he saw it.
He saw it instantly.
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