Panting on the edge of exhaustion Rabbit, Jeffery and Amber collapsed beneath the shelter of the old oak tree in Rabbit’s back yard. The sun was making a valiant attempt to peek through the clouds but was still obscured by dark cumulus.
“That was crazy.”
“Maybe we should tell your dad?”
“Why not Rabbit? Adults know what to do about stuff like this.” Amber pleaded.
“I know him. He’ll think we’re lying. Birds don’t just fall out of the sky Amber. Come on. Let’s get into the tree house. I don’t want him to see us here trying to catch our breath. He’ll start asking questions.”
“What about our bikes?”
“We’ll go back for them later. Right now I want to get out of sight.”
Jeffery looked at Rabbit between huffs of air. “You knew.....Rabbit.....You knew something was going to happen.....didn’t....you?”
Rabbit looked back at Jeffery but didn’t answer. “Come on.” He started to climb, followed closely by Amber and a few minutes later, when he’d finally caught his breath, Jeffery.
Rabbit didn’t know why he had these feelings. He just did. When they’d first started he had tried to talk to his father only to be questioned as one would question a criminal who’s suspected of not telling the truth. After all, they had coincided with Rabbit’s run of trouble in school, with authority, with his father, so Rabbit now avoided any mention of what he sensed. Instead he learned to harness his ability to his advantage. At first it was cool. He used it to sense what pitch was coming in baseball, the nervousness of fellow competitors at track meets, when a pop quiz was evident in school, but then the new sensations came. They were the ones that stole the very air from his lungs, gave him pins and needles on his finger tips and a sense of urgency. Rabbit quickly learned it meant something bad was imminent and he better stop whatever it was he was doing, or face the consequences. But now, these warning seemed to be moving to the next level. He almost felt sick and all around him seemed to dull into a grey-blue haze.
The wooden slats of the tree fort were solid and well constructed resting soundly between several thick branches of the oak a good twenty feet up. Rabbit sat in the far corner of the structure looking out one of two windows with a strange vigilance.
Amber sat on a wooden box near to him. “What should we do now?”
“I don’t know.”
"I DON'T KNOW!"
Jeffery stood by the tree forts entrance, bent over with his hands on his knees still trying to catch his breath now after his climb.
“What about you Jeffery? Any ideas” Amber said. Jeffery didn’t answer, still taking long deep breaths. “Jeffery? What, did I finally say something to shut you up?”
“I...don’t feel well.”
Rabbit slowly swung his head around to look at Jeffery. The air again felt thick and heavy, much the same as it had been when the birds had started to drop from the sky. Again the day seemed to get greyer, but this time he could see a deep blue haze around Jeffery as he stood hunched over, a bewildered look in his eyes. Jeffery slowly reached for his stomach. As if in empathy, Rabbit felt a surge of sickness swell in his gut.
Amber shouted. “Quit messin’ around!”
“I don’t think he’s lying. Don’t you see how blue he looks?”
“What are you talking about Rabbit?” Amber looked at him like he was losing his mind. “I suppose you’re trying to pull a fast one now?”
He realized what he was saying was foreign to her and only he saw the blue aura around Jeffery. The nausea was intense and he felt like throwing up.
“I’m serious guys. I don’t feel so well.”
“So much for your mother’s cooking.”
“Amber stop it. He doesn’t feel well.”
Jeffery staggered and wavered, his hand reached out to steady himself.
“Jeffery, just sit down. Maybe you’ll feel better. All that running and climbing. You need to calm down and catch your breath.”
“I....ah.....” Jeffery looked back with hollow dead looking eyes as if he was gazing past his friends and beyond the treetop fortress. He toppled backward and was gone. Below the ground offered up a sickening thud.
“Jeffery!!!” Rabbit rushed to the opening past a stunned Amber and threw himself to his stomach as he peered down from the tree top. Jeffery’s broken body lay on the ground below. He wasn’t moving.
Amber began to scream. Quickly Rabbit climbed down from the tree house not making contact with the last rungs and landed on the soft ground next to his motionless friend. The sickness in his stomach had abandoned him as quickly as it had come.
Amber was still screaming from above as Richard Bradley came running around the side of the house into the backyard.
“What happened?! Rabbit what did you do?”
“He....he fell. He just fell.” He was beginning to cry now and Amber’s screaming had also subsided into a blubbering sob.
“Back away Rabbit. Don’t touch him. He may have a broken neck, or back.” Richard said, as he quickly knelt along-side the boy. “What do you mean he just fell?” His father checked the boy’s vital signs.
“We were in the tree house...and....He said he didn’t....feel well....and then he fell.”
“He’s not breathing Rabbit!” Richard Bradley thought for a moment in a tug of war with what his next action should be. He started to perform CPR. “Reach in to my pocket, get the cell and dial 911.”
Rabbit searched his father’s pant pocket and extracted the small phone. He did as directed and held the phone to his father’s ear. There was a see-saw tone. “Rabbit you didn’t dial it right.”
“I did too.”
“Then dial it again. I’m not getting through.”
Rabbit pressed the numbers again. This time it rang, and Richard had a voice on the other end.
“Yes I have an emergency. Send an ambulance right away to......A boy has fallen from a tree. He’s not breathing, there’s no....What do you mean the response time is half an hour. Didn’t you hear what I said? I have a boy, badly hurt, who’s not breathing! He may be paralyzed or...Ah shit! Shit! Shit!” The phone went dead. No choice now. The boy has to be moved. “Rabbit, run to the house get a blanket and my car keys. Bring them here. Hurry now Son!”
Rabbit jumped to his feet and was gone like a bolt.
“Amber honey, come down. It’s going to be OK.”
“You have to. I’m not leaving you here and we have to get Jeffery to the hospital. Please. Just climb down slowly. I won’t let you fall.”
Amber swung her body out over the edge and on to the top rung. Her body shook, but she was able to cautiously descend as Rabbit’s father coaxed her on. “That’s it. You’re alright. Nice and slow. You’re doing great.”
Rabbit returned with the blanket and the keys jingling madly as his father continued to push on the young boy’s chest and breathe life into his mouth on every five pushes. “Amber I want you to run home and tell your mother what has happened. Do you understand?”
Amber shook her head in compliance.
“Tell her to call Jeffery’s mother. We’re going to take him to General in Martin City. Run honey fast as you can now.”
She was gone.
“OK Rabbit I’m going to ask a big favour of you. See how I’m pushing on his chest and blowing into his mouth? Once we get him into the back seat of the car I’m going to ask you to do this.”
“Dad I can’t.”
“Yes you can. Do you want Jeffery to die?”
“Then you have to do it Rabbit. You can’t drive and we have to get him to a hospital. We don’t have time.”
Richard placed the blanket over the boy and scooped his arms under. He struggled to pick up Jeffery’s girth and get to his feet, but managed. With Rabbit leading the way they moved quickly around the side of the house to the driveway. Rabbit opening the black SUV’s backdoor, Richard placed Jeffery’s body, with arms and feet dangling, on the backseat. Rabbit ran to other side and climbed in. “OK Rabbit put your hands together like I showed you and push on his chest.”
Rabbit did as he was told.
“Good,” his father encouraged. “That’s it. Keep it going. Now, tilt his head back and blow into his lungs. Good boy. Do you think you can do that all the way to the hospital?”
Richard Bradley slammed the car door and raced to the driver side. He jumped in, cranked the motor to life, jammed the stick into reverse and blazed backward down the driveway.
For a brief moment as Rabbit pushed on Jeffery’s chest, it seemed his friend had taken a few breaths on his own. His blue aura seemed to gain colour to a deeper shade of blue. But even as they peeled forward and madly sped toward Martin City, Rabbit noticed Jeffery’s blue aura began to fade again. Rabbit knew it. His friend was dead.