is a story written for kohii_temple as a second sequel to her story The Semantics of
Contracts and the sequel to it that I wrote, Semantics and
Angry Poultry. If you haven't read those, this won't make much
Of Eyestalks, Stalking and
Of Eyestalks, Stalking and
"You may remember a tale or
two involving a Friar, a Beholder, and its many beautiful eyestalks,
and its propensity for brilliant practical jokes at the expense of a
certain Hunter of the Order, one Gabriel Van Helsing. Well, Gentle
Listener, though it seemed that the tale had finished and the
splendiferous creature with numerous appendages had vanished into the
night, ne'er to be seen or heard from again, alas, you may now be
regaled with more—"
The Beholder spun at the sound,
which is to say that it whipped around where it was floating in
mid-air, and also screamed as it did so, curling its many eyestalks
inward and squeezing its one big eye closed.
"Oh my God, you startled
the damnable hell out of me." Carl rubbed his hand across his forehead.
"What the—what—oh my." Carl leaned against the wall and put his hand
over his heart. "I thought I heard someone talking, but never expected you."
The Beholder opened its large
eye and unfurled its stalks, but it looked decidedly sad. "I was just
telling a story."
"Oh, I—I see. I mean, not that
I'm disappointed to find you, I was just expecting something
shaped like a person . . . surely you understand."
The Beholder smiled. "Yes, yes I
understand. If you expected only two shrimpy little arms and legs, my
endowments are a bit much to take in at one time?" It batted its many
"Mm, yes, exactly. So how are
you? We haven't seen you in such a long time. Um, what's it been . . .
a month or two?"
"Three! Three whole weeks! And
I've missed you, Carl."
"I've missed you, too." Carl
smiled and patted the Beholder's head and then squeaked as one of the
many stalks that wrapped around him came to rest in a bit of a
sensitive spot. With only a little difficulty, he reached behind
himself and moved it up to his lower back.
The Beholder looked at Carl with
all those eyes for a long moment. "So, tell me all about everything
you've done since last we met! Show me your brilliant inventions!"
"All right, I'm happy to," Carl
said, looking around a little nervously. "I should warn—I mean, I
should let Van Helsing know that you're back." So he can stay far,
far away, Carl thought. "Oh, and please, for the sake of our
friendship, do not turn him into a rooster. Or a chicken. Please? It
might all seem like fun and games to you, but he gets very testy . . .
and he has many sharp things at his disposal. Volatile men, you know,"
Carl said, splaying his fingers out and widening his eyes. "Best to
just leave him alone and visit with me, and then leave before he finds
you here—I mean, before you get the urge to transmogrify hi—anything.
Sound all right? Come on, let me show you the . . . what's that look in
your eyes? Oh God, what have you done now?"
"I always have the urge to
transmogrify. Isn't that a delightful word? Transmogrify,
transmogrify!" The Beholder spun in the air, clapping a few of its
stalks together. "La la la la la, transmogrify!"
Carl cleared his throat.
"I didn't turn him into a
chicken, I swear. No pointy beaks for him—dangerous, you know. He could
peck someone's many eyes out with a chicken's beak."
"Oh, what did you—to whom
were you telling the story when I walked in?" Carl watched the Beholder
lift a few eyestalks to its mouth and clamp them over it, trying very
hard not to laugh. The Beholder quickly dashed to the side, no longer
blocking the view beyond him. Carl flinched and let out a small cry at
the little ball of white now perched on top of a table, a pile of dark
clothing in a puddle on the floor directly in front of it.
"Oh my word," was all he could
say. He'd never seen a bunny look quite so . . . evil. "I
didn't know rabbits had the proper facial muscle makeup to be able to
frown that way. That is disturbing. Van Helsing, please stop that. I'll
"Isn't he cute?" the
Beholder said, wiggling his eyestalks. "And he's white and fluffy, and safe.
on a bunny that could possibly do damage, like on a rooster."
The Beholder giggled.
Until the bunny pulled back its
upper lip and opened its mouth to reveal some substantial front teeth,
all with the incredible frown still in place.
"Ooh," Carl said, raising an arm
to block the view. "I won't sleep for a week, Van Helsing, please stop!"
The Beholder laughed again,
though a little more nervously than before.
"Just change him back, and I'm
sure all will be forgiven—ALL WILL BE FORGIVEN, YES?" he said the last
in the direction of the frowning rabbit without actually looking at it.
He had to look, however, when he heard a clicking sound, and realized
that it was the bunny's tiny claws digging into the surface of the
table. The little ball of fluff trembled and then popped up onto its
hind legs, once again succeeding in a maneuver that Carl would have
never guessed a rabbit to be capable of. It crossed its front paws over
its breast, and shook its head.
By now the wicked looking bunny
frown was emblazoned on Carl's mind, and he knew that looking or not
looking he would wake up in a cold sweat because of it, so he stared in
fascination and moved forward, meaning to touch one of the surprisingly
limber forepaws with his finger, but jerked it back before the bunny's
teeth clamped together where the fingertip had been just a moment ago.
"Perhaps if I show you a few
things and then, not to rush you off, of course, but you could be on
your way and change him back before he does something else with that
bunny body that'll traumatize me for life, hmm?"
The Beholder chortled and
wrapped several eyestalks around Carl's arm, leading him away.
Carl was showing him a new type
of blade he'd been working on when he turned to look back in Van
Helsing's direction. "I had no idea rabbits could growl. No,
But it was too late. Van Helsing
in his fluffy, white rabbit form had backed up to the edge of the
table, reached a gallop (if it could be said that a bunny could
gallop), and had sprung from the edge of the table as gracefully as a
gazelle before Carl could even finish his sentence.
The rabbit whirled its big
fluffy ears in an attempt to stay airborne longer, and perhaps even
take flight, and for just a moment it appeared to hover in mid-air as
the momentum slowed and Carl was again horrified at the amazing
elasticity of bunny facial muscles as the rabbit appeared to smile,
while still frowning, a combination that was far more unpleasant than
he ever could have imagined.
And then it dropped like a stone.
"I had no idea rabbits could—"
"Curse?" the Beholder asked,
himself amazed at how much what one would have expected to be an
"ooopf" or an "oooomp" had sounded like, well, something he didn't
think was polite to say in proper company.
When the rabbit recovered, it
ran to a table leg and began gnawing, the sound making Carl flinch
occasionally as he tried to hurry up and show the Beholder a few of his
creations to please him so he would bid adieu and hopefully not come
back until he could keep himself from turning Van Helsing into a farm
animal or a woodland creature.
Carl heard a terrible popping
sound, and turned in time to see the rabbit—"I had no idea rabbits
could run on only their hind legs!"—hoisting a huge splinter of wood in
one paw and throwing it like a spear at the Beholder. It sailed through
the air at least a solid meter below the hovering creature. The rabbit
ran and stood beneath it, raised up on its hind legs, batting at the
air with its little paws in a way that Carl might have found extremely
cute if not for that horrible bunny frown. Finally, the rabbit dropped
back down, panting, and Carl might have sworn by the way its mouth
moved, mumbling to itself, if indeed rabbits could mumble.
Carl could take no more, and
despite the horrific frown on the furry little face, he bent to pick
the rabbit up into his arms, hoping that Van Helsing would decide not
to bite him after all. Holding it calmed the rabbit considerably. He
petted the rabbit between the ears until the frown finally disappeared
and Carl thought he might actually be able to sleep that night if he
could remember this expression instead of the horrible one that came
before that made Van Helsing in rabbit form look like some otherworldly
creature they might preserve in a jar for later study in the Order's
"Now, you've had your fun and
the poor thing—I mean, Van Helsing's exhausted. Change him back? For
The Beholder blushed and said,
"Yes, Carl, of course I'll change him back. For a kiss. Just right
here." He touched the center of what Carl might have called his
forehead with one of his eyestalks, while at least eight of them
hovered in front of the rabbit, but not too close, wide-eyed and
wiggling their eyelashes. A little bunny paw whizzed through the air,
but couldn't reach them.
"Very well," Carl said, and
wisely took the bunny's two front paws in one hand to keep them still,
and again filed away that rabbit facial muscles were apparently even
capable of looking shocked, as he leaned over and pressed a kiss to the
Beholder's forehead, or its above-the-big-eye area. Eyestalks wrapped
around Carl to keep him in place many seconds longer than he'd
intended, and he soon felt Van Helsing trying to pull his little paws
Carl held fast, but soon felt
bunny ears trying to wedge between his lips and the Beholder's rather
slick exterior. When he finally pulled free, he smiled and said,
"Ah," the Beholder said,
smiling, all his little eyes batting furiously, except the three that
appeared to be frowning at Van Helsing, just out of reach of the one
ear that was whipping back and forth between them.
"I'll come back and visit soon,
Carl. And perhaps if you can get him to agree to be nice to me before I
arrive, I won't transmogrify him at all. Maybe we can all have tea
together. Tea. And carrot cake." The Beholder opened his mouth
and looked at the rabbit, that had now pulled its paws free and simply
placed them over his eyes in what Carl could only guess was a complete
And with that, and many
eyestalks quickly winking at Carl, the Beholder was gone. Carl shouted
after him. "What about—"
But before he could finish his
sentence, he found that his arm was around Van Helsing, who stood
directly next to him, and in fact, on his foot. Carl's arm was around
his waist, and Van Helsing stood there, completely naked. Ah, yes, the
puddle of clothing by the table—interesting twist, that.
"If I ever get a hold of him,
I'm going to tie his eyestalks together and throw him into the sea,"
Van Helsing grumbled, but Carl knew he'd never do any such thing.
"What?" Van Helsing said,
turning from where he'd rushed over to grab up his clothing.
"Clearly something, Carl. You
never squeal without some type of reason." Van Helsing sighed heavily
and leaned with one hand on the table, when he discovered that he had
trouble pulling his pants up properly. "It's a bunny tail, isn't it?"
"A proportionate one, at that.
White and fluffy. Don't make that face, Van Helsing, it might stick
With a little pop and a tinkling
laugh that seemed to come from above them, the bunny tail disappeared,
and Van Helsing finished dressing. "If you ever tell anyone about this."
"Oh, who would I tell?"
"I'm taking up voodoo, or black
magic, or something so that I can fight that little beady-eyed nuisance
with his own weapons. Fight fire with fire."
"Do rabbits really have
exceptional eyesight?" Carl asked, already distracted by his racing
thoughts and curiosity.
"Yes. I could see how amused you
were even though you tried to hide it. My eyesight's actually still
better, and I suppose it will be for a while if the pattern follows.
Remember how I shouted at dawn for three days after he made me a
"You know that was a
psychological response, Van Helsing, because he never turned you into a
rooster, he always turned you into a chicken and threatened to make you
lay--" Carl stopped while he was ahead, judging from the expression on
Van Helsing's face. "Did it hurt when you frowned like that? In
everything I've ever read about rabbits, I had no idea those
expressions were possible. Mostly they just widen their eyes, eat
carrots and other vegetables, hop, and . . . ."
"Well, you know. They do
things . . . like rabbits."
"What things? Fence? Swim? Draw
"These things take a while to
wear off," Carl said in a sing-song voice. "So . . . do you have any
rabbit-like urges right now?"
Van Helsing walked up to Carl
and put his arms around his waist, pulling him close. "I do." He leaned
down, his lips almost brushing Carl's. "I very much want to take you
with me . . . ."
" . . . to a nice little private
spot . . . ."
" . . . where we can eat cabbage
and carrots until we fall asleep."
"I don't like you very much,
have I ever told you that?"
"Oh, you don't like me, volatile
man that I am?"
"You know I only humor him,"
Carl said, and managed to actually pout.
Van Helsing chuckled, but then
pressed his lips to Carl's. "In all seriousness, these things do take
time to wear off. Your room. Now."
" . . . and once again the
Beholder is to thank for many hours of happiness shared between two
dear friends. And all the while Van Helsing, rotten yet dashingly
attractive brute that he is, has no idea just how much he owes the
little creature whose eyestalks he'd like to tie in knots," the
Beholder said in a dramatic voice to the fireflies and any woodland
creatures in the area, speaking in a language that they all naturally
could understand, that being one of the many skills he hadn't gotten to
reveal yet. He did a little puppet show with two of his eyestalks,
pressing them together and making kissing noises.
"Gentle Listener, can you only imagine the things the horrid
brute would want to do the poor, sweet Beholder if he remembered that
such creatures can perform amazing feats in addition to the brilliance
of transmogrification, such as . . . invisibility?" He
giggled as he floated up to find a window that would lead him to Carl's
Two little rabbits looked at
each other then, bits of vegetation falling from their mouths. Carl
would have been gratified to know that yes, rabbits can indeed look
shocked, among a host of other surprising expressions.