PREVIEW MORE OF THE BOOK HERE: THESE ARE NOT EXCEPTIONS, THE ENTIRE 500+ PAGE NOVEL LOOKS LIKE THIS.
"There are fairy tales to be written for adults, fairy tales still almost blue."
-André Breton, The Surrealist Manifesto
Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! is a puzzling, epic, illustrated, experimental novel for everyone who wants to be a wizard, but who also knows how hard it is just to be a human being.
It's a story about a boy and a blue rabbit.
* * *What if you had an imaginary friend?
* * *What if she came back?
A sort of "Calvin & Hobbes" meets "Alice in Wonderland," with an unhealthy dose of "Foucault's Pendulum," and a pinch of "House of Leaves." Okay, I'll admit that sounds p s y c h o t i c. While Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! is all of these things, it is also a story about a boy and his best friend, a blue rabbit-who-is-not-a-rabbit, and how he finds her, loses her, finds her, loses her, and finds her again.
It is also a story about myth and mundanity, discovery and discrimination, history and mystery, friendship and obsession, LARPing and lucid dreaming, secrets and Shakespeare, camaraderie and conspiracy, profanity and pickles, human trafficking and human kindness, the obvious and the occult, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Ωmega, entropy and m a g i c .
It is, I promise you, original.
The book follows Mark Volhovsky, a dark-haired, angry boy who lives with his single Ukrainian mother and attends high school in Warren, Michigan. There is teen drama, as this is technically a young-adult novel, but I've spared you the worst parts. Mark's life takes a turn for the strange when he is reacquainted with Chicory, his lagomorphic childhood playmate, who, somewhere along the line, picked up the endearing quirk of pyromania. It's a boy-wizard tale set in a world where there are no schools for witchcraft or wizardry, or perfect mentors, or free rides to greatness... in other words, this world.
If this novel were a show, it would probably be rated TV-14 (LV), so it's not for everyone. It is not just a text story, (though the majority of it was written and saved as email drafts at the library) because the book is heavily illustrated, too. There are many pictures, riddles, poems, songs and puzzles in its pages. It is not ergodic literature, nor is it transgressive. Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! is far too compassionate for that. It's a book about reaching across the darkness and slapping your neighbor awake, and then lighting the candle in their heart. But first, the slapping. That's essential.
Long story short, it's a book with a
Writing this book has been a pure act of raw creation. During the process, I wrote the story on old napkins with drying-up pens, on paper bags with a golf pencil, on the back of strange receipts I found in the park with a purple crayon, and in the cold condensation of public bus windows with my bare finger, hoping I would remember the turn of phrase or snatch of dialogue when I returned downtown after midnight, to add it to the stacks and stacks of notebooks with collected plot fragments. (Naturally, the story cannot be enjoyed in this way by most people, so I've gathered and condensed it to a single book.)
I began working on Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! back in Twenty-Aught-Five, before the recession, when I had to, and still have to, rely upon the support of my friends in Detroit and the surrounding area for survival. It's been a rough ride, but thankfully, not as rough as it could be. This book has been a personal journey of mine, and now, at last, the journey is over. Did I make it through the wilderness? I'd love to share what I've found. To do that, I'm gonna need you.
This will be the book's first introduction to the world -- the inaugural, or אst printing.
The more backers I can garner for this printing, the better the books, and everything else, will be.
I suppose another way of saying it is, "as above, so below."
I am offering the novel as a paperback for $25.00 donations. I believe this will cover the printing, binding and shipping of each book. As for the digital edition, I am offering the whole e-book for all donations as low as $5.00. For the price of a single slice of heat-lamp-warmed pizza, you can own the whole e-book, and digest it as many times as you'd like. The book is over 500 pages long, so it's a satisfying story. If you guys meet the goal, then b/w editions are assured. Anything higher, and we're talking colors, special inserts, and maybe we can even get a bible-printer to do it, for a timeless, classy look that'll look übersvelte on your bookshelf, next to A Wrinkle in Time and Fight Club.
If we win, I expect to have the book in your hands by the end of November of this year, possibly sooner.
That's a brand new,
-- in your direct possession --
For as little as five dollars.
I hope you realize how awesome this is.
A brief explanation of illustrations in this book:
'What is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?'
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! will feature ideograms and supportive illustrations, but no direct portraits of the characters. The reason for this is to maintain the trust between author and reader. If someone reads a text and imagines a kindly uncle figure as appearing in a certain way, and someone adapts the text to a film and makes the character look like a Russian arms dealer, well, then, you've lost something. This is why all paperback and hardcover editions of the novel will include blank pages for your own illustrations, so that your copy will be unique from all others. (A very special exception to this rule will come when someone orders a hardcover edition with a hand-done portrait by the author.)
Funds raised for this project will go to final edits, typesetting, paperback and hardcover printing, e-book publishing, and cover design costs, and you can be sure I'll be endlessly grateful. If all goes well, I promise to dedicate my life to creating beautiful stories just for you.
* * * * *
If the original donation goal is met, this will be awesome, but if this project sparks enough interest I still want to give you something else for your help in bringing Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! to life, so if the bonus goal of $5,000.00 is met, I promise these things:
- I will give every donating patron the whole e-book.
- I will put everyone's name (for those who want it) in the back of this book as a patron.
- I will give everyone who ordered a paperback edition their choice of either paperback or a hardcover edition.
And if, by some chance, the second bonus goal of $6,000.00 is reached, I will also do these things:
- Everyone who ordered a hardcover edition will have their choice of receiving either a hardcover or a special "biblical" edition of the novel.
- Everyone will have a page of their paperback or hardcover edition hand-illustrated by the author with a character of their choice.
- Everyone who ordered a paperback or hardcover edition will receive a separate, hard-bound copy of "Song for a Cynosure," one of the powerful poems featured in Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!
* * * * *
If you're interested, the following is a brief excerpt from the manuscript of Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!: a puzzling novel by C. Casey Gardiner. The final version will likely be set in some classier typeface, like Day Roman, Gentium, or Arno Pro. (Yes, I'm a type geek, too.)
* * *
"Do you know how many times zones there are in the Soviet Union?"
Mark looked ahead. "What? Time zones?"
"Yeah... time zones. Go on, boy. Guess."
"The, uh... Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore, sir..." Mark cleared his throat. "They've been calling it plain old Russia for a while now." He paused. "Like, decades now."
"Fine," The old man waved his arms behind him, where the young man followed through a dark passage. "But, guess anyway."
Mark shrugged through his heavy wool overcoat. "Beats me... Six or seven?"
Mark realized the banality of the conversation was necessary. Over the years he had learned many things, but one of them was that different people handle stress in very different ways. Some didn't handle stress at all. This man was clearly terrified, and it was always better when clients weren't shrieking obscenities, or worse, prayers, while one was working.
"That's a lot of power."
Mark looked up. Something about the phrase sent a faint chill dancing between the young man's shoulder-blades. Across the filthy, neglected basement, a crowbar hung loosely in the old man's gnarled fist. The words were an echo, but untraceable. They sounded very familiar.
Mark narrowed his eyes. "What?"
"The spark..." The old man gestured with the crowbar to the rusty fuse box in the dark, dripping corner of his basement. There was an intermittent electrical discharge in the gloom; an arcing blue light that traced its way around cracks in the cement. "Tell me about...it. You must know! Where's it come from? How'd such a thing get here, and... well... what have I got to do with it?"
Mark's broad shoulders shifted beneath his faded wool coat as he shrugged. He watched the light skip from shadow to shadow. "Nothing." He scratched at his head of messy, dark hair. "It has nothing to do with you. It needs energy, but it wants to be left alone. That's why it picked your basement. As for where it comes from... your guess is about as good as mine." Mark reached into his coat pocket for an eight-ounce plastic bottle filled with water. He unscrewed the top. "It's not a 'spark', though, it's a class-three preternatural... um..." He paused and gazed absently at the shimmer in the plastic surface, and the tiny bubbles hugging the rim inside. Probably, the man cared very little about Mark's personal classification system, or about anything else he had to say. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, spark's as good a name as any. Hold that thing up, if you will."
The man raised the crowbar to a horizontal position. His hand shook as Mark poured some of the bottle's contents out along its length. "Now... Is it right, you think, to be using water?"
"Holy water," Mark corrected.
"Holy water! I'm no electrician, but..."
"I know... don't worry. I'm prepared. Professional, remember?" Mark tried to keep up his confidence as he pulled on a pair of black leather driving gloves. The truth was, he had no idea if they would help or not, but he couldn't let the man know. After all, he had yet to be paid. He stuffed one leather-clad hand into his left coat-pocket and pulled out a small sticky-note pad with symbols rendered in a thick black marker.
"What's that, now?"
"Seals." Mark peeled a few neon yellow sheets off and spent a minute as he stuck them in a circle on the wall. Mark checked his handiwork, and found he was disgusted by it. God, this looks idiotic, he almost said, but instead he explained, "This configuration restricts movement by the law of thresholds. It should keep it away from the wiring. Pass that to me now, will you?"
The man licked his lips as he passed the dripping crowbar. "What're you gonna do, then?"
"I can see you..." Mark said, gripping the blessed tool and prowling back and forth. "You're not supposed to be here..."
"Have you done this before?"
Mark glanced at the man's fidgeting hands. "I'm genuinely sorry about this," he said.
The man tilted his head, and opened his mouth to ask a question, but in one swift motion the crowbar crashed through the wall and sent a cloud of debris flying.
"Sonovabitch!" the man howled. "Perfectly good plaster, that was!"
"Sir, I'll need you to stand back!" He swung again.
Crackashh. Another explosion, and now he was shrugging his stiffened shoulders, and blinking away the filthy dust that landed in his eyes. "It keeps on moving." He spat the dust out of his mouth. "Gotta isolate its ley-field and pin it down... I really should have brought a phurpa, but hey, we improvise."
The man protested again after the third swing, and the fourth, and several others that stung the young man's hands, but through the billowing plaster dust, Mark Volhovsky found himself peering into a big, black hole, and in the hole, there was a Something.
"...mother of god," the man rasped.
"Now you see it?" Mark steadied himself, not daring to look away or blink. "Worth the mess?" He raised the crowbar again.
There was no answer but labored breathing.
Mark nodded with a faint smile on his face. "I'll take that as a-"
The Something moved.
"No! No you don't!" Mark swung and connected with something vaguely tangible. A bolt shot out and surged up the crowbar.
"Augh!" he growled as the electrical shock bit his hand through the glove. He almost dropped the tool, but held on tight.
"I warned you." The man's voice was weak. "Didn't I... didn't I warn you about water...?"
Mark ignored him. As he faced the freshly gaping hole in the wall, and the Something which was darker than the shadows around it, he realized that on this morning, at this hour, he intensely hated his job.
Mark was a demonologist, among other things.
In the right circles it sounded impressive, but he was a cut-rate demonologist. He stole his holy water from churches when the priests weren't looking. He researched his techniques from grimoires bought at second-hand stores and rummage sales. There was also the internet. He advertised in online forums, and somehow, for the time being, it paid his bills.
As obscure and thankless a line of work it was, it was something he felt he could do satisfactorily, and with confidence--even as he worried that it might now be the only remaining thing he was good at. But, he was stuck with it.
Mark hadn't at all intended to specialize in this absurd field, but he knew the uncanny path his life had taken him on could only have led him to pursue uncanny things. It wasn't fate that led him to chase these eldritch creatures through buildings that people barely glanced at as they sped through the decaying streets, but it was a series of choices. All of them had been made for one ever-present reason.
His life, he feared, had become a recursive farce. Something quantum-pathetic.
If she could see me now!
He grimaced, raising the blessed crowbar again, but then his features softened.
Yes. If she could see me...
That would be enough.
* * *
Did you enjoy that?
Okay. Here's one more clip, and then I'll let you go.
* * *
Mark stared at the clock. “This... is... stupid,” he growled.
He hadn't slept long, but the time he did get to sleep had been filled with strange and menacing dreams, which even now were quickly fading from his memory. Mark decided that a shower was in order, and soon was standing beneath a column of steaming water. As the heat eased the night’s tension from his shoulders, fragments of dream raced through Mark’s mind.
There had been many different dreams, or perhaps one long dream in many different parts. Mark couldn’t really recall what most of them had been about; he only knew that there was an uncomfortable feeling associated with them. The end of the final dream, though, he could remember—he doubted he would ever forget the words the harpy had said.
It had been a harpy; he was certain of that. In the way of dreams, he had known what it was, even if it looked nothing like what he would have expected. He had also simply known that the creature’s nature was dark, and that it had wanted to help him. The harpy had promised to affiliate itself with him, because the enemy of one's enemy is always considered one's friend.
It—(she? Mark thought it had seemed female)—had never said so directly, at least not that he could recall, but Mark had no doubt about her intentions. He had met her slit-pupiled, predatory gaze, and had known, as one knows in dreams, that his life would never be the same.
* * *
He had met the harpy in the dazzling atmosphere of a vast, ornate ballroom. The walls were covered in silk and velvet drapery, and classical statuary rested on marble plinths around the room. Gold-accented mirrors hung behind the plush chaise lounges and Elizabethan sofas lining the walls. The polished onyx floors were graced with fine carpets, and high, arching windows opened onto the darkness outside. Crystal chandeliers chinked softly in a slight breeze, casting glittering reflections over the formally dressed people below.
Some of the people had seemed to be human; others were things Mark had no name for, but their furry, scaly or feathered bodies were still graced with tuxedoes and scoop-backed dresses. There might have been some people with wings; Mark couldn’t quite recall. He had been far too engaged in his conversation with the harpy.
He had spotted her across the room when she called him by name. He had gone to her without thinking about it, and had found himself marveling at a small, furry creature, grinning wickedly up at him from the arm of a gold-threaded davenport. He had known, as if on instinct, that she was a harpy, although she was totally lacking human features.
Her face was that of a hyper-intelligent short-haired canine, with a bit of fox thrown in for variety. Her body resembled that of some spotted wildcat, like an ocelot or a jaguar, with the notable exception of two darkly feathered wings resting elegantly upon her back. The harpy stretched and folded her front paws, left over right, in a relaxed fashion. And then she spoke.
Her voice was unnerving, the tone oscillating between a high-pitched toddler and a low-pitched, stentorian man. “Ah!” the harpy began, and a needle-toothed grin spread across her face, “It is good to finally meet you, Mark. Do you understand why it is that I have arranged to meet you here?”
In his sleep, Mark shivered involuntarily, and his dream-self shook its head in confusion.
"Well, then, allow me to explain the circumstances,” the creature continued. “You must by now certainly be aware of the forces that are gathering within your city, even if you know not what they are. There are sides being chosen and lines being drawn. This is something that must not happen—not now. It is neither the time nor the place for such things. Of course, it may yet come to pass within the far future,” she shook her muzzle in a disdainful manner, “but not for a long time to come.”
"The powers are restless.” She stretched her paws lazily, exposing ten delicately curved claws. “They have waited for aeons. Indeed, we have waited for aeons…but the world now belongs to the race of men, and there's nothing left for us to do but watch, and bide our time, and wait until the stars are right once again...”
Mark could only mutter, “Why are you telling me this stuff?”
The edges of the harpy’s razor grin turned downward. “Phah! Dreams are the last realm in which we can travel freely, and meet on an equal ground! I tell you this... Mark... because you have a role to play in the coming events. You cannot avoid it; you can only choose to act in the better interests of your people.” An angry hiss crept into her voice. “What would you have me do, mortal? I cannot fight men's battles for them!”
Mark began to reply, but it was difficult; his mind felt hazy and unfocused. “Er…what?” he managed, weakly. The harpy stared at him, glared, and yawned dismissively. She didn’t reply.
“I mean…look,” Mark continued, feeling a bit more confident, “I didn’t ask you to...fight battles for me, or whatever. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. But if this stuff is true, if there’s an apocalypse coming, or something…am I the only one who's supposed to be fighting it?”
The harpy's chuckle reminded him of ancient stones grinding together. “Not at all. There are others. We speak with them this night as well.”
Mark was about to ask what she meant when it occurred to him that someone was standing behind him. He had a vague sense that the person had probably been standing there for quite a while.
Mark turned away from the harpy, and faced the thing behind him, convinced it would be a centaur or some kind of squid-faced demon. Instead, it was a girl roughly his age, wearing a diaphanous white dress. Straight black hair hung over her face, obscuring her eyes, and her skin seemed to shimmer faintly. Something about her seemed unreal, even in the context of the dream.
Before Mark could ask her who she was, the girl slid closer to him, gripping his shoulder with small, strong fingers. “Tell the harpy nothing of truth,” she whispered urgently. “Keep your words smooth and slippery, like the skin of a fish. If you tell her the truth, she can catch you with it, and she'll take you away...” The girl’s whisper became a thin, keening wail. “Far away… forever...!”
The harpy had snarled and the feathers of her wings ruffled. “Listen not to this witch!” she snapped, “She seeks to stop you from protecting your friends. She works for them!”
"The harpy is the dark one, Mark...” the girl had whispered in reply. “She and her sisters hate your kind. Join the Light. Now, before she catches you.”
The harpy scowled, showing her fangs. "Phah! The light has no relevance! The light she serves wills to destroy, just as much as its sister, darkness. The light is cold, and does not care for humanity’s imperfection. It would have us remove the worst parts of ourselves, continually, until there is nothing left, for a light without darkness is blinding." Her spotted back twitched in irritation. "Any fool can see that, girl. Go back where you belong."
Mark tried to shrug the girl off, since he found her to be even spookier than the harpy, but she stayed. “Okay, whatever. Look, guys, I don't care which one of you is evil, or not. You're both creeping me out. But, assuming there is a battle I’m supposed to fight in, how do you expect me to do it? I’m not a fighter. I’m a high school student. And who am I supposedly fighting, anyway?”
"Well!” The harpy's menacing grin had returned. “That’s more like it! You must seek the others who have been contacted, of course. Take precautions when speaking in public, however; there may be...” she aimed a venomous glance at the girl, “others who are listening.” Next to Mark, the girl’s slight form shimmered, narrowed, and disappeared like mist.
“Hey,” Mark began, “what happened to—”
“That’s better,” the harpy commented, then continued on without pause. “Come together at the right hour with your allies, Mark. You must join together. With enough training, you may just have... a shadow's chance... to save your friends.”
"As for the enemy,” she purred, “if you haven't met them yet, you will soon enough. Fear not, for other powers are watching over you. We will do all that we can to aid you.”
"Why?” Mark asked, urgently. He felt himself beginning to wake up, and the scene before him had already begun to fade away. “Why would you help me? What's in it for you?”
The harpy yawned, and her needle-like teeth sparkled under the chandelier light. “That’s a very good question...”
And then he had snapped awake.
* * *
-C. Casey Gardiner
- (40 days)