“Meng... Meng…” Mayumi calls weakly, still hovering uncertainly in the dark. “Where am I?” she asks the nothingness around her. She has no idea how much time has passed since Meng disappeared. It could be moments, or months.
“You are where you shouldn’t be,” a voice answers.
Mayumi’s long black ears immediately perk up at the sound. It is a male voice, for sure, pleasant and soothing, but one she’s not quite sure she’s hearing. Instead, it seems to reach her mind directly, as if thoughts are being thrown softly against hers and intertwining with her own. Even though she can’t tell where they are coming from based on her acute hearing, a notion that whoever is speaking is standing behind her makes her turn. There, standing majestically not far away, an indistinct nimbus of light surrounding him, a black horse looks at her, head raised and turned slightly to focus a shiny black eye on her. Black and white manes billow as if a breeze is blowing against them. Mayumi looks at the animal for a long moment, swearing she can almost see through his body, even if there’s nothing to see beyond or even around him.
“Use your legs,” the voice rings in her mind again, and now Mayumi knows it comes from the mesmerizing creature. “You can walk here as if there were ground beneath your feet. You just have to will it so.”
Breathing deep and closing her eyes for a moment, the Bunny bends her mind to the concept of walking and takes a step forward. Almost certain she can feel solid ground below, she takes another step before opening her eyes again and then goes on walking, now with greater certainty, towards the black stallion. The closer she gets to him, the more ethereal he looks, the limits of his body drawn in just a slightly darker shade of shadow than the rest of him. A single eye of his follows her as she moves.
“Who are you?” she asks out loud and then remembers he is speaking to her in thought. She hopes he can understand what she is saying.
“A friend,” he answers. “And yes, I can understand your words.”
“Where am I?” she inquires, looking around and seeing nothing but darkness. It is not complete darkness, though. She can still see herself…and him.
The horse shakes his head and looks back at his own flank. “On the very edge of reality, where all that is ceases to be,” he offers by way of explanation. “This is the Void. Creatures, worlds, ghosts, dreams, all come here to die.”
“But you are here,” Mayumi notes, one hand stretched to try and touch him, find out how solid he is.
“We are different,” the stallion states, head turning to look at a point just above Mayumi’s shoulder.
“We?” Mayumi asks confused. Then, turning to follow his gaze with her own eyes, she sees them, dozens of them, ghostly horses galloping through the shadows not far away, young foals rearing and jumping, kicking the ether in childish play as they follow what must be their mothers. Mayumi’s eyes widen in wonder. “Who… who are they?”
“Family,” the horse says simply.
The single word strikes a chord with the Bunny, suddenly reminding her of the reason she got into this mess in the first place. “I remember…” she whispers. “I was looking for family. My father… I was looking for him in a dream and then…” She shakes her head sadly. “I don’t know what happened.”
“Your dream crumbled,” the black stallion explains as he turns and walks away. “You fell off the edge.” His strong neck bends as he turns his head to glance back at her. “Come.”
He starts walking slowly, waiting for Mayumi to follow, and she does so, her chances of finding a way out lying now with this unexpected acquaintance.
“Shouldn’t I have just woken up?” she asks, adjusting her pace to match his, her legs built for speed helping her keep up with his four-legged gait. “That’s usually what happens when a dream ends.”
“This was not a regular dream, was it?” the horse asks back conversationally.
“No,” Mayumi replies. “This was a life. My whole life until I woke up into a new one.”
Around them, the darkness turns to light and Mayumi squints slightly against the white brilliance surrounding her.
“Do you not like your new life?” he inquires, his voice seemingly without emotion.
“It doesn’t feel like my life. More like I’m a prisoner in my own home, trying to please a mother I barely know,” Mayumi finds herself saying. Something in this creature makes her trust him, as if she has met him before, a long time ago.
“Does she know you? Or this life you had?” he queries as they walk, the white light now turning sky-blue.
“No. She never asked and we have never talked about it.”
Walking still, the stallion brings his muzzle close to Mayumi’s face and she can feel the warm air coming out of his nostrils brushing against her cheek.
“Just as we fear to hurt others, others may fear to hurt us,” he states his head moving back away from her. “Silence can so easily be mistaken for lack of interest…”
Suddenly he stops and announces, “We’re here.”
As his words register, Mayumi moves her attention away from the horse and looks around for the first time since they started walking. Without knowing how she got here, she is back in her old neighborhood, standing before a low door in a man-high wall, the gate to her father’s garden, behind her home. A small hole in the shape of a leaping rabbit is cut into the door, near the top, to serve as a peep-hole.
“I – I know this place!” she half stutters with excitement.
“Yes, you will find your father in there,” the stallion assures her. He moves his muzzle to the small of her back and nudges her. “Go to him now.”
“Will you not go with me?” she hesitates.
The horse stretches a front leg and licks it casually. “No, little one. This is where I stay. Now rush, the dream won’t hold for long. You will soon be awake again.”
Mayumi takes a couple of steps forward toward the door, then turns back one last time.
“Will I see you again?” she asks.
“Time will tell, little one. Now go,” the horse rushes her, a front leg stomping the ground.
“Thank you,” Mayumi says before turning and opening the door.