This is part of Haunting’s Recollection series – it is a complete account of HVRTING‘s Easter show, Rebirth of the Rabbit. It contains full spoilers and is intended for readers who have attended or could not attend the show, or are curious about this creator’s work. rabbit rabbit rabbit rabbit
Please also note: HVRTING is an extreme haunt offshoot of this website (Haunting.net); see the links below for more information.
My Journey Begins
The woman in the red dress and black rabbit mask is not amused. “You’re early,” she disapproves, then adds “we’ll be with you shortly.”
I’ve been to enough immersive shows that I’m used to standing outside strange buildings, patiently waiting for someone I’ll pretend I don’t know to hand me a clipboard so I can sign my life away and be led into someone else’s fever dream. This time around, though, it’s a bit different. Partly because these scenarios usually take place in the dead of night, not the middle of a sunny afternoon. But also because this is a solo experience, which is less familiar to me. Which means it’s just me in the driveway, listening curiously to the distorted music piping out of a yellow, two-story home, and the maniacal shouting from the back yard.
A Shot of Tea
“Is this your first time with us?” she inquires, and I’m honestly not sure how to answer. I stammer out some mention of the company HVRTING. “Who?” she responds, looking puzzled. I remember that this is simply a film within the HVRTING universe, and thus, would not break the fourth wall accordingly.
She hands me a clipboard, holding a waiver containing a litany of warnings about things I may or may not encounter within. It’s exhaustive, but fairly standard for a haunt: abuse, imprisonment, electrocution, simulated drowning, and several that are either unlikely or just plain silly.
“This is for you,” my hostess informs me after I consent to potentially being murdered. I look down and open a pillbox cleverly disguised as a ceramic rubber duck. Inside is a small pill. I take it in my hands. “Put it on your tongue,” she commands. “Do not chew it. Do now swallow it. Let it dissolve on its own.” I comply and place it on my tongue; its slightly sour. I close my mouth and follow her into the garage.
We step over the shattered remains of crockery into a dining room pretending to be a garage. “The elders like to arrive a little late,” my hostess informs, then tells me to make myself useful in the meantime by setting the table. She stops me partway through. I start placing various fine china around: tea cups, saucers, cups, and mugs. I place one down, and the woman eyes it cautiously. “I don’t like that one,” she says coldly. “Get rid of it.” I look around for where to put it — but the woman looks impatient. “Just smash it on the ground!”
We each play our role, the mug and I, and it shatters into a cathartic number of pieces when I introduce it to the concrete with prejudice. Don’t suppose we could just do this for a while? I wonder, but that’s not why I’m here. I smash one more tea saucer for good measure — and I finish setting the table. But sadly, that’s it for therapeutic destruction.
“Sit,” the hostess bids me, and I do so on the far end of the table. “What do you know about Easter?” she probes, taking the seat across from mine.
I throw out something to the effect of “it used to be about fertility and rebirth, but now it’s all about that damnable rabbit.” She nods.
“Exactly. It’s all chocolate, and a giant rabbit that hides eggs for you to find. It doesn’t make sense, I mean, what kind of rabbit lays eggs?” We both laugh, before she moves on to why I’m really here. The hostess explains that tonight’s ritual is ancient, and in the true spirit of Easter rather than the modern bastardization. Then she asks me the key question.
“Have you ever desired to start again, to be reborn?”
Say no, it’ll be funny, part of me urges. Quiet you, I scold. It’s too early in the show for that kind of sass. “Yes,” I answer instead. Again, she nods, then asks if the pill has dissolved yet. I notice its feel against my tongue; it’s getting there. There are two brightly-colored sake cups in front of us, one for each, which she fills with tea before bidding me take a sip. “Just a small one,” she clarifies. It’s a little bitter, but not too bad.
“You were chosen because of your strong mind,” she informs me after a bit of exposition regarding the old-school interpretation of Easter we’ll be playing with today. “If you complete the ceremony, both you and the goddess Eostre will be reborn. But if you fail, you will be trapped in darkness, left to face the nightmarish manifestations of your own mind until another can succeed.”
Sounds like Tuesday, I manage to not say. My hostess raises her tea. “To Eostre!” she toasts. I echo, and we drink. It tastes a bit sweet, but mostly light, and washes the last remnants of the tablet from earlier down my throat. I’m still not sure what it does, but I have little opportunity to ponder. It’s time for my journey to begin in earnest.
Down the Rabbit Hole
My hostess leads me back out over the ceramic fragments of mismatched tea cups and toward the house proper. We’re greeted by a woman in all black, and a bunny mask to match. The woman in black guides me to my left, through a cramped half-bath. “Sorry about the tight quarters,” she apologizes, “but it’s only going to get tighter from here.” I see what she means as I step through the door into a very brown room, with a very black leather body bag on the floor — well, no ordinary body bag. It’s body-shaped, with laces traveling from the feet to the neck. Straps run across it, securing whoever is unlucky enough to enter. This is not a body bag — it’s a body coffin.
“This will keep you safe on your journey,” the black-on-black hostess explains. We squeeze me into it as best we can manage. It’s tight, claustrophobic, but oddly comforting — like a swaddled baby. To complete the ceremonial attire, a black leather fetish mask is pulled over my head. It obscures my vision, but I can still hear well enough as she continues. “Your body won’t be going anywhere…”
Clearly, I muse, by now fairly snug within the body coffin.
“But your mind will. You’ll see things, you’ll experience things, you’ll feel things.” Sounds like a party. “But be careful, because your mind is fragile. It can easily get lost in the darkness.” But the key warning from her is this: “Whatever you do, make sure your mind stays intact. If a piece gets lost, do whatever it takes to get it back.” Foreshadowing much? I think, wondering about how they’ll portray my psyche getting torn to bits later on. Then music I hadn’t noticed up until now gets dialed up, and I recognize the de-tuned opera I heard out in the driveway earlier. The mask prevents me from seeing, but I hear and sense movement around me as the fever dream soundtrack plays on.
Okay… should I be doing anything? I wonder, trying in vain to look around the room. They mistake this for distress and check on me, asking if I’m okay and put a pillow under my head. I’m fine, but I don’t complain about the coddling. If I wasn’t worried about getting zapped with a cattle prod at any moment, I’d be tempted to nap, I think, but that ends up not being an issue. Instead I get a nice little break, until eventually the music shifts to a recording of a countdown to a rocket launch. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Here we go, I tell myself, bracing for whatever horror comes next. The recording stops, the hood is ripped off, and I’m greeted by…
Welcome to Wonderland. ‘Tis a Silly Place.
“Hey! Nibbles, right?” Bugs greets with enthusiasm, addressing me by the name I gave myself if I was a rabbit. “I guess I’ll be your guide. This here’s Wonderland,” he explains excitedly. “Nothing is what it seems. Left is right and right is wrong,” he continues, adding that it doesn’t make complete sense to him either. That makes two of us, I think better of saying out loud. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an Easter show from HVRTING, but there’s a lot less abuse than I’ve come across in their other productions. The abrupt tonal shift from somber ritual to full-throttle silly has me off balance, and it takes me a second to realize Bugs is trying to get me to follow.
“Any good journey must start with a full stomach,” Bugs opines as he leads me to a table laden with… treats? To my eyes, we’ve got a bowl each of sliced lemon, lime, and pineapple, and a few others I don’t have time to clock before he bids me dig in. “I love pineapple,” I tell him grabbing a piece and popping it in my mouth.
“You mean schlurm?” Bugs corrects. “Try a grinkle,” he adds, offering a lime. Surrealism eh? Oh, I can play that game, I think, then pop the “grinkle” wedge in my mouth. I’ve had enough tequila shots to know to brace myself for the sour assault on my taste buds, but my eyes widen as I bite into what might as well be a clementine. Must be that pill from earlier, I realize. Messed with my taste buds somehow. What else is going to be odd? Bugs points to a shot glass near me. “You must be getting thirsty. Try the blood of the schleem!” It tastes like a malty, chocolatey ale. I’m a fan. Bugs introduces me to the other guests at the feast: Annabelle, who has passed out on the table (poor dear, too much schleem blood); another woman whose name escapes me, but has some history with my guide; and Sarah, his closest companion.
Sadly, they aren’t the most talkative bunch (dolls rarely are), so it’s up to Bugs and I to carry the conversation. Children’s music plays as he gets up and walks around me, holding a chef’s knife, then… stops. An uncomfortably long pause ensues, so pregnant it probably went on to give birth to octuplets.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had this happen to you, but in my experience having a man in a bunny suit stand in front of you with one hand on your shoulder and the other holding a blade about a foot and a half from your face while a cartoonish voice sings “Hop, hop, hop, like a bunny do” over and over gets unnerving pretty quick.
“Do you… want me to hop like a bunny?” I ask. No response. Bugs just… stands there. I try again. “What’s the knife for?” Still nothing, then suddenly he snaps out of it.
“To cut the schleem!” Bugs explains, offering me a tray filled with neat lines of red powder and a rolled-up dollar bill. I snort one dutifully, still half-expecting pain, but it turns out powdered schleem flesh is virtually identical to cherry Pixie Stix. Satisfied, Bugs sits back down and warns me that the darkness is spreading. “Are you the type to go toward the darkness, or away?” I feel like answering weird with weird, so I give a convoluted answer that amounts to “it depends.”
“So, how’d you come by the name Nibbles?” he asks.
“It was in college, during my studies,” I explain. “I was on acid at the time, and met the original Nibbles. A big pink rabbit who explained to me how the universe works using carrot rings. I took the name in his honor after he was swallowed by the darkness.”
A pause, then Bugs replies. “That was a great story. In fact, I think you may be even more at home here than me!” He leans in, leaning his head against mine. “I think we’re gonna be best friends.”
“I think Sarah might take exception to that,” I tell him, but he’s having another episode. I feel him quivering as the children’s music continues to play, then after another eight-births-worth of awkward pause he agrees. Suddenly Bugs grows nervous and hurried.
“We’re running out of time, the darkness is growing,” Bugs explains. He quickly grabs treats I haven’t tried yet and all but force-feeds me several: a Twinkie (I don’t catch his name for it), a healthy green sprig of Cornish game hen, and a dinker (looks like lemon, but tastes like nectarine to my addled tongue). “And to cap it off, something special. Something sacred, between friends.” I’m pretty sure it’s just cream cheese, but I don’t argue. Next thing I know I hear hurried footsteps behind me, and then a gun — no two guns — are pointed at my face. I look up to see a pair of white-and-pink bunnies with black hockey masks point guns in my face.
“Freeze! You’re under arrest, put your hands up!”
That’s more like it, I tell myself. I comply.
Mother and Father Are So Very Disappointed
“Handcuffs, please,” the male blue bunny says to the smaller pink female bunny.
“I thought you had them?” she counters. The silly continues, I think, but now I’m here for it. They bicker about who forgot the cuffs. They also forgot the hood.
“Just close your eyes,” the male tells me, adding “and no peeking!” I do so, and let them lead me away. “First we’re gonna take a left,” he tells me with authority, turning me to my right. “Then another left.”
“Then down the stairs?” I offer as we start climbing.
“See? This guy gets it,” the male says to his partner, then reminds me not to peek. I walk into a door. “Guess he wasn’t peeking,” male bunny muses. They open the door, walk me in a few paces, and tell me to sit. I open my eyes and discover I’m definitely in an interrogation room. Not at all a dark bedroom with a fog machine and an overhead lamp painted red.
“So, the handcuffs?” The blue bunny asks the female impatiently. She quips back that she does not have them. The male then asks if she could go and find them.
“I told you. I. Do. Not. Have. Them!” She pauses and looks around the room. “Seriously, I spent all afternoon getting this aesthetic perfect.” She looks up at the fog swirling under the singular overhead red light, “look at this light, look at the fog — it’s perfect. But there’s no music! The silence is killing my vibe, Glenn! So, can you please put something on while I find these handcuffs.”
Glenn looks confused but then a light bulb goes off above his head. “I’ve got a great idea! It’s a little too quiet in here — why don’t I turn on some music and you can find the handcuffs!”
“Ugh,” she says and stomps off to the closet. Glenn looks at me, “but wait, what are you going to do?” I look up at his big bunny eyes and respond, “I’ll jut sit here, I guess.”
“Perfect. I have the perfect role for you.” He puts out his gun, and hesitantly, I take it. “Point this gun at the prisoner sitting right here — and shoot him if he moves.” Ah, he means me. I point the gun at him — and smile. He reaches over and grabs another gun. “Oh, Nibbles. Haven’t you noticed your gun is made of rubber. This one is real. Try and shoot me and I’ll shoot you, for real.”
Touché, I think, and place the gun on my lap.
He scampers off to a large boom box in the corner. I notice the female bunny has thrown copious amounts of clothing out of the closet and is now going through dresser drawers. She then tries the handle but it’s locked. She moves to the nightstand, but the music distracts me. Not because it’s creepy — but because it’s… well… it’s Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.”
“What the hell is this?” he accuses the female.
“It’s a great song, that’s what it is!” she retorts. He grumbles, mentioning he was looking for something scary. “We are trying to scare the prisoner. Maybe the next track is better.” The Jonas Brothers starts playing.
“Okay, this is just ridiculous,” he mutters. Personally, I’m having a gay old time, as is the now-dancing female, but the male is put out. He skips through the playlist until he lands on Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” Guess this is scary enough. The two come together and approach me together.
“Okay, let’s be serious now,” he stage whispers to the female, then turns to me. “So where is it?” he demands. I genuinely don’t know.
“Don’t play dumb, we know you have it,” the female counters. They stand me up and frisk me poorly, checking my shoes, the top of my socks, then finally up my nose. To my surprise, something clatters to the floor.
“A-ha!” they exclaim, shoving the contraband up to my face. It’s… a mini Mr. Goodbar? “What do you have to say for yourself, mister?” I begin stammering a reply, but the male cuts me off. “We are so disappointed in you.” Then they rip off the hockey masks.
“Guess you didn’t expect it to be your mother and father! But we’ve caught you red-handed!”
By now I’m past the point of being confused and just go with it. Apparently my friends told them I’d been getting into some bad chocolate, but Hershey’s? That’s beyond the pale. “You’re breaking your poor mother’s heart!” I play along, weeping that I just wanted to make it on my own, but that’s no excuse.
Dad leans in close, “Mom has devised a sure fire way to cure you of your addition to bad chocolate.” She walks off, entering the closet — and comes back with a full tray of Hershey’s minis, kisses, hearts, and more.
“If you’re so into bad chocolate, then you can just sit there while we watch you eat this whole tray,” mom bunny tells me, placing the tray in my lap. I take my medicine, eating a few while they bicker over whose fault it is that I turned out this way, then mom starts to cry.
“Look what you did!” Dad shouts. “Go to your room! I mean, the bathroom,” he adds, as he grabs me by the ear. He then ushers me out and across the hall to my next destination.
Sometimes Darkness Tastes Awful. Other Times, Like Lime
The door slams shut behind me, and the first thing I notice is the highly aggressive smell. The second thing is a hairy and very nude ass of a male — but with the top half of a rabbit. The owner of said ass turns to face me and it’s yet another bunny, this one with an oversized top-hat, face, and bow tie that covers anything naughty on his front.
“You were once innocent,” he begins. “Pure. Free from anxieties, worries, fears.” His voice is high enough to be androgynous, and for a brief moment I wonder if it might actually a woman under there with body hair prosthetics. Nope, no way, too much work, I decide. Just a top-notch falsetto game. The rabbit fidgets, reaching hands toward me then pulling them back sharply, seemingly at war with himself.
“Your actions fractured your heart, allowing in the darkness that has corrupted us both.” Abruptly the rabbit’s voice shifts from gentle to an angry, almost demonic growl. “You did this to me, you did this,” he snarls, hands closing around my throat. Was strangulation in the waiver? I wonder. But the rabbit’s better nature forces itself back into the driver’s seat and he pulls away after barely a squeeze. He apologizes, adding that the bad parts of him come out sometimes, making him angry. Making him want to hurt things. “But I’d never hurt you… would I?” We both pause and consider, then the rabbit changes the subject.
“When your heart fractured, it split into seven pieces. Each letting in a little darkness.”
I must find these pieces and consume the darkness within if I am to be made whole. These seven pieces, it turns out, bear an uncanny resemblance to those plastic Easter eggs which you break in half to find candy or prizes inside — my very own Easter Egg hunt.
I find the first egg in the toilet, which is splattered liberally with what I hope is chocolate. Either way, we’ve come too far to nope out now, I remind myself, fishing it out and opening it to find a pair of jelly beans. “Your dirty, waste-filled mind,” the rabbit explains while I attempt to chew. But between the eau de merde fragrance stinking up the room and whatever awful non-candy flavor the beans carry, I can barely force them down.
Next up: the shower, containing a severed arm in a bear trap holding the next shard of my soul. “This is what’s left of the last version of you that tried to complete the ritual,” my deranged companion explains. The darkness beans inside are little better than the first, but I’m ready for it this time.
I peer around, looking for the next, and find it on the windowsill. This time, the egg is stuffed inside a pair of lubed-up condoms. “Your twisted sexuality,” the rabbit tells me. “You need to confront it, swallow it, and purify yourself.” Mercifully, the beans are merely odd rather than outright vile. Grass clippings? I guess. But we’re done here.
“We need to hurry,” my companion urges, all but dragging me out of the bathroom and into another bedroom. “The darkness is coming, we don’t have much time!” He pushes me toward the closet, and inside I find both darkness and a fishbowl of syringes. I take the hint and fish around for the next egg. Carefully. “Your addictions,” my companion sneers. “Television, video games, immersive theater. You’re addicted to hobbies, holding you back from your full potential.” I find my prize and pop the beans in my mouth. Apparently, my addictions taste like lime. Four down, three to go.
I figure I know what’s up when I see another closet, and make a beeline for it. Apparently this is unbecoming. “If you’re so eager to hide in the closet,” the rabbit seethes, “then get in there and don’t come out till you find yourself!” In total darkness, I fumble around until my hands find a bucket. A bucket full of plastic eggs. Empty ones. Oh dear, this could take a while, I think. I do my best, but with zero light and a buttload of fakes I start to wonder if there’s even a real one inside at all. I don’t get to find out.
My companion flings the door open, shouting “you take too long!” and all but dragging me out into the light and over to my next shard. It lies in a bucket of blood, which is refreshingly on-brand for HVRTING. “Your injuries,” the rabbit explains, still seething. “All the pain and hatred you inflict on yourself, and upon others. You need to let. It. GO. Consume the darkness inside, and purify yourself.” I do so. This time the darkness tastes of fish.
“We’re running out of time!” the rabbit shouts, leading me out of the room and downstairs in a hurry. “The darkness is closing in, we need to hide!” He brings me down to the first floor, then down into the basement lit only by an off-strobe red light. Oh good, nothing could possibly go wrong down here. It’s cramped, dark, and totally fine that it’s just me and a literally half-naked bunny man with a Jekyll and Hyde personality.
“We’ll be safe here,” he says. I’m not convinced. “This is my play room,” he adds, giggling. “And you… you’re my toy now. My best friend, for ever and ever…” His hands slip back around my throat. The darkness, it seems, has found us.
“Oh dear,” I mutter. Shit, didn’t mean to say that out loud. Understandably, my deranged playmate doesn’t respond well. I don’t catch exactly what he says, but he’s clearly upset by my remark while he puts a cloth sack over my head.
“Hold out your hands,” he orders, and I comply. I feel another plastic egg, larger than before, get placed in them. That’s… six, right? One more to go? Either way, he’s done with me. Carefully, we make our way up the stairs, then another set of hands takes me and guides me outside. It’s time for the finale.
I’m My Own Grandpa Egg
We step outside into what I assume is the back yard. I feel the sun on my bare arms, hear the distant sounds of traffic… and then I notice the giggling. This one sounds even loonier than the last, I remark internally. The hood comes off. I just barely suppress the urge to shout “HELLO NIGHTMARE BUNNY FRIEND” when I’m greeted by a fully demonic, black, and rather manic rabbit.
“Only six,” NBF tells me. “Not enough. You’ll be trapped in darkness. Without all your eggs, it will continue to spread until you’re all alone,” he adds, a little too pleased at the notion for my liking. “But I can help you,” the demon bunny offers. “I can make you one, final egg, so you can complete the ritual. Do you want my help? Do you accept it?”
Don’t see that I have a choice, I think. “Yes,” I reply. He giggles again.
“Perfect! You’ll become the last egg, endless, round, and beautiful.” Oh, you meant that literally? I’m a little overstimulated at this point, so I forgive myself for not catching that right away. I get a hockey mask of my own, splattered in paint, eyes covered. He leads me onward, cackling. “But first, we have to decorate you. All Easter eggs need to be decorated!”
“Stand here,” he tells me after about twenty ginger steps. I get squirted, slathered, and rubbed from all sides. “More color!” NBF shouts, giggling again as he slaps some more dye on me and gently pinches a nipple. “All good eggs need to be dipped!” he tells me, gently pushing me a few more feet. More hands help me into some sort of apparatus. An inversion table? I wonder. This feels like an inversion table. Which means…
“Are you ready?” NBF asks. I tell him yes. Then sure enough, I start to tip backward. Someone else’s hand covers my nostrils, and my head gets dunked upside-down into a bucket of what I hope is just water. I linger there, honestly pretty okay with the whole situation, until my breath starts to run short and I tap out. I’m pulled up immediately, and hear a soothing voice offering encouragement. “So brave,” she praises.
“The color’s not vivid enough. Needs another dip,” NBF observes. Back over I go, again a hand covering my nostrils. I see how long I can hold my breath this time, then tap out once I hit my limit.
“Such a good bunny!” the soothing voice exclaims.
“One more?” NBF asks. “One more,” he decides before I can reply. To be fair, I’d have said sure anyway. Third time’s the charm, but there’s more to go.
“Still needs more color,” NBF remarks, guiding me to a new spot then giggling as he steps away. A moment later I feel something impact my chest and burst. Water balloons? Another, on my stomach, and then I feel the wetness it leaves behind. Yep, water balloons. What feels like a decent number get hurled at me, and while a couple sting a little, it’s mostly just entertaining.
Besides, could be worse. Could be paintballs, I observe. Don’t say that. Don’t even think it, I scold myself. You’ll give them ideas. But no more impacts come. Instead it’s just hands, placing themselves on my more-than-a-little-damp shoulders, guiding me back the way I came. Then the mask comes off, and I see two things: A woman in a sundress, head covered by some sort of ski mask, with black bunny ears; and a crouched, quivering man in an albino bunny mask, white shirt stained with pastel watercolors.
Eostre, I presume? I deduce. Guess we succeeded after all. “You have been reborn. We have been reborn,” the woman confirms. She thanks me for my help.
“For a newcomer to succeed, to survive the darkness, is impressive.” This would normally be the point where I offer a witty remark, but I’m fresh out of snark and mostly focused on a) processing what I just went through and b) changing into the spare clothes I was advised to bring.
I wasn’t sure what to expect coming in, but given my previous experiences with HVRTING I was expecting something more along the lines of a nightmarish hellscape. I’m not complaining, mind you, but a lot has happened over the past hour even if it was for the most part lighthearted and silly. I’ve had a good time, and that’s what matters.
Eostre walks me back to the gate I first entered. “Eostre thanks you for awakening. We’ll see you in a year for your next ceremony.” I nod, and head back out into the real world, reborn, refreshed, and a little tie-dyed.
Once I make it home, I break open the party favor I received from the naked bunny in the basement. Inside is a set of goodies that feels pretty apropos for the experience: a bloodstained bunny keychain, temporary tattoos, a mini bottle of vodka, and a magnum condom. A deliberate subversion of what is normally a very kid-oriented holiday via a heavy admixture of dark humor and adult themes. And, when all’s said and done, a welcome vacation from sanity.
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Matt is a mostly boring person with a horrifying imagination. Occasionally interesting things happen to him, including immersive theater. He lives in Los Angeles and only rarely gets lost in his own nightmares. Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit