NIGHTMARE MADE REAL, OR: HOW I DISCOVERED THAT THE EASTER BUNNY DOES NOT EXIST

  1. It is the spring of 1995, and an eight year old boy sits at a table with shaky hands.
  2. He's trying to draw a picture to leave for the Easter Bunny along with the traditional carrots and Diet Pepsi (like Santa Claus, that is the Easter Bunny's preferred beverage)
  3. Sitting near the plate of carrots, the boy wonders if there are enough, just like he wonders if the Diet Pepsi is cold enough. He is worried.
  4. "Will the Easter Bunny be appeased by this?" he wonders, though he's doubtful.
  5. Indeed, that's why the boy is drawing the picture for the Easter Bunny.
  6. Every year, the boy feels apprehensive at the thought of the Easter Bunny's impending arrival.
  7. And every year, the boy wonders if this will be the year that the Easter Bunny has decided it has had enough of the family's inadequacies.
  8. Not enough carrots.
  9. Not BIG enough carrots.
  10. Diet Pepsi is that is far too warm to truly enjoy.
  11. Easter eggs that are not decorated in an aesthetically pleasing fashion, at least not enough to find favor in the Easter Bunny's critical eye.
  12. "I have had enough," the boy imagines the Easter Bunny saying, standing at the laughably inadequate offerings that the family has left.
  13. Standing there with a visage of rage on its face as the family slumbers and dreams of what gifts they will wake up to.
  14. All but one of them.
  15. The boy, who is lying awake in bed, listening.
  16. Listening not in anticipation but in a state of utter terror, listening for signs that the Easter Bunny has returned, that it has brought this horror back into his life.
  17. Listening for this rabbit who has tormented his dreams for as long as he can remember.
  18. Listening for the sound of a creaking stair as this cursed rabbit ascends them to punish the family once and for all.
  19. He wonders what he would do.
  20. His room is at the end of the hall; the Easter Bunny would pass by the rooms of his parents, sister, and brother first.
  21. Would their screams wake him?
  22. Would the bloodcurdling, panicked shrieks of his family as they realized just how wrong they had been about this creature of imagined childhood glee and joy be enough to rouse him?
  23. Would they be enough to warn him?
  24. And would the boy be brave enough to fight for them, or would he run, saving himself?
  25. "Maybe this is the year I discover just how much courage is in my heart," he wonders, just as he does every year.
  26. The boy hopes he is brave.
  27. His sister has conquered her own fear of the Tooth Fairy, but the boy panics at the thought of his first inevitable encounter with this abhorrent, evil bunny.
  28. He is not brave. Deep in his heart, the boy knows this.
  29. Which is why he sits at the table with trembling hands, trying to draw the Easter Bunny in its imagined glory.
  30. An offering, one to join the carrots and the Diet Pepsi, one that the boy hopes will ward off the Easter Bunny's sinister, murderous tendencies.
  31. "Please be enough," he hopes, a silent, desperate plea that he and his family will be spared another year.
  32. It is time for bed, but the boy will not sleep.
  33. He will lie awake. He will prepare to fight if need be. He will gather every drop of courage in his entire being in case he needs it for the coming battle.
  34. He will listen. He will listen for the sounds of his nemesis, his enemy that has haunted him for most of his life.
  35. Will it be tonight that he faces the Easter Bunny's inevitable reckoning?
  36. -------
  37. It is morning.
  38. Against all odds, the Easter Bunny has spared his family.
  39. The carrots, Diet Pepsi, and picture are gone. The Easter Bunny has accepted these offerings.
  40. "Safe for another year," the boy thinks, though this does not bring him much comfort.
  41. In that year, he will prepare.
  42. He will not let this menace conquer him.
  43. He will fight.
  44. ------
  45. It has been a week.
  46. The boy has mostly recovered from the psychological treachery this awful creature has subjected him to.
  47. He has begun to move on, not to forget but to push that fear aside until he needs it again.
  48. That's when he finds it.
  49. His picture. It is on his dining room table.
  50. The picture he drew as a trade for his life and the lives of his family.
  51. His barter that the Easter Bunny might show them mercy for another year.
  52. It is here.
  53. Which means the Easter Bunny is here.
  54. It has returned. It has come for him.
  55. The boy screams for his mother even though it makes him feel weak and helpless. Now is not the time for pride. Now is the time for caution. His mother has faced this adversary for many more years than he.
  56. She will know what to do.
  57. The boy explains his panicked state, his guarded, terrified demeanor.
  58. He can barely speak. He must know where his father and siblings are.
  59. Is it too late?
  60. Has the Easter Bunny claimed them?
  61. But the mother has a secret to tell the boy, a hidden truth that has yet to be revealed.
  62. Something she has kept from the boy for his entire life.
  63. The Easter Bunny is no threat to him or his family.
  64. Because the Easter Bunny does not exist.
  65. It exists only in the minds of those who fear it.
  66. It exists only in nightmares.
  67. The Easter Bunny is a myth. For the eight years of his life, the boy's parents have lied to him.
  68. They have let him believe in this fictitious creature; they have let him fear it.
  69. They have made a fool of the boy.
  70. But for what cause? What benefit have they received for letting the boy spend eight years fearing it?
  71. He has lost sleep over something that doesn't exist.
  72. They have made a fool of him.
  73. The boy is humbled and humiliated. Perhaps that was the point.
  74. Perhaps that was the reason for his parents to perpetuate this horrifying myth.
  75. All this time, perhaps they were simply preparing the boy for the true terrors in life.
  76. Terrors that aren't appeased by carrots or soda or the drawings of a frightened child trying to be brave.
  77. Terrors that exist in much more than our nightmares, our deepest, most horrible fears.
  78. Imbuing the boy with fortitude and courage has been their aim, it seems. But can the boy believe them, believe the people who have lied to him since he took his first breath?
  79. What else have they lied about? The boy wonders what other mistruths he has been told over the years.
  80. The boy has been taught a difficult lesson as well: there is no one he can trust.
  81. His parents have deceived him, and the boy will never forget it. He will carry the memory of this deception in his heart forever.
  82. A deception more troubling to him than the Easter Bunny - the legend, the myth - ever was.
  83. They have lied to him. They have fooled him.
  84. "Never again," the boy vows.