Saturday, 13 August 2022

Imogen lends a helping hand

IMOGEN sat and waited until everyone was asleep. She had made herself comfortable, propped up on

IMOGEN sat and waited until everyone was asleep. She had made herself comfortable, propped up on pillows in the corner beside the chest of drawers. In one hand she held Valentina, her hamster, who was now showing her age, and Chip, the new addition, in the other. She stroked them gently and let them wander over her arms and back. She wasn’t going to miss Loppy, the cute Easter bunny, this year.

“I hope they don’t come along too late,” she whispered, nuzzling into Valentina’s greying fur.

She must have nodded off slightly as the next thing she knew her eyes were snapping open and she became aware of a strange popping noise.

Imogen looked about her bedroom. The night light in the hall cast an odd glow over familiar objects. The popping started again just at the foot of the bed. Imogen leaned forward to get a better look and just then the floor began to shimmer and twist and a circle began to spiral away, leaving a colourful glow.

Imogen grew excited. She kissed Valentina, said “thank you”, giggled and put her and Chip back in their cages.

By now the hole was quite large and the room was filled with a rainbow of colours. She approached the entrance to Easterland but no rabbits were in sight. She could see deep into the tunnel as it was bright and beautiful but empty. Imogen was curious and worried.

“Hello,” she called. “Anybody there?” She leaned over a bit. “Hello? Loppy?”

There was a commotion deep at the end where the tunnel curved away, the noise of pattering and scraping. Shadows danced, making the colours flicker and Imogen had to blink as the light dazzled her.

“Oh, sorry, young miss!”

The sudden voice in front of her made her start and stop blinking. It was him.

“Loppy!” cried Imogen. “How wonderful.” She hugged him.

“Er... please, miss,” said Loppy. “Can you let me go?”

“Oh, sorry but isn’t this exciting?,” squealed Imogen.

“, not really.” Loppy sounded worried. “I didn’t know what to do. You see, we need help.”

“Really?” Imogen clapped her hands in excitement. “Do I get a backpack with eggs and...”

Loppy stopped her. “Not that kind of help. You see something has got into the royal cave and keeps attacking us and stopping us work and messing up all the egg production.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“Not really, just something big, black and scary. Oh, and it flaps about a lot.”

“Sounds terrible.”

“Oh, it is if it’s not sorted...” Loppy paused, “...if it’s not sorted, then no Easter!”

“My goodness!” exclaimed Imogen “but what can I do?”

“Well, I thought that, being a big, you might be able to make it go away.”


“Come down and sort of scare it out.”

“I don’t know but I’m willing to try.” Imogen thought of the wonderful things she might see.

Loppy turned and prepared to jump. Imogen stood beside him and copied.

“Here we go, miss,” said Loppy and took a small jump into and down the hole. Imogen followed.

It was like a giant rainbow slide. She slid and turned and twisted and cried out “wheeeeee!” as she went round the corner. Not far beyond the turn a soft pile of marshmallows cushioned her to stop.

“Are you all right?” asked Loppy, peering at her face.

“Hee hee! That was fun,” she replied.

“It wears off soon enough when you work.”

Imogen stood up, brushed herself down and looked around. “Golly,” she said.

The place was larger than she had thought it would be, having thought only of rabbits and tunnels. There was a dome and a coloured skylight and arches everywhere.

“This way please, miss,” called Loppy, already heading for a glittering arch.

Imogen followed. It was a large but short passage and she could see the bright arch at the other end. The passage had many coloured doors and a balcony with yet more doors.

They reached the end and walked out through the arch.

“It’s huge!,” exclaimed Imogen and indeed it was. A huge cavern with many doors and walkways and balconies and other archways leading she knew not where. The ceiling was another, bigger dome that glittered and sparkled. Imogen couldn’t tell if light shone thought it or from it but it was the source of all the rainbow colours that spread everywhere.

To one side, she made out a huge root stretching upwards and from it, spreading out like a giant net, were ever smaller roots. At the top of the root was what looked like a tree seen from the inside. Imogen thought that’s what a squirrel must see most days. Inside the trunk there were several large, dark patches.

“Oh, my goodness,” said Imogen, turning this way and that to see as much as she could. “This is absolutely wonderful.”

Then she put her foot down on something that crunched. She looked down.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I seem to have broken an egg.”

“That’s not your doing, miss,” said Loppy. “That’s the thing’s doing.” He was peering about nervously.

Then Imogen realised they were the only two there.

“Where is everybody?” she asked.

“Hiding, miss,” replied Loppy.

Imogen saw more broken chocolate egg shells, bits of glittering wrapper and back packs abandoned on the floor.

“Oh no,” she cried. “Look at this mess.”

“It’s somewhere up there, miss,” said Loppy, pointing up towards the tree trunk. “In the Royal Oak.”

Having seen the trouble the Easter bunnies were in, Imogen was upset and angry. She clenched her fists, stamped her foot and shouted: “That’s quite enough, come out! You really don’t want me to come and get you.”

To their surprise, there was a loud “Varrrkk” and a dark shape sped across the dome. It turned, then circled and suddenly dropped towards them.

“Hide, miss!” cried Loppy and jumped for a nearby archway. Imogen ducked and raised an arm overhead but shouted: “No.”

The shape whizzed by her, flapping and squawking “Varrkk, Varrkk”.

As it passed, Imogen straightened up and said in a surprised voice: “It’s a magpie. It must have been attracted to all this glittering aluminium foil wrapping.”

“Pardon, miss?” said Loppy, peering from the arch.

“A magpie. They like glittery, shiny things. They collect them.”

“But how did it get in? It’s supposed to be asleep.”

“Probably though the big knot holes in the Royal Oak.”

The magpie had disappeared but she hadn’t noticed where to.

“Let’s get a bit closer,” she said headed for a staircase. Then a thought struck her. “Do you think you could get some more glittery paper?” she asked Loppy. “The shinier the better.”

“Yes, miss, but why?”

“To get its attention.”

“Oh.” Loppy wasn’t sure but was happy not to be there for a while.

By the time he got back with a particularly sparkly roll of foil paper, Imogen had climbed three flights of stairs and was near the big tangled roots of the Royal Oak. There were lots of nooks and crannies and places to hide. She could also here a shuffling and rustling and an occasional soft “ooorrk”.

She took the roll of wrapping paper and unfurled it noisily. It rustled and flapped as she shook it out over the balustrade. “Come out, you horrible thing,” she shouted.

There was a sudden loud shuffle followed by a noisy “Vaarrrrkkkk!” and the magpie shot out of a nook a few feet in front of her. She stepped back startled and felt Loppy hiding against her leg.

Imogen waved the wrapping as the bird circled and flew straight at them.

“Varrkk! Varrkk!”

To her surprise, the magpie came to rest on the balustrade in front of her, pinning the wrapping under its claws.

“Varrkk!” it said and pecked at the paper.

Imogen and Loppy watched as it eventually pecked away a large piece and, with a final “Varrkk” and a twist of its head, jumped to the floor and carried its prize round the root into the cubbyhole it had flapped out of.

By now Imogen and Loppy were so curious that they tiptoed after the bird and peered into the cubbyhole. Inside, the floor was littered with shreds of glittering paper and scraps of foil. The magpie was at the far end, looking at them themand turning its head to point at the large pile it had made and back again. It did this a few times and peered into the pile and went “ooorrkk”.

And then it did it all over again.

Suddenly. Imogen realised what the bird wanted. “It wants us to come and see,” she explained and walked forward slowly.

The magpie hopped back as she approached and craned its head over the big pile and cooed “ooorrkk, ooorrkk”.

Imogen looked into the big shiny pile of ripped wrappers.

“Oh my!” she squealed, making the magpie hop back and Loppy jump nervously. “Come here and see, he’s gorgeous!”

Loppy came closer as Imogen cooed at the tiny bundle of fur covered in scraps of paper and chocolate wrapping. Loppy looked and saw the tiny rabbit, twitching its nose and staring at them wide -eyed.

“Ooorrkk, ooorrkk,” said the magpie, hopping towards them.

“Well, aren’t you a clever bird?” said Imogen and stroked its head.

“Ooorrkk, ooorrkk,” the bird replied and nodded at the entrance to the cubbyhole and back.

“You brought it here for them to take care of.”

“Ooorrkk.” Nod.

“You want me to carry it down?”

“Ooorrkk, ooorrkk.” Nod, nod.

Imogen picked up the little bundle.

“Er... miss?”

“Yes, Loppy?”

“It’s not a he, it’s a she.” he said, pointedly wrinkling his nose up at her.

“Well, isn’t Sparkle just the right name for her?” smiled Imogen.

At the bottom of the staircase other rabbits had begun to collect in groups. Some older, motherly-looking ones took Sparkle from Imogen, who cooed at her one last time and disappeared through one of the archways.

“Looks like you have a big clean-up on your hands, Loppy,” she said.

“That will have to wait till later,” replied Loppy. “Right now we have a lot of deliveries to make.”

“Can I stay and watch?”

“For all your splendid help I don’t see why not,” he grinned. “Just mind you don’t get bowled over or wrapped accidentally.”

“Thank you, I won’t.” And Imogen grabbed him, gave him a big hug and into his ear whispered: “You’re soooooo cute!”

She watched the industrious bunnies from high up on the balcony under the Royal Oak with the magpie perched beside her on the balustrade. When the work was nearly done and light began to appear through the empty knotholes of the tree trunk, the magpie turned to Imogen, nodded a few times, said “ooorrkk, ooorrk” softly and flew up and out through the big tree trunk.

“Goodbye and thank you,” Imogen called after the bird.

Soon afterwards Loppy came and showed her back to the tunnel they had used at the beginning of the adventure.

“Just stand on the rainbow path and it will whisk you home,” he said.

Other rabbits had gathered behind him to say thank-you and they gave her a gift – her very own egg backpack, all pockets and rainbow colours, full of chocolate eggs.

“Oh my, how lovely,” squealed Imogen. “Thank you for being so wonderful.”

See stepped on to the path and began to glide upwards. She turned and shouted back: “See you all next year!”

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