Lyle lived on the outskirts of town, near some good hiking trails. One weekend in March he jogged through the woods along a familiar route, and paused at an intersection he didn't remember. A wooden sign advertised "Hazel Trail" to his right, and it looked like it'd been there for years. Puzzled, he turned toward the dirt path and followed it through dense hazel trees. The air smelled of flowers and he soon found them: strange orange and purple things like some fanciful silk decoration, but apparently growing wild along the path. The land sloped slightly up, even though this was a notoriously flat area. Then, strangest of all, he found the garden.
It was just off of the trail, unmarked and unfenced. Plants stood in sloppy rows between some trees, fully grown and perfect. This place looked like somebody's property, but with no sign of whose, and just wild-looking enough that it could, just maybe, be part of the forest where someone had spilled seeds months ago. "Weird," Lyle said, and kept hiking for a little while longer. He had one of those step-tracking wristwatches, but it flickered and malfunctioned. He frowned and fiddled with it to no avail. He'd gone far enough for today, so he turned around.
He paused at the garden again. He'd seen no houses or anything, so this was apparently unclaimed property. There was nobody to object if he took some fresh salad home. And were those carrot plants? He had no tools, but tried yanking one of the bushy green plants and was rewarded with an oversized carrot root. Nice find. He'd hurt his fingernails prying it up, though, so he didn't bother with the other plants. He awkwardly stashed the carrot in his fanny pack and headed home.
The fitness tracker was working again but had lost track of his route. Lyle shrugged, showered, and salad-ed. He mixed the newfound carrot in with some lettuce and onions he already had, for a healthy lunch.
That evening he was just leaving the mall when he heard a terrible metal squeal. He hurried toward the sound. A blue Honda was scraping along the road divider. Suddenly it veered fifteen degrees to the right and struck a bicyclist from the left, knocking him to the pavement. Other cars screeched to avoid them both. The Honda sped off, flashing in the moonlight.
He'd just been witness to a hit-and-run. He called 911 and reported it, then stayed while the police and an ambulance showed up. The cops interviewed people, but when they got to Lyle they seemed skeptical of him. "Fifteen degrees?"
"Plus or minus one, I guess."
"You're a geometry teacher?"
"No; why? And the license plate was R54TQ8."
"You're sure of that?"
"I saw it, yeah."
The cop wrote it down. "That's some eyesight. Good contacts I guess."
He left Lyle alone again. Lyle was puzzled; it did seem unusually bright and clear tonight. He saw the individual pebbles along the road and the silhouettes of crows against the night sky. Curious now, he went back into the mall to do an improvised test. He stood just outside an eyeglass shop that had an eye chart on the back wall. From the entrance, he could read the smallest line!
He went home spooked. Every detail on the road signs and buildings stood out. The cop had joked about contact lenses, but he didn't wear any. He peered into a mirror and startled; he had bright orange eyes. Carrot orange.
"The carrot?" he said. How could that be? He had no other explanation. He'd need to see a doctor. For the moment he tried to calm down, watching a movie. He could see the individual pixels. It was boring enough that he fell asleep.
It was Sunday. The world looked blurry by comparison to last night. His eyes were back to their usual green. Whatever happened, had worn off. Weird! He couldn't get a doctor's appointment over the weekend, but he could try an experiment. He brought a gardening spade with him on a jog to the mysterious veggie patch.
It looked untouched, without even a hole where he remembered grabbing that carrot. Lyle dug up a few more of the carrots and a radish to take home. "Is anyone here?" he called out belatedly, but no one answered.
Back home, he showered and then cooked up an omelette with feta, spinach and scavenged carrot. Delicious. Nothing happened, so he went about some furniture shopping he'd planned. While he was browsing Swedish sofas, he heard murmured conversation and turned to look. The only people in sight were a mom and her son coming from way down the aisle, and he could hear their every word.
"What's with his ears, mom?"
"It's not polite to make fun of people's faces, Timmy. Some people just have..." The woman stopped her shopping cart and stared at Lyle.
Lyle felt one of his ears. It was stretched out, and fuzzy. Even as he touched it, his ear grew longer and pointier.
"Bunny ears!" said the kid, darting closer. "That's a neat trick. How do you do it?"
Lyle's ears flicked back and forth; he felt them standing out above his scalp now. "I... Carrots? I've gotta go." He dashed away toward the nearest restroom. His eyes were fine, but his long ears were covered in soft grey fur and he could move them. "A successful experiment, I guess, but what does this mean?" He could let his ears splay lower to either side, but they were huge. He needed a hat! The shop didn't sell any. He hurried out the door, sensing that people were staring at him and hearing their confused chatter.
In his car, his ears brushed the roof. Back at home he found a baseball cap that wouldn't work at all, then a broad-brimmed hat that could uncomfortably hide them. He was about to go back outside and try contacting a hospital when his ears flicked and burst free, knocking the hat off his head. He laughed nervously. He wasn't in danger, really, just confused.
Instead of panicking, he sat on the patio and listened to wildlife, hearing every bird and squirrel in the neighborhood. Cars roared by in the distance.
The next morning, he woke up to find his ears were still lapine, but shrinking. He'd had them all night, it seemed. What an experiment! What should he try next? He went to work with some nervousness, abstaining from carrots for now.
He couldn't resist temptation completely. As soon as he got home on Monday he grilled that radish he'd harvested, with chicken, and had that for lunch on Tuesday. He figured there'd be no effect for a few hours. It was good, but he noticed nothing strange all afternoon or evening. Maybe it was just the carrots doing things. He didn't want to let his supply go stale by waiting for Saturday... well, carrots would keep, so really that was just an excuse. Curiosity made him try baking carrot cake on Tuesday night. He'd just have to time when he ate it, for safety. He had some Wednesday, for lunch.
"Are you all right?" his boss said, coming over to his cubicle. "You seem distracted."
"I'm fine. Just looking forward to some new recipes." He'd mentioned before that he liked cooking, as a hobby.
The boss rolled her eyes. "Maybe you should be doing restaurant work, then. We need that report finished this week."
Lyle winced. "I'll get it done, boss."
Late that afternoon he winced, cramped in his chair. When he stood, he felt something fuzzy at the base of his spine, wedged against his belt. His pants were getting annoyingly tight in back, too, even when he tried loosening his belt a notch. Then he discovered his new tail, and his eyes went wide. It was a fluffy little flag that twitched behind him, as lifelike as the bunny ears had been. That was... kind of neat, actually.
Minutes later, though, he found that the changes weren't done. He scratched his chest and discovered it was starting to ache and swell. His shirt's neckline had actually gotten lower, and the texture of the fabric was now more like silk.
Okay, whatever was happening to him was still going! Lyle tapped out a quick "heading home; sick" e-mail and dashed for the stairwell. The office noise grew louder as he headed downstairs, and he started to feel a breeze along his legs.
The boss blinked, standing just outside the ground floor stairs. "What?"
Lyle darted past her saying, "Sick!" in a cracking voice. He ran to his car, feeling his tail and hips shake with every step.
In his car he took a deep breath and felt his chest bounce. Even as he watched, his clothes shifted further to put him in a silky, low-cut outfit, one piece, hugging an increasingly curvy body with long ears and a little tail. In the mirror his human face looked rounded and soft, framed by the ears, but he wasn't actually turning into a rabbit. Just a distinctly cute part-rabbit girl in suitable clothes.
He didn't hear anybody coming from the office building to chase him and demand to know what was going on, so he took a minute to make sure he was done changing. He drove home in silence, went indoors, and stared into the mirror. Then, blushing, he reached down between his legs and confirmed that he'd become a completely qualified bunny showgirl.
Well, he wasn't going back to work like this! He laughed nervously. How could the carrots possibly change his clothes as well as his body? Then again, that was hardly the biggest mystery. What else could these things do?
It seemed like he was stuck this way until tomorrow morning or so, and might have to call in "sick". He shook his head and felt his ears wobble. He said to no one, "Sorry, I'm a little underdressed today." His voice came out high and sultry. Yeah, e-mail was the way to go.
He stretched out on his bed and looked up other carrot recipes to try, for science.
It really wasn't science at this point, more like... magic. He tried throwing a t-shirt on over his drafty outfit, but the fabric rapidly shrank away, condensing into a pink bowtie. He hoped he'd get his old clothes back when this wore off! Because it was going to wear off. Definitely. For now, he just needed to chill out at home.
After a pleasant evening, he woke up and felt himself slowly reverting to his usual shape. The showgirl outfit sitting on his dresser was becoming a shirt and pants again, and his cute tie had become a shirt. Lyle breathed a sigh of relief. As fun as that had been, he needed to be more careful about timing these things! He went into work an hour late to make sure he was back to normal, and though his boss looked at him funny, he figured she hadn't seen the full extent of what was happening yesterday.
Reluctantly, he let the remaining carrot cake sit in his fridge. He knew what it did. He tried preserving one of the carrots by vacuum sealing, but couldn't resist bringing it with him to work on Friday. He waited until nearly quitting time, to be safe, before eating it. Maybe it'd work the same as the original salad.
He was safe when he headed out, and for half of the drive home. While stuck in traffic, though, he noticed that he was suddenly wearing gloves. The slick, rubbery silver material flowed up along his arms until it joined with his shirtsleeves and took over his shirt. Some kind of... latex bunny form? No, he could feel his hands inside the gloves. As he looked himself over his chin bumped into a hard metal collar that had formed around his neck. Just below that was a patch sewn onto his skintight suit, showing a carrot-themed rocket orbiting a star.
"Spacebun!" he said, laughing as his ears grew again. He wondered whether any of the other drivers noticed. He quickly pulled his wallet out of his pocket; last time it had apparently vanished until his slacks reverted. His face itched and pushed slowly forward to give him a little muzzle with long whiskers, and his pants merged into the tight space outfit. By the time he'd pulled over, he saw glass racing up from his collar to spontaneously form a bubble helmet over his face and trap his ears in its big fishbowl shape.
He drove home carefully after that. He worried a little about the air gauge now attached to his collar, but it hadn't gone down noticeably and he had no problem removing the helmet. Oh hey, this outfit even came with an orange blaster pistol! He studied it but was a little afraid to use the thing.
So, he was somehow getting access to advanced technology, or at least a retro version of it. What was going on? He had the whole weekend to experiment.
There wasn't much he could do with a space outfit. Too bad there was no spaceship! He tried driving to near the mysterious garden on Friday night and got out with a flashlight to walk along the Hazel Trail. Nobody was around. He took it easy, not wanting to get sweaty in this getup. He found the plants right where they usually were, all fully intact like none had ever been picked.
He shrugged and harvested a few more carrots and a turnip. Since no one was around, he took aim with his blaster at a tree, and fired. A bolt of orange energy lanced toward the trunk and left a sizzling hole two inches wide and deep. Well, he had some technology worth studying! He'd have to try the vacuum sealing method again sometime, with better tools to study the gun with.
Back at home he prepared a salad with the turnip from the mystery patch, and no carrots this time. Best to take careful notes of every combination. He spent the evening watching bad sci-fi movies, and ate the salad just before bed.
He woke up with just lingering, slowly shrinking bunny ears and the sensation of having buck teeth.
No effect, then, or something that had worn off already? He was disappointed; he had limited chances to test these things per week. He went to the kitchen to think of something else. He did some online searching for recipes and found something different: a Long Island iced tea with carrots. It was a little early for booze, but he shrugged and tried it. Since he had a few hours to wait, he went out for a run.
While running, he stumbled. He thought nothing of it, but then caught himself hopping once every few steps. This soon? Time to head home! Lyle turned around and fell over. As he tried to prop himself back up, he used his hands and his feet and his feet, counted limbs again, and discovered a set of fuzzy grey paws growing rapidly out from his torso. Lyle yelped and tried to stand, but found he was stretching out until he stood on four big feet with a compact bunny-body behind him. He was a rabbit-centaur, fuzzy from the waist down. He wobbled with every step, trying to get his balance.
A car roared by and he leaped to cover behind a tree. His heart was pounding somewhere in his lower body. This change had happened fast! There was nothing for it but to hop back home before more people saw him. He waited for a quiet moment on the road, then hurried back out, taking long bouncing steps and jumps. Soon he got the hang of moving this way and started to enjoy it. Bouncy! Another car whooshed past on the road and he steeled himself, avoiding panic. If anybody got a good look they'd think it was a costume.
Still, he was glad when he made it home and squeezed through the door. Being centauroid was a strange change. He kept bumping into things in his house. Good thing he didn't have a horse-sized body. He tried rearing up on his hind legs and craned himself up to touch the ceiling. Trying to walk on his hindlegs just made him giggle and flop over.
That was a fun one, but it had hit quickly enough that he had to be more careful. Lyle spent the rest of the afternoon sprawled on a pile of pillows and blankets, watching movies. He was eager for it to wear off so he could try something else.
By Saturday afternoon he felt his lower body shrinking away again, slowly squeezing back into a normal human shape. Lyle walked around as a centaur for a little longer just to enjoy the experience, and got started on something new in the kitchen. Pumpkin, squash and carrot soup this time. As soon as his remaining two feet looked human again, he tried the soup while writing down his experiment results so far.
He was cleaning the house when the changes hit, half an hour later. Fur prickled along his skin, starting from his throat, and spread out to stretch his face into a muzzle again. He watched in the mirror as he got a pink little nose and long ears. He'd kind of wished the centauroid form had come with the bunny ears. His tail grew back out and wriggled, and his hands and feet were soon pawlike and covered in fuzz. He clicked the little claws that his fingernails had become, and typed notes on his computer with some difficulty. This form was a humanoid rabbit, pleasant looking and with springy feet. He felt like he could win a sprinting contest, especially if there were a wolf or a cat chasing him. Unfortunately, it wasn't safe to go outside and run around; that was a shame.
While taking notes, he discovered that his clothes had been tailored for this shape. His sneakers were sandals big enough for his expanded feet, and his pants had a fastener in back that went over his tail. So as with some of the other changes, he got accessories with the new body. How could that be? He thumped one foot unconsciously on the floor as he thought.
He was going stir-crazy being stuck in his house, afraid to show off and unable to see how fast he was. He paced his living room and impatiently waited to turn back. Maybe he could try the iced tea and the carrot cake together to get a bunny-taur form with proper ears. What would carrot donuts do; make him a bunny cop?
He set his alarm for the middle of Saturday night to see if he'd turned back yet.
The alarm buzzed and he whacked it. No fur on his arm, or elsewhere when he blearily looked himself over. Good; back to normal. Lyle yawned, hopped out of bed and opened the fridge to prepare that soup/cake combo, twitching his tail in anticipation.
Wait a minute. He reached backward. Though he was otherwise human, the little flag behind him had lingered. That was annoying; he'd have to wait a little longer. He took half an hour... and still he had a tail. That was troubling, even though the tail itself was kind of neat.
There was one thing he still hadn't properly explored. He went online and compared the data from his fitness tracker gadget to a local map. Although there was a patch of woodland along the jogging trail he knew well, the Hazel Trail still wasn't marked. That wasn't surprising. But there also wasn't enough space for the trail to even be there. A convenience store was a block away, about where the carrot patch was.
Lyle put on a loose t-shirt and didn't tuck it in, covering his tail. His pants were regular human ones, not adapted. He got in his car and drove to the convenience store (mindful of his tail as he drove) to look around. Behind it, in the direction of Hazel Trail, he saw a dumpster and a near-impenetrable wall of trees and bushes. He poked around there, looking for a way through, but it was almost like someone had deliberately blocked the way. The shop itself was completely normal and didn't feature a suspicious carrot obsession like he'd suspected. He went home puzzled, and still tailed. What if the thing didn't go away? Would anyone notice at work?
He needed to get to the bottom of this strangeness. Since he was hesitant to eat any more experimental food, he changed into jogging shorts (shirt still untucked) and went on foot to his usual trail. Then, he stepped onto the Hazel Trail with his phone in hand. The farther he went, the more the signal dropped, until he was out of contact. He tried the location tracker and got nothing. He shivered; he was off the map. The vegetable patch was right where it had been, intact despite his digging. He'd only gone a little way past it on his other trips, even though the trail continued through the forest. He knew by now that it couldn't continue in that direction, but it did.
He tried going farther.
The woods grew denser the farther he went. He was still located nowhere. No signs, and though the trail wound in several directions he was sure it continued onward through impossible space. It even crossed itself at one point with no sign of there being an intersection. Finally, he saw two things at once. One was the convenience store, reachable through a ragged gap in the shrubs ahead. The other was the fur that spread along his outstretched arm as he held out his phone for a signal.
He pulled back his arm in surprise and saw it was human again. When he tried his other hand in the same spot, it grew fuzz and claws of its own. It was like there was an invisible line ahead, with his bunny-self beyond it. Lyle gulped and stepped all the way through, shivering. Like a soap bubble he felt the changes ripple along him, giving him big paws and a whiskered muzzle and long ears again. He had sandals and tail-friendly shorts again, and the shirt he wore now advertised not his employer "Taney Logistics" but "Coney Logistics", with a rabbitty logo.
He peeked around a corner of the shop and saw someone getting out of their car. A tall woman, with even higher ears atop her head, covered in a brown pelt that showed off her twitchy nose and cottonball tail. Lyle's eyes widened. He watched her go, then peeked through a window. The store clerk, too, was a rabbit, and this time there were grilled carrots on sale where the hot dogs normally were.
Lyle retreated and looked back at the entrance to the forest trail, now open for him to head back to the real world. Back to his experiments and to seeing whether he'd revert to being a normal human again. He shook his head and felt his ears dance. It seemed he'd found a whole parallel world, and there was more to see here. He took the long route past the store to the open road, where nobody remarked on the humanoid bunny because that described everyone else in sight.
He went home, tired from the trip, and found that his house was still there. Nearly the same as ever, except that his family photos all showed rabbits instead of humans, and all his clothing and furniture was subtly different. "Rabbit world," he said. He was a dimensional explorer yet still in his own house.
In his fridge sat the leftover carrot cake and soup. He wondered if they did anything in this world, and whether there was another copy of himself around. He took a long shower and spent too long drying his fur, then lay back on his bed, laughing. Back to work tomorrow, to an office full of bunnies!
He could wait a little while, get through a week of working with claws and paws and tail, and try yet more experiments next weekend. Maybe he'd try going back to his old human world and get that blaster gun back to reverse-engineer, or go spacebun and then hike on Hazel Trail, or even loop around and see if the trail entrance was there in this world, too. There was a lot to see, and he'd be a busy bunny for a while!
There are plenty of ways to cook carrots, but when your ingredients come from a garden that shouldn't exist, there might be side effects.
A commission for user Artoochu2014 on FA.
If you find a linear trail that leads to another world of bunnies, is that a bun-dimensional path?