"Don't fuck with me, Winchester!" said the Easter Bunny, adorable white paws wrapped around the prison bars, "I eat murder and poop Cadburys!"
"What's so important about this book?" asked Sam, holding up an ancient volume that Mister Bunny had attempted to steal from the Men of Letters library.
"It's not a book you pinhead, do books come with an escape hatch?!"
Sam opened the book to a wood carving in the middle, empty save for a key hole big enough for him to slide his arm through. Though the rest of the artwork was in black and white, the keyhole revealed a sliver of blue sky, dragonflies the size of vultures zipping past. Sam shut the book. A little girl holding the Queen of Hearts was embossed across the cover.
"The White Rabbit?" said Dean, swigging a beer, "Whatever, Dad knocked him down years back. Kinda cute, with the jacket and all."
"Man you got juicy with the wrong motherfucker!" said Mister Bunny, "That dude is connected, I seen bakery trucks driving into the local stadium, and if he's got his hands on the Queen's recipe...you gotta get me outta here!"
Dean rifled through the bunny's belongings. "Is this the stadium?" he asked, holding up a flyer for the prog rock band SPACE CHOLO.
The Easter Bunny nodded, and Sam opened the book to another wood carving, of Alice cramped inside a doll house with a tiny cookie that read Eat Me in her palm. "How big could he get?"
"You ever seen somebody after they eat one of Alice's cookies?" Mister Bunny squeaked, nervously lighting a chocolate cigarette, "He'll flip this continent like a pancake."
Space Cholo continued to sell-out venues but failed to integrate with millennials, their fanbase aging and their album sales indifferent. It needed a new angle. Uniforms lifted straight from a Disney auction were administered to the staff, and everyone got stage names like Winkie or Froggy Bottom. Flame cannons were sold and replaced with fog machines that smelled faintly of cotton candy. The lead guitarist switched to mandolin. He opened the Twitter account Artisanal_DILF and got over ten thousand followers in the first hour. One Direction fans ditched their swag in favor of Space Cholo's edgier dakimakura body pillows, which featured an anime rendition of the band members in nothing but white cotton knee socks and cat ears.
The lead singer decided on a new personal pronoun: "they" for the public, Frankie behind closed doors. To Frankie, putting all the employees in fairy tale costumes was somewhere between artistic expression and a means of exerting control. Down in the bowels of the stadium, fake tech crew passes got Sam and Dean through the entrance and ushered into a changing room.
Dean sat in a chair, plucking invisible dust from his toy soldier uniform. "You dressed yet?"
Sam stepped out, checking his hair in the mirror. He wore lederhosen with buckled shoes, a short-sleeved shirt that puffed like cabbages at the shoulders.
"Sam you can't fight monsters in that."
"I totally can, look." said Sam, lifting his arms up and down.
"No I mean, what are the monsters gonna say when they see you? Hell I don't wanna be seen with you."
"They're gonna be like, 'Damn are you seeing this?'"
They split up, Sam to search the grounds while Dean questioned the band members, but Dean didn't have to look far. The musicians wore matching red capes, gossiping around an industrial juicer and drinking their dinner. Inwardly whimpering at the idea of a rock band subsisting on spinach shakes, Dean grabbed a tray of hors d'oeuvres and headed their way.
"Hey you guys hungry?"
Dean had already stuffed three meatballs in one cheek, so his question came out sounding more like "Aye oo eyes onaree?"
They looked up. Dean was used to more traditional musicians, the leathery type with words of wisdom and a face like a catcher's mitt, but these guys were built for porn. Long blonde hair, eye-liner for the undecided boys in the audience, and muscled like condoms stuffed with walnuts.
The guitarist went back to his magazine, one booted leg propped up on a couch arm. "We're good, thanks."
Dean swallowed and went back for a second helping. "You guys seen all those bakery trucks back at the loading dock? I don't remember that being on the schedule."
"You'd have to ask Frankie," said the drummer, "He's the showrunner."
"Great thanks," said Dean, rocking on his heels, "Ya know, uh, you guys got a pretty good schtick going with this fairy tale get-up."
"Um-hmm." said the guitarist, turning the page in his magazine.
"Yeah I, ya see, I always wanted to break into the music business."
They snorted and the guitarist flipped his magnificent hair. "Please, you? A musician?"
"Can you play an instrument?"
"Do you even own a cape?"
Dean formed his lips around a retort, when his phone buzzed with a text message from Sam. FOUND CELLAR ENTRANCE, MEET AT CHANGING ROOM IN TEN.
Dean replied with an OKEY DOKEY and swept the remaining meatballs into a plastic bag he kept in his back pocket for just such an occasion. "So remind me, which way is Frankie's office?"
Stadiums will always give off ectoplastic feedback. Unexplained deaths, fistfights during a hockey match, lion-tamer acts gone awry, all surge within the architecture and leave a high water mark long after the events have passed. So it was no surprise when, despite endless catcalls from the Teamsters, Sam paced the loading dock with his EMF reader and stopped at a closet door, where he found an axe and a hole that had been half-heartedly boarded up from the other side. It was barely wide enough for a child.
Sam turned his head a fraction of an inch. "I know you're there."
The Easter Bunny materialized, hands shaking as he tried to light a match. "Dammit, can you hold this for me?"
Sam steadied the flame, and watched twin jets of smoke coil around the Easter Bunny's head. "Gimme your matches," said Sam, elbowing the wooden slats apart, "I'll be right back."
The Easter Bunny grabbed his arm. "You can't go down there! That's fairy tale country!"
"I've seen worse."
"But you don't know what he'll do if he finds you! He'll chop your feet! He'll fry your liver! He'll turn you into the rain on a grocery cart handle and clean you with his sleeve!"
"Give me…" Sam's eyes flared, "...the matches."
The Easter Bunny rose to his full height, easily a head taller than Sam. "You're not going!"
The Teamsters looked up. Having just zipped themselves into gingerbread men onesies, they were in no position to break a seven-foot rabbit out of Sam's headlock. Union rules are clear: there is no profit in losing to a hippie in lederhosen. Sweeping his hair out of his eyes, Sam stepped over the semi-conscious Easter Bunny, fished the matchbook from his clothes, and crawled through the hole in the wall.
The end of the tunnel was packed with explosives, but where other anarchist organizations lined their walls with graffiti or propaganda posters, the White Rabbit's hide-out was a repository of jarred specimens, shelves curving in a crescent with a manhole cover in the center. A hammock with the latest issue of Busty Asian Bunnies hung in the corner. Leaving the manhole cover for later examination, Sam lit a match and studied the shelf nearest him.
"Merulius tremellosus…" he muttered, squinting at the tiny white flower within.
He shook out the match as it burned down to his fingers, and scratched another one to life. Behind him, a set of eyes glowed yellow.
He took down another jar, surprised to find bags of fertilizer but neither grow lamps nor any other source of light otherwise required for gardening. "Steccherinum ochraceum…"
The answer itched in the back of his brain, but Botany 1001 had been a lifetime ago. The match died and he struck another, though this time he dropped it on the floor and snaked his arm around someone's throat.
"Why are you following me?" Sam hissed.
"Easy son," wheezed the Easter Bunny, "He'll hear us."
Sam released him and went back to his work. "You should've stayed at the Bunker."
"Man I can't do that," said the Easter Bunny, picking up the match and pushing the end of his cigarette into it, "I mean, White Rabbit's an asshole but he's kin. You don't let kin punch a tar baby."
The Easter Bunny blew out smoke. "Didn't grow up honky, did ya?"
The Easter Bunny poked around the hammock and swung the strap of a lacy bra around his finger. The name Thumper was stencilled on the front.
"I knew White Rabbit had the right idea, goin' private contractor. Dang man I tell you government work is hell on your taxes. If Heaven don't stop my main dogs down at Nestle all gettin' in my business," said the Easter Bunny, as ten blood-red nails descended upon him from the shadows, "I'll have to start sellin' chocolate out of my van."
Space Cholo's office was unlocked. There was tea brewing and abstract music on the radio (or maybe Frankie just enjoyed listening to the sounds between stations). Sticking a wet finger inside the sugar bowl, he tongued a few sugar crystals for quality assurance and then waggled his fingers at a security camera, before picking up a towel and covering the lens and searching the room for magic items.
He had just about to call Sam when Frankie herself (or himself, it was hard to tell) walked in to find Dean standing over the mini-fridge holding two different flavors of fizzy water. The brains behind the band was more and less than the myth, five feet tall, platinum hair cropped and shaved around the sides, and never to be seen in public without eyeliner and white fur coat that weighed more than he/she did. Frankie eyed Dean's toy soldier uniform.
"I'll have a Fresca?" Frankie asked, though it wasn't a question, and sat down at the make-up counter, "With a squeeze of grapefruit?"
Dean swallowed, casting about for a glass and a tiny paper umbrella. When he finally set the drink down, Frankie patted the bench cushion. "Have a seat. You're not camera ready."
"Oh I don't…"
"Sit." said Frankie, a nicotine-stained voice a complete one-eighty from the falsetto crap Dean had heard during the mic check earlier.
"I don't need the make-up." said Dean.
"Well I do."
Dean sat and let Frankie draw little circles around his cheeks with lip-liner. "Why you got everyone dressed like this anyhow?" asked Dean.
"Because it's fun," said Frankie, deadpan, "Remember fun?"
"You see anyone laughing around here?"
"Well alright, the Neverland shtick is just a media gimmick, as for myself..." said Frankie, drawing a tiny birthmark beside Dean's mouth. "Ever look in the mirror and wonder whose face is staring back at you?"
"...everyone has those days." said Dean.
"Well without the hair and the make-up and the fur coat, I don't see myself in the mirror. I have to bring my real face out."
"What's wrong with the one you were born with?"
Frankie uncapped some lipstick. "And what if you were switched at birth? You gonna let your family tell you who you are?"
Dean fingered the bottles of foundations, recalling past arguments with Sam. "Touche."
Frankie sipped the drink. "I don't have anything worth stealing ya know." he/she said, "So if you were in here looking for something to pawn-"
"I'm not a thief."
"So what are you?"
Dean watched in the mirror as the circles on his cheeks were filled in red. "Insurance."
Frankie grabbed his jaw. "Hold still, I'm going to bring out your eyes," he/she said, tracing a charcoal outline, "I didn't know I was in danger."
"You are. Everyone is tonight. I was hoping to track down the nut-job before we started evacuating the stadium but-"
"Who told you this?"
"A seven foot talking rabbit."
Frankie spread his/her hands toward the hallway, where several employees in costume stood by a water cooler, foam animal heads tucked under their arms. "Which one?"
The ten-minute mark came and went, and Dean checked his reflection for the hundredth time when the changing room door burst open.
"Damn Sammy," said Dean, as Sam rushed toward him, his costume filthy and buckled shoes leaving a thin bloody trail, "Hell happened to you?"
"We gotta move, they took the Easter Bunny."
"By the loading dock, there's a tunnel full of guns, fireworks, explosives, dirty magazines, and violent women all named Thumper."
"You mean..." said Dean, his eyes misting over, "...Heaven?"
Upstairs, the crowds milled about finding their seats, while in the bowels of the stadium Sam and Dean karate-chopped their way through a guerrilla army of babes with grenades, ninja stars, and fluffy cottontails. Once the smoke had cleared, Dean lifted the manhole cover, where roots sprang up from a newly dug rabbit hutch. He held out his hand to Sam. "Still got those matches?"
Dean lit one end of Busty Asian Bunnies and dropped it down the hole. It never hit bottom.
"The concert's starting," said Sam, pushing Dean aside, "I'll go, you stay here and be on the lookout."
"No way," said Dean, grabbing Sam's hand, "What if you get hurt? How are you gonna climb back up?"
"Dean we can't both fit in there-"
"Hell you can't fit in there, the thing's rabbit-sized, only way you'd get down-"
Sam's eyes fell on a small jar on the far shelf, only half-listening to Dean.
"-is if I shrink-rayed your ass."
It was the only jar labeled in English, half-filled with amber liquid beside an eye dropper for accurate dosage. Sam lifted it gingerly, the match's reflection burning in the fluid within.
"Dean, you got anything like a pocket handkerchief?"
Sam turned around, so Dean could read the label's spidery handwriting. Drink Me. "So we can make a rope."
The rabbit hole was crammed with more shelves along the way, but while Sam ignored these distractions and climbed until the tunnel widened into a dimly lit cavern, Dean stopped to sample specimen jars en route-a honeysuckle full of whiskey, berries with thumb tacks for thorns-until his fingertips glowed the same pale color as the walls around them.
"How can you eat that stuff?"
"Dude I'm hungry." said Dean, licking his fingers clean.
"You don't know what he's been growing down here. Those flowers could be poisonous."
"Aw come on Sammy," said Dean, "What kind of poison flower grows in the dark?"
Having reached the end of the rope, Sam reached out and sank his fingers into the surprisingly soft wall. It stretched and tore like half-cooked bread. Voices buzzed nearby and Sam buried his arm until he felt it breach the other side. The Easter Bunny's nervous complaints drifted upward.
"Damn son when'd you last wash that shirt?"
"Please don't, you've burned a hole in the sleeve."
"Fine, I don't wanna see your armpits," said the Easter Bunny, blocking the other speaker from Sam, "For all I know you got raccoons nesting in them."
"There's no time! Look!" said the other, pointing to a pocket watch, "We're going to be late!"
Music shook the rafters, sending a fine spray of dust. Even more alarming, the walls of the tunnel began to contract, tensing like an animal before it springs, and Sam fumbled for the rope.
"Dang man you are into some hard stuff, I wanna turn the pages with a napkin," said the Easter Bunny, picking through a copy of Busty Asian Bunnies and then glancing up, "Where's this thing taking us anyway?"
"To the Other Lands," said the White Rabbit, now in view, "Where else would we go but that endless meadow, which has no name except that rabbits in secret know?"
"Fuckin' hate riddles man."
"It wasn't a riddle."
"Good cuz it was a dumb one."
The bottom flashed with distant explosions, so bright that Sam was left only with after-images of whatever lived down there, like a field of glowing seaweed. "Dean!" Sam hissed, as the air shook and hairline fissures of light criss-crossed along the walls, "I can't hold on!"
A hot wind spun from below. Sam's fingers slipped free of the rope, grasping at empty air for several heart-stopping seconds until there was a sound like a folding chair and Dean's calloused hand latched onto his wrist, caught in the updraft as an ocean of soft creatures streamed past them. The paper umbrella he'd pocketed from Frankie's cocktail shouldn't had been able to take their weight, but it did.
"Hold on Sammy!"
And winding his arm around Sam's waist, they held on tight as a storm of mushroom spores rocketed them back to the surface.
Frankie hated dramatic pauses. The stadium went from full house lights to a single cone of blue light aimed right over him, poised for a high note that would inevitably be interrupted by a sneeze or some drunk in the front row yelling "Free Bird".
"Lightning on the mountains
Calling me to roam
Honey don't you know…"
Frankie held out his microphone, gesturing to the audience for them to complete the refrain, while behind them the floor buckled and warped.
"...this was never my home."
Frankie didn't blink when the mushroom punched through the stage, red with white spots on the cap and ten stories high, or at the parade of rabbits spiraling out of the stadium roof to the twilight-edged clouds in the distance. Sam and Dean landed in a safe corner and watched while Frankie, bathed in residual magic, returned to his/her true form. Soft white fur, long ears shaped against the skull, claws for digging, and a mind for mischief.
The White Rabbit beckoned. Frankie dropped the guitar and grabbed the first spore that came along, hooking onto it and riding the wind like a parasol. "Good-bye my little friends." said Frankie, waving to the audience, who watched in slack-jawed horror as Frankie became a miniature and then a dot and then vanished in the sulphurous sunset, wherever rabbits lived on the other side of the sky.
The microphone squealed, the only sound before the audience erupted in a wall of noise. The drunk in the front row snapped a picture with his phone and tweeted, "Best. Encore. EVAR Artisanal_DILF #SpaceCholo #hfs".
"Dean, what the hell are you doing?!"
"Crowd control. Wait, go start the car and be ready in five," said Dean, handing Sam the keys, "And thanks."
Dean thought back to his conversation with Frankie, about family and how it defined you, and realized why he'd subjected Sam to those ratty old music tapes of his for so many years. Songs were for the things that couldn't be said.
Lifting the discarded guitar and pulling the strap over his head, Dean steadied the mic and asked, "Any of y'all here know the words to Free Bird?"
The audience, all of whom were 19 but were too hip to admit they'd been born after the song came out, responded as one. "YES."
"I thought as much," said Dean, tuning the guitar, "Well because ya'll have been so good, how about I sing this one last song, and then we'll call it a day. "I got a long drive ahead…"
Outside in the parking lot, Sam's eyes flashed black for a moment, but he thought of Dean and brushed away the White Rabbit's residual magic and they were blue again.
"...And I wanna get home tonight."