…It's been years since I'd last talked to Hayden Soncha-that horrible bastard, of whom I miss dearly-but I think it was all for good reason, too. I expect that rehashing over this will be gloomy, indeed, knowing ahead of time where it all leaves off, as well as where that all then leads to. But I'd like to put it all down on paper anyway, if only in an effort to put things into perspective. I do not believe were all bad people here, and I do not hate you, Hayden, like I had that last day. I wish you were here so I could tell you that. But then again, this place here? No, no… I was quite relieved to find out you'd gone. I only wish I could've told you all this beforehand. But I didn't know it back then, and so there really was no way to tell. But I know it now, so maybe someday I'll let you know in some other life. It'd be great to be able to see you again.
So I guess I'll start here.
* * *
The last time I'd spoken to Hayden Soncha was nearly three years ago, back when he was still expecting to become a father. It'd been some day in late April when he'd first heard the news by way of a hand-written note, smeared in what smelled to be honey, stuck against his front door. The note said this:
Hello, there. I hear your name is Hayden.
You're who lives here? Who knew.
Anyhow, I'm pregnant and the baby is yours (or so I think…)
Kidding. It's yours. What's there to do?
It was strange, to say the least. But Hayden re-read this hideously short note for hours, moving it through his hands until the stickiness of the honey had entirely rubbed off. In that time, every detail of the note was to be studied: the sloppy handwriting (of which looked quite boyish), the choice of words, the facetious tone despite a grave concern, the choppy sentence structure, almost as if had been made from the clippings of a ransom note. And who was this mysterious "W," and why were they playing games?
Hayden sat alone in wonderment, neglecting the better part of a day to ponder this curious note, and after a few hours it became solely a matter of discerning whether or not it should be read as one big joke. Who in their right mind might tell of a legitimate pregnancy like this? Who knew, but it was slowly becoming less real to him. That night he called me over to read it and hear a second opinion.
"Oh…" I began, somewhat taken aback. This didn't at all seem like Hayden Soncha-that is to say, the whole knocking-a-girl-up I could believe (honestly, I was a bit surprised it hadn't happened sooner). But him divulging any facet of his personal life to anyone, especially me of all people? Now that I couldn't believe.
For all the time I'd known him, Hayden had been a man of a tightly sealed past. I still don't know what he did for a living, or what even brought him to be living in Parpontogue. Frankly, I really knew nothing about the guy at all. Just that he was, at his most simple, the essence of an enigma, to which I believe he relished the reputation of being seen as such.
Although he never refused to talk about himself, he had a natural talent for ever-so-slyly directing a discussion away from him and to more interesting things. He really liked delving deep into nonsensical theories where the more inexplicable they were the better. Plus, why would anyone care to ask about one's life, anyways? Most likely to press judgments, if not just for the chance to switch the talk to themselves. So who cared to tell? Hayden didn't care to (or, at least not at that point in time. In a only a few years from then-after all the ache, the sickness, the near-vicious introspection-he'd come out to confess everything awful pertaining to his past, his present, his fears, and all his inner demons. Then he left Parpontogue for good.)
But I'll get to all that later.
All that being said, here we were: him trusting me with the tight-lipped prospects of him becoming a father. What a mess!
"Honestly, I have no idea what to think," I told him. "If this note really is just some sort of gag, it's a damn juvenile one, and I can't think of any girls in town who are young enough to pull something like this. Besides, if there are any girls in town that young, I sure as hell hope you wouldn't be messing around with them."
Hayden sat listening, patting the folded note against his palm.
"Well, let's first get it straight, Saul. For one: I don't mess around with any young girls. I'd like to think I'm above all that. And two: when I do mess around with the young girls, I first make sure they've been real, real bad."
We began to laugh. It helped to take the edge off, and Hayden seemed to not be taking the situation all too seriously.
"Do you at least have an idea of who this 'W' might be?" I asked.
"Your guess is as good as mine. I haven't a clue. I thought back to those I'd messed with a month or two ago-at least those I can remember-and came up with nothing. Really, I don't even think I know a girl with a name that starts with a 'W'."
"H'm…" I said.
We talked late into the night over some beer and whiskey, jumping back and forth between nonsensical talk, but always ending up returning to the subject of the note. Again, every little detail was analyzed and accounted for, and our drunk selves sure felt clever.
"The more I read this… oh man," Hayden broke off. "I really feel some ache in what this girl wrote. Like this right here: 'Kidding. It's yours. What's there to do?' That right there says it all! Don't you feel that, Saul? Now that's some pain! All that playfulness of hers? That's her trying to take this situation with as much sanity as she can. Coping with humour. That's basic psychology."
"O.K.," I said. "And so what about the honey?"
Hayden laughed aloud. "Oh, well yeah. This girl is cracked, for sure! But who isn't these days? I'm just relieved it was something sweet like honey, and not something worse. Like shit or period blood. Now wouldn't that be symbolic!"
The more we drank and talked the more it became evident: perhaps the note was to be read as real. But what about the possibility of it then having just been some stupid, spiteful prank?
Eh. Maybe, though not likely. For all he knew at the time (and for all I didn't know), there wasn't a single woman or man who'd had it out for him, let alone had any reason to dislike him at all.
At the time he was a man known throughout Parpontogue to be not only well-off in money and property, but also quite rich in human spirit. As stated earlier, he liked to talk about senseless philosophy, and others liked to hear him talk. Nearly everything he did was founded in genuine passion, from cooking breakfast to shaking one's hand to licking the back of a stamp. He was so incredibly amiable that it put even the most timid stranger at ease, such as yours truly. I'll never forget the first words he'd ever said to me, as I walked distraught along the beach: "Hey you, pal! Quit being a lone wolf. Come here, come in! Come plant yourself some whoopsie daisies, ha!"
What a drunken bastard, he was…
Moreover, in a town as vile as Parpontogue, I'd say his persona shined even brighter. Hayden sure had his vices-just as any sane man should-and he also helped foster the vices of those around him. At the time I'd never questioned why he did it. I still to this day think it was all just one big experiment to him. But then again, it'd all be revealed as merely his way of self-preservation--really making sure no one would ever feel compelled to leave him. A moral trap, so to speak.
And indeed, still to this day, Hayden Soncha may be held accountable as the first person to have decorated Parpontogue into a place that it's not: some mislaid paradise.
Through countless years of living here, he came to be seen as a local celebrity, earning himself the reputation as the town's own Gatsby. Though so much greater was he, seeing as there'd never been a Daisy to try and impress. For he would throw the most exceptionally elegant, and yet debauched of parties, where nearly everything would be supplied to guests, free of charge: The booze to drink, the pot to smoke, the music to dance to, the entertainment to awe at, the beds to have sex in, the rugs to pass out on, the capsules to guzzle to augment the night-uppers and downers and screamers and freezers. You name it, you wanted it, and it was there.
I remember especially that on a few nights there'd been a firework show shot off right from his beach, with no need of a holiday or special occasion.
"Life is the occasion!" Hayden would cheer aloud, as the guests would echo right back: "Yes, yes! To life!"
The most exceptional of these parties were exclusively reserved for the world's four seasons, where word of these parties would spread throughout Parpontogue alike an endearing plague. They were something to look forward to, from the night one ended to the next one to come. There was no limit to company.
"Invite your neighbors, invite your neighbor's neighbors, invite your own worst enemy and tie up those loose ends! Or fight it out as men with tools and give us all a good ole' show!"
Oh, the times…
But yes, of course, the most infamous aspect of all (and what I now judge to have been Hayden's own social experiment) is, nowadays, only heard of as a myth. But for those who lived through it, and are still currently living in Parpontogue, it remains to be a very real place. What Hayden Soncha came to name, "The Rabbit's Den."
* * *
The Rabbit's Den, at its most simple, may have been Hayden Soncha's magnum opus. He'd explained the concept to me one of our last afternoons together, and although he'd come to renounce the theory years later right before leaving town, I still find it a genius one. The concept was this: Dedicate a space to serve no other purpose than to feed a man's most primal needs, and you will create for that man something he's never had before-an actual home.
"I mean, that's what a home is meant to be, right?" Hayden had said to me that one afternoon. "Back when Man was no more than an animal himself, scribbling his life story in caves and protecting his own, do you believe that man ever found himself restless, or bored, or craving something more? No. Of course not. For that man was content to live with food, sex, a place to shit and sleep and nothing more. Boredom? Debt? A restaurant overcooking your steak? These concerns could only exist for the modern Man, because he invents them for himself.
"Hell, you shave an ape, dress it up in an Armani suit and give it a fork and knife to eat with? Why… you won't be able to tell the difference between that ape and a congressman! But you know what would tell of the difference? That ape stepping out of bounds of social commandments. Because something as petty as sticking his fish with a salad fork, or mistaking a dollar bill for something to wipe his mouth with, would surely be the mark of a beast.
"Saul: do you know what the difference between a dollar bill and a napkin is?"
"I do not."
He said to me, "The difference is in the details. That if you wiped your mouth with a dollar bill, that mouth of yours would be left even dirtier than before."
This was all the conception for The Rabbit's Den: You remove the suit, the perfume, the social stigma of being something we're not, and you bring a human back to being a content, hairy animal. Male or female. White or red. Young or ancient. The urges to release the primitive energy were still all there, if only buried deep. But now there was the opportunity to unearth it all without shame, since everyone else that felt the same way was right there with you as a rabbit in the den.
It'd originally be Hayden's guesthouse, and so it remained it be. The Rabbit's Den was a three-story home right next door, furnished with nothing more than some dim-lit lamps sitting upon a scatter of nightstands, six double-door refrigerators all containing a supply of water, foods, and an assortment of alcohol for every taste and tolerance, and 60 twin-sized beds, 20 beds per floor, all enclosed to privacy by way of thick, multi-coloured curtains. An entire house-nearly ten times the size of my shoddy apartment- had been reserved solely to serve the most primal pleasures of guests: for them to eat, to drink, to piss, shit, sleep, puke and have carnal, vague-brained sex.
All that being said, however, the stench of The Rabbit's Den was… unbearably distinct, to say the least. In the countless years I'd known Hayden never once had the place been cleaned. The hardwood was not mopped, the linens were not washed, the toilets were not scrubbed-but who could've expected them to be, anyways?
The guests were forewarned of this but it still didn't matter to them. Some even seemed to relish the accumulating mess, fully embracing Hayden's theory of abandoning societal expectation. Au revoir to one's hygiene, health, moderation, reputation, and moral standards. Yet still, merely one night spent in The Rabbit's Den-one's own anti-baptism into the depths of impurity-would somehow leave the rabbits men and women feeling more honest, more in-tune, with their inner demons than ever before.
And so yes, short-story-long, it'd been quickly ruled out that the note of paternity was to be some spiteful, childish joke. The townsfolk were just too pleased with Hayden Soncha to cause him any needless trouble.
And so it was here, in this exact moment, that the reality of the situation showed its ugly truth to Hayden-that the most famously depraved and secretive man in Parpontogue was now to become a father, and thus he'd be forced to make an executive decision: Either pack up and leave behind the famous reputation he'd built for himself in our depraved town, or stay and raise a child in the exact depravity he'd been the one to cause.
* * *