Jamie Poole’s parents had told him all about the Easter bunny. How it stopped by your house on the night before Easter, leaving plastic eggs filled with treats for you to find, and a basket full of other goodies all wrapped up in cellophane. You only got treats, however, if you were a very good girl or boy. If you weren’t, well, the Easter bunny was prone to taking bad kids away, stuffing them into his basket and just hopping away into the night. Jamie had thought that was funny, just laughing as he told them they were stupid. There was no basket big enough to fit kids in, and no bunny big enough to carry it. Their warning had not deterred him, just as none of their prior ones had.

He did not fear the Easter bunny, just as he did not fear leprechauns, the tooth fairy, or the Krampus. They were nothing but stories that would have frightened other children, but not him. Jamie was only eight, but he was very level-headed and knew when he was being given the bluff. His parents never meant the things they said anyway, and he had learned long ago to blow off their idle threats.

In short, Jamie was a problem children and his parents were at the end of their ropes. So much so that they were willing to deploy wild stories about beloved holiday characters in an effort to flip the script.

On the Saturday night before Easter, they again warned him of the implications of being a bad boy, and told him that the bunny would come in the night and snatch him away. Jamie had just rolled his eyes at them, and had then thrown a fit when he was told it was time for a bath and bed time. Two hours later he was finally wrangled into his bed with a glass of water on the nightstand and his Iron Man nightlight shining bright. His parents had promised him that tomorrow would be fun, filled with egg hunts and dinners and church services, but he knew what they really meant.

The day was going to be utterly boring. Full of egg hunts with kids he didn’t even like, dinners with relatives who smelled like mothballs and served food he hated, and church services that bored him to tears. It was absolutely the kind of day that no sane kid would ever look forward to, and instead of sleeping he just pouted. He pouted until he finally drifted off, arms still crossed over his chest.

Jamie woke up some hours later, his mouth dry and his bladder screaming. He took a deep drink of water first and then slid out of bed, hurrying to the bathroom. He did his business and washed his hands, shuffling tiredly back towards his bedroom. As passed back through the living room, he saw his Easter basket sitting on the fireplace mantel. He smirked when he spotted it, and then made his way over to peer at it, able to see through the yellow plastic wrapping easily. There was a chocolate bunny and other candies, a new yo-yo, some comic books, and sidewalk chalks. There were other things that were hidden deeper in the basket that he couldn’t quite see, and he was almost tempted to rip it open right there and then.

Somehow he refrained, though he was now anxious for breakfast tomorrow. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents that he had seen his basket waiting for him, and that he knew for sure that there was no Easter bunny. There was only mom and dad, who were also Santa and the tooth fairy. They were behind all the mystery gifts, all the holiday jargon, and they weren’t fooling him at all.

Then he saw the eggs. They were brightly colored and sat at intervals through the middle of the room. He ran over and picked one up, popping it open. There were some chocolate candies inside and he devoured them quickly, move on to the next egg, and then the next. He kept going until he snagged the last one, which sat right by the front door. His parents had done a bad job at hiding them, leaving them right out in the open like this, but he was greedy and now he wanted more.

Unlocking the door, Jamie tugged it open and stepped out onto the stoop. There weren’t anymore eggs, at least none that were hidden in plain sight, and he pouted a little as he started to go back inside. He stopped though as something across the street caught his eye, giving him reason to pause.

Across the street stood someone in a nightmarish bunny suit. The fur was white but dingy, matted in places and completely filthy in others. There was a bright yellow and blue polka dot bow that hung limply around the suits neck, frayed at the edges. Worst of all was the head, which had a strange face that made Jamie feel like he might have to go pee all over again. It just all wrong, from it’s lump of a nose to it’s gaping grin of a mouth. The eyes were the most disturbing part, just two black and vacant holes.

Jamie stood on the stoop, immobilized by his fear. Whoever was in the suit raised one of the paws then, and gave him a slow wave. He noticed that there was a basket in the other paw, the kind that was woven out of thin wood and painted white. His eyes focused on that instead of the bunny itself, squinting to try and make out more of what he was seeing with only the light of the nearby by lamppost help him. Was that hair sticking out of the top? And a hand? It certainly looked like a hand, fingers gripping the edge of the basket.

“Jamie,” the bunny called out, and then it laughed. Or, rather, the person inside did. Right? There was a person in there, just a normal person. Jamie couldn’t be sure now, if it was a person in a suit or something else. It started singing then, voice high pitched and eerie. “Here comes Peter Cottontail….hoppin’ down the bunny trail….hippity…hoppity…Easter’s on its way….”

Jamie finally got himself to move.

He ducked back inside and slammed the door, locking it behind him. He could still hear it, calling to him from the other side of the street in that horrible voice!

“Jamie…do you want to come away in my basket? There’s plenty of room for you, Jamie….”

He started to scream then, running to his parents bedroom as fast as his legs could carry him. He jumped onto their bed as tears streamed down his face, trying to explain between shaky breaths what he had seen. They assured him it was just a dream, that there was no such thing as the Easter bunny and that they hadn’t truly meant to frighten him. Jamie spent the rest of the night in their bed, too terrified to return to his own.

By morning he came to the conclusion that his parents were likely right. It had just been a dream, and nothing more. He was back to his usual self by the time he was dressed and ready for breakfast, though he felt some apprehension when his mother presented him with his basket after the table was cleared. He saw the yo-yo, the chalk, the comics, and he realized that he had already known about them. He had looked at the basket just last night, after all. It wasn’t a dream.

Slowly he took everything out, bile rising in his throat as he put each item on the table. He took out candy and a jump rope, a bottle of bubbles, and then some brand new Hot Wheels cars. The last thing in the basket was a small gold egg, glittery and shining in the light. Jamie opened it with shaking hands, a piece of paper fluttering to the table. He picked it up and turned it over, tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth as he read the words.

You better be good. See you next year, Jamie.