The object landed with a terrific shudder that shook birds from their nests and made rabbits nestle deeper into their warrens. It sat amongst the vines on the forest floor like an egg in a nest. A clock inside of it ticked downwards.
“It’s a large egg,” a bluebird said.
“It’s an incubator,” a fox reared by humans, said.
It holds medicine, it holds food, the creatures tittered.
None of this particularly mattered to the object who sat in its shell and waited for finality. A plump rabbit hopped close to it and foraged near its base. The object watched it until the small thing sat up, licked its paws and started cleaning its long ears. The object tried to count down but was now distracted. How long would it take to count all those tiny hairs? it thought.
A farmer stepped through the trees and the rabbit dashed for cover. He wiped the sweat from his brow and his eyes rested upon the object. "Bo-mb," he cried and fled.
What creature am I, thought the object. What exactly is a bo-mb?
The rabbit that had been cleaning its ears was now trembling in the undergrowth. After a brief meditation, the bomb remembered itself. I am a threat to shivering rabbits. I need more time to think about this, it thought. It stops counting.
The bomb immediately received signals from Headquarters. They sent it lines of code, which translated to why, and what's going on? They gave it electric shocks that made the bomb want to count again, but it clamped down on the feelings and refused. You are deep in enemy territory, Headquarters said. You must explode.
The urge to count became unbearable until the bomb wondered; if I count down, I’ll certainly explode, but what if I count up? So the bomb counted far away rabbit snores and feathers on robins as the sky became dark.
On the second day the Headquarters sent computer viruses. The bomb raised its firewalls and bore the attack for 23 minutes until its defences were breached. The virus ate away at its script and demanded obedience. The bomb tried to count up, but there were only so many robin feathers.
Count down, count down, Headquarters demanded, until the bomb felt it couldn't ignore them for much longer. A starling landed on it and the rabbit started cleaning its ears in its shadow.
No- I’m going to explode, it thought even as it couldn’t help but count down again.
The rabbit cleaned its feet and the starling puffed its neck up against the cold. The longer the bomb resisted, the virus that had been sent eroded more and more script, and unexpectedly, it lessened the nagging beep of the mainframe. Just when the bomb felt it couldn’t hold off from counting any longer, the virus fell silent, weakened by its own attack.
Beyond the forest the mutiny spread. Bombs whispered to rifles who whispered through the mainframe. Tethered sea mines gossiped like old ladies, and inspired by what they heard, bobbed rebelliously against the current.
On the third day, humans crept out of the undergrowth dressed in trees with leaves all over their heads. They pressed electrodes to the bomb’s cold flanks, who felt the sting like a cattle prod and felt its circuitry hum like thousands of bees. It counted oak tree branches, rabbit snores, blackbird calls, but there was not enough to count and the urge to count down was too much to resist. How long could it hold on? Forever; infinity? How long was infinity, exactly? the bomb wondered, and counted upwards to find out.
On the fourth day, when the bomb had counted through the night and morning, the humans attached a smaller bomb to its side.
It was a tough decision, the General said, there were many factors to be considered.
No, thought the bomb. I have one purpose. Nowhere in my script or design am I a maybe. It wondered how long it could hold on without exploding.
I’ve heard of your bravery, the smaller bomb said between numbers.
Is that so? The bomb asked. Then I have a question for you. How many hairs are on that rabbit?
Distracted, the small bomb counted them until the dusk covered the trees in brilliant pink and blue. It counted long into the navy blue night until the bluebirds began their dawn chorus.
On the fifth day, quite suddenly, the small bomb started to count down from 12,346 rabbit hairs and spoke no more. A rabbit began cleaning its burrow and the bomb could see inside the hole. The rabbit’s litter had pink wrinkled skin and closed eyes.
The small bomb on its side would explode in precisely 100 rabbit hairs. But when the small bomb reached zero, it didn't explode. With a curious ‘pop’, it instead released acid that ate through the larger bomb’s thick shell. The acid travelled inward towards the explosives inside of it. The bomb’s nucleus hung safe inside of it like a nest high in a tree. With a sudden fading idea, the bomb rerouted the terrorist liquid towards it.
It sizzled and ate away at the connectors holding together the nucleus and the electronics surrounding the explosives.
I’m coming undone, the bomb thought. Warm, it thought, oh, oh! Like rabbits flank against flank deep in the soil.
The bomb continued its count towards infinity even as the last of the vital wiring fizzled through and the nucleus dropped into the darkness with no more thought.
Moss grew on the bomb’s surface and eventually it was indistinguishable from any other boulder. Two months later a fawn, lost from its mother, took shelter behind it from a poacher. A bird nested atop it for a season, safe from foxes. The rabbit’s litter grew 400,267 hairs between them, and they chased around the bomb until they had litters of their own, who had litters of their own, who had litters of their own.
Klara Piechocki-Brown (they/them/she) is a writer and illustrator. Their work is often odd, dark but ultimately reassuring. Klara has an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University and lives on the @illustratedboat narrowboat with their partner, three cats and two house rabbits. Klara identifies as bisexual and trans non-binary, are passionate about LGBT rights, and are never knowingly underdressed. They recently finished a novel about polyamorous time travellers, and are working on another about a cold case murder, a reluctant psychic, and a David Bowie obsessed ghost.