The creator of the Public Radio Alliance—the fictional podcast network responsible for shows like Tanis, The Last Movie, and Faerie—is bringing one of his conspiratorial stories to print. Terry Miles’ Rabbits podcast saga has been adapted into a novel, continuing the story of an alternate reality game that’s guaranteed to change your life forever...if you survive, that is. io9 is thrilled to reveal the book’s cover and an excerpt today.
A brand-new story set in the same world as the fictional technothriller podcast, Rabbits focuses on an elaborate game that promises wealth, enlightenment, or even more upon the victors. It’s in the vein of Jason Segel’s Dispatches From Elsewhere, which was based on an alternate reality puzzle game that took place in San Francisco between 2008 and 2011. But in this case, Rabbits has been around for decades, involves some of the most powerful people in the world, and is believed to actually alter reality itself.
This story takes place during the 11th round of the game after a “Rabbits obsessive” named K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, who claims to be the winner of the sixth round. He thinks something has gone wrong with the game and entrusts K with getting to the bottom of it, and fast. Unfortunately, Scarpio soon goes missing and K finds themselves in the middle of the game—and one mistake could mean the end of the world.
Here’s the debut of the cover for Rabbits.
The following excerpt, from the beginning of the first chapter, lays the groundwork for the game—explaining some of the rules, restrictions, and surprises that lay in store for anyone who tries to join in. It also lays bare the collective obsession the game has inspired in people, to the point where some of them will do anything to get invited.
I first came across the game in 1983. My game theory professor took me to visit the site of the original Laundromat in Seattle. The Laundromat is no longer there, of course, but if you ask the manager of the restaurant that currently occupies the space, she might take you into the office in the back and let you see part of the original room. And, if you order a big meal and tip the wait staff well, she might even remove the large modernist painting that hangs above the fireplace and show you the graphic of the rabbit on the wall.
Some true stories are easier to accept if you can convince yourself that at least part of them are fictional. This is one of those stories.
—Shalini Adams-Prescott, 2021
“What do you know about the game?”
The smiles vanished from the assembled collection of conspiracy hounds and deep Web curiosity seekers, their private conversations stopped mid-sentence, their phones quickly stashed into a variety of backpacks and pockets, each of them doing their best to look cool and disaffected while unconsciously leaning forward, ears straining, eyes bright with anxious anticipation.
This was, after all, why they were here.
This was what they came for, what they always came for. This was the thing they spoke about in inelegant lengthy rambles in their first Tor Browser Web forum experience, the thing they’d first stumbled upon in a private sub/reddit, or a deep-Web blog run by a lunatic specializing in underground conspiracies both unusual and rare.
This was the thing that itched your skull, that gnawed at the part of your brain that desperately wanted to believe in something more. This was the thing that made you venture out in the middle of the night in the pouring rain, to visit a pizza joint slash video arcade that probably would have been condemned decades ago had anybody cared enough to inspect it.
You came because this mysterious “something” felt different. This was that one inexplicable experience in your life: the UFO you and your cousin saw from that canoe on the lake that summer, the apparition you’d seen standing at the foot of your bed when you woke in the middle of the night on your eighth birthday. This was the electric shiver up your spine just after your older brother locked you in the basement and turned out the light. This was the wild hare up your ass, as my grandfather used to say.
“I know that it’s supposed to be some kind of recruitment test—NSA, CIA maybe,” said a young woman in her early twenties. She’d been here last week. She didn’t ask any questions during that presentation, but after, in the parking lot, she’d stopped me and asked about fractals, and if I thought they might be related to sacred geometry (I did), or the elaborate conspiracy work of John Lilly (I did not).
She didn’t ask me anything about the thing directly.
It was always like this.
Questions about the game were most often received as whispers online, or delivered in a crowd of like-minded conspiracy nuts, in safe spaces like comic shops or the arcade. Out in the real world, talking about it made you feel exposed, like you were standing too close to something dangerous, leaning out just a bit too far on the platform while listening to the rumble of the approaching train.
The game was the train.
“Thousands of people have died while playing,” said a thin red-headed man in his early thirties. “They sweep these things under the fucking rug, like they never happened.”
“There are a number of theories,” I said, like I’d said a thousand times before, “and yes, some people do believe that there have been deaths related to the game.”
“Why do you call it the game, and not by its proper name?” The woman who’d spoken was in a wheelchair. I’d seen her here a few times. She was dressed like a librarian from the fifties, glasses hanging around her neck on a beaded chain. Her name was Sally Berkman. She ran the most popular Dungeons & Dragons game in town. Original Advanced D&D.
“Phones and all other electronics in the box,” I said, ignoring Sally’s question. They loved it when I played it up, made everything feel more dangerous, more underground.
Everyone stepped forward and placed their phones, laptops, and whatever other electronics they had with them into a large cedar chest on the floor.
The chest was old. The Magician had brought it back from a trip he’d taken to Europe a few years ago. There was a graphic stamped onto the lid, some kind of ceremonial image of a hare being hunted. It was an intricately detailed and terrifying scene. There were a bunch of hunters and their dogs in the background bearing down on their prey in the foreground, but the thing that drew all your attention was the expression on the hare’s face. There was something dark and knowing about the way it stared out from the bottom of the image—eyes wild and wide, mouth partly open. For some reason, the hare’s expression always left me feeling more frightened for the hunters than the hunted. The chest looked like it had been manufactured sometime in the 1920s or 1930s. I always used it when I did these things; its strange patina brought an authentic old-timey conspiracy atmosphere to the ceremony.
Once the last phone was inside, I kicked the lid shut with a dramatic bang and pulled out an ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder.
I had a digital copy of the recording, of course. In fact, I’d made the reel-to-reel recording I was about to play from an MP3. But there’s just something romantic about analog tape. Like the cedar chest, the old tape recorder was for show, and these people had come here, to this old arcade in Seattle’s University District, for a show.
They’d come from their parents’ basements, their messy studio apartments, high-rise tower penthouses, and midcentury post-and-beam homes in the woods. They’d come to hear about the game.
Excerpted from Rabbits by Terry Miles. © 2021 by Terry Miles. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Terry Miles’ Rabbits is out June 8, 2021, and you can pre-order here.
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