The edges of his cell were drenched in complete darkness, which is where Muts preferred to stay. Other rabbits in Styx might ave woken up next to one another, surrounded by a living blanket of warm, squirming bodies. But not Muts. Not Muts.
Perhaps it was raining on the surface… Muts considered. The Warden had taught him about the rain once, that sometimes water fell out of the sky for days on end. In the winter it turned to ice before it hit the ground and if you wanted to go anywhere you had to wade through piles of it. The Warden had brought some of it once, offered a handful to Muts, called it snow. Muts held it in his trembling paws, told the Warden he had never seen anything so pure and white, cried when it finally melted. The Warden just laughed and told Muts on the surface there was enough snow to fill the entire warren.
Muts knew it wasn't really rain. He knew that at the bottom of Styx he was about as far from the rain as one could possibly be, with about a thousand leaking pipes between his cell and the surface. That’s why it was so warm down here, the Warden said, that’s why Muts was never given any clothes.
Only the most naive of animals would call the creature that roamed the basement of Styx a rabbit. Others might argue that such a thing could scarcely be called an animal at all. Muts had been born broken. Muts was told his mother died of shock as soon as she saw him being pulled from her womb, so terrified she was of the grotesquerie she had been secretly carrying.
The creature stumbled around on legs twice their size, balancing awkwardly on flattened paws and over-sized claws that would never recede back into the skin. The creature's torso was elongated, the spine grew across its back but kept going, extending past the flank, terminating in a lengthy polyp of fur and flesh that served as a counter-weight to the creature's stretched neck.
The creature's head was distorted and malformed. Its eyes grew too close together, while its widened snout grew much too far. Two flaring nostrils atop lips that curved back across nearly the entire face. A leather muzzle sat atop it all, fastened around the neck in a vain attempt to correct the creature's deformed skull. And when they took it off the creature's mouth was littered with hundreds of pointed teeth that stood out at every angle.
The Warden must have loved him, Muts knew, and Muts loved the Warden in return. For it was the Warden who walked with Muts and talked with Muts and would read Muts stories for hours at a time. It was the Warden who gave Muts laughter when he was sad or food when he was hungry or punished Muts when the cub knew he had misbehaved. And when Muts lay awake at night in the cold darkness of his cell, it was the Warden whose affections he longed for.