(I originally posted this over here a few years ago. It’s one of several stories I’ve written that started out as fairy tales, in which the fairies never quite made it to the party.)
There never was a boy who proclaimed the presence of angels. This boy that never was and never possibly could ever be again lived in a woodland village with his mother who too often fell in love and a stepfather who had a wicked habit of marrying women who too often fell in love so that he could not love them every day and any child they might have as well did he take wicked pleasure in not loving.
One day, the stepfather sent the boy to the woods to fetch wood for fire and rabbits to roast. The stepfather was clever with snares and traps. His traps and snares were everywhere throughout and all over the woods. When the boy came upon the first of the snares, he saw a nice, fat rabbit struggling to free itself. He pulled out his cudgel to brain the rabbit, but the rabbit spoke, “Free me and you will be rewarded.” So surprised was the boy to hear a rabbit speak, that he released it immediately. The rabbit ran swiftly into the brush. The boy was sad as the rabbit had not rewarded him, but he knew there would be many more to fetch home. And indeed, in each trap and every snare was a nice, fat rabbit struggling for freedom. The wonder of having encountered a talking rabbit, however, had so impressed the boy that he could not bring himself to brain them, so he set them all free instead, though none of these rabbits spoke and the one who had spoken had lied to him. The boy gathered wood and wild onions and headed home wondering how he would avoid being beaten from head to toe.
When the boy arrived home, his stepfather said, “I see you have fetched wood as I ordered, but where are the rabbits from my traps and snares?”
The boy knew that his stepfather would not believe the truth of a talking rabbit, so he lied: “An angel appeared at each trap and every snare and forced me at the point of a flaming sword to free each and every rabbit.” His stepfather immediately beat him from head to toe and threw him into the coldest corner of the house. That night, the boy was not allowed near the fire nor was he allowed to eat any of the wild onions he had brought back instead of rabbits. He spent the long, cold night crying softly and calling for his mother, but his mother was too frightened to help him, though she believed his lie of the angel as the boy knew well by the look in her eye.
The next day, the boy went into the center of the village and proclaimed to all the people there that his stepfather was a witch and drank ale with the Devil every night. He told them that when his stepfather attempted to force him to drink ale with the Devil as well that seven angels descended from Heaven to protect him, but told him that unless he publicly proclaimed their presence and the wicked sins of his stepfather, that he would go to Hell. Further, they told him that if the village folk did not punish the witch, that the entire village would go to Hell and the Devil would stuff them full of flaming wild onions and demon rabbits would gnaw at their ankles for eternity.
The village folk immediately went to the boy’s home and dragged his stepfather into the street where they burned him alive after cutting off all his hair so that he would not die too quickly. The boy’s mother stood by weeping and wailing and clutching her son to her breast. The boy remembered how desperately he had wanted her to hold him on the long, cold night before and loudly shouted, “My mother is also a witch! The Devil sticks carrots up her arse and she smiles and kisses his knees!” So the mother received the same punishment as the stepfather, except that a thorny thistle branch was stuck up her arse before she was set aflame.
Several other villagers were burned that day. The boy was never sure why. He was, thereafter, never very happy, but he was glad his stepfather had died terribly. He drank a great deal of ale when he thought of his mother. He never saw another talking rabbit. He never saw any angels at all, though on occasion he would lie and say that he had. He never married, but became quite clever with traps and snares and took great pleasure in the agony of the rabbits he captured.