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Top-hatted purple rabbits had been seen at Dunedin supermarkets, and they weren’t alone.
Their ears fully erect and their eyes torn wide and gleaming with a fanatic’s frenzy, they looked very much like the advance troops of an inundation.
They took their positions on cardboard trays in a prominent part of every supermarket, cleverly located so every shopper would have to pass by them.
They adjusted their bow ties and gleamed insanely as they planned the most terrible deeds of rabbit-inspired depravity.
Or so it seemed.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.The Rabbit Advisory Board forecast more were on their way.
Initial modelling suggested a slow moving front of rabbits would persist for 27 hours over the lower south.
Up to 120 rabbits per metre were expected, with concern rabbits would pool in low-lying areas, especially close to high tide.
A heavy rabbit warning was issued.
City leaders responded quickly. They set up a Rabbit Emergency Operations Centre (REOC) in a bunker downtown.
Teams of contractors swept the streets in formation on the lookout for rabbits.
Others door-knocked in areas susceptible to rabbits to make sure the elderly and infirm were safe, that children were well-behaved and in bed by nightfall, and that bachelors were kept cheerful and occupied in healthy pursuits.
Perhaps it was the expectation of inundation, or maybe it was really happening — nobody knew — but reports of a golden army of rabbits sent to back up the advance troops began to filter into the REOC.
Some said they looked innocent enough, what with their lovingly tied little red bows and their cute little noses, but others spoke of the glint of a metallic coating that looked an awful lot like some sort of armour.
It seemed the rabbits reflected everything around them, acting like golden mirrors to the city’s anxieties.
Evening was coming, and evacuation of the vulnerable was considered in the face of a rabbit storm.
Welfare centres were opened for concerned residents who wanted a respite from the rabbits.
The REOC reported a significant number of rabbits were still forecast for the next 24 hours, but it soon became clear there was much uncertainty about how intense they would be.
There was real concern about intense rabbits, and the city was taking a cautious approach, suggesting those who could not bear a run-in with either a single intense rabbit, or, worse still, a group of intense rabbits, should self-evacuate to less intense ground.
Then nothing much happened.
Rabbits were still being seen in the city, but somehow they appeared less alarming.
While still marching in strictly ordered ranks, the latest sightings had very cute little brown bows and pretty brown eyes that seemed not in the least threatening.
Their skin was less shiny and more gently and goldly alluring.
The night marched on and the morning dawned and nothing happened that could be considered in any way disastrous, much to the disappointment of media covering the issue.
The Rabbit Advisory Board lifted the heavy rabbit warning.
"More rabbits are predicted, but it is well within the range that our systems and operational teams can cope with," the REOC said.
"At this stage, there is no need for residents to be concerned."
And there was a strange sort of shift in the power balance between humans and the sweet invaders.
Dunedin residents began to grab the rabbits round the throat and shove them deep into rolling metallic cages they wheeled here and there down glittering aisles of Easter stuff.
Wild-eyed sharp-toothed screaming children began to circle the terrified rabbits and rip and tear at their skin.
They cracked the rabbits with their cruel little thumbs and began to tear them apart and devour them, drooling their sticky brown blood down their filthy chins and on to their freshly pressed short pants.
It was Easter, after all.
While severe flooding had not come to pass, there were an awful lot of rabbits about.
And some said the situation was not sustainable.
They began to wonder if it wasn’t humanity’s insatiable consumption of chocolate rabbits that was behind the problem. It was human-induced.
Human-induced rabbit level rise.