The mechanism of vibrational energy flow is studied in a regime where a diffusion equation is likely to break down, i.e., on length scales of a few chemical bonds and time scales of a few picoseconds. This situation occurs, for example, during photochemical reactions in protein environment. To that end, a toy model is introduced that on the one hand mimics the vibrational normal mode distribution of proteins, and on the other hand is small enough to numerically time propagate the system fully quantum mechanically. Comparing classical and quantum-mechanical results, the question is addressed to what extent the classical nature of the molecular dynamics simulations (which would be the only choice for the modeling of a real molecular system) affects the vibrational energy flow mechanism. Small differences are found which are due to the different ways classical and quantum mechanics distribute thermal energy over vibrational modes. In either case, a ballistic and a diffusive phase can be identified. For these small length and time scales, the latter is governed by intrasite vibrational energy redistribution, since vibrational energy does not necessarily thermalize completely within individual peptide units. Overall, the model suggests a picture that unifies many of the observations made recently in experiments.