Yay, Alice! Or rather not, you'll just have to read to find out! Anyways, I apologize for the spacing, ZU's formatting eludes me still. If a mod wants to reformat it, go for it. Also, if you find any misspellings, please let me know.
“Alex, are you ready for school yet?” Hannah yelled. I lifted my head from the pillow. My older sister always had a way of being brash. I could hear her pounding up the stairs to yell at me for not getting up earlier.
“Why are you still in bed?” She slammed open the door. “You should be halfway down the stairs already. If you aren’t down in two minutes, I’m leaving you here.” I cringed when she slammed the door behind her. I pulled the blankets off of myself and padded across my sparse room and opened my closet door.
Of the few garments that lie inside, the blue gingham dress had to be my favorites. I pulled on a pair of white tights and slipped the dress over. I pulled on my black converse and headed out the door. The door slamming shook the whole house as Hannah left the house without me. I rolled my eyes as I moved down the wooden staircase and into the kitchen. I pulled open the fridge door and pulled out a soft apple.
I always told Hannah that they don’t belong in there, but she says they last longer. I cringed as I took a bite of the cold apple. I pressed my hands to my forehead in a futile attempt to halt the pain. I chomped down the rest of the apple, tossed it in the bin, and left my house. The day outside was a bleak as usual. The sun barely broke through the clouds as I walked to school.
The other people I attended school with were miscreant children that teased me whenever I walked by. My parents had died a few years back in a car accident, so Hannah and I were on our own. The other children were so insensitive, always jeering at me. I pushed a strand of hair out of my face in an attempt to avoid eye contact. I was almost inside when,
“Hey Alex, did your mommy pick those clothes out for you?” One said. I slipped inside the door and closed it behind me, avoiding the other insults they threw at me. While there were a few students I couldn’t stand, I could see Diana make eye contact with me from down the hall. She gave a small wave and I nodded back at her, acknowledging her wave. She moved out of sight and into a nearby classroom.
I sighed and moved into my own classroom. The teacher ushered me into my seat and began the lesson. Shortly after the teacher started, the kids from outside sauntered into the classroom. The girl that seemed to be their leader made a face at me as she took her seat across the room from me. The teacher continued her lesson. When lunch started three subjects later, I managed to slip out into the forest behind the school.
I sat down in front of the usual tree and pulled the small book out of my satchel.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” she said. I looked up to see the flash of white teeth and red hair.
“Hello, Diana.” I said.
“Alice in Wonderland again?” She asked. I looked at the ragged book in my hands. Alice in Wonderland was my mother’s favorite book. She had given me this book as a little girl and I’ve nearly read it to pieces since then. I’d even based this dress of Alice. I’d always been looking to catch a little magic since, well, since my parents left.
“Of course, what else could I possibly be reading?” I replied. She held out a sandwich filled with some indiscernible mush. “Mystery meat again?” I grabbed the sandwich from her and took a bite. It tasted like warm mush and the white cheese on it greatly enhanced the flavor.
“You don’t seem to be complaining too much. How are you handling Kylee? I hear she’s been giving you hell.” She asked. I rolled my eyes and took another bite of bland mush.
“Is that what her name is? I’m just ready to leave here. Too bad I still have another year of this torture.” I put my hand across my forehead to emphasize the drama. “Oh me! What shall I ever do to escape this place!?”
Diana laughed, “One day Alex! One day, you will look down on the world and squash all those that stand before you!”
“Geez, you make me sound like I want revenge. I just want to be left alone is all.” I tilted my head down and finished my sandwich in silence. I made polite conversation with Diana until we had to return to class. The object of my fury, now known as Kylee, sat in the front row and kissed up to the teacher at every possible opportunity. I rushed out of class as the last bell rang. I made eye contact with Kylee but managed to cut around a corner and into an empty classroom.
A laugh echoed throughout the lifeless room.
“Good afternoon, Alice.” It said. I looked around but couldn’t see anything.
“My name isn’t Alice, its Alex. Who are you?” I asked.
“The question is not who am I, but who are you?” he fathomed. I jumped out of my shoes a little as the bodiless mouth appeared before me.
“What’s going on here?” I grabbed my waist and introverted.
“Oh dear, calm down. I’m here to take you away.” Its eyes appeared. They were large, green, and had slits like a cat.
“Take me away?” I asked, “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see, you will see, my dear Alice.” He said. A laugh echoed through the room and the disembodied eyes and mouth disappeared. I kept my eyes on the spot where the eyes were and backed out of the room.
“It’s Alex.” I whispered. I bumped into someone in the hall. “Oh, sorry.” I mumbled.
“What’s that? Are you talking to yourself now? Geez, get a load of her. She’s got dead parents and she’s crazy.” Kylee said. I went to move away from her, but the boy and girl standing behind her stuck their arms out and blocked my passage. “Hasn’t anyone taught you any manners? You should make eye contact with whoever’s talkin’ to you.” She said. I averted my gaze even further, trying to distance myself from this. “I said look at me when I’m talking to you.” I closed my eyes in silent insolence. “I’ll give you one more chance to look at me.” I shot my gaze up.
“Or what?” I said. She shot me a small grin as the girl to her left shot her hand right into my left cheekbone. I instantly crumpled to the floor, clutching the already rising welt.
“That’s what, Alex.” She replied. She leaned down close and whispered in my ear, “See you tomorrow.” I waited a few minutes until they left and I slowly drew myself up from the floor. I ambled into the washroom and looked into the mirror. The place where the girl had stricken me had swollen up into a nasty looking bruise. I sighed to think about what Hannah would say when I walked into the house.
I snuck out of the backdoor of the school, avoiding the few teachers that stayed to work late, and headed down the lane back home. I cracked the door open a little bit to test if Hannah was waiting, but nearly fell over when she snatched the door from my hands.
“Alex!” She shouted, “Why are you so late getting home? School ended nearly an hour ago.” I reluctantly tilted my head up to look at her. Her face softened and she pulled me in close. “Oh Alex, you make me worry so much. You always come home with new bumps and bruises. You need to open up to me, I can only help you.”
She held me in her arms for a few more minutes before she released me so I could go up to my room. I pounded up the stairs and entered the washroom to get a damp cloth to place on the bruise. I went back to my room to lie on my bed. I pulled the disheveled blankets over my cold frame and drifted off into a dreamless nap. When I woke up, the sun had already gone down and a small lamp sat on the bedside table.
“Hannah, are you still awake?” I called out. I didn’t hear anything move in the house. I pushed the covers off and swung my feet around to the side of the bed.
“Well done, Alice.” It said. I rolled my eyes, not this again.
“What now? Are we going somewhere this time, or are you just here to laugh at me like the rest?” I asked.
“I think you might be ready, but only time will tell. Whether you stay here or go there is up to you, Alice.” Something rattled in the closet. I drew back onto my bed, thinking of what I’d been told.
“Is it really up to me? We’ll see.” I said. I pushed off the bed and ripped open the door. Nothing. I sighed and sat back on the bed. “So much for controlling your own destiny.” I scoffed.
“Hehe, soon.” It said. I shrugged off the voice and plopped back onto the bed. I stared at the candlelight. I must’ve drifted off into sleep because when I opened my eyes the candle had gone out and the sun lit up the room. I stretched my arms and pushed the blankets off myself. I decided to change into the purple shirt and black pants. I pulled open the closet door and saw the two items I wanted. I stepped in to grab them but went to a free-fall. I screamed as loud as I could when I saw a light approaching.
There were floating chess tables, beds stuck in the walls, fireplaces, and many other things. I steeled myself against impact as the ground drew closer. I squealed a bit as I gently landed on the floor. It was a tan rock floor in the middle of a large cave. I felt the solid ground.
“No, this can’t be real.” I breathed. I pulled myself onto my feet and moved towards where the cave opened. The path twisted all around until I could’ve sworn I was walking on the ceiling. In a blinding flash of light, I was standing on the outskirts of a city.
It seemed to be a normal city from where I stood. The houses separated from the workplaces, with the large city hall betwixt the two. I looked down at my dress to dust it off, only to find that it had been cleaned and was in pristine condition. I moved away from the cave and ventured towards the city. I came upon rabbit moving through the trees of the forest I’d quickly gotten lost in. I began following it, hoping it would lead me to the city or, at the very least, water.
At a few points during my following, I could’ve sworn I’d heard someone complaining about being late. I looked around for the culprit, but, following the norm, there wasn’t anyone around. We came out onto the side of a large road. The rabbit bolted out into the street in front of a blood red limousine. The limo made no attempt to avoid the rabbit and clipped its leg. I ran out into the street and picked the white rabbit up from the limo’s dust.
“Oh no, look at your leg! We must get you to a veterinarian!” I exclaimed. I hopped back onto the sidewalk and moved towards the business sector double-time. I walked by a small café where a few pedestrians sat outside. They were all cloaked in red and black. I walked up to the nearest man.
“Excuse me, sir, do you know where I can find a vet’s office? This rabbit has been hit by a car and I…” He held his hand up.
“I cannot help.” He simply said. I was shocked by his blunt rudeness and moved towards the next people sitting at the tables. They all turned away from me as I asked for help. I eventually gave up and pushed on through the city. After walking down a few seemingly identical blocks, I decided to turn down an alley.
“Having trouble?” It said.
“Not you again, unless you can show me how to help the bunny, leave me alone.” I retorted. I had lost all patience for the mysterious voice.
“Is that any way to treat your guide in Wonderland?” It said. It revealed the rest of its body.
“Wonderland, but that’s and you—you’re a cat?” I asked breathily.
“The one and only, Cheshire Cat, my dear Alice.” He said. I awed at his purple and pink striping.
“Are you going to help me then?” I asked.
“I cannot help you, but I can give you some advice. The citizens of Red City won’t help you unless you dress like them. They are rude snobs; I suggest you catch the next bus to White Metropolis before…” He disappeared.
“Excuse me, miss. You need to come with us.” The man said. He stood in front of a car with red flashing lights on top of it.
“Am I being arrested?” I asked. The man said nothing as he grabbed my wrists and forced me into the vehicle. I fought against him as I was locked into the backseat. The men said nothing as we moved silently through the empty streets. We drove straight through the city and into the suburbs. On top of the hill in the middle of the suburbs rested a large mansion. It was made of solid, red marble. I supposed that Red City was meant to be more literal.
He opened the car door and led me, still carrying the rabbit, up to the porch. He pushed the doorbell and retreated quickly back inside his car. A small butler opened the door and ushered me inside. Upon a glance, he seemed to be a small, ugly man, but upon further notice, he looked to be plump, pink pig, clothed in the same blood red and black as the rest.
He quickly led me down the hall and into the study. I opened the door and stepped inside.
“I’ve brought her here as you asked, ma’am.” He snorted. A hand waved from behind a large chair and the pig nearly ran out of the room.
“I wondered how long it would take for you to come back, Alice.” She said.
“My name isn’t Alice! It’s Alex.” I specified. She held her hand back up to silence me.
“Your name is whatever I say it is, understand? Good, now then.” She turned her chair around to face me. Kylee.
“Wha—what are you doing here?” I asked. She raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t follow. I’ve always lived here, or should I say, I’ve always ruled here.” She laughed. It seemed that she didn’t know who she was. I was glad of that, it made it easier for me to avoid her harsh words.
“Why am I here?” I asked.
“Simple, you’ve drawn the attention of the masses. The colors you wear are offensive here. I suggest you change or leave. Any insolence will not be tolerated. I’ve had a gown prepared for you downstairs or, if you prefer, the policeman is waiting outside.” She smiled.
“How could you have me arrested, I’ve done nothing wrong!” I protested.
“Easy, I’m the mayor of this place. I make the rules, and I say you were disturbing the peace. I can snap my fingers and have you put away forever. I suggest you go downstairs and change. Put that mongrel outside, I don’t want him to muss up the place.” She waved her hand and dismissed me. The pig-butler was waiting for me outside the room. He led me downstairs and towards a wardrobe that held the new dress for me.
It was a dark scarlet and had black hearts emblazoned on the apron. I quickly shirked off my favorite blue dress and placed it inside the wardrobe. I voted against changing shoes, since my converses were already black.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said to the butler. “Can you do something for the rabbit? I feel terrible just putting it back outside in this condition.”
“I’m sorry, Alice. It has been forbidden. I will lead you to where you can free him.” He said. I followed him into a large backyard where a plethora of rose bushes grew. There were a few men working in the back splashing something onto the white roses. I thought it peculiar for the roses to be white, an apparently frowned upon color. We went through the back to the where the forest began.
I set the rabbit down with a heavy heart.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you.” I whispered.
“Not to worry, Alice. I’m sure I can make it back to the White Metropolis.” He said. My eyes grew wide when it spoke, although I was positive I shouldn’t have been surprised he could talk. I released him into the trees and he clumsily sprang off.
“Good luck, don’t be late!” I shouted after him. The pig butler led me through the maze of roses and back to large manor. He led me through a bloody stone hallway.
“Goodness, are all the buildings in this city so red?” I asked. The pig nodded his head.
“Indeed, Miss Alice.” He answered. I rolled my eyes as we climbed the spiral staircase.
“You can call me Alex, okay?” I corrected. The pig turned to face me.
“Yes, Miss Alex.” It simply replied. We finished our ascent of the staircase and he led me past the study and through the large hallway. He opened a double door and led me into the most fantastic dining room I’d ever seen. The black wooden table was covered in hundreds of dishes; everything from meats to cheese, breads and butters, and fish and shellfish. I took a loud stomp forward when I saw her grin from the end of the table.
“I see you made the right choice.” She had a grin of victory from something as meaningless as a change of clothing. “Why don’t you take a seat and have something to eat?” She rhymed. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to avoid saying something rude. I grabbed the cold, black marble chair and took a seat on the red cushion. I hesitantly grabbed a roll from the basket in front of me.
“Go ahead, take a bite.” She suggested. I held it up to my nose to breathe in the yeasty smell. I was surprised to find that it was coated in a layer of burnt sugar and cinnamon. I took a bite to find that it was warm and moist on the inside. It didn’t even have any flour spots from where the lazy chef didn’t stir the batter adequately. I quickly finished the roll, savoring the tremendous flavor. I reached over and demolished another.
“Is everything to your liking, Alice? Maybe you should try another dish. Anything we can do to make you as comfortable as possible.” She said. She had a hideously fake smile on her face that made me feel a tad apprehensive. I moved to grab one of the steaks on the platter to my left. I slapped it down on my plate and frowned when I cut into it. It was bloody and nearly raw.
“Excuse me; do you have any steaks that are cooked through? I don’t really like bloody steaks.” I asked. Her smile cracked and she grew red, well redder. She leapt up from her seat and padded the fifteen feet down the long table. She grabbed the plate off the table in front of me and shattered it against the wall, plate and all. She pointed one long, bony finger at my face, then at the door. I didn’t think twice when I gathered myself up and hastened for the door.
Once it was closed behind me, I could hear the awful woman yelling at someone and breaking more dinnerware. The pig butler pulled out in front of me and stopped.
“Good evening, Miss Alex, I trust your dinner, although short, was pleasing.” He said. I looked at his tiny suit with the little red bow and buttons.
“I suppose so. Is she always that testy?” I asked. A smile played at the corners of his mouth.
“Come now, I am to lead you to your quarters for the night. Right this way.” He replied. He wound through more hallways, past a large ballroom, up another staircase, and into the largest bedroom I’d ever seen. The walls and furniture were the same black and red as the rest of the land, but was so immaculately clean and tidy.
“If you look to the door in the left, it is a fully stocked washroom to use at your discretion. The door to the right is a walk in closet full of the latest fashions, tailored for you. Finally, the doors in the middle lead out to a balcony overlooking the Queen—excuse me, the Mayor’s gardens.” He stuttered.
“Wait, what did you say about a queen? She’s the Red Queen, off with your head and all?” I asked. He gave a nearly imperceptible nod. I walked over to the sofa situated at the foot of the bed and plopped down. “Of course she’s the Red Queen. Red City? I’m an idiot for not realizing the moment I stepped foot in this house. How did she get demoted from Queen to Mayor? I thought Wonderland was a monarchy!” I exclaimed.
“Well, quite frankly, Miss Alex, the citizens of the Red Kingdom amassed an army against the monarchy and overturned it in favor of a democracy. The only problem was that when the queen registered to be voted on, the rest of the candidates backed out, afraid she would use her past ties to have them assassinated. Now there really isn’t anything we can do. Tis the problem with a sovereign state, really.” He explained.
The Red Queen had been taken down, and yet she still came back to power. Some people refuse to be taken down, for better or worse. I shook my head, “Thank you…?” I asked, hoping for his name.
“You can just call me Hector.” He said, slipping out the door. I walked over to the washroom and tossed the door open. Inside there was a pile of towels, soap, and the largest bathtub in the universe. I walked over to it and turned the hot water knob, surprised when the water scalded my skin. At my house the water was never really hot, merely lukewarm. If I wanted to take a hot bath, I had Hannah help me fix a fire and a basin.
After I fiddled with the cold water knob, I pulled the stopper in the tub and let it fill up with water. I slipped off the dress and my undergarments and stepped into the water. I slowly moved down to the water, getting gooseflesh at how nice the water felt.
After relaxing for a while, I grabbed a bar of, what else, red soap. Despite the color, it had the cool scent of peppermint. I followed with a blob of shampoo that I intensely massaged into my scalp. Once I had rinsed my hair, I drained the tub and fought the hairbrush through my wet tangles. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my moist body.
I opened the door to the bathroom to see that a tray of food had been brought to my room. I walked over to it and removed the cover. A large piece of charcoal lay underneath, or no; it was a steak that had been grossly burned. I set the cover back down on top of the dish and walked over to the closet. I pulled open the door to see the most insane ensembles. They were all some shade of red, but while some were very conservative, some were very provocative. I soundly closed the door and glided back to the bathroom.
I dried myself off with my towel and put my undergarments back on. I picked the dress up out of the crumpled pile on the floor and stuck that back on as well. I sprinted back into the bedroom, suddenly remembering the balcony view. I pulled open the door walked out. The view of the rose garden was stunning, but… weren’t the roses white earlier? I noticed that a few of the men had been working on the garden, but they couldn’t have seriously been painting the roses red.
“Goodness, they really are all mad here, aren’t they?” I mused to myself. I turned around and headed back into the bedroom. The bed was nearly as tall as the ceiling, and had pieces of red tulle draped between the posts. I plopped down into the mass of red and black blankets. The bed immediately flexed under me. I snuggled up to a pillow and drifted off to sleep.
I didn’t have a dream at all and, within what felt to be a short while, I was awake and watching the sun rise. I rolled off the bed and walked out to the balcony. The morning air was crisp and cool on my face. I peeked over the railing to see the peak of a gleaming white tower way off in the distance.
“Can you see that all the way from here?” He said. I turned to see the cat poised on one of the chairs.
“Of course, I’m insane, not blind.” I replied with a chuckle. The cat stood straight up in its front claws and moved towards me.
“No need to worry, dear Alice. Everyone in this land is insane. Even me, if you can believe that.” He said. I scoffed at his reply. I couldn’t see how anyone here could be anything less.
“Trust me,” I said. “You’re definitely mad. What were you trying to tell me yesterday?” I asked.
“I was simply begging you to escape from this place. There are many ways to do it. Even from this house. I am red and white, old and bright. What am I?” He disappeared, smile lingering momentarily.
“Red, white, old, and bright? What could it be?” I mused. I walked back into the room and sat on the sofa in front of the bed. I thought about where I’d been in the house. The backyard rose maze would be too obvious, although the white roses being painted red made sense. I quickly dismissed the thought; she would’ve sentries posted to prevent my escape that way. The room with the wardrobe in was too small for anything else to be there. The dining hall had been made of solid marble, solid and seamless.
“The study!” I exclaimed. I deduced that there must be something else there. I snuck over to my door, trying to be as quiet as possible. I cracked it open to see the empty hall that lay before me. I pried the door open the rest of the way and gently closed it behind me. I clicked dully down the halls, avoiding the few servants I encountered. I made it down to the spiral staircase, just shy of my goal when I overheard the woman talking to someone.
“Have you met with her yet?” The voice asked. It was a deep, husky tone that rumbled deep in my gut. I heard a sharp guffaw and a slam.
“Of course I have. That girl is a twit, I should have her beheaded.” She said. I swallowed hard, ducking behind the banister at the approach of a maid.
“Nonsense, give me a chance. I wish to speak with her before—well before she meets her untimely fate.” He begged. After a few tense moments of silence,
“I suppose. I’ll have the butler lead you to her quarters. If she gives you any trouble, let me know immediately. I’ll have the executioner take her head off posthaste.” She said. The door clicked open and a man’s overbearing boot steps resonated through the hallway, followed by the shrill click of heels.
Once everything had quieted down somewhat, I moved from my hiding place, quietly pulled the door open and slid in. The small study was full of furniture. A desk, a few chairs and a table, a bookshelf attached to the wall, and a potted plant. I walked over to the desk and felt the bottom for a secret button. No luck, it was a smooth and cool. I searched through a few drawers before plopping down in her cushioned chair.
“Kylee! How am I supposed to get out of here?” I whispered, and then my eyes caught something. The bookshelf was crammed full of books, but one in particular stood out, a white book with red lettering.
“Red and white.” I said to myself. I tiptoed over to it to see what it was titled.
The Great Escape. “Really? Could it be that obvious?” I reached over to the book and pulled it out. It only moved out an inch, triggering some mechanism. After a series of small clicks, the bookshelf swung open, revealing a secret path.
“Silly me, the path is always behind the bookshelf, not under the desk! What a cliché!” I contemplated. I slipped into the damp, dark tunnel. When I pulled the bookshelf closed, it made a few more clicks. I turned back to face the darkness. I hadn’t brought a light, which had been a bad idea. I faced the bookshelf and felt for a switch to open the passage. It was a one way ticket.
I sighed and felt for the wall. It was cool to the touch, and even though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was an awful red color, just like the rest of this accursed place. I moved down the tunnel, following the occasional twist. It immediately went downwards, I assumed to break free of the mansion. I swallowed in the darkness, refusing to stop for even a moment until I found light.
However, the more I walked the more lost I felt. I continued moving down the wall until it came to a sharp corner and moved off. I was painfully aware of being in open darkness. I pushed my fear down and continued travelling forwards. I held my hands out in front of me, hoping to find purchase on some surface. I felt a brief gust of wind and stopped walking.
“Wind? Every book I’ve ever read said that wind in a tunnel meant I was close to a way out.” I shouted. I quickly covered my mouth and mentally kicked myself. I could hear my voice steadily echo throughout the tunnel. Hoping to avoid being discovered, I licked my finger and held it into the air. I followed the direction of the wind until I could see a dim light. I moved towards the mouth of the cave, happy to finally be back in the light.
I moved out into a dense forest. Even though I knew it to be day, the thick trees blanketed the forest making it seem nearly nighttime, but still; it was less dark than the cave. I took a few steps towards a tree and noticed small fruits hanging off it. I stoop up on my tiptoes and plucked one off a low branch. It was a fluorescent purple and hard. I stabbed my thumb nail into it and smelled the juice. It seemed to be something like an apple. I cautiously put it up to my lips and took a bite.
I waited a few moments before continuing, hoping that I would not become ill. When no side effects occurred I finished the apple and grabbed another. After I’d had my fill, I began wandering aimlessly through the forest. I could hear a few birds chirping in the distance, they had the most peculiar chirp. Though, it wasn’t really a chirp at all. It was more like nails on a chalkboard. I quickly rushed away from them and stumbled into a bubble in the trees.
The trees rose up around a large clearing, but still covered the top of it, making it eerie in the night-like atmosphere. I walked over to a long dining room table covered in teapots. I picked up a cup and looked into it. It had rings of dried tea from years of use without being washed. I set it down when I saw the man hunched over at the end of the table. His top hat had pushed a few of the tea sets onto the ground, where they lie in pieces.
I shook his shoulder, “Excuse me, sir. Will you help me?” I asked. He shot his head up.
“Change places!” He said. I looked back at the table, all set for tea but with no guests. “Hello, what can I do for you?” He said with a crooked smile. When I looked into his dark eyes, it seemed he was short a few marbles.
“Do you know where we are?” I asked. He stood up and began walking around table. He poured himself a cup of tea.
“Would you like one, miss?” He asked. I nodded, thinking it would probably be smart to play along for now. I opened the sugar jar and reached in. I jumped when I felt a sharp prick in my finger.
“Ouch,” I exclaimed. “What was that?” I picked up the jar and peered inside.
“What’s the big idea putting your finger in my house?” The mouse said. What I supposed to be a she, was wearing a small shirt and slacks. Her whiskers tested the air around her in a quiet curiosity.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…” I trailed off. She scurried up the jar and onto my hand.
“It’s alright and what, just don’t do it again.” She said. I set the jar back on the table and felt her fur brush against me as she fidgeted in my hands. “Will you set me down, miss?”
I gasped a little, gave an awkward chuckle, and set her down on the table. I reached over to another of the sugar jars and checked before reaching inside. I plucked out two lumps of sugar and dropped them into the tea. I waited a moment in awkward silence and took a sip of the tea. I reeled back. Despite the sugar, the tea was bitter and cold. I choked down the rest of the cup and sat it back on the table.
I reached over for a roll that lay on the table on a large platter. They were rock hard, so I set them back down. The hatter had taken his seat and sipped the bitter tea. I took a seat near him, but as soon as I hit the seat,
“Change places!” He said. I was befuddled as he moved towards me, shoved me out of my chair, and sat down. I picked myself off the ground and stared daggers at the back of the hatter’s head.
“What was that for?!” I shouted. He didn’t budge, so I moved around to his side. “Are you listening to me? I asked you why you shoved me out of my chair!” I said to him. He picked the teapot back off the table and refilled his glass.
“You won’t get any answers out of him, Alice.” The cat said. “Although, I am proud of you for escaping the Queen’s Mansion. Most people don’t make it out in one piece, more like pieces. I digress, there really isn’t any hope left for the Mad Hatter. Living in eternal night with only a mouse for companionship made him lose it, not that he ever had it. I would get out of here before too long.”
“Where shall I go then? The trees are suffocating, not to mention they all look the same.” I disposed. The cat turned over and seemed to lie in the air.
“Head out that way and watch for the needle in the haystack.” He said, and a flash of white fangs later, he was gone. I blew my hair up and out of my face, and smoothed my dress. The forest was the last place I wanted to go back to, but the cat made it seem like my only option. I moved through the two largest trees and headed back into the night.
The trees were much like earlier, no differentiation between anything. I had to search for anything that could be the so called ‘needle in a haystack’. I had my eyes staring at the trees, looking for a change in them when I hit the ground. I looked back to see the small stone I’d tripped over. I picked the rock up and tossed it. When it landed on the ground it seemed to light up slightly.
I lifted the stone from where it landed and hit it into a tree. The glow reappeared and then dimmed.
“How curious,” I thought out loud. I slammed it into the ground with all the strength my slender frame could muster. It lit up as bright as a streetlamp and I saw the needle. There was a steady path of trees that were completely different. They had white bark and turquoise leaves, as opposed to the typical brown and green.
I followed them for a while, until the trees began to give way to field. I sprang out into the darkening sunlight and collapsed into the soft grass. It was almost like a bed, and was still warm from the sunlight. I curled up in a ball until a cloud moved over the sun and a chill crept into the air. I stood back up and slogged up to the crest of the hill. I gasped at the view of the two cities. The Red City lie behind me and the White Metropolis stood before me.
It had a huge castle smack in the middle of the square. Its spires seemed to scrape the clouds right out of the sky. I headed down the hill towards the metropolis and away from the forsaken city. The way down was somewhat rough. There was an easily navigable maze of boulders that seemed to protect it from invasion. I moved down until I was almost at the streets when I realized my garment.
I still had the dress that Kylee had made me wear. I grasped the red fabric and sighed. I would have to go to the city sooner or later. I walked onto the street and headed into the heart of the haven. No one looked at me twice, but not in mean or judgmental way. All the people walked freely on the streets attired in every color. No one seemed to fear a dress code here. I let my guard down and pushed forwards.
Eventually I came to a small restaurant. I took a seat at one of the small tables and rubbed my aching feet. I loosed the laces until I could feel blood flow back into them.
“Can I get you anything ma’am?” The waiter asked. I turned back to see a younger man holding an empty platter.
“Ah, no, I haven’t a dime to pay you with.” I replied. He turned away with a wink and came back with a medium sized glass of water. “But, I—”
“Water is free.” He said simply. He turned on his heel and skipped away. I picked up the icy cool glass and took a large drink of it. The water was crisp and cold and made my entire body feel reenergized. I finished the glass and stood back up, stretching. I grabbed picked up my feet and continued on down the street, still startled by the man’s kindness. The small buildings slowly gave way to larger homes, then to the large spires and walls of the castle. I felt the cool walls as the sun passed below the horizon.
I moved around the flawless walls until I found the large gate in the front. There were a few men standing before it that seemed fairly aloof when I just walked straight through. The courtyard was a lot different than that of the Red’s. It wasn’t a maze at all, just many colorful flower bushes. It even had a few garden sets for people to lounge on during free time. I walked directly up to the main door and opened it. The inside seemed to be lightly guarded. There was only one man posted to maintain the entire gigantic poster.
I had nearly closed the door when the girl ran in behind me. I jumped out of the way when the door rocketed open. She was wearing a dark cloak that covered her face. She held her hand out to me and when I didn’t take it, she grabbed my wrist and pulled me along.
“Hey, let me go! Where are you taking me?” I struggled against her, but she had an iron tight grip. She led me through a maze of hallways, ensuring I wouldn’t be able to escape on my own. We entered into a chamber that was smothered in blue. I smiled at the presence of my favorite color. She slapped me down on a chair. She came and stood over me, wearing her hood. I reached up and grabbed the hood. The rings of red spilled out from underneath the hood.
“Diana!” I exclaimed. I stood up from the chair and embraced her. She held her arms away, though.
“Who is Diana? I’m Anne, the Queen of the White Metropolis.” She said. I sagged a little and released her. She seemed to be like the Red Queen, unknowing who she really was.
“Oh, my mistake.” I said flippantly. She removed the cloak to reveal a flowing white gown underneath. She opened a secret compartment in a nearby dresser and pulled out a large, intricately designed silver crown. She set it on her curls and the illusion was complete. The White Queen was a vision of strength and kindness.
“You must be a benevolent ruler.” I said. She smiled over towards me. “I just have one question, why did you bring me up here?”
She sat down on the chair across from me, “Do you remember the White Rabbit? He was on his way to let me know you’d safely arrived in Wonderland. He told me he would’ve died if you hadn’t been there. I must thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my subordinate.” She explained.
“Can I see him?” I asked. She stood up and opened a large door and picked him up. His white fur was still as flawless and clean as fresh snow. I cringed a little when I realized his leg had a small cast on it.
“Here, be gentle, he’s sleeping.” She set the small, warm body into my arms. Despite how painful his leg looked, he slept peacefully.
“I wish I had gotten there sooner. I could’ve stopped the limo from hitting him.” I said. I felt a few tears leak from my eyes and drop onto his fur.
“There was nothing you could’ve done. If you had run out in the street, you’d have been hit too. Then where would we be? Need you, Alice.” She said. I looked up at her.
“Need me? What good could I do?” I said, wiping a tear off my cheek. She walked over to the window and gazed out.
“You—you’re here to help us defeat the Red Queen and conquer the Red City.” She said. I cocked my head to the side while I was processing her statement. I was supposed to do what?
“I’m what? I can’t defeat her, she’s crazy and I’m—I’m not crazy!” I shouted. The rabbit stirred slightly in my lap.
“We only have two things for you to do. We need you to lead us into battle, and, you aren’t going to like it, you must take the Red Queen down. By yourself.” I brushed the rabbit’s fur. Could I kill someone? I stood and walked to stand next to the Queen and look out the window. Off in the distance, the Red Queen’s mansion sat there mocking the White Queen to attack. I felt the rabbit’s heart beating on my chest, thought of the butler and the other workers, the people in her republic.
“I’ll do it. Not for me or you, but for him,” I gestured down to the rabbit. “I don’t want anyone to ever get hurt again. Not by that terrible woman. I’ll do whatever I have to.” I answered. I felt a fear and confidence well up inside me.
“Come then, we’ll get you prepared for battle.” She said. I stopped, dead in my tracks.
“Wait, what?” We’re going already? But we just—I mean we—Already?” I finally stumbled on. She smiled warmly at me and I felt bad questioning her.
“No time like the present, Alice.” She said.
“No, for the last time. I am not Alice, my name is Alex. I’m not from Wonderland, I’m not Alice. I don’t know if I’ll be of any use to you.” I whispered.
“Don’t worry. You won’t have to do any of the dirty work. Just handle the Queen in the end.” She said. I sat the sleeping rabbit back down on his small bed and followed the queen out of the room. She led me down through a bunch of hallways and into an armory. The walls were lined with knives, swords, guns, and pretty much any other weapon one could imagine. There was a small door that she led me up to.
She pulled the door open and I was shocked to see a perfect duplicate of my blue gingham dress on the rack.
“What is this?”
“If you’re going to help us conquer a country, you have to be comfortable.” She said.
“What good will this do in battle? It’s a frilly dress, not cold steel. One well aimed gunshot or knife stab will be the end of me!” I exclaimed. I reached over and felt the dense material. It seemed to be light and comfortable, but thick and unbreakable.
“That is the most advanced armor that my kingdom can produce. It can with stand most gunshots and all knives. Try it on.” She stepped out of the room.
“Are you happy now, Alice? You’ve made it all the way to the White Queen. You’re finally near your destiny.” He said.
“Don’t you ever tire of appearing randomly?” I asked the flippant cat. He sat on my shoulder.
“Once upon a time, Alice stood in the halls, berated by others. Not saying a word, taking your punishment silently. When the final glass falls, will the mome raths outgrabe?” He said. There wasn’t a snide comment as he disappeared. I grabbed the dress of the wall and shirked off the red monstrosity I was currently clothed in. When I finally had the other dress on, I was delighted at how light and soft it was despite the dense material.
The Queen swept back into the room and stopped a few feet in front of me. She looked suspicious standing there and I loosed a loud, girly shriek when she sprinted towards me and stabbed my side with a knife. I expected to feel the knife penetrate my skin, but it merely slid off the dress fabric. I felt relief wash over me.
“I cannot believe you just did that to me. Isn’t my life supposed to flash before my eyes?” I joked. She let out a shrill laugh.
“Indeed, I just wanted to prove to you how safe the dress is. I need you to be confident for the troops.” She said. She slipped me the small knife and I dropped it into the small pocket on the side. “Keep that with you. You might need it.” She said. We left the room and headed back up a few floors. We moved into a large room that was full of men cloaked in white, shining armor.
“Ah, I’ve finally found my knight in shining armor! My fairy godmother would be so proud.” I joked. The queen shot me a wry smile.
“That’s what they need, morale. You’re positively oozing the stuff. If you just believe in yourself, you’ll be fine.” She said. “Alright men, fall in. Me and Alice—Alex will be leading you into battle today. We will finally end the tyranny of the Red Queen.” The men loosed a battle cry as they fell into the neat, straight five man fronts. “Is there anything you would like to say, Alex?” She asked. My eyes gazed out over the hundreds of men.
“I, uh, well.” I took a deep breath. “During my short time here, I’ve come to know of the Red Queen and her city. The people there are repressed; they don’t know the freedom of your people. If you can help one person today, then you are victorious.” I said. They all cheered at my meager speech, despite the nervousness I felt. The queen gave me a slight pat on the back as we moved to lead the troops into battle. We moved directly through the main street of the city and directly towards the rock barrier. When the whole group had weaved through and reassembled in the field, we began the long march towards the Red City.
Even though the soldiers were wearing white armor, it was nearly undetectable in the scant moonlight. We moved quickly and silently, only stopping for a few moments for a small meal. We approached the Red City as dawn broke. I stared at the beautiful colors the sun cast on the sky. The reds and oranges faded into the blue.
“We’re nearly there,” she said. “Are you ready to do this?” She asked. I nodded my head. I was ready to get this over with. We approached the back of the rose maze, the roses were all red now, and began cutting paths through it.
In all, the battle was fairly short. The mansion’s guard was severely understaffed to handle the army, the army that launched a sneak attack under the cloak of night. I was told that the queen didn’t even make it out of bed before they captured her. We conquered her mansion in under an hour.
“The city is ours.” The White Queen said.
“Wait,” I said. “If you rule the White Metropolis and the Red City, does that make you the Pink Queen now?” I chuckled. She rolled her eyes and led me back through and into the study where we had our first meeting. The now dethroned Queen sat in the chair, a look of furiousness twisted her features.
“Ha, they send the girl to apprehend me. They must think me a fool. If I were still in power, I would take your head off personally. You’re a fool and a worthless scum of a girl.” She said. I scoffed and rolled my eyes.
“Even after all this; you still can’t get over yourself. You are a fool. You keep all these people around you, but do any of them even like you? I don’t know many people but I know I have at least one friend?” I was suddenly aware of the scene around me changing. I now stood in front of Kylee in the hall of the school, before I’d even gone home. “You’re a terrible person. You oppress other people to make you feel better about yourself. When the last glass falls, who will be standing next to you?” I asked.
I could see her shatter on the inside. She instantly tried to shrug and laugh it off, but I’d won. She might try to shake it off, but I’d broken in and planted the seed of doubt. She wouldn’t bother me again. I walked home to find Hannah sitting on the armchair in the living room, reading my favorite book. I supposed it didn’t need to be a book now that I had taken back my Wonderland.