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Jason Tai and Marshall Crutcher “Dollhouse”
Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle. Please allow me to explain. My name is Alice but you can call me Alice. And the story I’m about to tell you may well leave you with the impression that I’m totally mad. Out of my mind. A fair few orange marmalade sandwiches short of a hamper. I don’t much care whether you believe me or not as the one thing I’ve learned to believe is my own eyes and, up until now, they have told me no lies. So what if I’m raving mad? The best people usually are and I have that on good authority. Besides, whoever wishes to be part of the majority? Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast and a dozen by lunch. So if I see something odd, then I’ll follow that hunch. Speaking of which, as blind luck would have it. I just blazed a trail with a little white rabbit.
Okay, so I shall begin at the beginning and go on till I come to the end: then stop. I believe that’s the best way to tell a tale. And if I can’t explain myself, well then that would likely have something to do with the fact that I am not myself, you see? I was. Myself that is. As I sat at the river bank with my sister, daydreaming as is customary. She was deep in a book and more than happy to devote her sweet time to something entirely lacking in pictures and conversation. Meanwhile, making daisy chains appeared the best way for yours truly to stave off the stupidity, although that would entail going to the trouble of getting up and picking them – such a laborious task on such a blazing hot day. My get up and go had been led right astray. Till I cast my sleepy eyes across the greenway.
Now, the afternoon sun may well have been baking, but I’m reasonably sure that I’m far from mistaken, in calling him out as a rabbit. Hare if you like as he answered to neither. Far too busy was he with whichever palava was causing his white brow to furrow. And he seemed most intent on beating the clock and making it back to the burrow. “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!” said he. Curious was I. So I dashed after this elusive white rabbit, watched him skip and bound, until which time as he arrived at a mound. Needless to say, this was no ordinary mound. But then, this was no ordinary day. And I’ve already established that I’m no ordinary girl. Indeed, should you know me at all well, then you’ll be more than aware of where my curiosity tends to lead. As the little-big heart in my chest thumped furiouser, I could do not a thing but grow curiouser. And Curiouser.
Looked a mighty long way down from the summit. When one throws oneself down a random sinkhole, one expects to fall with a modicum of grace, and at very worst, fall flat on one’s face. Little Alice fell…
… and yes I bumped my head. Yes I bruised my soul. But it wasn’t nearly as horrendous as it sounds as time appeared to slow up almost entirely. And I found its interference somewhat timely. It felt as though I fell for ten days, maybe more. I couldn’t be sure. Was far too busy tumbling in slow-motion to cause a commotion. Besides, the book-shelves appeared well organised. Not that I’m certain rabbits can even read literature. But then, I’d never before seen one sporting a tweed waistcoat replete with pocket-watch so what do I know? I know one thing, some nincompoop failed to secure War & Peace in its appropriate crevice and I could have done without the whole shoulder dislocation debacle which ensued. That said, the same ignoramus had also been reading Les Misérables so I used this “light read” to pop it and lock the ball straight back in its socket. And then I got back to the tumbling weightlessly.
I didn’t see the glass conservatory coming, if I’m honest. Wasn’t looking for that. And had no burning desire to smash through it. I was all set to shatter and I bloody well knew it. Or at least, that’s how I had resigned myself. However, I was still in one piece as I hit the stairwell. After such a long fall, four thousand miles down, I think; there seemed no harmful foul in one more tuck and roll. Every last step rushed to greet me and the last three or four rather less than discreetly, I have to say. But I was determined to put on a liquid crystal display and show these 39 steps they didn’t break me. Alas, my curiosity had managed to kill the cat, and I felt his little-big skull crack as I found my soft landing. Oh dear, I’m beginning to wonder whether I fell down the correct rabbit-hOle you know. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong here, but wasn’t this grinning floater supposed to direct me to The Mad Hatter’s tea party? Isn’t that why the rabbit was so flummoxed? Come to think of it, wherever had he gotten to? Still curiouser.
All I wanted to do was take some sodding tea. Sorry, Mr. Carroll. But it just gets me so wound up is all. I’d spotted the flyer and knew just who had been invited. And if lust-monsters were considered better company than a well-mannered young lady such as I, then they could stick their pissing pyramid tea bags where they percolate funny. I wished to take no part in a round-the-table discussion about absolutely nothing. There was much more ado than that and I had pretty much had my fill of being made to feel like the gatecrasher in this withering wonderland. I had far grander plans and a hip flask of aged gin crying out “DRINK ME!” Thus, to the March Hare, Tweedles Dum and Dee, and the rest of the eggheads, I raised an enthusiastic toast to you all, cunningly disguised as two words – EAT ME!
This was promptly followed by “Bollocks to the lot of you!” as I simply liked the way it rolled along my tongue. Sometimes you have to make your own fun. But the fact still remained that this alien terrain was all geared to claim its next victim. I didn’t know whether to thank the rabbit or kick him right where the fur recedes for leading me this most unmerry dance. Not that it mattered as he evidently cared not of my plight this day. Too busy being spit-roasted by lust-monsters. Bad rabbit. But then, each to their own I say. It had certainly been a most curious day, so who cared if it courted a dash of dismay? Besides, there was a rather odd signpost clearly coercing me to a chapel approximately two blinks of a Raven’s eye from my coordinates.
Granted, the pathway which led there was grey, but I always found these kind of areas mattered most anyway. Black and white are just so… urgh… black and white, don’t you think? So cagey they are. Like sworn enemies. Grey is their mediator if you wish; the voice of reason bidding to bring both in for the all-important silvery hug. Thus, I lit a fire beneath my puckered little arsehOle, sorry Mr. Carroll, and trundled off down this Grey-Chapel Path, whilst attempting to dislodge the tiny fragments of shattered cat skull from my posterior. Curiouser? Uh-huh. And guess what? It only gets weirder from there. I’ve actually got half a mind not to share as I could do without the ridicule, given that I’m currently tweaking for caffeine. But experts will later discover that I only had half a mind to begin with so I guess that means my mind is already made up, oddly enough.
Actually, the next part is fairly darling as, at the end of the Grey-Chapel Path, was the loveliest garden I ever did see. We’re talking bed upon bed of pale white lilies, cool fountains, and ever so crisp-looking waterfalls – the kind of picturesque Havana those who can be bothered read about in fairy tales. To be dreadfully honest, I was far more taken by the Lion I spotted over by the blushing red cedar tree. He was kind of cute. And a strange sense of calm washed over me as he turned his head and flashed me a wonderfully delicate smile. Just so there’s no confusion, I still had the overwhelming urge to grab the nearest blunt rock and cave him in with it. But no caffeine can make a girl do some pretty crazy things. Such a proud creature at least deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt. Not that I had any. Curiosity, on the other hand, well you should know the drill by now.
The first thing this big cat did was to warn me of the chapel I was all set to enter. According to him, it was a place of considerable unrest and he seemed reasonably assured that bad stuff happened within its grey stone walls. Now, ordinarily receipt of this kind of information would be more than sufficient to send a girl running in the opposite direction, but something compelled me to take a harmless little peek inside, just to satisfy my curiosity you understand. For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that I had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. And that included talking lions spouting conspiracy theories about demented surgeons with a penchant for feminine flesh ribbons. You guessed it, according to this proud animal, this was one of those private hospital deals, albeit with a considerably larger intake than outpatient list. This leather-aproned death technician even went by a name – the Black Jack.
Curiouser I may have been, but I didn’t fancy my chances without anything to protect myself aside from heavy caffeine withdrawal and imminent menstrual bleed. Given that this kindly Lion had been thoughtful enough to supply me the heads-up prior to exertion, it seemed only right to extend him an invite to act as my chaperone. However, when I suggested this to him, he groaned. It was then that I realized what had been causing discomfort as he had somehow managed to acquire an oversized rose thorn to his left paw and was clearly in a great deal of pain. I couldn’t see him suffer like that and damn well wouldn’t as father always taught me one kind act deserves another. Thus, I tugged this stubborn spike with all of my might, until it came free in my hand and the relief on his face was instantly visible. Then as I glanced down into my open palm, I discerned something most unusual, even by my standards.
Blue blood. The only feasible explanation was that the lack of caffeine had led to some kind of momentary color-blindness as my heart bleeds in Claret and I believe that’s the go-to shade with any of God’s little creatures. So what made him so special? Well, apart from the fact that he was rather dashing. And then it hit me like a War & Peace flashback – this was that King of Hearts I’d heard so much about from daddy’s poker nights. Could it be that the blood of a royal coursed through his ventricles? And if so, then would that make me next in line to become a Queen? More to the point, should we stick together like glue and locate the Ace in this rabbit hOle, then would not a visit to the Black Jack tee us up nicely for the much coveted Royal Flush? Doth my very best poker face betray? Well then, allow me to spell this out for you – I was so much goddamn curiouser now.
While, this was all fine and dandy, the fact remained that this midsummer night’s dream was one unlicensed autopsy from both of our very worst nightmares. The thing is, I felt a tremendous calm in the Lion’s presence. Deep down in my innermost soul’s bloodiest heart, I already knew this beast would protect my honour to the bitterest of ends and beyond even that. I suddenly came over with the overwhelming urge to take a good look at myself in the Crystalline mirror of his eyes. And the mystery of the elusive white rabbit was no more. Soundly befuddled, I reached into the tweed waistcoat which had been an off-white pinafore until that very second, and miraculously produced a pocket watch. Just to push the point a little harder, I no longer hankered after a nice scalding cup of afternoon tea. But I well fancied a carrot.
Tentatively, we shuffled towards the large iron door of the Grey-Chapel, paw in paw and souls now eternally merged. Just to make things official, Lion took full advantage of his injury, by remaining kneeled as he requested my hand in marriage. Now, mother has been attempting to set me up with this rat-faced retch named Hamish and Lion was far more handsome and less afflicted by acute halitosis. So I accepted his offer and…SHAZAM!.. rabbitlion was born. We strode forth with newfound purpose, red and blue hearts now bled into one of Crystalline diameters, and holding a love that had proved itself to be way more than a love, and in double-time no less.
Upon unbolting the latch and opening the door wide, we were greeted by two things. The first was a voice most ungodly and hardly the bearer of encouraging current events. “Time is fluid here” was the earthy growl and rabbitlion shook right down to our dusty bones. However, the second was a sight for the very sorest of eyes. A rabbit hOle, identical to the one I scrambled into seemingly forever ago. One leap perpetuated over the fluid of time… now that sounded like the best reason to go adventuring in Wonderland. And the funny thing about leaps is that they never fail, EVER.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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