Alice Gone Nowhere

Hey, thanks for dropping in!

I know that this page is all about the Cassidy Chronicles, but I have written other things. The best of them are up on Amazon; there are a few others which may yet see light of day, but there are lots and lots of pieces which just never went anywhere.

The following is one of them.

I wrote it probably eight or nine years ago. Got the whole first chapter of a book out, and then — poof! Inspiration vanished.

So here you go, a look at a story that went nowhere. I’d love to hear your thoughts; maybe it’ll spark something and Alice can finally find out where she’s going.

“Oh, what an unusual dream!”

Alice gave the curious incident no further thought, being preoccupied with the responsibilities inherent in being the second daughter of the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.  The curious story and bizarre creatures that the good Reverend created for her and her sisters was a pleasant distraction, yes, on a boring summer outing.  Still, there was no time for such frivolities in her daily life.

Her nights, and her dreams, were much different.  The Dormouse and the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, all visited her in the darkness and gave the tale a persistence that eluded most fantasies.

There were summers at the family home of Penmorfa, on the west shore of Llandudno in Wales; there was an extended European tour as a young woman with her two closest sisters; there was even time for a brief and scandalous fling with Prince Leopold, a fortnight that both parties denied.  Yet there were always the stories, floating in the back of her mind.

It was scarcely a week after the tragic death of her sister Edith that she found herself at the bank of the Isis in Oxford again.  The brief English summer was in full bloom that day, and her feet led her along the river.  She stopped and stared out over the water, thinking deep thoughts of her life, so frivolous, and the sudden loss of Edith, when she was knocked to her knees by someone running into her.

“I beg your pardon!” she said fiercely, turning to confront the uncouth clod, who apparently was caught under her, then stopped.

“Oh, dear, it’s you again, dear me, dear me!  Oh!  Oh!  I shall be late again, we can’t have that, oh, no, we can’t!”

It was the White Rabbit, unchanged after all the years.  He still had the waistcoat, and the old pocket-watch, but his hurried progress to the rabbit-hole had been interrupted by the adult-sized Alice.

“You’re the White Rabbit,” managed Alice.

“Yes, yes, of course I am, I’m the White Rabbit, who else, who else?”  He took another look at his watch.  “Could you please get up?  I shall be late again, again!”

“Oh, of course!” she replied automatically, then thought.  “Wait.  No, I shan’t.”

“But you must, you must!  I cannot be late again, no, I cannot!  It’s simply not done, not done!”

“It shall be done if you don’t answer a few questions from me!”

“Questions, questions, always questions and never answers!  Very well, very well, but we have to go!”

“Promise me you won’t run away?”

“I promise, I promise, now please get off!”

She allowed him to get up and he hopped, impatient, while she rose as well.  “Are we going down the rabbit-hole again?”

“Yes, yes, down the rabbit-hole, asking questions like that no wonder you need answers, come, come, quickly, or -”

“We shall be late, yes, I remember.”  She took his hand; she remembered the difficulties she had catching him before – but that was a fantasy, wasn’t it?  A story for a boring summer’s day?

Across the field and to the hedge, it all seemed to be a dream, a waking dream, saying, “Wait.  In the tunnel, are we going to fall down the, the well, again?”

“Yes, yes, again and again, always the same way to a different destination, now please hurry, hurry!”  The Rabbit tugged on her hand.

“I’m coming, I’m coming – oh dear!  Now I’m doing it, too!” she exclaimed, ducking under the hedge.  The same long tunnel, sloping sharply down into the oddest well Alice had ever seen, and a sudden thump! thump!  And she was down onto a pile of sticks and leaves.

During the fall she had lost hold of the Rabbit’s hand and he scampered on ahead, but mindful of his promise he didn’t get out of sight.

“Come along, come along!”

Along the passage he went, white tail twitching, until he reached the edge of the hall of doors.  It was all there as she remembered it, the doors, the glass table, the lamps.

“I must leave you now, yes, yes, I must leave now, I have to go, I cannot wait!” said the Rabbit before ducking into one of the small doors.

“Well!  Quite rude of him, breaking his promise!” said Alice.

“It wasn’t rudeness; where he goes, you cannot follow.”

Alice whirled about, but there was nobody there.

“Now I’m hearing voices,” she mourned.  “It all comes from following an imaginary Rabbit, I suppose.”

“Imaginary!  How can you say that?” said the voice again.

“Well, certainly he’s imaginary; after all, who ever heard of a Rabbit in a waist-coat?”

“Why do you say he is imaginary?  Did you not follow him here?”

“I came here with someone; but I cannot believe, now, it was truly the White Rabbit from my childhood.”  She sighed.  “And I am talking to a voice with no body.  This does not speak well of me, I’m afraid.”

“Just because you cannot see him doesn’t make him imaginary,” the voice reasoned.  “You cannot see an elephant here, can you?”

“An elephant?  Certainly not!”

“Yet it is no more imaginary than the Rabbit!”

“A good point,” granted Alice.  “Then again, I am talking to a bodiless voice.”

“Bodiless?  Not at all!”

“Then where are you?” demanded Alice, tired of the game.

“Over here.”

“Very helpful to you, perhaps.  But as I cannot see you, it helps me not at all.”

“Just look.”  And atop the glass table appeared a grin, toothsome and full.  “Do you remember me now?” asked the grin.

“Oh!  The Cheshire Cat!” exclaimed Alice.

The rest of the Cat’s body appeared in a rush.  “You do remember.”  The grin, if anything, got wider.

“Of course I remember!  I have hardly forgotten, even after all these years, at least not in my dreams.  Every night, it seems, I am cast back into your strange world!”

“Is our world a dream, then, and yours real?  Or is yours a dream, and ours real?  Who can say?”

“You and your riddles!”

“Always, child, always.”

“Then explain what you meant when you said that I cannot follow the Rabbit?  I followed him before!”

“You did follow him before,” agreed the Cat.  “But that was Before, not Now.  Now, you cannot follow him.  You could only follow him Before.”

“Oooh, Cat!  Of course I can follow him!  See?”  She reached onto the table.  “Here is the key to the door, and here is the bottle that made me smaller.”  She held up the glass bottle labeled “Drink Me”.

“You drank it once before; what happened?”

“I got smaller, small enough to fit through the door, and that’s what I shall do again!”

“What happened once might not happen again,” warned the Cat, but Alice would have none of it.  She opened the bottle and drank the contents down.

“There!” she said triumphantly.  “Now I wait.”

“Wait for what?” asked the Cat.

“Wait – yawn! – excuse me, please!  Wait for – yawn!  Oh, I am so tired!  Perhaps I should sit down,” Alice said, already slumping to the ground.

“Perhaps you should,” said the fading Cat.  Already the body had gone again, leaving just the head.  “Sit, and wait, Alice.  Sit and wait.”

“I will!”  Yawn.

“Zzzzzzzzz.”

When she awoke and opened her eyes, she found…

Nothing had changed.

“This is terribly disappointing,” she said.  “I had expected to shrink down again.”

“Things change, except those things that stay the same,” riddled the Cat, who was invisible again.

“And just what does that mean?”

“The meaning is perfectly clear; whether you understand it is entirely up to you.”

“Cat!”

The maddening grin appeared.

“Right here.”

“Explain yourself!  Now!”  Alice realized she was acting like her six-year-old self, but couldn’t help it.  If she was going to take this voyage down the Rabbit-Hole, she was going to get into the garden somehow!

“Explain?  Why should I do that?”

“Because if you do not explain, dear Cat, I shall – I shall – I shall not scratch behind your ears!”

“Oh, very well,” groused the Cat, becoming completely visible.  “I’ll talk, but you must scratch.”

Alice walked over and placed her hand on the Cat’s head.  “Talk.”

“Scratch.  Ahhhhh…”  The Cat took a moment to enjoy Alice’s scratching, then he began.

“You were a child when you first visited us.”

Alice waited for the Cat to continue, then realized he wanted an answer.  “Yes.”

“And you are now an adult.”

She was quicker this time.  “Yes.”

“See?” said the Cat.

“No.”

Insofar it was possible for a cat to sigh, Cat sighed.  “Very well.  I shall spell it out for you.  You grew up.  You changed, did you not?  Are you different now than you were?”

“Of course I am!”  She realized just how different she was now; at least two feet taller, much longer hair, and, as the Cat had said, she was now an adult, not a child.

“Down the Rabbit-Hole, nothing changed.  The White Rabbit, the Hatter, myself – all the same as you remember us?”

“I think so, yes.”

“So,” said the Cat in the tone reserved for professors making a particularly obvious point, “We did not change.  You see now?”

Alice thought.  “No.  If nothing here changed, then why did the drink change?”

“It was the same.  Didn’t it taste the same?”

It had; the same peculiar mix of cherry tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast.  “Yes,” she answered.

“Exactly the same.”

“But it didn’t do the same thing!” wailed Alice.  “Before, it made me smaller!  Now, it only put me to sleep!”

“You’ve got it!”

“No!  More!  Riddles!”

“You haven’t got it.  Alice, you changed.  You grew up.  So the potion – same potion! – worked differently on you!”  The Cat abruptly vanished in a fit of pique.

“Oh!  Oh!” exclaimed Alice.  She dropped to the ground, forgetting all about the Cat.  “So that means it will all be different to me, because I am different!”

“She gets it!” rejoiced the Cat, reappearing.

“So I can’t rely on what I knew before to help me now,” she mused.  “How then am I to get into the garden?”

“That, I cannot answer, for all of our, well, magic, will act in different ways on you now,” replied the Cat.  “If you want my advice?”

“Yes!”

“Leave.  Go back up the Rabbit-Hole.”  He began to fade again.

“But – but I want to visit again!”

The grin shook from side to side.  “This is a childlike place, and a place for children, and I’m sorry, but you don’t belong here any more.”

“What if I don’t want to leave?” she asked the grin.

“Then don’t leave.  We will not make you leave.  You have to choose it for yourself.”

The Cat vanished again.

“Cat?  Cat?” called Alice.  “Where are you?”  There was no answer.

Alice decided to be methodical.  All of the doors were locked, her first visit, but she hadn’t tried to open them this time.  Now, she did.  All locked tight, and the one door she could unlock – the tiny door that led, if memory served, to the hidden garden – was so small she couldn’t even fit her head into it.

The Garden was as lovely as she imagined it, which made her inability to access it that much more frustrating.  Thinking desperately, she remembered the other food she had consumed.

“The Eat Me cake!” she exclaimed.  She hurried back to the glass table and, kneeling, peered underneath.  There, as she hoped, was a miniscule glass box, containing an even tinier cake.

“I hope that it is big enough to work!” she said, popping the pill-sized cake into her mouth and swallowing it whole.

As she waited, she thought more about the Cat’s words.  If my growing up has changed how Wonderland acts on me, then what shall the cake do?  Oh dear.

The cake was doing something; she could feel it.  She closed her eyes, remembering the vertigo when she grew before.  Maybe she wouldn’t grow.  Maybe she’d shrink! 

It started at her toes, a kind of tingling feeling like they had fallen asleep, then moved up her legs, her hips, her torso, up her neck and her head and down her arms right to the fingertips.  It wasn’t unpleasant, and it passed in seconds.

Bracing herself, she opened her eyes.

The room was the same.  She was the same height.  Nothing had happened – nothing! 

She was sure she had felt something, though.  Surely, something was different?

No.  She wasn’t any taller.  No shorter, either.  Drat.  Now what?

Now she would listen to the Cat – and leave.  First, though, a final look around.

A different bottle!  On the glass table, a different bottle – same DRINK ME, but not the same shape, or size.  There was a note under the bottle; Alice grabbed it and read.

“Drink this if you wish to return to the home you left.”

As she read it, the writing faded away.  Oh, that dratted Cat!  No matter.  She lifted the bottle, uncorked it, tipped it to her mouth – and stopped.

“Wait a moment.  This is silly.  He said he didn’t know what the potions would do.  So how can he write that this potion will take me home?”  She puzzled over the logic until deciding that logic was, after all, on her side.

She put the stopper back in the bottle and set it on the table.

“No tricks, Cat!  I choose to leave, but I leave on my own terms!”

She absently adjusted her bodice, barely registering that it was more comfortable, more flexible, than usual.

“Well, there’s only one way in, so there must only be one way out.  I hope I can climb up that shaft,” she said aloud.

Resolutely she walked out of the little hallway and back into the tunnel.  After walking for what seemed to be quite a time, she noticed that she hadn’t found the pile of sticks and leaves yet, nor had she found the shaft.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” she said, continuing.

Several minutes’ walk found her deep into the darkness.  She stopped to let her eyes adjust to what tiny bits of light she could glean.  Far, far ahead was a single point.  “That must be the way out,” she declared to reassure herself.  She marched onward.

The light grew brighter as she drew closer, and she found herself nearly running.

“I knew I could get out without that Cat and his potion!”

With a final burst of speed she popped out of the darkness and into the light.  Muted though it was by trees, it was still a sunlit day and she stood a moment, enjoying the warmth on her face.

She heard a train passing nearby.

I wonder where I’ve emerged? she thought.  I suppose I could be anywhere.  The trees thinned as she faced away from the river.  She walked out of the shadows with a resolute heart.

“Oh!  The meadow!”  Ahead of her was a well-kept meadow, bordered by more trees.  “I think – yes, that way shall bring me back to the college, and from there, I can get home.”  She began walking across the grass.

“How peculiar!” she exclaimed.  “I don’t believe this is a meadow, after all.  It seems to be a cricket pitch!”  Still, the far trees were her destination.

She could hear rushing sounds from beyond the trees.  She pushed through the last of them and found herself facing – what?  Were those, houses?  They were buildings of some sort, she could tell, but what was that?

She couldn’t begin to think – and the noise!  So loud now!  She staggered forward, past the side of the house (if indeed it was) to the front and stopped.

A broad concrete ribbon stretched away for hundreds of feet to the left and right.  Across it, perhaps fifty feet away, were more of the odd buildings.  What stunned her, though, were the machines hurtling past her.  Metallic bodies with windows all around the top and four manically turning wheels at the corners, they whizzed past faster than the swiftest brougham.

“Where am I?” she cried.

A passerby stopped and answered her.  “Nelson Street, Oxford.  Do you need help?”  The woman’s face was kindly and concerned, but Alice registered none of that.

She fainted.

Alice slowly came back.

“…she just fell down!”

“…say anything?”

“…where she was, that’s all.”

“…drugs?”

“Could be.  Should we move her?”

Alice fluttered her eyelids.

“She’s waking up!  Stand back, everyone!”

Published by gaffen620

Author of The Cassidy Chronicles. Lives in Colorado with many dogs, cats, and one very patient wife.

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