be Serena W. Sorrell

 

Alice ran every which way through the dark woods, the trees became rustling soldiers who would keep her from her goal. Their branches slashed her face and grabbed her hair. The bramble bushes acted as the soldiers’ attack dogs, biting her legs and clawing her heels. Yet, she ran. It had been more incredible than the first time she visited. The things she had seen. The creatures she had met. But it had been far more dangerous than before, twisted and gruesome. She could never return.

She hastened before the memories and images slipped away. She had been told they would. She had to tell someone. On she ran, ignoring the burning ache that stung her muscles as she weaved between trees, ignoring the pain growing in her lungs. Just as she was fighting the trees, the bramble bushes, the fatigue, and the pain of breathing, she fought the fog settling over her mind. It tried to force her to forget all she had experienced. She clutched her hand tighter around the bauble she had stolen from them. It had been hers to begin with.

The phantoms of the last week were fading to shadows. Their stories and speeches becoming jumbled codes of words she was having trouble translating. Who would believe? She had to recall it all properly! Who would believe her even if she couldn’t? Even Alice, a sensible thirteen year old girl, knew it was unbelievable. Her brothers and sisters would fancy her mad. But Alice was mad! She was a girl possessed. She burst through the doors of her family’s summer home her madness became clear to the important guests at Alice’s birthday party. Every man and woman there looked at the girl. Branches in her hair, dirt smudged on her dress, the little girl usually so full life’s color, now as drained as winter.

“Alice! Whatever is the matter?” Her father approached from the awestruck crowd. “Where have you been these last few hours?”

Her sisters looked up from their puzzle, her brothers stood agape in the midst of their mock sword fight. The room was silent. No one certain the protocol for a bewildered child. Alice’s eyes darted from house guest to family member. Who would listen to her? No! None of them! They’d think she was fibbing! A jolt of energy rippled through Alice. She prayed he hadn’t left yet!

“Dodgson! Papa! Is Mister Dodgson still here!?” She grabbed her father’s shirt pleading, her other hand remained in the pocket of her smock. She shook, almost crying.

At the desperation in his daughter’s voice Henry pointed to the family library on the second floor of their Welsh holiday manse. Alice dashed for the staircase, stumbling into guests as she made her way to the second floor. None moved aside for the child, but all wondered what on Earth had her acting so.

Alice topped the staircase and sprang through the doors of the den. The man who sat hunched over the writing desk spun around on his chair. Alice flung herself onto his lap. He stroked the usually pretty curls, all matted and mess, and offered her words of comfort from whatever fright she had suffered. Yet the fogs blanketed her mind. She shook, shivered, losing images and words, horrors and delights.

“Why, Alice Liddell, what is the matter?”

She sobbed. She had to make him believe what she was saying. She looked at him, the man her siblings and she would call ‘Uncle’. He was no relation, but if anyone would listen, would believe, it would be him.

“Uncle Carroll!” She chimed, “I’ve just had a most amazing adventure! It was terrifying, and so very dangerous! I want to tell you everything I can before I forget it! And the cat said I would truly forget everything this time, even my first visit! Please! You’re the only one I can tell before everything vanishes! It will be gone by morning! But already it’s going!” Thick tears streamed down her cheeks, and her voice dropped to a weak, shaky thing between her sobs. “Please. You’ll listen won’t you?”

He straightened his back, uncertainty on his brow. Alice withdrew the contents of her pocket- a red chess piece. The queen, the size of a beer mug, and with eyes wide with horror, they shot about the room. He jumped back, startled at the miniature woman. He went to touch the figurine, but the smooth exterior was melting. The crown fell from the Queen’s head and vanished with a gleam before it hit the floor. In its place the black ears of a kitten sprouted. The face transfigured to the face of Alice’s cat.

“No! I was too slow!” The kitten leapt from her, freed from its false form.

But she had not been too late. Alice rose to give chase after the prior queen, turned cat, and Mister Dodgson grabbed her arm. He looked into her clear eyes. Something inside was fading. Something which had been there the past six and half years. Alice was becoming regular, such as all people were. With his free hand, Dodgson grabbed his notebook and looked at Alice once more.

“All right, Alice. Tell me everything.”

He began to write.

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