Behind the Shattered Looking Glass
By: John Keith Bone
I made my way up the ancient, creaky stairs of our home, passing an old photograph as I went. Every time I passed it, I had to look at it. The young, smiling, girl I saw looking back at me was my sister, Alice. She was about seven in this photo… Sitting on Mom’s lap while a younger me took a seat on my father’s knee… I was about seven too… This was the last photo taken of our parents in their mortal lives… They died a few weeks later in a house fire that nearly took my sister and me as well… I sighed and continued upwards, being very careful not to drop the tray of tea I was carrying. Once at the top, Dinah, our black cat, bolted across the hall out of Alice’s room. As usual, the place was a wreck. Dirty teacups were still sitting atop stacks of old books, many of which were open. Most of the yellowed parchment depicted strange symbols. Symbols of a world my sister and I had shared our whole lives: Wonderland. I’d just set the tea on her bedside table when I heard the very thing I’d spent ten years going from institution to institution trying to escape: An ominous, ghostly whisper.
My temples felt as though someone had jabbed needles through them. I winced and grabbed my head, addressing the voice.
“No… Go away… I don’t want to go back…”
The voice persisted, as well as the pain in my head.
“Come… You’re late for tea… Alice was too, but she’s here now…”
Suddenly, I turned to face a grotesque yet familiar likeness in the mirror. A man –if one can call it that- stood hunched over, his skin a sickly green, a top hat on his head that stood about three feet high, and a brass gear jammed into his spine, the teeth sticking out in a gory display. His blood-spattered glove was outstretched to me invitingly.
“Come…” He coaxed once again in his ghostly tone.
Suddenly, I was furious, balling my fist and punching the glass over the man’s face. It cracked on impact.
“But I don’t want to go amongst mad people!” I bellowed, enraged.
The man simply smiled a distorted, slimy, brass-toothed grin.
“Oh… You can’t help that… We’re all mad here…” he intoned as he suddenly lurched forward, grabbing me by the neck.
I must have passed out because the next thing I knew, I woke up in some kind of library. The shelves were curved and uneven, dusty, decrepit, and they seemed to go on forever. I sat up, taking in the floating books and the strange sense of familiarity, then stood. Unsure of exactly where to go, I simply picked a direction and began walking. After a few minutes of uneven shelves and an oddly curvy path, I came to something of a circular clearing. A single glass table occupied the huge space, just below a balcony. A second floor! Maybe I could climb to it…
As if on cue, a bookcase materialized beneath it. I stepped toward the case only to have a glint catch my attention on the table. It was a kitchen knife. Not unlike the ones Alice used to cut onions with back home… I gripped its hilt and took notice for the first time that my clothes had changed. My gloves were white silk and the rest of the tuxedo was black velvet.
Curiouser and couriser… I silently commented to myself, then drew a gold pocket watch from the interior pocket of my jacket. Its glass was cracked and the white canvas that usually covered the gears was gone. I put it back and began trying to figure a way up the bookcase. My first instinct was to jump on the face and climb it like a ladder. When I did, the case simply got taller, and as hard as I climbed, I made no progress. After several attempts, I began to get frustrated.
“Stop being so stubborn!!” I cried, kicking the shelf hard with the point of my toe.
I spun around to find a new path when the sound of nails screeching over the floor forced me to look back. At first I saw nothing, then the marks became obvious. Claw marks. They seemed to be coming from nothing (Which wouldn’t have surprised me, the whole place was insane…) but they suddenly stopped beneath an eerily disembodied face with a broad smile, sharp teeth, and giant, golden, cat-like eyes that lurked in the shadow cast by the case.
I shrieked at the horrid shadow, truly afraid. It laughed, and stepped forward, revealing it’s body. It was a cat all right, but it appeared to be skin and bone. It’s paws were as broad as it’s face with razor sharp claws extending about for inches outward in a wicked curve. The Cheshire Cat… Or what was left of him. He spoke to me then with a surprisingly deep, soothing voice.
“The steps to enlightenment illuminate your way, but the steps are steep. Take them one at a time.” A cryptic warning, but one I heeded.
He raised a paw and lightly tapped the shelf. It fell backward, crashing into the balcony above, making an incline. Before I could react, the cat faded into nothing.
One step at a time… I reminded myself as I stepped onto the fallen shelf, recalling how I kept myself calm in the asylum. Once on the balcony, I stepped through a door, finding myself on a slab of cracked tile, staring into the face of the man in the mirror at the end of a long table, set for tea. The entire setup was suspended in space amid dark, stormy clouds. Alice sat with her back to me, probably too afraid to take her eyes off the beings that brought her here. Ten years ago, all of the people sitting at this same table were kind and good-looking. But now, with insanity tainting our once-innocent images of them, they looked like nightmares come to life. The man in the top hat, The Mad Hatter, gestured for me to sit next to my sister. I did so silently, glancing at her. She was fidgeting with a knife identical to mine beneath the tabletop, away from the eyes of our captors. Her eyes met mine for a moment, then locked on to the Hatter’s. I spoke first.
“It’s been a long time, Hatter. Fallen back into disrepair, I see.”
“Indeed, it has, Alphonse. But we are all here now… And now… For neglecting Wonderland for as long as you have… You will die.”
The Hatter picked up the cup on his saucer and bit a huge chunk out of it, then spit it out along with a strange, black, tar-like fluid as a teapot creature began scurrying toward my sister and me. Alice lunged forward, as if on cue and stabbed the pot repeatedly in its single giant blood red eye, wielding her knife with both hands and stabbing with expert precision. I took my own cue and hopped onto the table top, bolting straight for the Hatter, burying my blade squarely in the hollow of his collar bone, spewing more of that disgusting black liquid all over the nice china. As what was left of the Hatter slumped in his chair, his face thudding onto the tabletop, I met my sisters deep green eyes. I knew that look… That smile… We’d both slipped back into madness.
Next thing we knew, we were curled up on the floor amid the broken glass from the shattered looking glass back in Alice’s room still clad in our Wonderland clothes. The blood of the Eyepot still stained her otherwise flawless, porcelain face. She curled up tighter against me.
I smiled a smile that she returned.
“Time to put that blade of yours to work…” I intoned to her, and for the first time in five years, I felt true madness again. This had been only the beginning of our nightmare… But it was sure to prove our most horrifying yet.
Dinner for Two
“Alphonse? Could you please set the table? Dinner will be ready soon.” Alice called from the kitchen. I was seated in the living room, leafing through an old book from Alice’s room. The ink drawings depicted her last walk through Wonderland. It was about five years ago… I had been transferred to an asylum over in America, so I wasn’t there with her. She had to face it alone… Just as I had to face my own madness alone.
“Al?” she called again.
“My apologies, Sister. I was… reading.”
I set the book down and set toward the kitchen to fetch our cups and silverware. Alice stood before the oven in a suit I bought for her upon my return to England. It was a pleasant baby blue Lucille Walking suit with white trim over its sleeves and end of the skirt. I smiled at her. Although she wore it often, I couldn’t help but think she was wearing it for the first time. Her glance was brief but she knew what I was thinking.
“Thought it fitting, seeing as today’s the day you came back.” She said, throwing some diced tomatoes into a pan to sauté.
“Is it? I didn’t even notice.” I admitted as I set a tray of teacups and eating utensils to take into the dining room.
“You never notice these dates, do you?” she teased.
“Not really. All I need to know is your birthday.”
She laughed and shifted the pan about, tossing the tomatoes a bit. It had been almost a month since we last sat down to dinner together… In truth, I really missed it. Sure, we were both crazy again, but it was times like these that helped us both feel normal. Once the table was set, I smoothed the tablecloth and looked back at the old, leather-bound book I’d set on the coffee table. Alice’s last adventure… The picture on the page was one of a Red Guard. He looked like a typical playing card with arms, legs, a face and he was wielding an axe. Alice was humming a little tune when I walked back into the kitchen and began cutting the freshly baked garlic bread on the counter.
“You don’t have to do that, you know. You can go back to reading if you wish.” She offered.
“Alice, the first time you fought a Card Guard, did you hesitate?” I asked, not looking at her.
The silence was thickened by my question. Alice really hated talking about it, but after last night’s encounter with The Hatter, it’s all I’d been able to think about.
“No.” her tone was surprisingly casual. She must know how I feel…
I smiled and continued helping until we were both seated. Alice had made her specialty, Lemon Chicken with garlic bread.
“Smells great.” I complimented as she settled into her seat.
“Why, thank you, Alphonse.”
The beginning of the meal was silent. Just the sounds of clinking silverware and the filling of teacups filled the rather large dining room. I filled my cup with some coffee I’d made earlier in the day. Sure, I was English, but coffee was more my taste, thanks to my stay in America.
“So, how’s work been?” Alice broke the silence first.
My thoughts shot back to the florist I worked in on Fleet Street.
“Oh… It’s been all right. We’ve come into a great deal of orchids, though, so we have a surplus. It’s really quite irritating.”
“Oh? I thought you liked orchids.”
“I do, but what am I going to do with a bouquet of orchids? Give them to you? That’d be kind of strange, don’t you think?”
Alice pondered this for a moment, then shook her head.
“Why would it be strange to bring your sister flowers?”
“I don’t know…” I admitted.
Alice smiled and refilled her cup of tea.
“Alphonse, you need a girlfriend.” She said, sipping from her cup.
Oh no, not this again… I thought to myself, knowing exactly where this was going.
“Alice, you know I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” she asked with a slight whine in her voice.
I narrowed my eyes at her.
“You know why.”
She sighed in response.
“I’m sorry, Al. I just want you to be happy. That’s all. Just be happy and not feel the need to worry about me all the time.”
I scoffed at this.
“I am happy, Alice. Isn’t that obvious?”
Her eyes drifted downward, then back to mine. She shifted subjects quickly.
“What about Wonderland? What should we do?”
After a long silence, I answered.
“What you did last time. We’ll remake it into that happy place we knew as children.”
Her eyes grew dark as she asked her next question.
“Al, can you teach me to throw knives again?”
I smiled and picked up the steak knife to the left of my plate, holding my sister’s eyes and in a display of expert dexterity, I flicked my wrist and flung the knife across the room. It slipped between the space of two book spines on a shelf to my right. It was a skill I had picked up in my last trip to Wonderland. At first, I was afraid, because I noticed that my experiences there were beginning to affect me in the real world, but after a while, I grew accustomed to it and even began practicing in my cell with the dull butter knives that accompanied my meals. I taught Alice how to do it when we were reunited. She had grown in skill as well. Her own skills in the art of knife fencing were quite impressive. Wonderland had given us both an edge when it came to fighting.
She caught on quickly, and before I knew it, she was throwing like I had. She was even able to hit her target without looking at it, the way I did.
“That’s my girl.” I said as he threw her knife between the same two books, right above my own.
She smiled again. How I loved that. It was just like old times. She was becoming an impressive fighter. Her technique, though a bit crude, showed great promise. Besides, she took down the last Red Queen single-handedly, so I had faith.
“I love you.”
I felt my eyes widen a bit. That was unexpected… But I took it.
“I love you too, Alice.” I said and embraced her.
“We should go back to Wonderland tonight.” She suggested.
It wasn’t long until we stood in front of the mirror in my room, being that Alice’s was scattered all over her floor. We were clad in the clothes we found ourselves in last night. Maybe they had some significance…
“Ready?” I asked. My sister nodded.
Time to enter our Hell once again…
Wonderland really wasn’t what it used to be. Once we stepped through the looking glass, we found ourselves at the entrance of some kind of village. The wood paneling was cracked, and something foul lingered in the air. I knew the smell all too well: Iron. Blood. A familiar face was standing before us. The White Rabbit.
“Please don’t dawdle. We’re very late, indeed.” He urged, and without a moment to respond, he took off.
Some things never change…
Suddenly, The Cheshire Cat appeared.
“Hello again, old friend. I’m sorry about last night… You’ve gone quite mangy, Cat.” I greeted him.
“But your grin’s a comfort.” Alice added.
“And I see you’ve picked up a bit of an attitude. Still curious and willing to learn, I hope.” he said.
“Wonderland has become quite strange. How are we to find our way?” Alice asked curiously.
“As knowing where you’re going is preferable to being lost, ask. Rabbit knows a thing or two, and I myself don’t need a weathervane to know which way the wind blows.” Cat explained, milling around us in a circle. I nodded to him in thanks. He nodded back and faded away.
After a few hours of milling around the village, we encountered Rabbit again. It was as though he’d been expecting us… He stood before a stone face but suddenly became much smaller and ran through what looked like a mouse hole.
Alice and I approached the hole, remembering our way to get smaller. But there seemed to be no potion about.
“Now what?” I asked, kneeling to look through the hole.
“We have to become small, she said, pointing out the obvious.
“Yes… But how? We’ve no potion.”
Then something came to me… A poem…
“Mushrooms, Poppies, Sugar and Spice.
All those things are very nice.
When put together, the proper mixture
Makes a getting-small elixir.”
Alice cocked an eyebrow.
I nodded gravely. Where would we get the ingredients? Alice kneeled and plucked a single mushroom from a nearby rock. That was one… But what of the other three? I spied a little shop a few yards off.
“Shall we try there?” Alice asked, following my gaze.
“Have we anything to can barter with?” I rebutted.
She shook her head.
“Nothing can ever be easy… Can it?”
“I suppose not. Still, let’s try.” Alice tried to comfort me.
The shop was musty and smelled heavily of tobacco. The gnome that stood behind the counter was smoking a long pipe. He startled when we came in and began waving his arms.
“Don’t hurt me!” he begged.
“We’re not going to hurt you! We just need some poppy blooms, sugar, and a few spices!” Alice explained above his cries.
This seemed to pacify him in an instant.
“Well why didn’t cha say so, lassy? Ya want ‘em ground and mixed, too?” He said in a thick Scottish accent.
“Yes. With this as well.” Alice replied and placed the mushroom on the counter.
“Wait here,” the gnome ordered.
Half an hour later, he returned from the back room to us with a little glass flask reading “Drink Me”.
Alice thanked the gnome as we left.
“That was easy!” I cried in exasperation.
“I suppose some things really are easy for us, Alphonse.”
We reached the mouse hole again. Alice was the first to drink from the flask. She shrunk instantly. I followed suit. We both were only about a centimeter tall, so we fit through the hole with no trouble. The tunnel was dark but once the light gave way, we were staring into a square that made Alice visibly shiver. Looking Glass Land. White Realm.
“Alice? Are you well?”
My sister appeared petrified, reliving the memories of her last adventure here, dealing with the emotional repercussions of the death of our parents. Toys became weapons… Friends become foes… Fairytales became nightmares… Imagination became insanity…
The square looked a lot like London, complete with a Big Ben lookalike. Its hands were twisting endlessly, though. There was no clockwork to it, just the insane circular passing of time of a world without order or method… Fitting…
I placed a hand on my sister’s shoulder.
“Alice. It’s okay… Nothing’s going to hurt you here… This is the White Queen’s domain, remember?”
Her shaking calmed but only slightly.
“Alphonse, what are we doing here? Why must we go through this again?”
In truth, I had no idea, but I knew one thing: Wonderland was a representation of our ruined minds. Something drew us here again, and, whatever it was, it had a purpose.
“I’m not sure, dear sister, but we mustn’t break down again. Oh, come now, stop that wailing would you?”
Alice was wailing. Wailing and bawling for no reason other than our knowledge of our insanity.
I sighed. “That’s enough, Alice!” I said sternly. I needed to be strong. For both of us…
Alice swallowed her grief as best she could and stood. Cat materialized atop the fountain in the center of the square, without any regard to Alice’s condition, he spoke.
“Caterpillar can give you the wisdom you seek… Go to the Fungiforous Forest. You will encounter Card Guards along the way. Be mindful, for they are not strong but many in number… Follow the Rooks, they will show you the way. Go, Alphonse… Alice must rest and steel herself.”
Looks like I was alone this time… For now at least.
A Rook grunted at me and began to scoot toward a huge gate.
So it begins… I thought as I followed the human sized chess pieces.
I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but when is any emotional battle easy?
As I departed, I gave a long glance over my shoulder at my beautiful, broken sister.
“I’ll be back.” I assured her.
“No, Al… This time, I’ll come for you…” She said.
After a few hours of travelling east, my escorts, the Rooks, took their leave. I was perfectly alone. Alone in an unfamiliar forest of mushrooms and strangely dead-looking flowers. The soil was soft and squelched beneath my shoes. A smell of the most disagreeable nature wafted through the air, assaulting my nose.
Disgusting, this place… I’m still small, aren’t I? Yes, yes I am. I must eat something. I reasoned as I walked, recalling how the size mechanics of Wonderland operated.
This should do… I thought as I reached for a mushroom and tore a small morsel off.
One nibble and I shot back to my normal size. It was a slight improvement, but I was still lost amid giant, foul-smelling toadstools. A rustle in the bushes caught my attention. A Card Guard? Worse? My hand tightened on the hilt of my knife in anticipation only to be disappointed.
Rabbit jumped out and plowed right into me. We both tumbled to the ground. Rabbit bolted right back up and yanked me with him.
“Where is your sister!?” he demanded.
He meant well, but Rabbit did have a way of irritating me…
“Cat asked that she remain in White Realm for the time being, now would you be so kind as to let me go?”
“Remain in White Realm!? But we must hasten to-” Rabbit began but I interjected irritably.
“Rabbit, you’re not going to tell me why you brought us here, so I’m going to ask Caterpillar. Have you any head as to where that thin-skinned, disagreeable-smelling thing hangs his hookah these days?”
Rabbit sighed and checked his watch. It was cracked just like mine.
“He sits on a stool a couple of clearings that way. When you find him, give him my regards, will you? Then hasten back to the White Queen!” he instructed then took off once again without a response.
Rude rodent… I thought bitterly toward him.
I set my gaze toward the direction he gestured to and began walking once again. I reached a clearing in the wood and looked around. Nothing but fungus. No guards, nothing. This walk in Wonderland had been proving much less eventful than I thought.
The farther I walked into the clearing, the more bored I became. Just as I began to think I’d lost my mind out of sheer boredom, they struck. Five Card Guards wielding axes used for beheading condemned convicts swarmed from the woods in front of me and charged in full force crying “Off with his head!” at the top of their lungs. A deck of cards fell before me, and a familiar voice filled my ears.
“Fifty-two Pickup is a staple of juvenile humor, but here, it is no laughing matter…” Cat advised as cryptically as ever.
I swiped up the deck without a second thought and flung the first card. It sliced through the lead guard’s chest, leaving a sizable hole where a normal human heart would be. He dropped. A sick smile played across my lips as I drew a hand of six and let them fly. Two more dropped with cards in their necks and faces. The remaining two were obviously afraid, but they kept advancing. I backpedaled, trying to keep as much distance from them as I could and simply threw the entire remainder of the deck. The deadly cards cut the two to ribbons before my eyes. I was in awe. Wonderland was incredible! Playing cards were weapons! As if that realization wasn’t amazing enough, the deck reappeared in my hand without having to retrieve them. I slipped my new weapons into my trouser pockets with a smile. Then, without warning, my body began to shake violently. Every bone in my body shifted. I awoke suddenly at work, clad in my typical uniform: A charcoal town coat and matching trousers. I looked up to see Marvin, my boss, looking down at me with concern written all over his pudgy face.
“Alphonse, are you all right, son?” he asked.
When had I come to work? How did I get here? How did Marvin pull me out of Wonderland? Where was Alice!?
“Where’s my sister? Where’s Alice!?” I asked, ignoring his question in my alarm.
Marvin took hold of my other shoulder to keep me in my stool.
“She’s at home, boy, calm down! I just delivered her the orchids you asked me to! She’s all right!”
This calmed me, but I still had no idea how I got there… Marvin seemed to see the question in my eyes.
“You came in this morning, don’t you remember, Al?”
I shook my head. I came to work? Why?
Mend your pace, Alphonse, I told myself. One step at a time. What’s the last thing you remember? I killed the Card Guards in a clearing in the Fungiforous Forest. Perhaps you were not conscious for your commute to work this morning? That must be it… I must have been daydreaming or something…
“Al? Have you been sleeping well?” Marvin interrupted my thoughts.
“Yes sir, perfectly well. Why do you ask?”
“Because you fell asleep behind the counter, lad! A lady customer thought I’d worked you to death!” Marvin suddenly bellowed.
I realized his nose and cheeks were a rose red hue and the smell of brandy was heavy on his breath.
Wonderful. He’s drunk. Here come the violent mood swings…
As my butterball of a boss began ranting, he raised an oversized hand and swung it at me as hard as he could. I ducked the ill-aimed strike and watched him topple over the stool I was sitting on and landed atop him. I rolled deftly off and took a few steps back to let him stagger back to his feet.
“You can’t be falling asleep like that, you misbegotten bastard child! You’ll run me out of business with it!” he cried and threw the bottle in his hand at me. I caught the bottle by the neck with both hands and stepped quickly out of his way as he “charged” toward me.
The next half hour consisted of Marvin constantly firing and hiring me back before he finally dismissed me. I decided to leave the man as he was so as not to irritate him any further. My walk back home was dreary. London was a gloomy city albeit very active. It was getting to be about seven o’clock, time for people to be heading home, but seven also brought out many a variety of unsavory folk. One of which being the prostitutes. They were obvious due to their lack of gloves and the way they hung off their patron’s arms. They bothered me, but I did my best to pay no mind.
I reached our home in a matter of minutes and quickly went inside. Alice was drawing by the fireplace the way she did when she was young when I found her.
“Alice!” I said indignantly.
She looked at me in some alarm.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Did I seem strange this morning?”
Alice shook her head, looking pensive and concerned.
“The waking dreams are beginning again… I must get to Catterpillar!” I resolved, then set toward my bedroom, grabbing a sleep tonic on my way. Once asleep, I found myself in the forest once again.
A Painful Divide
Without a moment’s hesitation, I bolted in an eastern direction, toward where Caterpillar was said to dwell. I tore through the fungus and trees at break-neck speed until I came into the next clearing. This one was full of a thick fog. But this was not normal fog, for it made my eyes water and smelled quite terrible. He was here, all right. This fog was tobacco smoke.
“Absellum!” I called. It was the name he preferred.
A low sigh came from somewhere a number of meters ahead of me. I staggered toward it slowly.
“Who are you?” a rough, hoarse, familiar voice responded.
“It is I; Alphonse.” I replied, still unable to see his blue frame.
“Oh. No doubt, you’ve another stupid question for me? Like, why you are here?”
“Exactly that, sir. What has brought my sister and I back to this place?”
His sigh was quite condescending, but expected. That was his nature, as disagreeable as it was.
“You wish to find who killed your parents, and you have a few suspects.” He said.
It was true, I did have my suspicions that my parents’ deaths were not the result of a freak accident; after all, Father was a very careful man.
“What does that have to do with Wonderland?” I asked.
“That’s for you to decide, stupid. Now be off.” He snapped impatiently.
“Rabbit sends his regards.” I said as I turned to find my path back to the woods.
The smoke from Caterpillar’s hookah truly was blinding. I stumbled about the clearing for some time before finding myself falling down a large chasm. I hadn’t even time to let out an alarmed shriek before thudding onto the stone floor, the wind leaving my lungs faster than a bat of an eye. I saw spots… I suppose I got up at some point, because I was suddenly conscious of footsteps. Heavy, metallic footsteps. Knife readily in my grasp, I took cover behind a nearby rock and waited. As the footsteps drew nearer, my pulse picked up. Soon, the only sound I could hear was a hollow thudding and a dull roar in my ears. I finally saw my opponent. It was a Card Guard, but this one was much different than the others. He was about nine feet tall and wielded a scythe. The thing seemed to be looking for something…
Has the Red Queen already caught word of our return? I thought in alarm. This was an elite Card Guard. The Queen only sent these men to deal with enemy legions…
The thing grew closer and closer, it’s breathing was heavy and ragged. It seemed angry. VERY angry. Fear began to grip me, urging me to move, to get away.
It doesn’t know I’m-
I was unable to finish the thought as the thing kicked the rock that was my cover away to expose me. The roar it let out was terrifying, guttural, and unnatural. In a panic, I cried out and took off as fast as my legs could carry me in some direction. (I was so afraid, I paid no mind to which.) The Guard began spinning his scythe and giving chase. It seemed after a few minutes of running that no matter how hard I ran, I could gain no ground on the beast.
Our Lord, who art in Heaven: hallowed be thy name… Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. I prayed silently, then began yelling the rest of the prayer.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil! For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory-” I was interrupted by the sight of my sister at the end of the long clearing I found myself in. She stood before a table with a white block in her hand. She smiled at me and took a bite out of the brick. Suddenly she shot upward, growing to about twenty feet in height.
“For ever and ever…” I whispered in awe. The guard stopped, staring up at my now colossus of a sister and dropped his scythe, his mouth agape.
“Amen.” Alice said and lifted her boot to have it come crashing down on him. The loud, satisfying crunch of bone, the blood and entrails that were splayed out of his unnatural pile of a body, and Alice’s massive, sadistic smile all played a tune that brought a smile out of me.
“Happy Un-Birthday, brother.” She said as she looked down upon me.
“And what a wonderful Un-Birthday it is. Shall we?” I asked and threw her the shrinking flask. She had to swallow the thing whole. Once she was back to her normal size, she threw herself into my arms.
“I told you I’d come for you.” She whispered.
“I knew you would.” I whispered back.
“Now what?” Alice asked.
“We need to find who started the fire.” I replied.
This answer made Alice go quiet for a moment.
“How?” she finally asked after a long silence.
“How indeed.” I said.
My suspects were those associated with my father’s work. There was no doubt in my mind that Alice had some ideas of her own.
“Have you any clues or theories to share, my dear?” I asked my pensive companion in madness.
“None at all, dear brother.” She said, bowing her head as though embarrassed.
I placed a hand upon her shoulder. Her gaze drifted up to my eyes. I then brought her in close to me, embracing her once again as any good brother would.
“I’m scared, Alphonse.” She choked and began to sob once again into my chest.
These mood swings were most uncharacteristic… Had she been like this when I was away? With no one to comfort her? Poor lass… No wonder she told stories of how she desperately clung to her old stuffed rabbit… That thing was probably the only thing to remind her that she still had someone out there who loved her…
“I’m here, Alice. You’ve no need to be so afraid. We will defeat this together.” I muttered as I tried to calm her wailing. I used an old technique I had acquired when we were young. When she would cry like this, I used to fetch a comb and brush her hair. With the lack of a handy comb, I simply ran my fingers through her hair and whispered uncertain assurances to her.
Before long she was calm and Cat decided to phase into existence once again upon the table.
“Knowing your objective is all fine and good, but it is useless to those who don’t know what they are doing. Step lightly, for a broken mind is fragile… Even in the hands of the one who possesses it…”
Suddenly the ground between Alice and I began to crack and divide. The shock of the sound was enough to draw Alice away from me to the other side. She seemed frozen in shock as the ravine between us grew. Neither of us made an attempt to jump the gap. Something within us glued us to our places. The fear in her eyes drew an anguished cry from me. A sob of many a lonely year and painful endeavors. There were no words, no real human sound. Just a cry like a gutted animal.
“Crying does nothing. It is action that is required now. An endgame with the Queen is the only thing that can bring an end to all your suffering. Now go. Make haste back to White Realm. There you will find the tools to bring you face-to-face with the Duchess. She should be able to tell you what to do.” Cat instructed me.
I still remained in a shattered state. I couldn’t even see my dear sister now, the distance was so vast.
“Just wake up.” I kept ordering myself.
“Just wake up!”