Short Stories

To Die in Wonderland

~A Short Story~

By A.G. Porter

*fan-fiction, not intended to duplicate original work

 

 

The young girl with pretty blonde hair knew that her time was coming to an end and it was coming fast. Although, she suspected that it wouldn’t come in quite this fashion. She was young; full of life and promise, dying had never really crossed her mind. Of course there had been that one fleeting moment of death tickling at the back of her thoughts. It was after she lost her first puppy to the neighbor’s much larger canine. Yet, it was just that, a fleeting moment, a blink of an eye and then it was gone.

Now here she stood, death looming over her in the form of things that weren’t supposed to be real.

“Alice,” her mother would say. “There is no such thing as talking caterpillars or rabbits with pocket watches.”
Her imagination was very vivid for most children. In fact, her parents had often scoffed at her stories when she would tell them that she was being chased through the gardens by a boy with his heart on the outside of his chest.  In her childlike mind, he had been real.

She had seen him lurking in the shadows of the trees while she sat on the ground, dirtying her dress that her mother told her not to dirty, playing with her dolls. At first she didn’t think he was truly there, that he were a mirage created by the shadows. Then as he moved closer to her, she could see that he was indeed, a breathing person, much alive yet with the look of death about him.

The boy had a pale face with dark, black eyes and wore a torn and tattered suit. It looked like a suit her father would wear when he and her mother would dine out or go to the opera. His top hat was bent and sat crookedly on a mess of matted black hair.

When he had moved into the light that was when her crisp, blue eyes saw that his heart was on the outside of his body, coloring his white shirt a blackish red with the blood that seeped from the organ. As Alice looked closer she could see that it was still beating.

That was only one of many occasions where Alice saw something she wasn’t supposed to see. After a while she learned to keep those things to herself otherwise she figured that she would end up in the local asylum. Despite the fact that she chose not to share her encounters with her parents, she still acknowledged they were occurring.

Looking back, she wished that she’d just ignored them all together. If she had, there was a good chance that her current predicament would have never taken place. She would have never followed the rabbit with sharp fangs, a bent ear and suspicious red stains around its mouth, to that cemetery. Also, she never would have taken a tumble down the hole in the crypt and ended up here.

In retrospect, she would have never met a cat that could disappear when it wanted and that seemed to be more human than feline. He would have never gotten the chance to taunt her about needing to “fill out” the dress she was in before he would even consider helping her, or had the misfortune of meeting the caterpillar that only wanted her blood so he could smoke it.

“Human blood is more potent than any other blood I’ve tried,” he had said, his eyes glazed over and his many hands fumbling with a small cookie he put in his slimy mouth.

“I need my blood,” she had told him, strapped to a table in his house.
Alice had stumbled upon it after ending up in “Wonderland” as the locals called it. At first, she had been bewildered by her surroundings. It wasn’t like her home, where things had rhyme and reason to them. Here, gravity was askew and so were the laws of physics for that matter.

He had found her huddled next to the giant mushroom he claimed to be his dwellings. Alice didn’t even scream when she saw him approach. Her young mind had accepted the fact that she was somewhere that things were weird and terrifying. That still didn’t prepare her for the caterpillar trying to intoxicate himself on her blood.

He had sat her down at a very large table and given her an oversized bowl of mushroom soup. She had to say that he was the nicest caterpillar she had ever met. He was also very pretty. He was a caterpillar, so his many legs naturally made her skin crawl, but his colors were bright and vibrant. He had a bright purple body and bright green and blue spots that ran the length of him.
While Alice was admiring his markings she began to feel rather odd. His face started to swim in her vision and the next thing she knew she was strapped to a table with a needle in her arm.

“I’m just a young girl,” she told him. “I’m sixteen.”
“The younger the tastiest, sweet one,” he said, his words hissing on the “S.”
She struggled with her restraints, which only seemed to make them tighter. Her eyes wandered around the room, looking for something or anyone that might help her out of the straps. This room was nothing like the kitchen she was just in. It was dark, damp and smelled horrible.

She looked to the left and saw the caterpillar, busy mixing her blood with other items. Then she looked to the right and felt a bit of vomit work its way up her throat. There was another girl in here, but she was far gone from this world. Her body looked shriveled, her hair dried and her eyes wide open in horror.

“Do you think you’re the only naive girl to follow the rabbit here?” the caterpillar chuckled as if it were the funniest thing ever to be said.

“You can’t do this to me,” she struggled against the ropes again. “Caterpillars don’t smoke blood.”

“Perhaps not where you’re from,” he had laughed. “But here in Wonderland things are far darker than in your world of light.”

Alice knew then that she was in a terrible situation. She would have died a very slow and painful death if it weren’t for the tall boy with his heart outside his body who burst through the door at that very moment. He looked down at her and then up at the caterpillar.

“I knew it!” he exclaimed.

“Mad, really, have you ever heard of knocking?” the caterpillar asked, his voice thick with annoyance.

“Cater, I told you if the blonde girl came down the hole you were to leave her alone,” Mad said taking off his top hat and bopping the caterpillar on the head. “She has a mission.”

“Oh, I think I do remember that now,” the giant bug said. “Sorry about that, Mad, really I am.”

“You’re forgiven dear old friend,” the boy said, laughing.

He turned around and looked at Alice. Her eyes were wide with confusion and she flinched as he approached her.

“You’re pretty,” he told her. “I think I should like to kiss you one day, but today is not that day. We have things to do!”

Mad untied the knots that had her bound to the table. She was a bit wobbly from the lack of blood and the spiked mushroom soup, so he helped her to her feet and she leaned on him as he helped out of the mushroom house.

The sky had turned dark, yet there were two moons in the sky. Not just any moons, super moons. Alice saw no stars and made her feel very uncomfortable to look at such an alien sky. She felt so isolated in this place called Wonderland. Mad lead her toward a carriage. When it came into full view Alice considered going back inside.

It was a carriage made of bones. She could see femurs, skulls and phalanges scattered all throughout the contraption. The driver was a fat, squat boy with a perplexed look on his face. Another boy, who looked exactly like the driver, opened the carriage door for them.

At the front of the cart stood four horses, kicking at the blue colored dust on the path. These weren’t normal steeds. Instead of the beautiful, majestic beasts that pulled her family’s carriage, ones that were covered with skin, these weren’t. The muscles, veins, arties and sinews were all visible. One of the monsters looked back at her with its lidless eyes and snapped its large teeth at her.

“Behave yourself, beast,” Mad waved his hand at it and the horse “nayed” in response.

Without her even realizing it, Mad put Alice in the carriage and they were off. She really wanted to fall asleep. Her eyes burned and her lids were heavy, but being in a bone carriage with a clearly deranged boy sitting across from her, she forced herself to stay awake.

“You’re probably wondering why I’ve brought you here,” Mad said, a creepy smile on his otherwise handsome face. “You’re going to kill the Queen of Hearts.”

“I’m what?” Alice wasn’t sure if she had heard him clearly.

“Here, you’re going to need this,” he said and handed her a sword.

He seemed to have pulled it straight from the carriage walls as the handle was made of someone’s leg bone. The blade was a brilliant silver and sharper than the best sword there ever was. Alice held it in her hands, wondering why she was sitting here in this carriage with this strange boy, holding a sword.

“I have to warn you though,” Mad laughed. “The Queen is deadly. See my heart? It was once inside my chest. I tried to defeat her myself, but you see where that got me. Then the White King tried to stop her. There is no more White King. Actually, you’re sitting on his chest bones right now. The Queen of Hearts cut off his head and had his liver for dessert. So, it has to be you.”

“I don’t understand,” Alice felt sick and moved herself over toward the carriage window.

“A quick history lesson then,” Mad crossed his legs so that he looked like he was getting ready to mediate. “The White King was once ruler of all you see. Here it was as things should be. We could roam your world and ours freely, using the magical portal that has always been there, feeding when we needed to.”

“Feeding?” Alice gulped.

“Don’t interrupt, but yes, feeding,” he smiled. “We like the taste of human flesh if you must know, don’t worry, I won’t eat you. You’re going to save us. But anyway, then the Queen of Hearts rebelled against the White King, who was her husband mind you, and takes over the kingdom. Now, we can only feed when she says we can. It’s been terrible these past two thousand years.”

Alice sat there for a moment, wondering at what Mad had told her. She had two choices the way she saw it. She could do as Mad said and kill the Queen of Hearts or she could not kill the Queen of Hearts and fight her way back to her own realm. She would then find a way to close the portal between the worlds so that these hellish creatures could never return and hurt anyone else.

Alice looked at Mad and then suddenly she pointed the sword at his throat. He held up his hands as if he were surrendering, but he was smiling widely at her.

“If you eat humans, why would I help you?” she asked, pressing the blade harder into his skin.

“Because it is written,” he said. “You’re the Savior or whatever.”

“Find another one,” she told him.

“We’ve tried, over and over for two thousand years,” he said. “ Who do you think that girl was in Cater’s room? A failed attempt, a false Savior. I’ve got a good feeling about you though. I mean, I’ve never wanted to kiss one of you before so that has to mean something. You’re my food, not something I would want to mate with, but with you I’d consider it.”

“You’re disgusting,” she hissed.

“Why thank you,” he replied, his smile bigger.

“Stop smiling! Why are you always smiling?” she screamed.

Suddenly the carriage jerked to a stop. Alice lunged forward, the sword plunging into Mad’s neck. Thick, black blood sprayed all over her, covering her from head to foot. More and more gushed out, running down Mad’s chest, as he struggled to breathe.

“Oh no! I’m sorry! I wasn’t…it was just a threat…oh no!” Alice cried, trying to use her hands to stop the blood from pouring out.

It was useless, it gushed and poured and colored her pale skin black. One of the twins yanked opened the carriage door. She looked at him pleadingly. His expression wasn’t what she expected. He looked…well…he looked bored.  Then he actually rolled his beady, black eyes.

“Mad, we’re here,” he said.

Alice looked at him in shock then back at Mad. He had stopped gasping for breath and was smiling at her again. He gripped the blood-covered blade with both hands and yanked it free from his neck. Alice watched in awe as the wound on his neck healed over quickly.

“You were faking it?” she gawked at him.

“Of course I was,” he laughed climbing out of the carriage and dragging Alice along with him. “You can’t kill me with a stab to the neck.”

“Then how do I kill the Queen?” Alice wondered.

“Easily,” he said. “You cut out her heart and chop off her head. Now come on.”

Alice and Mad were standing in front of a giant hedge maze. At first glance it didn’t look as if there was an entrance, but with a tip of his hat they were suddenly inside, the plump twins and bone carriage were gone.

Mad lead the way, the dark hedge casting an eerie shadow on his face. He hummed a tune as they walked for what seemed like hours. As young Alice contemplated her escape, trying not to think of her inevitable demise, she heard something snap behind her. The sound was that of a twig being broken in two by a heavy foot. Yet, when she looked there was no one there.

She turned to face Mad, to ask if he had heard it too, but he was nowhere to be seen. Alice spun back around as the feeling of being watched crept upon her. She looked from side to side. All that she saw as green, green and more green. There was nothing and no one there except her and the walls of the maze.

Then, out of thin air, a being appeared right in front of her. It was tall, hairy and smelled of decay. When Alice looked at it a bit more closely she saw it for what it was. A monster made of all things dead. Its body was made of deceased animals, all kinds of vermin. Alice felt her stomach turn for more than once that day. She looked for Mad once more but yet again, he was gone.

Remembering she had a sword she pointed it at the beast. It looked down at her and the blade and then easily knocked it from her hand. Her eyes widened and her chest began rising and falling rapidly. She did the only thing that seemed rational for a young girl to do when faced with an otherworldly monster. She ran.

Alice ran as fast as her slender legs would carry her. The monster gave chase. She could hear its unnaturally made feet of rodent heads hitting the ground, catching up to her and fast. A surge of self-preservation passed through her body and her limbs pushed her even harder than she had ever ran before.

Alice, rounded corner after corner, turning left and then right. Her chest was hurting and her lungs were on fire. The muscles in her legs felt like rubber, but she tried not to think about it. If she stopped now then she would surely be eaten by this beast and this was the last place she wanted to die.

As luck would have it, she made a turn that lead her to a dead end. She felt along the surface, feeling for a way to break through, but the shrubbery was too thick. She turned around quickly as the monster came around the corner. It smiled at her, revealing bloodstained teeth that looked too large to fit inside its carcass covered head.

“You stay back!” she yelled at him suddenly. “I’m the chosen one! It is written. I’ll kill the Queen of Hearts and if you kill me then you’ll be condemned to…to…uh…to feed only when you’re told to.”

“I feed when I want, Child,” it hissed at her.

It inched closer to her, the smell of rancid meet greeted her and she nearly passed out from the overwhelming stench. Alice closed her eyes, waiting to be devoured.

“But you’re not my type,” it told her.

“What?” Alice opened her eyes in disbelief.  “You’re not going to eat me?”

“No, of course not,” it said, sitting on it hind legs.

“Then why are you chasing me?” she asked.

“Because you ran,” it told her.

Alice looked at him with the most surprised expression one has given to another. He reached inside his body and pulled out the sword. It was covered in blood and rotted parts of animal flesh. He extended it to her.

“You dropped this,” he said.

“Technically you knocked it out of my hand,” she told him, reaching for the thing nervously.

“Ah, you’re right,” he laughed. “I forget my own strength sometimes. I was trying to shake your hand.”

He reached for her hand gently this time. Trying not to vomit on him she shook his hand.

“Now that we are friends, shall we have tea?” he asked and then waved his hands.

The maze wall peeled back to reveal a large house made from a giant teapot.  A plume of smoke was swirling out of the spout and lights were on in the windows. Alice followed after the beast, not sure if she were any safer with him or alone.

“I’m Mir, by the way,” he said.

“Mir? What a peculiar name,” she expressed.

“And Alice isn’t?” he barked. “Besides, it’s short for Mirror. My parents called me Mirror because of my eyes.”

He looked back at her and she saw that his eyes were in fact just like a mirror. Alice didn’t know if she should be afraid of the fact that his eyes were grossly unnatural or of the fact that he had parents. That meant there were more things like him out there. Since he was being so nice, she decided it was best to stay with him than try to escape just yet.

When the odd pair, a pretty young girl and a decaying monster, entered the house a rather cozy atmosphere greeted them. There was a fire burning in the hearth and company sitting around a large wooden table. Besides the fact that there were platters of worms, eyeballs and what looked like kidneys, it looked like a gathering of friends.

The white rabbit that had lead Alice to Wonderland sat beside the two plump boys she had seen earlier. The invisible cat, who was now visible, sat next them. Then, right in the front sat Mad, sipping on something dark and gooey with his top hat askew. Alice marched over and slapped him square in the face.

“You foul, sniveling maggot!” she screamed at him.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” he beamed at her.

“What? Oh never mind! You left me! Why?” she demanded.

“Call it training,” he replied simply. “How did she do, Mir?”

“Well, she can ran really fast,” he commented and took his seat at the other end of the table. “She’s crap with a sword though.”

“We can teach her,” the twins said together.

“Nonsense,” the white rabbit snarled. “You two fat slobs are only good at lifting your fork to those gigantic holes in your rotten faces! I’ll teach her.”

“Your limbs are too short, Whisk,” Mad stated. “It only makes sense that I teach her. I’m better than all of you put together.”

That caused uproar from the others. Alice backed up against the wall as a fight broke out. It wasn’t just a few shoves here and there. The creatures in front of her tore at each other. There was biting, clawing, flesh ripping, blood spraying and she was certain she saw someone’s ear land in the pot of tea sitting in the middle of the table. When a splatter of blood landed on Alice’s head, she stomped her foot on the ground and clenched her fists in frustration.

“Shut up!” she bellowed.

The occupants of the table stopped mid-fight, turned and looked at her. They had malice in their eyes from the their quarrel, but it seemed to slightly soften as she came forward.

“Is killing the Queen the only way for me to go home?” she asked as quietly as she could because she was afraid if she didn’t, she would scream so loud their eardrums would burst.

“Well, technically…” Whisk began.

“Yes, that’s the only way,” Mad interrupted and let go of one of twins heads he had in a headlock.

“And the only way to stop her is with a sword fight?” she asked.

“It’s the easiest way if you want to cut out her heart,” Mad responded. “And you must challenge her to a fight. Those are the rules. She has to accept any challenge or forfeit the crown.”

“OK, alright then,” she took in a deep breath. “Teach me.”

The group headed outside where there was more room. Mir lit the torches that surrounded his courtyard. Alice joined Mad in the center of the stone floor as the others sat on porcelain chairs that looked like broken teacups. After Mad showed Alice the proper way to hold the sword he began to teach her how to duel.

Over and over he unarmed her, tripped her and pinned her arms behind her back. For hours she failed time and time again. When the sky above then began to brighten, the darkness bleeding away, Alice declared that she needed rest.

“Do you think the Queen will let you rest?” Mad asked, unarming her again.

“I can barely hold up this sword and my eyes are nearly bleeding they’re so dry,” she stated. “If you want to kill this Queen then I need to sleep!”

“Fine!” he snapped and walked away. “Mir, give the puny human a bed!”

Mir showed Alice to a bed that looked as though the sheets needed to be washed. At that moment she didn’t care. She threw herself on the spring mattress and went fast to sleep.

Her dreams were odd and dark. Mad was there, teaching her to fight; yet this time she could hear music playing. Soon, they were dancing to a tune that made her think of the carnival her father and mother took her to on their last summer holiday. They were spinning, waltzing and twirling.

Painted faces with crooked smiles swirled past them. Thick smells of sweets mixed with something putrid tickled her nose.  Then there was something looming in the distance. A figure rushed toward her, black hair and red lips. She felt someone reach inside her chest, clutch her heart and yank it out.

It dangled there, swinging like a pendulum on a clock. Alice awoke, screaming in her sleep. Mad rushed over to her and shook her until her eyes opened.

“It seems as though you’re upset,” he said, staring into her eyes.

“What gave you that idea?” she asked sarcastically.

“You were screaming,” he said plainly.

“Have you ever heard of sarcasm?” she pulled free from his grasp.

“No,” he replied.

He sat there staring at her for a moment. Then her reached up and touched a blonde strand of hair that was in her face. Alice flinched and backed away. He didn’t seem to take that as her not wanting him touching her because he reached for her again, this time running his hands through her hair.

“Where I come from males do not touch females unless they are invited to do so,” she told him.

“Where I come from there are no females,” he told her.

“Excuse me?” she was surprised. “Then how do you…how are you here?”

“We are just here, well some of us like me,” he said, leaning forward, sniffing her neck.

“That is entirely too close, Sir,” she pushed him back.

“You smell,” he told her.

“Well, I’m covered in filth and God only knows what else,” she wrapped her arms around her body.

“That isn’t it,” he told her sniffing her again. “You smell too clean, too human.”

“Well, I’m so sorry,” she rolled her eyes.

“She’ll smell you coming,” he told her. “You need more dirt.”

“Wonderful,” she sighed.

“Indeed, isn’t it,” he said joyfully.

He didn’t wait for Alice to respond, not that she intended to, and grabbed her by the arm to lead her outside. There he covered her once pretty light, blue dress with dirt and grime. As he took a handful of mud that had something grotesque mixed in with it and rubbed her cheeks with it he began to smile. It was a smile that Alice was sure she had never seen from him before.

“You are not like most humans,” he said to her.

“Why? Because I’m not running and screaming from you because you’re about to eat me?” she asked sarcastically.

“Well, there is that,” he said seriously. “Also, you’re stronger than most humans I’ve met. The majority of humans are too busy with their precious lives to stop and look around them.”

“You sound half way normal right now,” Alice pointed out.

“I and the others in Wonderland are creatures of death,” he said. “We hand it out because it is our job and it is in our nature. We’re busy running toward it while you spend money and precious time trying to outwit it. We embrace it while you run from it. It is just a part of nature. There is no stopping it…however, for you, you must.”

“Why?” Alice wondered, feeling in her bones that his words had more meaning.

“It is written:

A human girl of the World of Light;

Will save the monsters of the night.

She’ll carve the heart from the Queen;

She’ll wear the raiment of blood and of spleen.

She will bring order and bring peace;

So all the monsters are free to feast.

Yet, if the human girl shall die;

The end of creatures shall be neigh.

Only the sword of which she yields;

Can dig the graves in the fields.” Mad quoted.

“That’s inspiring,” Alice said, feeling weak in the knees.

“So, you see, you cannot die,” he smiled. “You must free us.”

“Do you understand what you’re asking me to do?” she grabbed his face in her hands. “You want me to free you, to save you so that you can kill and feed upon my kind. Why would I do that? I should kill myself right now. Isn’t that what the prophecy is saying? If I die, you’ll all die.”

“There is more to that riddle,” the invisible cat said appearing beside them, making Alice jump. “It goes like this:

The girl cannot die from her own two hands;

To keep the monsters from her land.

If she tries and she succeeds;

There is nowhere her people can flee.

She’ll unlock the Queen’s red rage;

Her world will be torn like a withered page.

So you see, dear Alice, if you kill yourself, you give passage to your world right into the hands of the Red Queen. Just because she limits our bloodlust doesn’t mean she limits her own. Why do you think she wants to oppress us? She wants to rule Wonderland and Earth. If she gets her hands on you, captures you, she will make you take your own life. She’ll fill your heart with so much pain; you’ll want to rip it out of your chest. She has her ways.”

Mad, for the first time since she had met him, looked pale with fear. She glanced down at his beating heart and saw that he was clinging to it. It dawned on her then that this is what the Queen had done to him. While she wanted to hate him for what he was, she couldn’t help but sympathize with him. How terrible would someone have to feel to rip out their own heart?

Mad walked away, claiming he had to ask Mir for something, but Alice thought it was because he just felt uncomfortable. This left Alice with the invisible cat that wasn’t so invisible right now. It sat on the bed, curled into a ball grinning up at her with so many teeth it was hard too look without feeling dizzy.

“There’s more to the prophecy if you would like to hear it,” he told her.

“Alright, the,” she said, gently sitting down next to the large animal.

“It is written:

Should the one fall in love;

Something precious will be undone.

There in the darkest hour;

Here true love will devour;

With what is forged in fire;

Through her heart is her desire.

So that each world might be saved;

All is forgiven when both are brave.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” Alice admitted.

“That because you’re a simple human with a simple brain,” the cat stick his tongue out at her and left.

Alice sat there with her mouth open, not believing she has just been bested by a cat and an invisible one at that. How was she going to beat the Queen of Hearts if she couldn’t even decipher riddles! She stormed out of the bed cambers and into the common room.

“Where is this Queen?” she asked, grabbing her sword and walking toward the door.

Mad was sitting on the arm of the couch. He let go of his heart, he didn’t seem to know he had been holding on to it, and gave her one of his creepy, yet oddly charming smiles.  The two of them left the teapot shaped home and headed deeper into the hedge maze.

As the hours passed they said little to one another. It wasn’t until Alice’s stomach started to grumble that they stopped. Mad expressed that she should have eaten at the house, but she politely replied that she would rather die of hunger.

Luckily for Alice Mad knew that her human body couldn’t live on the flesh of her own so he had brought along a piece of bread. He explained that while they did enjoy a more meaty meal, they did dabble in wheat and flour. Alice took the bread gratefully and ate it with boundless joy.

“Have you ever thought of another way?” she asked him as they continued down the path.

“I don’t understand the question,” he stated.

“Another way to live? I mean, who said you had to eat humans to survive?” she wondered.

“Things are just the way they are because that’s the way they are,” he said which made Alice’s head spin.

“But if you could, would you live another way? Would you survive on the flesh of animals? What about fruits and vegetables?” she asked, taking another bite of bread. “Or of wheat? Bread is very filling.”

“I like the taste of human flesh,” Mad said licking his lips at her. “But to answer your question, why would I want to find another way, to save your pesky brothers and sisters? What makes you so special that you should be spared?”

“I could ask the same about your people,” Alice said crossly.

“That’s simple,” Mad laughed. “We are a unique species with a great purpose. We keep the balance of life and death in your realm. Without us you’d overpopulate your planet. We kill you, you nourish us, and the circle keeps spinning. There is a food chain and an order.”

“I think when it comes down to it, you’ll choose a different path. You’ll find another way,” she told him.

She and the boy who looked like a monster finally came to a stopping point. They stood at a wall that appeared to be some sort of black stone. In the center of the black wall was a white rose that was literally dripping with something red. Alice had an idea of what the substance might be, but didn’t want to think about it.

Mad reached up, cupping the blood in his pale hands until it made a tiny pool in his palm. He dipped his finger into it and began drawing an odd looking symbol that Alice didn’t recognize onto the surface of the wall, but when he was about half way through it slow began to resemble a rose. When he was finished he took Alice’s hand and brought it to his lips. Just when she thought he was going to kiss her fingers, he bit them instead.

“Ouch!” she said as one of his sharp teeth pricked the tip of her index finger.

“Tasty, just like I imagined,” he stated and then put her finger in the center of the rose.

The ground shook slightly beneath them and then the wall slid up. They entered the courtyard of the Queen of Hearts. Instantly, Alice could tell it was different here. The air was thicker and somewhat hotter. Alice was about to comment on how much darker it seemed here when Mad gave her a push.

“Run!” he screamed.

Alice stumbled forward and began to run, trying her best to keep up with Mad. She risked the chance of looking back and regretted it. There were around fifteen or so guards that were chasing after them with weapons in hand.

It wasn’t just her being chased by guards that brought fear to her mind. Alice thought she had become accustomed to the grotesque nature of the creatures in Wonderland. However, she wasn’t prepared for the monsters that were pursuing them. They were all shapes and sizes, but with similar facial features. They were gigantic for starters with matted hair the color of snow. Their eyes were cat like in appearance and a luminescent yellow. The skin that covered their misshapen noses was black as soot with patches of a muddy green color.

The two of them came around a corner and stopped in their tracks. Twenty or more guards were heading straight for them. They turned back around as the other group reached them. Alice brought up her sword and struck one of the guards straight in the heart that was hanging outside of his chest. He fell to the ground with tremendous force. Alice was about to strike down another one, but Mad stopped her.

“Save your strength,” he said.

Alice looked confused for a moment, but then nodded her head as they held up their hands in surrender.  One guard moved forward and bound their hands behind their back. Alice struggled against the guards, but allowed them to move her forward.

They moved from one courtyard to another. In this area there was more plant life, sort of like the garden her mother had back home, but the flowers here looked dead. Gray vines grew up the walls of the palace and wound their way around the nearby trees, choking their growth.

“And here she is,” a screechy voice echoed around them.

Alice looked up and saw a slender woman walking down the steps of the palace. She had a croquet mallet in her hand, leaning against her shoulder like a member of a dark military. She sneered down at Alice and then glanced at Mad.

“Mad, my darling, have you come to finally die?” she smiled revealing sharp teeth, stained red.

He hair was pitch black; the tips were that of sharp metal claws. They made a tinkling sound as she moved. The Queen had snake like eyes that were as red as her teeth. Her pale skin looked like death.

“You know me, Your Highness,” Mad laughed. “I’m always ready to die.”

“And I’m always ready to appease my subjects,” she said, stopping in front of them and placing the croquet mallet under his chin.

“Leave him alone!” Alice pushed herself in front of Mad.

“I’ll get to you soon enough, sweet Alice,” she told the young girl. “But first, Mad and I have some unfinished business.”

The Queen shoved her to the side and her bands of black hair reached for Mad’s heart.

“Take me!” Alice screamed, jumping in front of Mad again.

“You’re in no position to negotiate, Child,” she hissed.

“I challenge you,” Alice barked. “I challenge you and you must accept.”

“Blasted!” she hissed and her claws retracted. “I see Mad did what he does best and blabbed his mouth about the rules.”

“He did,” she said. “Now untie me and let’s get this over with.”

The Queen waved her hand and the guards removed her bindings. She led Alice to the center of the courtyard and then stood to face her. The croquet mallet that she held in her pale hands suddenly turned into a sword. She brandished it in front of her.

“Shall we begin?” she bowed to Alice. “I’m sure whatever you’ve learned in the past few hours will be quickly forgotten and your death will be swift.”

Gulping, Alice pointed her sword at the Queen. Faster than Alice had time to see the Queen’s blade sliced her arm. Alice cried out in pain and grabbed at the bleeding wound. She brought up her blade just in time to stop the Queen’s sword from slicing through her head. Then just as quickly the Queen brought her sword around and sliced along Alice’s back.

Once more Alice screamed in pain. She fell to her knees just as the Queen stabbed her through the shoulder. Alice’s red blood covered the blade. The Queen brought the sword to her mouth and licked the blade clean as Alice withered in pain.

“You know, dear Alice,” The Queen began. “Your blood tastes of fear. If I were you, I’d give up.”

“Good thing you aren’t me,” Alice said, trying to stand up.

“Let me guess,” The Queen said. “Mad and is little band of misfits told you of the prophecy and how you were going to save their world and yours, right? Well, isn’t that nice? Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in the prophecy, but what I don’t believe is that it’s about you. How could it be? From your blood I can tell you’re a selfish child. The only reason you’re here is because you followed the White Rabbit out of pure boredom. You were never satisfied with your life and wanted something more. From what I can understand you were well taken care of and had everything you needed…oh, I see…you felt unloved. Well, that is true. You were unloved. Your parents never had any time for you. Your father always worked and your mother never believed your stories. It would be better to just end it all, don’t you think, just end your own suffering?”

Alice felt the weight of the Queen’s words. She knew in her heart that it was all true. Without thinking about it she felt herself reaching for her chest. There was a slight pain that raced across her sternum as she dung her fingers into her flesh. Blood ran down her torso as she dung deeper and deeper.

“Don’t listen to her, Alice!” Mad yelled out suddenly. “Remember, you can’t die from your own hand or she’ll break free.”

“Your magic…won’t….work…on me…witch,” Alice said, using all of her strength to pull her hand away from her heart, the spell the Queen had cast over her broken.

“So brave,” the Queen remarked, her eyes burning red. “Let’s finish this.”

Alice stood up and they began to fight.  Alice swung her blade over and over and missed each time. The Queen was much luckier. Each of her swings cost Alice another drop of blood another deep gash. At last the Queen unarmed her. Alice watched as her sword went flying into the group of guards.

“Off with her head,” the Queen said in a menacing whisper and then brought up her blade.

At the last possible second Alice reached up and grabbed a handful of the Queen’s sharp black hair. She yanked off one of the silver claws and jammed it into the Queen’s chest. Black blood splattered Alice’s face, but she kept pushing the claw into the Queen’s chest until she felt something snap and splinter. Alice shoved the claw one last time, twisted it and then pulled out the Queen’s heart.

“You lose, Queen of Nothing,” Alice said.

She walked over to fetch her blade. She gave the Queen one last look and then plunged the sword into the black heart in her hands. The Queen without a heart gave one terrifying scream and then died on her courtyard grounds. Alice threw the heart at the dead Queen, raised her sword and severed her head from her body. Drained and bleeding from more wound than she could count, Alice slumped to her knees, exhausted.

Mad broke free of the guards and came over to her. He hugged her close to him and then looked at her. His dark eyes were the most welcoming sight she had seen. Yes, even more than her mother’s hug and her father’s kiss. The Queen of Hearts had been right about one thing; her relationship with her family had been strained. This boy, and those odd little creatures that shared their grotesque dinner with her had been nicer to her than her own parents.

Yet, it was them she thought about when she fought the Queen. It was her obnoxious cousin, Bartholomew, who pretended to know everything about everything, that gave her strength. Her sweet friend, Isabelle and her bright smile push her forward. All of them deserved to be saved from the Queen of Hearts and the evils she had store for them.

“You served us well, dear Alice,” he told her, pushing back a dirty, golden strand of hair. “You are not like other humans.”

“You’re wrong, Mad,” she told him, it hurt for her breathe. “There are many humans like me. We are weak and frail, but when the lives of others are on the line we will stand up for what is right.”

“What is this on your cheek?” he asked her as a tear escaped from her eyes.

“Only an expression of happiness, dear Mad. Knowing that I saved many others here tonight has given me great joy,” she told him.

“I think that I might kiss you now,” he said, a blush on his pale face.

“I think that I might actually let you,” she responded.

Mad leaned forward, placing his cold, dead lips on hers. He could feel all of the strength that coursed through her body. Inside he struggled with controlling the hunger he felt, the desire to devour her. He knew that being consumed was not her fate for she was far too precious.

“I’m not quiet sure how to explain these new emotions,” he smiled at her. “Do you have a word for it?”

“How about I let you make up one for it yourself,” she smiled at him and looked toward the Queens sword.

His smiled faded as he picked it up. He knew what to do as did she. A tear fell down his cheek. He wiped it away and looked at it on his fingertip in astonishment. He had never seen a tear from his own eyes before. It was wondrous and frightening.

“You know what the prophecy means don’t you? The one the cat told me after you left the room?” Alice asked him.

“Yes,” he answered, another tear falling down his face. “Don’t ask me to do this.

“You have to,” she ordered.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because we can save both our worlds,” she coughed, tasting blood in her mouth. “And I think you know I’m already…”

“Don’t say it,” he looked down at the blade. “You don’t know if the prophecy is about me. You don’t even like me.”

“I think we know that’s a lie,” she smiled, touching his face, making his look at her. “I knew I loved you the first time you showed up in my garden all those years ago.”

“I’m not sure what love is,” he said to her.

“You’re lying,” Alice said. “Remember, I can see your heart and it’s beating rather quickly.”

Mad knew that she was right. He was in love even though the idea was more than odd to him; he did love this human girl. He loved her so much that he wanted her by his for the rest of life. If this was true and she loved him return then why was she asking this of him? The question only caused more tears to fall down his cheeks and drip from his chin.

That is when he realized that she was doing this out of love. She loved him and the others, people she didn’t even know, so much that she was willing to give up everything for them. He wasn’t sure if he could be that brave. Alice, this frail and tiny human, just a speck in the universe, was more important than she even realized. He took the sword, his hands shaking and plunged it into her chest. Alice gasped.

“Thank you,” she told him, kissing his cheek, and died in his arms.

“Why did you do that?” one of the guards asked.

“She couldn’t die by her own hands or we or whoever was next in line for the crown would have reign over her world,” he said. “Yet, if she died by the hands of the one who loved her most, her world would be cut off from ours forever, severing the portal.”

“You’ve killed us all, Mad!” another guard screamed. “We’re going to starve to death!”

“No!” he turned and looked at them, sword still in hand. “We will find another way. In honor of her, we will find another way. It is written, we must be brave.”