A Story Untold
The story after Alice left Wonderland, following the slaying of the Jabberwocky.
1. Reality Check
I gazed upon the barren ground, thinking fondly of my previous encounters with Wonderland following my near-engagement to Hamish. It'd been exhilarating, an experience my maturing mind would never cease to forget but I missed all of them so dearly. I'd regained my muchness, and a new sense of self that allowed me to explore not only myself but reality in general. Of course, I longed to return to Wonderland for reasons unexplainable to those in the real world, but I continued to yearn nonetheless. They humored me, taught me the world is much too reliable on rules and formality and that if I returned I'd be acceptable with what reality sought as madness.
I sat on the front porch of my new house, featured on a beautiful estate surrounded by grapevines and horse studs, the best in the country. My maids cleaned vigorously, building a light sheen of sweat as they went about their duties. It'd been two years since I last visited Wonderland and I began to question whether I'd ever return to see their smiling faces. Still, I hadn't changed much aside from the fact that I'd begun wearing my hair braided to my waist and my torso was constantly bound in a corset. Despite my mother's scolding I continued to wear shorter dresses, as I had as a young girl and I refused to wear stockings. They were madness, if ever they knew what true madness was.
"Pardon my intrusion ma'am but your bedding has been prepared," came a voice and I turned to find Elaine, one of my few maids smiling pleasantly as she pressed down her dreadful dress, covered in grit and dust.
"You're free to tidy yourself and you're dismissed for the remainder of the afternoon," I said, casting her one of my most pleasant smiles. She smiled in return, obviously surprised at the offer and she curtseyed, disappearing as she hurried off to clean herself. I smiled to myself and turned back to gaze at the setting sun, lowering in the sky and it cast a brilliant orange glow across the grapevines.
Later that evening I found myself resting before the fireplace, gazing into the beautiful flames and imagining my life had I decided to return to Wonderland. Hours passed and my only interruption had occurred when I strode outside to gather more firewood. Eventually I fell into a light sleep, removing my corset to free myself of discomfort and I remained there until the early hours, just past midnight. However, my dreams weren't as peaceful as I desired and I found myself stiring often.
I sighed after I awoke for the fifth time and I rested with my eyes shut, the light of the fire casting an orange glow behind my shut eyelids. I sat there for a while, listening to the crackling of the fire and my own calm, uninterrupted breathing. Eventually there was a tap at the door, slow and intimidating and I awoke with a start. My heart beat harshly against my chest, threatening to break through as I got up and I strode slowly to the front door. I opened it just a crack but I was surprised to find no one there. I stepped out, gazing into the surrounding trees and grapevines but my attention was stolen by a bouquet of roses at my feet. Red roses.
"Hello?" I called, gathering the roses into my arms and I barely controlled a scream as Hamish stepped out from the shadows, a grave and pale expression on his face. "Hamish, you really mustn't startle me like that." He cast me a small smile of somber apology.
"I apologize but I had to come," he said, lowering onto his knee as he took my hand. "Alice, I'm nothing now. No lady will take my hand in marriage. Please, marry me." I felt a great well of sorrow come over me, causing me to drop the roses and I frowned.
"Hamish, I apologize but I can't marry you," I said, gently pulling my hand from his and he seemed to grow paler, if such a thing were possible. "I told you, you're not the right man for me." He sighed, gazing at my feet as he overcame the rejection and returned to his full height, his expression pained.
"Please?" he said once again but I shook my head. Suddenly there was a flash of red behind him, as though a fire had been started within the vines behind him.
"Did you see that?" I asked, walking past him and I strode down the porch steps.
"Alice, I'm willing to see past your insanity if only you marry me," he said but I barely heard him, my attention entirely focussed on the place the flame had come from. The darkness was blinding, encapsulating my vision until I caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a flame in my peripheral vision. "Alice? What are you doing?" he said as I strode toward the flame as it disappeared. Of course, Hamish was too focussed on my 'insanity' to see anything.
The flame appeared once more, in complete view and I heard the intake of breath he had as he realized what I was gazing at. It was coming from the very center of the vines, a bright flame but it didn't seem to be burning much. I took off at a brisk run toward it, hearing Hamish's heavy footsteps as he chased after me. I followed it as it travelled further into the vines, losing the sound of Hamish as he called out for me until I eventually caught up with it. It smouldered brightly between the vines, hovering a ruler length above the ground and I jumped as the ground began to shake beneath me, suddenly leaving me with the sensation of falling and the flame extinguished.
I was no longer of falling down the hole, mostly because I knew what would come at the end but it was intimidating nonetheless, mostly because I was colliding with objects that were blind to me. I kept my screams to myself as I fell, my eyes shut tight and I tried not to listen to the peculiar sounds surrounding me. Eventually I broke through something and landed in something soft, like two strong arms and I smelt something like musk breathing onto me. My eyes flew open and I was surprised to find myself in the Hatter's arms, his vibrant green eyes as bright as always and I instantly smiled.
"Hatter!" I said, throwing my arms around his neck and he instantly stiffened, but only slightly. "You caught me."
"Shh!" he whispered, placing me on my feet and he pushed me into a crouch. "Sorry," he whispered, shooting me an apologetic expression. "It's just, things are different here. We've got to get out of here." I frowned and gazed about, surprised to find that we were in the forest rather than the room with the tiny door.
"Hatter?" I whispered, catching a glimpse of some guards, similar to those who served the Red Queen only dressed in black with red detailing. He shook his head, his finger over his lips as he motioned for me to be silent.
We remained there for a while as the guards passed, ruining the tables and windmill nearby that the Hatter and March Hare used as they went through. I frowned and pursed my lips, watching the windmill as it smouldered and I flinched as a woman's cackle filled the air. It was a piercing sound that hurt my ears but she wasn't visible, the only sight being the burning building and tables as the guards vanished. I turned to the Hatter and a great well of sympathy surged through me, his face pained and the limited colour in his cheeks gone.
"Please forgive me," he whispered as he got to his full height and extended his hand to me. I took it and he sighed, a slight smile extending across his face though it was tainted with sadness. "Jealousy makes a Hatter do rather stupid, hare-brained things." I smiled slightly as he laughed at his small joke, mostly at the March Hare's expense.
"Wait-" I said, frowning slightly and the partially amused expression vanished from his face. "You set the fires in the vineyard?" He smiled sheepishly.
"If I said yes, would you be mad?" I felt a crooked smile cross my face and I laughed quietly.
"No," I said. "I'd be thankful. Thankful for bringing me here and thankful for distracting me from a fairly uncomfortable marriage proposal."
He frowned, pursing his lips as he thought over the information and he sighed, shaking his head as he turned to the flames. I frowned slightly but I couldn't help a small smile. "Why are you jealous?" He bit his lip sheepishly.
"I may be mad but I'm not stupid," he said. "I was jealous of him."
"Hamish?" He shrugged, turning his gaze toward the flames as his eyes turned fiery gold, the anger surfacing.
"The White Queen needs help," he mumbled, his voice low and tinted with his angered Scottish accent. "There's a sorceress who stole her throne and released the Red Queen. 'Tis said there's only one person strong enough to resist her charm and return the White Queen to her throne, the one who beheaded the Jabberwocky."
I frowned, remembering my battle with the Jabberwocky and the brutal things the Red Queen had done. "What's her name?" I said, watching as his grave expression turned to me.
"Cerise," he said, returning his gaze to the flames and he sighed, turning to face me completely. "Alice, I'm afraid she'll enchant me. I've heard of the horrible things that happen to those who refuse her, but worse to those who become enchanted. They lose their souls. They lose their... muchness." I frowned, gazing into his eyes and I could sense how truly terrified he was.
"What happens to those who refuse her?" I said, not completely sure that I wished to know. He gazed at me, confirming my thought.
"They're sent to the Red Queen." I closed my eyes, feeling the blood drain from my face and he sighed. "Please Alice, help us. I don't want to lose my mind. Not completely anyway." In any other situation I would've smiled and laughed but the thought was much too real. I opened my eyes and gazed back at him.
"Hatter, if she even dares to lay her eyes on you death will be more merciful to her than I'll be. I promise that I'll keep you sane, well, as sane as you are now," I murmured, my voice a near-growl as I thought of Cerise and he couldn't help a small smile of... pleasure. "Now," I said. "Where's Cerise?"