"Come on, Alex. She'll be here tomorrow. It's probably the last time she'll be able to visit us: She's very old and It always makes her happy."
"You do it then, you're the one who's supposed to. You're the one who's named after her."
"Alex, you know the costume doesn't fit me anymore, I've grown so much this past year.. She probably won't even recognize me. You're the only one who can wear it now."
Alex grimaced. At 16 he was still shorter than all of the rest of the boys in his class. He didn't like being reminded of his size, especially by a sister who was nearly a head taller than he was.
"Please Alex, I bought a new wig just for this, just so you'd look perfect."
Alex's sister Alice put her hands on his shoulders and leaned down to whisper. "And I know you like to...remember the life size doll I used to have..."
Alex jerked away from his sister, blushing furiously. "Yes! And I remember what you did too! I had to wear that stupid doll wig everywhere for two days! They finally had to shave my head to get it off!"
Alex's sister smiled. "We were both young, I didn't realize that rubber cement would be so hard to remove from your hair. But...you did look awfully cute and you know you had fun for awhile. Please, it's important. Besides...I know you've tried the dress on before when you thought no one would know and I know it fits. No one else can do it but you."
"No!" Alex ran out of the room. His sister watched him run out to the backyard. She frowned. No need for him to know about the inheritance, at least not yet. That could come later. Great grandmother came to visit every year, and every year, Alice had dressed as Alice in Wonderland for her. It was fun at first, if a little strange, but it was harmless. So what if Great Grandmother believed herself to be the real Alice from the stories...
Alice went into Alex's room. It used to be her room, so she knew about the loose floorboard in the closet, even before Alex did. She pried it up and sure enough, there was a paper bag inside filled with a small stash of cheap makeup and some photos. Their parent's had no idea. She smiled and took the photos, and went back to her room to call a couple of her friends from theatre class.
After making arrangements, she went downstairs and watched the workmen installing the huge mirror that Great Grandmother had sent them last week. It was ornate and beautiful, but there was something just a little creepy about it. She had touched the glass when they were unpacking it, and it felt almost warm to the touch, not cold like she'd expected. Even the workmen seemed a little nervous around it, and not just because it was an antique. She shook her head and headed out to meet her friends. This wouldn't be easy, but if they pulled it off, Great Grandmother would have her Alice tomorrow.
In the morning, Alex came downstairs to find a note from his parents on the dining room table. There had been an emergency call during the night, and they both had to leave. Alex's Grandfather was seriously ill and his mother was needed to help care for him for a few days. His Father was taking some time off from work and going with her. The note left instructions on how to reach them, said that his sister would be in charge while they were gone. Alex's stomach lurched. He had hoped that his parents would be on his side on the whole Great Grandmother deal, but it looked like he was out of luck. Maybe if he ran away, just for a couple of days...
Alex heard giggling behind him. He turned around to find his sister and two of her friends from High School. "No!" he yelled, and tried to run. The girls caught him and dragged him upstairs to his sister's room. On her dresser sat a styrofoam stand with a long blonde pageboy wig. On the bed was the dreaded Alice in Wonderland costume, complete with a set of lacy underwear and saddle shoes, and a couple of boxes. He tried to struggle, but the girls were too strong and quickly covered his mouth with tape and began stripping off his clothes.
"I hate to do it this way Alex, but it's important that Great Grandmother get what she wants this afternoon. And besides...we already know your little secret." His sister held up the photos from the stash in his room. Alex's eyes widened. "Don't worry, you're going to make a wonderful Alice when we finish with you. And to make sure you don't try anything funny like ripping off the dress, we going to make sure you want to keep it on." The girls tied Alex's nude body to a chair, his arms behind him, his legs spread.
They opened one of the boxes and lifted out what looked like pieces of skin. His sister quickly pressed what felt like two pieces of gelatin onto Alex's chest, where they stuck in place. Alex recognized them as the breast enhancers he'd seen in his sister's dresser. One of the other girls began brushing the back of one of the pieces of skin-like material with something from a large bottle. "This is Pros-Aide" she said. "It's used to hold prosthetics onto skin, so it's completely safe. It's also very strong and requires a special remover to take it off." She carefully placed the material over the sticky pads, smoothing the edges down with more of the Pros-Aide. "When that dries, it will look just like your own skin." Alex's eyes got even bigger when he looked down and realized he now looked like he had small but very feminine breasts! He tried to yell, but the tape held fast.
Alex's sister smiled. "That can last up to two weeks before it begins to loosen. You could have made this easier, you know. Now we have to do it this way." She turned to the other girls. "Get the other piece."
Alex tried to pull loose, but he was tied too tightly. The girls began preparing the other skinlike piece of material the same way. "He's your brother, you have to do this one."
Alex's sister grimaced, but knew what she had to do. Alex watched as she put on a pair of rubber gloves and almost screamed beneath the tape as she grasped him and slid his member into a sheath on the back side of the flesh-like triangle. She pressed it carefully into place, again sealing the edges with more of the adhesive. She took a small hairdryer and used it to help the adhesive dry.
Alex felt like crying. He looked down and saw that he now looked like a nude teenage girl from the neck down. "If you take off the dress, this is what people will see. Do you really want mom and dad to see you like this?" Alex paled and he slumped in his bonds. "One last thing before we get you dressed." She took the adhesive bottle and poured a generous amount in his hair, carefully working it in with the rubber gloves and smoothing it down. One of the other girls had brushed more of the adhesive carefully into the wig's cap. After letting things dry a little, they placed the wig onto his head, making sure it was just right. When they were finished, it looked like the long blonde hair was his own. "Wow, you look amazing! I can't wait until we get the dress and makeup on you"
Alex felt like he was in shock, his legs and arms felt like rubber. The girls had little trouble dressing him, first with the proper underwear, then the antique dress. They sat him back down in the chair, and retied him, wiping the tears, and carefully applying his makeup. They used the same adhesive to attach long fluttery eyelashes to his lids. His sister left the room while the other girls worked, and in a little while came back. She had wrapped her chest with ace bandages and cut her own hair short and was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. "Well Alice, how do you like the new Alex?" She leaned in close. "We only have to do this for this one afternoon, little "sis". Do exactly as you're told and I'll get the remover and help you get cleaned up. Mess this up, and I just may leave you like this until mom and dad get back!
"Oh, and one last thing..." His sister took a headband from her dresser and placed it carefully into the long blonde wig, gluing it in place with more of the adhesive. "Now, you're ready!"
The girls let Alex up, and he immediately tried to tear the wig off. It felt like pulling his own scalp! It wouldn't budge! They laughed as he struggled and pulled. It was no use, the wig was stuck tight. He started to tear off the dress and his sister said "Uh uh uh...remember what's underneath." Alex stopped, blushing furiously. He sat on the bed in despair. His sister thanked her friends and saw them out, just in time to see the limo pull up outside.
"She's here! Come on, let's get this over with!"
"No, I'm not coming down like this!"
Alex's sister came up the stairs. "If you don't come down and do this right now, I'll give those photos to your friends at school, and I'll take you downtown and drop you off somewhere! Now hurry up and remember, you're Alice today! Go into the den and wait by the mirror."
Alex complied, fury in his eyes. His sister went down and opened the door for her Great Grandmother and her nurse. After much hugging and "My Alex, how you've grown young man!", she led the way to the den.Great Grandmother was dressed in a long, old-fashioned dress, her white hair carefully put up on top of her head. She walked carefully, using a cane, her hands shaking slightly. Her nurse held her tightly by the elbow.
"Did you get my gift, dear? Did it arrive alright?" "Oh yes, they finished mounting it in the den yesterday. Alice is waiting there for you" "She is? Oh how wonderful! You know, that mirror is the original from the house where I grew up. It was part of one of my adventures."
"Really? No wonder it's so special to you. We're honored that you wanted us to have it." Alice smiled patronizingly and led her Great Grandmother towards the den. The nurse followed closely along, her face emotionless.
In the Den, "Alice" stood in front of the mirror, staring at the image before her, as if "she" couldn't believe "her" eyes. "She" looked exactly like Alice from the Carroll books, from the pinafore dress, to the long blonde pageboy. Alex/Alice stepped closer to the mirror. reaching out to touch the image.
Alex's sister and Great Grandmother and her nurse walked into the den, just in time to see "Alice" reaching out towards the mirror. The nurse smiled as the delicate fingers touched the reflective surface, and sank into it!
Alex/Alice gasped and felt his fingers slip into what felt like very warm, gooey water. He tried to pull them out, but the surface of the mirror began to swirl around his fingers, sucking them further in! His sister started to run forward and grab him, but the nurse moved quickly and grasped her with an surprisingly strong grip. Alex/Alice yelled and tried to pull free but the whirling surface of the mirror was too strong, and he was sucked beneath the surface, the mirror returning almost immediately to normal, his voice fading to a faint echo.
"Finally!" Great Grandmother said in a quivering voice. "I'm free!" She sank into a chair, her nurse releasing Alex's sister and kneeling before the old woman. The nurse spoke in a strongly accented voice "Yes, Mistress, you're free. And with luck, your namesake will be able to free the others."
Alex's sister stared at the two women, then at the mirror. "What the heck just happened here!? Where did..." Her voice faded and she sat down hard on the floor.Alex/Alice was gone.
Alex's sister sat on the floor, staring at the mirror, her face pale. Her Great Grandmother's nurse came over and helped her into a chair next to the old woman.
The original Alice smiled and spoke in a slightly quavering voice; "Don't worry dear, I'm sure she'll do what she needs to do. She's my bloodline, after all."
"What SHE needs to do?" Alice said with the beginnings of panic. "But where...how...WHY?" The nurse placed a hand on Alice's arm. "She's gone to do what the mistress needs. Things must be righted over there. This time She's gone too far!" She stared back at the mirror. "Only one of Alice's own can help, since the mistress is too old now."
"But that's not really..." Alex's sister slumped in her chair in shock.
Alex tried not to panic as the mirror sucked him in. "This isn't really happening, it's all a nightmare! I'll wake up soon!"
He looked down and saw his body, dressed in the hated Alice costume, now completely coated in silver from the mirror. His stomach lurched with the sudden sensation of falling very fast. After a few moments, without warning, he felt his feet touch a surface and the falling feeling stopped. He felt himself begin to tip slowly forward, the warm mirror stuff receding from his body. He found himself on his hands and knees, looking at a red and white checkered floor. There were figures looming over him.
"Ahhh!" Alex scrambled to his feet. The figures didn't move. He turned to run and fell against one of the figures, and both fell to the floor. Alex heard a muffled sound from the figure and found himself looking into a pair of very human eyes. The rest of the face was emotionless, unmoving. A tear ran down the hard cheek from one of the eyes and Alex heard another muffled whimper. There was someone inside the figure!
Alex stood and looked around. He was surrounded by life-size chess pieces in red and white. The floor he was standing on was an enormous chess board, framed on one side by the mirror he had just come through. He moved to the fallen chess piece and struggling, stood it upright. The eyes seemed to plead with him. "I must be having a nightmare. This can't be real!"
Alex looked down at the mirror and saw that he was still dressed as Alice. He stared for a moment. Under other circumstances, he would have enjoyed how he looked. He blushed, and reached up towards the long blonde hair. He pulled and yelped! It wasn't a dream! He yanked harder and the wig wouldn't budge. The pain made him realize this wasn't a dream! He looked around at the chess pieces, then back at the mirror. It was all real, Great Grandmother wasn't crazy! He had actually gone through the mirror!
He stared at the chess piece he had knocked over. It was a pawn, and stood no taller then he did. The human eyes stared back at him, tears now flowing freely down the shiny white face. Alex walked over and began to examine the piece, Except for the eyes, it looked like a carved marble statue, with a pedestal base from the waist down. There was a slight crack where it had fallen when he fell against it and Alex could see the hard stone-like material was actually a coating of some kind.. Alex kept looking and at the back of the pedestal, near where it met the waist of the person, he found what looked like a small ornate keyhole. He quickly moved around the board, checking each piece. All had the same keyhole in their bases, all had the same human eyes, all staring at him. This was far worse than what his sister had done to him. He thought for a moment...There must be a key here somewhere! Alex stepped back in front of the pawn he had knocked over and looked into the eyes.
"I don't know if you can hear me, but I'll try to help. I'll see if I can find a key and get you out of that thing." The eyes seemed to brighten, and then looked towards the left. Alex followed the gaze. Next to the chessboard, was a tray, with what looked like a giant tea set. Alex walked over to it, and as he did, saw that the chessboard was on a table, high above an ornate rug. He stepped back, his face pale under his makeup! He looked at the tray again, and around the room. Everything was giant size! The chess pieces weren't life-size, he was as small as they were! This was getting weirder by the minute!
Alex stepped onto the tray and looked around. On a plate was a single cookie, one half chocolate, one have plain. If the story was correct...he broke off a piece of the plain and nibbled at it. With a sinking feeling, he realized he was suddenly half his size! He moved around and quickly nibbled a bit of the chocolate side. He felt as if he were on an express elevator and now stood twice his size! Still not tall enough He took a larger bite of the chocolate side. The elevator feeling returned and the next thing he knew, he was falling to the floor with a crash, tray and all! Alex stood up and brushed himself off, and grabbed the rest of the cookie, tucking it into a pocket of the dress. He heard footsteps coming towards the room, and before he could hide, an elderly woman dressed all in red walked in on him.
"Oh...OH! You're come back!" The woman ran to Alex and hugged him, picking him up off the ground. "Oh Alice, thank goodness! Oh, darling girl, things have gotten so bad!"
Alex reluctantly returned the hug, and looked at the woman. She looked like an older, softer version of the Red Queen from the Alice books.
"I'm sorry maam, but I'm not really what you think I am, this is just a costume my sister made me wear." Alex blushed. "Oh, I remember that older sister! You musn't be angry with her dear, I'm sure she wants what's best for her little sister. Now come into the kitchen, I have to tell you some things before you set off to find the Hatter. He can help. Hopefully She hasn't gotten to him yet."
"But the Chess pieces..." He looked back at the tiny pleading eyes. "I'll be back." Alex whispered. Alex followed the older woman down a hall to a large old-fashioned kitchen, trying to explain along the way, but the woman just brushed him off. "You always did have a vivid imagination for a young girl, perhaps that's why you came here in the first place." As they walked to the kitchen, Alex couldn't help but feel they were being watched... In the kitchen, pots were steaming on the stove, and the smells made Alex hungry. The woman in red sat Alex at a table and brought over cups and a pot of tea and some small cakes. Alex looked at the cakes suspiciously. As he reached for a cup of tea, a movement in the doorway caught his eye. Someone WAS watching them. The woman in red saw where he was looking and smiled.
"It's alright dear, you can come out. This is Alice, she won't laugh." From the shadows of the door way came what looked like a pig dressed as a baby, walking upright. As it got closer, Alex saw that it was actually someone in a plush costume. The person came closer, fidgeting with hands covered in what looked like rubber hooves.
"SHE did this. SHE is trying to make everything the way it was before. You remember the baby that turned into a pig, dear? She did this to replace the baby. I don't know where SHE found this young man, but SHE did this and now he can't take the costume off. We've tried."
The boy in the pig costume hung his head, not wanting to look "Alice" in the eyes. "We've been hoping you'd come back, Alice. I was able to send my cook to find you. We know you can set things right. SHE actually liked you, you know. Will you help us?" The woman in red looked at Alex/Alice with pleading eyes. "SHE?" asked Alex. "Who is SHE?"
"Why, my sister...the White Queen. SHE rules Wonderland now."
Alex and Alice's Great Grandmother sat with her nurse and Alice at the dining room table. For the past hour, Alice had tried to patiently explain what had happened and how it was really Alex who had gone through the mirror in the Alice costume. The nurse sat stone-faced through the entire explanation, while Great Grandmother asked questions. Still trembling a bit due to her age, she was quite calm as Alice told her story. She looked at the nurse.
"He shouldn't have been able to go through. Could it have been the dress?" "Possibly. But I somehow doubt it." said the nurse, speaking for the first time during since they had left the parlor. "You know we kept you from touching the mirror, once we recovered it. And young Alice here said she had already touched the mirror, yet wasn't pulled through. Perhaps we were wrong in our original choice."
Alice stared at the two women. "You tell me you've been planning this for months and all you have to say is you may have been wrong? That Alex is somehow actually in Wonderland, dressed as me, I mean you?" She stared at her Great Grandmother. "I always thought you were a little crazy, but I played along, because I loved you. Now I think maybe it's me that's crazy!"
Great Grandmother smiled. "I'm used to being called crazy, dear. It comes with the territory when you've been through the adventures I have." She turned to the nurse and patted her hand. "Luckily I made some friends on those adventures. Now if some those friends are still able to help our new Alice, we may still succeed. And, we could still have some options here, if someone is willing..." She looked at Alice carefully.
Alex/Alice walked slowly through the garden, heading towards a path through the hedges at its edge. "She" looked back at the Red Queen and the boy in the pig costume as they waved. Alex felt a little better after sharing tea with them, but was still very nervous. If he ever got back home, his sister was going to be sorry! He had tried to explain to the Red Queen that he wasn't the real Alice, that like the boy in the pig costume, he was stuck like this, but she was having none of it. As far as she was concerned, "Alice" was back and would soon bring everything back to normal. Normal? Hah!
The Red Queen watched as "Alice" made her way through the hedges. She turned to the boy beside her and put her arm around him. "She'll help, don't worry. You'll be able to take that off soon, I'm sure, and we can help those poor people trapped in the chess set."
"I don't think so, your Majesty."
The Queen started at the voice and turned to see a figure standing behind her in the shadows of the hallway. "You! What are you doing here, if SHE finds you, SHE'll..."
"SHE will do nothing. SHE sent me here to check on you, and it looks like you've both been very naughty. I warned her you couldn't be trusted, you'd changed too much after being around...her." the distaste in the shadowed figures voice was evident. The Queen tried to pull back as a thin, light chain wrapped itself around her wrist with a ticking sound. Her arm tingled and she froze in place, unable to move. "It's time, your Majesty, time for you to be still." The boy in the pig costume tried to help, but stepped forward and found his costumed feet sticking to a puddle on the floor. He struggled to lift them, but was stuck fast. "Oh my, someone has made a mess. Treacle can be so sticky..." The figure moved out of the shadows and looked over his two captives. "Now, what to do with you. We already have a full Chess set..."
Alex had stopped in his tracks deep in the woods beyond the garden. Once again, he felt as if he were being watched. There was a rustle over his head, and he looked up to see two eyes looking down at him with a sad expression. As he stared, they slowly faded away. He quickly moved farther into the woods, occasionally looking back over his shoulder, barely noticing the mushrooms that were becoming more frequent along the winding path. That is, until he came to the biggest mushroom of all.
In the deep shade of several trees stood the largest mushroom Alex had ever seen, almost two feet taller than he was. Sitting atop the mushroom was an enormous fat caterpillar, with the mouthpiece to a hookah in his very human mouth. From the hookah's bowl came a low burbling sound, and smoky bubbles of all sizes, swirling with rainbow colors, floated out into the air among the trees. Some of the bubbles seemed to stick to the branches before bursting with a liquid pop.. Alex stared in amazement.
The caterpillar slowly turned his head and faced Alex with half closed eyes. "Well, well, well...if it isn't the young miss." The Caterpillar spoke in a slow, languid voice. "I dreamed you'd return." he said, closing his eyes and smiling. "Yes, dreamed..."
Alex cleared his throat and started to tell him who he really was, when he had an idea. Perhaps if people kept thinking he was the real Alice, he might get help! "Please sir" he said, softening and raising his voice slightly, "I've been sent to find the Hatter."
"The Hatter...yes, he's still around." the Caterpillar said, pausing to blow more bubbles from the hookah and watching them drift on the slight breeze. "A little older perhaps, a little wiser maybe...certainly a little more mad. I'm sure he'd be glad to see you as well." The Caterpillar looked Alex/Alice up and down and raising an eyebrow, smiled..."Changes in you too, I see...but still more changes to come...yes...more changes." He leaned forward. "I can help you get to the Hatter, if you like..."
Alex came closer the Caterpillar's mushroom. The sooner he found the Hatter, the sooner he might be able to help the people in the Chess set, and the boy in the pig costume, and the sooner he could get home and get this costume and wig off! He decided to play the part for all it was worth.
"Oh, yes sir!" He said, curtseying and batting his eyelashes. "Please, If you would help me?" The Caterpillar winked and smiled. "Of course my dear..." He shifted heavily on the mushroom and leaned forward, pointing the bowl of the hookah at Alex. Taking a deep breath, he blew into the mouthpiece and an enormous bubble began to form. The bubble came loose and floated right at Alex! His eyes widened as the bubble came closer, and he put up his hands to fend it off. Instead his hands went right through the bubble.
It didn't pop and in seconds had completely engulfed Alex, his hands and feet sticking to the tacky surface inside. The bubble began to rise into the air until it was level with the Caterpillar's face. He waved a hand at it, and said "Take her to the Hatter and his friends." Alex, his eyes wide, began to drift into the air inside the bubble, floating above the woods. "Watch out..." said the Caterpillar, his words fading as he bubble bearing Alex picked up speed.. "Watch...." Within minutes, Alex had covered ground that would have taken an hour or more to walk and began to drift back down into the woods towards another clearing, and could soon hear what sounded like a party, people talking, dishes clattering. Alex self consciously smoothed his dress and checked his pockets for the cookie, and the items the Red Queen had given him. The bubble set him down on the path just short of the clearing, and burst into a fine, sparkling powder. Alex sat down hard and shook his head, the long blonde hair of his wig swirling around his shoulders.
He picked himself up, and brushed the sparkling dust off the dress. Ahead of him was an amazing. A table was set up in the clearing with several chairs, and a short man in a large top hat was struggling to pull what looked like a giant mouse out of an equally large teapot! At his side, a tall man in a rabbit costume (or the largest and scruffiest rabbit Alex had ever seen) appeared to be offering advice as he buttered a slice of bread. The mouse did not seem impressed with the efforts of either of his helpers. Alex stepped closer, and realized that the rabbit was indeed a very tall and slightly demented looking rabbit standing upright, but the mouse looked more like a young woman dressed as a mouse and not very happy about it. "Perhaps some of this butter would help?" Said the March Hare as he spread more on his bread.
"Maybe if we hadn't put so much honey in the teapot first..." Mused the Hatter, as he tugged on the Mouse's arm. "Although it did seem like a good idea at first."
"Butter and honey is an excellent combination, you know. Very tasty." The Hare took a bite of his bread and began to look for a place to butter the Mouse.
"Perhaps some hot tea might soften the honey?" Alex stepped forward and pointed at a smaller teapot, setting on a holder over a small candle. The woman in the Mouse costume stared in amazement.
"Oh wow...there really is an Alice..." She glared at the Hatter. "You heard her, get the tea, get me out of this stupid pot!" Alex could see now that the Mouse was indeed a young woman, maybe his own age, in what would have been a very cute costume, if it weren't smeared with honey.
The Hatter grinned and clapped his hands. "I told you she'd come!" He hurried to grab the teapot Alex had pointed to, and began pouring tea onto the honey holding the young mouse/girl in place. Sure enough, the honey began to soften and soon, she was able to climb out of the pot.
"I told you she'd come back." The Hatter winked at the March Hare.
"So you did, so you did." said the Hare, busily helping the mouse/girl clean honey and tea off herself with a large napkin. "Now maybe things will get back to normal around here." He paused and looked at the Hatter, then at the girl in the mouse costume, and then at Alex/Alice. "What is normal, anyway?"
"Normal is getting out of this stupid mouse-skin!" said the girl. "Even the tea didn't help." She said, tugging at her skin-tight fur costume. "Why I ever let her talk me into this in the first place is beyond me." She continued to wipe off the softened honey. "So, you're the infamous Alice...somehow, I thought you'd be older. I'm Chris. Too bad we couldn't have met under different circumstances..." She winked at Alex.
Alex looked carefully at the girl. She seemed a bit older than he was, but was even shorter, with a brown bob and large mouse ears that stuck up from her hair, and a black nose stuck over her own, with whiskers sticking out from it. "Who talked you into wearing this?"
"The White Queen, or at least, he said she wanted me to wear it. For the party. She seemed nice enough, maybe a little mad..." She looked at the Hatter. "No offense."
"Non taken." The Hatter said. "Madness is my middle name. Or it is my first name?" He shrugged and poured himself and Alex a cup of tea.
"Anyway, he said she wanted me to wear it for the party when he brought it to me. It didn't seem any weirder than anything else that's happened since I've been here, at least until I tried to take it off again. It's like it's glued on."
Alex self consciously tugged at a strand of the long blond wig that was stuck tight to his head, and said "He?" "The White Rabbit, or at least someone who looked just like him."
There was a crash as the Hatter dropped his teacup. "Oh dear, clumsy me...The White Rabbit, you say?" The Hatter looked at the March Hare with concern and what might be fear in his eyes. "Was he coming to meet you here, to take you to the party?"
"Yes, he said I was to meet up with both of you and he'd be along to bring us all to the Party." Chris looked at Alex/Alice. "He didn't mention you being here though."
The Hatter looked at Alex with concern. "Oh my...if he finds you here...he still blames you..." "Blames me for what, I've never even been here before!" Alex realized what he'd said and blushed. Chris looked at him curiously, but the Hatter and Hare didn't seem to notice.
There was a rustle from the trees at the edge of the clearing. Alex could see a pair of sad eyes peering down at them, Cat's eyes. The March Hare noticed where Alex was looking, and smiled. "Perhaps someone can help hide her...or at least, keep her from being seen. Will you help us old friend, perhaps she can return the favor and find a way to help you."
Alex and Chris watched as what looked like a large cat began to fade into view around the eyes. It was twice the size of a normal house cat, and looked even more bizarre because it had seemed to have no mouth!
"A Cheshire Cat that can't smile is a sad beast indeed." said the Hatter. "Will you help us old friend?" The Cheshire Cat looked at Alex with his sad eyes and floated over. He wrapped his tale around Alex and settled on his shoulders, and as he did, both cat and Alex began to fade from sight.
Chris turned to look at the Hatter. "What's the deal? I thought the Rabbit liked..." The Hatter wasn't paying attention. Both he and the Hare were staring at the edge of the clearing, just opposite the tree where the Cat had been. From that direction came the sound of marching feet. Down the path came several large playing cards with stick figure arms and legs. As they marched, they shifted position, like cards being shuffled. They circled the Hatter, the Hare and Chris, linked hand to hand like paper dolls.
"The Queen requests your presence." Alice stared at her Great Grandmother and her Nurse. They both looked at her, smiling. "This is just too much.." The mirror loomed before her, almost as if beaconing to her. She stood before it, still dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. She had removed the elastic bandage binding her breasts, and looked more like her normal self, even with her new short haircut.. She touched the mirror, its surface still unnaturally warm, but nothing happened. Her Great Grandmother kept her distance from the mirror, the nurse standing between them. She had stepped near the mirror earlier and it had almost seemed to bulge outwards slightly.
"Why didn't it pull me in..." Alice mused, looking at the glass surface. "Why Alex..."
"Bloodline alone was enough to bring the boy through." said the Nurse. Once you've been to the Realm of Wonder, it's a part of you, always in your blood. You and the boy are both of Lady Alice's bloodline. But something is blocking you, keeping you out." She looked at Alice carefully. "What is that chain you wear around your neck?"
Alice blushed and took a golden chain from around her neck. Hanging from it was a very small but ornate gold pocket watch. "I've worn it ever since she gave it to me. I'm afraid it's broken though, I've never been able to get it to work. It took me days just to get it to open properly."
"I could never get it to work either, dear. I found it in my pocket after I returned home from my last visit to Wonderland. Great Grandmother smiled. "I remember giving it to you the first time you wore my dress." "May I see it?" The Nurse took the chain from Alice's hand and examined the watch closely. "This was the Timekeeper's enchanted watch. He was never without it. Strange that it doesn't work, he always kept it in perfect order.." The nurse looked at the mirror and tentatively reached towards it. Nothing happened. She touched it, and like Alice said, it felt strangely warm to the touch.
"Why, he must have put it there as a gift. Strange, I thought he was very angry with me and glad to see me go." "Who put it there, Great Grandmother?" "Why, the Timekeeper dear, the White Rabbit."
- * *
Alex/Alice stared as the living playing cards surrounded the tea party. He moved back towards the bushes, stepping as quietly as he could, still invisible due to the Cheshire Cat purring on his shoulders. The playing cards were much more disturbing than even the Tenniel illustrations. They had no heads, but looked more like faces stretched out on cardboard, with surprisingly strong stick figure arms and legs. They took the Hatter, the Hare and the Dormouse girl by the arms and holding them tightly, began to march back down the path they had followed to the clearing. Chris the Dormouse girl and the March Hare looked back towards where Alex was and the Hare winked, before being shuffled off down the path. Keeping his distance, Alex followed, trying his best to keep quiet. The mouthless Cheshire Cat purred softly and wrapped his tail tighter around Alex's shoulders.
Back on his mushroom, the Caterpillar still sat, peering deep into a large bubble, a curious smile on his face. In the bubble, slightly distorted by its curve, was an image of the den with the Alex's sister, his Great Grandmother and the Nurse. "So that's where you went, old cook...I had wondered...curiouser and curiouser...and that watch...hmmm...that explains some things, yes..." The scene changed to Alex/Alice, clearly visible in the smoke bubble, but unnoticeable by guards. The Cheshire Cat around Alex's neck seemed to look directly at the Caterpillar and slowly wink. "It looks like you've made a new friend of our young miss...and yes, she is much more than she seems...or knows..." The smoky bubble popped, and the Caterpillar closed his eyes and blew another one from his pipe. This time, a scene appeared of the White Queen's castle. The Caterpillar began to watch with heavy lidded eyes.
Alex/Alice quietly followed the Tea Party guests down the path, as the living cards led them along, none to gently. Off all the strange things he'd seen so far, the cards were the most unpleasant. They looked far less human than even the March Hare. No wonder the illustrator had changed their appearance for the books. Chris, the girl stuck in the mouse costume, sneaked a quick look back over her shoulder as she was led away. Even in the costume, she was cute, thought Alex/Alice, feeling himself blush. He was glad he was invisible.
The path soon came to a large hedge at the end of the woods, with an carefully trimmed archway set into it, and the Hatter and company were led off towards a long table in the distance, where other playing card guards were setting up chairs. As he crept through the archway, Alex saw another arch, this time formed from two statues. Two more of the playing card guards were stretching a banner between the upstretched arms of the statues. As Alex, still invisible thanks to the Cheshire Cat, came closer he realized the statues looked very familiar. It was the boy in the pig-baby costume, and the red queen, now encased in a what looked like amber! Alex could see the Red Queen's terrified eyes, staring out of her hardened prison. He had to find a way to help! He felt the Cheshire Cat tense up, and he slipped behind a bush covered with painted flowers stuck on the branches. Even if he couldn't be seen, there was no reason to take chances.
"Careful there! His Nibs will have our heads if we break his present to the Queen!" said one guard. The other guard looked at him and said gratingly,. "We ain't got no heads, you shuffling fool...but you're right, we'd better be careful. There are worse things than losing your head. Look at these poor buggers. And I hear he's done worse, all for Her!" The guard looked around carefully, to see if anyone was listening. "There, that looks good. I hope they're both pleased. Now, let's get some more of those roses pasted on these bushes."
Alex looked up at the Banner. "Coronation Celebration Today" it said. Coronation, thought Alex. I thought there already was a Queen...
- * *
The White Queen was upset. She couldn't find her favorite earrings and she wanted to wear them to the party. Now where did she keep things like that...Oh, if the Rabbit were here, he'd know. He always knew things and kept her informed. She was so grateful for him, especially since she had become more and more forgetful. All part of getting older, she thought. Ah, her jewelry box! Now where was the key? Yes! On a chain around her neck, so she wouldn't lose it. She was always losing keys. The late King had given her this one, a special key he'd conjured to replace all the ones she had lost, a key that could unlock and unfasten anything. She reached out with the key, and touched the Jewelry box. With a spark, it sprang open. So handy, she thought as she retrieved her earrings.
- * *
Alice stood over her Great Grandmother and the nurse, as they looked carefully at the watch pendent Alice had been wearing. They were looking through a lighted magnifying glass, one that Alex used when painting miniature figures from the games he and his friends played.
"There is something smeared here, around the inside edge of the watch cover." Great Grandmother peered at it carefully. "It's on the hinges too...If I didn't know better I'd say it had been filled with treacle, but I've never seen treacle stick like this."
"Treacle can take many forms, Lady Alice. It can be very useful and it can be a powerful nuisance as well. The White King used to say that the Realm of Wonder was held together by Treacle." The nurse looked at the watch and then back at the mirror.
"Treacle? I thought treacle was just molasses or syrup or something like that." Alice looked at the women and then back at the mirror, brushing her hair with her fingers. Not such a bad look, she thought, I should have done this sooner. Not thinking, she stepped closer. This time, the glass bulged out towards her, and she yelled and stumbled backwards, bumping into the table and knocking the watch from the nurse's hands.
"It's the watch. That's what kept you from going through! Now we know how to send you to rescue Alex!" "Me?" Alice shuddered at the thought of that mirror enveloping her like it did her brother. Still, it was her fault that he was in this fix to begin with.
- * *
From his window in the castle, he looked out at the party being set up. The Queen was happy and looking forward to the party, although it didn't take much to keep her happy these days. The land was ready for her to retire. Soon, all would be set right once again, better than before that meddling snip of a girl nearly ruined it all. Everything was going according to schedule, just as he had planned. Schedules, yes... Schedules were everything, they ruled his life. And soon...soon they would rule the land again. And so would he.
- * *
Alice listened to the nurse in with a hint of a smile on her face. Her brother, dressed as Alice in Wonderland, had been sucked into a mirror. Her Great Grandmother really was the real Alice from the stories, and here she was talking to her nurse, who was actually the Red Queen's cook from the stories. It was all real, and now the Nurse was telling her a tale that was never in the books.
A tale of how the Original Alice's visit had sparked changes in the Land of Wonder, changes in its people. Of how the Red and White Queen had stopped acting like rivals and started acting like the loving sisters they were, at least for a while. Of the benevolent ruler the White Queen had become after the King had died, until age had taken its toll, and her wisdom began to fade.
Of the White Rabbit, the Queen's trusted Timekeeper, and his anger at Alice, who he blamed for the changes. And of the dark secrets in the Treacle Mines, the source of magic in the Land of Wonder. Alice stared at the mirror nervously, her Great-Grandmother and the Nurse by her side.
She still had on her jeans and sweatshirt and had a cloth bag slung over one shoulder, with a t-shirt and a pair of jeans for Alex, and the remover for the adhesive she had used on his wig and prosthetics. The nurse had placed Alice's watch/pendant around her own neck, and moved to position herself between Alice and her Great Grandmother, protecting the elderly woman from the mirror.
She tucked a small plastic bag into a pocket of Alice's jeans and winked. "Remember, he has a very sensitive nose. Now go, bring your brother back." She pushed Alice towards the mirror, and the silvery surface swirled and bulged forth to engulf her. Alice didn't even have time to scream.