Down the Rabbit Hole She Goes
Screams are fear made sound. Vocalized in staccato cries, torn unbidden from the throat; urged on by the malevolent grasps of pain. Silent screams? Are an infinitely worse articulation of anguish. I happen to be enunciating my distress in such a way currently. My rosy, plump lips parted in soundless screams, inaudible in their mum shrieks. I brush down the flouncy skirt of my short, azure-colored dress, the french silk embroidered on it emphasizing the sapphires adorning its design, flaring downwards on the multi-boned corset. Tonight is another masquerade for me. A masquerade of happiness meant to hide my inner turmoil and melancholy, meant to deceive my fellow aristocrats. Elitism at its finest.
Sighing, I reach down to tie the black laces of my ebony velvet lace-up knee-high boot heels, which are as different from the stilettos my tutor had attempted to coerce me into wearing than the Hatter from sanity. Straightening, I glide past my chartreuse velvet deep-buttoned chesterfield divan, approaching the grand entrance doors of oak with deliberate slowness. Perhaps if I’m late enough, they’ll forget me? The wax finish of the paneled doors fly open violently, nearly hitting the cornice on my lavish, claret walls. Welcome to my prison. This is a truth I wish I could speak, for what those around me see as grandiose aristocracy, I deem as a gilded torture cell. “Valerie.”
A caustic voice sounds out, cleaving through the blanket of silence of my opulent bedroom. “It is time to make your official entrance.” Turning on my heels, I glare at the King of Spades’ lackey. “How kind of you to offer to escort me, Leveret. If only this kindness isn’t just you following the orders of your master. Always the deferential lapdog, aren’t you?” A sinuous smile snakes across his pink lips.
“And you, always the charmer, clever as clever can be. Come now, Rie. There’s no time for your usual games.” Leveret extends an arm clad in a form-fitting ebony dress shirt embellished with alabaster diamonds at the collar. I swat his hand away aggressively. “No.” The volatile depths of his roseate eyes darken.
“No?” His husky voice, sin personified, sounds astonished by the answer. As if the mere thought of disobeying the king’s orders is something a duteous being such as he cannot even fathom. “Hard of hearing, are you?” His large, floccose ears with their distinctive rose centers twitch in vexation. There is little else more insulting to a White Rabbit than slandering their ears. Exactly why I insulted his.
“Not at all. Now, I think there has been a misunderstanding.” Leveret leaned close to me, his nose nuzzling the hollow of my neck, as he whispered his little secret. “The party does not come to you. You have to walk over to it. Specifically, with me.” I rolled my eyes at the logic, backing away from his grasp. Despite my feigned nonchalance, the timbre of my voice is breathy and raucous when I whisper, “I disagree.” Leveret crosses his lean arms and a hint of his clock tattoo peeks out from the lapel of his shirt, the black coils of ink stark against his pale skin. “Oh? Why is that?” I twirl the golden cobra ring coiled on my finger around, contemplating the ring as I do. An uffish engagement ring it is.
And though my fiance may have left me, this ring never will.
“I have often thought parties traveling to guests is a logical proposition. That way, no one would ever be late.”
“Fascinating outlook.” He pulled out an antique, circular platinum pocket watch, with W. Rabbit painted in floridly handsome calligraphy. He turns the watch’s face to me, and I notice how dangerously close the small hand is to aligning with the Roman Numeral VIII, the pendulum beneath the glass door ticking wildly. Two minutes, and we will officially be late. “You may not pride yourself on your punctuality, but I do.” Twining a moonlight ringlet of my wavy hair around my finger, I grin lasciviously.
“Don’t get your scut in a twist over me, Levi.” ‘Scut’ was a primordial word for a bunny’s tail, a word Leveret despised, finding it crude. Moreover, he loathed the nickname Levi as much as I abhorred the nickname Rie. My giant silkworm friend, Manduca, always called us ‘Two mad queens in a rose garden’ for a reason.
Not that I saw the rationale behind such a statement; Leveret and I are nothing alike. Leveret opened his mouth, his soft skin flushed a furious blood red, and then- the resounding chimes from his pocket watch sounded, declaring our tardiness with each reverberation. Our two minutes had passed. “We’re late! We’re late, late, late!” Leveret exclaimed all in a dizzying frenzy. Taking pity on him, and not wanting to condemn him to unjust punishment on my behalf, I slipped my bare arm through his elbow, pulling him out into the hallway. “Then let’s not allow another second to go to waste.” Leveret scoffed at my hypocrisy, but tugged me closer to him, his taut muscles flush against my soft curves.
We strode rapidly down the harlequin-checkered marble floors, ambling underneath the burnished bronze chandeliers inlaid with crystals, the gemstones’ pendant drops athwart with the cerise wax of the candles, melting like macabre imitations of dripping blood. We pass by a landscape portrait of distinguished individuals engaged in genteel conversation, aristocrats watching apathetically as their third parley partner’s face twists in torment, the gullitone’s serrated blade pressed halfway through his jugular. Decapitated, but not. Preserved in the throes of misery evermore.
Leveret ignores the morbid artwork and for once, I follow his lead. Stopping before two colossal lacquered doors engraved with marquetry inlay, we see the royal herald trembling next to it. The man is trembling so hard, it’s a wonder he manages to bring the trumpet to his lips. But he does, and our entrance is announced grandly. Or rather, my entrance is announced grandly.
“Presenting Her Highness Valerie Madison Jones, Princess of Spades, future sovereign of Cordisa.”
Down, down I go, the sound of my heels ricocheting through the silent ballroom as I step down the obsidian marble staircase embellished with a fanciful filigree pattern of carmine spades. My fingers trail down the marble banister with my descent. The further I descend, the more hectic my nerves become, but still, I assume a calm demeanor. My fear is a weakness. The fear I instill in others is a strength. Such is how this land is.