Black Alice

Through the Looking Glass

“In here, if you please,” the Hatter said, opening the door to his house. Kate stared suspiciously at the door, and then looked around a bit.

“This doesn’t look like a Cliff of Death,” she said warily.

“Well, it’s certainly nothing special, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a Cliff of Death,” the Hatter said with a little laugh. “Please make yourself at home, little Kate.” When Kate still hesitated, the Hatter sighed. “I swear on my honor as a gentleman I shall try nothing indecent,” he said, as if trying to make her feel better. He raised a hand to cross his heart.

“I wasn’t worried about that!” Kate said a little too quickly, and stomped into the house. The Hatter entered behind her and shut the door with an amused smile on his face. “Anyway, I’m far too old for that,” Kate muttered to herself, taking the chance to look around the room. As one might expect of a hatter’s home, it was furnished with mannequin heads and bits of lace, beads, and other ornaments for hats carefully organized. It was all one room, the design somewhat old-fashioned, with a floor-length mirror in a beautiful bronze frame sitting against the opposite wall.

“There you are,” the Hatter said cheerfully, pointing to the mirror. “Simply step through my special Looking Glass and off to your next adventure! Although, if you are somewhat tired from the day’s events, please feel free to rest awhile. What’s mine is yours.”

“Well, I am a little tired, certainly,” Kate admitted slowly.

“You may use the guest bedroom,” the Hatter said, nodding. He stepped aside and, as Kate turned, opened a door that Kate hadn’t remembered being there. There was a very nice bedroom inside, complete with a four-poster canopy bed, washstand, and quaint dresser.

“Oh,” Kate said, quite at a loss for words. She was silent for a moment.

“I have something for you,” the Hatter said, smiling. Kate turned as the Hatter reached up into a cabinet and pulled out a hat. It wasn’t an especially fancy hat, but rather a practical sun hat with a soft, wide straw brim and a lovely bunch of fabric flowers attached to the ribbon around that ran about the head. It was just the sort of hat Kate would wear. The Hatter offered it to Kate, his smile widening as he saw the pleasantly surprised look on her face.

“It certainly has turned out to be quite an adventure,” Kate murmured, taking the hat gratefully. “Thank you; it’s beautiful.”

“It was no trouble,” the Hatter began, but Kate kept talking.

“Everything,” she continued. “Everything was… lovely.” Kate smiled brightly, and the Hatter smiled back. This went on for a moment until Kate thought it felt rather awkward (the Hatter could smile, by golly, couldn’t he?) and dropped the smile, and then headed quickly into the room, since the Hatter was still holding the door for her.

“Would you like some tea, or are you hungry for anything…?” the Hatter offered. Kate shook her head gratefully.

“Surprisingly, I’m not very hungry,” she said. “Thank you for offering, though. I think I’ll just take a little nap and I’ll be right as rain and ready for the second part of my adventure.”

“Sounds like a plan.” The Hatter tipped his hat politely in farewell, and the door shut softly behind Kate. Kate headed for the bed, her eyes already beginning to shut. By the time she woke up, the second part of her adventure would be ready.

Kate woke when a little cold black nose touched her leg. At first, she debated between screaming and calmly checking to see what it was, but before she could decide between her two options, a little black head appeared from under the covers. The rest of the animal followed, cheerfully bounding onto Kate’s chest.

“Oh,” Kate said, her voice weak but relieved as the kitten began to lick her face. Kate laughed and reached out to snatch the little thing, which mewed pitifully in her hands.

“A little cat,” Kate said, as her face brightened with joy. She sat up slowly and deposited the kitten into her apron pocket. She watched it for a moment to see if it would like its new spot, and the kitten’s head poked out quite cheerfully, the animal’s eyes bright and eager. Kate crossed the room quickly and threw open the door, looking about for the Hatter. He, however, was nowhere to be seen. Somewhat curious, she supposed it wasn’t very important that he be there, as he’d already let her know where to go next, and that was really all there was to know.

“Now, what to name you?” she said aloud, quite suddenly. The kitten gave a purr in response. Kate thought for a moment, names of the children from back at town running through her head. “It should be something that goes with Grandma Kate, anyhow. Grandma Kate and Dinah? No, that wouldn’t do. Grandma Kate and Jack? That sounds pretty good. What do you think, kitten?”

The kitten gave a rather mournful little mew.

“No?” Kate thought for a moment. “What about Jock? I wonder if that’s a name. Grandma Kate and her kitten, Jock… it seems to fit.”

The kitten mewed indifferently. Kate thought for a moment longer.

“Voice?” she suggested. The kitten’s head bobbed from side to side.

“Bark?” suggested Kate, thinking about the young wizard from that book she had read. She still couldn’t remember his name, but an animal-sounding onomatopoeia seemed like the perfect name for a cat. The kitten opened its mouth and let out a little roar.

“Little Roar,” Kate said, a sudden idea coming to mind. “Why not an Indian-sounding name? Grandma Kate and Little Roar… yes, that works splendidly! What do you think?”

The kitten purred its assent, and Kate smiled. “There we go!” she said. “I shan’t call you ‘Little Roar’ all the time, you know… and someday you’ll be just ‘Roar,’ so that’ll be your nickname while you’re young and we’ll drop the ‘little’ when you reach a respectable cat age. That all right, Roar?” The kitten mewed in reply.

“Perfect,” Kate said, nodding. Her eyes fell on the mirror on the wall, and she cocked her head. There was a note attached to it. She crossed the room, slowly so that Little Roar wasn’t jarred, and tugged the note from the mirror. Her thin fingers unfolded the note and she squinted at the words. Strangely enough, the only thing the note said was ‘door.’

How strange! Kate thought to herself. Then she realized she had Little Roar with her.

“I mean, how strange!” Kate said aloud. The kitten looked up at her curiously. “Marking a mirror with ‘door’ would be just as strange as marking a kettle with ‘kitten’ or marking a dress as ‘shoes’! I wonder whose idea that was.”

Kate turned the note over. There was a decorative ‘H’ on the back of the stationary.

“Well, that answers that!” Kate said, nodding firmly. “I wonder what that Hatter was thinking, marking a mirror as a door. Ha!” But wait; the Hatter had said that the mirror was her next adventure, hadn’t he? Kate stood for a moment in silence. She looked down, startled, as Little Roar began to squirm in her pocket. Before Kate could help him out, he had fallen out. Kate grabbed for the kitten, but he landed neatly on the ground and, after taking a moment to get his balance back, trotted right into the mirror – and melted through the glass.

Kate’s eyes widened in surprise, her expression one of great confusion. She saw the kitten inside the mirror, heading straight for the reflection of the front door behind Kate. He turned back, pausing at the door, and mewed for Kate to follow.

“Oh,” Kate said, realizing what the note had meant. She pursed her lips. “Well, then.”

Kate turned and headed back to her room to fetch her hat. Once she had it, she pushed it firmly onto her head and faced the mirror.

“Here goes nothing,” she said with a sigh, and shut her eyes tightly to feel her way into the mirror. She was unable to shake the feeling that she ought to feel something, anything really, and stopped to open her eyes upon walking a few steps and feeling nothing. She was facing the very same room, with the mirror behind her and Little Roar waiting by the door. The kitten mewed, pawing at the door.

“Right,” Kate said, a little shaken. She looked back at the mirror, but it was the same view she had seen before, the reflection of the room. She shook her head and crossed the room to open the door. First, however, she stopped to scoop up Little Roar and deposit him back in her pocket, and then she turned the doorknob and opened the door into a beautiful garden.

There was almost every kind of flower in existence, all singing their colors in the warm sunlight and waving in the gentle breeze. Kate couldn’t help herself – a huge grin split her face. She was glad she had the sunhat, because it shaded her eyes nicely. She inwardly thanked the Hatter once more, and then headed into the garden, planning a short stroll before beginning the second part of her adventure. The kitten in her pocket was equally awed.

Kate stopped before a tiger lily and stroked the velvet petals softly.

“So this is a looking-glass world, huh?” she said aloud, looking around.

“That’s right,” said the Tiger Lily. Kate jumped, her eyes widening.

“You talked!” Kate said, although she wasn’t sure why she was so surprised after everything else, most recently walking through a mirror into another world. The flower tossed its blossom.

“We all can,” she said frostily, “quite as well as you, and a great deal louder.”

“It isn’t proper manners for us to begin,” said a rose nearby. “And I really was wondering when you’d speak, although technically that was the wrong line. I said to myself that ‘Her face has got some sense in it, though it’s not a clever one!’ Still, you’re the right color, and that goes a long way in these parts. What are you now? A chrysanthemum?”

“I don’t care about the color,” the Tiger Lily remarked. “Although, she does have rather floppy petals, doesn’t she? Strange, she looks a little different from what I thought she’d look like. Our script doesn’t really fit anymore, don’t you think so? You only seem to have one big, floppy petal. Certainly you must get many snide remarks, you poor dear.”

“Oh, you mean this?” Kate raised a hand to feel her sunhat. “But this isn’t—”

“We can still do our lines!” the Rose exclaimed. “Watch me. ‘There’s the tree in the middle. What else is it good for?’”

“Yes, but without the line to start it, it’s a misfit,” the Tiger Lily pointed out.

“It could bark,” the Rose added, ignoring the Tiger Lily completely.

“It says ‘bough-woah!’” cried a Daisy. “That’s why its branches are called boughs.”

“Didn’t you know that?” cried another Daisy. All of the daisies joined in, and they all began to argue together. It made such a clatter that Kate winced to hear it, and she clapped her hands over her ears. The Tiger Lily shook its head sadly.

“At the rate this was going, I hoped that we’d skip that scene,” it said sadly over the noise of the daisies. Nevertheless, it cleared its throat. “Silence, every one of you!” it cried. It waved at them, but it couldn’t move from its spot. “They know I can’t get at them,” it said sadly to Kate.

“What’s that?” Kate exclaimed, unable to hear a thing. There was another moment of it, until finally Kate couldn’t stand it any longer. “Shut your… pistils, or I’ll pick the lot of you!”

There was silence in a moment, and Kate gingerly dropped her hands.

“What did you say, Miss Tiger Lily?” she asked politely.

“That’s right,” said the Tiger Lily, ignoring the direct question. “The daisies are the worst of all. When one speaks, they all begin together, and it’s enough to make one wither to hear the way they go on! It’s simply despicable, you know. Now, go on; ask. I’m on a roll.”

“Ask what?” Kate asked.

“Your question,” the Tiger Lily said, waving a leaf. “Say it quickly now; before I forget my lines. Ask me why we can talk.”

“All right, then,” Kate agreed. “Why can you talk?”

“You could have put it a hint nicer, but that’ll do,” the Tiger Lily said, rather grumpily. “Put your hand down and feel the ground, and then you’ll know why.” She waited for a moment as Kate knelt down and felt the ground. “In most gardens,” the Tiger Lily continued. “They make the beds too soft, so the flowers are always asleep.”

“It is quite hard,” Kate admitted, knowing a bit about gardening herself. “Though I would have thought the harder a ground is, the more it wants for watering.” After a moment’s thought, she realized that arguing with a flower about plant care was probably rather foolish. “I suppose it does make sense in a strange way, but still, how can you talk if you don’t have minds to think with and tongues to speak with?”

“‘I never saw anybody that looked stupider,’” said a Violet, quite proudly. “There! I finally said it right, didn’t I? Oh, joy!”

“Yes, Violet, dear,” the Rose said tiredly, waving her petals for her to hush.

“Well, I never!” exclaimed Kate, putting her hands on her hips. “How very rude—” she was interrupted with a little roar as the kitten that had moments before been in her pocket went plowing through the flowers. Kate looked down at her empty pocket in surprise, and then back at the kitten, which was proceeding to gnaw through the shrieking daisies. “Oh!” she exclaimed as Little Roar pounced on the poor Tiger Lily. She immediately grabbed Little Roar before he made any more damage.

“I apologize,” she said quickly, shoving the kitten back into her pocket.

“Oh, the petunias!” the Tiger Lily sobbed. The flowers were mourning loudly over the mess Little Roar had created out of their friends. Kate thought that this would be a very good time to leave, but as she turned to go, the Rose leaned forward confidentially.

“They had it coming,” it said first, with a firm nod. Kate was taken aback. The Rose shook its head. “Listen, dear,” it whispered confidentially. “You’ll need to meet the Red Queen to move on, so follow my instructions. Head that way and you’ll come across her soon enough, then do what she says and start as a pawn to become a queen.”

The Rose leaned back, satisfied. Kate stared at her, uncomprehending.

“A red queen?” she repeated, just to be sure. The Rose nodded.

“Hurry along, dear,” it said, winking (In retrospect Kate wasn’t sure how it managed to do that, seeing as the Rose didn’t have an eye to wink with). Kate shrugged and heading the way the Rose had directed with one leaf, through the garden heading towards the forest beyond. She hadn’t been walking very long when she came across a nice-looking tree, that she guessed was the one the flowers had been referring to earlier.

“Hello,” she said, but the tree didn’t answer. Kate paused. Perhaps it was shy? “There should be a queen somewhere ‘round here,” she said, her comment half a question. “I do hope she shan’t be anything like the Queen of Hearts, the disagreeable thing that she was.”

“What a foolish girl, to talk to a tree!” someone exclaimed.

Kate turned immediately to see who had said it, and her eyes fell on a chess piece. It was the strangest thing – it was most definitely a queen chess piece, but the size of a person, with a little face painted onto it. Of course Kate assumed this was the queen she was searching for, being certainly queen enough and certainly red enough.

“Where do you come from? Where are you going? Look up, speak nicely, and don’t twiddle your fingers all the time. Curtsy while you’re thinking what to say, dear; it saves time,” the Red Queen said, all at once and all in a rush. In response, Kate frowned.

“I shan’t answer if you don’t give me enough time to,” she said reproachfully.

“It’s time for you to answer now,” the Queen continued, ignoring Kate. “Open your mouth a little wider when you speak, and always say ‘your Majesty.’”

“Then you don’t seem very nice today, your Majesty,” Kate said, quite frostily.

“Nonsense,” the Queen replied. “I’m always this level of niceness. Perhaps if we skipped the niceties and instead moved on to pleasantries, I should be more pleasant than I am nice? I am definitely feeling the pleasantness in the air today.”

“It’s a nice day, to be sure,” Kate began. The Queen shushed her.

“You may call it nonsense if you like, but I’ve heard nonsense compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary. Now was there something you wanted to say, dear? Quickly now, before I run out of lines,” the Queen said cheerfully. Kate thought for a moment. While she thought, she looked around, and what she saw astounded her.

Before her lay the plain countryside, on the other side of the tree she was standing under, but the very strangest countryside it was. There were a number of tiny little brooks running from side to side and the ground was divided up into little squares by little green hedges that ran the opposite way from the brooks. A nagging feeling began to tug at the back of Kate’s mind as she knew it reminded her of something, but the answer to what, exactly, evaded her…

“Oh, I see now!” Kate exclaimed, quite suddenly. The Queen followed her gaze.

“See what, my dear?” she asked curiously, peering into the distance.

“It’s just like a grand old chessboard!” Kate replied excitedly. “Who does this land belong to, that they’d carve it up in such as intriguing way? I should certainly love to meet the gardener.”

“You’d want to be a pawn and then a queen, then?” the Queen replied, nodding knowingly even though Kate had said nothing of the sort. “That’s easily managed. You can be the White Queen’s Pawn, if you like, as Lily’s too young to play; and you’re in the Second Square to begin with and you’ll have to make it to the Eighth Square to become Queen—”

And then they were running. Kate wasn’t sure how exactly it worked, but although she hadn’t remembered the initial speeding up that one generally starts with to get to the running point, she must have, because one did not simply go from being stationary to moving without any sort of things going on in between. The Queen was running so fast that Kate could hardly keep up, what with her old knees that weren’t what they used to be. The Queen held her hand and tugged her along with great force despite her physical limits. Little Roar nearly fell out of her pocket, and he was forced to tuck his head in tightly so that he had no chance of falling out.

“Faster, faster!” the Queen shrieked. Kate looked around, but much to her befuddlement, they didn’t seem to be moving, despite the fact that she certainly felt as though they were moving fast enough that the scenery should be flying by. “Don’t talk; run faster!”

They kept running a little longer, and finally Kate could take it no longer. She wrenched her hand out of the Queen’s with a strength she didn’t know she had and fell to the ground, feeling as though her lungs were about to burst. Her poor joints were creaking painfully, and her hips had never felt as fragile as they did now.

“I didn’t say to stop yet,” the Queen said reproachfully as Kate flopped down in the grass beside the tree, for, though they had run quite a bit, they hadn’t even moved an inch. It took Kate some effort to work on catching her breath, ignoring whatever the queen was rambling on about.

“Here, see, it takes all the running you can do to just stay in the same place,” the Queen was saying by the time Kate had gotten her breath back. “If you want to get somewhere else, you’ll have to run at least twice as fast as that, you know!”

“I’m quite thirsty,” Kate said, although she didn’t expect the Queen to have a sort of canteen or anything on her. The Queen pulled something out of her pocket instead.

“Have a biscuit?” she offered. Kate gave her a Look until the Queen fidgeted slightly, finally shoving the biscuit tin back in her pocket and straightening up to clear her throat absently.

“That was quite a run,” Kate murmured, her heart fluttering faintly. “Why, I don’t believe I’ve ever run… quite like that…”

“Oh, goodness!” the Queen exclaimed as Kate’s heartbeat began to take on an awfully sluggish sort of rhythm. Kate’s eyelids began to feel quite heavy. The Queen put her hands to her mouth in concern. “I do believe I’ve killed her!” she exclaimed in a worried tone of voice.

“Stay with us, Katie!”

“Mom! Mom, don’t die! Don’t die, mommy!”

There was a flurry of raven feathers.

The Hatter appeared out of nowhere, stepping out from behind the tree with his cape sweeping majestically behind him. He knelt by Kate’s side, his face calm as he surveyed the situation. He swept up Kate’s unresisting hand in his.

“Come now, little Kate, tired already?” he murmured. “You’ve still got quite a bit of adventuring to do.” He looked up at the Queen, who was worriedly pacing back and forth. “She will be fine with a bit of a rest. Perhaps you should not push her so hard next time?” he suggested. His smile was dazzling. The Queen nodded, her expression going blank.

“Here you are,” the Hatter said as he sat Kate against the tree and offered her a nice glass of cool water. Kate’s eyes opened and, though it took her a moment, she gratefully took the glass from him. The Hatter straightened up, still smiling, and saluted. His gaze fell on Kate’s pocket, which held Little Roar, and he watched the kitten for a moment in confusion before shaking his head dismissively.

“There we are,” he said cheerfully. “Do let me know if you need anything, little Kate, and I will be sure that you have it.” He winked at her, which didn’t help Kate’s heart in the slightest (although, strangely enough, it seemed to be doing much better now), and then disappeared back behind the tree, leaving a trail of feathers that was abruptly cut off.

“Goodness, are you quite all right?” the Red Queen asked nervously, hovering about uncertainly with her hands outstretched. Kate nodded quickly, finishing off the glass of water and wiping a sleeve across her mouth.

“I’m quite all right now,” she said, determined to continue the adventure. “Let’s get this adventure finished with, why don’t we? Come now, come now; I haven’t got all day.”

“I’ve only got to explain it to you and then I’ll be on my way,” the Queen said nervously. “I’ll just… do the measurements then, shall I?”

The Queen stuck a few pegs in the ground, keeping her eyes nervously on Kate the whole time. The pegs were put in the ground rather absently and weren’t even in a straight line.

“Er… now let’s see…” The Queen thought for a moment. “Right!” she exclaimed, snapping her fingers. “At the end of the first peg, I’ll give you directions. By the second, I shall repeat them so you don’t forget. By the third, I shall say goodbye, and at the fifth I shall leave!”

Kate had no arguments, so the Queen promptly stepped up to the first peg and turned back in a businesslike fashion to speak to Kate.

“A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know,” she began. “So you’ll go very quickly through the Third Square—by railway, I think—and you’ll find yourself in the Fourth in no time. Well, that square belongs to Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The fifth is mostly water and the sixth belongs to Humpty Dumpty… I say, are you quite all right?”

“I’m fine,” Kate assured the Queen. It was true; she felt much better, apparently due to whatever Mr. Voice the Hatter had done when he caught her hand.

“Right,” the Queen said quickly. “Now… er… where was I?”

“Seventh Square,” Kate offered helpfully.

“Right,” the Queen said, nodding. “That’s mostly forest, and er… what comes next?”

“Eighth Square?” Kate suggested.

“Yes, thank you,” the Queen said, nodding. “And in the Eighth Square, we shall be queens together, and it’s all feasting and fun!” She nodded to herself and then moved to the next peg, quite quickly. “Speak in French when you can’t think of English for a thing, turn out your shoes when you walk, and remember who you are!”

She hurried to the next peg.

“Goodbye,” she said, and then hurried to the last peg. Kate wasn’t sure how it happened, but as soon as the Red Queen had reached the peg, she had disappeared, just like that.

“Goodbye,” Kate replied as an afterthought, though the Queen was already gone. She stared down the path that had supposedly always been there (or, even more mysteriously, had been there ever since the Hatter had left) that led down towards the valley. Kate stood up, a little unsteadily, and looked down at Little Roar.

“Well, I guess we’d better get going then,” she murmured.

Little Roar meowed in reply, and Kate set off down the path to her next adventure.

As soon as Kate had passed the bridge leading over one of the streams, she found herself in front of an open train carriage.

“Tickets, please!” said the Guard, putting his head in at the window. In a moment, everyone was holding out a ticket, which were about the same size as the people boarding and seemed to fill the carriage. “Now then, show your ticket!” the Guard said, looking right at Kate, who blinked.

“Oh, I’m not boarding,” she said, stepping back. “But thank you!”

But the surge of people to get on had Kate jostled, and the next thing she knew she was sitting on the carriage amongst others. She could’ve sworn she saw a floating grin like a crescent moon hanging over her head for a moment, but then it had vanished. She had a nice window seat beside a Goat and a Beetle.

“She’ll have to go back from here as luggage,” the Beetle remarked. Kate didn’t bother replying, because she assumed they must have been talking about someone else.

“She must be labeled ‘Lass, with care,’ you know,” said a soft voice. After that, other voices took up the conversation, continuing as follows…

“She must be sent as a message by telegraph…”

“She must go by post, as she’s got a head on her…”

“She should draw the train herself the rest of the way…”

A gentlemen dressed in white paper, who sat across from Kate, leaned confidentially towards her.

“Never mind what they all say, my dear,” he said kindly, and Kate blinked in surprise as she realized that she was the topic of conversation. “But take a return ticket every time the train stops,” the man finished with a wink.

“I shan’t,” Kate said frostily. “I’ve got to get somewhere, I think. I’m looking for the Fourth Square, the one belonging to Tweedledee and Tweedledum? They should be expecting me.”

“I’ve got no clue where that is, so best keep an ear out for announcements,” the gentleman said awkwardly, his forehead creasing in confusion. He leaned back and shifted slightly to put some space between him and Kate.

“I know you are a friend,” said a sudden, very little sort of voice. Kate looked around, startled, but she couldn’t see anything. “A dear friend, and an old friend,” the voice continued. “And you won’t hurt me, even though I am an insect.”

“I don’t know any insects,” Kate replied. She looked down at her pocket, and her eyes widened. She stood up quite suddenly in the middle of the train.

“My kitten!” she exclaimed.

“I’ve found him,” the little voice said, sounding pained. “I think he’s got my wing…”

Kate turned and saw the biggest gnat she had ever seen and, sure enough, Little Roar was hanging from one of the gnat’s wings. The gnat was about the size of a chicken, and a rather ugly thing. Kate was about to comment on that (quite rudely, in fact, though she couldn’t have helped it) when she was saved by a sudden jerk of the train. She pitched forward—

And fell on soft grass, just under the shade of a large tree. Kate looked up. The Gnat was still there, on the tree, but the entire train had faded away.

“Passed into another square, have we?” Kate commented, with a little moan. “Mr. Gnat, please let go of my kitten.”

“I would in a heartbeat, but he’s quite gotten me,” the Gnat replied, wincing slightly. Little Roar let go with a little indignant sort of mewl, and Kate caught him just before he hit the ground.

“At this rate, I’ll make it to the Eight Square in no time,” Kate said, feeling rather pleased with herself. Little Roar mewed happily in her hand, and the Gnat was examining its wing.

“You don’t like insects?” it asked rather absently.

“Not particularly,” Kate responded. The Gnat glanced up.

“Pardon me,” it said. “I was expecting you to say ‘I like them when they can talk, because none of them ever talk where I come from’ and then we go into the scene where we talk about how your world is different from ours. Have you ever seen a Rocking-horse-fly, a Snap-dragon-fly or a Bread-and-butter-fly?”

“No, I can’t say that I have,” Kate admitted.

“Well, there are,” the Gnat said, nodding. “There we are; just shortened a few minutes of dialogue quite considerably.” He paused. “I suppose you don’t want to lose your name?”

“If I can help it, I’d rather not,” Kate replied matter-of-factly.

“And yet I don’t know,” the Gnat continued theatrically, obviously running lines. “Only think how convenient it would be if you manage to go home without it. For instance, if the governess wanted to call you for lessons, she would call out ‘Come here—,’ and have to leave off, because there wouldn’t be any name for her to call, and of course you wouldn’t have to go, you know.”

“I haven’t seen a governess in my entire life,” Kate said mournfully. The Gnat squinted at her.

“Huh,” it said. “I was told that you wouldn’t be any older than 12.”

“From what I hear, you weren’t the only one told that,” Kate said with a sigh.

“A grand age, no mistake there,” the Gnat said, nodding thoughtfully to himself, “though quite a bit more than 12.”

“About five times, in fact,” Kate said, finding herself nodding with him. She shook her head. “Anyway, can you direct me to Tweedledee and Tweedledum?”

“That way,” the Gnat said immediately, pointing. “Gosh, it feels so good to help. I love helping, you know, but I only have a few lines.”

“Thank you,” Kate said, nodding. “I’m…”

She paused. She was going to introduce herself to the Gnat but, strangely enough, it seemed she had forgotten her name. Her eyebrows furrowed.

“Early onset Alzheimer’s?” she wondered aloud.

“It happens,” said the Gnat dismissively. “Keep walking and you’re sure to find it again.”

And then Kate was walking without another word, although she was deep in thought trying to remember her name. It wasn’t something people generally forgot, but somehow she managed it. She looked down at the kitten in her pocket.

“I still remember your name, Howl,” she said gratefully. The kitten gave her a dull look, and for a moment Kate was worried. “That is it, isn’t it…” she trailed off. The kitten seemed to roll its eyes. “Er… I mean Purr?” Kate suggested. She frowned. “Was it Jack? No, I think that was almost it. Little something-or-other, I believe…”

She stopped, seeing a fawn before her. The Fawn blinked its huge, liquid brown eyes at her.

“Well, get,” Kate ordered, making shooing motions.

“What do you call yourself?” the Fawn asked at last. It had a very sweet voice, like honey. Kate was quite annoyed that she couldn’t remember her own name.

“Can’t remember,” she said finally.

“Think again,” the Fawn urged. “That won’t do.”

“I have been,” Kate said, shaking her head. “Nothing comes to mind.”

“I’ll tell you my name, if you come a little further on,” the Fawn said. “I can’t remember here.” The Fawn stepped delicately onto the path and started walking, and Kate had no choice but to follow. After a little while, the Fawn suddenly shot forward into a field, jumping with joy.

“I’m a Fawn!” it cried delightfully. It stopped, staring at Kate. “And, goodness me, you’re a human child! Well, not a child. My script’s obviously a couple years behind…” And then it had darted away in a fright, its white tail high. Kate watched it go, standing there helplessly for a moment, and then snapped her fingers in realization.

“Katie!” she exclaimed, nodding. “And Little Roar, of course, how could I forget?” The kitten in her pocket seemed to smile, giving a little affirmative mew. Kate looked around and saw a nice path with two arrow-shapes signs, both pointing in the same direction. Kate smiled with relief when she saw what the posts said. One said, ‘To Tweedledum’s House’ and the other said ‘To the House of Tweedledee.’

“Well then,” Kate said. “I’ll just go along this road until I find those twins.”

And then she started walking – and kept walking, until the field was far behind her, with only the thought of asking directions from the twins in mind.

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