Black Alice

In Which the Ending Is Not Quite So Final

Kate felt almost as though she were falling again, suddenly, a shock that sent shivers from her head to her toes. Her stomach did a somersault. She landed, or so she supposed, for the falling feeling had stopped… but she could not see anything, not even her own hands in front of her (and she did try). She felt a tad foolish as she reached forward, half-hoping for and half-dreading the touching of a wall, and her voice, thin with anxiety, squeaked “Mr. Voice?” The words echoed seemingly both above and below her. She felt around, but there did not seem to be an exit… or walls, or even, as she knelt, a floor, which of course brought the question of what she was standing on to mind. “Bugger this,” Kate grumbled, quite disappointed. It seemed as though there was always something else. Just when she’d thought it was ending, too. What a marvelous psych.

Now imagination is a strange thing. Occasionally, when one is in a position of not having something that one greatly desires, they begin to imagine that it’s there. For example, attempting to convince oneself that it’s a brownie on the plate instead of asparagus when one is dieting. In this case, Kate believed she must have convinced herself that somehow there was light, for it seemed to get lighter. Normally the light itself would not have been odd, but there remaining no source of light made it quite impossible to have light in actuality, so Kate assumed it was a similar effect. Or her eyes were adjusting to the dark, but where was the fun in thinking that?

As the light filtered in from wherever it appeared from, Kate began to be able to make out dark shapes. The faint beeping she had heard before seemed to echo louder in her ears now. The shapes were fuzzy around the edges and seemed unlikely to become any clearer, but they were most likely people. Or, half of people, anyway… people from the waist up. It looked as though Kate was looking towards the ceiling, though she felt as though she had both feet planted firmly on the ground with her eyes set ahead. Faint voices spoke, but Kate could not make out the words. Something about the weather being dreary, perhaps? She couldn’t imagine how that was in any way helpful to the plot. She heard the faintest of footsteps, and a new voice. This one was saying… something about sleeping. That made sense to Kate, though she wasn’t sure why.

She observed the view a moment longer before looking around for a sort of door, possibly another potion, anything that seemed familiar. For a moment her mind lingered on how shrinking potions and foot-high doors were “familiar” now, prompting a dusty chuckle from her old throat. She heard the voices pause, then hesitantly resume. She did rather wish that she could tell what they were saying, but part of her wondered if it wasn’t something she was meant to listen in to. Old women were notorious for being nosy, and with good reason. When you had nothing to do but cook, read, and knit, you did like to hear some gossip now and then.

Kate inspected the floor by her feet. There was no sign of any sort of latch, mark, or anything of a similar sort. She straightened up, by this time thoroughly confused. She did feel oddly light, and she did think to glance down to be sure she still had all four limbs, as something felt… off about her awareness of self. Everything was in place, so she relaxed, though a tad uneasy.

“This is a grand joke!” she said to herself. “Just as things are getting good, and here I am stuck in some sort of a glitch. Isn’t that fantastic? I suppose in actuality it’s more surprising that this is the first time this has happened, it being such a marvelously intricate adventure… isn’t that why you have people test it first? Ugh… in any case, it’s one thing after another.” Kate began to wonder if there was an end after all, or if Corbin had never planned to get this far and was stalling in an attempt to figure out how to finish the damn thing. She could have suggested some things, anything to keep it moving. She wouldn’t have minded acting out a dramatic death scene – those were always fun to do in any situation, though Kate was not the type of woman to fake a heart attack whenever she wanted something done. She did know women like that… Agnes, who taught at the preschool, had the heart of a 40-year-old and still claimed that it was failing when she was upset. Kate often wanted to knock her around a bit for the sake of those who had hearts the same age as they were.

But that was beside the point. Or, at least, it might have been if Kate could recall once more what the point at hand was. Oh, that’s right, the glitch. “Honestly,” Kate said, resuming her musings. “You’d think someone would be in charge of smoothing over the end result so that this wouldn’t happen. Or at least supply a chair for one to rest a bit while they waited. Oh, dear, am I missing anything, I wonder? The adventure had better be waiting for me, that’s all I can say.”

It was silent for only a little while. It has surely been mentioned before that the lovely main character did not much care for quiet, and so it wasn’t much of a surprise that she started up again before silence had even taken root. “I haven’t much else to say,” Kate said thoughtfully. “I suppose I ought to discuss something to take up the time… otherwise I should be very bored indeed. Then again, isn’t discussion something that one can’t really manage on one’s own? Well, I’m sure I could manage… of all the things I’ve seen and done, discussing things with myself doesn’t seem nearly so farfetched now. Not that it ever did before…”

Kate shifted slightly. Was it her imagination that the light was dimming again? Going back the way it came? It was an odd way to describe it, but it certainly seemed to be that the light was retreating… and she could no longer hear the voices, though the faint beeping remained. She tensed in expectation, assuming that it meant she’d be returned any moment.

As though being dumped in a bucket of water, the scene around her seemed to displace, replaced by the scene she had been expecting to view, that of the cat-infested battlefield. No one had seemed to notice her odd zip out of existence, which made Kate all the more uneasy. Corbin and Alice were still going at it, with both Edwin and the Jabberwocky enjoying themselves in the distance. Something reminded Kate of the Caterpillar and other creatures of Wonderland; if they were not with Alice, then where had they gone off to? Hopefully they were all right?

Kate’s attention was claimed once more by the ferocious fight between Corbin and Alice. Kate was not particularly well-versed in any form of dueling, and so she wasn’t sure who seemed to be missing and when one of them made a good move, but seeing as neither seemed to be giving up, she guessed that they stood on approximately equal grounds. As the fight progressed, Kate grew more nervous for the both of them. Neither had managed to land a hit in what seemed like a very long while, and neither were particularly out of breath, which Kate thought to be quite impossible.

Then Alice tripped.

Kate didn’t understand it herself; the shoes Alice wore were the practical sort, the type that would have caught Kate’s eye if she had been searching for a new pair of dress shoes. She was apparently skilled enough to regain her balance in moments, but the momentary stumble was enough of an opening for Corbin, who moved effortlessly closer and sent Alice’s fan flying with a twist of his own sword. It took Alice a moment, but then her face contorted into anger as she realized what had happened. Corbin grabbed her wrist before she could take a step back. She gave that nasty scowl of hers in response to Corbin’s somewhat cocky smile.

“Now, will you be a good girl?” Corbin asked smoothly. Alice did not seem inclined to answer, instead pursing her lips and shooting metaphorical daggers. Edwin appeared in the air nearby.

“Do it now!” he exclaimed excitedly. “Run her through and be done with it!”

Kate could not find words herself. She would not have been strong enough to deal the final blow herself, she realized; she was too kind. Corbin, on the other hand… would be do it? Did Alice deserve such a punishment? Sure, she had raised a ruckus, made a mess of things, pissed off some people… but did that make it all right to kill her?

Kate usually did not need to bother herself with such morally dreary questions as those, but she’d never imagined that she’d be smack in the middle of this sort of situation. How often did one have the chance to witness murder, even a just murder? She wasn’t sure what she should say. Did Corbin know what to do? Oh, she couldn’t bear to watch.

“Alice,” Corbin said, raising the blade. His expression was unreadable. Kate had said that she wasn’t going to watch, but she couldn’t bear to look away either. “You’ve caused a lot of trouble for myself and many of my friends. However, I am a man of morals and it would pain me to have to kill you, so I shall say simply this: leave Wonderland, after returning my people to how they were, and never return upon pain of death. This place no longer has ties to you, and you are not welcome here. If you swear to uphold this covenant, then I will show you mercy. What say you?”

Alice’s expression was equally unreadable, though something about her eyes made Kate hesitant to trust her. “If… I have no choice,” she said through teeth gritted so hard that Kate could have sworn they cracked. Corbin watched her doubtfully for a moment longer before he let go. He did not turn his back on her, however; Kate thought that that was very wise indeed.

“Take this,” Corbin said, reaching into the depths of his cloak. He produced a bottle very similar to what Kate remembered seeing towards the beginning of the story. The little ribbon that was supposed to hold the “Drink Me” tag had worn away, and the tag was missing. Alice accepted it, though her hands were slow to move and her glare never faltered. “Take all this with you as well,” Corbin added, waving his hand at the battlefield. Seeing that their mistress was in distress, the cats had begun to hesitantly approach, unsure of what to do. Light meows spread like murmurs through the group. The Jabberwocky stood by with what seemed to Kate to be an expression of boredom and distaste on her scaly face, while Edwin was preening himself on a half-dead tree bowed with his weight. Alice looked down at the bottle in her hands and her scowl deepened. She hated to lose, and it felt like losing to her. Her grip tightened as she drew herself to full height.

“I won’t let you dismiss me so easily,” she growled. “Just wait, Corbin. You’ll regret giving away my Wonderland to these undeserving fools.”

Corbin did not seem too affected by her words. Alice turned to go, dragging her feet somewhat childishly. Kate’s breath caught in her throat. He’d done it. And thank the heavens, she hadn’t had to kill anyone after all. Her thoughts drifted back to the Caterpillar, the Twins, the March Hare, and everyone else… were they safe?

Corbin turned to Kate, cocking his head. “Well,” he said, flashing her another beautiful smile. “I think we can safely say that I went a little overboard with the adventure portion of the evening, and I do apologize for that.”

Kate shook her head. “It’s all right,” she said good-naturedly. “It seemed to work itself—”

Kate saw the movement. Her eyes followed it, though the rest of her could not. Alice’s eyes were filled with rage. Her heel hit the ground. Her momentum swung her about. A flash of silver appeared from one of her lacy black sleeves. Corbin’s smile disappeared.

A soft sigh escaped Alice’s lips as Corbin’s blade moved, so quickly that Kate thought for sure it was over before she could even figure out what had happened. Alice was completely still. Corbin eased forward, and then slowly pulled his sword back, out of Alice’s body. Alice dropped to her knees with an expression of surprise, and a sudden, strange confusion. Kate’s hand fluttered over her mouth in horror. Corbin’s eyes were emotionlessly set on Alice, whose dark makeup began to run as large black tears rolled down her cheeks.

“I gave you your chance,” he said simply.

“I just... just wanted...” she said, but she couldn’t finish. Her mouth moved, but no sound came out. Tears kept coming. Corbin silently knelt by Alice in a flutter of black feathers. He wrapped his arms around her, and her chin dropped to rest on his shoulder. Alice’s hand tried to hug Corbin back, but all the strength had left her. She was only able to brush her fingers against his raven-feather cloak. Her eyes stared into space, but there was a soft smile on her face. For a moment, Alice could have been honestly called beautiful.

Corbin’s expression was unreadable. There was a moment of silence, and then he slowly turned his head to whisper something into Alice’s ear. Alice’s eyes widened slightly, and then they slowly, gently, quietly shut. There was a look of peace on her face, no longer stained by a distasteful glare. Kate watched the still Corbin hold Alice’s body in perfect silence before turning away, embarrassed, to fiddle with a lock of her hair.

After a moment or two, Corbin stood up. The cats had begun to approach Alice’s body, now seeming nothing more than innocent pets. They mewed gently as though trying to wake her. Corbin did not look at them. “I’m sorry,” he said, turning to Kate with a mournful expression written across his handsome features. “This was truly not what I had planned to give you.”

Kate shook her head, still unable to find words. Corbin’s eyes lingered on her expression as if trying to read her before he turned away. “The adventure is over,” he said. “I will return you to where you belong. I cannot convey my sorrow at how this ended… but I hope that at least some of it did seem enjoyable to you. It was to be a gift, after all.”

“Oh, please don’t be concerned, I enjoyed it very much,” Kate assured him, having found her tongue. Her eyes wandered helplessly. “I would also have liked for it not to end that way… but it surely wasn’t your fault, and there’s nothing that can be done about it now, even I can see that. I… before I go, I should very much like to say my goodbyes to all of my new friends.”

Corbin seemed thoughtful. Then he nodded. “Close your eyes,” he said somewhat impishly. “Spin around three times and click your heels.”

“I’ll close my eyes,” Kate said, obediently doing so, “but I’m afraid any sort of twirling would be quite impossible. It’d give me vertigo at my age.” She heard Corbin’s light chuckle.

“You can open them now,” he said.

When she opened her eyes, she found herself before the March Hare’s house. A most brilliant spread of afternoon tea burdened the table, with all manner of creatures crowding about the area. Kate wasn’t surprised to see the Hare arguing with the Dormouse, something about getting into a teapot. The Walrus and the Carpenter seemed to be picking through the finger sandwiches with a fair amount of distaste, while Lily sat most unassumingly on the bench, enjoying a pile of sugar and butter gently wet by tea in a teacup that she held with a delicate pinky turned up. The Queen of Hearts was inspecting a tray of what looked like homemade tarts very carefully, while the Knave stood nearby shaking in his boots. The king seemed to be trying to set up a croquet game in the yard beyond, but he had not the space for it, and the cards Two, Five, and Seven were attempting to enjoy their tea even while bent into wickets. The White Rabbit was running about the king’s feet nervously, chattering away.

Kate looked around. She spotted about half of the Cheshire Cat lounging in the shade, accompanied by the Gnat and Fawn, who seemed to be deep in conversation. She did catch sight of the roly-poly twins eventually (the goat from the store was teaching them how to knit… they seemed quite interested) but could not, however, find the telltale trail of smoke that told her the Caterpillar was present. Curious, she turned to ask Corbin, who swept by her without warning, making her jump slightly. He clapped his hands to steal the attention of those present.

“Everyone,” he said cheerfully, “our guest is leaving. Let’s all give her a proper send off, shall we?” His hand swept through the air and his hat appeared to flip out of space itself. He placed it on his head, neatly sliding a finger across the brim. Kate’s arrival was met with huge smiles.

“Sit, sit,” the Dormouse invited, ignoring the Hare’s shouts of “No room, no room!” Kate took her seat gratefully. She hadn’t realized it, but her feet were rather sore. To be expected, she supposed; there had been an awful lot of walking after all. The White Queen graciously passed her the sugar, which Kate thanked her for even though she had no tea to use it in. She looked around for a tea pot, figuring that she’d quite like a cup of tea, when she felt Lily’s hand on hers.

“You can use a plate,” she suggested, apparently thinking that Kate was seeking a cup to hold a portion of the sugar. Kate couldn’t help but smile.

“Usually I have tea in my sugar,” she explained. Lily shrugged.

“I suppose it’s not the curiousest thing you’ve done,” she said agreeably after a moment of thought, returning contentedly to her cup of diabetes. Kate looked around once more for the Caterpillar, but try as she might, she could not spot him. Corbin stood nearby, giving his greetings to an obviously smitten Queen of Hearts, who was offering him a tart. Kate hated to interrupt, but she stood to tap him on the shoulder.

“Off with your—!” the Queen began to thunder, but upon noticing that it was Kate, she quieted down. “Well… if you must,” she said disappointedly, turning back to what she had been doing as Corbin turned attentively to Kate.

“Er,” Kate began, “I seem to be… well… I don’t see the Caterpillar around?”

Corbin looked around, seeming equally as surprised. “I’m sure he…” he began, before his expression lit up. “Ah,” he said. “He’s just there, you see?” He raised a hand to point. Kate followed his gaze curiously. She realized why she had not seen the Caterpillar before. Firstly, she had mainly been looking for smoke, of which there was none. Secondly, she had been looking for… well, a Caterpillar. Nonetheless, she saw the resemblance in the lovely blue butterfly that Corbin had pointed out. He stood by the Hare’s house and seemed to melt into the colors of a flower bush nearby, which was why Kate hadn’t spotted him. She approached the bush and saw that the Caterpillar—no, Butterfly now, she supposed—was actually feeding off of the blossoms. He paused as he noticed Kate approaching but did not say anything.

Kate stood by him as a quiet moment passed, only interrupted by the Butterfly’s slow and deliberate sucking. “Does that taste good?” Kate asked after a moment, unsure of what else to say. The thought came to her that perhaps he could no longer taste, having a proboscis in place of a mouth. However, the Butterfly nodded thoughtfully.

“I’d say it’s somewhere between sunflowers and zinnias in sweetness,” he said after a moment. “Quite tasty. How have you been?”

“I’d quite like to ask you the same,” Kate replied. The Butterfly shrugged.

“I’ve had better days,” he said. “Alice would have liked to stop me by force from getting ready to morph, but I would have none of it. Luckily she was interrupted before she had a chance to do anything with particularly long-lasting consequences, and I was at last given some peace and quiet. Except for those blathering fools, but I doubt there’s any way to be rid of them,” the Butterfly said, shoving an arm (leg?) in the direction of the twins.

“I shall have to say hello to them as well,” Kate thought, not realizing that she had said it out loud. The Butterfly waved an arm at her.

“You’d best fix that habit of talking to yourself,” he said. “You never know when you might spill some terrible secret. Why, if I talked to myself in that manner, everyone would know that the March Hare trims his ears, or that the Dormouse takes sleeping pills.”

Kate laughed. “Is that what’s always running through your head?” she asked, amused. The Butterfly was not so amused, and simply shrugged.

“I’m not an insect of goodbyes,” he said, waving an arm at Kate as his attention was once more taken by his meal. “Fly safely, Katie. Good weather.”

Kate guessed that that was the best she’d get out of him, and that a hug was overstepping her bounds… plus she wasn’t sure where she’d put her hands, as he was now so very oddly shaped. With a smile on her face, she moved on. As she passed the tree under which half of the Cheshire Cat dreamed, the Fawn noticed her and approached quite merrily.

“Have you remembered?” the Fawn asked cheerfully.

“I have,” Kate said after a moment’s thought. “Thank you for asking.” The Fawn looked about.

“Didn’t you have a small fur creature of some sort with you last we met?” it asked curiously.

“Oh, yes,” Kate said. “Little Roar. I’m not sure where the little traitor has gotten to now… I haven’t seen him since he defected.”

“I expected nothing less,” the Gnat said somewhat distastefully from behind. Kate caught sight of a little black tail, barely noticeable underneath the Cheshire Cat’s stripes. Her eyebrows furrowed in curiosity. She knelt and pushed aside the Cheshire’s ample belly. Much to her surprise, a familiar black kitten was nestled underneath, dozing delightfully.

“I have some choice words for you,” Kate began sternly, but the Cheshire Cat’s eyes opened blearily, interrupting her scolding. He grinned somewhat tiredly and stretched quite flexibly, the rest of him falling into place where he’d faded out into nothing.

“You can’t very well blame him,” the Cat said, voice laced with sleep. “Kittens are especially mad creatures. Most children are, but it runs in cat genes especially. Take me, for example. Have you ever met a cat less there?” As if to prove his point, his rear end began fading again. His grin widened, apparently amused at his own joke.

“Hmph,” Kate replied. “Well, I needn’t bother with him then. You can have him.”

“If I must,” the Cat said, though he seemed almost pleased. “Now if you’ll pardon me… I’d say my farewells, but I seem to have misplaced a good dream…” The creature’s eyes closed once more, and in moments he was back to sleep. Kate wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or in awe. She straightened up and looked around for what would be her next victim. Unsurprisingly, she could hear Tweedledee and Tweedledum arguing from across the yard. She made her way towards them, having decided that her arrival might be a good thing for them.

“Knit—no, you oaf, it’s knit then purl, not purl then knit,” Tweedledee was saying exasperatedly as she approached.

“Nohow!” Tweedledum exclaimed indignantly. The goat, obviously irritated, poked each of them in their ample rears with the blunt end of her knitting needle. Kate almost giggled at their antics. Tweedledee was apparently knitting a sock, though he didn’t seem to know where it would end (it was two legs long by now) and Tweedledum was likely working on the other sock of the pair. The goat snatched Tweedledee’s sock from his hands and in moments her hands (hooves?) had turned it into something presentable. She tied it off and handed it to him pointedly. He stared down at it, starry eyed. Kate couldn’t hide her smile.

“Hello there, Tweedledum, Tweedledum,” she said to each in turn. Tweedledee looked up.

“Oh, no,” he said. “He’s Tweedledum. Contrariwise, I’m Tweedledee.”

“Oh, then you gave up on having the same name?” Kate asked, surprised. She couldn’t keep up with their shenanigans. Tweedledum shook his head, handing his sock off to the goat to finish.

“It worked for a while,” he said, “until I was thinking about all my things. If my shirt says ‘Tweedledum’ on it but we’re both Tweedledum, then what’s to say that Dee won’t think it’s his? It just didn’t sit right with me.”

“Makes sense,” Kate agreed. “Having your own name gives you individuality, after all.”

“That’s what I said,” Tweedledee exclaimed. “But Dum here said that it gave you indigestion. I told him that wasn’t the right word, but he insisted. The older brother isn’t always right, I said. Contrariwise, sometimes the younger brother is the right one.” Kate nodded thoughtfully.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s true. I remember when I was younger, I had three cousins I would spend all my free time with. Two were brothers, and they’d recently gotten a baby sister. I can tell you, they spoiled her silly. But they did want to give her hard food before her teeth had grown in, and the older brother was set on it while the younger one knew it wouldn’t be a good idea. I was babysitting them at the time…”

She trailed off as she realized that the twins were completely ignoring her. They were cheerfully exchanging their socks and thanking each other for the fantastic gift, it being just what they wanted. Kate rolled her eyes. Oh, well. At least they were enjoying themselves. “I’d best be off,” she said. “But I’m glad to have seen you again. I wanted to at least know you were safe.”

“Oh, yeah, goodbye,” Tweedledum said, not looking up from his work.

“Contrariwise… well, just goodbye,” Tweedledee said, in much the same manner.

“Feathers,” the goat between them muttered. Kate assumed that was an acceptable farewell from the three of them. She approached the table once more, this time at the other end. The March Hare glared at her as she came near.

“I hope you know the whole script will have to be entirely rewritten because of you,” he said frostily. “Can you imagine how many days of work that will be?”

Kate edged away. “I’m sorry,” she said half-heartedly. “I didn’t mean to upset you so… though, if I may suggest, perhaps you should instead allow adventurers to say what they like? It seems to me that that’d make everyone quite a bit more pleased.”

“Heathen!” the Hare shrieked. Kate ducked a flying teapot. “You should be scourged! Starved! Disemboweled!” The Dormouse shoved a basket over the Hare’s head with a disgusted look on his face. It helped to muffle his threatening cries.

“Would you like a tart?” the Dormouse asked, sounding tired as usual as he held up a tray of heart-shaped tarts. Kate looked around.

“Aren’t those—?” she began, but the Queen of Hearts beat her to it.

“My tarts!” she shrieked. Kate winced. “Off with his—!”

“Oh, for the sake of sweet dreams in every home, will you please just shut up?” the Dormouse pleaded, his voice dreary with exasperation. He dropped the tray back onto the table with a lazy hand. “Off with this, off with that… take the damn tarts, it’s not nearly worth a beheading!”

The Queen seemed quite offended by his words, but at the same time, her cheeks were tinged pink with embarrassment. “I-I-It’s my line…” she stammered helplessly. Kate patted her on the shoulder, feeling sorry for the poor royal. The king came by, apparently giving up on the croquet game. He was muttering to himself, something about too many hills.

“I wanted to let you know that I’m heading home,” Kate said to those that were there. “And I wanted to say my goodbyes properly. I had a grand time, thanks to all of you.”

The White Rabbit appeared from behind the king. “Oh, it was our pleasure,” he said, beaming. “It was very nice to meet you, Miss Katie. You’re by far the favorite Alice!”

Despite herself, Kate blushed. It wasn’t that much of a compliment, she supposed, when she thought of her competition, but still, a compliment was a compliment. “I’ll miss you all,” she said, tears swimming in her eyes. She raised a hand to brush them away. Where had they come from? Annoying things, to come just when she was trying to say a proper goodbye. Was there any way she could come back at some point? She had met Corbin once before, after all… oh… but in another 50 years it was unlikely that she would still be around. That only served to make her all the more frustrated. “Take care of yourselves,” she said, her voice noticeably raw with emotion. Corbin approached her from behind and put a hand on her shoulder.

“Every night I’ll come for you,” he promised. “You deserve that much at least, having saved your adventure so impressively.” Kate smiled through her tears, reaching up to put a hand over his.

“Hardly,” she said modestly. She wiped away her tears once more and waved goodbye to the people spread across the yard. They all waved back, save for Cheshire, who was still dozing, and the Walrus and the Carpenter, who were sobbing into their handkerchiefs, though Kate had a feeling that was merely because there were no oysters to be had. Without another word, Corbin pulled aside his heavy cloak to reveal the looking glass.

Kate heard a little meow and looked down to see Little Roar. She looked back up in surprise at where the Cheshire Cat had been sleeping, but he was no longer there. Instead he basked in a ray of sunshine on a branch, and winked as he caught her glance. Corbin noticed the kitten and smiled slightly, shaking his head in wonder.

“I thought that was odd,” he mused. “I was wondering where you might have gotten a kitten. If I had known Alice was behind it sooner, I would’ve done something about the little spy. They start young, don’t they?”

“Oh, everything’s all right now,” Kate said brightly, leaning down to pick up the cat. “You can’t stay mad at a ball of fluff forever, after all,” she commented as Little Roar mewed agreeably and licked her hand. Corbin reached out after a moment and his fingers brushed the cat’s head with a strange tenderness, and then he dropped his hand. He smiled once more.

“Any last words?” he suggested.

“You make it sound like I’m dying,” Kate said, jokingly landing a punch on Corbin’s shoulder. Nevertheless, she thought hard. There must still be something left unsaid, she thought, something she’d regret not saying if she went back now. “Thank you, I suppose. I don’t think I ever said that… to you, personally, you know. It was… quite an experience.” Corbin smiled in response but said nothing. Kate glanced at the looking glass before her. She needed to go back, she knew, but there was a large part of her that didn’t want to leave. Understandably, she supposed, but still.

“I guess it’s time,” she said slowly. “Adventures don’t last forever, otherwise they wouldn’t be much of an adventure, would they?” She said this more for her benefit than any other reason, for she had to convince herself more than anything. She quirked a smile as a thought came to her. “This will certainly be a story to tell the children,” she said softly. “I can’t wait to get back home and tell the rascals all about Wonderland.”

“Feel free to leave out Alice,” Corbin said, winking. “There’s no need for children to be told stories of war and greed. At least not until they reach a respectable old age. Eight or nine at least.”

“I’ll miss you all,” Kate said once more. She knew she had to stop stalling. She turned to the looking glass meaningfully. As she prepared to step through it, she felt a soft weight on her shoulders and an abrupt breeze as feathers fluttered to the ground. She looked down in surprise as the raven cloak settled breezily around her shoulders.

“It gets cold in your world,” Corbin said innocently, his eyes twinkling. As her eyes widened in surprise, watering helplessly once more, Corbin gave her one last warm smile and then tapped her on the shoulder. She stumbled forward, into the looking glass, and the next thing she knew, she had landed on her behind. She blinked in the sudden warm light that danced merrily over her skin.

“Oof!” she exclaimed. At first, it was so bright that she couldn’t see very well, but as her eyes adjusted, she found herself sitting in front of the cave with her basket of bread and cheese sitting right beside her. She blinked again, memories of Wonderland already feeling faint.

“Was I dreaming?” she wondered aloud. She looked down. The little black kitten in her lap gave a little reassuring meow as he batted at the raven feathers that fluttered free from the cloak. A slow smile came over the old woman’s face as she slowly got to her feet and brushed herself off leisurely. She looked down at the kitten in her lap.

“I think...” Kate began, looking thoughtfully at the sky, “I could use a nice cup of tea. After all… it’s about dinnertime now.” She glanced down at Little Roar with a big smile, and the kitten mewed softly in agreement. Kate stooped to collect her basket and then set off nearly skipping down the path that led back home.

~*~

Kate’s eyes opened. The steady beeping once more sounded in her ears, except that now she knew that sound. Slowly her head turned, and she knew what she would see. Everything felt… right. The hand that held hers was warm and kind. It was a friendly hand, and a caring one. She knew that hand. Kate laughed in wonder, a slow, ancient, patient chuckle.

“You wouldn’t believe,” she said quietly, her tone full of wonder, “the dream I had.”


“To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said

‘I’ve a scepter in hand; I’ve a crown on my head.

Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be,

Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!’”

– Lewis Carroll, ‘Through the Looking Glass’


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About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.