Call it dreamland, if you will,
A place to be found underhill.
Call it wonderland, if you must,
That's all it needs to earn your trust.
"Many people like to imagine a world where dreams come true. Perhaps it's greed, either because life isn't all that kind to them or because they are miserable despite life being grand. In any case, it's a very natural human wish. However, there is only one place like that, and that is a place called Underland. I shall tell you this story with a warning, for it is a darkly woven tale not for the faint of heart.
Underland is, as one might be able to guess, a world underneath the 'upper world'. It is a place devoted to making all your dreams come true. The problem with dreams is that not all of them are nice, and some can be rashly or shallowly wished for. Sometimes, depending on how it is granted, the greatest wish can become the greatest curse. In Underland you must be careful what you wish for, because it will always, without fail, come true. I can tell you a bit about Underland, but if I should go into too much detail, please stop me, for Underland has a way of appearing even simply by mention or a passing whim, and many have lost themselves to it before they realize it.
Our tale begins in a forest where the trees are so thick that there is no sunlight above. Ahead of you, it looks like the trees almost bend together to form a tunnel leading into the darkness, with a pale foggy glow straight ahead, as though something invites you. You walk forward slowly, taking time with each step, and slowly your soft footsteps become loud, a tip-tap of heel on marble. As you keep walking, the forest floor becomes flat and even. The trees on either side of you become pillars. Very soon indeed, you find yourself in a vast hallway with great leaping archways, stone figures, and white and black checkerboard marble floors.
The hall around you is all black and white except for the huge vases of perfect, full white roses, one on each side of the staircase that reaches up before you. At least, they had been lovely white roses, but it seemed almost as though someone had tried to paint them red, and the roses now messily dripped red paint onto the floor below in a way that was eerily reminiscent of blood. I can't tell you why this was or who had done it, but it was both a pity and a sort of poetic artistic liberty at the same time. Behind you is only the rest of the hallway, which fades into an unwelcoming darkness, nothing more. Though there seems to be no light source, the whole black and white room gleams from within, light simply existing where light is needed.
One would naturally turn around slowly to see the hallway around them, and that's what you'd do, too. It seems like a dream through your vision, as though there was a pale glow cast about everything, and within moments it would be swallowed in the darkness that lies around its borders and you would wake up. Behind that dreamlike feeling, an ever-present sense of reality weighs heavy around your shoulders. There is the mildly dusty smell accompanied by the very faint scent of roses and paint, and the air is cool against your skin. As you turn back to face the staircase, you notice what wasn't there before.
You are quite surprised to see two girls waiting there, having suddenly appeared at the bottom of the steps. They lean against each other, mirroring their poses, standing as still as statues. They must be twins, you think, for they match each other in every aspect, young girls that one would have guessed to be maybe eleven years young or so, skeletally thin, with lovely blond curls.
The dresses they wore were classic black Gothic Lolita with high necks, long sleeves, lace trimmings, and a full skirt with petticoats that stopped just below their knees, giving way to black knee socks and simple black shoes. Little black top hats balanced ever-so-perfectly on the top of their little heads, though the one on the left had hers tilting to the right while the one on the right had a hat that tilted to the left. As soon as your eyes register what they see, you realize they had already seen you. They looked at each other, then looked back at you and smiled together. The effect of their smiling together in such a way has startled even me before, so don't think the shivers that run down your spine make you special.
"You must be Alice," the first girl says. "We're Tweedledee…"
"… and Tweedledum," finishes the second.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," they say together, lovely smiles plastered on their pale faces.
You are quite shocked by the string of events and can't seem to bring yourself to speak. But that is apparently all right, as the twins seem to have everything figured out anyway. They seem, you note, like they know what they're doing, followed by a thought that would not leave the back of your head that whispered that they were much older than they looked. It is a feeling we share.
"It's quite all right," Tweedledee says with a giggle. "We'll help you settle in just fine."
"But first," Tweedledum adds with a barely audible titter, "now that the introductions are done and over with…"
"How about a story?" they ask sweetly.
You aren't sure if any story these odd people told would be something you'd want to listen to, but you are, after all, an open-minded person. And to be honest, in a place like this, you'd much rather listen to a child's story than imagine whatever else there was to do here.
"All right, then," you say. The girls smile. It feels like that was the right answer, which makes you wonder if there was a wrong one. There was no time to wonder too much, as you were raised as a good listener and these girls were beginning their story, so you settled down to listen like a good guest.
"You're not the only Alice, and definitely not the first, which is why we're not really surprised to see you," Tweedledee begins. "Though you've likely noticed that already. Er... how does it start again? Let's see now… once upon a time…"