The Fourth Alice
"Ah, the fourth Alice," Tweedledum says, smiling at the memory. "Now," she says, looking right at you, "the fourth Alice was twin children, who had heard from somewhere the tales of the past Alices. If you remember how you arrived here, then you'll find it was quite like that. They found their way through a forest and into the hallway, this very hallway, in fact."
"Upon their arrival," Tweedledee continues, "they walked and explored for what seemed like days. They never left each other's side. They led many, many fine adventures, and had the time of their lives. They met the Jabberwocky, dined with the Hatter…"
"Drank tea with the Hare…" Tweedledum muses.
"Ate jam with the Red Queen…" Tweedledee muses similarly.
"Played cards and chess like good children," Tweedledum finishes, "and were even invited to the palace, where they met the Queen of Hearts. But, you see, all dreams, good and bad, must eventually come to an end, which can be good or bad just as the dreams are, and even dreams in real life follow the same rules. So, of course, the fate of the children was the same as the other Alices."
"Well, not quite the same," Tweedledee corrects gently. "You see, the fourth Alice came closest to being the true Alice. They were pure-hearted and innocent. Underworld fell in love with them, along with the original characters, but not too in love with them. It wasn't very long at all that they began to fit in with the world very well."
"Too well," Tweedledum says. "The twins fit in so well that they became originals themselves. Whenever the stories were told about that world, the twins were included. In some versions, there is no fourth Alice yet. Of course, the stories sometimes got messed up, but they did as they did, the essence stayed the same. The sad part about the twins was that they slowly forgot everything, their parents, their families, and even their real names, the poor dears. So you see; it really is a sad ending for all of the Alices, because no matter what shape or form they ended in, none of them will wake up, since they're lost in wonderland."
Tweedledee and Tweedledum shared a smile.
"But you know," Tweedledee says, "maybe you'll have better luck. You are the next Alice after all, are you not?"
"Of course," Tweedledum says, "by the fifth time, you'd think one of them ought to be just fine by the end. But, I do wonder how your story will go. We are the storytellers, after all. We've been here for as long as we can remember, telling this story, waiting for the next Alice to come along, so that we can add their story to the rest of them. But we would like a happy ending, if possible."
"Of course," Tweedledee says, "there must be a happy ending."
But there's not always a happy ending. And as it would happen, that's when you realize it, your mind clicking together quite suddenly like an old dusty clock having just been repaired. It wasn't just a story. That's right, it was history. Honest-to-goodness Underworld history, from the first Alice to the fourth, and that's when you also realize that there's really only one set of twins you could possibly think of that became originals. And at that moment, you see the twins in front of you, in their black lacy dresses and little top hats with their dull golden curls and their skeletally thin bodies, and you realize that the eerily smiling young storytellers are in fact the fourth Alice.
And that's when everything begins to fall apart. And I do mean literally.
The ceiling above you peels back like old wallpaper. The painted roses begin to shed their paint, then shed their petals, then crumble altogether. The staircase behind the twins is falling out, starting with the top steps, disappearing into the darkness.
"Leaving already?" Tweedledum asks, sounding quite crestfallen.
"But we haven't even gotten to the good part yet," Tweedledee says, smiling at you.
You begin to run, scrambling to your feet. The black hallway stretches out before you. Where is the forest? You can't possibly be stuck here, can you? Your very mind begins to shudder in fear. You don't want to become like them. They must have been people too, from a long time ago, who became pieces of this place, just like the ghostly girls right behind you. In fact, they were walking closer. You couldn't seem to get away, no matter how quickly you ran. Though the black and white moved under your feet, the walls stayed where they were.
"The fifth Alice was a lot of fun," Tweedledum says, her eyes widening along with her smile. "The fifth Alice was the one that came here all alone, wishing for nothing, and tried to run away upon hearing what ghastly things went on in the place of dreams. We would never hurt the Alice, only follow the tale until it finishes, but Underland had other plans."
"But it's true," Tweedledee says, appearing next to her sister with the same wide eyes and grin.
"We make all sorts of dreams come true," they said together. "But not all of them are the good ones. That's why you need to be careful what you wish for."
"No!" you scream. "Please, someone help me!"
But there is no one, only the blackness and the quiet, calm footsteps behind you. It's too late. I warned you to stop before the story became too deep. I did tell you that Underland has a way of simply 'becoming' in one's mind. And, if you were thinking about it too deeply, it's probably there already. That's just how it works. Next time you should listen to what I say. I should know these sorts of things. I am Underland, after all.
Oh, and it's far too late to save them. They won't wake up from their dream.
They're lost in wonderland.