Divided: A Tale of Wonderland

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The Wild Card

Out of the many pairs of eyes watching the Whites’ stage performance from the shadow of the Blue Forest — this supposed freethinking king and queen of all — one kept himself apart. He sat in the limb of a tree well away from the Forest folk, not as beast or man as they, but as something in between. A thing with fur and claws and paws and whiskers that reclined against the trunk like a man, its furry head propped against dexterous forepaws. A full tail swayed over the side of the branch, lazy, thoughtful.

The Bishop woman raised her arms in grand finale — small, triangular ears, sharper than their softness belied, caught every word but didn’t care to remember their varied meanings — and her pawn in Bishop’s clothing did something with his own.

Light flung from his fingertips and spiraled into the sky in a dance that defied gravity. There was a delighted gasp from the Reds, a quiet judgment from the Blacks, and the lights exploded into pinpricks that dazzled even in the afternoon light. Reds and blues and whitish-gold in patterns only the insane could see.

Those lights sparkled off of glassy violet eyes. He was entranced, bewitched, inspired by how they defied the sense imposed upon them.

What looked like golden moon dust drifted down to a fervor of applause, the remnants of whatever the young Bish had done, and sprinkled over the heads of the crowd. The Reds cheered and clapped, grasping at it like they did ideas, while the Blacks sneezed and ducked further beneath their trees, only the young ones poking out their noses and trying to catch the remains on their tongues like snow.

The outcast rolled his furry body on the branch, turning belly up without falling off, eyes never leaving the couple they had all come to peer at and had just as quickly forgotten. They weren’t speaking — each pretending they were standing up there alone — but he could see they were highly aware of each other. And the questions- the questions they both had but would not ask because they already had their answers. Answers that did not match! Oh, it was so lovely to watch them wonder! To see- Oh, what was the word? To see the- It was-

“The return of madness,” it rumbled to itself. “How delightful.”

And then the outcast was gone, like an afterimage from a fire, leaving no sign of its presence behind but a manic chuckle on the breeze.

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