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In This Style 10/6 (Most of a story)

In This Style, 10/6 By Katherine Quick (age 15) She was in Wonderland again. Or at least she assumed she was in the same old Wonderland again. But things seemed different, distorted. Wonderland was always odd; that was one of its most alluring features. But the oddities of Wonderland had always had a certain… friendly undertone. Now a dark shadow fell over the place, creating a feeling of evil that veiled the empty hall down which she walked, a sort of macabre chill. Alice shivered, but continued down the hall, confident in her abilities to return to the “real world”, should things prove catastrophic. By now she was able to go back and forth between the realities at will, requiring little more than a minute of intense concentration and to leave her body in a safe, resting state in the “real world”. Right now, her body was safe in her bed, asleep. Although she had traveled to this world so many times before, each time was slightly different, perpetually changing, as though some unknown thing was constantly rebuilding the world. This hall, which was the tunnel of a certain very civilized White Rabbit, was almost always the same, and almost always empty. Her footsteps echoed in the silence. A small army of mome raths scuttled past her feet from one of the adjoining hallways, and she almost stepped on several of them, noticing them at the last minute and sidestepping over them, narrowly dodging the strange, silent creatures. As they continued on their way as silently as the came, leaving Alice alone again, she proceeded forward, slightly shaken at the sudden and misplaced appearance of the mome raths. She was on her way to visit the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit at the Hatter’s Place. She exited the long corridor rabbit tunnel through a small door in the wall and stepped into the cool outside. Forest lined one half of her current peripheral vision, and a stretch of grass dotted with bizarre species of wildflowers covered the rest. She headed towards a path in the woods that she knew was the only way to get to the Hatter’ s isolated house. The air was thick and the sky was dark. Clouds threatened overhead and it was that serene, empty time that usually came before a storm. The swelling of mixed temperatures in the air colliding with Alice’s uneasiness, causing her to breathe sharply and step quicker, her heart thumping deeply in her chest. She looked up into the trees above her. Rockinghorseflies and bread-and-butterflies zoomed about, trying hard to get sheltered before the coming rain fell. The Cheshire cat appeared in a low branch, skinny and striped, ribs plainly visible poking out from under its matted fur, crookedly grinning its deranged and maniacal smile. Alice smiled back and the cat disappeared; its yellow, crooked grin hanging suspended in space before it disappeared as well. She continued along the empty path, no signs of life around her amidst the dark trees. There was no sound, except the small tap tap of her footsteps, and not even the wind dared to break the rhythm of the silence by whispering through the forest. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of expecting the seemingly inevitable evil that blanketed Wonderland, she reached the house of the Mad Hatter. The White Rabbit stood on the porch next to the Hatter, just standing side by side, unmoving, as though waiting for something. She ran up to them, the gate creaking, squealing shut behind her. As she approached, both the Hatter and the Rabbit broke out into identical, wicked grins. The Rabbit took his beloved pocket watch, the one Alice had given to him for his unbirthday, out of his waistcoat pocket. He glanced at it, still grinning insanely. “Oh, dear,” he said calmly, slowly, “I’m late.” “Where are my manners?” asked the Hatter, pulling his pace close to Alice’s, his wicked grin reflecting in her eyes. He hesitated a second longer, as though thinking, then added, “Where are they?” Alice, who was already jittery from the overall atmosphere of the place, was suddenly terrified at the cool, calm, collective manner of the Mad Hatter, who was usually bouncing around like a lunatic. She stifled an urge to run, and stood quite still. Not a word was said between the three, two of them still grinning maniacally. After a few seconds had passed, the Mad Hatter turned on his heel and led the way into the house. Alice could not remember a time that she had actually been inside the Hatter’s old house. She didn’t know what she expected, but it certainly wasn’t what she found there. The front door led into a long corridor lit but candles that reflected off the shiny black-and-white checkerboard-tiled floor. As they walked, distorted, abstract pictures and paintings glowered back at them from their misshapen, ugly frames. Alice sucked in her breath sharply as they continued on toward the end of the corridor. Closed doors dotted each side of the long, narrow hallway as they passed. Some held freakish noises behind them, wailing screams and inhuman howls, and others held beckoning silence, which seemed somehow even more frightening to Alice. All the doors that the Hatter led them passed forced horrifying images of Alice’s own doom into her mind. Finally, they reached the end of the corridor, a large, brass-and-wooden door that swung open heavily as the Mad Hatter shoved a small skeleton key into the heavy brass lock. The room was dark; fewer candles were lit-not nearly enough light to illuminate the room enough to see easily. A long wooden table took up much of the space in the room, but other than that and the chairs and the dishes and things on the table, the room was completely bare. Alice and the White Rabbit took their seats as the Hatter closed the door and crossed to the table, picking up a teapot and pouring cups full of the hot brown liquid within. The insane, crooked grins had left the faces of the Hatter and the Rabbit, though the look of morbid seriousness and focus that replaced them frightened Alice even more. Her hand shook slightly as she added cream and honey to her tea. The Hatter went around the room with intense focus, lighting a few more candles, though the meager extra rays didn’t help much to chase the pressing shadows of the room. The White Rabbit sipped quietly, as though deep in thought, and Alice just sat, shaking, her hand on the teacup resting on the table and her eyes darting around the room at the potential dangers lurking in the shadows. The Mad Hatter sat down across from Alice and a few seats down was the Rabbit, who was muttering something about taking too much time, and that he was late. The maniacal grim briefly passed over the Hatter’s lips, then settled to a slight, menacing curl. “More tea?” he asked, staring directly into Alice’s blue eyes, as though he didn’t notice the full, untouched cup in front of her. A brief, fleeting memory of the first time she had met the Hatter passed her mind, in which she had argued with him whether or not could have ‘more tea’ when one hasn’t had any to begin with. But the memory was gone before Alice had any time to dwell on it, and she shook her head. Although she had most clearly declined a freshening of the cup, he pulled an empty one from the dozen-or-so on the table and filled it with tea, setting it in front of Alice next to her first cup, his eyes never wavering from her. The Dormouse, which was hiding in a small teapot, leapt onto the table and began running around and shrieking, giggling like a lunatic. The Hatter grabbed the Dormouse by the tail and stuffed him back into the teapot, closing the top. The Dormouse could be heard inside it, singing squeakily in a muffled voice: “Die now, die now, little dear Hatter will gore you with a spear Down below the earth so dead Worms eat holes through your head Die now, die now, little dear The time for you to fall is near” The familiar tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle” mixed with the new, horrifying lyrics, echoed in Alice’s head. The song repeated twice then faded as the Mad Hatter rapped violently on the teapot with a butter knife. The White Rabbit, still muttering about being late, pulled a pack of cigarettes out of one of his few waistcoat pockets that weren’t ticking. He put it to his mouth, lit it on a candle, and puffed nonchalantly. The Hatter picked up a fork and whipped it at the Rabbit. The cigarette fell from the Rabbit’s mouth as the fork pierced his paw. The Rabbit let out a squeal and glowered at the Hatter, but the Hatter just stared back and said coldly, “It’s frightfully rude to indulge in that particular filthy habit during tea time,” The Rabbit said nothing, only nursed his bleeding, hurt paw and whimpered. By now, Alice was shaking violently with terror and decided it was high time to go back to the “real world”. She closed her eyes and concentrated, willing her body to awaken. The Hatter must have noticed her doing so, for he broke her concentration by clearing his throat loudly and suddenly. “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to leave, my dear Alice.” Alice stared at him as her eyes welled up with tears, whimpering slightly. She closed her eyes again and the Mad Hatter grabbed her shoulder, shaking her violently. “No! You’re not going anywhere! Stay with me and have some more tea.” Alice opened her eyes again and found the face of her once slightly deranged friend had the evil wickedness of a true bloodlusting lunatic. His face was now inches from her own, where tears were now streaming freely. He kissed her gently on the cheek, though the gesture brought no comfort to the petrified Alice. Her eyes were wide with fear. “There now. Don’t you want some more tea?” The Hatter’s voice was slow and soothing. Alice shook her head violently, fighting the urge to scream. She heard the Rabbit laughing quietly to himself, forgetting about his own wounded paw and attention focused fully on the events occurring between the Hatter and Alice. The Hatter crossed the room to a cabinet that Alice had failed to notice before (or had it even been there before?). He opened it and pulled out a small, unmarked bottle and a clean white rag. He doused the rag in the liquid from the bottle, then returned the bottle to its place. He walked back over to Alice, who backed away until she ran into a wall. Cornered between the wall and the approaching Mad Hatter, she tried in vain to come up with some possible idea for escape. The Hatter was upon her now, holding the rag up to her face. The fumes of the musty rag made her dizzy, and she whimpered again. The Hatter pressed the rag over her nose and mouth, holding her against the wall with his free hand. Alice tried not to breathe, but eventually, air came into her lungs, bringing with it the inevitable sleep of the chloroform… She awoke to the whimpers of a something next to her. At a closer look in the dim light, she recognized the figure as her old friend, the March Hare. A crude gag was tied around his rabbit-mouth and he was bound by a bloodstained straightjacket. At an even closer look, Alice could make out various cuts and wounds marring the March Hare’s flesh, and dried blood that had seeped into his rough and matted fur. Examining herself, she found she was also gagged and bound in a similar, also bloodstained straightjacket, and the two of them were locked in a sort of chicken wire cage in the same room in which the Mad Hatter had drugged her. Remembering the awfulness of the chloroform, she retched, her gag soaking up the puke and forcing it back into her throat. Again, she fainted. “So, boss, what are we gonna do with ‘em?” Alice woke to the White Rabbit’s nasally voice, directed to the Mad Hatter. “Whatever we want,” replied the Hatter, “they’re ours now. Our slaves. Playthings.” They both laughed sadistically. Alice shut her eyes tightly and tried not to move or scream or cry. From the sobbing she heard next to her, the March Hare didn’t seem so successful. Alice opened her eyes and sat up, looking around her. The White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter were again sitting at the long wooden table, sipping tea and still laughing shrilly. The White Rabbit was smoking without punishment now, and the Mad Hatter cleaned his large, crooked teeth with a toothpick. The March Hare had stopped lamenting, but his breathing remained jagged. Alice scooted over to him and buried her face in the matted fur. The bristly hairs against her skin offered a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. The March Hare seemed to feel this comfort as well, for the let out a deep sigh, and again, sleep overtook them both. Alice woke suddenly to the bloodcurdling screams of the March Hare. Her eyes snapped open and looked around. The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit had removed the March Hare from the cage and had him strapped to a sort of table, tilted at about 45 degrees, where they were performing various acts of torture and sadism upon the poor creature. The March Hare let out another shriek as the White Rabbit jabbed at him sharply with a butter knife that had been heating over the fire. The Dormouse was dancing around on the floor amongst their feet to the sound of the March Hare’s tortured screams, maniacally shrieking more twisted parodies to “Twinkle, Twinkle”. The March Hare wailed again and the Mad Hatter giggled from his place at the table. Alice watched in horror at the terrible torture of the March Hare, unable to blink or breathe or look away. Terrifying thoughts of her own impending doom flashed through her mind and she let out a shriek of her own. All of them; the Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, and even the March Hare, all stopped what they were doing and stared at Alice. The Mad Hatter rose from his seat, setting down his cup of tea. “Ah, Alice, my dear,” he said, “you’re awake.” He unlatched the door on Alice’s cage and pulled it open. Alice sank back to the far corner of the cage but there was no escaping the Hatter’s encroaching hand. He grabbed her by the collar of her blue-and-white frock that stuck out oddly from underneath the straightjacket, and pulled her out of the cage. Alice stumbled to her feet and looked about her for possible escape routes, and there was none, for the White Rabbit was now guarding the only door. The Mad Hatter wheeled out another bondage-table like the one that he March Hare was strapped to, and proceeded to unbuckle her straight jacket while the White Rabbit, having abandoned his post, held her still. While the Rabbit still held Alice, the Mad Hatter pulled a lever on the side of the table, and the table became horizontal. The White Rabbit dragged the struggling Alice over to the table, pushing her onto it and pinning her while the Hatter strapped her in. The Hatter pulled the lever again until the table was back at its original 45-degree angle. She sobbed loudly at the thought of a million terrible things that the Hatter could do to her right then and the Hatter slapped her across the face, forcing her to choke on her tears. “Silence, wretch!” He snapped his fingers and the White Rabbit bounded across the room to the cabinet, and carefully removed a butcher knife, a bred-cutting knife, and a machete from within. He brought these shiny, glinting weapons to the Hatter, who chose the machete, snatching it from the White Rabbit’s wounded paw. Holding the machete by the blade in his teeth, he proceeded to unbutton Alice’s dress, his hands hesitating for a brief moment over her soft, newly-developing breasts- as though he had been waiting the whole time of knowing Alice for the perfect time to fully appreciate her femininity, her new teenage body- then finishing the buttons. Alice lay, halfway between vertical and horizontal, in her under-things, lamenting loudly. The Hatter took the machete from his teeth and pressed it against Alice’s soft flesh. His eyes glinted maniacally and his large, yellow, crooked teeth protruded grotesquely from his curled, half-smiling, half-snarling lips. The blade of the machete was cold and metallic against Alice’s exposed skin, and goosebumps rose from her skin. The Mad Hatter pressed it firm against her, grinning broadly as Alice winced at the pressure. She felt the sharp blade part her skin, all to aware of the hard pain that came afterward. Blood dribbled down her stomach, and she was aware of that, too. But she did not scream or cry out, no. She did all she could to save the Mad Hatter that satisfaction. By now, the White Rabbit had unstrapped the March Hare and stuffed him back into the cage, where he lay whimpering and licking his fresh wounds. The Mad Hatter licked some of the blood that dripped down Alice’s bare stomach, the redness of it staining his ugly lips and teeth. He pulled the flesh apart with his hand and dug his fingers into the slice. Alice bit her lip to fight the pain, and that began bleeding too. She tried to focus instead on the warm stickiness of the blood running down her abdomen than on where the blood had come from, but the pain was too great. She felt pain inside her, in her guts, and sure enough, the Hatter had almost his entire hand inside her. She begged silently for sweet death to come, but consciousness still plagued her. She couldn’t hold it anymore, a sudden cry of sheer pain escaped her bleeding lips, and the Mad Hatter laughed derangedly. Without a word, he removed his hand from within her torn body, unstrapped her, thrust her dress into her hands, and shoved her in the cage with the March Hare. She ripped off long strips from the bottom of her dress and tightly bound her wounds. As soon as that was finished, she fell asleep against the steady, rhythmic breathing of the March Hare. Alice woke to the strange feeling she was being watched. She opened her eyes slowly and carefully looked around the room. For the first time since her arrival, the Hatter and the White Rabbit were nowhere to be seen. Searching for an explanation of the misplaced feeling, her eyes caught a glint of something on top of the cabinet. In the dim candlelight, she could not identify the odd shape, until it grinned, the flame of a candle reflecting against the Cheshire Cat’s yellow teeth. Alice blinked hard, as if the Cat was a mirage, a hallucination. When it did not disappear, she asked it, “Why?” And the Cat responded, in its paradoxical voice, “Because they’re mad. Or maybe you’re mad. Or we’re all mad. Either you’ll find out soon enough, or you’ll never know.” And with that, the Cat disappeared, its grin once again hanging in the air for a second after the rest of it had vanished, then vanishing too.

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