An Alice. In Wonderland?

Bored? Got a few minutes to spare? Here is the intro to my soon-to-be-published novelette, a spin-off of the Alice stories by Lewis Carroll:

 

It was a sunny, late September day. The clouds were fluffy and far up in the bright blue sky. Alice sat at her desk by the window in the open-plan office, playing Solitaire and daydreaming. Once again, she had been left behind by her work colleagues to answer the phones while they all attended an important meeting. Alice was okay with this, though, honestly: she was used to being the odd-one-out.

There were no phone calls this morning though and all was quiet. Alice looked at the big clock on the wall. It was an unusual clock to have in an office: old-fashioned and very large, and the seconds seemed very loud. Endlessly ticking life away, here in the dreary office, when Alice would much rather be outside enjoying the sunshine and reading a book. The minute hand of the big clock was coming up to twelve.

Alice sat and played Solitaire on her computer, waiting for the inevitable moment when her peace would be disturbed. Already, her eyes were growing heavy – she had stayed up late last night. She had a habit, you see, of staying up too late so she was tired for work the next day. As she recalled, she had been doing nothing in particular; just browsing online, and had ended up researching Mad Tea Party ideas, Alice in Wonderland-style. She only wished she had enough friends to invite to such a party.

She carried on stacking the cards: red, black, red, black – she glanced at the big clock: less than a minute to twelve. Any moment her work colleagues would be back, and then she’d have to look busy.

The clock was so very loud. It echoed through her head as though the inside of her skull was a large, empty hall:

Tick,
Tock,
Tick,
Tock,
Tick
Tock….

She jerked her head up suddenly. Had she been dozing off for a minute there? She really needed to start going to bed earlier. She blinked her eyes and focused on her computer screen. Where she saw the big face of a stripy cat looking at her, with big yellow eyes, grinning. It looked very much like the Cheshire Cat, from the Alice stories. Its teeth were very sharp. Why was the Cheshire Cat on her computer screen?

It looked at her for a moment, still grinning, and then it said:

“Wake
Up,
Alice!”

It grinned even wider, then yawned. And it yawned and yawned; sucked up so much air as it yawned that Alice was being pulled towards her computer screen, towards the Cheshire Cat’s mouth, which opened like a gaping tunnel before her. This was very irregular! She tried to scream, but –

 

I.

She was falling, down and down, head over heels.

Tumbling down through darkness that had no end. She was falling, but falling very slowly. It wasn’t very scary, but Alice felt she ought to scream, for posterity.

So she opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

Instead, letters formed in the air like smoke. They said:

“Aaaaaargh!”

And then:

“Aaaaargh!”

And then, for some reason:

“Uuuurgh!”

Alice stopped trying to scream. It was pointless. What was the point in screaming if no one could hear you?

So she was falling, floating, down in the darkness without end. But she could see outlines of objects now in the gloom around her. She could hear the ticking of clocks, echoing, reverberating, and then she saw them: clocks of all shapes and sizes, floating around her. Even cuckoo clocks.

Cuckoo!
Cuckoo!

She could hear laughter echoing in the darkness, and she was pretty sure it was the Cheshire Cat laughing at her. Then she could see other objects as she was falling past them: bookshelves crammed with books – “All that knowledge!” Typewriters too; “I really must get around to writing my novel,” she thought to herself.

As she was trying to make out other objects in the dark, she became aware of a black-and-white chessboard coming up beneath her. It got bigger and bigger as she fell closer, until she realised it was a black-and-white-tiled floor coming up to meet her.

Alice landed lightly into a heap on the chessboard-floor. She got up, brushed down her office clothes, and peered around. The darkness was so intense she couldn’t make out anything around her, only the chequered floor.

“Perhaps my eyes will adjust in a moment,” she thought to herself.

Suddenly she saw a pair of eyes blinking at her out of the darkness. They were the beady eyes of some sort of animal.

“Hello?” Alice said uncertainly, and realised she could speak again. She stepped gingerly towards the pair of eyes. Then she could make out a tunnel behind the animal, and the creature turned and bumbled off down there.

“I wonder where I am?” thought Alice, following the creature.

She was in a large tunnel – large enough for a human to walk through. It was just light enough for her to see that the eyes around her were the eyes of badgers. They stopped and snuffled at her curiously as she went past, seemingly unafraid of her.

The tunnel seemed to go on forever. She lost sight of her guide around a bend, but it didn’t matter, because she realised she was getting close to daylight – the tunnel was growing lighter, and was that birdsong she could hear?

She followed another bend, and then it was straight ahead of her: the exit to outside, through which fresh air and beautiful golden light came pouring in.

Alice walked towards the light…

The City Of Omalas Part II

To read part one click here.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In short, I had everything I had ever wanted, but for one thing, one thing in which I couldn’t seem to get my way. I couldn’t get the image of Lord Vertigo out of my mind, and I desired no other man, no matter how many eligible suitors I had. Many nights I implored for his company; I sent him letters by dove, but to none of these did he reply.

So, one day, I left my palace and made my way to the Council building in my horse-drawn chariot…

Once there, I enquired at the door where I might find Lord Vertigo.

“He’s out, Your Highness.”

“Where did he go to?”

“On official business.”

I began to suspect that the doorman was keeping something from me. At first, I grew impetuous: “Do you know who I am?”, and then I grew angry. I pushed the doorman to one side, threatening to set my dogs upon him if he dared to follow me, and then I searched the Council building. I looked high and low, but Lord Vertigo was nowhere to be found. Neither did I find any other Council members.

Finally, there was just one place left to look: a stairway in the basement that led underground.

I began to descend the uneven stone steps, my dogs still close by. My only source of light was a small lantern I had found.

As I descended further and further down the subterranean stairway, the air began to grow cold and dank and foul-smelling. The walls were covered with a slimy moss I could hardly bear to touch. Still I pushed on, holding my nose.

I reached the bottom of the stairway after what felt like years, and was faced with a heavy black door that looked cold and clammy. I gripped the icy handle and turned it, slowly. I could hear my trembling breath in the dead, flat silence.

The door opened with a heavy creaking sound, and a foul stench from the room beyond hit me like a breath exhaled from a gruesome beast. My dogs howled and whimpered and ran back up the stairway, their tails between their legs, so that I was left alone in the dark with only the guttering light of my lantern for company.

I was afraid, but I also felt curiosity, and the curiosity won. I had come this far, after all, so what was the point in going back? With this in mind I entered the room behind the door.

What a sight did I behold in that room!

Such a gruesome sight I had never seen! Such a pitiful, frightful, disgusting sight.

A vast cage, filled with beings that were once human, crawling like dogs. Some were naked; others swaddled in filthy rags. Their pale skin appeared to glow faintly in the dark like spectres, or the strange, tragic-looking fish that exist at the very bottom of the ocean. Skeletal and wasted, they clawed at each other in the throes of madness. Their eyes were huge, glassy and glazed, like miserable moons.

I knew at once what they were: they were The Damned, the rotten foundation upon which this seemingly flawless city was built. They reached out to me between the bars of their cage, moaning.

I turned and ran, all the way back up the stairs, out into the basement, up into the hall and out of the Council building, never looking back. I dived into my golden chariot and raced homewards.

On the way back, it seemed that the city had changed. Things were not as they had first seemed: I could see the fakery; I could see the corruption. Omalas was crumbling around me, quite literally breaking into pieces.

Faces leered at me from windows, laughing at my horror and confusion. The marble drive that led to my palace was now crisscrossed with cracks: it seemed as though it might crumble apart at any moment. And my palace no longer shone like a pearl: it was the white of old bones in the wan sunlight.

But inside, nothing seemed to have changed. Was it possible I had been imagining things? Perhaps nothing I had just seen had been real. I surrounded myself with my courtiers, to bring myself out of my dark mood, which was the result, I decided, of a strange delirium brought on by the onset of a fever, and nothing more. A bit of company was what I needed.

But I found my courtiers irksome now. Their mindless, empty laughter grated on me like a violin played out of tune. When I peered into my looking-glass, a huge crack shot up the centre, splitting my reflected visage into two; I screamed, dropping it to the floor, where it shattered into a million tiny pieces.

I screamed again, in rage and confusion, and my courtiers screamed too, as if mocking me, and when they did so their faces began to melt like plastic, so their expressions became huge gaping yawns of misery. As one, we all screamed, and the sound rang through the palace like a death-knell.

I knew then that their beauty had been nothing but masks to hide the truth: that they were The Damned, just as surely as those creatures beneath the city were, and just as surely as I now was, for the Council had surrounded me, and my dogs were not there to defend me. They had come to take me away, for they knew that I knew the truth.

Out of my senses, I fell to the floor at Lord Vertigo’s feet, clutching desperately at the folds of his robe, and implored him not to take me to The Damned, but to come to my bedchamber instead. He did not respond to my request, but his face was grim.

I was forcefully removed from my palace, and transported back to the Council building in a cage on wheels drawn by four huge tigers. I was jeered at by the citizens of Omalas and some threw eggs at me. I wept and implored Lord Vertigo to let me go.

I was taken down to the dungeon where The Damned are kept and here I now lie as I tell you this story, one of many. I am weak, hungry and miserable, but I still have some resolve. I believe that Lord Vertigo loves me, and is secretly on my side, but keeps up a pretence of devotion to the Council through fear for his life. However, I am sure he is harbouring a plan to rescue me.

He will rescue me, and then I will become the Queen of Omalas once more, and he shall be my King. The Damned shall be executed, and so shall the rest of the Council, and I will have absolute power and the freedom to exercise my will however I choose. This is my belief, and it keeps me going through the long hours of eternity amongst The Damned.

THE END.

The City Of Omalas

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

“We have chosen you to be our Queen, for never before have we seen such physical and intellectual beauty amongst living beings. You are the Chosen One – come and live with us in Omalas, our beautiful city.”

 

I suppose I should begin my miserable tale by telling you how I got here in the first place. A long time ago – or at least it feels like a long time ago – I was taken from a lower plane: a planet called Earth.

I remember it well: I was walking along an empty road, gazing up at the thick white clouds that filled the sky that day. As I was gazing, an opening formed in the clouds, making a sort of portal, and I was dragged up into the air, unable to resist, towards that portal from which bright white light was issuing.

On the other side, I found myself in the centre of a large circular room. There were long windows all around, through which the purest light came pouring in and illuminating the white walls and floor.

Sitting in front of me, in a semi-circle of ornate and richly patterned silver thrones, were eleven men and women, all beautiful in appearance, wearing long and flowing white robes. Looking down, I saw that I too was wearing a white robe.

The man who sat in the centre of the semi-circle was the most exquisite being I have ever seen. His name, he said, was Lord Vertigo, and he was the leader of the Council of Omalas. I wish I could adequately describe to you his beauty, for such I have never seen. He had long, straight hair and high cheekbones.

But the colour of his eyes and hair were impossible to describe, as they always seemed to change. I hold his image in my heart always, and I hope that one day I will see him again.

But more of him later; I will move on with my story now. Lord Vertigo, the leader of the Council, said to me:

“We have chosen you to be our Queen, for never before have we seen such physical and intellectual beauty amongst living beings. It would be a shame for you to stay on such a lesser plane. You are the Chosen One – come and live with us in Omalas, our beautiful city. You shall be granted the gift of everlasting life, and have a palace of your own, and all the friends and lovers you’ve ever imagined. Come, live with us, and be our Queen.”

The way he spoke was supremely elegant, and his propositions irresistible. Of course, I was a little surprised to be spoken so highly of by such a creature as he, but naturally I accepted the offer, and requested that Lord Vertigo would visit me in my new palace.

I was transported to my new home in a golden chariot drawn by four horses. The city itself was grand and imposing, with huge white buildings that resembled seashells in their beauty and intricacy. The roads were wide and cobbled with stones that sparkled in the sunlight. The citizens of Omalas were otherworldly with their colourful robes and radiant faces. Youth and beauty abounded; of age and ugliness, there was nothing to be seen.

The grounds of my palace were entered through high golden gates, and then I was taken up a long and winding drive that appeared to be made of marble, snaking its way through a lawn of lush green grass. My palace shone like a pearl in the perfect pristine sunlight.

Inside, it was exquisite in every detail, from the master bedroom, presided over by a king-size four-poster bed; to the white marble bathroom, in which the bath had the dimensions of a small swimming pool; to the banqueting hall, filled with huge oak tables laden with all the food and drink you could imagine.

I revelled in my palace and my new-found glory. I twirled around and around in my cavernous ballroom, laughing with glee. All of this was meant for me. I suppose I’d always known, secretly, that I was the Chosen One.

I was glorious, I was decadent, I was truly alive! I threw masquerade balls and dinner parties; I surrounded myself with servants and courtiers, Lords and Ladies of the highest distinction. Two sleek black dogs followed me everywhere; they were my favourite companions of all.

I carried a looking-glass with me at all times so I could admire my beauty; this city was fair, and so were the people in it, but I was the fairest of them all, for I was the Queen.

In short, I had everything I had ever wanted, but for one thing, one thing in which I couldn’t seem to get my way. I couldn’t get the image of Lord Vertigo out of my mind, and I desired no other man, no matter how many eligible suitors I had. Many nights I implored for his company; I sent him letters by dove, but to none of these did he reply.

So, one day, I left my palace and made my way to the Council building in my horse-drawn chariot…

To be continued…

(P.S. Happy New Year to all my readers!)

Yule

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

This will be the last post on my blog this year, so I thought I’d make it a festive one. I am looking forward to Christmas this year; looking back on the past year, I have made some important improvements in my life, and I’m genuinely excited for the next decade, despite the political turmoil my country is in. I’ve always thought my thirties will be my most exciting decade, which sucks for my later ones, I guess, but I can be excited for it now, anyway.

So, I’m feeling better this Christmas than I was my last one. Here is a poem I wrote last December, which reflects the more sombre mood as that year drew to a close:

 

Yule

Sparkling lights on dark days. Grey mist and snow upon the hills. Fog and rain. Carols on the radio.

Frantic crowds, caught up in the national wave. Propelled by an imperative.

Christmas pudding by the fire. Walks through dark streets, home.

A collective memory, of childhoods long ago. The excitement of Christmas Eve. Grandparents coming around. Sitting on the carpet, expectantly. The smell of Granny’s tights.

To be that excited again…

Nostalgia for the years gone by. Gone, into sepia. Into dust. Into wine.

A time of looking back to the trodden path; it glistens, overlaid with dew of new days, obscuring the grain.

And looking forward, to the clock that chimes on New Year’s Eve.

This is the passing of the days; the ancient days. When all the world seems to stand still. In peace, in collective memory.

*
It’s a bit rough around the edges, I know. I might work on it a bit more. But I thought it was good enough to put up.

On that note, have a good Christmas, everyone, and don’t forget to crack open the Baileys! (Or other sinful beverage of your choice).

I’ll see you in the new year (2020! We’ll be in the future!)
X

There’s Not Long Left

dowson

There’s not long left of tears and laughter,
Not long left of wine and roses.

I wonder if we shall recall them after?
I wonder what the world will be like then?

Out of a dream we rise from slumber
Each and every day,
Knowing well our days are numbered,
And our paths will fold within a dream.

 

Inspired by Ernest Dowson’s poem, ‘Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam’.

 

Letting

Black bile is leaking from my eyes, my mouth;
I need to let it out onto the page;

This is the only way I can survive;
It is my curse; the price I pay.

A deal was made, long ago,
And the Devil said, “You will have to pay:
If you bleed for me you can have this gift,
Of Insight, and of Clarity,

“But first, you must bleed –
It is the price you have to pay.”

 

I apologize if my poems have been a little depressing of late. A lot of what I’ve been posting recently is old stuff, which is going to go into another poetry collection to be published by myself soon (more details coming soon). I’m a happier person these days, I promise!

Sad (God in the Computer Screen)

Thank you The Drabble! Also thanks to the 55 people who liked it. It’s things like this which give me a boost as an unknown writer.

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By morningstar124

I am so sad –
I squeeze my soul out for you to see;
Wring it out like a flannel;
Wring out those very words that haunt me.
Read my heartbreak, my memories –
How sad I am, how unique,
Living in this modern world
Where loneliness has swallowed me.

What more can I do, but
Reach God through my computer screen
And pour out the words for you to see:
Reflections of a bleeding heart;
A shattered mind –
Liberate in poetry.

             
N.A.J. Sloan is a writer based in the UK. She writes because she wants to create something beautiful.

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