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Chapter 1: Commitment “I’m Mr. Hartworth, the admissions director here at the Damon Academy for the Gifted.

Do you know why you’re here, Alice?” asked the man. He was wearing a white suit and a red bow tie. Alice nodded. Of course she knew, her mother was finally sending her away because she couldn’t deal with her again. “You’re here because you beat up your neighbor’s car with a baseball bat,” he went on as if Alice hadn’t responded. “And you understand that this is a boarding school and that there are rules against vandalism?” Alice rolled her eyes and nodded again. Did this guy think she was dumb? Alice hated condescending people. He continued to drone on. “You’re here just in time for your second trimester of sophomore year, the curriculum is similar to your old school’s in terms of what’s being taught now so you should be fine adjusting, academically. And you can call your mom twice a week, but you need to ask permission first,” Right, because I’ll be desperate to hear her voice, Alice thought. “Classes are in the far building across the great lawn from where we are now, the dormitories are to the left and the dining hall is to the right. Any questions?” He was leaning too close for comfort and was peering so deeply into Alice’s eyes that she flinched. “Yeah, I have a question: how long is this interrogation?” It was rude and maybe even savage, but she didn’t really care. The bumbling fool wasn’t treating her with any respect so why should she hold her tongue? He stood up from his chair. “I’ll get your mother so you can say goodbye. You will be lodging on the second floor right wing with the other sophomore girls. I think you’ll like it here.” He was so phony that Alice almost wanted to puke. She kept silent and started examining her split ends. After he left the room Alice pulled the hair tie off of her wrist and started french braiding her hair out of boredom. She had just finished when her mom walked in. Her mother stopped by the window for a moment before turning to Alice. She silently stared at her daughter before turning back to the window. What were these administrators thinking would happen? Tears? A big hug? Pity? Alice highly doubted any of these expectations would be met. If my mom had given a damn, I wouldn’t be here in the first place. These thoughts ran through Alice’s head as she stared at her mother’s back. She was stuck here and her mother had nothing to say. Her mother came over and gave Alice an awkward hug, murmured “Goodbye Alice,” and left the room.

Chapter 2: The Girls Dormitory and Mrs. Damon Mr. Hartworth entered again, Alice had to wonder why he was so jumpy all the time, did he have somewhere to be? She also noticed he wore a pocket watch instead of a regular modern-day wristwatch. Well that’s....old fashioned Alice thought to herself, more like weird though. Definitely more like weird. “I’m going to take you up to meet the rest of the sophomore girls,” Mr. Hartworth said, already walking. “I think you’ll find them...quite accommodating.” Well, gee, thanks. Alice thought, a bunch of screwed up kids like me who have probably done much worse than damaging private property. She could see her letter home now. Dear mom, I’ve made so many excellent friends here at DAG. My roommate is a rehab regular and my boyfriend is a rapist! I just love it here! Finally, they had reached the second floor. “I’m afraid two of the girls are otherwise occupied, one of which is your roommate, and not in the wing.” Mr. Hartworth said, distractedly. He glanced at his pocket watch. “Shoot, I’m late. Ummm, drop your things in the room on the left. Lunch is at 12:30 sharp. The Headmistress will see you in half an hour.” Alice stood in the middle of the hallway, confused. When did I ask to see her? Still, she supposed she should unpack and go to the Headmistress’ office, not that she knew where it was. She entered her dorm and found a vacant bed on one side of the room and on the other, the girl had a red checked comforter and two pink pillows stacked evenly. She seemed immaculate from what Alice could tell. Maybe a neat freak? Still, it was nice to not be rooming with a slob. She didn’t seem to have too many accessories, at least none that were displayed, but Alice did notice three different nail files on the girl’s nightstand and a stack of pony tail holders. Alice started to unload her bag, deciding to put only clothes in her dresser when 2 girls walked in wearing matching pleated skirts and sleeveless shirts. Alice could tell right away that they were cheerleaders. “Hi!” The first girl said brightly, “I’m Amanda, this is Brianna.” The other girl smiled in a way that annoyed Alice. “We’re twins in case you couldn’t tell.” “We thought it would be nice for us to welcome you–” “–into our school. We also wanted to know–” “–if you needed help unpacking. As cheerleader captains and leaders of the girl’s dorms–” “–it’s our duty to make friends. We have a lot of friends.” Uh.. Brianna said. Alice hated them already. Cheerleader twins who finished each other’s sentences? And she would never be able to tell them apart. As if responding to her thoughts Amanda said: “We’re identical. Not fraternal.” Brianna slowly turned to her: “Fraternal...?” Amanda patted her on the shoulder, “it just means not identical.” “Ohhhhh...” Brianna smiled. Alice rolled her eyes. “Well, um, thanks for all this but I really should unpack, I have to meet the Headmistress in...” Alice looked at the clock in the room, “ten minutes, oh my god. Do you know where her office is, by the way?” Amanda started examining her nails as if her show was over and now she didn’t need to be nice. “Top floor of the admissions building.” She turned, flipping her ponytail and walked out of the room and Brianna trotted after her like her little pet. Alice shuddered, glad to be rid of them and faced her bag. Ugh, the admissions office building was a walk and unpacking would mean ripping out all her stuff and she was just too depressed. She figured if she was going to spend the

rest of her high-school years in this asylum for freak shows, she better make a good impression on the headmistress; which started by being on time to this first meeting. So, she made her way to the admissions building. Once she came to the top floor of the building, she found the Headmistress’ office doors were made of glass so she could see everything that was happening. The Headmistress was sitting down working on her computer. She was wearing a black dress with black shoes. The only pop of color in her outfit was a bright red rose pinned to her lapel. Alice knocked and the Headmistress looked up. She nodded and smiled with red lips to let Alice know to enter. “You must be Alice, lovely to meet you.” She stood up and held out her hand. Alice shook it but said nothing. “Sit, please.” The Headmistress said pointing to the chair opposite her. “I’m Mrs. Damon.” “Hi.” Alice said. “Now, Alice, I called this meeting simply to welcome you to our school. I know you must feel strange and confused and maybe even a little homesick! But I assure you, The Damon Academy for the Gifted is a wonderful school dedicated to making it’s students feel safe and confident with their eccentricities and gifts. I also wanted to tell you a little about our curriculum.” “Um, ok.” She realized she was giving Mrs. Damon nothing to work with but that was too bad. She didn’t feel like faking a sweet disposition. “So, basically, our goal is to have students embrace what others may not about themselves. Each and every student at this academy is special in some way but needs help understanding exactly how. They have usually been forced to do horrible things to themselves and others around them in their previous journey. We hold group therapy sessions every Tuesday and every Thursday, a required class, at 4 in the afternoon in the Common Room. It is done by gender and grade. Our hope is that students will begin to accept their past mistakes and look forward to a brighter future now that they have come here and are now receiving the proper help from our skilled staff. We have all of the basic classes, of course. Math, Science, English, History, and one language per student. There is French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Mandarin. We have several study halls throughout the day but you must ask permission before going off campus, I’m afraid it can’t always be allowed depending on how you are coming along in therapy. It is required you take some form of physical exercise. If you play a sport or are on the cheer-leading team, then you are excused but otherwise there is: yoga, track, dance, or regular gym class. We also require each student to take one art. The options are: drama, music, and art. There are different types within those. Any questions?” Alice’s head was spinning. All of a sudden, it seemed like too much to process. “Um, where do I sign up for what?” “Each year and at the beginning of each semester we have two weeks during which time you can add or drop any classes, once you have the required signatures of the teacher and department head. But right now, I have all the required forms here.” She held out a clipboard to Alice. Please prioritize three art classes you would like to take and specify which gym you want to take. While we can’t guarantee you will get your first art, you will most likely get the gym of you choice since the classes are larger. Tonight before lights out, you need to come by here to get your complete schedule and uniform. Girls are to wear a black blazer and pleated skirt and a red tie with the school crest every day. Any questions, Alice? I know this is a lot to process.” “No. Thank you, Mrs. Damon.” “If you need any help assimilating, you can always come to me, Alice.” She nodded, dismissing Alice and started typing on her keyboard before Alice had even fully closed the door.

Chapter 3: Mina the Mouse Everyone was sitting down to lunch in the big cafeteria by the time Alice left the Headmistresses’ office. Luckily for Alice there were still people on the food line so she wouldn’t have to be embarrassed being the only person up there and maybe she’d make a friend before she had to start looking for a seat. “You’re new, right?” Alice turned around. A small mousy girl with brown hair was standing behind her. “I’m Mina. Mina Smith.” She held out her hand. Alice shook it and said, “Nice to meet you, I’m Alice.” Alice noticed there were three hairbands on her wrist. “Do you want to sit with me?” Mina asked. “Sure, I guess.” Once they were sitting, Mina started asking questions. “So why are you here?” “Vandalism and battery of personal property. You?” “I...I don’t like to talk about it,” said Mina as she started to scratch her left wrist underneath the table. “Okay.” Alice leaned forward and started eating. She hadn’t eaten that morning, refusing everything that her mother had put on her plate. Then they hadn’t offered her anything when they were interviewing her and now she was starving. “The food here is okay, much better than my old school’s. Do you know who you’re rooming with?” Alice found it difficult to both eat her grilled cheese and answer Mina’s question: “She was out when I came in. I’m on the first door on the left.” Mina looked excited: “That’s me! Wow, I’ve been waiting for a roommate.” Well, at least she didn’t seem too psychotic. “Cool!” Alice tried to sound cheerful. “Have you met anyone already?” Mina asked. “Yeah, the two cheerleaders,” shoot, she already forgot their names. “Oh, Amanda and Brianna?” That was it. “Yeah, A and B.” Alice responded. Mina shook her head. “I’m sorry?” “I just need to keep them straight in my head, so I’m calling them A and B.” “Oh. Anyway, there’s one person you should definitely meet. Come on. I’ll introduce you.”

Chapter 4: Party Animals Alice followed Mina across the Great Lawn and stopped behind the dormitories. “What are we doing out here?” Alice asked. “Shhhh. Just wait. She should be here,” replied Mina. “What? What are you–” Someone interrupted them. “Hey newbie.” He was smoking a joint and he blew a puff of smoke in Alice’s face before smiling crazily and walking away. “Who’s that?” “That’s Chirs Silver. Just ignore him; he’s harmless.” “Hey! New girl, you’re not supposed to be here,” another boy said. He didn’t seem stoned, but at the same time there was something off about him. “Who’s–” “Ross Cobbler. He’s crazy. He was sent here for being a strain on society due to his delusions, but now he’s almost always in a drug haze and is more manageable. He’s fine as long as you don’t provoke him.” “You want some?” asked a third boy, who was coming out from around the building. He was holding out a joint. “Or I have this if you like it better,” he pulled a vial of powder out from his jacket. “No thanks, I don’t do pot,” Alice refused. “This isn’t pot silly,” he responded gesturing to the vial, “this is better; it’s acid.” He stuck his joint back in his lips and said, “But if you don’t want it, I’ll find someone who does.” And then he was slinking back into the shadows. “That’s Lenny. He’s the resident drug dealer,” explained Mina. She turned to the boys, “Is she here?” They shook their heads. “She went off fifteen minutes ago. No idea where she went,” Joe said. “Maybe she got lost,” laughed Ross. “Shut it, Ross,” snapped Lenny. “She’s not here right now. Why do you want her anyway, mouse?” “None of your business, Lenny. Come on Alice, let’s go; we don’t want to be late to group therapy.” “Bye Alice,” the boys crooned, before lapsing into a fit of laughter, high on acid and pot.

Chapter 5: Group Therapy “So is group therapy coed?” Alice asked nervously. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be “opening up” to people like Ross and Lenny. “No, just girls. Boys have it at a different time in their dorms.” Alice exhaled. Alice followed Mina into the girl’s common room and sat next to her on one of the grey sofas. Other students started filing in. Alice watched as the twins A and B walked hand in hand and how most of the girls’ expressions were blank as if they were trapped in some limbo. A woman sat down in the black leather chair in the circle and took out a file, a legalsized note book, and a pen from her brown suitcase. She looked around the room, counting and marking things in the file. Was she taking attendance? Alice wondered. The woman looked down at the file, up, back down at the file, and frowned. She started shaking her head and clicking her tongue in disapproval. “Alright. Let’s begin. Girls, before we start the actual session, I’d like to say there is a new student with us. Her name is Alice. Please be kind and welcoming to her. Alice, I’m Dr. Thomas. Now–” A man barged in, holding a girl roughly by the arm. “She was out back again with the others,” he asserted before pushing the girl down in the seat next to Alice and leaving. The woman turned to the girl with a tight smile and said, “So nice of you to join us,” in a condescending tone. She started scribbling something down in her notebook. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” said the girl. Her voice was cool and confident, she seemed not the type to shout, and not the friendly type either. Alice could tell she wasn’t the kind of person who would dish out hugs and smiles whenever she met someone. Alice studied her. She was wearing the boring uniform of red and black, but she had somehow made it fashionable with black combat boots, a black beret with lace, and fingerless biker gloves. The girl turned her head at that moment and caught Alice staring. “What are you looking at?” “Nothing,” Alice stammered and quickly looked away. The girl made her nervous with her strong presence. “Thought so,” she said, staring at her nails. “Hatter,” Mina whispered. “this is Alice, she’s new. Alice, this is The Mad Hatter.” “Hey Alice, I’m not the welcoming committee, but if you want, later I’ll show you what the cool kids do to hang out.” “Okay.” Alice said, a little intimidated and a little excited. “Good. Now that everyone is here, we can finally begin,” said Dr. Thomas, putting her pen down. “We’re all here for one reason or another. Because of a mistake we made. Now, the reason we’re each here is confidential and is shared only voluntarily; these meetings are not about why we’re here. They’re about what we’re going to do now that you have seen the consequences of your actions and how you will change in the future. Who wants to start today’s discussion?” No one volunteered. “Girls, set a good example for Alice, please.” “Why?” one of the twins asked. Probably Brianna. “I agree. There’s no point in this,” interjected Amanda. Mina started scratching her wrist, but stopped when Dr. Thomas gave her a meaningful glance. Alice saw her mouth the word “hairbands.” Hatter was examining her nails again and adjusting her beret every so often, clearly bored. Alice kept glancing around the room, confused about what was really happening.

All of a sudden Mrs. Damon entered and everyone tensed and jumped out of their seats to acknowledge her presence. Alice hurried to join the others. The headmistress made a beeline toward Alice and handed her a letter. “This is for you, Alice. And don’t forget to pick up your schedule and uniform after this is over.” She looked around the room, walked over to Dr. Thomas and whispered in her ear: “I think perhaps you should speak to Madison again, she’s was being very difficult today.” Dr. Thomas began nodding vigorously and Mrs. Damon said, “That is all, I’m sorry for interrupting, doctor.” One she was gone, everyone sat back down, relaxing. “Girls, if someone doesn’t start, I’m going to have to pick someone.” Alice was beginning to really hate this woman. Sadistic didn’t even seem to cover it. It’s like she just hated being with the girls and was determined to make everyone miserable. The next 20 minutes were hell, but being new, Alice got to stay silent for the majority. And despite many attempts, alternating coaxing and threats, Hatter refused to partake in the discussion and Dr. Thomas finally gave up, furiously scribbled notes down no doubt about Hatter’s stubbornness and dismissed the girls.

Chapter 6: Acidic Tea Alice and Mina followed Hatter as she wove around the buildings, avoiding the light cast from the dining hall and common room. “Where are we going?” Alice asked. “Back to the drug lair,” answered Mina. “Well, don’t announce it to the whole world,” hissed Hatter as she looked over her shoulder. Alice stiffened. So those weirdos who she had met earlier were friends of ‘The Mad Hatter’ which meant she was a druggie, too. Alice just met this girl, who seemed respected and admired, or at least feared. She was being taken under her wing and now Hatter was going to find out she was an uptight prissy because she didn’t do drugs. Perfect. At the same time, there was something so charismatic about Hatter that Alice steeled herself and followed her. They quickly zig-zagged across the lawn, keeping their heads down. How long had they been walking? Somehow the walk back to the drug lair seemed to have lengthened since Alice’s last trip there. Was that even possible? Alice wondered. Hatter began walking faster and faster, causing Alice to speed up and consequently trip over a root sticking protruding from the grass. “Oh!” Alice cried as she hit the ground. Hatter turned around. “My, aren’t you a klutz. Come on Alice, almost there. Keep up and watch where you’re going.” Hatter wasn’t being mean, but she definitely was losing patience. They walked for a few more minutes before Hatter said, “We’re here,” with a grand sweeping gesture. “Lenny, Where are you? Have any more?” Joe Silver rounded the corner and grinned at Alice, Hatter, and Mina. “Hey Hatter, how’s it going?” “Fine, Silver. Now, where’s Lenny?” “You know where,” he said mysteriously before sitting down on a bench and staring into the sky. Hatter shook her head and called again, “Lenny, come on. I’m not kidding.” Ross came around the corner. “You’re late, Hatter. Good thing you didn’t miss all of the goods.” He had a glazed look in his eyes and then he saw Alice and ran away.

Chapter 7: Down the Rabbit Hole Who was she kidding? She was never going to feel at home here. Not in this strange place where no one was really friendly, where the only ones who seemed to see the school for what it was were high and most-probably not completely sane. And there was also some unspoken curse that made everyone cower from Mrs. Damon and Dr. Thomas. What was that about? She needed escape. The Mad Hatter was exactly that escape. Alice found her just where she knew she would. “Do you come here all the time?” She asked. The Mad Hatter didn’t look at her, she just smiled. Alice stared at her beautiful profile and ruby red lips. “Knew you’d be back sooner or later. I was just like you, once. But that was a long time ago. This is the only place I find solace.” Alice hesitated. Was she sure about this? There was no going back. Absolutely. What else could she do? “Can I try some?” Hatter held out a what looked like a sheet of paper. Alice was confused. Hatter rolled her eyes and demonstrated by licking the paper’s shiny side. When Alice first tried it, she almost spit it out immediately. Hatter laughed. “Well, that was a waste. You have to keep it down for at least five minutes for anything to happen.” “And what exactly is expected to happen?” Alice asked, a little scared. Hatter grinned, “You’ll see.” She handed Alice another sheet. “Hold your nose or something. Just for the first few times, after that you’ll get used to the taste.” Alice closed her eyes, held her nose, and licked the paper. She looked back and the Mad Hatter winked. And that was when she fell.

Chapter 8: The Growing and Shrinking Room Things floated all around Alice, she wasn’t quite sure what was happening. A piano playing a song, a shoe, some earrings. It was really a surreal experience. Suddenly she became worried. But no! I will surely be late for Math! She laughed to herself at that moment for she realized something. What did it matter if she went to Math? This was a once in a lifetime experience. Why were her thoughts shifting so quickly? At one moment, she had no idea what was happening and the world was blurry, at another it was so clear. She was caught between dimensions, somewhere in the middle of the earth, that was why she was falling! It all made sense. She could never explain what was happening to her to someone who had never gone through it. It was impossible. This was amazing, beautiful. Thank goodness she had gone to Hatter, what a life saver. She and Hatter must be great friends. Who was Hatter, again? It sounded to Alice like someone who put hats on other people, so weird. In and out, blurs and illusions. She felt sick. Let me go! Again, beauty, happiness. Sickness, pain. And with a thud she was on the ground. Alice looked down; she had just been spinning down a crazy hole with floating objects yet she was surprisingly not dizzy. She wasn’t wearing her uniform, instead she was in a light blue mini dress with black lace on the bottom and trailing down the front. The top of the dress was corseted in tightly, she wore fishnet stockings and blue high-heels. Alice reached for the top of her head and found a blue and black headband sitting atop her straight hair. “Where am I?” She asked no one. “Can’t tell you that!” A White Rabbit nervously looking around said. “When did you get here?” Alice asked, eying the creature. “Very late...Red Queen...must go.” That was all Alice could make of whatever the rabbit had said, then, it vanished. “What on earth?” Asked Alice bewildered. Suddenly, she noticed a table in the corner of the room with a slice of chocolate cake and a bottle of something on it. The cake appeared to have a message in black food coloring: “EAT ME.” She found herself surprisingly hungry so she took a bite of the sweet bread. It didn’t taste like cake though, it tasted like what she had just licked off the paper The Mad Hatter had given to her moments ago. Where was Hatter anyway? All of a sudden, she began to shrink, she was about the size of one of the dolls her mom used to buy her for Christmas as a child. She crawled on the legs of the table and hoisted herself up. She examined the bottle containing a mysterious substance, this one had “DRINK ME” written across the side. She was curious and figured it couldn’t hurt to try, so she crawled on the bottle and drank a drop. Suddenly, she began rising up, growing bigger and bigger and bigger. Her clothes must have been magical, because they fit her no matter what height she was. Alice put her hands on the walls as an attempt to stop herself from growing. Pretty soon, she did. From her new height, she could see a key on the table. Alice looked around the room and found it was surrounded by doors. Does one of them lead back? She wondered. But she didn’t want to go back, she couldn’t anyway, the hole she fell out of had sealed itself. She took the key in hand and started trying doors. Each one, however, she found the knob was far too big for the key. Then, she saw a tiny, tiny door towards the bottom of the wall. She bent down to try the key and it fit perfectly, the door opened. But in order to walk through it, she needed to be small again. Without a moments hesitation, she took a bite of the cake and shrunk again. For the first time in 3 years, she laughed with delight. Cautiously and curiously, she took a step outside.

Chapter 9: The Mushrooms and the Caterpillar Alice looked around. She had never seen a world where everything was so bright and shiny, it looked as if it was made of candy. There were mushrooms of green, purple, pink, and orange, leaves of pure gold, and fresh, green grass. Greener than Alice had seen in all her life. The best part were the roses, pure red. Alice examined them closely and realized the most extraordinary thing, they had been painted! Only, there was one rose, just one, that was white. Alice gasped. She needed red paint! It had to be matching! But to her surprise and happiness, a red paintbrush appeared before her. She painted the rose immediately and then everything was perfect. It was something she had control over and it pleased her to think she had solved something. It was like some sort of wonderful dreamworld. Suddenly, Alice felt light and happy, oblivious to her old problems and old, miserable life. Walking farther along the grass, Alice saw smoke. She cleared the air with her hand and looked at what appeared to be a caterpillar sitting on a brightly colored mushroom. He was smoking a hookah and his voice was slightly slurred. “Who are you?” He smiled sleepily. “Well, I don’t really know, I must say!” Alice responded, laughing at the foolish answer. “Explain yourself!” He suddenly became very fierce and Alice kept trying to put a name to that voice. “Alright, I’m Alice. Who are you?” He smiled mischievously. “You know me.” She laughed nervously. “No, I don’t. Isn’t this place wonderful?” She asked, eager to change the subject, she didn’t want to think she had been accociated with this strange creature before. The Caterpillar didn’t respond, he only said: “You’re particularly short, aren’t you?” Alice was slightly offended by this. “That’s all because of that cake I had!” The Caterpillar was intrigued, “Cake, you say? I don’t do cake, only this.” He pointed to the hookah and kept smoking. “Can you tell me where I am?” Alice asked. “Can you tell me where you were?” the Caterpillar replied. “I was at school.” “Well,” the Caterpillar looked around. “I can guarantee you that this is not your school.” “I know that!” Alice snapped. “But now I don’t know where I am. So can you please tell me where to go in order to find out?” “Aren’t you feisty.” He pointed his hookah to his right. “Follow that path. You’ll come to a fork in the road and there will be a sign for the “Hare House Windmill;” you’ll know it when you see it. I think you might find some help there. Then he blew a puff of smoke in Alice’s face and said, “Goodbye, Alice.” Alice started walking in the direction the Caterpillar had pointed.

Chapter 10: Frog Footmen and a Duchess with a Baby Alice came to the sign that the caterpillar had indicated and saw a carriage nearby. Inside the carriage, though, there appeared to be a house. How on earth could a full house fit into a carriage? wondered Alice. She was about to knock when two footmen appeared. Well...two frogs dressed like footmen. “Why on earth would you knock?” One asked. “I-I-I supposed I just needed some help, I thought someone could help me.” Alice stammered. “Knocking is a foolish idea! We’re here, for one and for two, no one could hear you!” The other footman said. That was true, it was extremely loud in there. Alice could hear screaming and crying and shouting. “I do need help, though, could you tell me how to get in if I can’t knock?” “I will sit out here until tomorrow.” The footman said. Suddenly, the door of the carriage opened and a plate came out skimming the footman’s head by centimeters. “Or perhaps the next day.” He continued as if flying Tupperware was something that happened all day and was nothing to be alarmed about. “Look, I need to know how to get in! What do I do?” “Anything you want,” the frog replied. “Oh, it’s no use.” Alice said to herself, “I'll have to let myself in.” Walking in, she saw a kitchen. There was a duchess nursing a baby and soup filled with pepper on one side of the room. Alice couldn’t help but sneeze. “Why all the pepper?!” She exclaimed, for even the duchess was sneezing. But over the baby’s cries (screaming, really) and all the sneezing, she doubted the duchess could hear her. Alice looked around the room and nearly jumped out of her skin for there was a cat sitting on the windowsill, grinning. A big, wide grin that scared Alice half to death. “Pardon,” she said loudly, “but why does your cat grin like that?” “Well,” said the duchess, apparently having heard her, “it’s a Cheshire cat.” The duchess started to spank the child violently, Alice was a bit appalled but went on. “I didn’t know Cheshire cats could grin, nor any cat for that matter.” “All can, most do.” The duchess said in the small intervals between screams. “I’ve never heard of one that could. I don’t know if that’s true for all cats.” “Then you know nothing.” The duchess said haughtily. Alice was extremely offended by this remark but said nothing. Suddenly, plates flew from every direction. Alice couldn’t even tell who was throwing them. “Stop, please! Could someone just tell me where I am?” No answer. All of a sudden, the duchess tossed the poor baby to Alice. “Nurse it, will you? I can’t deal with this pig. I’ve got to play crochet with the queen.” “The queen?” Alice asked, catching the child. “Yes, I’m late, as well as the white rabbit, have you seen him?” “No.” Alice answered. “Wait-who?” But the duchess was already gone. Alice held the child in her arms and wondered how the duchess could be so cruel to her own offspring. As she rocked it, she wondered if perhaps she could take it with her, it might be safer that way. And wasn’t it basically murder if she left it with these people? Poor, pitiful child. Alice thought. Suddenly, tears began to roll down her cheeks, she couldn’t say why. “What kind of mother,” she whispered to no one, “doesn’t love their own child?” It was at that moment that the baby decided to turn into a pig!

Chapter 11: The Cheshire Cat “What on earth?!” Alice exclaimed, almost dropping the piglet. She searched for someone to help but the only thing around was that bloody, grinning Cheshire cat. Alice turned back to the piglet, “I can’t help you I’m afraid.” She sobbed. Putting the animal down, she slowly walked away into the woods. What a strange place this is. Alice mused. A talking caterpillar who smokes and frogs for footmen! A pig baby and a smiling cat. She told herself the child would be better without her, she was in no state to care for it. She tried to remember when she first stepped in to this place and was so joyful and happy. The piglet was just a bump in the road. This place had to be fantastic, it was an escape from reality, not a reminder of it! Suddenly, a voice said: “Are you sure about that?” Alice turned around, “Who was that? Show yourself!” The Cheshire cat appeared, smirking wider than ever. “Sure about what?” Alice asked, slightly afraid. “Sure that this place is really as wonderful as you say? You do realize you’re talking aloud, don’t you?” Alice was taken aback. “No, actually, I didn’t. And yes! Of course it is! In fact,” she said, trying to prove the insolent cat wrong, “I shall call it ‘Wonderland’.” “Very well...” The cat replied grinning widely “Cheshire cat, where am I to go from here?” “That all depends on where you want to get to.” The cat replied, a twinkle in his...her? eye. “I don’t care where I go, I just want to end up somewhere.” “Oh, it doesn’t matter which way you go as long as you walk far enough.” Well, this is helpful, Alice thought sarcastically. She tried asking something else, “What kind of people are here?” “If you walk that way,” the Cheshire cat waved it’s paw, “there’s a hatter.” “A what?” Alice asked, could it be the hatter? “A hatter.” The cat replied. “And in that direction, lives a march hare. They’re both crazy.” “I don’t want to be with anyone crazy, though.” Alice said. “Oh, you can’t help that, if you’re here, you must be mad. We all are.” Alice couldn’t think of what to say: “How are you mad?” “Well, I suppose with help from the hatter, I got this way.” The Cheshire cat answered, turning upside down. “No! That’s not what I meant. How do you think you act mad?” “No one else can disappear like I do.” The cat replied and disappeared, just like that, leaving nothing but the grin left. Alice was dumbfounded. “Well,” she said aloud, strange things have been happening here so I suppose this is no stranger.” Just as she finished her thought, the cat reappeared. “I almost forgot to ask, what became of the baby?” “It turned in to a pig...” Alice said, trying not to seem alarmed. “Figures.” The cat said, and vanished. Alice began to walk the way the cat said the march hare lived. Better to be safe. She thought. It didn’t take her very long, soon she arrived at a house that certainly looked as if someone mad lived there. The roof was covered in fur and the windows were ears. She heard a lot of noise ‘round the back of the house so she started to walk there. When she came, she noticed a long table with many extra seats, looking set up for a tea party. The march hare was seated near the foot of the table on one side, and there was a sleeping dormouse on the other.

“Look! Look! Alice! AHAHAHAHAHA!” cried the march hare. The dormouse awoke at the sound of this.“Alice! It’s so nice to see you,” At the head of the table, sat a girl whose face Alice could not see, for the girl was looking down and on her head was a large, dark-red hat. Alice could see a blood red corseted dress that was similar to her own with black ribbon and lace trailing all over. Oh my god. Alice thought as slowly, the girl looked up, smiling. It’s her. “We’ve been expecting you.”

Chapter 12: Mad People, Mad Tea The hatter calmly offered Alice the seat to her right. The Cheshire cat reappeared at the other side of the table, opposite Alice. “She got sidetracked a few times, and was quite demanding at times, but as you requested, Hatter, I brought her here.” Alice turned to Hatter, “What is he talking about?” “We all knew you would be coming and we didn’t want to and couldn’t let you go wandering the country where the Red Queen could see you. Then it would be ‘off with our heads’ for all of us. And none of us wants that. You see, we try our best to stay under the queen’s radar, and you being new, is terribly dangerous for us and we need to monitor you.” Cheshire disappeared. “Care for some tea?!” The march hare asked, throwing a teacup at Alice. Alice ducked and looked at The Mad Hatter who was smiling creepily. “It’s empty,” she said, glancing at the teacup. “And I was actually wondering if I could play croquet with the queen. What do you mean, she would be ‘off with our heads’?” “She has a particular affinity for axes. Tell me, Alice, why is a raven like a writing desk?” The Hatter answered. “What?” Alice asked, rather puzzled. “Oh! A riddle. I love these.” She thought hard for a minute. “Your hair needs cutting.” The Mad Hatter said. “You have split ends.” “That’s rude,” Alice said, “for I was in the middle of thinking about the riddle.” She was also thinking about the fact that she was seated next to the Hatter, which was very curious considering she had seen her in another world only what felt like moments ago. Alice had wondered where Hatter was once she entered wonderland. Now she knew. Perhaps this was a good thing! It meant they could explore together rather than Alice on her own, wondering if this really was paradise after all. “What is the date?” Hatter asked, breaking the silence. Alice felt indignant, having been interrupted again. “Do you want me to solve the riddle or not?” The Hatter ignored her. “I should love to know the date.” She removed a watch from her hat that had been concealed by the fabric that wrapped around the base. Alice considered. “the 13th?” “Exactly wrong,” she said to Alice, then turned to the march hare. “I told you butter wouldn’t suit the works!” The march hare looked down. “It was the best butter.” He said quietly. “Yes, but crumbs got in as well.” Hatter said grumpily as Alice watched, completely lost. The march hare took the Hatter’s watch and dropped it into his teacup, gloomily. He took it out and sighed. “It was the best butter, you know.” “What a funny watch that is!” Alice finally said, “it tells you the date but doesn’t tell you what time it is?” “Why should it?” The Hatter asked, defensively, then looked at the dormouse. “She’s asleep again.” She sighed, pouring a little hot tea on the dormouse’s nose. The dormouse shook her head impatiently “Of course, of course, precisely what I would have said myself.” “Have you guessed the riddle yet?” The Mad Hatter asked.

“No, I give up. What is it?” Alice said, exasperated. “I haven’t the slightest idea.” The Hatter replied, smiling. “Nor I,” the march hare said, cracking up. “Such a waste of time!” Alice said, angrily, “to think of riddles that have no answer!” “If you knew Time like me, you wouldn’t talk of wasting it! It’s him.” Alice was extremely perplexed and a bit frustrated. “I don’t know what you mean.” “Of course you don’t.” The Hatter said. “I dare say you never even had a conversation with Time! “Maybe not,” Alice said, “but I know I have to make time and beat time for things.” “Exactly!” The Hatter replied, “We don’t get on anymore unfortunately, Time and I.” She said sadly. “Last year, there was a concert for the queen and I had to sing.” “Whatever did you sing?” Alice wondered, for she didn’t know The Mad Hatter could sing. Hatter burst into song: Twinkle Twinkle little bat, How I wonder where you’re at. “Are you familiar with it?” The Hatter asked. “A different version,” Alice replied, laughing. “However, I’d hardly finished the first verse when the Queen yelled: ‘How dare you murder time? Off with your head!’” “How savage!” Alice exclaimed. “You see,” The Mad Hatter said, “that’s why we must keep you away from the Queen, we barely escaped her the last time! And ever since that dreadful incident, Time won’t do a thing I ask! That’s why it’s always tea time around here, it’s always 6:00.” “Suppose we change the subject.” The march hare said, yawning, “I’m getting awfully tired of all this. Take some more tea, Alice,” pushing another cup in front of her. “I haven’t had any, yet, so how can I be offered more?” Alice asked, testily. “You can’t be offered less.” The Mad Hatter pointed out. “No one asked your opinion.” Alice said, suddenly angry at Hatter. Everyone was barking mad, and not necessarily in a funny way. Alice suddenly felt disconnected and strange. Like maybe she didn’t belong in this world and longed for normality. “A little grumpy for a grump.” The Hatter said and the march hare laughed uncontrollably. Alice wasn’t sure if this was a result of Hatter’s remark or merely because the march hare was insane. In any case, Alice was extremely offended and got up in great disgust. Perhaps she could do without Hatter after all. She wasn’t there to help Alice when she fell down the hole, and she certainly wasn’t making any sense and was being quite rude to Alice when she had begun to think they were friends. “Good. Bye.” Alice said, walking away. She half expected them to summon her back again, especially since they were supposedly trying to get her away from the Red Queen but she looked back to find them trying to stuff the dormouse into a teapot. Alice shook her head. She was certainly never going back again.

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