Chapter Two: Sound of the Jabberwocky

Alice opened the door, now big enough for us to walk through. "Now we can go through!" she cried as she stepped through the doorway.  I followed cautiously, holding my hands out in front of me, taking in my new size. The tunnel was now cavernous, rising dozens of stories above our heads. As I entered the new room, I shielded my eyes from the brightness.  Everything was so...white. It was a stark contrast from the dark and dingy tunnel we had just come from.

"What just happened?" I asked her. "And where are we? What is this place?"

"This is Wonderland," Alice told me, her blue eyes now sparkling against the brightness of the room. "Odd things happen here, but don't worry.  You are fine.  Sometimes I change myself multiple times a day and look at me!" She held out the sides of her tattered dress as if putting herself on display.  "I'm still myself!" She motioned to the garden just outside the next door. "That's the Queen's garden.  She tries to grow red roses, but all that bloom are white ones, so she has the servants paint them red.  Let's go see!"

Before I could get a word out in response she was running across the shiny black and white tiled floor toward the garden.

"Wait!" I called after her. "I am looking for the Queen!  She has my friends!  I've come here to rescue them!" She did not respond.  Instead, she disappeared again through the glass doors to the outside.

I chased after her.  If she knew who the Queen of Hearts was, maybe she could lead me to her.  Maybe she could help me find Tanner and Lakeland.

When I caught up with her she was watching a man in a red servant’'s uniform struggle to paint one of the white roses.  Though he slathered the paint on generously, it just ran down the petals and dripped off the sides as if the flower was bleeding. The servant frowned and tried again with the same result.  Alice giggled. 

"What's so funny?" I asked out of breath when I finally caught up to her.

"The paint won't stick.  The queen won't like that!"

"Speaking of the queen…" I began, but Alice wasn't listening.  She darted off again and I followed, not wanting to get lost in this strange place all alone. 

"Can't you just...stay in one spot for a second!" I yelled after her. 

She stopped suddenly and turned around to face me. "But there's so much to show you!" 

But before either of us could say another word a great roar echoed through the air.  It filled my ears and vibrated my insides.  It was like thunder, all around us with no definitive source.

Alice’s bright eyes widened at the sound and she let out a squeal as she held her hands over her ears. It was the first time since I had fallen through the hole into this strange world that she actually seemed scared.  The girlish glee was now gone and before me stood someone who had learned to think on her feet.  She grabbed me by the hand and led me to a giant toadstool where we huddled for cover against the deafening sound. 

“What is it?” I yelled.

Her eyes no longer held the bright-eyed wonder they shone in the white room; it was instead replaced by a flat, worried expression.  “The jabberwocky!” she cried.  “It comes for us!  Don't move a muscle!” she commanded.

I couldn’t move even if I wanted to, for a monster was emerging from the rose bushes.  It was huge with scales and spikes and jagged teeth lining its enormous mouth.  The thundering sound coming from its mouth was another fright altogether, like a boom that shook you to your soul.  The servant that had been painting the roses dropped his brush and ran for it, but there was no escape for him.  The jabberwocky took one step with its enormous claws and with one snap, had crushed and swallowed the man whole. Bits of blood splattered from its mouth, spraying into the air.

I let out a gasp and Alice clapped her hand over my mouth and shook her head ever so slightly. “Don’t move and don’t make a sound!” The words were barely audible.  Her mouth was just centimeters from my ear and the whisper of her breath was warm and tickled my skin. I wanted to whack her away but I fought the urge. The jabberwocky looked in our direction hungrily.  It wanted more.  My first instinct was to bolt it out of there like lightning, but Alice’s hand was clasped so tightly around my arm it was beginning to bruise.

Her eyes pleaded with mine Stay here! Don’t move! And every muscle in my body tensed.  The creature began to make its way in our direction and I held my breath and pinched my eyes shut.  Slowly, way too slowly, the monster passed us without even looking back.  The ground trembled with every monstrous step and when the thing was finally far enough away that its footsteps sounded like distant rolling thunder I let out the breath I was holding and Alice released my arm.

“What was that?” I demanded. 

“The jabberwocky,” she said with a chill in her voice.  “It comes from the hills to feed and no one has been able to kill it.  They’ve been trying for generations.  It’s nearly blind, so it hunts by sound and motion.  But it is lightning quick when it’s hungry.  The only way to avoid it is to stay out of its path and keep still and quiet, like we did.”

I looked to where the servant dropped the paintbrush.  The ground was covered in red liquid but I could not tell if it was paint or blood.  He had tried to run and ended up as the creature’s lunch.  The same fate would have been mine if Alice had not stopped me.

“Thanks for saving me,” I told her.

The light had returned to her blue eyes and she smiled at me.  “Of course! That's what friends do, isn’t it?”

So we were friends, apparently.  I didn’t trust the girl completely after that tonic she had made me drink, but I think I understood her.  I thought back to my time on Neverland and how I had done horrible things just to keep the girls all together, to be a part of something.  She shot me a toothy smile and I almost felt sorry for her. From her raggedy dress, to her rail-thin frame, I got the impression that she had not seen the Upper World in a long time and probably didn't have anyone her own age to talk to down here. She had suffered from neglect and had not been taking very good care of herself.

"Listen," I began, hoping if I befriended her she would help me in return. "I am looking for my friends. Two girls my age." I pulled the ransom note out of my back pocket and unfolded it. "Do you know where I can find the Queen of Hearts? If this is her garden, she must be around here, right?" I showed her the note and her eyes darkened.

"The Queen of Hearts is a monster, just like that jabberwocky. If she took your friends, they're probably already dead."