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Wonderland: Lucy's Tale - Chapter Four

The girls are pulled into the world of brutal nightmares.

I awoke with my heart beating like a trapped dove, holding onto her as she shook and cried, sleep still claiming her. I could feel her own heart pounding as she began to thrash in my embrace, crying out so loudly that I was afraid she’d wake my father. Unsure of what to do, I tried shaking her awake and then, remembering a scene from a movie, slapping her cheeks until finally her eyes snapped open.

Her breath was uneven and ragged, and at first I don’t think she recognized me. All she could see was some stranger’s face, eyes frightened and unsure.

"Lucy?" she finally heaved out before collapsing beneath me. "Oh, thank god. I thought I was lost forever."

I held her, and told her that it was just a bad dream and that everything would be ok. How wrong I was. I had no idea nor of how soon we both would discover my error. Nothing would ever be the same again. If we’d known, neither of us would have gone back to sleep. Rather, we would have fought it tooth and nail until the morning sun rose once again. Ignorance is not bliss. It is the great destroyer. I comforted my friend as best I could and told her to go back to sleep, that I would watch over her and keep her dreams free of nightmares. It was a promise I couldn’t keep.

That last time I remember looking at the clock, it was shortly after midnight and I took the opportunity to turn off my lamp before shutting my eyes and drifting once more into the emptiness of sleep.

She was there to greet me. Alice. A dream Alice, of course. Or so I thought. And yet, I wasn’t me. I knew this, somehow. Knew that I had been left behind, or was perhaps trapped within someone or something else. Really, it made sense at the time. Dreams usually do, no matter how nonsensical they are in reality. My shrink, of course, told me that the dream stuff that I remember is my way of dealing with events too horrific to properly disassemble. Allegories and such. He’s wrong, though. Of course, I don’t tell him that, just nod and agree complacently and tell him that the meds that I’m not actually taking are helping me work through things just fine. He thinks he’s so clever. Little does he know that about half of what I reveal to him are lies.

Anyway, I’m getting off course here, mostly because going back to that night is painful. If I could, I’d forget it all together. Perhaps surgically remove the part of my brain in which the memory is retained with a sharp instrument. Perhaps then, I could forgive myself. Perhaps not. As I said, I was perfectly aware that I was dreaming and yet, I also knew that Alice had somehow joined me, or perhaps I had joined her. Strange as it might seem, we were together as one.

I have to admit that the picture in my head of what Alice in Wonderland should look like had more to do with Disney than with Carroll. Yes, I had read Alice’s copy numerous times with her, and yet the girl I had envisioned had golden curls and a powder blue pinafore, white stockings and slippers and an apron. The girl in Alice’s head looked nothing like that.

At 16 it had become obvious that Alice would grow into a beauty who would break hearts as well as be a magnet for the daggers of hate and envy cast by every girl who drew eyes upon her. Strange that I never thought of her in those terms. After all, she was my friend, and yet I understood that the potential for jealousy was there. In fact, it was ironic that she had more interest in the girls themselves rather than their boyfriends. Or at least in me. She had claimed, one late night while we were talking, that other girls didn’t really interest her. Never had. Nor had any boys. There was only me. I admit to feeling special, hearing that. After all, in Alice’s presence I often felt invisible. Over looked. It was nice to know that at least someone treasured me.

The dream…

As I said, Alice was not how I had pictured her. Dream Alice was not a picture from any storybook I had ever read. A simple white shift hugged her young shape, its hem ragged, the material threadbare. It was stained in places. Most obvious were the streaks of blood above where the junction of her thighs would be and the single bloody handprint over her tender breast. Her normally very carefully brushed golden locks were a tangle, held back with messily tied black ribbon. Matching ribbons adorned her neck and wrists as well.

She was barefoot. Perhaps that was why she shivered, for there was a chill in the air. Looking at her face, so lost and lonely, I decided that her trembling had little to do with the temperature. Something else caused it. Fear. Looking about the wood that we stood within, her feet upon a long unused path, I understood that primal terror that must have set its hooks into her heart. Shadows crept from tree to tree, stalking her. Stalking us, I realized suddenly, for was I not standing before her as well? She met my eyes, nodding apologetically, as if it was her fault that my soul was in mortal danger. I think I managed a dim smile and a shrug. Really, parts of the dream are very unclear and parts vivid in their details.

I do remember that I was dressed strangely as well. As she was dressed in white, so was I dressed in black. Only I was wearing a leotard, tights, and silken ballet slippers, their ribbons criss-crossing my ankles and calves. A choker adorned my neck as well, but not my wrists and my hair hung freely, the wind teasing it about my bared shoulders.

Everything was eerily silent. I could hear her every breath and I thought, if I tried hard enough, I might even hear the beating of her heart. And yet, as I said, there was movement around us. Shadows though, could do no harm. That was in my thoughts. Yet what caused the shadows? The canopy of trees hid the sun from sight and by the darkness that settled about us, I had to wonder if dark clouds hovered just beyond the leaves as well. It was then that I realized that, had I wished to, I could have taken a step or two back and blended into the dark woods and no one would have been the wiser. Alice, however, stood out like a beacon.

"Don’t worry." I told her, moving towards her rather then away where I would be safe. "I won’t leave you. Wherever this is, wherever you need to go, I’m going with you."

Oh, the smile that broke from her face, beaming madly from her eyes, it broke my heart a little. For the first time I got a glimpse of what it must feel like for her to love me, knowing that I might never return that love. I felt a sudden surge of emotion for her that nearly brought me to tears and something within me shifted. That’s the best way I can describe the feeling. I didn’t suddenly fall in love with her, but the possibility of it happening was there. I think she saw it too, or felt it perhaps, for a shadow passed over her face, one of infinite joy and infinite sadness as well. She knew, well before me, what was to come and she must have made the choice to shield me from that knowledge, so great was her love.

These revelations weren’t something I was made aware of until much, much later. But looking back, the signs were there, had I only the foresight to see them. Could I have changed anything had I? Probably not. Still, it’s hard not to feel the cold grasp of guilt when recalling that night and the nights that followed.

We stood there, our gazes locked upon one another, and I asked the obvious question. "Shouldn’t we follow the path?"

Alice smiled, stepped forward, and took my hand with a nod. Wordlessly, her fingers entwined with mine, she took the lead and together we navigated the woods. Along the narrow patch, thorns and branches grasped lazily at us, leaving our bare arms and her bare legs marked with scratches. Once or twice we had to pause when her shift had become ensnared by wily hook covered vines. The woods seemed to go on forever with no sign of life, save for the shadows that seemed to keep pace with us and our own quiet footsteps and occasional curses as razor sharp leaves left their mark upon our tender flesh.

After what felt like hours, finally something within the dreamscape changed. By that time, we welcomed it, having grown tired of the endless trees. A sign. Not some sort of portent, but a literal sign in the form of a flat piece of wood nailed to a stake and driven into the ground.

BEWARE it read, in large blocky letters. We both paused, hand clasped, and Alice read it out loud as if to affirm that we both were seeing the same message.

"Beware of what?" I asked. I wasn’t looking for an answer as much as I just needed to reassure myself that I was still capable of speech.

"I don’t know. Perhaps we will find out. Shall we continue?"

I shrugged, looking back the way we had come. This time, it was I who set out first, pulling her gently along, her lower lip pulled between her teeth, her eyes scanning the dark woods to either side of us nervously.

TURN BACK read the second sign. DANGER read the third. We paused to read them and then simply ignored them, continuing on until we came to a fork in the path. There we stopped, each of us staring down a different path, each looking identical to the other.

"Which way?" Alice asked, and I replied with a shrug. It was her dream, after all. I was simply a passenger. At least that’s how I viewed it. She nodded as if in agreement with my unvoiced comment.

"Right," she said, and once again, we traded places, her leading me. At least, that’s how she meant it to be. A voice from above stopped us both in our tracks, our chins tilting upwards in tandem as we sought out the intruder.

And there he was, just like in the books, the Cheshire Cat. His fur was striped black and white like a tiger. Other than that, however, he resembled a normal house cat if you discounted his eerily glowing green eyes and his all too human grin.

"I wouldn’t go that way if I were you. In fact, if it was me, I’d turn around and go back to where you came from." His purr was seductive, his voice soft and I instinctively trusted him. It was as if he’d cast some sort of enchantment upon me.

"Let’s go back, Alice." I’d stopped in my tracks, my hand still in hers, pulling on her arm even as I spoke.

"Listen to your sister," the cat said, still grinning down at us.

"She’s not my sister. She’s my… friend." The pause was long enough that I was able to read what she wanted to say but was too afraid to voice it out loud. Lover. It was obvious to me, especially when she glanced at me, her cheeks pink with embarrassment. "And why should we listen to you?"

"Because, Sweetness, I know what lies down this path. You don’t want to take it. If you must be stubborn, then at least take the left fork. Madness lies that way, but at least it’s a madness that you can endure."

I couldn’t help but think how surreal this all was, wondering if I was dreaming that I was in her dream or if I actually was in her dream, or if either of us were really dreaming and maybe, just maybe, this was really happening. Not that it mattered. Whatever the truth of the matter was, it was all very real at the moment and I found myself, for whatever reason, trusting the cat’s words. There was no way I was going to let Alice take the right fork. Madness, I could live with. Something told me that what lay the other way was much, much worse.

"Come on." I said, taking the initiative before I could be talked out of it. Nudging her aside, a firm grip on her hand, I started off at a fast pace down the left fork leaving her nothing to do but follow me. We only paused once, both of us turning our heads at the sound of feline snickers, our gaze travelling up into the shadowed canopy to find only a pair of bright emerald eyes and a fading smile where the cat had been. Soon, those too were gone and we were once again alone together.

"Well, I guess you’re the leader now, Lucy." With a shy smile, she took the opportunity to lean in close and kiss me on the cheek. I’m sure that I colored at the touch of her lips, tender and yet fiercely wanting. Even after they left me, I felt their feather light touch upon my cool flesh, warming me and at the same time reminding me of how cold it was in the dreamscape.

"Good," I replied, smiling shyly as I set off once again down the path the cat had suggested, hurrying the pace a little as if to leave behind the temptation to retrace our steps and go the other way. "You should know what comes next. In the book, I mean." I’d only said it as a way to make conversation, and yet once out, I realized that at least we had some sort of compass for what might occur in her dream. Lewis Carroll’s story. It might be not be wholly accurate, but parts of it might still parallel the actual book.

Alice must have made the same realization, spurred on by my thoughts, for she didn’t hesitate a moment in her answer. "The Mad Hatter’s tea party."

I thought about that for a moment, and grinned at her, squeezing her hand in mine. "Seems harmless enough. Wasn’t there cake or cookies or something and a cute little mouse that lives in the sugar bowl?"

"And the March Hare and riddles and songs." She shook her head, a wry smile turning up one corner of her mouth. "None of which make much sense."

"And un-birthday presents!"

Alice laughed at that, shaking her head. Oh, the sound of her laughter was wonderful, seeming to chase away the shadows. Perhaps they had simply reached an unseen border or maybe they tired of tracking us endlessly. I prefer, however, to believe that the sound of her laughter banished them and they fled fast and far to trouble us no more.

"That’s just in the Disney version, Lucy. In the book version, the only song is twinkle twinkle little bat! How I wonder where you’re at! Up above the world you fly, like a tea tray in the sky."

She didn’t sing the words, merely recited them which was a shame. She had a beautiful voice and was a natural singer, or so I thought. Good enough to be in the school choir, had she wanted to be, and I’d always enjoyed just listening to her when she sang along with records in the privacy of her room.

The path widened as we walked along. Soon we were able to walk side by side, swinging our arms in tandem, hand in hand as we went. Overhead the trees opened up and the sun crept in enough to chase off the last of the darkness from our thoughts. We were on an adventure now, and if we weren’t quite sure when it would appear, at least we were fairly certain of what we would find ahead of us. A tea party.

And, as it turned out, we’d guessed right. Before long we heard the sound of voices. Not the exact words, perhaps, but most definitely voices, punctuated by laughter and shouting. With a shared grin, we picked up our pace, until we practically skipped along the path, stopping only when it ended, presenting us with a sight that to this day is etched into my memory, no matter how hard I try to banish it.

At 16 my imagination was still fairly young, fed mainly by movies, television and books. The sight that presented itself as we came out of the woods was beyond imagination. It was horrific. I recall wondering if this had been some sort of sick joke on the cat’s part or if what had lain down the other pathway could truly be worse. Alice must have been thinking along the same lines, for she uttered an anguished gasp and the grip on my fingers turned painful as she stepped back. In fact, had I not been there, I believe she would have fled back down the way we’d come, never once looking back. Because of that, In some ways, what happened next was my fault.

"Oh, goody! Guests!" Brayed what must have the Mad Hatter himself. That set off a chorus of cheers and leering comments from the rest of the party that filled the clearing. Nothing in my wildest dreams could have prepared me for what happened next.

As I said, if I could, I would erase the memory and yet to this day it stands fresh in my mind. It was the vilest of scenes, pornographic in nature. Lewdness of the worst kind ran rampant about the long, cloth-covered table that was the centerpiece of the party and I am ashamed to say that I can only describe it using the most vulgar of terms.

Men and creatures who would be described best as half-man and half-animal, were clustered about in various stages of undress, some completely naked, their members swollen and upright as if they wielded swords or, in some cases, spears between their legs. In some instances they were bent at the waist while someone thrust themselves into their bottoms from behind or on their knees taking them into their mouths. There were no women present with ourselves as the exception, something I didn’t fully grasp at first.

Alice had. She’d always been more perceptive than me about some things. Not that it made any difference. They’d already spotted us, after all, rooted in our tracks as in sickened amazement as the orgy went on about us.

"Fresh meat!" a half horse, half man creature cackled as he galloped on two legs towards us, his tongue lolling from his mouth almost comically, his penis bouncing against his belly.

And suddenly, we were surrounded. They swarmed us, forgetting what it was they were doing, forming a circle about us, their ‘weapons’ trained upon us as we stood horrified and speechless. I learned the true meaning of selflessness that night, wishing with all my heart that I could have traded places with my friend as they took her and used her in ways that I don’t wish to dwell upon. I will be forever more haunted by the visions of what she endured while I looked on, helpless to do anything but watch in silent horror.

As I said, they surrounded us, jeering loudly, making vile comments about what they would do. Helplessly, we clung to each other’s hand, frozen with fear. Even had there been an opening within their ranks I don’t think we could have taken advantage of it. Then, it began. I can still smell the stink of the two that grasped me by the arms, tearing us apart. At the loss of contact with Alice, I began to struggle, kicking out and screaming, all to their amusement.

Upon my right was a creature, naked and hairless, his chest shining with the gleam of perspiration. His penis was enormous, at least in comparison with most of the others. Having never truly seen a naked man before, I had nothing to compare it to. His legs bent backward at the knee and ended in cloven hooves and he had the head of a Bull, horns and all. He even had a large gold ring in his nose as well as one ear and both of his nipples. His chest and arms were massive, those of a body builders and his grip was painful as he pulled me apart from my companion.

The other creature was just as strange. Covered with hair, he looked vaguely simian with arms that seemed too long and legs that seemed too short. He even had a tail which moved with a life of its own, caressing my thigh as he and the bull-man marched me towards a trio of half men who were busy erecting a wooden stake, driving it into the ground with a savagery that made me tremble with fear. I twisted and turned, trying to catch sight of Alice, but she was lost to me in the crowd.

Despite my best efforts, I soon found myself helpless, bound to the stake, my wrists tied behind me. Rope circled my body, holding me fast so that all I could do was wiggle my feet. They’d even stuffed a foul smelling napkin into my mouth, holding it in place with rope that both secured my head and kept me from making any but the most muffled sounds. All the while the monkey-man fondled me, his hands groping my breasts as his tail continued to stroke my thighs where they were unbound. Tears of frustration and terror streaked my cheeks, making my vision blurry.

From time to time I caught a glimpse of Alice, surrounded as she was by larger creatures. They seemed to be playfully fighting over her and every once in a while I would hear her cry out loud as they tore at her shift. Soon, she was naked, that much I could tell, her skin marked with red blotches where they had grabbed at her, twisting her flesh painfully, touching her in the most intimate of places. At one point I got a good glimpse of her face, our eyes meeting. I fought against my bonds with renewed vigor, but to no avail as I saw the light within her slowly fading. Then, there was a sudden silence and the crowd stepped back, leaving her to kneel upon the well-trimmed lawn.

"Well, well, well," decreed a voice that seemed on the verge of laughter. "What do we have here. A party crasher? Let me see your invitation, little girl."

I was able to turn my head just enough to see a tall man in a velvet green suit sitting at the head of the table. He wore a matching top hat that hid his face in shadow, and yet I could see the glow of his bright green eyes and his mad grin. My thoughts went to the cat that we’d met earlier, remembering how his eyes had shone likewise. Were they one in the same? Somehow I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew him or had at least seen him before. As with the others, he seemed intent upon ignoring me, despite my pitiful struggles. I was inconsequential. Alice, as in waking life, was the one they’d taken notice of.

My heart went out to her as she made an attempt to be brave, rising to wobbly feet, hands trying to cover herself as best she could.

"Let us go," she said. I think it was meant to be a command. To my ears it came out as a desperate plea.

The Hatter, for that’s who I was convinced it must be, simply laughed, his head slowly nodding from side to side. "And spoil my party? Oh, I think not Miss Alice. I have other plans for you…."

And then, it began in earnest. With a word, he set the beasts upon her while I was watched helplessly. Not that I wished to, but I soon found that every time I would squeeze my eyes shut against the horror perpetrated upon my best friend, the monkey-man would dig his sharpened nails into me, sometimes into my breasts and sometime between my legs, tearing though my leotard and tights and raising crimson pearls of fresh blood upon my fair skin, not relenting until he was satisfied that I was watching once again. Soon, I grew hoarse, my muffled screams drowned out by the laughter of the mob as they used her over and over. Over the next hour Alice was violated and again and again by one or more of the vile nightmarish creatures.

At one point she was forced to kneel and service the bull-man who had bound me to the stake with her mouth. I watched, unable to do anything to stop him as he thrust himself into her open mouth. Finally, he groaned loudly and stiffened, pumping her full of milky white seed that ran down her chin and dripped onto her breasts and belly. By the time they’d all sated themselves, in fact, she was covered with the stuff. More of it was pooled on the ground, forming an ugly stain upon the manicured grass.

They left her there, some of them crawling under the table or taking seats at it, seemingly spent and intent upon sleeping. Soon, the sound of snores filled the air, leaving Alice and I alone. Even the monkey man had finally had his turn, leaving me in peace as he used his prehensile tail on her. I wonder if there is some rule about dreams that you don’t have to eat, shit, or pee. It applies to puking as well. Had I been able to, I would have emptied the contents of my stomach several times, so sick with horror was I. Instead, I waited until I woke up, leaning over the edge of the bed, frantically searching for the wastebasket so I could spew the contents of my stomach.

She held me back, tenderly kissing the back of my head in silence as I threw up and then wiped my mouth clean as I lay there exhausted in bed. Staring over at her, I began to cry. She looked so small and fragile lying beside me in my twin sized bed. Her face was wan and tears streaked her cheeks in the moonlight that had decided to grace us through the gap in my curtains. How long we stared at each other I have no idea. I remember that her eyes were full of horror, the kind that can never be fully extinguished and yet she lay there, stroking my arms, telling me that it was just a dream, that it would be all right. I should have been the one comforting her and yet, I was powerless to do anything but weep, gathering her up in my arms and holding on to her as if both our lives depended upon it.

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