The Nineteenth Alice by Adison Linder

Once upon a time, in a vast abyss, there was a dream. It was a small, insignificant dream, so much that the other dreams inhabiting the void ignored it completely. Nobody bothered to ask who dreamed it, or what it was.

The tiny dream in question floated aimlessly in the corporeal darkness. It noticed as one by one, the other small dreams began to disappear, fading slowly from its vision, as if they were being brought farther and farther into some netherworld. Bigger dreams, however, stayed there, levitating silently, surrounded by an aura of pompous pride and arrogance. This made the dream question the stability of its own existence.

I am but a vision of the night, it thought, an insubstantial wisp of desires and fears. But I don’t want to disappear. How can I make people dream of me again and again? The little dream drove itself deep into thought, and after what seemed like an eternity of floating in the black depths, surrounded by its disappearing brethren, found a solution to its dangerous predicament.

I will make humans dream of me. I will let them create my world, and then… I will trap them within their own creation. An endless supply of dreamers… I’ll never disappear.

And the dream did just that. It lured humans in with promises and let their madness warp them until they became estranged, and after they perished, pulled another poor fool into its trap. The once small dream became massive with the fantasies that it stole from its victims, and then with the thoughts of others about itself. For the girl who’d created it, an imaginative child named Alice, had told a family friend about her strange vision, and he had published a book about her and her dream. From the founder, the victims of this dream became known as Alice’s, but none of them were able to escape like their predecessor. The tiny dream soon became the most famous of all.

It was called Wonderland.

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She walked among the rhododendrons, smiling as she breathed in the scent of roses and fresh dew lacing the petals. The grass was moist beneath her bare feet, squelching with each gentle step, giving way to the mud obscured underneath. The girl stroked a white rose, caressing the soft corolla, breathing in the fresh, sweet perfume that was released. She found herself wishing that it was red.

As she moved on to the part of the garden that held her favorite scarlet beauties, a sudden rustling from the bushes caught her attention. The girl spun around, causing her white dress to flare out around her, and narrowed her eyes at a patch of moving leaves. A pink, tender nose poked out and sniffed, before coming forward and revealing a sleek white rabbit. She relaxed. The creature looked around for a moment, then locked its ruby eyes on her. It lifted its paw, and beckoned her to follow. The girl stared as the rabbit turned on its heel and bounced in the opposite direction. Smiling, she followed, not noticing that the white rose she had been examining earlier was being dyed a dark crimson from invisible droplets.

The lacy hem of her dress trailed behind her as she ran through the forest, nimbly leaping over roots and rocks. The crisp smell of wet earth and sap reached her nose. The girl grinned and let out a whoop of joy as she sprang over a fallen birch. The white rabbit led the way, trailing ever so slightly to let the child catch up with its long bounds. She didn’t notice the small cottage disappearing completely through the thicket.

Just then, the rabbit disappeared from sight, and the child slowed, smile dropping off her face. She cautiously approached the spot where the rabbit had stood. A burrow was set into the ground, dark mouth gaping up at her. From it emerged a smell like overripe citrus, bitter and rotten. The tunnel was small; it was too tiny for a mature adult, but just large enough for a petite, slender girl. Gathering her courage and curiosity, she got down on her hands and knees and crawled down the rabbit hole.

It was too late to turn back, and the girl began to fall…

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The screech of guitars and drums pierced through his headphones as he quietly slunk through the halls, simultaneously avoiding eye contact with and touch, an impressive feat in the crowded corridor. The boy clutched the strap of his messenger bag tighter. He hated the smell of people: the scent of sweat and salty tears, the inescapable iron tang of blood, the vanillas and roses and musk mingling together in a singular nauseating fume.

Three more years, the teen reminded himself. Only three more years. But after, that… To be honest, he didn’t really know.

He turned up the volume.

As the boy reached his locker, he felt fingers tapping on his shoulder through his black hoodie. Flinching away, he turned wide eyes and saw his lab partner grimacing.

“I’m so sorry, I forgot,” he apologized profusely, fiddling with the band key chain attached to his backpack. “I-I was just, um, wondering if you have the bio notes from Li?”

He stared for a moment, before nodding, motioning for him to stay there. The boy spun the combination lock. Reaching into his locker and rummaging around, he finally pulled out a sheet of lined paper crammed with diagrams and impeccable handwriting. Gratefully, the other student took it and snapped a photo with his phone.

“Thanks,” he smiled and waved, vanishing back into the mob. The teen nodded again. The scent of aloe and iron still lingered.

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His pencil moved across the paper with a life of its own, alternating thick and thin lines with a close precision. Jagged lines were paired with thick smoke. An image emerged on the sketchbook paper, twisted and frightening. Swiftly and carefully, his skilled hand created bars, bleeding roses, a maniacal smile, wraiths reflected in a frightened eye. The pencil stopped. He opened his eyes. Before him was an intricate drawing of the entrance to a prison cell, the inside shrouded with darkness. Bushes of rhododendrons surrounded the barred doorway, liquid pooling in the centers of the flowers and slowly dripping toward the ground, dropping onto a path leading straight to the inside. Behind the cage, a feminine shadow stood clutching onto the bars with one stained hand, tipping its head with defiance, an unhinged smirk plastered on its face and a glistening sword in its hand. The boy shuddered.

Frowning, he flipped through the seventeen other disturbing images that inhabited the pages. A few weeks ago, he’d found while closing his eyes, his hand had sketched a picture on its own, without any prompting from its owner. The product was a young man with a mohawk, silver chains enveloping his wrists, black graphite tattoos running up his arms, and a rifle clutched in his arms. His eyes were wide with fear; blood spurted like a fountain out of his mouth, and piercing the middle of his chest was a clover shaped spear. The drawings usually followed a pattern of depicting the dead, the dying, or the demented. The teen guessed this newest addition fell in the last category.

Suddenly, a chill ran down his spine. Quick as a whip, he stood up, tense and ready to run. Behind the yew tree he’d been laying against a small white rabbit sat, staring at him with ruby eyes. The boy eyed it suspiciously. He, clutching his sketchbook protectively, stepped around a decorative rock as he turned to leave. In a few leaps, the lagomorph skidded in front of him, cutting off his escape route. Its ruby eyes burned with what he could’ve sworn was malice. The overwhelming scent of bitter grapefruit, nauseating,  flooded his nose and mouth, and he gagged. Frantically, the teen stumbled backwards, holding his hands tightly to his face. The hare stood back on its back legs, its front paws pressing together in an imitation of a clap. Acrid citrus swirled around them in almost a tangible tornado. The ground began to shake violently, knocking the boy off his feet. His head hammered down onto the large stone. An ear-splitting ring resounding in his temple; he lay in a daze as the world began to go blurry. He watched in horror as cracks began to appear in the previously pristine grass lawn, and a huge fissure appeared in front of the rabbit, spreading quickly and surely in his direction. When the seemingly bottomless pit finally reached him, he was nearly unconscious, still holding onto his sketchbook for dear life. The earth caved beneath him, and he tumbled into the endless abyss. Another Alice taking the trip down the rabbit hole…

 

 

Bio: I’ve been writing fiction and poetry since second grade. Poetry was some of the first creative writing I ever did, so it has a special place in my heart.