Down the Rabbit Hole
A/N: Probably the hardest thing for me to decide when I started writing this was the question if stories based off of Alice in Wonderland should be categorized as fanfiction or as an original. (And yes, I did use Yahoo Answers at one point.) In the end, I suppose it really doesn't matter, since this story is nothing but a mash up of the real Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll's Alice, Disney's Alice, and my own overactive imagination.
So enjoy. Feedback is always appreciated.
Prologue: Through the Looking Glass
"Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee…"
Alice sighed for the umpteenth time, squeezing her eyes shut and rubbing furiously at her temple.
Geoffrey Chaucer was dry enough as it was, without the complication of the original Middle English text. Her governess was sure to lecture herself hoarse if she could see Alice's current state. Her drooping head was being propped up by one arm, the underside sporting tell-tale ink stains. Her torso was slouched over the large mahogany desk, while her other hand was lazily thumbing through the pages of The Canterbury Tales.
The dusty grandfather clock in the corner seemed to have stopped altogether. Alice had long since forced herself to stop watching the hands, lest she be driven mad by the monotony. It wasn't the first time she felt regret at her decisions, which only led to her being bored to tears.
It seemed like such an adventure at first, sneaking away during tea time to visit her father at Oxford University. It was meant to be a surprise visit, shortly relieving him of his dean's duties, and perhaps even persuade him to come home earlier. Henry Liddell was mild-tempered enough, though he looked as if he could beat a student's bottom purple with a switch and not bat an eyelash. Besides, he was partial towards his second daughter, delighting at her pursuit of knowledge. The governess frequently spoke well of Alice and her educational progress, and Henry only encouraged the girl.
Unfortunately, Alice had caught her father just as he was exiting his office for a staff meeting. Promising to be back shortly, he had quickly left, leaving Alice to entertain herself inside her father's empty office.
At first, she was quite content to wait for his return, but the minutes were dragging on and she was fast growing impatient. The office was more stuffy than usual, especially compared to the beautiful spring day outside. If she craned her neck, she could see out the window and down to the large field below, where the students were taking advantage of the weather. Some were rowing out on the lake, while others were engaged in a game of cricket on the grass. The sky was a dazzling blue, sunlight filtering down through the wisps of clouds, and it seemed almost a sin to be cooped up inside.
The chair behind the large desk grew uncomfortable too soon, and it was all she could do to not accidentally smear ink all over her father's papers. Small dots of dried ink littered the polished wood surface, though piles of paper and cream-colored documents covered most of the desk. It was everything a dean of a college of Oxford's desk looked: a memo to another faculty member here, detailed seminary notes there, and of course, a stack of thick books teetering off the edge.
Alice groaned, realizing that Chaucer did nothing as a distraction and only served to increase her boredom. She eyed the pile of books where she had pulled The Canterbury Tales off in the beginning balefully, deciding that Newton's Principia Mathematica or the Greek dictionary weren't better alternatives.
She was growing more and more restless, the spring day outside torturing her.
Finally, she snapped the book shut, causing stray papers to scatter to the floor. She stood up, eager to stretch her cramped muscles and perhaps to amuse herself with her father's many trinkets on the bookshelves. The thought of visiting Mr. Dodgson crossed her mind more than a few times, for she could always count on him to tell wonderful stories in his spare time, but he was lecturing a mathematics class at the hour and it wouldn't do to disturb him. It was such a shame, as Mr. Dodgson was always pleasant company over tea.
Just the thought of the distinguished mathematics teacher brightened her mood. He would frequently visit the Liddell's when Alice was younger, never short on stories to tell to both her and her younger sisters. His tales would always be of fantastical adventures into strange worlds populated by even stranger creatures. He would no longer be the awkward Mr. Dodgson, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, but Lewis Carroll, a master storyteller.
Alice supposed she was too old now to sit at his feet, her seventeenth birthday was in a month, but she was convinced she would never be too old for his stories. As a family friend, Mr. Dodgson visited often enough, and he never failed to entertain. It was such a shame he never wrote any of it down, as she was sure they were good enough to be published. Perhaps one day, she would suggest the idea.
It wasn't long before Alice wandered over to the full-length oval mirror next to the bookshelf. She stared at her reflection critically, half-heartedly trying to will away the bored girl she saw and wishing an elegant lady to replace her instead. Giving herself a second look, she supposed she had certain charms. After all, her golden hair was the envy of her sisters, tumbling down in delicate ringlets over her shoulders. She was also fortunate to have inherited her father's blue eyes and his fair skin, easily turning a rosy red when she blushed. Her skirts today were meticulously ironed beforehand, and together with her new stockings and polished shoes, she did look more like a refined young lady than usual.
If only Lewis Carroll's stories were real, perhaps she would be a princess of an enchanted land instead. Adorned with silk dresses and a diamond tiara, she would be the gentlest in all the land, exploring her grand castle and waiting for her handsome prince to whisk her away.
Alice frowned suddenly, retracting her thoughts. What does a princess do all day anyway? The idea of being a princess was certainly grand, but it also sounded boring. How many other girls her age dreamed of being princesses? It wouldn't be nearly as fun if every girl were to be a princess.
Perhaps she was better off as a queen instead. They were more noble and magnificent. She could rule the land, and all the court's attention would be only on her. The silk dresses gave way to lavish royal gowns, and the tiara morphed into a jeweled crown. How much better would it be to have a just king by her side, to have scores of brave knights at her command, or to have the archbishop himself advising her? The ludicrous thought almost made her burst into a fit of giggles.
Nevertheless, she spun in a circle, imagining her father's office as a royal ballroom. The ceiling would be adorned with glistening chandeliers, the wooden floor transformed into polished marble, and hundreds of nobles dancing around her. The desk would be a fancy banquet table, with only the finest appetizers and ruby red wine in the kingdom. Of course, all the handsome princes and kings would come up to her, wishing for a dance with the fair queen. She couldn't stop another giggle bursting forth.
There was an old coat hanger standing next to the mirror. Her father seldom used it, only hanging up his academic robes and cap for use during graduation ceremonies. Her mother would be appalled at how dusty the robe had become. Alice suddenly reached for it, glad that it didn't smell of mothballs. She tugged the robe on, laughing at how ridiculous she looked in the mirror. The bottom half pooled around her feet, and the sleeves reached well past her fingertips. It would make a wonderful make believe train for her royal gown. She was well aware that anyone could walk in her father's office and gawk at her ridiculousness, dressing up in her father's academic wear and pretending to be a queen of her own fantasy dream. But she was having too much fun and slightly dizzy from all that spinning around from before to care. She reached for the cap, gently settling it on top her head. Of course, it didn't fit at all, threatening to fall down onto her nose. She pushed it up as best she could, imagining it to be a fine golden crown fit for a queen.
She spun around again, delighting in how the oversized robe billowed around her. Her mother deemed it proper that her daughters learn to dance, and Alice knew a few steps. She eagerly began a waltz, imagining a king in her arms, the royal insignias on his chest glinting in the light of the chandeliers. She could dance all night in his arms, his charming smile holding her captive.
The image only shattered when she stumbled, unaware of how dizzy she had become. In her eagerness, she had forgotten to spot, and now the room was spinning uncontrollably. She decided that an interlude was in order, an opportunity to rest from jumping and twirling about the room in an outfit that would seem like she had gone mad if anyone saw.
She twirled back to the mirror, wanting to catch one last glimpse of herself before she hung back up the robe and cap. Strangely, the mirror sported a light fogging on the surface, so that she could barely see anything reflected. It was a very peculiar phenomenon, since there wasn't any steam anywhere. She stepped closer, suddenly aware of just how dizzy she was. She should have rested more before twirling again, but it seemed that the more she rested, the dizzier she became. Soon, a pounding sensation erupted at the back of her head, and she clutched at her skull in pain. She really should practice more if only a few minutes of waltzing led her to be this disoriented. Her legs felt weak and exhausted, unable to support her any longer. Her head felt like it would burst any moment, and it was all she could do not to cry out. The chair was on the other side of the room, much too far, and there wasn't anything near to help steady or balance her. She stumbled again, opening her eyes just enough to see the room spinning in a frenzied state, all colors blurring together. She only started to panic when black spots appeared scattered across her vision. Her mouth felt dry and her tongue swollen. The rushing of blood to her ear was much too loud, like the sound of a waterfall.
Alice knew she was going to pass out. The black spots in her vision grew worse, and her head felt like a thousand rocks hurtling against her skull. She only hoped that she wouldn't crash into and break the mirror, but her legs had long stopped obeying her command.
The last thing she felt was cool glass against her cheek and upper arms, and then her world shattered around her, like the broken glass of a mirror.
And to think it had only been a boring day in an office.