Alice in WonderlandChristmas
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Into The Abyss
It was many years later when Alice had her next adventure, and whilst she was quite surprised to be having one at all, after the passing of so many years, she was even more surprised to see that she was a child again, no older than when she had first entered Wonderland and slipped through that fascinating Looking Glass.
“How curious,” she whispered, trying to recall the child she had once been.
“You took your time getting here,” said the White Rabbit who suddenly appeared in front of her.
“I beg your pardon?” Alice replied, remembering how rude he could be, if he felt so inclined.
“I said you took your time getting here. You should have been here fourteen years ago,” the Rabbit huffed indignantly as he began hopping quickly away from Alice.
“But,” Alice spluttered, running after him, “I have no idea how I arrived, let alone why I am so late!”
“We accept no ifs or buts, here – you should know that by now,” said the Rabbit, as he opened a door which had appeared as suddenly as he. Stepping through, he said, “Hurry up, please don’t dawdle.”
As she followed him through the doorway, trying her to keep up with the fast-hopping Rabbit, Alice surmised that he must have got out his bed on the wrong side, this morning, to be so grumpy on so wonderful a day. And it really was a wonderful day, with a warm sun shining brightly upon them.
‘I wonder where I might possibly be?’ thought Alice, as she admired the pink forget-me-nots skirting a winding path before her. “Am I in Wonderland?” she asked, just as another door, the same as the first one, appeared.
Giving Alice a most peculiar look, the Rabbit said, “Of course we are not in Wonderland.” Opening the door, he told her, “We are on the top of the world.” Having said that, he scurried off, hopping down another winding path, also bordered by pink forget-me-nots.
“The top of the world?” Alice cried out, quite in surprise. “Why, that’s impossible!”
The Rabbit stopped hopping. Turning around, facing Alice, he said, “Then how can you be here, if it’s impossible?”
Flummoxed by the Rabbit’s question, Alice found herself struggling to find a reply. The only thing she was able to come up with was, “I bet you are mad!”
“That all depends,” the Rabbit replied quite matter-of-factly.
“It all depends on what?”
“On whether you mean mad or mad.”
“That’s silly,” said Alice. “They both mean the very same thing.”
“If you were mad number one,” said the White Rabbit, with full conviction of the soundness of his case, “and someone happened to tell you that you were mad number two, you might be very mad indeed, at so fundamental a mistake.”
“But I’m not mad!” Alice insisted, becoming ever more frustrated at so silly a conversation.
“How do you know that you aren’t mad,” asked the Rabbit, who appeared to be enjoying flummoxing Alice, so “when you can’t tell the difference between mad number one and mad number two, I might ask?”
“I just know that I’m not mad!” Alice insisted, stamping her foot, displaying her annoyance at what she considered was questionable logic. Changing the subject, from her possible madness or claimed sanity, Alice informed the Rabbit that another door had appeared and was awaiting his attention.
Turning round, the White Rabbit took hold of the handle and tried to open the door, but it remained stubbornly shut.
“Might I try?” Alice asked, feeling very un-mad. Standing away from the door, the White Rabbit said nothing, but his pink, beady eyes watched her intently.
The door opened easily for Alice. Feeling vindicated, she said, “Could a mad person have done that?” Without waiting for a reply, she stepped through the doorway and fell into a gaping hole on the far side.
“No, they mightn’t,” said the Rabbit, laughing as she disappeared into the hole. “But would they have fallen down there?” Laughing again, he hopped through doorway and into the hole, following Alice…
After a long fall in near to total darkness, a fall that reminded Alice of the time she had fallen down the rabbit hole, into Wonderland, the speed of her descent began to slow. In fact it slowed so much it stopped altogether, and she began rising again. “I don’t want to return up there, even if it is to the top of the world,” she insisted. Staring at the speck of light high above her, she said, “It’s far too far!”
Hearing something passing her by (she had no idea what it could be, for it was far too dark to see properly), Alice jumped onto its back. Holding on tightly, she rode out from the well.
Alice was surprised to see that she was riding a baby hippopotamus, whose skin was as smooth as silk. She wondered how she had been able to stay upon it for second let alone long enough to escape from the dark, dreary place. Alice had so sooner begun thinking about this, when she felt herself slipping, sliding off the baby hippopotamus. Landing with a bump on the hard, dusty ground, she moaned, “I don’t like this place I don’t like it at all.”
“You don’t like it!” said the baby hippopotamus, in a surprisingly high-pitched voice for such an extreme animal. “How do you think I feel? There’s not a drop of water to be seen – anywhere. And we hippos need so much of it!”
Brushing her dress, removing the dust from it, Alice said, “Mr Hippopotamus, I would like to thank you for the ride from out of that cave, or whatever it happens to be. Moreover, it was the most comfortable hippopotamus ride I have ever had (Alice omitted to tell the hippopotamus that it was the only one she had had), thank you, again.”
“My dear child,” it answered, “you are so light I hardly noticed you there. Any time you feel the need to take a ride from out of that dark space, please feel free to jump on my back as I pass you by.”
“Thank you, thank you so much,” she told him. “I shall keep your invitation in my invitation book, and if I don’t find a need for it, I will treasure it always.”
After that the hippopotamus returned to the darkness, searching for some water. However, before he had a chance to begin, Alice heard another soft landing (though it has to be said that it was not as soft as hers). Before she could say Jack Robinson, the White Rabbit appeared, sitting back to front on the baby hippo’s back, riding out, into the bright light.
After the White Rabbit had thanked the baby hippopotamus for the ride (Alice felt he was nowhere near as grateful as she had been), he scolded Alice for having fallen down the hole, before him. He said, “If there is to be any hole-falling done around here, we must first have a vote, to decide who shall be first and who second. Is that clear?”
Although Alice nodded in agreement, she harboured a suspicion that he was quite possibly mad number one, and if not that he was most certainly mad number two.
Another winding path suddenly appeared before them, but this one, although also bordered by flowers, was in no way as inviting as the previous ones. You see, instead of pink forget-me-nots, giant aspidistras sporting green, snapping beaks awaited them.
“Come on, Alice, we have to find our way up, to the very top of the world” said the Rabbit as he hurried past the plants with their snap, snapping beaks.
Alice gasped as the first plant, snapping hungrily at his thick fur, tore a large wad from his back. “Come on, we must return to the top of the world,” he ordered, seemingly oblivious to the dangers posed by the snapping beaks. Having no intention of admitting that she was afraid of some silly old flowers that the Rabbit considered quite harmless, and having even less intention of asking him for his help, Alice got ready to pass down the dangerous path.
By now the White Rabbit was so far ahead of her, Alice doubted she might ever catch up with him. Closing her eyes, taking a first tentative step, she began her way down the aspidistra-bordered path, hoping, just hoping to catch up with the fast hopping Rabbit.
Alice hadn’t finished taking her first step, when one of the snapping beaks tried to remove a piece from her left ear. A second beak, sensing an easy target, pulled violently at her hair, while a third green beak tried to bite off her nose.
“Stop that!” Alice told the bad-mannered plants. “Stop that this instant or I shall be forced to dig you all up, and replant you with rhubarb,” she warned.
Like a switch had been turned, the beaks stopped attacking. Inspecting her head, Alice made sure that it was intact. After she was satisfied that everything was as it had previously been, she said, “Thank you. I can’t ever imagine what has got into you, to behave so rudely. Don’t you know that plants are supposed to be nice, not terrible, awful things?”
As she studied the giant plants, with their green beaklike mouths close in front of her, Alice thought she heard a cry, so she asked, “Who is crying?”
Despite listening intently, Alice heard no reply, as all the while the cry from somewhere deep within the group of plants continued. Then they began swaying, their beak mouths on stalks high above them, also swaying.
“Stop it, stop it,” Alice ordered. “Tell me which of you is crying?”
Although it was still swaying, one of the plants began speaking, it said, “She is crying, the little offshoot, close to my wife – see.” One of its long strappy leaves pointed across to the right.
“Your wife?” Alice asked, in surprise that a plant might actually be married.
“Yes,” the aspidistra replied, swaying some more. “Can you see them?”
“I might, if you stopped swaying,” she said. “I am beginning to feel quite sick from it all.”
“I can’t,” the plant told her. “None of us can. When we are upset, we sway. That’s why we sway so much in the wind, because we don’t like it, because it upsets us so.”
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You can promise that you won’t dig us up…” a baby voice sobbed.
“Of course I won’t dig you up,” Alice promised. “I only said that because of the terrible way you were treating me.”
The plants stopped swaying, allowing Alice to see the child aspidistra tucked lovingly under its mother’s green leaves. Showing no fear for her safety, disappearing beneath the huge plants (she now trusted them unquestionably), Alice approached the baby plant and its doting mother.
“I am sorry,” she said, “if I upset you. Will you please forgive me?”
“Yes, I will,” said the baby plant, trying to hold back sob. “And we are sorry, so sorry that we frightened you. We are like this because we are so hungry… we are usually happy, with smiling beaks to welcome the weary traveller.”
Confused, Alice asked, “Hungry? How can you be hungry when your roots can find all the food that you need?”
“Fertilizer, all plants need fertilizer at some time in their lives,” the baby aspidistra explained. “None of us have had any fertilizer for ages. I have never had any – ever! I don’t even know what it looks like!”
“This is a most terrible state of affairs,” said Alice, scratching her head, trying to work out what could be done to remedy the unfortunate situation. Raising a finger, she asked, “Can I go fetch you some?”
If their beaks had been able to smile, every last beak skirting that path would have been smiling radiantly at Alice. They became so excited at the prospect of getting some fertilizer they began talking furiously amongst themselves. In fact, the plants’ conversation became so loud, so noisy Alice could hardly hear herself think. In the end she had to ask them to stop. “Stop, stop talking, please,” she said, “my ears are hurting from it all.”
It stopped; the excited talking stopped, except for one of the plants, the mother aspidistra, who said, “Do you know where you can find us some fertilizer?”
“I, I don’t know,” Alice replied uncertainly.
Smiling, Alice was sure she saw the beak smiling, when it said, “Go to the fertilizer mine, there you will find all the fertilizer we need.”
“Where is it, the mine?” Alice asked.
“I am sorry, I don’t know, none of us know where it is located,” the mother aspidistra confessed. “But we do know that it most surely exists.”
Seeing how sad the mother plant had become, Alice said, “I will find you some fertilizer, I will find enough fertilizer to feed you all – I promise.”