Alice in Wonderland Christmas Story
First, she discovered Wonderland…
Then she slipped through that fascinating Looking Glass…
Now, she’s on Top of the World…
Alice in Wonderland Christmas
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Ever since I began writing, I wanted to create something special, a story to capture the hearts, minds and, above all, imagination of you, the readers, I hope that, in completing this little tome, about the continuing adventures of a girl named Alice, I might, just might have achieved this ambition.
Gerrard T Wilson.
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.”
The Fertilizer Mine
Despite feeling so bad, having to leave the aspidistras behind, Alice had given them her word that she would return with some fertilizer, and so she would. “All that I have to do,” she said, “is to find the mine, and get a bag of it, that can’t be so hard, can it? Now, I wonder…” she said, “Which way shall I go, to the left, to the right or continue straight ahead?” Without having any idea as to where the mine was actually located, Alice thought it best to follow her nose. “I can’t go too far wrong, doing that,” she said as she stepped off the path, onto a swathe of neatly cut lawn.
As she walked further away from the path, the neat grasses of the lawn gave way to a wild terrain, where hill after hill beckoned her on. Alice tried, she tried so hard to cross all of those hills, going up and down and up and down, but after climbing ten (or was it perhaps twenty?) she was too tired to go on any further. “They must go on forever,” Alice groaned, in exasperation at the hopelessness of it all. “I can’t take another step,” she said, sitting down, taking off her shoes and socks to give her poor feet a rest. As she gazed across hill after hill, thinking she might never see a flat piece of land again, Alice noticed something halfway up the next hill, something that looked incredibly like the entrance to a mine.
Scrambling to her feet, shouting excitedly, she said, “That must be it! That must be the mine entrance!” With her shoes and socks tucked under her arms, Alice set off, running towards the mine entrance, determined to find the aspidistras some fertilizer.
Although she had seen the mine entrance quite clearly from where she was standing, it took Alice another long time (or was it a short time?) until she reached it. “I am so glad to see you,” she said to the ramshackle gates, when she finally reached the mine entrance. “If I had taken me one minute longer, I fear I might never have arrived here at all.” Sitting upon the ground, Alice put on her shoes and socks. Noticing a sign attached to one of the gates, she stood up and studied it in detail. With a finger across her lips (she found it easier to work things out that way) Alice inspected the square, yellow-painted metal sign; it read:
‘This is a mine, of that you well know,
But what kind of mine be it tin, be it coal?
If you dares to pass through and goes down for a see,
Can you hope to return and be free?’
“What a strange sign to hang outside a mine,” she thought as she read it again, in the hope that it made more sense the second time around. It didn’t; the rhyme was still just as confusing to her.
Tugging hard on the rusty old gates, Alice managed to prise them open. Seeing how dark it was inside, she searched for to use as a torch. Finding nothing, she entered the mine, hoping that her eyes became accustomed to the darkness within.
The way into the fertilizer mine (if that’s what it actually was) sloped gently downwards, allowing the light from the entrance to spill far into its mysterious interior. Alice searched high and low, inside the mine, she searched every nook and cranny, where even the faintest wisp of light entered, without finding even one speck of fertilizer.
Sitting upon a rock jutting out from the floor, she groaned, “It’s useless, I’ll never find anything in this silly old mine.”
“Yous’ll never find anything, if yous don’t look for it,” said a voice from a particularly dark part of the mine.
“Who said that?” Alice asked, staring into the darkness, where she thought the voice had come from.
“I might be asking yous the same q’estion,” the voice replied, “considering it’s yous who are invaading my home.”
“Invading?” said Alice, taken aback by the cruel accusation being hurled against her. “How can I be invading your home, when all that I am doing is looking for some fertilizer?”
“It depends, on how yous sees it,” the voice replied.
“On how yous sees it?” said Alice, highlighting his incorrect use of the English language.
“Let me explain,” the voice continued. “If I wur t’break into yours home…”
“I did not break into – anywhere!” Alice insisted, hurt that she could be accused of so despicable a crime.
“If yous will allow me t’continue?”
“I am sorry, please go on,” she said, trying to hold back a tear.
“Now where wus I?”
“I was breaking into your home…”
“Oh, yes,” said the voice from the darkness. “If I wur t’break into yours home, I might very well end up before a gistrate.”
“A what?” said Alice, confused by the strange words he was using.
“A gistrate – who could easily see fit t’send me t’jail.”
“Oh, you mean a magistrate.”
“Yes, that’s what I be saying, a gistrate,” the voice replied. “But yous cuum down here, willy-nilly, like yous owns the place, and are upset if I reprimand yous for doing so.”
“I can understand if this was a house,” said Alice, “but it’s only an old mine.”
“It might be an old mine t’yous, but it’s a home t’me,” said the voice that seemed to be getting closer by the second.
“If you were an elf or a troll – or even a goblin, I might believe that,” said Alice, fearing the conversation would go on forever, that she might never resume her hunt for the fertilizer, “but…”
“And what makes you think that I am not one of those creatures?” the voice asked as its body appeared from out of the darkness.
“You are an elf!” Alice gasped. “And an incredibly old one at that!”
“There is no need t’be rude,” the little, big-eared man replied, as he sat upon a small rock, opposite Alice.
Inspecting his clothes, they were of a terribly coarse material – hessian, Alice surmised – she asked, “Are you really an elf?” She attempted to touch one of his long, pointy ears.
“Less of that, m’dear,” he said, “don’t you know that elves’ ears are sensitive things?”
“Yes, of course,” he replied in a happier tone of voice, appearing to have forgotten all about the house invasion.
Just then, Alice remembered the aspidistras waiting for the fertilizer, and she began crying, thinking she might never secure them some.
“Let’s not be haaving any of that,” said the elf, who felt even smaller than his meagre two foot six inches in height. Grinning, he nudged Alice, saying, “Yous did say fertilizer, didn’t yous?”
Taking her hanky from out of her apron pocket, Alice blew her nose. “Oh, yes, Mr Elf, I did,” she said. “You see, it’s not for me, it’s for the aspidistras – they haven’t been fertilised for ages. I think it might be years and years!”
Still grinning, the little man said, “Fle, my name is Fle. And before yous start laughing, let me tell yous that it’s spelt FLE. That’s Elf, backwards, you know. Old mum thought it would be easier for her to r’member it, that way.”
“I shan’t laugh, Mr Fle,” Alice promised.
“Just Fle,” he chuckled. “Forget ‘bout the Mr bit – makes me feel older than yous already think I am.” He laughed again, so also did Alice.
“Is all of this really fertilizer?” Alice asked when Fle led her through a concealed passageway, into a hidden part of the mine, packed to the ceiling with white cotton sacks and bags.
“Every bit of it, m’dear,” he proudly proclaimed. Pulling a rope Fle opened a window high in the roof, flooding the dark cavern with daylight. Bringing Alice on a tour of his mine, he showed her how much fertilizer he had stashed within it. “How many sacks will yous be requiring?” he asked. “Yous can have as many as y’like, y’know.”
“Only need the one bag,” she told him. “That is all I can carry.”
“Only the one bag?” he asked, scratching his head, confused. “Hardly seems wurth putting it on.”
“Yes, just the one bag, please,” Alice repeated.
Still scratching his head, Fle asked, “How many of them oispidistries did yous say there wur?”
Laughing at how funny he could be, Alice said, “They’re called aspidistras. And there must be, now let me see…” Raising her hands Alice began counting on her fingers, trying to work out how many plants needed fertilising. She counted and counted and then counted some more. Just as she thought she had finished calculating the amount, Alice remembered a ten she had carried over, but had forgotten to add on, so she had to start all over again. When she had finally finished, the smile had all but disappeared from her face, as she whispered, “There are one hundred aspidistras, perhaps two hundred on a good day. That is way too many plants for one bag of fertilizer. Oh, Fle, what am I going to do?”
“Never yous mind, m’dear,” Fle answered “There will be plenty of fertilizer for all of them there oispidistries.”
Ordering Alice to return to the surface, Fle set about organising the fertilizer, and its means of carriage. Thirty minutes later he arrived at the surface, pulling a dilapidated cart behind him, containing two bags, one small and one large, filled with his prized fertilizer. Peering through the rickety gates, he said, “Hello m’dear.”
“Oh, Mr Fle,” Alice excitedly replied, “is this all for me?”
“It’s Fle, no Mr, remember?”
“Sorry, Fle,” she giggled.
“And, yes,” the little man replied, as he pulled his cart to a halt, “all of this is for those oispidistries of yours.”
“You are the nicest elf that I could ever have hoped to meet,” said Alice.
Once again noticing the yellow painted sign on the gates, Alice asked, “Why did you put that sign up?”
“That be t’stop folks cuuming in an staaling the fertilizer,” the wily old elf explained.
“But there’s no shortage – you have loads of it!” a puzzled Alice replied.
Patting the side of his nose, Fle said, “Keeps everyone on their toes, it dus, thinking there might be…”
A Series of Confusing Directions
When Alice and Fle (pulling his little cart and its precious cargo behind him) arrived at the aspidistra-bordered path, they wasted no time in feeding the hungry plants, spreading generous amounts of fertilizer around the base of each and every one.
“Heavens above,” said the mother aspidistra, when Alice and Fle began watering it in, “I feel better already.”
“So do I,” said the baby plant, enjoying its first taste of the precious stuff.
“My,” said Alice standing back in astonishment, watching the baby plant’s sudden spurt of new growth, “I can see you growing before my very eyes!”
“They all are,” said Fle, as he finished watering in the last granules of fertilizer. And he was right; every last plant was putting on so much new growth, their strappy green leaves had soon covered the path entirely from view.
“Oh dear,” said Alice, in fright, “now how shall I ever be able to find my way along it?” The plant nearest to Alice (the father plant) began swaying, and very soon all the plants had joined in with his lurching motion, making her feel terribly dizzy. “Oh please do stop it,” she implored, trying to steady herself against Fle’s little cart.
“We can’t stop,” said the father plant.
“But why?” Alice asked, in puzzlement. “Haven’t I fertilised every one of you?”
“You have,” the plant gratefully acknowledged.
“Then what is the problem?” she asked with a flourish of her upturned hands, to emphasise her growing concern.
“We are unhappy, again,” the plant explained. “We are upset that we have overgrown the path, and ruined your chances of ever finding the White Rabbit.” The plants began swaying all the more.
Tugging at the huge leaves, hoping to see a way through, Alice saw nothing but greenery, greenery and yet more greenery. “I see what you mean,” she said. Then turning to Fle, she asked, “Fle, have you any idea how I can find the White Rabbit, if there is no path for me to follow?”
“Ah, the White Rabbit,” Fle replied with a grin. “Why did yous naat say that before?”
Alice thought she had told Fle all about her adventure, including the Rabbit, but being in such a strange place, she knew that anything was possible, including her mind playing tricks on her, so she said, “Do you know where he might possibly be found, Fle? He said we must return to the very top of the world, and I’m terribly afraid I might never find my way up there.”
“That I moight,” Fle replied, taking a notebook from out of his trouser pocket and flicking through its dog-eared pages. “Let me sees,” he said, “would that be under R for Rabbit or W for White?”
“I should think it’s under W,” said Alice, without any hesitation at all.
“Hmm, W, you ses…” Fle worked his way through the notebook, to the section marked W. “Nope,” he said, “nuthing under W.”
“Then is must surely be under R,” Alice insisted. She watched the elf’s little fingers troll their way through the raggedy pages, until he had found the R section.
“Nope, it’s not there, either,” he said, scratching his head, trying to work out where he had actually recorded the Rabbit’s personal details.
As she waited, Alice wondered how Fle managed to find anything, considering his difficulty with something so basic as recording a name and address into a notebook. Then she had an idea, and squealing with delight, she said, “That’s it! Fle, look under B, for Bunny!”
“Hmm, B, yous ses?” The elf began working his way through the pages, again. After a few seconds he stopped, and smiling a mischievous little smile, he said, “Moi God, yous’re right, I haave found it.”
“How do I find him, Fle? Please tell me!” Alice implored.
“Ah,” said Fle, going over the details, to be sure he had them perfectly right.
“Well, Fle?” Alice asked, stamping her foot on the ground, hoping to hurry along the old elf.
“It is never wurth hurryn too much,” he replied, “cos I figure the more yous rush the slower yous will be goin…”
“Oh please, Mr Fle (Alice decided to address him by Mr, thinking it might spur him on, a bit), please tell me where I can find the White Rabbit?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” said Fle, surprised that she did not already know how, “the Rabbit lives in his house…”
“In his house?” Alice replied, aghast by his logic, “What sort of an address is that?”
“It’s his address,” Fle explained, at a loss as to why she would ask so foolish a thing. “Look, it says so here!” he said, showing her the page. Then he added, “All that yous have to do is follow yours nose, and before long yous will see his neat little house – I hear it’s the very same one as the one he has in Wonderland – with a shiny, brass plate on the front door, spelling his name W. Rabbit. Sees, I told yous it wus easy!”
“Thank you so much,” said Alice as she stepped off the path, again following her nose. Then waving to the aspidistras, she said, “Goodbye plants.” And with that she disappeared from sight behind a fat Castor Oil Plant.
No sooner had Alice rounded the fat plant, a whole new landscape appeared before her. And as landscapes go, this one, although a bit peculiar, was certainly nice. “How strange a place,” she thought as she gazed out across it, in wonder. And it was a strange place, with waterfalls absolutely everywhere, not large ones, though, just nice, small ones, with little pools beneath them, the right size for refreshing one’s tired feet.
“What a great idea,” said Alice, “I shall take off my shoes and socks and bathe my tired feet.” With that she sat on the soft, grassy bank close to a particularly beautiful waterfall, took off her shoes and socks and plunged her aching feet into the refreshing waters of the pool.
It was relaxing, dangling her feet in the cool waters, so relaxing that before long Alice felt herself getting sleepy. “No, I mustn’t fall asleep,” she said, struggling to keep her eyelids open. “No, I mustn’t….” she said as she leant back onto the lush grass and fell fast asleep.
“Excuse me! I said, excuse me!” a voice barked out. Alice, however, heard nothing for she was fast asleep. “Little girl, can you hear me?” it said, barking again.
“Pardon?” Alice muttered, struggling to open her sleepy eyes.
“If you had been paying attention, as you should have been,” the voice scolded, “you might have heard me, when I said excuse me!”
Sitting up, rubbing her eyes, Alice tried to focus on the person addressing her. And when she saw who it was, she was absolutely and utterly flabbergasted, for standing in front of her, on four sturdy flippers, was a majestic white coloured
sea lion, with a red, spinning ball balanced precariously on the end of its shiny black nose.
“Mind you don’t drop that onto me,” Alice warned, shuffling away.
“You do me an injustice, to even suggest that I am capable of such a thing,” the sea lion replied, unsmilingly.
Feeling that she might have been a wee bit abrupt, Alice apologised, saying, “I am sorry if I offended you, but I am not in the habit of seeing balls spinning so close to my face, especially so when I have just awoken.”
Happy to have received an apology, the sea lion said, “Oh, it’s all right, really, everyone says that to me…”
“Yes,” he coyly admitted. “Ball-spinning comes as second nature to me, and half the time I don’t remember that I am actually doing it.”
“Now that we have settled that,” said Alice, “please allow me to introduce myself.”
“You didn’t,” the sea lion blankly replied.
“I didn’t what?”
Confused by his words, Alice apologised again, saying, “I am getting so frightfully forgetful, since my arrival, to wherever I am. I might wonder if I had remembered to bring my own head, if it were not still attached to my body.”
Seeing that she had once again forgotten to introduce herself, the sea lion took the initiative, saying, “I am King Tut, king of the white sea lions.”
Alice struggled to contain a laugh, for the only person she had ever heard of with so strange name was one of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt (though she wasn’t too sure how to spell that, thinking it might possibly be ‘Faerows’), and they had lived an awfully long time ago. She also wondered how many white sea lions there
were in existence, to be king over, but thinking the number to be low, Alice decided to keep that observation to herself.
“I am happy to meet you, King Tut,” Alice replied with a curtsy (to make up for her rude little laugh). Then remembering her own name, she said, “And I am Alice, if it pleases your royal highness.”
It obviously did please, because the King stopped spinning his ball, and with a quick flick of his nose he tossed it to Alice who, despite catching it, struggled to hold on to the slippery object.
“That is for you,” said the King, his shiny black nose reminding Alice of a dog she had once owned.
“Thank you, your royal highness,” Alice replied, almost dropping the ball as she spoke.
“It’s Tut,” said the King, “I have never been one for formalities, just call me Tut.”
“Thank you – Tut,” said Alice, dropping the ball as she curtsied again.
Laughing at Alice’s dilemma, trying to keep hold of so slippery an object, the King offered to mind it for her. Returning the ball, Alice threw it in the direction of the King’s nose. He caught all too easily, and began spinning the ball again. This was a far better arrangement for Alice, and she smiled a thanks. Somehow, she thought, Tut’s nose looked so much better with a ball balanced upon it…
Remembering the White Rabbit, and her quest to find him, Alice began following her nose. Seeing this, the King asked, “May I be so bold as to ask where you are going?”
“I am off to find the White Rabbit,” she explained, turning awkwardly this way and then that. “But I am having some difficulty…” she admitted with a sigh.
“And what might that be?” asked the King, the ball spinning feverishly as he spoke.
“The directions that I was given,” she explained, “were to follow my nose – but I am getting so confused…”
“Pray, why?” Tut asked.
“I am wondering,” she said, “if it is the left or the right-hand side of my nose that I should be following? Oh, Tut, can you see what a peculiar quandary I am in?”
The King laughed at poor Alice, in fact he laughed so much she became embarrassed, and stamping her foot (as was her habit when annoyed) Alice demanded it cease.
“I am sorry,” the King chuckled, wiping a tear from his eye with a flipper. “But don’t you know that left is right and right is left, when you are in this part of the world?”
“Left is right and right is left – how can that be?” she asked, touching her nose, to see if the sides had somehow swapped with each other.
“Everything’s different at the top of the world,” Tut chuckled. “Look at my compass (Alice had no idea where he had procured it from), see how the needle spins – didn’t the White Rabbit tell you anything?”
“I see what you mean,” she said, watching the needle spinning erratically. Trying her best to work it out, Alice stared down her nose, deciding that the way forward must surely be up. “I have it,” she cried out, “I must go up – but to where?” she sighed, getting confused all over again.
“Remember what I have told you, Alice,” said Tut, feeling quite sorry for her torment.
“Oh, you are such a dear,” she exclaimed when she heard these last words and finally understood how to proceed. “Looking down my nose means I must travel upwards,” she said, “and if this is indeed right, the direction I must go is surely over to the left.” Shrieking with joy at having finally worked it all out, Alice clapped her hands with excitement.
Clapping his flippers, showing his approval of Alice’s hypothesis, Tut span his ball faster and faster until it was a red blur at the tip of his nose.
“But how shall I travel up and over to the left?” Alice wondered gloomily, looking across the waterfall-strewn countryside stretching far into the distance.
After tossing the spinning ball onto a nearby rock, where it continued to spin all by itself, King Tut dived into the pool and disappeared under the water. Seeing this, Alice feared that she had seen the last of him, but when he reappeared, holding a kipper in his mouth, she was, to say the least, a bit surprised, and she said, “A kipper? You can’t possibly have caught a kipper in there! Don’t you know that kippers are made in smoky old sheds?”
Grinning, Tut asked, “So how did I get it?”
“You wished it, didn’t you?” Alice cried out, in her growing excitement. “That’s what I must do – isn’t it? I must wish for help – to get me up and over to the left!”
Grinning like a Cheshire Cat, the king promptly swallowed his kipper and let out a loud burp, then flicking the ball up and onto his nose with one of his flippers, he swam away from Alice without saying another word.
Watching the king disappear into the distance, Alice said, “It took me a while to work it out, all of those confusing directions. But I got there in the end… Now, how shall I begin? I know, I will close my eyes and make a wish. Yes, that’s
a good place to start. But what shall I wish for? Let’s see…” Alice thought and thought and then thought some more, and when she had finished thinking, she decided that the White Rabbit’s house must surely be above and over to the left. “But how can I get all the way up there?” she asked, her eyes gazing skyward. Then shrieking again, she said, “I have it! I wish, I wish – I wish for an escalator, an escalator to take me all the way up to the top of the world.”
Alice had no sooner finished speaking, when a tall, shiny escalator appeared directly in front of her. She looked up, trying to see how high it went, but it was just so high, twisting left and right and then left again it disappeared into the clouds.
“This must surely lead to the top of the world,” she said. “I shall step onto it at once, perhaps then I shall catch up with the White Rabbit at his neat little house…”
An Unexpected Encounter
After placing her foot onto the first step of the escalator, and then holding on tightly to the fast-moving banister, Alice began rising from the ground.
“This is indeed a fast escalator,” she said as she tried to admire the countryside that was soon far below. “It’s a pity it’s so fast, though, I might have enjoyed the view immensely if I had risen at a more leisurely pace.”
As the picturesque countryside grew smaller and smaller beneath her, the speed of the escalator increased, forcing Alice to hold on for dear life in the increasingly blustery conditions that she was exposed to. Nevertheless, Alice was enchanted by the many wonderfully coloured birds she saw flying above and below her, and all of them enjoying the weather more than her. “Oh, this wind is just too much, “she complained, trying to stop her hair from flying about as fast as the birds. With her hair flapping wildly in her eyes, Alice never saw the top of the escalator as she approached it. And tumbling ungainly off the top step, she made an ungainly entrance to the top of the world.
On hands and knees, Alice inspected the place she had entered, hoping to see the White Rabbit’s neat house, and thus putting her silly game of catch up at an end. But she didn’t. It wasn’t. All that she saw was snow, snow and yet more snow.
“It’s so cold up here,” she said, shivering, her teeth chattering like mad, “this must surely be the top of the world. I must have wished too hard, and gone all the way to the North Pole itself!”
It began snowing. At first Alice danced around in delight, marvelling at the beautiful particles falling upon her. But in spite of their beautiful appearance, these snowy particles were cold, so cold Alice soon realised that she had to find something warmer to wear, and fast. “A fur coat, a hat and some gloves are what I need,” she said, “lest I catch my death of cold out here. But where will I find such things, when all that I can see is snow?” Slapping her arms around her back, Alice tried her best to keep warm. “And a pair of fur boots, if I do say so myself, will keep my toes snugly warm,” she added.
The snow fell heavier and heavier, and thicker and thicker until poor Alice was almost totally covered by the white stuff. Shaking her head, setting free the white particles that had settled upon it, Alice wished and wished and then wished again, that someone – anyone – might come to save her from being frozen to death.
Bells, Alice heard the sound of bells in the distance. “Where are they?” she said, her eyes searching the frozen landscape, with intent. “Oh, where can they be?” she huffed, trying to see through the heavily falling snow. Then she saw something, Alice saw something coming closer and closer. “I wonder what it might be?” she said, straining her eyes, trying to see the mysterious object.
“Whoa, whoa,” a voice boomed, “whoa.”
Alice blinked; only half believing her eyes.
“Whoa, good, stay, stay,” the voice boomed out again.
“It’s a sleigh, a dog sleigh!” she said in sheer disbelief, watching as the fur-clad man settled his dogs, before making his way across to her.
“Here you are,” he said, offering Alice some fur clothes to put on. “And when you are ready, I will bring you somewhere warmer.”
Even though Alice had no idea who this man happened to be (he might well have been Jack the Ripper for all she knew), she obediently donned the fur clothes – coat, hat, gloves and boots – before jumping onto the sleigh and burrowing deep into the mountain of fur blankets heaped upon it.
“Rarr,” the man shouted, urging his dogs on, “Rarr,” he shouted again as the sleigh, with Alice snuggled warmly inside, disappeared into the blizzard…
When the sleigh had finally come to a halt, the same kindly voice as before said, “There you are, little girl, safe and sound.” Searching their way through the many blankets heaped high upon the sleigh, two large, timeworn old hands tried to locate Alice.
Peeping out from under the mountainous heap of warm, snug blankets, squinting in the bright light, Alice wondered where she had been taken, hoping against hope that it might, just might be the White Rabbit’s little house. “Where are we?” she asked.
The round-faced, bearded old man replied, “You are in Santa’s workshop, of course.”
“Santa’s workshop – are you sure?” she asked, her head turning round and round, inspecting the room, with curious eyes.
“I’m as sure as I can be,” the old man replied, laughing heartily, “considering the fact that I am Santa Claus”
“Santa Claus?” Alice spluttered (you see, she really did believe in him), recalling the wonderful present he had given her, last Christmas, the very same one she had asked for in the letter she had taken so much time to compose. “Are you really Santa Claus?” she asked.
The old man nodded. “Though, I have to admit that I prefer to be called Father Christmas. I’m a bit a traditionalist at heart. Santa Claus sounds so colonial.”
“And I am Alice, “she said, trying to find a way out from under the heavy blankets.
“I am pleased to meet you, Alice,” he replied, with a jovial laugh. “Let me help you,” he said, lifting her out from the sleigh, onto the heavily waxed floorboards.
Still struggling to believe that he really and truly was Father Christmas, Alice asked, “Where is your red and white suit?”
Chuckling, he replied, “That’s only for Christmastime – another import from our colonial friends across the water, I’m sorry to say. For the rest of the year I find these clothes more comfortable.” He pulled at his loose-fitting jumper and jeans.
Up until then Alice had not even noticed what the old man was wearing, but now that he had pointed them out, she laughed at the very thought of Santa – Father Christmas – wearing jeans and a woollen Fair Isle pullover.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked, truly ignorant of the reason.
“Oh, it just seems so funny,” she said, with a mischievous giggle, “you wearing such ordinary clothes.”
“I used to wear a green and white suit for Christmastime, in the old days,” he confessed. “I’ve been playing around with the idea of returning to that colour scheme – what do you think about that, Alice?”
“I think it sounds like a splendid idea,” she replied. “Much more Christmassy than red and white, if you ask me.”
Changing the subject, Father Christmas, clicking his fingers, said, “You must be hungry?” Alice nodded that she was.
Two little men suddenly appeared (Alice assumed they were some of his elves), each carrying a tray, the first piled high with crispy, tasty-looking biscuits, and the other with the largest mug Alice had ever laid eyes on, full to the brim with piping hot chocolate drink. Bowing, they offered her the refreshments.
“Take them,” said the old man. “And there’s more where that came from. Oh, I almost forgot,” he said. “If you want sugar, just wish for it.”
After she had finished the wonderful repast (without having the need to wish for any sugar), Alice felt strong enough to resume her quest to find the Rabbit, but being in Santa’s – Father Christmas’s workshop, a thing that most children would give their eye teeth to see, she held back on saying so. And, anyway, she had so many questions to ask the old man, like what he did during the rest of the year, when the rush of Christmastime was over, and was he really considering returning to the green-and-white theme, she was in no rush to leave.
“I suppose you would like a tour of my workshop?” Father Christmas said, stepping away from the window he had been looking through. “It’s still snowing, out there, so you can’t be in any great hurry to go, can you?”
“I love the snow,” Alice replied. “But I do admit that I was getting a bit too much of it, before you saved me.”
“I found you,” the old man insisted. “You were in no real danger. There are so many of my elves out there, going about their business, I’m surprised that no one spotted you before I did.”
“Why were you out there, anyway?” Alice asked.
“Sport,” Father Christmas replied, “sport and exercise, to be precise.”
“But with dogs?”
“Of course,” he replied, “Now don’t get me wrong, reindeer are top dog up here (he laughed at this comment), but for sheer excitement, on the ground, you can’t beat a dog sleigh.”
“It was rather exciting,” Alice giggled, “even hidden beneath all of those blankets…”
Rubbing his long beard (you know, Alice was sure she saw rainbow colours shimmering within it), the old man asked, “And might I be so bold as to enquire what you were doing out there?”
That question returned Alice’s attention, and with a start, to the matter of the missing Rabbit, and she told Father Christmas her story, from the Rabbit’s sudden appearance, to how she had ended up being lost in the snow (though Alice omitted to say anything about her really being a grownup, with no idea how her adventure had begun).
“My, my,” said Father Christmas, rubbing his beard once again. Alice watched in amazement as some rainbow-coloured particles fall slowly from it. “That is quite a story.”
“It’s the truth!” she said, fearing he did not believe her.
“I am sure that it is,” he chuckled. “And it seems that you could do with a hand in finding this Rabbit of yours?”
“Oh, yes please,” she said clapping her hands with delight.
“I think we can kill two birds with one stone,” he said, clicking his fingers again.
“Kill two birds with a stone?” Alice asked, worried for the birds, wherever they might be (you see, she had never before heard this expression). He laughed; Father Christmas laughed his Merry Christmas laugh.
Three elves, entering the room through a small, green painted door that Alice had up until then not seen, approached the old man and listened to his instructions. Then exiting through the same door, they disappeared from sight.
“Where are they going?” Alice asked, watching the door close behind the last elf.
“I have asked them to ensure that everything is ready for our search,” he replied, standing erect in his jeans and pullover that Alice found so amusing. Then strolling over to a regular-sized green painted door, adjacent to the smaller one, he asked, “Are you ready for your tour?”
Jumping up, Alice clapped her hands again, answering, “I still can’t believe that I am actually here, in Santa’s – sorry – Father Christmas’s workshop.”
“Come on,” he said, opening the door, leading the way through…
Passing through the doorway, Alice found herself transported (as if by magic) to a huge room – a workshop – where a multitude of elves, both male and female, were feverishly working on the toys for Christmas.
“I always wondered what you did during the rest of the year,” she said, marvelling at the piles of toys reaching almost to the ceiling. “It must take the whole year to make this lot!” Picking up a simple black cube, Alice asked, “What sort of a toy is this?”
“I was hoping you’d ask me that,” said Father Christmas, picking up another one of the cubes as he spoke. “It’s new,” he said proudly. “We developed it ourselves…”
“But what does it do?” she asked, confused by its simplicity.
“It’s a wishing cube…”
“A wishing cube?”
“Yes, go on, give it a go,” he insisted. “You never know what you might get…”
“I just wish for something?”
“That’s it – but don’t tell me what you are wishing for, it has to be a secret – go on…”
Alice thought hard and long of all the many things she might wish for, but in the end there was only one thing she felt important enough – the whereabouts of the White Rabbit’s neat little house. So closing her eyes, she wished and wished and wished…
All of a sudden, Alice felt a tingling in her fingers, and this tingling slowly began travelling up her arms and into her body. Opening her eyes, she gazed at the cube; it was now filled with bright shining stars, too many to count. The cube then began fading away, slowly, slowly, until it had all but disappeared, but the stars, the wonderfully coloured stars, now growing in size and intensity, surrounded Alice. They began spinning, round and round they went, and faster and faster until Alice was feeling quite dizzy. Just as she was about to complain, to say how sick she was feeling, they stopped, giving her leave to study their full beauty. And they were so beautiful. Alice might have watched them forever. But this beauty, like all things in life, was transient, blurring and fading almost as fast it had appeared.
At first, Alice thought her eyes were playing tricks on her, but as the stars continued to blur, transforming into a foggy whiteness, she started to panic. “How will I ever see the White Rabbit’s house,” she bemoaned, “in this dreadful fog.” Forgetting about the invisible cube that she was still holding, Alice began waving her hands, trying to disperse the troublesome fog. Crash! Falling from her hand, the cube struck the hard floor, shattering into thousand pieces, scattering the fog and with it any hope she had of seeing the Rabbit’s neat little house in the near future.
“Oh no,” Alice sobbed when she realised what she had done. “How will I ever find the Rabbit’s house, now?”
Two elves running across to Alice, one holding a brush and the other a dustpan swept up the broken pieces. Watching them sweep away the last pieces of cube, Alice felt hopeful again, and she said, “It was a cube – that’s
it! There are loads more! Oh, dear Father Christmas, can I please try another one?” she asked him hopefully.
Although he was a kind, caring man, Father Christmas replied, “I’m sorry, but afraid that you can’t…”
“I can’t?” Alice whispered, gazing across to the rest of the cubes on the table.
“I’m sorry,” Father Christmas continued, “but their magic will only work on each person, the once.”
Alice was devastated, to be so close to finding the whereabouts of the Rabbit, but to lose it for so foolish a reason was unforgivable.
Trying to take her mind away from the broken cube, to cheer her up, Father Christmas, putting his arm around Alice, resumed the tour of his workshop. As he took Alice around his workshop, showing her so many wonderful, fantastical toys she had never imagined it possible to make, let alone wish for, she forgot about the unfortunate accident.
As the tour drew to a close, Father Christmas called for his elves to come closer. “I am sure Alice would love to hear one of your songs,” he said.
“I would, I would,” she replied in all honesty. The elves drew closely around them. “I know it’s not Christmas yet,” she said, “but might you sing me a Christmassy song, anyhow?”
After discussing it amongst themselves, the smallest elf, raising his hand, said, “Especially for you, we are going to sing ‘Oh, why wait for Christmas?’” After coughing discreetly, to clear their throats, they sang:
“Oh, why wait for Christmas when you can have it every day,
Be it June or September, March, April or May.
The thing to remember is not the date or day,
But the feeling that goes behind it, so share it right away.
Enjoy your time for living; enjoy your time on earth,
A time for celebration, a chance to spend in mirth,
Each day will go brightly as you strike out forth,
And all of this made possible because of the virgin birth.
Oh, why wait for Christmas when you can have it every day,
Be it June or September, March, April or May.
The thing to remember is not the date or day,
But the feeling that goes behind it, so share it right away.”
Alice clapped; she clapped so much for the beautiful song the elves had performed – and especially for her. “Thank you,” she said, still clapping “Thank you so much, each and every one of you,” she added in true appreciation for their wonderful, impromptu performance.
“I think it’s about time we were off,” said Father Christmas, exiting the room, to the loading bay outside, where he approached his sleigh.
Following the old man, Alice asked, “Where did that come from?” Stroking his beard, he just smiled, releasing some rainbow coloured in the process.
Understanding that it was by magic, Alice said, “Can I say hello to the reindeer?”
“Of course you can,” he laughed, “And where better to begin than at the front?” Leading the way, he brought Alice to the head of the line of waiting animals, to the liveliest one, Rudolf.
“He’s a bit frisky,” she remarked as Rudolf reared up on his hind legs.
“He had some oats this morning – they all had some,” Father Christmas chuckled. “It always does that to them,” he said, chuckling again.
After Rudolf had settled down, Alice asked, “Can I pat him?”
As if he understood her every word, Rudolf lowered his huge antlered head, allowing Alice to pat him as much as she liked.
“He seems to have taken a shine to you, Alice. That one was always a good judge of character…”
“He’s lovely, just like I always imagined,” she replied.
“Come on, Alice, you still have to meet the rest of them,” said the old man, leading the way down the line of reindeer. “This one is Dasher and next to him Dancer. He can also be a handful, that one.”
Alice offered a hand to Dasher. He also lowered his head, ready for a pat. Not wanting to miss out on the attention, Dancer also lowered his.
“I told you he can be a handful,” said Father Christmas laughing.
“They’re funny,” Alice giggled, sharing her hands between the two friendly reindeer.
“Come on, we still have the rest of them to see,” said the old man making his way further down the line of reindeer. “Next we have Prancer and Vixen, then Comet and Cupid, and last but certainly not least we have Donner and Blixen.”
“I love them all,” said Alice, giving Blixen an extra special pat before following Father Christmas to his sleigh.
“Now up with you,” he said beckoning for Alice to step up.
Poor Alice did try to get up, into the sleigh, but the step was simply too high for her child-sized legs. Laughing, Father Christmas clicked his fingers. Two elves, carrying a small set of steps between them, ran over to the sleigh and placed them against it. Thanking them, Alice stepped up and boarded the sky vehicle.
As Alice settled into the comfortable bench seat, one of the elves climbed up and tucked her in snugly with a warm, thick blanket. Waving a goodbye, the little man jumped down from the sleigh. Before she was able to say Jack Robinson, Father Christmas was shouting, “Rarr, rarr,” and the galloping reindeer whisked them up and away into the cold of the night.