My mind settled on the limb of a nearby oak.
As it did, I heard the sound of dishes and silverware. I swooped down in the sound’s general direction, expecting to find the Mad Tea Party – I was not disappointed. There they all were: Alice, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Doormouse, exactly as they were in Tenniel’s illustration, except that, as with Bethany and me, there was a free-standing hearth, mantle and fireplace (out of visual range if one were viewing the scene from the same angle as the illustration).
It was then, too, that I recognized the chairs that Bethany and I had been sitting in (and, in a sense, still were) – they were identical to Alice’s chair – that’s where I’d seen them before. But I’d seen a number of the other chairs too – on my last birthday, after the two movies, with Auntie Gene and Lulu and –
Lulu! That’s where I’d seen her before! Give her a pinafore and long ringlets – and Lulu was Alice.
Or at least an older version of her.
I made a report to Bethany of where I was and what I’d seen, adding that I intended to swoop down and join them. To my surprise, she asked me not to.
“Thou doth sway aright, but this be not thy destiny now, and thou niedes must move on apace.”
I’d thought I was allowed to go wherever I wanted, but then she had said I needed guidance. I’d already had tea enough, in any event, that was certain. But then, where was I meant to go?
The air temperature was growing warmer and the snow had disappeared. I was certainly no longer in Solihull, but whether I was “between the walls,” down the rabbit hole, having a hallucination, or in yet another dimension entirely was beyond me.
I saw Alice (was she another, “identical’ Alice, or the same one? Or was one Alice and the other Lulu, trying to look more juvenile?) walking with her arm around a fawn, the way she had in Through the Looking Glass. It likely meant, as in the book, that I was close to a clearing. I told Bethany what I’d seen, adding another ‘thumbnail sketch” of the book, especially this scene, and why I thought it significant.
“It be important for more reasons an thou knowest, but ’tis reason enough that you know what be at hand. Lob-low, zi as thou canst and tell me of it.”
The clearing came into view seconds later, chock-a-block with centaurs, fauns, sprites, unicorns, Pegasi and a host of other creatures from Greek and Roman mythology.
One thing I found particularly odd was that, though it had been afternoon in Solihull, between the walls with Bethany, with Cheshire Cat and with the Mad Tea Party, it suddenly appeared to be mid-morning in the clearing: The light seemed too bright, the shadows facing the wrong way, for it to be afternoon. I already knew different dimensions could maintain different times of day, and thought little of it at first; but time did ordinarily flow at regular, consistent rates within a dimension. Here, I soon discovered, it didn’t.
Like many of my age group, raised on Disney’s Fantasia, I half expected to hear strains from Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” at any moment, but I didn’t. Without musical impediment, I gave Bethany a full report of what I was seeing.
But even as I delivered it, I noticed the time continuum kept shifting.
I couldn’t have spent more than five or six minutes reporting to Bethany, but in that time, morning ended, and afternoon rushed by without so much as a by-your-leave. The cloak of night fell over the clearing as I was explaining the freakish time changes to Bethany. In the ensuing ten minutes, a full moon rose, turned into a crescent, then became a new moon.
Morning returned just as I was asking permission to join the creatures below. She again refused, and in the three or four minutes I took arguing the matter with her, morning changed to mid-afternoon. Bethany had already suggested – strongly – that I enter the woods on the other side of the clearing. All of the time change going on in the clearing was beginning to make me giddy, and I finally agreed that moving on was probably the best course of action.
Time in the woods returned to a consistent mid-afternoon; I was grateful to be back in a place where time had more regular and consistent flow.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be delayed due to illness and surgery (mine) and to technical problems beyond my control, but should be available late this year or in early 2018. The next novel of the series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018.