In which Emma watches a stool fight.
The rabbit boy put her down, right in front of the large hat diner.
He walked towards the giant bow. “Inside is the best place to hide.”
She didn’t move.
She didn’t want to.
She wanted to go back to the old Victorian. She wanted to be in the musty room, under the heavy blanket, and wake up to normal.
“You’re stuck here. It’s immoral. But you are, my dear.”
“Ca-can you read my mind?”
“Between your thoughts and mine, I am blind. I do not know. But what I do know, I will certainly show – for you are our Alice.”
“Alice? No. I’m Emma.”
“No malice to you. No enigma in sight. You are Alice, the one who’ll end our plight.”
Thunderous roars sent chills crawling over her body. Emma rushed in. she didn’t want that monster of a cat finding her.
“So you’re back already?” The old man said. He leaned back and emptied his entire glass of whatever-it-was. He smacked his lips. Then looked at her. “You’re alive? Very surprising indeed.”
Emma really didn’t like him. She’d rather be Adelle’s watchdog than be around him.
Rabbit ears twitched. “Very grim, you are. But big talk from a fallen star.”
“Would you quit with the rhyming. It’s giving me a headache.” The man staggered out of his seat and up to the other. “You-” he stabbed his finger out “-are just pulling this poor thing along. Just like all the others.”
“The others?” Emma squeaked.
The two didn’t even look her way. They stared each other down.
Emma wondered if she could leave and try to find the mirrors again. Maybe she could leave.
But before she could even inch to the door, the woman from across the bar had appeared at her side. When did she move?
The woman put her finger to her lips.
The woman pulled her close as a bar stool flew by, nearly grazing the top of her head.
“You cur!” the old man picked up another stool.
“You mean hare. Though by your age, you wouldn’t know. You’ve reaped what you did sow.”
Emma couldn’t see the rabbit boy’s face. But his long ears twitched this way and that.
“You see, Hatter, I don’t need your opinion. This is no longer your dominion. And since you refuse to fight – pardon me. I mean lost the right, I don’t need approval for this tactic of darkness removal.”
“You certainly do if I have anything to say about it!” the man hurled the stool towards the rabbit boy.
The boy knocked it aside.
Emma shook as the stool crashed behind her. These two were crazy!
Her lips trembled, her shoulders tightened. Her stomach rocked, her heart raced. She needed to get out of here!
“Ahh!” she jumped as hands fell on her shoulders.
The woman looked down at her, those big blue eyes pleading with her.
She let the woman guide her to the nearest booth and sat down. Out of nowhere, the woman pulled out a piece of pie and a milkshake. She set it down right in front of her and gestured to it.
The woman patted her head and stabbed the pie with a fork.
“The Cheshire has seen you?!” another stool flew past them.
Teeth grit, the old man pulled the boy up by his collar. Emma could hear the fabric rip a little.
“He’s gone and-“
“Did he follow you back? Does he know where you are?”
“He doesn’t. We fled far-“
“Get her out of here.” The man pointed at her.
Emma scooted closer to the woman.
“She’ll endanger us all.”
“No more rhyming. Just leave.” The old man dropped him down.
The rabbit boy huffed, rapidly tapping his foot on the ground.
“Take her and leave. Go to the castle or garden or anywhere else far from here. Just get her out of here.”
“Just take me home,” Emma said.
The men looked over at her.
She probably shouldn’t have said that.
The old man chuckled. “You mean you haven’t told her?”
Those rabbit ears fidgeted.
“Told me what?”
“You, my girl, are stuck here. Forever.”
She looked at the rabbit boy. Poor thing. “I-I did know.”
“Really now?” the man walked over, but the woman stepped forward. “Fine. I won’t go near her.” he looked down at Emma. “But you best be warned. The only way you leave is to kill the beasts. And someone as scrawny as you can’t do much.”
“Unlike you,” the rabbit said. “She doesn’t need a crutch.”
A knife flew between the two, cutting into the wall.
Emma looked up.
The woman had aimed. But where did she get that knife?
“Would you not do that in here! This is a business!”
“This girl can win. She’s next of kin to Ali-“
Knives flew again and caught the boy’s clothes.
With a thud, he hit the wall, stuck.
The old man snickered. “You know better than to say that name.”
Emma looked up again. The woman wasn’t frowning. Or smiling. Just the same straight line and big eyes. The woman looked down and patted her head. She gestured to the milkshake and pie.
“Get me down! I’m way too high.”
“Just hush.” The old man sat back down, two stools away from where he had been. He rapped three times on the bar top.
The woman walked over. Just normal walking. Emma watched and made sure of it.
The woman grabbed a glass from beneath the counter, some water-type liquid already in it. She slid it down to the man. He leaned back and drank it all.
He smacked his lips and glanced over at her. “Might as well eat up, girl. Once you’ve been served here, it’s rude to leave food or drink.”
Rude, Emma thought, didn’t even begin to describe him. But her stomach protested. Apparently fear of getting hit by stools made her hungry.
She nibbled on her pie. “What about him?”
“The rabbit boy. You know, the one struggling to get off the wall.”
“What about him?”
“Are you going to leave him there?”
Emma huffed. “Are you going to leave the rabbit boy up on the wall?”
The man scoffed. “There’s no rabbit on the wall.”
“What are you talking about? He’s right-“
And indeed, there was no rabbit boy on the wall. Just knives.
“Those always give me hives.”
The rabbit boy looked down at her.
“How did you-“
“They were knives. Not glue.”
He leaned down to her eye level.
Emma inched away. “What?”
“You don’t have a cut. At least not anymore.”
She touched her face. Her skin was only bumpy with a few pimples. But not a scratch. She looked down at her knee. It was perfectly fine.
“That’s what the food is for.” The rabbit pointed to her plate. “Fine dine and short wait. At least for healing.” He moved in closer and whispered, “Not so for mealing-“
A knife flew over his head and hit the wall behind Emma. She saw the rabbit ears go limp and his red eyes twitched.
“Sit and eat.” The man said. “You might as well leave here tomorrow.”
Emma shrugged and ate her pie. She slurped on her milkshake, trying to avoid the rabbit boy’s staring. He was just too weird.
In fact, all three of these people were weird.
They were rather odd.
Rather . . . mad. Yes. That was the word she wanted. Mad.
But she didn’t mind as much as she thought she would. Even after the thrown stools, which now had reappeared at the bar.
Emma sighed. Maybe tomorrow she’d wake up in her room.
At least she got a good tasting meal out of this crazy nightmare/dream thing.
© E.N. Chaffin 2018. All rights reserved. Any reproduction without author permission is against the copyright laws of the United States of America.