Dark Alice

(the opening of something I wrote a few years ago, still waiting to be developed or sent to the Recycling Bin in the sky)

 

Alice hit the ground hard.

And knew something was wrong.

This was no rabbit hole. It was stone. Slabs of stone. And dark. So dark.

Alice couldn’t see her purple mittens in front of her eyes. She stared and stared. Slowly, very slowly, pale fingertips came into focus. She sat up, forced herself to her feet, stretched hands out around her. There was nothing to touch.

Time passed without a tick-tock. The darkness seemed lighter now.

A light dark. Alice giggled. A light dark? That was silly.

She bent her knees and felt around on the ground. Her fingers found cold stone and gaps. Paving stones maybe? Alice inched sideways. The stones went on to the right. But to the left her fingers discovered a drop. A gutter. So, a road?

She took a step forwards, keeping the gutter to her left. The darkness definitely seemed less dark. Alice scraped her booted feet on the stone slabs. She didn’t want another fall. To where? Further downwards? Can you fall forever? She giggled again. What would it be like to fall for eternity?

Alice stopped. Kept still. She smoothed her dark purple dress. A dress that fell to her knees. Her favourite dress. Alice fingered her long black hair and let it fall down past her shoulders. She adjusted her hairband. Composed and neat Alice stepped forward again.

“And just where do you think you are going?” a voice boomed in her ear.

Alice spun around, too fast, a dizziness swam inside her head. She nearly fell. Again.

Something even darker than the darkness took up space in front of her. Alice giggled. How can anything be darker than the dark?

“Answer the question, please,” boomed the voice a second time.

Alice begun to make out a spindly shape. She was sure she could discern long arms and longer legs. And probably a body too, which would make sense. Alice giggled. Imagine arms and legs with no body! Too silly.

“My name is Alice. I fell here. Just now.”

“A Faller! I haven’t seen one of those for at least 500 years. My word.”

Alice could now make out a pale face. Long and thin. A nose crooked, and straggly hair sticking out from under a tall tattered hat.

“A Faller? I suppose I must be, since I fell. But this is no rabbit hole.”

“What’s a rabbit?”

Alice sighed. This was hard work. She rested her hands on her hips.

“Is there no light in this place?”

“Of course there is. Once the Switch is switched. In about a short time.”

Alice blew out her cheeks.

“Haven’t you got a torch or something?”

The shape in front of her moved. A light blazed. Alice stepped back and shielded her eyes. As the light dimmed to a comfortable level she gasped.

“Your finger is alight!”

The tall thin gentleman, whom she could now see quite clearly, smiled. And not very pleasantly. He bent down to come face to face with Alice.

“I’m very clever with my fingers. As you may well find out.”

Alice gulped. She thought about running. But where to? Into the darkness?

“Come now, girl Alice. Let’s go to my house for refreshment.”

A long arm shot out. It grasped Alice’s right forearm. A firm tug and she was being dragged along behind the spectral figure. Into the darkness.

Alice was pulled for miles. That’s what it seemed like to her anyway. It was probably just a few hundred yards.

“Here we are. Home. Your new home.”

“I don’t want a new home,” said Alice as she gazed through the gloom at the shambles of a house in front of her. The building had at least three floors. It could be more but the darkness wrapped itself around the top of the house. It was made of wood, old and worn wood. Grubby and peeling. Weeds grew everywhere on the ground. A gate hung from one hinge.

“Well, it’s yours now, so there.”

The gentleman, who was not so gentle and thus Alice decided to call him just ‘the man’ from now on, tugged her past the gate and up cracked wooden steps towards the black front door.

“Hey, let go, sir. I don’t require a new home. And you’re hurting my arm.”

“Be quiet, girl Alice. The hurt won’t hurt for long.” He chuckled, though to Alice it sounded like the chuckling came from deep inside his stomach. The door swung open as the man barged inside. Alice was pulled in behind.

The inside seemed darker than outside. It smelt. Of old age and neglect. And something else. Something not very nice. The man clicked his finger and light blazed from it again. Using the flickering digit he lit two oil lamps on a faded white mantelpiece. Two threadbare armchairs, a low table and an empty bookcase completed the dingy room.

“Enough!” exclaimed Alice as she dug her boot heels into the creaking wooden floorboards. “Let go.”

The man turned his head, lowered it until he was face to face with Alice and smiled. Alice grimaced at the foul air emanating from his narrow lips.

“But, little girl Alice, we’ve only just begun. I haven’t seen a Faller for so, so long. The last one only lasted me 103 years. I’ve been so lonely since then.”

His tongue licked along his lips as his faded grey eyes lit up.

Alice swept her right foot back. And kicked. Hard. The man screamed, released her and clutched his left shin. Alice turned and ran. To the door. Through the door. And out. Into the dark darkness.

And she fell. Again.

 

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