The cold light of the evening sun gave the river a sickening orange glow. The cold September water chilled my legs. Pinpricks danced up and down my spine, reminding me that I was still alive and well.
Not for long though.
I simply was not long for this world, I told myself. I had taken all the necessary actions for a man in my position. I left a note in my car, my affairs listed on a letter addressed (and for that matter, sent) to my dear mother, and my ten dollar trench coat bought from the local second-hand store laden down with assorted stone and debris. I was going to go like Virginia Woolfe, and I was at peace with myself.
A deep sigh and another step. The water reaching higher on my body, intent on giving me sweet release. Another step. My soul cries out, hoping my life spares me the replay. Another step.
And my foot finds nothing but water. I can feel the current gripping me down. I close my eyes, this is it.
My body rebels, trying to strip the bonding straight jacket of a trench coat off my body. The cold water stings my face. My feet thrash about, trying in vain to keep my body afloat. What have I done?
My lungs burn, a sharp contrast to the frigid waters. I exhale a little. it offers me a brief reprieve to the crushing, burning sensation. The break in pain allows me to rally, and I gather the strength to cast off the earth-laden coat.
I swim, I swim with a vigor I never realized I had. My mind, dulled, spun like a water-logged ball of string. Nothing made sense, with exception of the growing want for oxygen to again flood my lungs.
If I were to be examined while I fought to the surface, I imagine people would liken me to, ironically, a fish out of water. Arms wailing, clawing. Legs thrashing, kicking. Every inch of my essence fighting to undo a petty decision my grief-struck heart ignorantly persuaded me to try.
The surface seems so close, yet so far. I’m caught in a limbo I’m unsure I’ll make it out of. The sting in my eyes is too much, and i slam them shut. Red and yellow sparks dance behind my eyelids in a curious way.
Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. Ringing. The sound of my quickened heartbeat and the sharp ringing swirl together. Splash. I can feel the wind on my face. I survived. the blurred outline of the riverbank is a most welcome sight. My weakened, exhausted body goes on autopilot, and I feebly swim towards dry land.
My feet find the submerged riverbank, and I begin to slog through the drink. the water resists letting me go, a prize has escaped its clutches. But the closer I get to land, the more it relents and the trudge eases.
I stumble blindly onto the riverbank, rubbing my eyes. My heart is pounding, and my adrenaline is coursing. While it was in fact a terrifying experience, I must admit it was a bit of a rush. A panicked laugh slips out, as I open my eyes and blink. Everything is still a blur.
And then it comes into focus. And the smell hits me. A sickly sweet smell. Burnt chocolate is what I would compare it to. My senses seem to be shot, because the bank is not the rocky gravel that I left it. It’s now an orange hue, with purple swirled into it. I spin around, and then I see it.
Nothing, absolutely nothing. Before me stretches an ocean. Waves of blue lazily close in towards the now beach. The sun is no longer setting in my view. It’s as if I’ve been turned upside-down. My mouth hangs open in awe and wonder. Where the hell am I?
Am I dead?
I turn back, my vision coming into focus. Before me laid what I can only describe as a forest of some sort. Dark bark with colorful leaves of orange and pink. There seemed to be no shortage of strange. My stomach rumbles.
“Hungry?” A childish voice asks. It startles me. I look to the source, and before me stands something almost out of a nightmare.
A girl, no older than 9, stands before me. She is wearing a frivolous, frilly orange and white dress. Ribbons adorn her hair, accenting it and making it seem playful and innocent. Her pale porcelain skin clashes with her bright, orange hair. Her head tilted to the side, her large red eyes seemingly studying me. Her foot was tapping as if she were late for something. She was wearing what I swear looked like buckled shoes. Except the buckles were…The club playing card suite?
“I don’t have all day, are you hungry or not?” Her inquiry breaks me out of my staring. I idly nod. A bright grin spreads across the young girls face, and she fishes out a cookie from a pocket in front of her dress. She holds it out, and I take it. It looks like just a plain everyday chocolate chip cookie. With the exception of the purple chocolate.
“It’s rude to take food and inspect it. Eat it!” She crosses her arms, and the foot taps faster. I oblige, and take a bite. It tastes absolutely delicious.
“Thanks, uh, miss. Where might I be, if I may inquire?” I ask
“You speak like a learned man! How exciting! But I must ask, where do you think you are?”
“I am not sure.”
“Well, when you went swimming with a trench coat on, I just found that dreadfully curious! So I may have pulled you into this world, Wonderland, to ask you why you would go swimming with rocks. Is it a sport where you come from?” Her question stung. How was I going to explain. Wait. Did she say “Wonderland”?
“What do you mean, Wonderland?”
“I’ll ask the questions deary~! Now, then. What’s your name? And don’t lie! I do not enjoy suffering liars!” This child was bossy.
“Aaron. A pleasure, miss…?”
“Hmm. ‘Aaron’. That’s dreadfully plain! Your new name while you’re here is John. Okay John?” The absolute nerve.
“I’m afraid I don’t–“
“Cut the act, John. I can see right through you. You know, I get lonely? And when I see someone try to take their own life, it just makes me all sad inside! Why do that, when you can spend time with someone to make you feel better! So here, I’m gonna make you feel great! I want to play a game with you John.” I was not particularly excited to see where this was going.
“I’m not sure I agree with all this.”
“Too bad! If you want to make it home, you’ll have to play with meeeee!~” A childish pouting frown crossed her lips, and she crossed her arms.
“Alright, fine. What game do you want to play.” I ask, rolling my eyes.
The girl shifts herself onto the other foot, which begins tapping. She scoffs, and blows a lock of her hair out of her face.
“You quite obviously do not know your place. So I’m going to make this more interesting. You just have to put one foot back into the water you came from. BUT you must also refrain from losing your virginity with any of my denizens here. Sounds good?”
“But I’m not a virgin.” I exclaim. That’s one thing I was actually happy about.
“Are you suuuure?!~” she asks, pointing at me.
I look down, and am shocked. I appear to have shrunk. I’m now almost the same height as the girl when I look back up in panic. My clothes sag. I didn’t even notice until she said something. By sheer luck or whatever my water-logged denim jeans still fit. My shoes however, were about five sizes too big.
“What have you done to me!?” I shriek in a shrill, high pitched voice. My hands clap over my mouth.
“What did I do? I fed you a cookie! You ate the cookie! And now, you’ve reverted to back when you were around,” she looked me up and down “I’d say ten or so.”
I’m positively horrified. Was this really Wonderland? As in, the mad hatter Wonderland? No matter, I just had to turn around, put my feet in the water, and I was home-free. Simple enough. But it was not so simple after all.
Because when I turned around, I was facing not an ocean, but multi-colored trees. Turning back, the girl was still there, head cocked to the side. A sly grin appearing on her now horrible visage. But she was different now. Dark, fleshy wings were now flared out. Terrible, spiraling horns had suddenly sprouted from the top of her head. She wasn’t a child, she was a demon. I had to have been in hell. And just like that, she turned her head, and let loose a whistle.
“Now, I will tell you that the place we were at is literally that way.” She says, pointing directly behind me.
“But I would consider running. These Jub-Jubs that just heard me absolutely LOOVE breaking in young boys!~” She continued, almost seeming giddy with excitement.
“w-What?” Is all I manage to squeak out, as I see what looks like birds stumble out.
At least four, all searching for whatever made such a peculiar sound. The most noticeable trait would most definitely be the fluffy orange plumage, and the bare breasts. Not only bare, but quite large. Large enough to cause back trouble on such a small frame. They catch wind, and their eyes dart over to me. They begin to close in, lewd smiles on their collective faces.
“Maybe next time you’ll try to not be such an arrogant boy to the Queen!~ Good luck!” And with that, she disappeared in a puff or pink smoke.
Which left me staring down the thick birds bearing down on me. I was paralyzed, not sure what was going on. Where do I run? So I do the only logical thing. I turn tail, and start running into the forest. Cries of protest are heard behind me. They seem to be upset I won’t just stand still, and that they have to chase.
My shoes are an impediment, so i kick them off. As luck would have it, the grass was soft and felt good between the toes. I imagine my shirt looks like a sail flapping in the wind. Thank Christ whatever made me like this had the decency to keep my pants fitting to my body. But will I stay like this forever? What happens if it does wear off? Will my pants–
I fall, a sharp incline I failed to realize I was going over before it was too late. I tumble ass over teakettle down the hill. Everything mixes into a flash of oranges, pinks, and purples. Finally at the bottom of the incline, I spot what I think is a hollowed-out log. I scramble for it, and get inside. Perhaps having the body of a small child has its boons after all. I cover my mouth and listen. Silence, and then I hear them coming down the hill. They stop by the log, and my heart stops. What is going to happen if they find me?
“Oh how I wonder WHERE that little cute boy went!~”
“Ara, ara. What a PITY. If only we could KNOW where he possibly has HIDDEN himself.”
The log shifts, as if something has just sat on it.
“The kid’s not here. He left his shirt in here to throw you off his trail.” A sultry voice purrs.
“w-What? He tricked us?”
“It seems that way. Poor Jub-Jubs!” The log shifts again.
“Well which way did he go?”
“I believe he went…That way.” The sound of what I can only describe as wet slapping fades off into the distance. It’s eerily quiet now. I cautiously crawl out of the log. Standing up, I turn around to see that whatever tricked the birds off my trail is gone. I’m all alone.
The sound of birds and nature my only companion, I set off in the direction I believe I was headed. My stomach felt sick. It also had not really set in that I was in Wonderland. If it was Wonderland. The girl looked like a demon, so the possibility of this being a sort of Hell hung over my head ominously.
“You know, Jub-Jubs have a great sense of smell. But they lack any real rational thought.” A voice rang out. The same voice from before. I scanned everywhere, yet could not find the source.
“It’s quite entertaining, seeing you squirm. It really gets my rocks off. I absolutely love when they struggle.” A small giggle accenting the end of the statement sent shivers down my spine.
“Where are you? Who are you? And for that matter, WHAT are you?” I ask
“Well, we’ve established I’m not a Jub-Jub. And that I don’t like little boys.~”
“w-Will I ever go back to my normal size?” I squeak.
“Thankfully, yes. But you must have really upset the Queen of Hearts for her to do this to you.”
“She wasn’t the Queen of Hearts. She had clubs all over her!”
“Dear boy, you really don’t know where you are, do you?”
She had a point. I had no idea where I was at all. This zany, looney-toon land made me feel like my sanity was sapping away. It honestly did not feel good.
“Where am I, then?” I inquire.
“You’re standing right there. Where there is, I can’t tell you. Only you can tell you where you are.” She spoke.
“You don’t make any coherent sense.” I bark, getting tired of the games.
“Yes I do! You’re the one who doesn’t make any sense. For instance, why would you treat the literal creator of this realm like a child.”
“Just show yourself, so I can talk to you. I tire of these games.”
“You know, you’re really quite vapid. You’re beginning to bore me.” A voice rang out behind me.
I turn, and on a branch lay a woman. Well, what I believe to be a woman. Caucasian complexion, with a bright wide smile. Her hand, or rather, paw, dangled. It and her tail swayed lazily back and forth. The pattern in her fur was a strange burnt orange and pink striped design. It clashed, but somehow worked. Her hair was long and flowing, it draped down from the branch like a tapestry. Overall, she was beautiful from a distance.
“Want a closer look?~” She asks, and she started to disappear. The end of her tail seemingly burning out like a fuse. As the ‘fuse’ got into her main body, she vanished with a puff of smoke left behind. I look around, and feel a tap on the shoulder. I turn around, and she is towering over me. A lecherous grin on her face.
“Hey there, little boy. Where’s your mother at? Doesn’t she know not to leave kids unattended around these parts…” She teases, getting uncomfortably close to me. I backpedal in response, trying to put distance between us.
“I thought you said you didn’t like little boys.” I gasp out
“Oh yeah, you’re right. Hmm…” She says, putting a finger to her bottom lip as if in thought.
Now that she was closer, I could actually see her face. It had a playful, fun look. A small club suite was below each eye. She had on a pink ascot that hung down into her cleavage. She wore a frilly orange corset, with a club right in the center of it. She also had a garter belt on, with straps holding up the diamond patterned stockings she had on. Playful, and sexy.
“Well, it’s a good thing that you’re going to get out of that form soon enough then. Hehehe.” She giggles.
“Who are you, then?” I ask
“Why, my name is Rhiannon!” She exclaims, throwing her hands in the air and striking a pose. I couldn’t help but smile.
“Okay, uhh, Rhiannon. How do I get out of here?”
“Didn’t you hear the Queen? Get back to the Sea of Clubs! Don’t worry though. I’ll guide you.” She says, crossing her arms and with a poof of smoke, gone.
Another poof and giggle, and I see her perched back up on her tree. This time her legs swinging freely from the branch. Her head bobbing side to side, humming a tune, she pointed behind me.
“That’s the way you want to go. TRUST me! I’m from this neck of the woods. Get it? Neck of the woods?” A belly laugh bursting from her, I figured she would explode. But instead, she exploded into a burst of orange and pink confetti. Okay.
What a strange, strange trip. And thus, I turn around and begin walking. This place had a strange, alien charm to it. And I finally had a chance to enjoy the scenery as I walked through this forest.
I continued on for about ten minutes, and I was yanked out of my own little world by the sound of a thud behind me. Turning around, I witnessed most likely the biggest egg I have ever seen in my life. It came up to waist, at least. Curious, I walk up to inspect this ginormous egg. For what ever reason, I rap on the egg lightly with the knuckle of my index finger. The egg starts shaking.
Thud. Thud. Thud. More eggs fall from the trees. All begin shaking immediately. I back up, and hit something. Something soft.
Behind me were the Jub-Jubs from earlier. The cat-thing led me directly into their nest.