by Jessica McHugh
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His head felt as though it had been hit with a wrench. He’d been hit with enough to recognize the heavy pain, but the sweet and grainy danger lingering on his tongue let him know the laudanum would soon quell it.
He was safe, the world would be right again, and the Opium Girl had his best interests at heart. Not that he cared especially about her heart. She knew what he really wanted and she held it just out of reach, glancing coyly over her shoulder as she bounded around the twists and turns of the garden, farther and farther away from the notorious Captain Jack Racine.
The girl must have been mad.
He nearly crashed into her when he made the next turn. She had stopped running, and she looked slightly different: more petite. Even from the back, Jack knew that she wasn’t his type. Petite girls were too easily spent, too easily offended. Then again, there were always exceptions to the rule.
Jack gave her a bow that bordered on cocky because it was hinged to his high. She turned slowly, and when Jack saw her youth, he stood up as if being pricked by a pin and wondered what the laudanum was trying to tell him,
“Miss, are you alright?” he asked and she replied in a voice as meek as a dormouse,
“I can’t remember the way out.”
She looked like a living doll: her golden hair perfectly coiffed, her dress newly-pressed and trimmed with Brussels lace. He’d had similarly-dressed girls from Caribee Island, but he wouldn’t be repeating those occasions with this one.
“Alice. My name is Alice,” the girl said with a curtsey.
“A pleasure. Captain Jack Racine. Say, you didn’t see another girl around here, did you? A little taller, a little fuller,” he said, stopping himself just before he made an inappropriate gesture.
“I haven’t seen anyone. Not since I got lost in this blasted maze.”
Jack didn’t take much notice of his surroundings until then. He’d seen the greenery in pursuit of the Opium Girl, but with the possibility of good sport around the next bend, he hadn’t taken note of its arrangement. The garden was in fact a widely-spaced hedge maze, taller and thicker than he could have ever imagined.
Or was it?
Jack plunged his arm into the hedge and when he withdrew his hand, it was covered in verdant picocrystals.
“Oh, we’re in my mind. Thank Azaz,” he sighed.
He opened his hand and blew the picocrystals away to reveal a biscuit with words written in pink icing.
“Eat me?” Alice read over his shoulder and Jack snorted.
“I don’t think it’s that kind of dream, darling.”
“Well, are you going to do it?”
“I don't have much of an appetite at present.”
“I’ll do it,” she said, and before he could conjure a false protest, Alice popped the biscuit in her mouth and swallowed.
Her stomach growled and she clutched it with a bashful grin that suddenly grew massive. All of Alice grew massive actually. Jack fell into a hedge as Alice’s head made a quick ascent to the clouds. He could barely make out her face for the wisps of white around her neck.
“I see a plane,” she said in a thunderous voice that rumbled all the way down to Jack’s soles.
“Is it a dual-seat Azaz-450?”
“I have no idea. It’s a plane, Mister Racine.”
“Captain. I didn’t get booted from the RAF for nothing,” he replied. “What’s the color?”
Her mammoth feet shifted, and Jack was forced to remember his dancing skills. Luckily, the laudanum was a natural cultivator for cavorting. Whether he was actually nimble on his feet or not, he was smooth in his haze and dodged every move she made, including when her massive fingers placed a plane on the path.
The Sherwood was as pretty as ever, sparkling in Doctor Azaz’s mechanical dream. The interior looked like new. Even the yoke was free of the teeth marks from the whiskey-filled night when Jack played "Hide the Banger in her Hangar" with the girl from Caribee Island.
There was a vial sitting on his seat; not exactly a rare sight, but vials that graced the seat of the Sherwood were always empty, carnage from the previous night that had tumbled from his pocket in flight. However, this particular vial was full, and it was labeled with the phrase “Drink me”.
Under the usual circumstances, he would have gulped the contents gladly without thought, but the last thing he wanted of his intoxicants was to be demanded into imbibing.
It was difficult for Alice to take the vial from Jack's outstretched hand. Like sausage trying to pluck a pin from a cushion, it teetered and nearly toppled, but victory hit when the elixir touched her lips and called her back to smaller heights.
Alice shrank, crouched next to the Sherwood, panting and puffing while Jack looked down from the cockpit. He helped her inside and couldn't help but chuckle when her face lit up.
He always loved showing off the Sherwood, especially to women. If not for her age, he would have shown her a true wonderland, but he showed her the way out instead.
The hedges were no match for the Sherwood. Even if it hadn’t been a cruise through intoxication, it would have cut the garden to ribbons and left only the memory of imprisonment.
The plane turned maze into runway and haze into reality. Jack was holding Alice’s hand as the laudanum wore off and his own throbbing head as sobriety kicked back in.
He didn't clearly see the woman who sauntered out of his bedroom: an amazing thing considering what treasures she had to see. The wrench-ache peaked and he buried his head under his pillow.
“So you'll come by the shop today?” the woman asked from the sitting room and Jack groaned. “Captain Racine?”
“I have a show today, darling. I need my beauty sleep.”
“But you said last night you'd pop by my sweetshop. For publicity? You asked me to make you the sample tray this morning, remember?”
“Obviously I don't.”
She ripped the pillow away, and although he flopped over angrily, his mood was lifted by her lack of garb.
“Well? Are you going to try the tray or not?” she asked, hands on hips, toe tapping, and charms bouncing with her impatience.
The tray on Jack's bedside table was draped in Brussels lace and piled high with various cakes, biscuits, and drams of flavored tea. She sensually pressed one of the biscuits to her mouth, powdering her lips with sugar. The wrench stopped striking his head when she straddled his waist and the powder sprinkled her chest.
“Eat. Drink,” she said.
Again, he wasn't thrilled at the prospect of being ordered around by his indulgences, but he also wasn't in the mood to argue. The laudanum had worn off and he was free of the haze, but the maze was a different story. Captain Jack Racine was still stuck in those hedges, and he was likely to remain so.
Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, novellas, and even playwriting. She has had eight books published in three years, including "Song of Eidolons", "The Sky: The World" and the first two installments in her "Tales of Dominhydor" series.
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Guest post created for gyre and gimble event by Jessica McHugh author of The Sky: The World
© 2011. All rights reserved.
by Jessica McHugh
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