IN which we discover the whereabouts of our Alice...
by Kerry Downing
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
Alice deftly shuffled the cards, puffed out a huge smoke ring courtesy of the stogie hanging from the corner of her mouth, and began dealing another round of poker.
After dealing a card to both the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, she paused. “Hey, mousie, you in?” A loud snore answered her query.
“It would appear as if our friend the Dormouse is not interested at this time,” the Hatter said. “Wouldn’t you agree, Hare?”
The March Hare remained silent for a moment, and then began nibbling on the card Alice had just dealt him.
“Well, I guess he’s out then,” Alice replied and continued to deal.
Just as Alice picked up her own cards, two figures began to take shape in the middle of the table the four un-likely friends were gathered around.
Alice pushed her chair back slightly from the table. “What in the world?” The Hatter stared with wide eyes while the March Hare hopped off into the corner of the room. The Dormouse didn’t notice a thing.
“Are you ready to go, Roy?” Emily asked. “I could hardly sleep last night I’m so excited.”
Roy smiled at his wife. Now that she was a believer in the Time Slice Traveler (or TST), she was always up for an adventure.
“Yep, I’m ready to go. Just remember to hold on to me at all times. You know what could happen if we lose contact with each other.”
Emily laughed. “I remember, I remember. Don’t be such a worry-wart, Roy. This isn’t my first foray into the time stream, ya know?” Emily locked arms with her husband as she spoke. “And as long as were reminding each other of things, don’t you forget to hold on to the TST. You know what could happen if you drop it.”
“I’ll remember,” Roy said. He reached into his pocked and pulled out a gleaming silver cylinder. On it were markings ranging from -20 at its far left edge to +20 at its far right. A black, triangle-shaped pointer hovered over the 0 mark in the center of the device.
“Here goes nothing,” Roy said as he slid the pointer from 0 to -10.
Alice had seen a lot of things since she had first climbed down the rabbit hole, but a living, breathing, normal human couple wasn’t one of them. Until now, that was. But here they were, big as life, standing in the middle of her card table.
For a moment, the four friends and the two time slice travelers were speechless. Emily gripped Roy’s arm tightly, her finger nails digging into his flesh.
“Would you like some tea?” the Mad Hatter asked, finally breaking the silence. “It’s always tea time here, you know because …”
“Because you’re being punished and time has stood still at 6 pm,” Emily said.
“Why, yes … yes, that’s right. But how did you know?” the Hatter asked.
“I know because I read …” Emily began but was interrupted.
Alice pushed her chair back from the table and rose to her feet. She ran her hands over her blue dress to straighten the wrinkles and tossed her blonde hair back over her shoulders with a quick shake of her head. “What I would like to know is who you are and what you are doing in the middle of our card table?”
Roy and Emily exchanged a glance. Emily stood on her tip-toes, leaned into her husband, and whispered, “What’s going on, Roy? How did we end up here? This isn’t a different time slice. This is a … well … a cartoon”
“I have no idea,” Roy quietly replied. “I can just slide the pointer back to zero and we can get out of here if you want.” Roy placed his thumb over the cylinder’s triangle-shaped pointer, ready to slide it if Emily gave the okay.
Emily shook her head. “No, let’s wait for a minute and see what’s going on here.”
Alice began to tap her foot. “I’m waiting for an answer. Who are you and how did you fit through the rabbit hole?”
“Well,” Roy said, “I’m Roy Washburn and this is my wife Emily.” Emily smiled. “Hello. Nice to meet you,” she said. “And you are?”
“I’m Alice. That’s my friend Hattie behind you.” The Mad Hatter removed his tall, black hat and bowed deeply at the waist. “A pleasure to meet you.”
Alice pointed towards the corner of the room. “Hare is over there cowering in the corner. I’d introduce you to Mousie but he’s still sleeping.”
Alice puffed out another perfect smoke ring as her cigar hung precariously from the corner of her lips.
The smoke ring floated towards Roy. It briefly encircled his head and then vanished with an audible “poof”.
Roy laughed. “You’re nothing like what I would have expected. I thought Alice in Wonderland was a sweet, innocent young thing who accidentally fell into a rabbit hole. You remind me more of a saloon girl from the Wild West.”
Emily nudged Roy in the ribs. “Roy! We’re guests here. I can’t believe you’d say something like that.”
Alice laughed. “It’s okay. I’ve been called a lot worse, and by a better class of people.”
“Hey!” Roy began.
“You know this place changes a person, Roy,” Alice continued. “When I first fell down that rabbit hole I was a scared, frightened girl. But I’ve seen things here, Roy. Things that would make you go screaming into the night. So I wouldn’t be so quick to judge.”
“Excuse me, Alice,” Emily said, “but if it’s so bad here why do you keep coming back?”
Alice laughed. “Good question, Emily. I come back here because of these guys.” She pointed in the general direction of her friends. “They kind of grow on you after a while, ya know?”
Emily nodded. “Yes, I know. That’s kind of how I feel about him.” She pointed to Roy. Alice and Emily shared a laugh.
Alice then redirected her attention to Roy. “So, Roy, how did you and your lovely bride get here? You obviously didn’t come through the rabbit hole like I did.”
“No, no, we didn’t do that. We got here by using this.” He held the cylinder out towards Alice. “It lets us travel in the time stream. We usually end up visiting different time slices. We’ve never ended up any place like this before.”
Alice reached out and snatched at the cylinder. Roy started to pull it back towards him but she was too quick and she had it in her hands before he could stop her. Alice, Hattie, and Hare watched as Roy and Emily winked out of existence.
“That was certainly odd,” the Hatter said. “Shall we continue our game?”
Alice considered this for a moment and the nodded. “Might as well. We’ll just chalk it up to one more strange thing in a very strange place.”
“Indeed,” the Hatter agreed. “Indeed.”
Guest post by Kerry Downing, author of Time Slice
© 2012. All rights reserved.
by Kerry Downing
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
READ more about this world…
by Kerry Downing
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Ordinary People. Extraordinary Adventures. Science Fiction with Heart.
Newly retired workaholic Roy Washburn is not ready for a life of leisure. On a trip to the mall with his wife, he finds a small metal cylinder with odd markings. One nudge of the cylinder's triangle-shaped pointer and Roy finds himself embarking on an exciting new adventure in the Time Stream.
There he meets The Traveler, a tall, gangly being who shows Roy how to use the cylinder to visit other civilizations that co-exist on "his" Earth, each occupying a different, thin Time Slice. The Traveler solicits Roy's help in recovering an object invented by his murdered father and beyond his own reach. Roy is his last hope.
At first it seems that the Traveler's wish might be easily granted. But after Roy's wife Emily becomes ill and his daughter's long-held resentments rise to the surface, he can no longer "travel" at a moment's notice. He also discovers the very real physical and mental risks involved in roaming the Time Stream.
Despite the dangers, Roy is determined to help the Traveler. But he can't do it alone. Fortunately he has a loving wife and a core group of loyal friends. But first he must convince them--and his daughter--that he isn't crazy ...
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* image source Alice playing cards