A new part of my novel Hunted Song of Looking-Glass Land scurried rapidly forth earlier this week. A rabbit’s tale for your Easter weekend.
The whole story from the White Rabbit’s viewpoint. Drafted April 11-12, 2017.
Background: He was ousted from Wonderland after Alice’s disappearance from the Knave of Hearts’ trial of stolen tarts. The White Rabbit then moved to Looking-Glass Land and became Royal Herald and Public Relations Specialist for the White Kingdom. He had found his true calling. . . .
I used to think the Jabberwock was just a myth, a silly story invented by the idle rich to pass the time. Now I know better. Boy, do I! I used to work for the Queen and King of Hearts as their herald and the King’s personal assistant. I do believe he was quite fond of me, but the Queen was a different story. The Queen of Hearts never liked anyone and of late had begun calling for be-headings at an alarming rate. Of course, these were never carried out; it was all her fancy. She just liked saying, “Off with this head!” Despite all this, in faith, I was quite content in my position in Wonderland for a long time. All that changed one day when a little girl appeared in our world—I may have been the first to see her there, I’m not certain—and turned it upside down and inside out.
Her name was Alice, and, by my ears and whiskers, she was quite the little troublemaker! She kept growing and shrinking and challenging the ideas of the land, questioning the royal authority. Oh, it was quite unpleasant. If I had a reputation for lateness before, once Alice arrived, my tardiness became a more frequent problem. You see, as herald, I was also messenger, and it was my job to spread the news of events and visitors from outside Wonderland to all the governors of our territories.
As you can imagine, Alice’s arrival was some of the biggest news we had had in a long time, so I was constantly hopping around, busy with crying and passing on the news to all our communities whenever Alice did anything scandalous or bizarre, which was as common as the sight of her was startling. We had no children in Wonderland, after all, and no one with her strange manners, backwards education, and stark, bald-faced sanity. She was a rather unsettling figure and, some felt, myself included, a dangerous influence as long as she remained.
One would think that we might be grateful, especially myself, for the day when Alice would be gone from Wonderland. No more scurrying, shuffling, and jumping from place to place trying to keep up with her latest shenanigans. But no one counted on the way Alice’s departure would affect all of us. No one expected her exit to be so violent, dramatic, and mysterious.
By my ears and whiskers, I for one suffered greatly from the consequences of her sudden disappearance after being pursued by the Queen’s card soldiers in the midst of the Trial of Tarts, as it became known for its scandalous association with our uninvited and unwelcome little, and large, guest.
The Queen’s rage became a peculiar realization of her mock rage, though be-headings were still unheard of. The card soldiers were severely punished for losing her in the woods, especially since she had grown so tall as to be unmistakable and always in view, easy to spot, even from a distance. Each soldier had a different account of how Alice got away, and none satisfied the Queen’s incredulous wrath. The jurists at the trial were the next to be blamed, and then the witnesses, and finally the Queen’s closest servants and royal companion, the King of Hearts.
Those most loyal and devoted to the Queen of Hearts experienced the greatest degree of pain and misfortune in the wake of Alice’s leaving. I was fired from service and eventually cast out of Wonderland altogether. Apparently, weeks after the trial had concluded and Alice had vanished, someone made it known to the Queen that I was the first to see Alice in Wonderland and encountered her later in her large form seen at the end of the trial. As such, I was held responsible not only for failing to report the girl’s presence but also for having drawn her into Wonderland in the first place.
The first may have been legitimate; the second certainly was not. It was not I who brought Alice to Wonderland. I had no notion of the girl, no idea that she had somehow found her way to the halls of the rabbit hole portal into our world, and certainly no interest in keeping such a monstrous secret. To tell you the truth, I was very frightened of Alice at first. She presented herself in these intimidating forms, giant like and imposing, so tall and easy with her long limbs that I feared for my person and later for my home.
Bill the Lizard and I tried to subdue her when she attacked my home, but shortly after her mighty hand swept poor Bill into the shrubs, Alice disappeared, having frightened poor Marianne, my housekeeper, into fleeing from the house for several days. Ears and whiskers, I should not have let my fear keep me from dealing with the mysterious, giant stranger by reporting her to the Hearts. I admit that. Still, I had never experienced such fright before in my life and still less since.
The Knave of Hearts of course went to prison permanently, as had been foreseen, despite Alice’s efforts to redeem him with her fancy logic and maudlin emotionalism. He was convicted of having stolen the Queen of Hearts summer’s day tarts, and that was that.
What a meddlesome child she had been! Alice ruined my life and livelihood, and I have been hard pressed to forget it, let alone forgive the creature. Still, I cannot help feeling a strange pang of sorrow, or something like it, for the way she was treated by the Queen of Hearts in the chaos of the trial, sending the soldiers to seize or stab her, capture her at least. I was almost glad Alice got away. At least I think that is what happened. I never saw her again in Wonderland. Perhaps when she disappeared, she managed to regain the land she had come from, but it has remained a mystery to this day.
After I lost my beloved job and was banished from Wonderland, I had only one place I could reasonably go. The kingdom to the west of Wonderland, known as Looking-Glass Land for its glassy lakes and self-reflective style of leadership. Introspective, really, is how it could be described.
My migration turned out to be for a better situation than the one I had left, however unwillingly. The White Royals were a joy to work with. I dearly missed the King of Hearts, as I had grown exceedingly fond of him and he increasingly dependent upon me. But the Hearts had not the same strength of character, innate nobility, and command of their kingdom that the Whites had.
Another kingdom within Looking-Glass Land had long been suppressed and subservient to the Whites, that of the Red King and Queen. Over the years, the White King and Queen gradually acquired more and more territory from the Red Royals, succeeding as they did so well at the grand game of chess that was an integral function of the governance of Looking-Glass Land. Eventually, the Whites beat the Reds at the game, and the Reds had no choice but to cede all their remaining land to the Whites.
Thus, the Red King had fallen into a sickness and then into a depression and finally developed narcolepsy, almost at will, so as not to be subjected to the constant humiliation and shame of absolute defeat at his own game. The Red Queen had fared better, and over time she became a friend to the White Queen, but even more so to the White King, and worked her way into their service as a high counselor of the court.
What a pity: The poor Red King never recovered from his condition and would often be found willy nilly around the realm, having fallen asleep on horseback and plummeted from the horse into a bush, or dozing against a favorite tree along the Queens’ River. Overall, no harm came to him, as everyone had learned to ignore him as if he had never been conscious at all. He grew to spend more hours sleeping than waking, and his scattered presence snoring around the countryside became a soothing comfort to passersby, a symbol of the peace of the kingdom and the end of the chessboard wars.
The Red Queen found it easy to remove the Red King from her thoughts, and she had hired servants to keep watch over the Red King from time to time so that he would not be a distraction from her duties for the White Royals and her own preferred pastimes. This arrangement lasted for years and appeared to work out very well indeed.
It was into this more settled state of Looking-Glass Land that I found myself deposited and there I sought work at the White Palace. It was impossible to provide references for my past work, though the King of Hearts did put in a good word for me with a letter he signed and which I stowed in my jacket pocket, along with my pocket watch, and brought to this new place.
It was unofficial of course, with no royal seal on the document, but the White King recognized the jagged handwriting of the King of Hearts and was satisfied with this vote of confidence despite the rumors of the Queen’s ire and accusations against me. Indeed, I had not the benefit of a trial at which to defend myself. I was simply ejected from Wonderland with contempt and disgust, never to be permitted re-entry again.
Life for me became a matter of redemption. By my ears and whiskers, I was determined to prove myself worthy and of greater skill and value than I had ever been or sought to be working for the Hearts. The White King agreed to take me on as herald and escort at the palace and for royal functions around the land, but on a probationary basis. His confidence in the King of Hearts was not as great as I could have hoped, but it was enough to earn me a temporary period during which to make my mark and merit permanent employment. I would not squander the chance.
What I did not count on, could never have predicted in a million lifetimes, was the reappearance of one Alice Croftbridge of England, the same Alice who had followed me into Wonderland and precipitated my ouster from it. And I never did find my lost kid gloves; I’m sure that was her fault as well.
I know. Unbelievable. Impossible, in fact.
Her first visit to Wonderland was strange and improbable enough, but the idea that she could return to our world and seem to follow me to Looking-Glass Land instilled in me such a curious blend of anger, bewilderment, and a kind of yearning, a hope, perhaps, that I was quite paralyzed by the news. Oh, ears and whiskers! Its effect on my mind and chronic anxiety, even the very sinews of my frame, for several days after hearing it, I assure you!
She had been in the land for nearly a day by the time word reached my lofty ears. Coming late to the party, as usual. She had met with the Red Queen, come upon her in the 2nd Square somehow, and the Red Queen had encouraged her to proceed toward the 8th Square where she could become queen if she made it that far. I believe the Red Queen was fairly certain that point was moot, that Alice would never reach the 8th Square, but alas it was not to be.
The White King was in the middle of great public works projects for the betterment of all Looking-Glass Land. I was in charge of promoting the projects and ensuring that everyone knew what they were for and why they were occurring, basically getting everyone on board and satisfied with the changes. People can be very stubborn about accepting change, but we were almost on schedule. Hard at work preparing to relocate the Drumming Town riff raff to make room for upper-class housing, we labored happily away. News of Alice’s re-emergence made its way to the Palace about this time, thanks to the Red Queen’s haste after encountering Alice in the 2nd Square.
At the same time, we worked to clear the Tulgey Wood of the remaining Jabberwocks, which had been migrating to the Sleefs for decades, in preparation for new public housing and restoration of the woods and ravine as a nature preserve. The stragglers merely needed a few helpful hints and finally a mild nudge or two to be convinced to join their brethren in the Sleef Mountain caves and tunnels. We knew, after all, that they would be most happy among their own kind and better suited to the arid hills and moist caverns than any of our regular commoners or nobility would ever be. In faith, it was best for everyone.
There were a few commoners who lived along the ravine, in that section of the Queens’ River and around the Tulgey Wood, but moving them was easier. We simply provided incentives for relocation to the north and east, just west of Looking-Glass Lake, which was already densely inhabited by nobility and the White Bishop. Those we did not transfer to the new neighborhood we sent on permanent holiday abroad. Easily done.
It was in the midst of all these major overhauls, the implementation of long-established plans for town and countryside improvements, that Alice saw fit to grace us again with her petite, and sometimes gargantuan, presence. At first, the White King was not convinced of the threat Alice’s arrival could pose to our work and to the realm in general. The Red Queen’s alarm and what seemed like perhaps was veiled jealousy of Alice went a long way toward convincing the White King. In faith, between you and me, I really do not like that Red Queen.
But it was my particular input about the havoc Alice had wrecked in Wonderland, of which he had only heard rumors and mixed stories too fabulous to be believed, that finally set the King on a path toward ridding Looking-Glass Land of such a nuisance, as pretty and polite as she had always been, in spite of her own foibles and follies.
Fur and feathers! I can recount all of this now with a lightened heart, as I have advanced in the court beyond my original permanent position, and now feel quite secure and happy where I am. If it were not so, if Alice had succeeded in her decimations and usurpation as the White Queen claimed she was destined to do, well then that would be quite different for my disposition and my nerves, to be sure. But what was to come was more darkly magical and deceptively mischievous than anyone could have supposed possible at the outset.
In fact, Alice became the means for entirely ruining the White King’s and my careful plans, preparations, and messaging around the developments for improving Looking-Glass Land.
It was all right, in faith. I wasn’t as upset as I thought I might be. It’s true, recalling it now does get my blood boiling ever so slightly, all the way up to the tips of my ears. However, all is well that ends well, despite our setbacks at the hands of that menacing girl.
To be fair, our troubles were not Alice’s doing alone. As in some milder ways in Wonderland, others helped with her activities in Looking-Glass Land. As a supporter of Alice, the White Queen turned out to be the worst traitor of all. Her betrayal of the White King was absolutely horrid, I tell you! Unfortunately, ill-informed and misguided members of my own home, Wonderland, saw fit to join the fray before all was said and done. The White Queen played a major, wicked role in advancing the ambitions of Alice Croftbridge, little wretch that she was. Others underestimated Alice’s abilities, but not I. Oh, no! I knew what she was capable of doing. I had seen it first hand in Wonderland.
And yet, the factor I grossly discounted was the role the Wocks would play in Alice’s efforts to take power. One Wock in particular, Song Warber of the Ravine in the Tulgey Wood, became much like the nuisance and threat Alice had been–and would again prove herself to be in this new place for her. It was a foul affair, indeed! They even came into alliance at the White Queen’s urging and by her own assistance, if not some kind of providence as well.
In faith, I for one do not believe in such forces, but the White Queen’s clairvoyance could not be denied even to me, and mysterious and much stranger things had happened before, especially when Alice was involved. We had to prepare anew and take action against these challenges to the sovereignty of the throne and the nation.
Before long–by my long ears and twitching whiskers–things began to look devastating for us. The White Knight turned traitor as well, along with the Mad Hatter, the Unicorn, the Gryphon, and, not surprisingly, the Cheshire Cat. Other mythical and common creatures from both Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land stuck their large, pointy noses and greasy whiskers into the mix. As a result, large-scale battle could not be avoided.
We had exiled the terrible Jock Warber, Song’s father, for allowing Alice to gain access to the land, which he of course flatly denied, but there was no help for it. The White King fired him and banished him to the Sleef Mountain communities, facilitating our clearing of the Ravine and the rest of the Tulgey Wood, seeing as how once the patriarch was gone, removal of the ghastly mother and her hideous children. Jackie Warber and her little ones were jailed, but somehow Song had gotten away before she could be apprehended like the rest, and it was this one loose end that made all the rest of the rebellion possible and so treacherous and horrible to the White Palace, nobility, and the peace of the realm.
Humpty Dumpty was always a troublesome noble and impertinent subject in Looking-Glass Land. You must be round with him when necessary. He had wanted from the beginning, a strong, unequivocal destruction of Jock and his family, the last Wocks in Looking-Glass Land, long before Alice even showed her sweet little liar’s face. I hate to admit it now, but the poor old round egg was right. It was our failure to corral and respect the mighty menace posed by Song Warber in particular that nearly cost us the kingdom. In fact, it cost the White King his life, along with many others.
By the skin of my ears and and the tips of my whiskers, I was one of the lucky few, along with the Red Queen and the White Bishop, to survive the slaughter, the siege, and the sinister plots of Song, Alice, the White Queen and the traitorous Mad Hatter and White Knight. Before his death, at the hands of some of his soldiers who turned on him out of undying loyalty to their commander of many years, the White Knight, the White King did succeed in hurtling Alice back through the portal, or one of them, and out of Looking-Glass Land, and for all time. [not true: White Rabbit himself killed the king, and Alice would return]
It was at the mock coronation of Alice–quite the sham!–in the 8th Square that we finally succeeded in arresting and ejecting her. Humpty Dumpty, perhaps getting what he deserved as the cantankerous old fart he had grown to be, found himself in many pieces from a single blow by the White Knight using the haft of his sword. The egg man could never be put back together again. For one, the horses were otherwise engaged in chasing down Song Warber, and for another, the kings’ men had already largely pledged their undying allegiance to the White Knight that crushed Humpty in the first place. What a pity it was.
As for Song and her family, the mother and younger siblings were finally executed at the Palace dungeon before Alice’s “coronation” feast. Yet, suddenly and most unexpectedly, in fact, Jock Warber was seen returning from exile in the Sleefs. To be sure, his swift demise on the outskirts of the Tulgey Wood led to our identifying and hunting down his only remaining family member, Song Warber.
Ears and whiskers! I led the pursuit and was happy to do it. It had become part of my job after the disloyalties perpetrated by the White Knight. We nearly had her in the Bog below the foothills of the Sleef Mountains in the west when the White Queen arrived with her rescuers. The Queen allowed that wretched Wock to escape our grasp even as the she herself fled the kingdom to the north.
All became quiet after the heat of the battle, but our losses were deep and significant, in faith. In the White King’s place, the White Bishop was crowned prime chancellor, and the Red Queen took over rule of Looking-Glass Land. Thankfully, at last, we could begin rebuilding the shambles our world had become, after we had to clear the woods of disgraced dead bodies of the rebellion, punish the living treasonous participants, and bury our honored dead on the hallowed ground of the abbey of the White Palace, under the care and holiness of his grace the White Bishop. Even more fortunate to me after all my efforts, I was able to retain my position as herald, state counselor and executioner.
At this moment, while much of what we had achieved came undone and much of what we fought to defend fell into destruction, we still survive as a community, as a kingdom, and as a proud people of this newly humbled yet triumphant land of introspective, self-reflective and noble souls. The future may not burn brightly in our present eyes, but I can see the light, a purer light than ever before, shining ahead plainly and clearly. The light is waiting to be let in, to feed the garden lying in ashes yet with newly fertile, rich soil, cradling the seeds of our future greatness.