Sunday, March 29, 2009

Alice's Wonderland: Mr. Hargreaves... he dead!

This is what going mad feels like.

Wake one morning and discover Ezra, the chambermaid, speaking with a giant cod in the kitchen. Ezra seems to be almost part gopher herself; whiskers and bulbous eyes and a furry snout. This is crazy of course, Ezra is not a gopher... except insofar as she goes and gets things. And the cooking lady is most certainly not a cod.

Mmm... cod.

No this, Reginald, is madness speaking. Ignore it. Put on your frock coat and boots, prepare your things. Yes, you were planning on going somewhere today. Your wife, remember?

Reginald Hargreaves tips his hat to Gopher Ezra as he departs, like nothing is wrong. What does she see him as, he wonders. She did see the little rabbit girl afterall. Ezra says nothing about the previous night. Neither does Reginald.

A thick fog has fallen over London, and the trip to the train station does not bode well. The people seem normal enough but every once in awhile some THING comes out of the mist; like those horse-people, chatting amicably about the weather.

They're just people, Reginald reminds himself; only people. Standing outside the grand trunk station in central London he contemplates turning around, finding a doctor. Giving up this madness.

But of course the doctors are useless, Reginald, you know this. They'll lock you up, put you away - or simply give the same advice they gave your wife. Speaking of which, weren't you going to see her?

That's right he was. He steps forward and purchases his ticket, making a point of avoiding the awkward stares of a man with what looked like a lion's mane looking up from some children's book he was reading.

He boards the train - first class, because he wants some privacy and maybe some whiskey to calm his nerves. Is this what the rest of his life is going to be like? He passes an elderly couple on his way to his cabin, they seem normal enough. In fact there's just one bear-boy thing that he encounters, with his mother, reading a book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. What the hell? He is about to stop and ask the boy something...

But of course, Reginald, it is best not to get between a mother bear and her cubs. Indeed, that seems most prudent advice to him on second thought. After standing a moment staring he continues to his cabin, closing the door firmly behind him. Now, at least he can be alone with his thoughts.

He falls asleep. Or at least he thinks he does; its hard to tell now. What is certain is that he is woken by a voice in the darkness.

"I am going to kill you."

Reginald sits up immediately. It is dark indeed. The mist outside London seems only to grow thicker such that no light penetrates its murky depths. The cabin is nearly black, and the only thing he can here is the sound of the engine or the buffeting of the cars on the track. All else is silence.

"I say... is some one there?"

"Well if you don't say it - who would?" Was the reply, which seemed to come from nowhere in particular.

Reginald, most perplexed by this was struck dumb for a moment as he tried to puzzle how to conduct conversation with darkness, which seemed to conduct itself as though it were his old friend. "I don't rightly know."

"Well at least you're honest." Suddenly, right before his eyes a set of whiskers, nose and eyes appears, soon taking the form of a cat with a mighty grin upon its face. "To make introductions, I am a Cheshire Cat - the one who is going to kill you to be specific."

"You sir, are a cat."

"Cat's can kill things." The Cheshire Cat replies with marked formality. It begins to groom itself.

"I'm a person; cat's don't kill people." This is common knowledge: a ten pound housecat cannot overcome a hundred and seventy pound English gentleman.

"Cats don't talk either, but here we are." The cat replies and begins to carefully lick at its front claws, one by one, with almost ceremonial attention to detail.

The cat has a point Reginald. Still thinking upon the notion there really was no way he could see for the cat to follow through on its threats "I see. Well why would you want to kill me anyway? And why would such an obviously skilled assassin make such an obvious entrance?"

"Ah. Very excellent questions indeed." The Cheshire Cat replies, sitting upright. For the first time it regards Reginald with its undivided attention. "To the first question: because the Queen has commanded it and that is all the reason I need. For the second: because I am, as you may have noted sir, a cat; I like to play with my food first."

Reginald sat rigid. That the Queen would hire a cat to kill him was clearly preposterous. "Well, you'll forgive me if I see no reason to tolerate insolence, even from so well-spoken a cat. Please leave my cabin, or I shall put you out. Be kind enough not to return."

The cat simply sat across from him, grinning at him through the darkness.

"Right. Out you go cat." Reginald stood up and reached for the cat only to watch his hands evaporate right through it - the Cheshire Cat, grinning face and all dissolved into the darkness.

Little claws raked the back of his neck, but when he turned around nothing was there but the bench, luggage rack and darkness. Feeling the back of his neck there was just the barest trickle of blood. "Really now cat. Stop this foolishness at once."

There is no reply. Reginald searches the cabin but nothing pops out, no more savage cat maulings. After a few moments pass he dabs gently at the back of his neck, looking at the tiny little red stains. The stains begin to grow blurry. "Poison?" He asks no one in particular, really he is addressing incredulity itself.

The darkness begins to laugh. Reginald staggers a moment, supporting himself with one hand. Out, out, out of this place - out of this room, yes now - the sooner the better!

Reginald stumbles out the door, tripping over something. It makes a racket - pots and pans clattering to the ground - he is already halfway down the aisle before he realizes he just upended a cabin boy wheeling a dinner cart down the aisle.

"Where are you going Mr. Hargreaves?" The Cheshire Cat's voice is calm and collected, it comes from just over his shoulder but when he looks back there's nothing there and he stumbles again.

The cabin boy is now yelling after him about something. "I'm fine, just lost my balance - bit tipsy on these new fangled things you see." Good cover Reginald, yes, they'll suspect nothing now.

"What are you going to do? Hm..." He feels another slight jab, a pin-prick really, in his back and scrambles to his feet. A face lingers a moment, hanging in the air behind him before disappearing into the darkness.

He curses, stumbling backwards into a doorway.

"Mr. Hargreaves!" He can't tell whether its the cat or the cabin boy any more. The two voices seem to merge as one. The whole cabin interior begins to spin as the train shakes slightly.

It's difficult to say what happened next really. The one fact that investigators would glean from witnesses a few hours later is that an extremely agitated Mr. Hargreaves broke open the door at the back of the car and threw himself from the train.

1 comment:

Shauna said...

Wow! The stuff with the cat was well done! Loved it!