The Other Alice

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Things were curious in Wonderland—and got curiouser all the time.

Despite some resemblance to her world, despite the years she'd had to acclimate, Alice stood at the edge of madness and felt she might at any time be driven over it by this land. She was desperate to leave. If her plan worked, she'd do so soon.

"Mary Ann! Where's my tea!?"

How long since she'd become Mr. Rabbit's housemaid?

"I'm not Mary Ann." A whisper, for her own sake; she'd stopped correcting her employer but had to remind herself often. She chuckled, wondering if Mary Ann had truly been her predecessor's name. The rabbit was old; perhaps there'd been a long line of Mary Anns.

The clock hadn't yet chimed, but that meant nothing. Rabbit considered his stopwatch the absolute authority on time, though it rarely matched the clock, with his constant travelling throughout the vast realm at high speeds. How was she to cater to punctuality when the time he insisted it was was always the time it wasn't?

She poured the drink, forged a smile, took him his tea.

"You're late!"

"Yes, Master Rabbit." She placed the tea on the table. "Pray forgive me." She curtsied.

He grasped the teacup with his paw, raised it to his lips, sipped, sighed. "I'm saving up the punishment for all your faults. You were once a fine housemaid. What's gotten into you these past few years? All the reading, perhaps?"


"You appear tired, Mary Ann. Another late night spent with a book?"

"Yes, Master Rabbit." Alice bowed her head, her gaze trained on her polished shoes.

"The female brain—and I have said this before—cannot endure the stress placed upon it by so much reading. Even the insubstantial romances of which you are so enamoured, in too large a portion, can wreak havoc upon your delicate mind. Your performance suffers, dear girl. I must insist you take some time off from your habit."

"Yes, sir," said Alice through clenched teeth.

"Now, why don't you get some rest. I'll not be needing supper, you know; I must meet the train at precisely half-five. The life of a diplomat, wot. I'll be only a few days—though it'll seem longer to you. Keep the house, avoid books, and stay rested, d'ye hear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. Now, begone."

Alice curtsied again and returned to the kitchen.

That night, Alice picked up the book beside her bed.

"Romances! Harrumph!"

There'd been a time when simple stories had appealed, when she'd seen numbers, lengthy descriptions, boring details as a scourge. But she'd matured—mentally, at least, in this world where no one seemed to age—and now she enjoyed such things.

"Bloody rabbit."

Alice pursed her lips. She supposed she ought to be grateful. She'd narrowly escaped the Red Queen's wrath due to him—even if it had been a mistake. He'd besought the Queen to spare Alice because he'd mistaken her for his housemaid. Alice was remanded into the rabbit's custody, and the old Mary Ann took the opportunity to slip away.

Alice too had slipped away once, sneaked out at night, tried to crawl back up the rabbit hole—but it turned out to be one way only. So she'd started reading.

She sat, looked around her room. Master Rabbit's cellar, really. His storage space. But he'd allowed her use of it, as long as she didn't damage his books, tools, and technological marvels, all the things he needed as an amateur man of science. She'd managed to make it resemble, to some extent, her room back in England.

Tears welled up. England. Her home. Her family. Dinah. She missed them.

She forced the tears back; she'd see England again. She'd leave this evening.

Not through the rabbit hole, which she'd learned was a wormhole, allowing passage in only one direction (or so the books claimed—but Master Rabbit had once travelled to her world, so he must know something the books didn't). No, but through a portal of her own creation. Books had given her the knowledge, and materials she'd purchased with her wages had given her the means. And she'd done it all beneath the rabbit's twitchy little nose. It helped that he rarely entered the cellar, relying on Alice to fetch whatever he needed. It also helped that she'd disguised the machine.

The girl flipped absentmindedly through the pages of the book, stood, tossed it on the bed. The false cover slipped, revealing it to be not a romance but a volume on quantum mechanics. Many books had aided her, but this was her favorite, the one that had started it all.

Somewhere, she knew, was another Alice—many Alices—who had somehow escaped not only from the Queen but from Wonderland—and one of them was the key to her own escape, temporary though it might be.

Wonderland was backwards in many ways, but it was technologically advanced. Her machine could entangle particles. It'd seek out other Alices, and when she found the right one, she need only entice her to touch the glass—and their minds would meld. Superposition would occur, and they would each occupy the other's body. Rather, both bodies...but Alice could commandeer the other's mind, block the thoughts from mingling, thanks to the Mad Hatter.

She approached the glass frowning. She'd not solved the problem of decoherence. Eventually—long before Master Rabbit returned—the waveform would collapse, and she'd be herself again. But even such a short visit was worth her troubles.

She flipped the switch, watched the machine scroll through alternate worlds. Time seemed to stop until one world called out. She stopped the scan, watched. A girl who looked just like her sat on her bed, playing chess. With Dinah!

Alice laughed. This was the one! Her laugh twinkled, jingled like a tiny bell.

And in the room displayed on the screen, the other Alice stood, curious, and drew near to the looking glass.

About the Author: 
toki likes listening to the music of the spheres, pondering the interstices of the universe and taking long walks in liminal spaces.

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