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The Sketchbook: Part 1, Chapter 1
Blues and purples swirled around him, transformed to reds and oranges, greens and yellows. Familiar faces flashed before him, Peter Pan, Dopey, Hercules. Different smells invaded his nostrils, from cinnamon to rotten eggs, to fresh baked bread. He felt as though he was free falling through time and space. Down, down. Seemingly never to cease. His stomach jumped and threatened to lose its contents. James closed his eyes and prayed for it to stop, when suddenly, he did. It wasn't as though he stopped falling, it was more like he began to sink through quicksand, slowly. He could scarcely breathe, and the colors around him had faded to a dull black and white. He heard almost familiar voices, "She's the wrong Alice!" Mumblings of accession and agreement clouded his ears. More familiar faces appeared in the shades around him, except these were all from one movie, James remembered, but he couldn't place his finger on exactly which one.
"Curiouser and curiouser."
A strict "She doesn't look anything like herself," was followed by stranger mumblings, seemingly from a man talking to himself.
An almost weak voice said, "We should consult Absolem."
There was a breathy "Whhhoooo aaaaaare yoooouuuu?"
"Alice," a girl's voice coughed.
Mumblings that he couldn't make out echoed through. "Unroll the Oraculum."
"Today is Griblig Day, in the time of the Red Queen," a voice said very knowingly.
"Show her the Frabjous Day."
The quicksand-feeling left, and James was aware of a damp ground beneath his back. His head pounded and stomach still threatened to empty. "Hold on, what's that?" asked a squeaky voice. Rustling paper, and gasps. James blinked his eyes open and saw animals standing around him. Above them, giant mushrooms towered and bare tree branches bent in strange directions, reminding him of the claws the woman had grown. He blinked, then noticed a young woman with long, blonde hair. She stood back, slightly away from the group of animals, as though she didn't know them. "Is it one of the Bloody Big Head's minions?" asked the same squeaky voice. James raised his head and looked down at his feet, where a mouse stood. "Well, are you?" she snapped, jabbing the bottom of his foot with her tiny sword.
James winced. "The. . ." he paused, "Bloody Big Head?".
"No, no I don't recognize him from the Castle." he looked right and saw a large, white rabbit wearing a waistcoat. It looked nervous. "I don't think so."
He sat up and looked around. A large blue bird stood by his head, and two tall men stood by his left arm, they were round and bald. They wore matching striped shirts and grey pants. "Is this Alice?" one of them asked.
"No, doubt it would be."
"It might not even could be."
"You're right, it probably isn't."
"No. It ain't." They both nodded for emphasis.
"Where-" he began to ask where he was, but then it clicked. The characters' faces he'd seen it the fall, the Oraculum, The Bloody Big Head, the confusing men. He was in Underland, or rather, Walt's sketchbook. "Am I in Underland?" he asked, almost frightened.
"Aaare yooouuu?" An enormous blue caterpillar answered his question with one it return. It stood on a giant mushroom a few paces to James's right, and was smoking a pipe.
"I don't know, thats why I asked you," he was nervous, and Absolem's riddles were the opposite of helpful.
"Never mind that. Absolem, is this the right Alice?"
The large caterpillar stared at the girl, opened his mouth, and said "Not hardly," puffing smoke from his pipe. The grey cloud enveloped him, making him seem to disappear. James saw a twinkle from the caterpillar's monocle, and Absolem was gone.
"Oh dear," said the Rabbit.
"I said so," one of the boys remarked.
"No, I said so!" the other shouted.
"Contrariwise, you said she might be."
"No. You said she would be if she was."
They continued their little argument, and a large pink-faced flower said "Little imposter! Pretending to be Alice, you should be ashamed."
The girl stepped back, and stammered "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be the wrong Alice, but-" she stopped. "Wait a minute. This is just a dream. I'm going to wake up now, and you'll all be gone." James smiled to himself as the girl squeezed her eyes closed and pinched herself. Fear and concern blanketed her face when her eyes opened and she still stood among talking animals.
The mouse walked up and pulled a needle out of a sheath. "I could stick you if it would help."
"It might actually," Alice smiled at the mouse's kindness. It grinned and stabbed Alice's toe.
Alice opened her mouth, but what came out shocked everybody. A loud, ear splitting roar echoed throughout the Mushroom Wood. Bushes and twigs snapped and a large, dog-like creature smashed through. "Bandersnatch!" the boys screamed and ran away. All the animals ran away, stumbling. James and Alice gasped, then turned and ran themselves. They ducked under giant mushrooms and leaped over huge roots. James looked back and saw the Bandersnatch charging after them. He tripped and fell face-first into the damp forest floor. A few paces ahead, Alice stopped.
"Alice! Keep going!"
She turned around, and James heard her whisper, "It's just a dream, can't hurt me. Just a dream, can't hurt me."
The boy stood up and ran forward, "Alice, come on!" But she just stood there, as though the Bandersnatch really couldn't hurt her. He turned around and saw the Mouse jump on the its back. The needle scraped the sides of the sheath, and sank into the yellowing eye of the black spotted monster. It's paw flew to it's face, claws extended, and Alice jumped backwards, grabbing her arm.
"Run, you great lugs!" the Mouse shouted, pulling the Bandersnatch's eye from its socket.
Alice and James followed the path to a large, dead tree with two old signs, wooden and rotting. One said "Queast", and one "Snud". They looked down each path, not sure which they should take. The Tweedles ran up behind them, and each pointing in a different direction. "East to Queast." one said.
"No, south to Snud!" the other stressed. They each grabbed one of Alice's arm and tried to run in opposite directions. James chuckled. A horrifying screech echoed through the still air and they all turned around. A large, black bird with small, white spots was flying right at them. It had a mustard yellow beak, and a piece of blue and red fat dangling from it's neck. It swooped down towards the four people, and the shorter two ducked as the bird picked up the tall men and flew away. Alice's face was almost pale, she was scared. She turned around and ran. East to Queast.
A puff of smoke, and the stench of burnt hair filled the room. The woman's heels click as she walked toward the nearly empty round table. The only thing that rested on it was a foggy, white ball on a black pedestal. She placed her hands on it, and the fog started clearing. The smoke turned grey, and began to form to human shapes. A girl was stumbling through a forest, and a boy was rushing after her. The woman's hands rubbed the crystal ball. "You have made things difficult, James," she growled. A long, slender finger extended and tapped the top of the crystal ball. The two humans disappeared, and white smoke filled the crystal ball again. As it thinned, sharp teeth took shape, and eventually formed an almost twisted smile.
"Hello, Lovely," the mouth formed words, and then a face began to form. A cat's face. "How are the plans?"
"Interrupted." Her response was quick. "Alice is headed your way, and her companion is from the Outside. He spoke the incantation. You must not let him find the Portal. We can't let him continue on."
"Is he threatening our plans?" The cat asked, still smiling, as though it was funny how angry the woman was.
"Yes. If we allow him to continue, he could do far worse than spoil our plans."
"Alright. I will dispose of him." It gave a large grin, then disappeared from sight.