Fickle. That’s what Wonderland was... Is.
Fickle with its weather; fickle with its seasons and tides... And why shouldn’t it be? For all intents and purposes, Wonderland was... Is... A living, breathing, thing. It’s allowed to change its mind and do whatever it feels right to protect itself and whomever or whatever it deems worthy.
That list, however, is short. A few animals, a tree, an orphan who is particularly confused and locked themselves away in their own fit of madness and denial... And then there was him, Wonderland’s favorite. Nobody, not even the man himself, understood why Wonderland cared so deeply for him. But it did... Does.
At first, it happened in small ways, Wonderland let this man explore its woods and forests without falling prey to its maddening twists and turns.
The man was always kind to his world, just as it had been kind to him. He made sure to only take what he was allowed, and made sure to thank and whisper sweetly to the trees and flowers. In turn, Wonderland did what it felt was right to care for him. It showed him the hidden paths of the Tugley Wood and made sure no one would stumble upon his favorite places unless they were deemed worthy of the gentleman.
Above all, Wonderland was able to judge someone and determine whether or not they would hurt the land and its treasured residents.
Deep in the Tugley Wood, there waited a pond filled with clear water. Surrounded by willow trees and berry bushes, it stayed pure and virgin for only Wonderland’s favorite. He would sit and stay for hours at the water's edge, watching guppies and firebugs dance above and below while the wind whispered to him and the sun warmed his cheeks. A side effect of Wonderland’s love was a touch of fire in his brain, a madness that nothing could quell.
Maybe Wonderland knew of its poison and tried to make things right. Afternoons by the water helped the man just as solitude and wanderings helped the orphan. But unlike the child who walked through mists and called for no one, the man longed for companionship. From the waters of the pool, one day, come a mermaid. A dark haired beauty, shy to the air, but warm to the smile of the man. They talked, and spent time together. He would swim with her and she would lay her head in his lap. She would sing songs to him, and he would share stories of the town and Wonderland’s traditions.
The two became fast friends and even when he was alone, the man would speak to the willows and stream the fed into the pond of how grateful he was for this friend who never seemed to mind his madness and ramblings.
He was happy. But just as soon as the mermaid appeared in his life, she was gone and he was losing more and more of his light as the days went on.
That’s when she came along. A young girl, close in his age, and fire in her words, fell down the rabbit hole. He was fast to warm to her, her beauty and wit charming him and giving him purpose once again. She, on the other hand, only saw him as immature and unworthy of her time. This made Wonderland angry.
Why wasn’t its favorite worthy of her time? He was kind, handsome, thoughtful, and never a bore. And she? Wonderland would scoff, if it could. She was run of the mill. A tart, sour, and cold. The world had half a thought to send her somewhere where the snow would match her disposition. But her favorite was in love and did it not care for its favorite?
So Wonderland let her stay, but hate and resentment built slowly within it as the girl continued to reject and ignore the man. One day, the world felt it had no more choice, and the girl was sucked back up the rabbit hole as easily as she fell down it.
The man was beside himself. He ran through the woods and tore at the mouth of the rabbit hole. His fingers raw and bloodied and caked with dirt as the hole refused to allow him entry. He would not accept defeat. He was certain she was his true love, the only thing that would truly cure the madness within him and he cursed the world he once loved.
He shouted and swore, spat and tore at the flowers and trees, demanding the world give him back his cure. But the world was done with her loathing. Couldn’t the man see she was no good for him? There was no love from her, no warmth, no future. But still he swore and as he stayed vigilant at the mouth of the rabbit hole, the world did what it only knew.
Wonderland needed to protect itself in any way it could. And so, it left the man. The world no longer opened its woods to the pathways he used to explore. He was now only treading the straight path from the rabbit hole to the nearest town. There were no more companions who understood his madness and hurt, only the townspeople who would pity him and busy him with requests from his trade.
The man mourned the loss of his cure, his love, while Wonderland mourned the loss of its favorite man, and slowly let the pond wither away and dry up.
Screeching tires… Flashing lights… Rain… Screaming, crying… Pain… Breathe, breathe, breathe…. Pain… Pain… Pain… Pain…
Crumbs cling to lips as a cookie drops to the ground. The dry, sugary, treat bounces off a barefoot before resting, finally, on a pink tiled floor. Eyes blink furiously as though just awakened from a deep sleep, lights blur together in a dimly lit room that reeks of dust and sunflowers. There's a table to the left with a pitcher of the yellow flowers next to a plate of cookies and a cup of red tea. The cookies are frosted with bright colors and poised next to a white place card with the words Eat Me written on it. Fingers touch lips and dust off the remaining crumbs before eyes dart from the table to the ground. Sure enough, a broken cookie matching the ones from the plate is on the floor and frosting paints a pale foot pink.
Your foot, an unseen voice whispers. Brown hair bounces and clings to a face as it turns from side to side, trying to find the owner of the voice. Nothing. But there is a mirror placed on the wall a few feet behind the table with the flowers and cookies. There, is a face. A small, round face, with chocolate colored doe-like eyes and a small nose; maroon lips, parted and speckled with more white crumbs. Freckles dusted the pale face and were only slightly obscured by the deep red of cheeks. Brown hair, wavy and tangled fell past shoulders that were covered by a thin, ugly gown that could hardly be excused as clothing.
Hospital, the voice cooed. Hospital? The gown was open in the back and tied loosely by white strings. Suddenly, the blush deepened at the realization that this was all being worn and that a cold breeze licked at flesh. Freckled hands flew to the back of the gown and tied the ribbons tighter, bringing the thin fabric over any and all exposed skin.
Bringing hands back to the front where brown eyes could see, a laminated bracelet was found on the left wrist. Hospital information, came the whisper again. A date of birth, March 18th, a weight and eye color, and a name, Jessica Smith. Jessica. A rush of understanding flooded through her veins as her gaze met the eyes in the mirror. Jessica Smith from... She looked at the bracelet again. Eugene, Oregon. Where?
Before she could search her brain for answers, a real voice rang out from across the room. "What did you do?" The owner of the voice was a boy, around Jessica’s age, in fact, which was… She checked the bracelet again, 18. Oh, her birthday was yesterday… Happy Birthday, the voice sang. She turned her head again, searching for the whispers but found no one. The boy grabbed her wrist and pulled it close to his face for inspection to which Jessica scowled at the sudden aggressiveness. Her instinct told her to pull her arm away and distance herself.
These steps back allowed her a better look at the stranger. Blonde hair, pale skin, beautiful blue eyes… And a white suit. His harsh expression quickly turned to apologetic as Jessica rubbed her wrist. Just before he could speak, the cookie on the floor grabbed his gaze. He stooped, picked it up and quirked a brow in concern towards Jessica.
“Did you eat this?” His accent was vaguely European. Irish. The voice informed.
“Stop it,” Jessica hissed and the boy glared towards her.
“Who are you speaking to?”
“You… Don’t hear…?” She whispered, almost as if she was hoping whatever that siren voice was wouldn’t hear.
“Did you eat this?” The boy asked again, holding the cookie between two fingers and shaking it twice to grab her attention. Jessica licked at the corners of her mouth, wiping away the stray crumbs that still clung to her. The boy sighed, the action being answer enough for him.
“What did I tell you about eating the food in here?” A pause, “No, you don’t remember. That’s what, this does to you.” He growled at the cookie before tossing it against the wall. It crumbled to the ground and the boy wiped his hands on a handkerchief he pulled from his waistcoat. “Do you even remember my name?”
Jessica shook her head. She didn’t even remember what was going on, who she was, where she was… Much less who he was.
“Horace,” He said as he stuffed the cloth back into the pocket of his waistcoat. “My name is Horace and I’m the one who brought you here.”
“Where is here? Did you kidnap me? Why can’t I remember anything? And why,” She held up her wrist with the hospital bracelet and pinched the side of her hospital gown with her other hand. “Am I wearing these?” Anger and annoyance bubbled inside her, confusing her even further.
“Your name is Jessica Smith, you’re from Oregon and,” He sighed and gestured to the gown. “You were the victim in a car crash, hence the gown and bracelet.” She rolled her eyes. She figured that much out herself, what she needed was answers as to where she was and why it looked nothing like a hospital.
“You’re dead.” He said bluntly and Jessica felt her heart skip. That wasn’t what she was expecting.
Horace explained, more gently this time, that she had died. Hit by a car on a dark and rainy road as she was running from something. He told her that the people who hit her stayed with her all the way to the hospital, they told police what had happened, and stayed with her until the end. That’s when he came to guide her to this place. This was Wonderland, he told her, a place where those who had a tragic life and death could live the peaceful and happy life they deserved.
“But how was my life bad? I don’t remember anything.” Jessica sobbed into her knees. She didn’t know why she was crying; she remembered absolutely nothing. Hopelessness, the voice whispered against her ear. That had to be it, she wasn’t crying for the life she lost, but the life she couldn’t remember.
Horace sighed and poked a gloved finger at her shoulder. “That’s because of that cookie you ate. It’s supposed to be a sort of offering to the new individuals who come here. I’m…” he hesitated. “Supposed to ask if you want to forget or spend the entirety of your time here with the knowledge and memories of your life.”
“But you didn’t…” Jessica and the whispers remarked at the same time. She rose her head from her knees and stared at him. Horace blushed and avoided her gaze. “Why?”
“I find it cruel.” He puffed. “No one’s life is bad enough to fully forget it.”
Jessica became angry at him again. She inhaled sharply and balled her hands into fists. “You don’t know that.” He looked at her with a quirked brow. “You don’t know what someone else experiences and what they might want to forget.”
He smirked at her and leaned in close to her face. “Neither do you.” She blinked and stammered, unable to come up with a comeback. He rolled his eyes in response and stood from the grassy patch they had been sitting on.
“In this world,” he continued. “Freckles are an indicator as to who chose to forget and who didn’t.” Jessica thought back to her reflection in the room they had just exited from. Freckles dotted her face and neck and, just like everything else, she couldn’t remember if she had had freckles in life or not. Horace, on the other hand, didn’t have a single blemish or scar on his face and what she could see of his neck showed no impurities either. “No one knows why; it seems like one of the oldest traditions. Over the years, people stopped taking notice but when I first came here, it seemed like Wonderland was split in two between those with freckles and those without.”
Horace continued to ramble on, giving Jessica unnecessary information about the opinions of his side of the argument and why he thought the people who chose to forget their lives were wrong and, ultimately, selfish. The “talk” continued far longer than Jessica would have thought or even preferred and she found herself tuning out the words. Instead, she began to look around her for the first time and take in the world she would be living in.
The room they had just left opened through a large wooden door hidden behind parts of the tapestry, and lead immediately out into a forest. Turning around, Jessica could see a smaller version of the door hidden amongst the face of a mountain that stretched high above the treeline. Despite the tall mountain and tiny door, everything looked like a normal forest. Well, what Jessica imagined what a normal forest would look like. Except… for the fact that there were so many different kinds of trees. There were pines, redwoods, oaks, a sycamore or two scattered around; not to mention willows, acacia, eucalyptus,and japanese maples. Ferns sprouted on all the different trees, some green, some red and auburn, and others pink, blue, even turquoise.
On the ground, there were bushes with berries of all different colors and flavors. Flavors, Jessica was told by Horace, that would depend on who ate them along with toxicity levels. “Toxicity?” She asked, but Horace had gone back to explaining some other part of Wonderland that he experienced when he first arrived.
Wonderland chooses who it likes and who it doesn’t. That same voice whispered over her shoulder. Jessica turned quickly but saw no one. Why did she keep hearing that voice? Who did it belong to?
The more Jessica walked under the trees, the more she realized how there were no rocks or needles stabbing into her feet. In fact, she noted, there seemed to only be soft grass the was delicately lined with morning dew. The coolness and softness of the blades of grass tickled her feet in a soothing way. She also came to notice that the tall grass that moved gracefully in the wind and looked too sharp to touch, was gentle on her skin. It seemed to reach out to her and glide across her wrists and between her fingers as if trying to comfort her. Like it knew she was scared and confused, and as if it was trying to tell her everything would be all right.
“Wonderland likes you, my dear.” Came an old man’s voice from behind. Startled, Jessica whirled around, expecting to see Horace playing a trick on her, but instead she found nothing.
Thick walls of fog, or smoke, or something took away all the visuals of the forest. Even stranger yet, there was no man. She felt afraid, more afraid than when Horace questioned her about the cookie, more afraid than when she was told she was dead. Her breath hitched as a billow of smoke passed over her shoulder.
“Why are you so afraid, my girl?” Came the voice again, but this time it was much more gentle. “I shall not hurt you.” Once more, Jessica spun around, and in her haste, knocked herself down to the ground. The man laughed at the accident and slapped his knee in delight.
It was now Jessica could see him clearly, a frail old man with dark skin and traditional Indian formal attire. He sat comfortably on a cushion with a tall hookah placed next to him. The air reeked of tobacco and mango and caused Jessica to cough from the ground.
“Where did you come from?”
“Now you must be careful when asking that,” He chuckled to himself. “Do you mean when I lived? Who my mother was? Or where I was which is where you are now?”
“T...The last one.” Jessica mumbled, the wording confusing her and the smoke disorienting her.
“Just because you cannot see where others are does not mean they are not near you, young Jessica.” He inhaled deeply from his hookah and smiled as the smoke poured from his nose. “I am all around, anywhere I choose to be and nowhere at the same time. That is how I know who you are, and how I know of the things you will do here and why,” He raised his hands up, the smoke disappearing to reveal a clearing in the forest that was home to a pond of water and an old willow tree. “I know Wonderland will be kind to you.”
Before Jessica could question anything that the man just said or where she was, he blew out more smoke, and the pond and willow tree were gone. The walls of grey and thick, choking smell of mango had returned.
“What are you…?” Jessica asked meekly. Was she supposed to be terrified of this man, or was he a friend? This world became more and more confusing with every passing second and with those passing seconds, Jessica hoped this could all just be a dream.
“I am a fable.” He said it so matter-of-factly that Jessica was surprised he thought she would know what that meant here. “Oh? You mean your Whispers haven’t told you?” Another blank response was met with another hearty laugh. “Oh, they fail you, child. But you have heard them, yes? Ohh, I see by your face you have. They are yours and yours alone, my dear. A benign sickness that haunts some special like you,” He leaned back and took another huff of hookah while humming to himself.
“They are harmless. Think of them as a friend, your conscious you cannot ignore.” He grumbled and gnawed on the tip of the hookah pipe for a moment. “This world has existed for millennia. The Whispers are thought to be ghosts to help make sense of everything. But only few have the ears to hear them, but even then, some with the ears can go mad from their voices.” He laughed again. “But I know you will not have that problem. You head is tightly among your shoulders.”
“Y-you said you were a fable. What… What is that, exactly?”
“This world has been here since millennia ago,” the man repeated quietly, almost to himself. “This means there are some who have been here far past natural lives. When they are truly extraordinary, they become fables.” He smiled a wide, toothless grin at Jessica and she felt compelled to smile back, cautiously. “We are examples.”
Before she had time to ask what he meant by that, the smoke around them began to swirl. The man scowled at the smoke and beckoned Jessica to come closer. “Come, my girl. I have something for you since our time is short.” Hesitant at first, Jessica approached him, when he grabbed her hand she jolted and tried to pull back. Instead of releasing her, he placed a small, leather bound journal with a thistle engraved on the cover into her hands. She could only stare at it for a second before he touched her cheek, and pulled her gaze to his.
“Promise me you will be careful of that bunny you are with. He is not good for you.”
The smoke thickened between them and as Jessica began to open her mouth to ask what he meant, the fog choked her. The man gave a tight squeeze of her hand before disappearing into the air.
As Jessica coughed the tobacco and mango from her lungs, Horace turned around, he had continued to talk as if she had never left and only now came rushing towards her, grabbing her shoulders and giving her instructions of how to breathe and stop coughing. She eventually caught her breath and nodded towards her companion who stepped away and studied her up and down.
“Where did you get that?” He furrowed his brow at the journal, still clutched in her hand.
“The… The guy, smoking the hookah gave it to me.” She coughed once more and sighed, finally getting the last of the mango taste out of her mouth.
But Horace’s eyes went wide and his jaw slacked. He reached for the journal but quickly pulled his hand back, exclaiming in pain after barely touching the leather. Jessica jumped and dropped the journal in surprise, staring between Horace’s gloved, but bleeding index finger, and the journal on the ground where a pointed leaf of the thistle retreated back into the binding.
Pick it up, it won’t hurt you. Jessica hesitated, but did what the Whispers said. She waited a moment for the leaf to return and prick her. When it didn’t, she opened the journal to the first page.
The winds changed for you, my dear Jessica. You are important to Wonderland. But take care to watch from above and then below. Not everyone shall be your friend.
He was not meant to see inside. Jessica was trying to process the note in the journal when Horace spoke, “We need to get going.” He urged, sounding slightly annoyed. Before Jessica could protest, Horace turned and started down a path that led deeper into the forest.
Jessica closed the journal and followed the boy dressed all in white further, hoping this wouldn’t end as badly as her gut was telling her it would.
The forest stretched on for miles and only grew darker with each step Jessica took. Horace assured her this was normal and she would only need to trust him to find the way out. He had, after all, done this for centuries.
The two crossed over hills and small cliffs, streams and small clearings. Though the miles continued, Jessica’s feet never tired. They felt light as air and strangely enough, she found herself dancing through several of the meadows and splashed her way through the streams. She would giggle when Horace would turn, annoyed, and huff towards her as he complained about wasting time and his need to keep on schedule.
The dewy moss and soft mud of the earth cushioned her feet and small rocks massaged her arches as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. The forest continued and as it did, Jessica realized she wasn’t afraid anymore and had almost forgotten that she was dead and travelling with a stranger. Once more she looked down at the journal in her hands and tucked it behind her back as she jogged towards Horace.
“Horace, you never told me who that old man was? The one who gave me the journal.”
Keeping up his pace Horace spoke quickly and quietly. “If it’s the man I think you mean, his name is Zeron. He’s one of the oldest inhabitants of Wonderland and he’s said to be the Caterpillar. But very few have actually seen him and there are rumors he doesn’t actually exist, and other rumors that say that he’s a bad luck omen and shouldn’t be listened to.”
“The Caterpillar?” Jessica scoffed. He certainly didn’t have multiple legs and wasn’t a bug. Horace explained the way Wonderland worked.
Each individual who enters Wonderland is taken to the Queen of Hearts and must peer through the Looking Glass in order to find which area of Wonderland they belong in. The areas and “clans” as they were often referred to were as followed: members of the royal court which were commonly known as the high suits, the Queen’s guard, the Flowers, the Mermaids, the Hatters (which were actually trying to get their titles changed to “The Crafters” because not all in their clan were suited for making hats), and the Folk who used to be called “peasants” by the old royals but was changed some 500 years back when they grew tired of being looked down upon and snickered at, and ultimately tried to revolt and dismantle the house of cards. The Folk, Horace explained, were a group of individuals who wanted to experience peace in their afterlives. They lived in various villages and kept the stories and traditions of Wonderland alive throughout the centuries.
“So then where do you fit in to all of this?”
“I thought that was obvious,” Horace snorted. “I’m one of the White Rabbits, messenger for the royal suits and one of the people who helps guide los--” He cleared his throat. “I mean, new souls, to Wonderland.”
Jessica stopped in her tracks, the scent of tobacco and mango filling the back of her throat. Be careful of that bunny. Zeron’s words echoed in her head. “Bunny,” She whispered to herself.
Horace audibly groaned. “Yes, some call me that an honestly, the others seem to like it but I--” He turned and cocked his head at her shocked expression and palling face. “What is it? Are you alright, Jessica?”
She shook the words from her head and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. “Uh… yeah, yes, I’m fine I just… I remembered… something.” She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Z-Zeron?” She looked to Horace to make sure her pronunciation was correct, he nodded in response. “Zeron said that the… the winds? The winds changed for me. Do you know what he was talking about?”
It was Horace’s turn to take a deep breath. “There’s an old legend that when the winds change in Wonderland, it’s because someone ‘Of great importance’ has arrived. But there’s nothing really to base it off of, it’s an old superstition really.” She nodded and he tilted his head in indication that he wanted to continue moving forward, mentioning something about getting to the castle before dark. Jessica nodded and followed beside him once again.
Sometime later, the woods darkened once again though this time Jessica felt it wasn’t just because the trees overlapped the sky. Something felt much darker here, the ground no longer felt soft on her feet and the air felt colder. The smells of the forest she had just grown familiar with suddenly disappeared and the stench of mold and sour milk hung from the tree limbs. Despite the change in atmosphere, Horace insisted that they were still going in the correct way and told Jessica to stay close to him. They were almost to the village that bordered the castle.
Jessica was content in following his instructions as this part of the forest sent shivers up and down her spine. Pssst, read the fourth page. A voice cooed in her ear and Jessica clutched the journal tighter in her hand. The fourth page? She opened it and first saw the note Zeron had left her, then flipping through the first three pages she saw notes and doodles all merged together. They were drawings of hats and headbands, she saw, but there were jumbled words that looked like ingredients to her. Blackberry, cornflower, vanilla… She would come back to these pages later, but first she needed to know what was on the fourth page.
My friend, please forgive me. But I’ve found a cure better than tea and I must follow her.
That was all that was written. Scrawled across the whole page in shaking hands and water stained ink.
“Why did you want me to read this?” She whispered, hoping that the voice would respond to her. Curiosity told her to flip through the next few pages and found that even though the first three were jumbled the remainder of the journal seemed to be a diary of sorts. The fifth page was covered in apologies and crossed out explanations for why the writer was leaving. The sixth page was a drawing of a cricket next to a flower. The seventh page was a real diary entry.
She’s gone. She was ripped from Wonderland and I feel lost. I can’t go to her, she can’t come to me, and I can’t go back. My dear friend… I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have left you. I can’t go back to you now, either. I know when you truly say never to come back, you mean it. Now I’m left in this house all alone. I can’t work, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep…. Not even tea helps. I might as well be dead all over again. My dear friend I’m so sorry.
The eighth page was ripped out, as was the ninth. The tenth was dirty with old mud and water stains.
I stood at your gate today, friend. I went to the Rabbit Hole and tried to dig my way Topside. But Wonderland just pushed me back. I wanted to share tea with you, friend, so I stood at your gate in hopes we could celebrate like we used to. I heard the plates crashing and the chairs breaking and knew it could never be like it was. The tea that used to help me was the only thing that helped you as well and….
The words trailed off into illegible ramblings and doodles of opossums in hats. Jessica wondered who could have written this. It couldn’t have been Zeron, the handwriting was different than his note in the beginning and these ramblings… She touched the page. It was almost as if someone losing their mind and memories wrote these.
The distant sound of ceramics breaking on concrete broke Jessica from her thoughts. She jumped and pressed closer to Horace for comfort, or safety, or… She actually didn’t know why. He responded by putting his arm in front of her defensively. “Don’t worry, it’s all right. Just stay close to me and don’t wander off.”
Go see. The voice urged. You’ll be safe. Initially she didn’t want to, but the Whispers made her think; if she was already dead, what else could be done to her? Was there really anything that could threaten or harm her in this world? She began to take a step towards the sound but Horace grabbed her hand, causing her to jump once again and stare at him.
“I’m going to see if the path we need to take is safe. Stay here.” It wasn’t a request. He gave her hand a squeeze before disappearing into the trees.
Jessica took a moment to take a few breaths and watch Horace disappear before turning again and making her way towards the sounds. Maybe something needed help, she convinced herself. So she walked. Behind trees and over a stream, she found a small cottage with broken windows and high bricked garden walls. Over the wall she could see a tall oak tree that looked older than any other tree she had passed in the forest. The smell that was faint before was almost overwhelming and seemed to come from the garden of this cottage.
Without walking too far, Jessica found a small wooden gate swaying gently in the breeze. I stood at your gate… Could this be the place written in the journal? It would explain the sounds of dishes breaking but the journal was from centuries ago. No one could live in isolation like this with those smells for that long.
Her hand touched the cold wood and pushed the gate open, stepping inside cautiously, not fully expecting what to see. But inside the garden walls surprised Jessica for an unexpected reason. The space was wide and flat with rose bushes bordering the inside walls as ivy crept over the bricks, the huge oak tree Jessica saw outside was the centerpiece of the garden and on a limb on the opposite side of the trunk as she was, swung two tattered ropes with a plank of wood barely attached to one of the ropes. Cords hung from branches of the tree and tied off to different parts of the wall and house and Jessica could see the decaying remnants of paper lanterns still hanging from some lines. Next to the tree, taking up almost the full length of the garden stood a table. Or rather, several tables shoved together to make one long, grand table. A tattered and stained what once was white tablecloth hung slack from several corners. Twenty places were set at the table in one way or another; some places only had a fork, some a plate and a spoon, others just a napkin. Plenty of dessert trays lined the table but the majority of them were lumps of moldy, brown and black goo. Knowing what became of the desserts, Jessica could only guess what was in the dozens of tea pots and cream containers that made up a good eighty-five percent of the table.
Movement caught her eye at the head of the table on the far end where a tall chair with what seemed to be velvet lining sat. Amidst all of the decay and what frankly looked like an abandoned set for a haunted house, this one chair seemed untouched and pristine. But Jessica saw the movement of a shadow hiding behind it.
“Hello?” She squeaked, moving closer to her end of the table. “I’m sorry, I heard something break and wandered in. Are you alright? I won’t hurt you…” She drew closer to the chair as slowly as she could. The shadow sounded like it was crying. So someone was hurt, she concluded. “Please, my name is Jessica. Are you alright?” Six chairs away now. But as she drew closer and closer, she realized that the shadow wasn’t crying. It was laughing.
“All right.” The voice repeated. A man. Gruff. “Noooooooooo….” The man groaned and began to laugh again. By this time Jessica stopped moving towards the man and had started to take slow steps backwards. This was a bad idea. Bad idea. The Whispers echoed and Jessica bit her tongue instead of arguing that it was the one who suggested she come here.