This poor blog, I have been neglecting it for over a year. I have been writing, but I am just not a blogger at all. But it's a new year (has been for a while) and I'll give it another shot. To make up for not posting for a while, here's an excerpt from ALICE AND THE SEASIDE GATE:
Her lack of decision left her skittering on the smooth surface, her slippers unable to find traction. They slid on the smooth tiles and her momentum sent her crashing right into the gate. Her shoulder hit the ornate metal, but she did not collide with the wall. Instead, the gate swung open and Alice fell through it, landing on her face in the sand.
Surprised beyond words, Alice lifted herself onto her hands and knees and looked behind her. There was the gate, wide open, but that was all. There was no checkered hallway, no paintings. No man chasing her. There was just the gate with its frame poking up from the sand, iron fish dancing among the seaweed and the top reading backwards 'To Wonderland'. The rest was warm beach, summer sun and waves crashing nearby.
Alice blinked stupidly at the sun before getting to her feet and approaching the gate, studying it from all angles. She had gone through it; she was sure of it. Now she could walk all around it and through it every which way. No passage back the way she had come. It was just two pieces, sagged open on the beath. Once again, the gate led to nothing at all.
Confused and lost, Alice looked all around her, trying to figure out where she was. A large beach spread both ways up and down the coast. Littered all around were countless other doors and gates and entrance-ways of every size, shape and color.
Alice clutched the collar of her pajamas as her heart picked up and her breathing quickened.
“No,” she panted. “No, nonononono. I can't be here. I have to get out.”
She scrambled awkwardly in the loose sand over to the nearest door on the beach. It was blue and as ordinary and friendly as could be. An ordinary door that led to an ordinary place. Surely this would take her somewhere else that made a little more sense.
Alice hastily opened it and found herself balancing on a ledge over a giant waterfall. She quickly backed out and shut the door. This couldn't be happening. There had to be a way back home. She ran to the next doorway which was merely an exotic curtain hanging from a metal frame. Pulling the curtain aside, she found nothing behind it but a brick wall. Glancing around to the other side, there was no evidence that the bricks had been there at all.
Alice stared at it, feeling the tender threads of her sanity begin to unravel.
She fled to the next door, heavy and oak, and opened it. It revealed the lair of a giant, burbling, scaly beast with large flat teeth and glowing red eyes. It snarled at Alice and she slammed the door shut, back pressed against it and heart thudding in her chest.
Scared away from opening doors for a while, Alice traveled up the beach, all the while trying to persuade herself that one of her greatest fears had not just come true.
“You're okay Alice,” she said in a soft, tremulous voice. “You're just on the beach. Nothing strange about the beach. Except this beach is littered with doors that lead to... horrifyingly strange places... but if you don't touch the doors, you'll be okay. Just keep walking Alice, you'll find something to help you make sense of all this.”
There was nothing but beach as far as the eye could see, continually peppered with doors of every origin and design. Alice continued to follow the coast line, slippers in hand so as not to be filled with sand. Surely, if she went far enough, she would find practical civilization and some help to get her back home.
After what felt like miles, she came upon a large wooden sign sprouting out of the sand that read 'Nowhere Beach'.
"Well that really doesn't tell me anything," Alice huffed to herself. "It just tells me I'm nowhere."
Alice perked up when she heard voices up ahead. Finally, someone who could help her. She could see figures coming out from behind a large sand dune, marching toward the surf. Alice stopped in her tracks when she got a good view of them.
They were alive and speaking, but they weren't people. They looked like pawns from a chess set. One was black, one white. They waddled on thin legs and large, bulbous feet toward the water. Between them they shouldered a thick pole. Dangling from that pole was a large emerald bottle with long neck and a cork stuck in the top.
"Hup, hup hup hup. For the Queen, for all to see, we'll throw the bottle in the sea, hup hup hup hup," the pawns chanted as they continued to march.
Alice wasn't sure what she should do. They were the only things alive she had seen on the beach so far. If she didn't take this opportunity, she may not get another. Just this once, she told herself, she would stomach the strangeness and ask how to get home. Then she would never think of it again.
She hurried after the pawns and met them at the water's edge.
"Excuse me," Alice called over their march. "Excuse me, can you help me? I'm afraid I'm terribly lost."
The two pawns stopped and looked at her for a moment. She towered over them, the little pieces only coming up to her chest.
"Lost, you say?" asked the white pawn. "And how are you lost?"
"Well, you see, I don't know where I am," said Alice in a small voice.
"Oh, that's easy to fix," said the black pawn. "You're at Nowhere Beach. Now you know where you are."
"No," Alice insisted. "I'm sorry, I mean I know where I am, but I don't know where my home is."
"Well if you don't know where your home is, then how do you know it's yours?" White Pawn shot back, a bit annoyed.
"No, no. I know where my home is. That's not what I meant."
"Well if you know where you are and you know where you live, I don't see how you're lost," Black Pawn huffed.
They left Alice flabbergasted as they continued to the sprawling surf.
"Careful, careful. Set it down," said White Pawn as they lowered the emerald bottle to the sand.
"Don't let it break," Black Pawn fretted. He only relaxed when they were able to set bottle and pole down safely.
Then the two just stood there and looked at the bottle.
"You do it," said Black Pawn, pushing White Pawn forward.
"No, it's your turn! I tied it up."
"What? You liar! I did that!"
"Excuse me," Alice called as the two pawns began to fight. "Is there anything I may help you with?" When in doubt, her good manners always took over.
The two pawns paused and looked at Alice as though they had just found the fool for the job.
"Why, certainly.” White Pawn bowed. "If you would be so kind as to help us untie this glass bottle."
"Perfectly harmless glass bottle," Black Pawn added.
"Yes, harmless glass bottle, and help us throw it into the sea?"
Alice, always happy to help, didn't think much of it as she reached for the bottle even as they fidgeted with worry behind her. She untied the rope around the bottle's thin neck and turned back to them with it in her arms. The pawns shrank back bit as she approached them.
"There you go," Alice offered.
Neither pawn would take the outstretched bottle.
"Quick! Throw it into the sea!" Black Pawn urged.
"Throw it far," White Pawn agreed. "The mercats will see it and drag it down and we'll never have to look at it again."
Alice paused before she could toss the bottle into the waves. "Meerkats?" she wondered. "In the sea?" Her mind instantly went to the furry little creatures she had learned about from books that dug underground burrows in the African savanna.
"Oh yes," White Pawn insisted. "They are the fiercest creature in the sea. If you fall in, they will grab you and drag you down for sure."
"Meerkats will drag you underwater?" Alice repeated, sounding very unconvinced. "But they're so small. I don't recall ever reading they know how to swim."
"No," Black Pawn insisted. "Mercats are large beasts with strong tails. Miserable creatures, half fish and half cat.”
“Oh, like a catfish?” Alice wondered.
“No! Catfish are fish! Mercats are half cat, half fish. Their cat half hates the water but their fish half will die without it. And they go mad from licking the salt water from their fur."
"Oh! MERcats!" Alice announced in delight. "You mean like mermaids!"
Both pawns stared at her.
"What's a mermaid?" asked White Pawn.
"Well, it's a woman with the tail of a fish who lives in the sea."
"I have never heard of such a thing!" Black Pawn accused. "It's not polite to lie to a pawn, you know."
"It is not a lie!" Alice insisted. "That's what mermaids are!"
"So you've seen one, then."
"Well, no. They don't really exist. But everyone knows what a mermaid looks like."
"How can you know what something looks like if it doesn't exist?" White Pawn joined in.
"Well they... I mean--everyone has seen... oh never mind." Alice found it best not to argue and just change the subject. "Weren't we throwing this bottle into the sea?"
"The bottle!" The pawns gasped, having forgotten what they were doing.
"Quick! Throw it in! Throw it in!" shouted Black Pawn.
"By order of the Pixie Queen!" White Pawn demanded . "Throw it in the sea!"
"The Pixie Queen?" Alice held the bottle high above the short little pawns so they couldn't reach it. "There's a pixie queen? She wants to be rid of this?"
"Oh yes! Yes!" said Black Pawn. "Get rid of it! It will bring doom upon us all!"
Curious, Alice peered into the emerald bottle. It seemed to be full of a churning black smoke.
"Doom from a bottle?" she wondered. It seemed rather doubtful the bottle or its contents could harm anyone. Perhaps she should throw it, just to keep the poor pawns from fretting so.
"Oh yes," White Pawn nodded. "Captured by the Pixie Queen herself. An emerald bottle is the only thing that can hold a Cheshire Cat."
Alice paused, her arm-in mid throw. She did not know this place, but she knew that name well.
"Cheshire Cat? You're going to throw the Cheshire Cat into the sea?"
That would not do.
Before either pawn could stop her, Alice yanked the cork from the bottle. She expected a whoosh or a rush of black smoke, but nothing happened, save the two pawns screaming and running for their lives from the beach.
Alice watched them go, unsure of what had happened and what to do next. She glanced down at the bottle to find its black contents now completely gone. She squinted through the opening to peek inside. Yes, it was now empty. How odd.
The voice was deep, yet feminine. Alice looked around to try to see who knew her. She peered behind a door or two but couldn't find anyone.
"Look higher, Alice."
Alice looked higher, and there perched on the frame of a door was a cat. She tipped her head at it in wonder.
"I am," said the cat.
This wasn't like the Cheshire Cat in Great Aunt Alice's painting. The Cheshire Cat was supposed to be a round, cartoonish thing with a silly grin. This one was thin and lanky with a dark coat and even darker markings that floated around her fur like strips of seaweed. The long tail swished against the side of the door, the tip fading out like black smoke.
“Oh, no!” Alice moaned. “If I'm seeing a Cheshire Cat, there is no hope for me.”
She turned away from the creature, continuing hurriedly down the beach.
“How did this happen?” Alice asked herself in a hushed tone. “I've been a good girl. I've always worked hard to be well-mannered, normal, sane. This shouldn't have happened to me. I've done everything I can think of to make sure this didn't happen to me.”
“What's wrong, Alice?” The Cheshire Cat was suddenly perched on the next door ahead of her. Alice hadn't seen the cat follow her or climb up on the mantle. “You look lost.”
“Yes, I don't know where I am,” she fretted. It was also habit to answer a question when asked.
"Really, now." The Cheshire Cat's tail twitched as her glowing eyes watched in silent amusement. "Well, how did you get here?"
"I went through an iron gate back along the beach. The one that says 'To Wonderland' on it."
"Well then, Alice, I suppose that's where you are now. It sounds logical, don't you think?"
The girl's lower lip trembled. “But I don't want to BE in Wonderland!” she bawled. “Wonderland is where all the crazy people go and I'm not crazy!”
“Then you should find your way out. May I suggest trying a door?"
Alice huffed, her voice taking a whining tone. "I've tried the doors. They lead to nowhere."
"They lead to the beach?"
"That's not what I meant!" Alice was becoming tired of everyone misunderstanding her words.
The Cheshire Cat's secretive smile ticked up a bit. "Well, if they don't lead to Nowhere, then they must lead somewhere." She dangled a dainty paw over the door on which she was perched. "Maybe you should try this one."
“No!” Alice said. “I don't want to try any more doors. I don't want to talk to Cheshire Cats. I just want to go home, away from this madness, before I lose what sanity I have left.”
“I have heard,” the cat said lazily, “that the only way out of Wonderland is to go through it.”
“Really? There is no other way?”
The cat just shrugged. “To find either home or madness, one still needs to take the first step. Staying on the beach will continue to get you Nowhere.”
Alice looked crestfallen at her choices.
The Cheshire Cat patted the door again with her paw. “Alice, go through the door.”
The girl stared at it, afraid. “What if I come out of this no longer the same?”
The Cheshire Cat grinned her wide, Cheshire grin, revealing rows of needle-sharp teeth. It was almost more alarming than mirthful.
“My dear Alice, that is the point of an adventure.”