Alice felt herself float, like she was underwater. She felt her hair flowing around her head like a halo, although she couldn't turn her head to see it. She felt paralyzed, her body not responding to her commands. She couldn't see anything in front of her, the world around her was dark as any shadow. Once again she tried moving around, but didn't even succeed in making her pinky twitch. She quickly realized that her efforts were fruitless, so she gave up and let her self float.
After a few minutes, or hours, or days, Alice couldn't tell due to the timeless nature of her surroundings, a light flashed in front of her eyes, like a ray of sun breaking the clouds. A shape appeared, a silhouette in front of the blinding light, it stepped through the light and entered the darkness that Alice was floating in. As the light disappeared, the character became increasingly clear, features like long white hair, and pale white skin became apparent, and before a few seconds had passed, Alice blurted out "Queen!"
The Queen smiled and nodded, "Hello Alice." Alice was dumbfounded for a second, until she remembered that she was dreaming, her heart sank. "Oh" she said, sadly. "What's wrong Alice?" the Queen inquired. Alice sighed "Well for a second I thought you we're alive, but then I realized that I am merely dreaming, and that you, dear Queen, are merely a product of my imagination." Alice looked at the Queen, almost apologetically. She laughed "Don't be foolish Alice, you may be dreaming but that doesn't mean I am not really here." Alice didn't quite understand, but she didn't say anything, as it seemed as though the Queen wasn't done explaining. "The fraction of my conscience that I transferred to you, seems to be residing in you sub-conscience, and as you fall asleep, I was set free to roam your dreams. So I have come here to instruct you as to your next move." Alice had no idea that she had a next move, "what do you mean?" She asked. "I mean that you have to take action, immediately, this morning." Alice thought about it, she had no idea that it was so urgent, but the Queen looked quite serious. "Alright" she said "I'll tell Hatter and the rest tomorrow." The Queen shook her head, her expression sad, as if she knew something Alice didn't know. "I'm afraid you won't Alice, under any circumstances can the others know of our plans." Alice was once again dumbfounded, she couldn't figure out the Queens cryptic sayings, "But Queen they must, I can't keep lying to them." she protested, although she knew that the Queen was notorious for making strange decisions, without giving a reason. "They cannot accompany you on this journey, for their purpose lies elsewhere, you, and you alone, must go and seek the cause of this grave disaster, and end Wonderlands suffering."
Alice was horrified, she couldn't imagine going on by herself, "I can't go alone, I don't even know where the Grey Mountains are." she said, her voice slightly shaking. "I already told you, they're far away from everything you know." The Queen answered, like those were adequate instructions, "That's hardly specific" Alice said. The Queen paused for a moment, like she was unsure of how to further specify the directions, after a minute or two she shook her head "It doesn't matter, I'll be there to help you on your way, so don't frighten little Alice, you'll be perfectly fine." Alice didn't quite believe the Queens words, she had a hard time imagining herself being fine, in the disaster struck wastelands of Wonderland, armed with nothing herself and the Queens voice in her head, but she knew the Queen was determined, her face said it all. "Do I at least get to say goodbye?" Alice asked, "I'm afraid not" The Queen said, and Alice could see genuine sadness in the white lady's face. " They wouldn't allow you to leave, and everything would be lost. Everything depends on you Alice, and to save us all, you have to go now." She continued. Alice frowned "Now?" she said, puzzled "but I'm dreaming, I can't just leave, I have to wait until I wake up, and I was very tired when I went to bed, so it might be a while." Alice said apologetically, although she wasn't sure what she was apologizing for, being tired couldn't be a crime could it?
The Queen smiled, and floated down to Alice, putting her hands on either side of Alice's head, firmly grasping it. Alice frowned again, an action she'd done a lot during this conversation. Suddenly she began shaking Alice's violently, so that the poor Alice got quite dizzy. "Queen" she said, her voice mumbly and scrambled because og the shaking "What are you-"
"Doing" Alice said, as she sat up straight in her bed. She looked around, she was back in her room in the inn, and the sky outside was ink black, it was still the middle of the night. The dear queen wasn't kidding when she said that she was going now. She cast aside her blanket, and swung her legs over the bedside. The floor was cold to the touch, and Alice shivered when her bare feet connected with the unpolished wood. She sat in silence for a minute, her thoughts drifting, until a sharp voice tore the silence. "Alice! Get going!" Alice sat up straight and shook her head. "Sorry" she thought, as she rose from her bed, and quickly threw off her night gown.
After getting dressed she filled her backpack with things she thought she might need, clothes, bandages, the little money she had and an extra pair of shoes. "Why are you being so awfully slow?" The Queen said, her voice impatient and annoyed. "Why are you rushing me so?" Alice said, for she was annoyed as well, its wasn't everyday she was asked to go running off in the middle of the night, and she hadn't been prepared at all. "Because there isn't much time at all" The Queen said, in a curious voice "Why else would one rush another?" Alice sighed, as she closed her bag, and slung it over her shoulder, it was heavy, although not unbearable, although the leather straps were already digging into her shoulders, but she had tried worse.
She turned to face the door, quickly glancing back at the room, to check if she had forgotten anything. The small narrow room was as dull and dark, the bed was unmade, but Alice didn't care much for the rumpled sheets, surely the inn had someone to take care of such matters. The small wardrobe she'd kept her clothes in overnight, was mostly empty, and stood in the corner like and abandoned house. When she was sure she had all that she needed, she nodded and drew the key from her pocket. She was once again stunned by the magical door, through which her her hand went, as though the grey wood was made of the thinnest air. She entered the hallway, and snuck down the dark walkway, careful not to wake any of the inn's other occupants, especially her sleeping friends.
She made it down the stairs, without alarming anyone, and looked around the main floor. Yesterday it had been filled with laughter and music, and the large fireplace had been lit, now it was dark and silent, a few guests had collapsed in their seats, and were now drooling on the tables, loud snoring noises escaping their open mouths. Many of the guests still had their hands on the drink, they had been in the process of drinking when their conscience had left them. Even the man who was seated at front desk was snoring, it was like time had stopped, and Alice couldn't help but being slightly fascinated by the scene. She crept across the floor, towards the front door, a dark oak slab with iron bands criss-crossing the polished surface, reinforcing it against the people who weren't allowed in, and carefully opened it, cringing as the bell rang, filling the silent building with its high pitched sound. The man behind the counter twitched, but fell back into his seat, his snoring filling the air, joining the choir of people who had had a little too much to drink.
The street outside the inn was just as silent as the inn itself. Alice looked up and down the cobble street, but no one was in sight, mind a few stray cats. I wonder what Dinah is doing now, Alice wondered, as yet another tail disappeared down one of the many side alleys, this grey with white stripes running the length of it. She drew her coat a little bit closer, cold wind was sweeping through the street, and Alice could feel goose bumps appearing down the length of her arms. The sky was still dark, although Alice thought she could see smears of orange creeping up from the horizon.
She stood for a second, preparing too leave, then she realized that she had no idea where she was going, she looked from side to side, there were no road signs and no maps, not that any of which would've helped, since she didn't actually know which way went to the grey mountains. "Queen?" She though, hoping that the little fragment of the Queen would know where to go. "Alice?" Sounded the half sarcastic answer "Could you tell me where to go?" Alice asked, hoping for a straight answer. "Hmmmm" came the Queens voice, and Alice could imagine her, with her hand on her chin, staring into the distance. "Yes!" The Queen suddenly blurted, and Alice almost jumped. "Would you tell me?" Alice asked, hopeful that this would be easier than she had originally anticipated. "Both ways!" The Queen said, sounding like a little girl who had just figured out that two plus two was four, Alice sighed. "That's hardly possible!" She protested, bracing herself for the Queens legendary peculiar-ness, she wouldn't be disappointed. "Oh but it is" The Queen explained, "you simply have to go the right way." She finished. And Alice felt as though she was talking to a child, "Obviously Queen, but which way is the right way?" She asked, her patience already wearing thin. "The one for which your heart most desires." The Queen answered, and Alice rubbed her eyes in frustration. "Fine" She said, and turned to the left.
Walking through the white city was like walking through a ghost town, there wasn't a single person on the streets, besides herself, and not a sliver of light came from any of the windows, which were closed, the shutters hiding the interior of the houses from Alice's view. It wasn't so strange that not many people we're up at this hour, but she did find it a bit strange that not a single person was awake, normally there would be at least one or two who was up early for some reason or other.
A slight mist lay across the roads, creeping along the stones like snakes, slithering around Alice's feet. She looked into the sky, it was still black, and the light of the stars had been washed away by the faint light of the rising sun. She felt as though she was the only person in the world, walking through the streets of the white city, not even the stars to keep her company. No one but the white Queen, who seemed to have resigned, as her voice was no longer filling her head. It was funny, Alice thought, now that she finally had the peace and quiet she had had all morning, all she wanted was for the Queen to return and keep her company, but it seemed as though she had disappeared, and Alice had been left alone to make her way through the white city.
It took her almost an hour before she reached the outer walls of the city. It was an stunning sight, the lush field of grass, trees and flowers stretched about a hundred meters out from the city walls, before suddenly turning into dry wasteland, the transition was a perfect line all the way around the city, the Queens barrier. Alice made her way through the grassy field, until her toes were touching the edge of the barrier, she could feel a slight shimmer in the air in front of her face, like warm air, she could she the unrelenting wind on the wasteland, but there was nothing but a slight breeze where she stood. She put her hand forward, through the invisible line before her, and she immediately felt the heat and the wind of the destroyed landscape outside. The last thing she wanted to do was to go through, and start walking through the harsh environment that Wonderland had become.
"Queen" She thought, hoping that she hadn't truly disappeared, "Yes?" Sounded the groggy answer, as though she had woken her up, Alice had no idea wether or not fragments of souls trapped inside other people minds needed sleep, or could sleep at all. "Are you sure we can't take the tunnels" Alice asked, and her voice was full of fear of walking through what lay before her. "No" The Queen said, and Alice's shoulders relaxed, "If you have a desire to end as dinner for the monstrous beings that rule most of them, feel free to enter the tunnels." Alice's heart sank for every word. "You could've just said no." Alice said, the Queen sounded confused "But I'd be lying" She said "We could easily take the tunnels, but it would mean certain death for you, and with you, all of Wonderland." Alice was annoyed, all she wanted to do was to stay in the white city and have fun with her friends, but she couldn't turn away now, if the Queen said she was Wonderlands only hope, it was her duty to do what she could to save it. She took a deep breath, and stepped through the barrier, and out into the wasteland that Wonderland had become.