Just as Hatter's tale had foretold, the White Castle was truly magnificent. Alice had seen it before, so as to why she was so astonished she couldn't tell, until she looked to the horizon. The vast, dry desert that Wonderland had become, stretched as far as she could see, yet it never reached the lush gardens of the White City, it was held back by an invisible force, one that Alice could only imagine was the work of the White Queens sacrifice. Inside the magical barrier a picturesque city spread beneath a clear blue sky, where little puffy clouds drifted slowly, like sheep dancing in the skies. As the peculiar party emerged from the darkness of the tunnels, they were all awestruck with the fairytale like surroundings, which had become such an uncommon delight in their ravished Wonderland. People dressed in white clothes walked the clean cobble streets, street merchants were scattered along the sides of the streets, selling everything from colorful jewelry to the most wondrous food, flavored with the special spices that you couldn't find anywhere else in Wonderland, and all throughout the city you could hear the sound of hearty laughs and happy chatter, coming from every street vendor and every open door in the cozy looking straw topped buildings, standing shoulder to shoulder in long rows. In the distance the White Castle rose from the city like a gigantic geyser of marble, it's beautiful spires and polished walls reflecting the sun's light across the city.
Alice's eyes were huge, as she took the gigantic city in. She had grown accustomed to the dry darkness of this new Wonderland, and her eyes were not adapted to the bright light of the sun. She squinted against the sun and sniffed, the air was full of intriguing scents, spices she had never smelled before, despite her mothers extensive spice cabinet. A man was standing nearby, selling a drink that smelled like hot chocolate and honey, another shop was selling crackers and chips, and a heavy scent of salt and olive oil drifted across to her. "This is amazing" she whispered, barely able to speak. The Hatter smiled, and Alice finally recognized his hearty, hopeful smile "yes it is" he said, and his voice was full of admiration and happiness.
As Alice made her way through the beautifully decorated streets, she felt the mood in the town settle in her, and a broad smile spread across her face. She had agreed with Hatter, that she would meet him at the castle gates in an hour, no more no less, so Alice had, in fear of loosing track of time, asked to borrow the hare's golden watch, to which he had, after a very serious whisper with the Hatter including several deathly stares from both parts , reluctantly obliged. Alice would occasionally check the watch, to make sure that she wouldn't be late. It was an impressive watch, as Alice had noticed when the Hare had handed it over. It was of pure gold, and had tiny engravings decorating the entirety of it, upon further inspection Alice saw that they were stories, tiny tales forever captured in the shiny metal, the entire thing had been recently cleaned, an was obviously kept nice by its owner. The interior of the watch on the other hand was far from nice, the glass was cracked, and the disk was missing at least four numbers. The arms were equally wrecked, one was bent and you could barely make out where it was pointing, while the others last half had gone missing all together, making it hard for the poor Alice to tell hat the hour was, although she did know that it was between one thirty three, and three thirty three, and that she had another twenty-three minutes to get to the castle, plenty of time to explore the wondrous White City.
A while had past, and Alice had made her way to a small, abandoned square, she checked her borrowed watch, time had flown, and she had but ten minutes to get to the castle, so she decided to head in that direction. But as she turned, and started to realize that she had no idea where to go. She tried to remember what way she had come from, but the little streets twisted and turned like snakes in a cage, and she ended up at the little square from which she had come. She sighed and tried again, this time choosing a different route, and yet, as the road opened in front of her, she once again recognized the little square, silent and abandoned, the shadows lurking in the corners, like harmful sprites waiting for their chance to attack. Alice looked at the little square, annoyed that it was playing tricks on her, "this is worse than the Queens Garden" she mumbled, as she stepped back into the depressing place. "Surely I have no chance of making it now" she said, looking at the square like it could answer for itself. As she once again found herself at the little shadowy place, she checked her watch, but the arms just hang loosely inside the dial, like they had just disconnected from the clockworks inside the golden gimmick, Alice grunted, which wasn't a very ladylike thing to do, as she was well aware, but the frustrating situation she had found herself in, seemed to have no bright sides.
"Are you lost child" sounded a raspy voice, and Alice turned to see who was talking. An old man with so many wrinkles Alice could barely bake out a face, he was sitting in the darkest corner of the square, in a chair that looked like it had been made before the man himself. Alice far from trusted this man, but she didn't really have a choice. "I suppose" she said, "but its not my fault, the streets are being terribly unreliable around here." The man chuckled "very true" he said, "you have certainly managed to make your way into the most traitorous streets in the city." Alice frowned, "how are these streets any more traitorous than any other streets?" She asked. The man smiled "these are the streets of sorrow, and this is Misery Square." He said slyly, like it was some sort of inside joke. "What do you mean by that" Alice asked, more and more confused by the second, she could not wrap her head around why a town, which seemed to be so happy, would have a place with such a sad name, although she had to say that it lived up to its name. "You see, this is where all the cities sadness goes, so the people can continue being happy." Alice looked around, the buildings around her had a sad aura about them, like a fog hanging in the air, the charming medieval architecture that populated the rest of the city, seemed sad and abandoned, and the bright colors that lighted up the rest of the lovely city, didn't quite make it here, making it seem like it was the middle of the night. "You see" The old man continued "If the White City stopped being happy, The White Queens spell will seize to function, and the City would fall into despair, it would wither away, until it would be nothing but a ruin of this glorious place."
Alice was beginning to understand what this place was, "So all the people's sorrows fall to here?" She asked, trying to piece it together. "Indeed" The old man nodded "And the city will remain free of the plague.''
Alice, now understanding what this place is, quickly went on to ask about the more pressing question "How do I get out of here?" The old man chuckled again, "Now that's a whole other issue" he said "For when you're first lost in misery, it is hard to get out." Alice heart sank "So I am trapped here?" She asked, dreading the answer. Once again the old man chuckled, like it was funny "No you're young and full of energy and life, you're more than capable of making your way out of this place. Me on the other hand" He continued "I am old and tired, so I shall stay. So that next time someone like you comes along, I'll be able to help them on their way as well." Alice frowned "But you haven't yet told me where to go" She said. The old man looked confused for a second "Are you deaf girl?" He asked, and Alice shook her head. "Well then you know that this place is Misery?" Alice nodded "And do you know how to get out of Misery?" Alice thought hard, but came out empty handed "No" she said. The old man sighed "Kids these days" he mumbled. The he lifted his head, and met Alice eyes "You cheer up" He said, cryptically, then he let his head fall down, and very quickly began to snore.
Alice stood still for a moment, utterly lost as to what she was supposed to do. The old mans words didn't make sense, and she felt herself doing quite the opposite of what he had told her to. It took her a little while, and she was growing increasingly irritated as time ticked by. Her friends were probably waiting for her, wondering where she had gone, and she had no idea how to get to them, and no way to find out how, since she had no need for waking up the sleeping man. "Once again I've disappointed my friends" she said, and she felt herself growing a bit sad. She sighed, how was she supposed to cheer up, when there was nothing to be happy about, Wonderland was ruined, she was lost and her friends had been abandoned, she sat down and buried her head in her hands, wishing more than ever that Hatter was here to tell her what to do.
Then it dawned on her, slowly but surely, her friends were the key to getting out of here. She stood up and closed her eyes, concentrating on all the happy times she had had with them, and when she finally felt her chest loosen up, and a smile spread across her face, she opened her eyes, and started running towards the tricky streets, making sure to keep the image of her friends clear in her mind as she ran. This time the street didn't open up into the little sad square, it continued in a straight line, until Alice finally felt the warmth of the sun on her face again, right before she tumbled unto the White Square, a large open space, in front of the castle doors. She could see her friends a little ways away, waiting for her. "I'm sorry I'm late" she said, catching her breath. "What on earth are you talking about?" The Queen asked, and Alice looked up. The March Hare was tripping nervously besides her "Can I have my watch back now?" He asked, before Alice had a chance of answering the Queen, her heart sank, as she pulled out the golden instrument. "I'm so sorry Hare" she said, knowing that the watch was broken, but before she could finish her sentence, the Hare snatched the watch out of her hands, and looked at it with a stare so intense Alice had never seen anything like it. "You must be confused" he said "This watch is going as strong as ever." Alice checked it, and sure enough it was ticking away, it's arms showing four o'clock. She sighed "this place surely is full of surprises" She said, her head hurting as she tried to understand what had happened. "I'm sure you have a fantastic tale to tell" The Hatter said, and his face was suddenly very serious "But now we must go, the Queen await us"