~~When Alice woke up she was walking down a grey featureless street, the buildings were just blank-faced cuboids, as empty as they were ominous. A breeze blew down the street ruffling Alice’s hair and blowing it into her eyes. The breeze was the only sign of life other than herself that she could see. It felt like she’d stepped into a computer that was in the beginning stages of designing the graphics for a game.
Wait she woke up walking? That doesn’t work. Although she thought to herself, when you think about it, you might spend all your time thinking something doesn’t work but you never know for sure until you try it. Perhaps she’d been sleepwalking, or she was dreaming. Though this felt too real to be a dream, then again, she considered, maybe all dreams felt like that until you woke up.
She stopped walking and looked down at herself, she was wearing a plain grey dress that fell just above her knees. Where had this come from? She asked herself as she ran her hands over the rough fabric.
The ghost of a laugh echoed inside her. As if the whereabouts of her outfit as the weirdest thing about her current situation. Yet, she didn’t laugh. She didn’t seem able to. She felt empty of any sort of joy. As usual then.
Where had that thought come from? Was she really the sort of girl who didn’t, who couldn’t laugh? She couldn’t remember. Her memories were fuzzy like remnants of a half forgotten dream. As long as she didn’t try to recall anything specific she didn’t feel like anything was missing. Alice felt as though she should be able to feel the loss of something as immense as her memories. But her memories felt hole until she really tried to remember anything, when she pushed all she could recall for certain was her name. When she relaxed and tried not to chase her memories, some impressions, smells and flashes of images flitted by and she was able to concentrate on them. The smell of a bonfire and crisp autumn leaves floating down a river.
She heard a drip drip sound in the distance, this new sound was welcome in this empty world, Alice was getting sick of the sound of her own footsteps. For lack of anything else to do she started walking down the street again, she figured this would at least give her walking some purpose rather than aimless wandering.
She followed the sound of dripping but never came any closer to finding its source. No matter how far down the seemingly endless barren street she wandered. Alice found that she couldn’t really muster up the energy to care much about where the dripping was coming from, or anything else really for that matter. She was half-tempted to sit on the floor and wait for all this to be over. However she didn’t relish the thought of sitting in the middle of the road, it felt too open. She couldn’t go up to one of the buildings either, they looked imposing and Alice had the distinct feeling they were watching her. Which of course was ridiculous, but she couldn’t shake the feeling. So she kept walking.
The street didn’t change, there were no side alleys, no detail whatsoever. She couldn’t tell how long she walked, she just put one foot in front of the other over and over again, like a ragdoll soldier, marching on aching legs. The sun was a bright white spot in the sky, it stayed directly overhead and threw its colourless light over everything.
Alice didn’t like this one bit, the feeling having nothing much to do other than think was a situation she knew she hated. She liked to keep busy when she could. This endless nothingness was frustrating her, and if she was honest with herself it was also scaring her. Would it ever end?
Eventually Alice collapsed forward onto her knees, feeling the immediate relief in her feet. She put her head in her head and let out a frustrated cry. She squeezed her eyes shut and dug her fingernails, which she noticed had been trimmed shorter than she liked, into the bottom of her thigh to help her concentrate.
When she opened her eyes her first thought was that everything was still the same. Then she looked again.
There. In the distance she could see the end of the street, or at least that was what it looked like from here. And she could see a brown smudge, the first thing of colour she’d found here.
She got up, her legs aching and her thighs stinging, and she started to jog towards the brown smudge.
When she reached it she saw that it was a door. The street ended abruptly, with another blank-faced building dropped in the middle. The door was dark oak wood, something about it wouldn’t let her look away. She moved closer to it and put her hand up to touch the carvings of vines, and her fingers made contact with the wood Alice’s vision went white.
I stood on the step, one hand hesitantly resting on the dark oak of the front door. I could feel the music pulsing further into the house through the wood, the beat and the sound of laughter and light-hearted chatter mixing together into an intoxicating sound that begged me join in. I wanted to, so much. I longed to just relax and be a part of it all, the freedom of being a teenager at house party full of friends.
I traced the patterns of vines carved into the wood with my fingertips. They were chaotic and beautiful, part of the wood but still separate. I felt separate from the people I would find behind those doors. Their worries would be washed away by the music and the easy-going conversation. I felt trapped and lost in the chaos of it all and I hadn’t even made it past the front door yet.
This was a bad idea. As much as I wanted to be a part of this party, I would never be able to make myself fit in. I was a broken piece of a jigsaw that should fit but just couldn’t.
Just as I decided to leave the door swung open leaving my hand hovering in the empty air. I looked up and met the warm, dark eyes of a boy a couple of years older than me. His hair was a mess of dark brown curls, one curl had slipped down onto his forehead looking golden as it caught the light.
“Alice.” He said with a relaxed smile.
I was shocked he even remembered my name, I’d only met him a couple of times, through my sister and around the river. “Uh, Hi Will.” I stammered letting my hand drop to my side.
“You coming in?” he asked motioning further into the house. I realised I was just staring at him and quickly looked down.
“I, uh, I was just leaving.” I mumbled stepping back. I nearly lost my footing as the heel of my boot slipped over the step. I felt my face heating up.
“Why are you leaving?” he asked. I couldn’t believe he was still talking to me, let alone having any interest in whether I stayed or went. “My party can’t give off that bad a vibe from the other side of the door.” He laughed. Ah, so he was worried about his party. He was still smiling at me and I struggled for words, my mind having gone completely blank. “You have a beautiful door.” I managed. He laughed out loud as I blushed even more. Even through my embarrassment I noticed how beautiful the sound of his laugh was, and it wasn’t a mean laugh, it was as if he was as surprised as me. “You’re leaving because my door is beautiful?” he asked. I pressed my lips together and shook my head, strands of my hair coming loose from my bun. I let them hang in my face hoping to cover at least some of my embarrassment. Still smiling he regarded me, his head tilted to one side as if I was a curious problem he couldn’t quite figure out. He stepped forward and put his hand on my elbow pulling me towards him. He slid his hand down my arm, making me shiver, until he was gently holding my hand. He then stepped behind me and put his other hand over my eyes and began to lead me forward. “What?” I asked my voice wobbly and confused.
“Just don’t look,” he whispered, his voice close to my ear. “The doors beauty might blind you, I’ll get you into the party safely I promise.” He guided me through the doorway making sure I didn’t trip over anything, which was definitely a good plan as his touch was making me feel unsteady on my feet. I heard him push the door closed behind us. He moved his hand away from my eyes but didn’t let go of my other hand. “Here we are safe and sound” he said still staring at my probably startled expression. The light of the lamp behind him made his hair shine, bringing out the dark caramel shades in his curls. He began to rub circles on my hand with his thumb. It was too much, I yanked away and abruptly stepped back banging into the door. He looked startled, maybe this was all just normal to him and he didn’t mean anything by it. “Sorry” he mumbled. He opened his mouth to say something more but we were interrupted by a shout of “ALICE!” We both turned to see a beautiful girl with short blonde hair, so light it was almost white, and intelligent grey eyes bounding towards us.
When Alice opened her eyes again, she was slumped on the floor with her back against the door. She quickly threw herself away from it, as if it was poisonous. She stood staring at the door as if it might pounce at her any second. After she’d calmed herself a little she took a step a closer, as she peered at the carvings she confirmed they were the exact pattern as on Will’s door. Her hands started shaking, “Will?” she whispered to herself not really expecting a reply.
Nor did she get one. The door remained shut, the street remained silent.
She’d been staring so intently at Will’s door, because even if there was no Will here this door would always be his in her mind, that she nearly missed the flash of white to her left.
She spun round and gasped. On every cuboid building all down the street as far as she could see was a door.
One door directly in the centre of each building. But these doors were not ordinary, they took Alice’s breath away. No two doors were the same. They were all different shapes, sizes and colours. She saw one green one shaped like an upside down triangle and next to it was a door that seemed to defy gravity, a vertical pool of water with a curved lily-pad for a handle. Then on the opposite side there was a door made entirely of gold moulded to resemble wooden planks, with onyx braces at the top that resembled a picket fence; at first it seemed normal sized but as she watched it grew larger and then smaller again continuously. Some were wooden, some were plastic, some had patterns and some had stained glass windows. She wandered a little way back down the street to see if there were any more familiar doors. There was an iron door with what she recognised as Celtic engravings on it, it wasn’t familiar but it was beautiful. There was also another dark wood door that looked ordinary from afar but as she got closer she saw there were slits in it, she half expected someone to start shooting at her through the slits. She tried to peer through to the other side but could see nothing but darkness.
She saw the flash of a white shape bounding past out of the corner of her eye, but it was gone before she could turn and see it.
She glanced around at the doors and, though they were astounding in their diversity, she could find no desire to open them, no curiosity to know what she’d find on the other side. This was all wasted on her.
Yet her eyes kept straying back to Will’s door. If there was any door in the world that could dredge up something inside her to make her care what was on the other side, this was it. No door, no matter how wondrous and magical, called to her like Will’s.
Alice didn’t want this, she didn’t want to keep going. The little memories she had were all interwoven with feelings of pain and she just wanted to push it all out and switch off. She wished she could just not go through the door, but the thought of staying on this street with nothing but her own thoughts to keep her company was too much. Why was this happening to her? If this was a dream it was the most vivid she’d ever had. And it had to be a dream, a world of her own making, as only she knew the significance of this door. Alice Wonder’s world. Wonder Land.
With that thought she resigned herself to keep going and walked over to Will’s door. She ran her hand over it feeling the carvings and reached for the handle.
What? There was no handle. She pushed the door but it remained firmly closed. What was the point of a door that wouldn’t open? She gave a frustrated groan and stepped back examining the door. It stood there stoically, as if it watching her. She didn’t even want to go through that door, why was she letting it infuriate her? Fine, she thought. She’s just stay here until this nightmare ended. She turned her back on Will’s door and stared down the street.
She watched the doors, some still, some glowing and moving. But as she stared, the dripping sound from earlier increased in volume. She’s almost entirely forgotten about it, but as she listen she found that it sounded like it was coming from behind every door on the street.
She walked over to a door made of wooden planks painted green and peeling with age and listened. The dripping was getting faster. Suddenly water started pouring out from under the door. She looked around and saw that it was coming out from under every door. Alice turned and jogged back over to Will’s door, the only one not spurting water. The water was rushing out from under the door so fast that Alice was sure they were all going to explode outwards.
The water was already lapping over Alice’s feet as this bare street had no drains and nowhere for the water to go.
Alice shivered, her feet going numb as the icy water leeched her warmth. The sound of rushing water grew louder and the doors around her creaked and strained as more water started streaming from cracks and keyholes. The water was nearing her knees now, she waded to Will’s door and pushed against it hopelessly. It still didn’t budge.
She wanted to slump to the ground and give up, maybe she could let the water take her and this’d be over. The water was moving up, the bottom of her dress already immersed. She was too cold now to shiver, her whole body was numb and her toes had actually started to feel warm as she lost feeling in them.
She tilted her head back and closed her eyes, her face blank. She wasn’t scared, she felt empty and ready to let go. Her legs started to shake with the effort of keeping her upright and so she lifted them up, now floating with the water lapping under her arms, and let herself sink. She floated there suspended just above the ground. The water was crystal clear and she could see a fair way down the street, the doors blurred coloured smudges that seemed to sway under the water. Her lungs started to complain for air and Alice fought the urge to swim back up, instead letting small amounts of air out of her lungs at a time, watching the bubbles fly for the surface, until her lungs were empty. Just as she thought she could take no more and would have ro surface she saw the white shape dart in front of her. This time however it didn’t dart off but sat in the middle in fro t of her a few meers away. It was a whit rabbit, not huge but large for a rabbit. It sat there the size of a small dog, watching her with sad eyes.
Alice snapped out of her staring as her lungs burned for air, she started to kick for the surface but her arms and legs were heavy and numb. She was too slow. As she tried to reach the surface her vision started to dim, she watched the rabbit bounding away leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake.
Her thoughts were scattered and she started to just give up, breathe in the water and end it all. As she turned about in the water she saw Will’s door, it seemed to change shape and move as she felt her consciousness slipping. She thought she saw the vines twisting and rearrange themselves into a familiar face with a curl of hair on their forehead. Will, she thought. At least her last thought would be of him. The face looked unbearably sad and a little disappointed. Alice reached her hand for the door and as she sis the face disappeared the vines just carvings once more.
Will would be so disappointed, he always believed I was too strong to just give up. What if behind that door she could see him again? The thought gave her strength and she kicked harder and finally broke the surface. She gasped, dragging in lungful’s of air. She pushed soaking strands of hair out of her face and looked around. All of the doors were completely submerged in the water, she swam over to Will’s door and with the last of her energy dived under the water and was rewarded by the sight of a handle on the door. Part of her still wanted to just let herself float in the water until the cold killed her, but she swam for the handle and twisted. No she thought with frustration, it wouldn’t turn. She let herself float back to the surface, exhausted. Maybe it was for the best. She felt practically dead anyway, her body was numb and she was beyond tired both physically and mentally. She glanced around and saw nothing but water all down the street, like a giant river had suddenly decided to up and move to the city. All the doors were nothing but smudges of colour beneath the expanse of water, but there! Sat on the water as if it was solid, was the white rabbit. Its little grey eyes looked heartbroken as it stared at her.
Those grey eyes. They called to her, and she desperately fought to keep hold of a memory dancing tantalisingly close. Ugh, it slipped away leaving her with nothing but an echo of a feeling. A feeling of strength, of the determination to keep fighting, keep going no matter what. It wasn’t her feeling, maybe it was a memory of what she used to feel, but it was connected to those grey eyes. It felt important that she latch on to that feeling, for the sake of her lost memories and, weirdly enough, for that ridiculous rabbit with its familiar eyes. So that’s what she did. She concentrated on that feeling of strength and tried to make it her own. A new found feeling of determination flooded her body. She would carry on, if only to find out what was on the other side of that door. If she was going to die then it would be on her terms not in some ridiculous street river. She quickly acted, scared this feeling would leave her any minute. She swam back down to the door, grabbed that handle and twisted with all her strength.
Click. The catch turned and the door swung open. Alice was dragged through the open doorway along with the sheer force of the water. Her exhaustion and lack of air knocked her into unconsciousness as her body was washed away.