The Battered Chest

Rabbit has a job. He looks after a girl. She's very important, though she doesn't know it yet. Rabbit's job is going well until the worst possible thing happens. She disappears. Now Rabbit has to find her before someone or something else does.


1. The Tower

 The humming bird's tiny silver wings glimmered in the slashes of sunlight that filtered through the cracks in the castle's walls. Dust motes sparkled in the light, akin to the painted stars scattered across the blue ceiling. The minute bird fluttered above a model of the solar system, suspended, like the dust, in the empty space. Rabbit sat on his bar stool by the edge of the light, hidden in shadow. He took a swig from the deep green bottle at his side, the black liquid sloshing around inside it. Rabbit frowned at the small child careering across the painted sky. Her little hands clutched at the rope of her swing, her plaits flying and her face alight with joy.

"Rabbit! Rabbit! Look how high I am!" She cried.

Rabbit watched her swing for a few more moments, then he returned to staring moodily at the humming bird, now perched on the model of the planet Earth. The girl frowned, her face creased in thought.

"Rabbit!" She called again, "Throw me a cherry!"

Rabbit lent down to the dish at his feet and selected one of the ripe cherries there. He held it up and raised an eyebrow.

"Please!" The girl called, realising her mistake.

He nodded and threw the crimson fruit towards her. She reached forwards, hands outstretched. She slipped. Rabbit started up, concern written plainly on his face, but he settled back when he heard her laughing and when she looked up, his face was an indifferent mask once more. The child leapt to her sandal clad feet and began running in circles around the room. On her third circuit she noticed a chest in the corner that she'd never seen before. The chest was very old and battered, the metal bands across it were streaked in rust. A large ornate key protruded from the lock. She stopped running. 

"Rabbit, what is this?" She asked with the kind of curiosity only a child possess. 

"A very old box" He replied in a deep, sad voice.

"Where has it come from?"

"A... friend delivered it this morning."

"Oh" She stopped and bit her cherry stained lip.

"Rabbit...?" She began slowly.

"Yes my dear?"

Encouraged by the rare term of endearment she continued, "What's inside it?"

Rabbit paused, "Nothing important"

She frowned and waited until Rabbit was watching the humming bird again, then she carefully turned the key and lifted the chest's lid. Inside, the bottom of the box was covered in hand written pages and discarded quills. She moved the papers aside and found a tiny door set into the base. She looked around, she looked around checking that Rabbit was still distracted, then she opened the tiny door. 

Rabbit looked up at the sound of creaking hinges. He saw her leaning forwards over the open chest. He jumped to his feet and ran towards her, hand outstretched, beseeching. 

"Alice! No!" He yelled, voice shattering the tranquil air. The girl, Alice, jumped guiltily. For the second time she slipped and fell. Into the box. There was a flash of light and Alice vanished. Rabbit fell heavily to his knees, mind reeling. He reached out a shaking hand to close the lid of the chest as someone knocked on the door. A small, slightly twitchy man stepped into the circular tower room, a piece of paper in his hand. He looked around. 

"Where is she?" He asked, voice a little squeaky.

Rabbit pointed to the chest.

"Oh. Oh dear." The man said, sinking down beside Rabbit and placing a hand on his arm. "Bad timing, I have a letter for you, from Hat." 

Rabbit lifted his gaze to his friend's face.

"What should I do?" He asked desperately.

"Go after her and get her back of course," the man said, standing up, "Go after her and bring her back to Wonderland."

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