A TWIST OF FATE
Gosh, I never expected to update this thing again so quickly! I'm nearly half-done with the Wonderland adventure already! I guess this is one of those strokes of luck for me as a writer.
This story, of course, is far from finished! I'll just be adding to it more and more, as the ideas come. Eventually it'll have to come to an end, of course, but I have a feeling this will end up becoming my biggest story ever, second only to my original novel. If you have any suggestions for who I can include in this, don't hesitate to tell me! And I look forward to your lovely reviews!
Characters (with the exception of Terence) © Disney (and their original creators)
Tumnus and Narnia © C.S. Lewis and Disney/Walden Media
Terence and Story © unicorn-skydancer08
All rights reserved.
Chapter 7: The Procacious Caterpillar
After Tumnus, Terence, and Alice had a chance to dry off somewhat from their little shower, they sat around for a time, wondering what to do next.
Presently, Terence could smell something in the air. It smelled very much like smoke. When Terence looked up, he could see peculiar clouds drifting above them—clouds that were in different colors, and shaped like letters of the alphabet. "What on earth…?" the youth murmured, knitting his brows in bewilderment.
Tumnus and Alice could detect the strange smoky smell, too. When they lifted their heads and saw the unusual clouds themselves, Tumnus demanded sharply, "Now what's up?"
Terence rose slowly to his feet and stood very still, listening intently. His sharp, sensitive ears heard something in the distance; it sounded like someone singing, or chanting. It was too faint for Terence to be really sure. Without a word, the white-haired man began to head off in the direction of the sound.
Alice promptly went after him, and Tumnus had no choice but to follow, too. The trio pushed their way through an endless maze of towering grass blades and mushrooms, the singing growing louder and more distinct the further they ventured. Finally, Terence pushed two dew-moist blades aside, and Tumnus and Alice moved in closer to him to peer over each of his shoulders. Looking dead ahead, another peculiar sight greeted their eyes, possibly the most peculiar sight they had seen yet: a large blue caterpillar was perched on a mushroom, singing to himself while smoking idly on a hookah, and the clouds he breathed out emerged in the shapes of the letters he was reciting—
"Aaaaaaaaaaa…eeee, I, ohh, yooooouuuu…aaaaa, eeeee, I, oh, yooooou…aaaa, eeee, I, oh, yooooooooooooouuuuuuuu…"
He paused, only long enough to pull in another draft, before continuing:
"Oooohhhhh…you, eee, I, oh, aaaa…you, eeeee, I, aaaaaaaaaa…aaa, eee, I, oh, yooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuu…"
By the time he reached the end of his little mantra, Terence, Alice, and Tumnus had gone up to him, and now stood by the mushroom upon which he rested, watching him intently.
At first, the Caterpillar paid them no heed. But when he finally turned his head and faced them properly, he took a deep breath, and demanded, "Who…are…you?" He placed heavy enunciation upon every word, perhaps more than was entirely necessary. The three colored clouds he blew in their faces came in the form of the letters O, R, and U.
Neither Terence, Alice, nor Tumnus were quite sure how to respond to such a question.
"Why…we hardly know, sir," said Terence distractedly, as he eyeballed the smoky letters. "We've come such a long way, and underwent so many changes since this morning, you see, and…"
"I do not see," the Caterpillar coolly replied, puffing out a cloud of smoke shaped like the letter C. "Explain yourselves."
Tumnus shook his head. "I'm afraid we can't explain ourselves, sir," said the faun, "because we're not ourselves, you know."
The Caterpillar turned his back on the faun, and countered, "I do not know." This time, the thin wisp of smoke that escaped his lips writhed and twisted itself into a "knot" in midair.
Tumnus leveled off his ears in irritation. "Well, I can't put it anymore clearly, sir, for it isn't clear to me!"
"You?" drawled the Caterpillar, turning back to him once more. "Who…are…you?"
Tumnus managed to elude the first few puffs that were blown in his direction, but the last one got right in his face.
As a result, he ended up coughing and retching from the rather foul stench, and his eyes ended up springing a leak. Between coughs, the faun gasped, "Well—don't you think—sir—it would be better—for you—to tell us—" Here, he found himself coughing too hard to speak. Terence obligingly gave his mate a few good thumps on the back. When Tumnus settled down and found his voice again, he glanced up at the Caterpillar again with red, streaming eyes, and exhaled a small O himself as he finished his question: "—who you are, first?"
"Why?" asked the Caterpillar haughtily, now breathing out the letter Y.
With a great, jaded sigh, Tumnus only sank back onto his haunches, and dropped his head wearily into his hands.
"Oh, drat it all," the faun grumbled into his hands. "Everything is so confusing!"
"It is not," the Caterpillar contradicted, blowing out yet another ribbon-like wisp that formed into yet another knot.
"Well, it is to us," Alice complained.
The Caterpillar asked unconcernedly, "Why?" He puffed out the letter Y again, this time in the style of elegant calligraphy.
Terence, who'd taken a seat alongside Tumnus, began to stroke his thick white beard absently. "Well, we can't remember things as we used to, sir. It's like it's all been turned upside-down…"
Quite abruptly, the Caterpillar butted in. "Recite!" he commanded.
Terence and Tumnus both peered up at him at the exact same time. "Forgive me?" Terence said.
"Recite, sir?" Tumnus queried.
Alice, on the other hand, seemed to understand the Caterpillar's command perfectly, for she made a hasty curtsy before him and said, "Oh! Oh, yes, sir."
She cleared her throat.
"How doth the little busy bee improve each shining—"
"Stop!" the Caterpillar cut her off.
"What?" said Tumnus bewilderedly, quirking his ears.
"What's the matter?" wondered Terence.
"That is not spoken correcitically," said the Caterpillar, as he adjusted his position.
Alice just looked at him in puzzlement. Tumnus said, "Well, okay, then, how does it go?"
"Enlighten us," said Terence.
The Caterpillar did just so. "It goes…" He drew in another draft, and began to say, "How…" But hardly any smoke came out of his mouth. He paused, stared at his pipe incredulously, stole a quick peek into the opening, gave the whole thing a little shake. Then he realized that two of his multiple hands were holding the pipe the wrong way. They had bent the pipe in such a manner that the flow was cut off. The Caterpillar scowled, and immediately swatted at those hands with one of his front hands, causing them to release their grip at once.
Alice put a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. Even Terence and Tumnus couldn't help smirking.
"A-hem!" the Caterpillar grumbled at them. Instantly, all three were still, like pupils before a very strict teacher. When the Caterpillar was sure he'd secured their attention, he sucked in a long, deep breath, and blew an enormous pink cloud into the air, which, in seconds, took the shape of a large crocodile. "How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail," the Caterpillar narrated, "and pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale." Tumnus, Terence, and Alice all watched with interest as the story magically unfolded before their eyes in the colorful smoke.
"How cheer—" the Caterpillar went on, but then he stopped, as he had felt a sudden jerk. He started again. "How cheer—" But he stopped yet again.
Apparently, his other end was having a difficult time maintaining balance.
Unimpressed, the Caterpillar forthwith reached out and snatched up his wildly flailing feet, setting them firmly back down.
This made Terence laugh aloud. When the Caterpillar glared at him, the young man immediately pretended to be in the middle of a coughing fit. He pounded himself in the chest, for good measure, and said meekly to his many-footed companion, "Sorry…something must have caught in my throat." He gave out one final cough. "Now, then…you were saying?"
The Caterpillar continued to shoot Terence dirty looks, but eventually he gave a terse nod, and went on with his recitation.
"How cheerfully he seems to grin," he elucidated, the smoke once more shaping the little moral, "how neatly spreads his claws…and welcomes little fishes in, with gently smiling jaws."
When he'd reached the end, Alice declared, "Well, I must say, I've never heard it that way before."
"I know," the Caterpillar drawled. "I have improved it."
This time he ended up breathing into all three faces, and all three of them started choking and gagging.
Before the smoke had quite completely cleared away, Tumnus began hoarsely, "Well, if you ask us—"
"You?" the Caterpillar echoed. Once again, he demanded, in his loudest tone yet, "Who—are—you?"
But Terence, Tumnus, and Alice were all coughing too hard on all the smoke that had accumulated around them. Terence hid his face in the crook of his elbow to shield his eyes from the rancid fumes. Tumnus did likewise, only with his hands, while Alice gave a great sneeze that caused her to fall over backward. When they could breathe and see again, Terence wondered how in the world the Caterpillar could stand to breathe in this stuff constantly. Tumnus just narrowed his eyes at the Caterpillar in contempt, and snapped, "Oh, who needs you?"
To Alice and Terence, he said, "Come on, let's go!"
This time, Terence and Alice were all too happy to agree. They readily followed the faun back into the grass forest.
When the Caterpillar saw they were leaving, he rose up, and called out urgently after them, "You there! You, three—wait! Come back!"
Terence was the first to stop at his call.
When they all turned back, they could just barely hear the Caterpillar yelling, "I have something important to say!"
Terence merely looked at Tumnus, as did Alice, and Tumnus clapped a hand to his forehead and slowly dragged it down his unshaven face.
But he said resignedly, "Oh, fine. We're already sunk at our lowest, anyway. How can anyone do us any worse?"
And so the party switched directions. As they proceeded to head back, Tumnus murmured, half to himself, "I wonder what that Caterpillar could possibly want, this time."
They struggled through the thick tangles and meshes, unable to help grunting and groaning a little in frustration. What they wouldn't give to be back to their proper sizes again!
By the time they finally reached the Caterpillar, they found him sprawled flat on his back on the mushroom, practicing blowing smoke rings. They marched straight up to him, and Alice folded her arms in front of her, while Tumnus folded his hands primly behind his back and Terence rested his hands on his lean sides.
But the Caterpillar said nothing, at least not right away. At length Terence said to him, "Well, we're listening."
Eventually, the Caterpillar spoke but three words: "Keep—your—tempers."
"Is that all you have to say?" Tumnus demanded.
"No," the Caterpillar retorted, rolling himself head over heels.
After another brief time, he questioned them, "Exacitically, what is your problem?"
Tumnus answered, "Well, it's exacitici—" He paused, and struggled to form the word himself. "Exaciti…exacit…"
The faun stumbled over his tongue several times, before giving up and going for another synonym. "Well, it's precisely this. We should like to be a little, well, taller, sir."
"Why?" This time, the smoke emitted from the Caterpillar's lips in the shape of a question mark.
"Well, after all, sir," said Tumnus, on the verge of really losing it, "three inches is such a wretched height, and—"
The Caterpillar, who up until now had always remained so calm and cool and controlled, appeared to take great offense to that remark.
"I am exacitically three inches high," he said irately, drawing himself up to his full height, his blue face flushing a notable red, "and it is a very good height, indeed!" With that, he began puffing furiously away at his pipe, so that his whole form was soon encased in a thick, swirling, sparkling, cocoon-like film, obscuring him completely.
"But we're not used to it!" Tumnus yelled back, just as hotly. "And you don't have to SHOUT!"
As soon as he screamed "shout", the miasma quite suddenly cleared away, and all that remained of the Caterpillar was a pile of blue skin, scattered gloves and slippers, and a faintly smoking hookah. Everyone gasped in shock at the sight, including Tumnus. "Oh, dear!" Alice whispered faintly.
But before they had the chance to totally panic, a voice called to them from above. "By the way, I have a few more helpful hints!" Startled, they simultaneously looked up to find the Caterpillar himself fluttering above them, this time in the form of a magnificent butterfly. As he proceeded to take flight, he called to the threesome, "One side will make you grow taller…"
"One side of what?" Alice called to him.
"…and the other side will make you grow shorter!"
"THE OTHER SIDE OF WHAT?!?" Tumnus all but shouted at the top of his voice.
Then the Caterpillar—or the Butterfly—was right in front of them in a flash. "THE MUSHROOM, OF COURSE!" he bellowed in their faces, startling them all into toppling over onto their backs.
And with that, he was off without another word. That was the last they ever saw of him.
Terence, Alice, and Tumnus lay side by side in the dirt, with Alice in the middle, staring up into the sky for a minute longer.
Then, one by one, they sat upright and examined the mushroom next to them. Each of them tentatively reached out and took two thick pieces of the mushroom, one piece from either side.
"Hmmm," Alice hummed contemplatively. "He said one side will make us grow—"
"But, which is which?" Terence questioned, looking from one piece to the other.
His friends were at as much of a loss as he was.
They all sat still together, and thought for a moment. "Well," said Terence slowly, "after all that's happened, I…I wonder if we…if we should…"
"Oh, who cares?" Tumnus blurted. "We'll wing it!" Without further ado, the faun resolutely sank his teeth into the mushroom wedge in his right hand.
Terence and Alice watched him, then followed his example and took a bite of the mushroom wedges within their right hands as well.
After swallowing, they waited a bit. Nothing happened.
"I really am very sick of being only three inches high—" Tumnus started to say. No sooner had he uttered the word "high", however, than they all suddenly found themselves shooting straight up—and up, and up, and up, faster than cornstalks on a hot summer day, until they shot right through the trees!
By the time they stopped, instead of three inches, they now found themselves well over three hundred feet high, high enough to see above the treetops and look around for miles.
"Oh, no," Terence groaned, when it hit him, "now we're much too big!"
"From one extreme to the other," Tumnus muttered, gazing down at his hooves, which looked remarkably tiny from his perspective.
Meanwhile, a mother pigeon who had been brought up with Alice, nest and all, peered out over the edge to see what was going on. When she saw the enormous girl, accompanied by the even more enormous faun and white-haired man, she gave such a great start, and cried out in a tremendous fright, "Oh, my heavens! Serpents!"
She immediately launched into a flying frenzy, shrieking to high heaven, "Hel-l-l-l-lp! Help—serpents! Serpents!"
"Oh, but please! Please!" Alice protested.
"Now, just a minute, ma'am—" Terence started, trying to sound conciliatory.
But the mother pigeon wasn't listening. "Off with you!" she ordered the giant threesome. "Shoo, shoo—go away!"
And she went on flitting from here to there, wailing, "Serpents! Serpe-e-e-ents!"
"But we are not serpents!" Tumnus interjected.
"No? Indeed?" This froze the mother pigeon in midair, and she turned to glare at them directly. "Then just what are you?" she demanded, none too kindly.
"Why, I'm a faun," Tumnus informed her.
"And I'm a man," said Terence. "Well, half-man, actually…"
"And I'm just a little girl!" Alice concluded.
"Ha—little?" This seemed to amuse the mother pigeon the most. "Little?!" she exclaimed again, and she burst into gales of laughter.
"Well, I am!" said Alice stubbornly. Then, taking into consideration how much she'd grown within the last minute, she added with a slight blush, "I mean, I was."
"And, I suppose you don't eat eggs, either?" the mother pigeon jeered at them.
"Yes, we do," said Terence, without really thinking. "And they're quite lovely, especially with a dash of salt, and served scrambled on toast—"
This proved to be the wrong thing to say, for the mother pigeon shrilled furiously, "I knew it! I knew it!"
Once again, she circled their heads, screeching all the louder, "SERPENTS! SERPE-E-E-E-ENTS!"
Terence grimaced as she squawked in their ears; for such a tiny thing, she had an extraordinary pair of lungs.
"Oh, for goodness' sake, lady!" said Tumnus crossly.
This was really getting to be too much.
Then, they realized they were still holding onto their pieces of mushroom, which were no bigger than cowpeas in their hands.
It had been the right side that had made them grow bigger…so that meant the left side would…
"And the other side will make us grow shorter!" said Terence triumphantly.
"The very idea!" the mother pigeon fumed, as she proceeded in gathering her little bunch of eggs together, one by one. "Spend all my time laying eggs, for serpents like them—"
Neither Terence, Alice, nor Tumnus mentioned another word to her—just took a quiet nibble of the mushrooms in their left hands. Then, just as they'd expected, they forthwith started to shrink. The mother pigeon gave a terrified shriek as she felt herself fall with Alice, and she landed in her nest in the exact spot it had been before.
Hastily, she scrambled to catch her falling eggs, one by one, catching the last one with her foot.
By that time, Terence, Alice, and Tumnus had resumed their height of three inches. They found themselves sprawled out in the middle of a clutter of acorns and leaves that had fallen from overhead, with Alice on her back, and Terence and Tumnus on their fronts. "Goodness!" Alice breathed from her spot, really quite overcome from all the excitement.
"I wonder if we'll ever get the knack of it," said Terence, as he shifted to his knees.
Tumnus studied his mushrooms, weighing them in his hands like a set of scales. The three soon discovered that if they gave their right mushrooms a very brief lick with their tongues, they shot up just far enough to their proper heights. With a deep sigh of relief and satisfaction, a genuine smile on his face, Tumnus said, "There, now, that's more like it!"
"Much better," Alice agreed wholeheartedly.
Terence looked thoughtfully at his little mushrooms, then very carefully tucked the pieces away in his pockets. "We'd better save these," he said. "They may come in useful later."