Author's note: I've attempted to retain as much of the flavour of Lewis Carroll's masterpiece as possible, hence the long, meandering sentences and old-fashioned grammar, and I've stuck to the basic plotline. I've just River-fied it. River sees things very differently to Alice, and her thoughts on what she comes across often differ quite markedly from the original protagonist's. And obviously I've had to make allowances for the fact that River's knowledge is far greater than Alice's.
Disclaimer: do you honestly think that if I owned either Firefly or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I would even be here? I am but a lowly, filthy but eternally humble plagiariser not fit to wipe spit from the floor in front of the great Joss. The same goes for Lewis Carroll.
Down the Rabbit-hole
River was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her brother on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her brother was reading, but it was a medical textbook and she knew it all. 'And what is the use of reading a textbook,' thought River, 'when you know everything it says?'
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for Simon was experimenting with a new drug that made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of sketching passing neutrinos would be worth the trouble of going and getting her drawing materials, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did River, being both crazy and psychic, think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, 'Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!' (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, because rabbits possess no concept of 'lateness', but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of is waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, River started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went River after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that River had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.
Either the well was very deep or she had somehow found herself in an environment where the surrounding atmosphere was significantly denser compared to herself than it usually was, because she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled 'orange marmalade', but to her great disappointment it was empty. As she did not know how far it was till the bottom of the well or what she would find when she reached it, River did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody. To her relief, she managed to put it on one of the cupboards as she fell past it.
'Well!' thought River to herself, after calculating pi to the one hundred and fiftieth decimal place, at which point she'd gotten bored and stopped. 'After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! Why, I wouldn't say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!' (Which was very likely true, because River was a big believer in taking into account all available information when drawing conclusions from data, and all her previous falls had been tiny compared to this.)
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! 'I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?'' she said aloud. 'Let me see. Assuming that I have been falling under conditions equivalent to earth-norm, and given that I have been falling for approximately twenty minutes and terminal velocity for a human being is approximately 200 kilometers per hour, reached within the first five to eight seconds of free fall, after a distance of 200 to 220 metres, then I must have fallen roughly 1200 to 1220 metres. But of course if the physical conditions under which I am falling differ from the norm, than my calculations are worthless. The speed at which I am passing by the items on the walls would indicate that my original assumptions are reasonably accurate, but the margin for error is greater than I would like.' River went on like this for sometime, discussing the physics of such a fall, and what different circumstances might mean.
Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so River soon began talking again. "Inara will miss me very much tonight, I think!" (Inara was the cat.) "I hope they'll remember her saucer of milk a tea-time. Inara, my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice-men in the air, I'm afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that's very like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?' And here River began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, 'Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?' and sometimes, 'Do bats eat cats?' for, you see, as she was completely alone and words are nothing but symbolic auditory constructs to which society as a whole has assigned fixed values, it didn't much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Inara, and saying to her very earnestly, 'Now, Inara, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?' when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
River was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, 'Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!' She was close behind it when she turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof.
There were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked; and when River had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.
Suddenly she came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solid glass; there was nothing on it except a tiny golden key. River's heart leaped at the sight of it, but sank again as she realised that there was no way it would unlock any of the doors. Either the locks were too large, or the key was too small, but at any rate it would not do. However, as she wandered round the hall a second time, she came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: she tried the little gold key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!
River opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway; 'and even if my head would go through,' thought poor River, 'it would be of very little use without my shoulders, Oh, how I wish I could rearrange my molecular structure in order to be of a size that would fit through the door! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.' For you see, after everything she had seen and done, and especially considering the many out-of-the-way things which had been happening that day, River had come to believe that very few things indeed were really impossible.
There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she went back to the table, half hoping she might find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for rearranging one's molecular structure: this time she found a little bottle on it, ('which certainly was not here before,' said River,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words 'DRINK ME' beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say 'Drink me,' but the wise little River was not going to do that in a hurry. 'No, I'll look first,' she said, 'and see whether it contains any dangers chemicals or toxins or not.' You see, before River was taken by the Academy, she had been in the Graduate Physics, Chemistry and Biology classes at one of the most prestigious education facilities in the Core, and so she knew all about the dangers of such things. In fact, she could recall many, many specific instances where girls such as herself had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, simply because they would not remember certain universal laws that govern reality; such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten all the charming things that will happen to you if you drink something containing, say, cyanide.
However, the bottle was not marked as containing any substance unfit for human consumption, so River ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.
'What a curious feeling!' said River; 'My molecular system must be rearranging itself!'
And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; 'for it might end, you know,' River said to herself, 'in my atomic structure becoming so dense that an inequality in nuclear forces results in simultaneous combustion, similar to the death of a star.' And she tried to fancy what she might be like in the case of nuclear combustion, for she could not remember ever having heard about such a thing.
After a while, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on going into the garden at once; but, alas for poor River! when she got to the door, she found she had forgotten the little golden key, and when she went back to the table for it, she found she could not possibly reach it, she could see it quite plainly through the legs of the table, but it was too slippery; and when she had tired herself out with trying, the poor little thing sat down and cried.
'Come, there's no use in crying like that!' said River to herself, rather sharply; 'I advise you to leave off this minute!' She generally gave herself very good advise (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. 'But there's no use now,' thought poor River, 'to pretend to be two people! My thoughts are so scattered that I cannot even form a cohesive cognitive matrix equal to that of one person, let alone two!'
Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words 'eat me' were beautifully marked in currants. 'Well, I'll eat it,' said River, 'and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!'
She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, 'Which way? Which way?' holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprise to find that she remained the same size: to be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but River had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.
So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.
Author's note: I wrote this on a whim, cos, you know, Alice in Wonderland is very River and it amused me. However, since it's even less original than the average fan fiction I'm undecided as to whether to continue. If people review and like it, and particularly if they ask me to continue, then I probably will. Otherwise, I'll go play Minesweeper or something.