Through the Forest (Or, as a Not Not Not Not Not Not Not Not Not Not Not Not Insane Person Would Say, Chapter Three)
After walking along the meadow for a while, Alice, The Mad Hatter, and The Cheshire Cat came to a stop at the edge of a wood.
The last golden rays of the sun were beginning to disappear, and after a moment of standing at the edge of the forest, pitch black darkness took over.
It was dead silent until a deep growl issued from somewhere in the forest.
"Well," said The Hatter cheerfully. "Let's continue onward."
Alice stared at The Hatter, or, she at least tried to stare at him. She couldn't tell what she was looking at in the dark.
"Continue onward?" she asked uncertainly. "Into the dark forest where several deep growls are issuing from?"
"Precisely that forest," replied The Hatter.
Alice looked at The Hatter as if he was mad, although this wasn't saying much seeing as The Hatter's insanity wasn't a well-kept secret, so she always looked at him as if he was mad, which, of course, he was, so it would be much more appropriate to say that Alice looked at him as she normally did, but for the simple purpose of not complicating things any further than we already have, we may as well go back to the first option and say that Alice looked at The Hatter as if he was mad.
Alice looked at The Hatter as if he was mad. (Which, of course, he was.)
Without giving Alice enough time to object, The Hatter stepped into the forest and The Cheshire Cat, or rather The Cheshire Cat's grin seeing as that was all that was visible of him at the moment, followed.
Alice, certainly not wanting to venture into the dark forest but even more so not wanting to be left alone in the dark, found herself with no other option but to follow the mad man and the strange cat.
As she took her first steps into the dark forest, she found that it really wasn't so dark after all. As a matter of fact, it seemed to be darker outside the forest than it was in it.
She walked along much more confidently now, prepared for anything sinister that might leap out at her.
Although, with the crunch of pine needles underfoot and the light breeze that gently blew through the trees, even Alice had to admit that it was peaceful, particularly when an especially strong scent of lavender wafted over.
"The moon seems unusually bright," Alice noted.
This statement was true, and if one were to tilt their head upward, they would have seen the luminescent glow that moons tend to let off, but on this night, even the luminescence itself appeared to be illuminated, making the sphere twice as bright as it would normally be.
"I wonder if that's why it's so bright in the forest?" she wondered aloud, but quickly dismissed the thought with a shake of her head. "Of course that's not the reason why. If that were so, it would be lighter outside of the forest, certainly this much light wouldn't be able to make it through all of the branches and such.
The Hatter and The Cat started to laugh, their loud laughter seeming to bounce off the tree trunks and resound everywhere around them.
Alice looked at the pair questioningly, wondering what on Earth could have caused them to randomly burst out laughing like that, but then again, this was hardly surprising seeing as they were both mad.
The Hatter's laughter eventually died down to a low chuckle while The Cat's faded away altogether.
The Cat tsk tsked and The Hatter shook his head presumably in disappointment, shoulders still shaking from chuckling.
"My dear Alice," he said. "You speak as though you know nothing of Wonderland at all. In order to distribute light to where it is most needed, the moon would zero out the forest, of course, and focus all of its energy on it."
"Yes," chimed in The Cat. "You speak as though the moon has no free will of its own."
"It's not my fault," stated Alice defensively. "In school, we were taught that the moon was merely a chunk of the Earth that flew off when the world was still young, that it was a good sized rock that reflected light from the sun."
The Mad Hatter and The Cheshire Cat started up their hysterical laughter once again.
"What ridiculous things they teach children in school!" exclaimed The Cat, and at this point Alice couldn't help but join in on the laughter because it was true, after all that the things taught in school are often entirely ridiculous.
But nevertheless, they continued onward, the strange creatures of Wonderland making their odd noises and going about their derived way as the trio went about theirs.
They passed by several pink flamingos who complained of how painful croquet was, while something Alice thought was a turtle of some sort began reciting poetry of his life which he continuously insisted was very sad, at which the Hatter rolled his eyes and a fight very nearly broke out until The Cat appeared between them in a puff of smoke and threatened to bring out his claws if he had to and some very helpful flowers calmed everyone down.
After this slight delay, the three continued on their way in silence. (The silence mainly caused because The Cat was mad at The Hatter for, 'Acting very rude and foolishly and almost starting a fight which could have easily been avoided altogether', and partially because everyone was beginning to feel drowsy because it was, after all, getting quite late, and thus no one was really in the mood for conversation.)
But nevertheless, Alice broke the silence approximately twenty minutes later, but not before yawning so loudly that an egg reciting poetry on a wall very nearly fell off.
"I wonder," she stated, her eyelids drooping a bit from sleep deprivation. "Where we'll be spending the night?"
She looked over at The Hatter who, at this point, looked quite a bit like a zombie, as he was thudding and stumbling along quite loudly as a result of his eyes being closed, although instead of mumbling, 'Brains', as zombies tend to do he was instead mumbling, 'Tea', and he had his hands stretched out in front of him, as though he were accepting a cup of it.
Upon hearing Alice's voice, however, The Hatter's head jerked right up, and he looked around, confused, before rubbing his eyes and answering Alice's question, which he had somehow managed to hear while half-asleep.
"A grand castle made entirely of cards and owned by The Queen of Hearts," The Hatter half-mumbled, half-stated, another side effect of being drowsy, Alice assumed.
Alice simply thought The Hatter was spouting absolute nonsense, seeing as he was not only insane, but at the current moment quite a bit drowsy, and a combination of the two, as I'm sure you know, often leads to the spouting of absolute nonsense.
Alice, however, had been raised to be polite, and didn't think it very polite to inform someone that they were spouting absolute nonsense, no matter how nicely it was done, or how true it was, so she merely exchanged looks with The Cheshire Cat who seemed to think nothing of the, 'Grand castle made entirely of cards and owned by The Queen of Hearts', which The Hatter had mentioned, so the three trudged drowsily deeper and deeper into the woods.
It wasn't much longer before the woods came to a sudden stop and Alice, The Mad Hatter, and The Cheshire Cat found themselves in front of a magnificent heart shaped gate and on either side were rose bushes, although Alice thought they seemed a bit off when it finally struck her that half of the roses were white, and the other half looked as though they had been very sloppily painted red.
Alice frowned a little. Whoever had done this was certainly in a rush at the time.
The Hatter had noticed the roses too, and oddly enough, he was shaking his head at them rather sadly.
"They didn't get the right ones again, poor fellows. They should either learn to read labels or learn to paint faster."
The Hatter took his hat off and stared at the roses silently for a moment, and though Alice wasn't sure what was going on and what roses had to do with it she still tried looking as solemn as possible.
The Cat, meanwhile, had his gaze transfixed on the heart-shaped gate as though he had never seen anything like it, which he hadn't, as it was very unusual, even by Wonderland standards.
The gate was a wrought-iron one, as gates often are, but this wasn't what was so unusual about it, of course.
The gate was also black and (or at least Alice assumed) cold to the touch, although this wasn't what was so peculiar about it either, because, as I'm sure you know, there are a great many gates throughout not only our world, but Wonderland as well, which are black, wrought-iron, and grow cold to the touch after being left outside all night, because very few people ever let their gates inside no matter how dreadful the weather gets.
However, while the gate's general outline didn't change from a heart, the bars seemed to bend and twist to create words, which was very unusual indeed.
It flashed from word to word so fast it took Alice much longer than it normally would have to read such a short message, but nevertheless, she did, and she made the words out to say, 'The Red Queen has what she wants the moment it's said or else she will chop off your head.'
Alice shivered before looking up at The Hatter. "We're staying here?" she asked uncertainly.
So far this night, it seemed as though everything The Hatter did had been shrouded with doubt but nevertheless, The Hatter didn't seem to notice this. (Or if he did, he certainly wasn't letting anything on, and since The Hatter was such a bad actor, we can generally assume that it was the first option.)
The Hatter merely acknowledged Alice's question with a nod of the head and a, "Trust me, The Red Queen is really very sweet just so long as you don't get on her bad side."
This statement did not make Alice feel better at all, and, not wanting to be decapitated, she immediately made a list in her head of proper etiquette and general kindness when addressing queens of strange and faraway places. Nothing, however, came to her mind, so she simply decided on keeping her mouth shut and being as polite as possible.
The Hatter smiled at both of them, completely oblivious to Alice's horrified expression, before simply pushing the gate open.
Alice couldn't help but wonder how The Red Queen kept trespassers out if she didn't have a gate which locked properly, but then she supposed that the threat of decapitation was security enough, as most creatures will become wary of a place if their heads are in any danger of being lost.
Even after The Hatter's not so reassuring reassurance, Alice couldn't rid herself of the goosebumps that pricked up on her arms but nevertheless she followed The Hatter and the Cat because, after all, she still wasn't sure about those deep growls in the forest and what had made them, and would much rather not find out by herself.