A/N: Hi, and thanks muchly for checking out the fic! I wanted to say, the story is slightly A/U in the way that Alice is from modern times, and not quite as formal as she was in the past. She may have a few different qualities, but she is Alice's exact reincarnation, I like to think. The story is mainly set in Underland after the first chapter, and Alice will start to recall a lot of things from here on out. I do want to warn readers that there is a reason Alice left home, and it will be - kind-of ? - revealed soon. It may be a bit uncomfortable for some readers, so beware - and it definitely does have something to do with her current anxiety, depression, and fear. I think she and the Hatter will have some things more in common this time around. Should be lots of interesting developments! Thanks for reading.
Chapter One: The Bad, Mad, and Sad Reality
The late afternoon sky was slate gray and making a very threatening noise as eighteen-year-old Alice Kingsley left the underground parking garage beneath the Freedom Grove public library.
Slipping her cheap black sunglasses from atop her loose, messy blonde curls, she lowered them over her sensitive blue eyes and squinted into the overcast fall daylight.
Alice tried to breathe deep and push away the anxiety squeezing her chest. She couldn't tell herself truthfully that everything was going to be okay, and that was terrifying. She couldn't even lie to herself anymore!
Alice groaned quietly and adjusted the heavy, ratty black backpack resting over one shoulder as she took a lingering glance back into the dimly lit garage. It was so tempting to think that she could just go and hide behind a car - a dusty one that obviously hadn't been moved in a while - or sit behind one of the big concrete pillars and rest, un-bothered, and unseen, until both the night and the rain had moved on. But she knew it was impossible. The garage was always lit, yes, but she knew better than most that light didn't always keep you safe.
Thunder cracked overhead and she swallowed, once again pushing panic aside. She'd been alone, homeless for a little over a week now, and she'd thought she'd become used to it eventually, but she hadn't. Fear of the unknown was almost worse than anything else - even what she had left behind at home...
Wanting to cry at the constant feeling of hopelessness she now carried with her, Alice allowed her face to crumple for just a moment before she took in another shuddering breath and continued walking down the ramp to the the crosswalk at the corner. As she passed out of the shelter of the corner of the three-story brick building, the chill wind gusted into her, slicing through the thin, blue-gray denim jacket and dingy white hoodie and gray Ramones t-shirt she wore.
Alice bit the inside of her cheek and reached out to push the button for the crosswalk. As usual, it took an insane amount of time to switch, and when it finally did, she only had a good five seconds to rush across the busy downtown street.
Once across the street, she headed east down a sloping sidewalk a few blocks until she came to the Eastland shopping center. It was really just a huge, old, crumbling, asphalt parking lot that had a line of about six stores in the back of it. Most of the stores were long-since abandoned, but a place called Grocer's Lots, which sold heavily discounted, near-to-out-of-date foods, a small, window-barred family pharmacy, and a tiny, seedy thrift store called "Rags to Riches", still persisted.
The empty lot behind the grocer's held a couple of big green dumpsters among the grass and leaf-filled asphalt, and after taking a cautious look around, Alice approached them, already holding her breath against the creeping odor of spoiled meat that assaulted her nose from the first dumpster.
At the second, thankfully several feet from the other, she was relieved to find the same stack of cardboard boxes she'd used to crash on the night before stashed where she'd left them behind the dumpster and against the concrete wall of the building. Shrugging off her backpack, Alice pulled the boxes out and stacked several, open and flat, on the ground against the building. The largest, just big enough for her to sit-up in, she opened up and set on top of the others. Another thunder-crack reminded her to hurry if she wanted to stay dry, and she fumbled with the zipper on her pack before scrambling through it to find the balled up plastic rain poncho shoved to the bottom.
Moving quickly as she felt the first drops of a heavy rain, Alice spread the clear plastic over the top of the cardboard and covered it as thoroughly as she could. The cheap poncho she'd taken from her father's glove-box before she'd left wasn't ideal, or completely leak-proof, but it was the best she could do at the moment.
Settling in cross-legged, Alice relaxed a little and watched the rain start to pour down outside her tiny shelter.
Usually, she didn't come here quite this early, but she'd had little choice today. A little later, sometimes, if she was lucky, there would be a few battered banana boxes stacked next to the full dumpster with a scattering of equally battered bananas, or tomatoes, wrinkled apples, and other dubious-looking food items.
There was nothing to be found today, though, and she slumped a little, bringing up a small hand to pull off her sunglasses and rub her tired eyes.
"It doesn't matter," she told herself, letting her head rest against the cardboard that leaned against the building behind her. "I'm more sleepy than hungry, anyway," and for once it was true.
Saying a little prayer that she would be kept safe, Alice closed her eyes. She drew her knees, bare in their ripped jeans, up to her chest, and slowly drifted off to sleep, to the the sound of wind shaking the trees across the lot, and the rain battering the fragile box around her.
Sometime later, Alice was very rudely awakened by the wind and icy rain pelting her right in her face.
Gasping at the cold, Alice stumbled to her feet, grabbing her backpack, and flung her head around, instantly awake.
It was dark out, now, but from the light of a cracked parking lot lamp nearby she could see through the rain that her box had been blown away, some distance actually, and now laying a crumpled mass at the base of another dumpster. The plastic poncho was nowhere to be seen.
Angry and frustrated, Alice spat a word she'd only ever heard from her father, and hefted her pack. She sprinted down the parking lot, trying to think of another place to shelter, shivering as she became soaked to the bone in no-time.
She was licking rain off her lips when a glint of light caught her attention - she was passing the old thrift store, now, and the back entrance was lit by a small, industrial-caged bulb. She was about to pass on when she noticed another light, brighter this time, and paused.
The short door to the rear entrance was open the tiniest crack.
Alice licked her lips again, and looked around nervously, shoving a swathe of heavy, thick wet hair out of her eyes. She took a few steps to the small, rusted steel door, and hesitantly gripped the handle. It shifted in her hands, making a loud clanking noise, and she dropped it - but the door still swung open, and the dim light inside spilled out onto her.
Alice swallowed, and stared inside until a bone-shuddering chill crawled up her spine. Freezing, and wet, she apprehensively sidled into through the little door, having to duck, and experiencing the most dizzying sense of deja-vu she'd ever felt.
Nervous and unsettled, Alice left the door open behind her, just in case she was stumbling into some kind of burglary or something, and needed to make a quick getaway.
Alice cleared her throat, making noise to get attention of anyone who might be there, but after a thorough look around the small storeroom, she still didn't see anyone. The bright light was coming from the open door of a tiny white-tiled bathroom, and the bare bulb hanging inside. She moved to another door, taller this time, and opened it carefully.
The door creaked on it's hinges as she pushed it outward, and she wrinkled her nose as she caught scent of the dusty, musty smelling contents of the store inside.
The store she stepped into was mostly darkened, save for the lights that shone in the two front display windows on either side of the barred glass door.
Blinking to adjust her eyes, Alice crept further in, shifting her shoulders restlessly inside their cold, wet casing. The rain drops on the front glass glistened blindingly in headlights, and a car with loud music drove by outside, and then disappeared.
Alice looked around slowly, her uneven breath and the rain pounding on the roof the only sounds around her, now.
The store was small, and narrow, but there was a maze of shelves and racks laid out before her. It took her a few minutes to squeeze through the crowded shop, but only after she was sure it was empty of anyone save her, did she make her way back to the rear exit and lock it.
Shaking from cold and exposure, Alice made use of the bathroom, and ran hot water over her hands and splashed her blue-tinged face. Since her pack was as soaked as she was, there wasn't any point in changing clothes, so she wandered back out into the shop proper, using a few harsh brown paper towels to try to dry off as she looked around, expression bemused.
The owner must have forgotten to lock the door behind him - or her - but Alice was thankful for the mistake.
As Alice wandered around, peeking and poking, here and there, she tried to forget her discomfort, but it was difficult. There were racks and racks of second-hand clothing, but she felt guilty at the tempting thought of putting on something dry that did not belong to her. She was already doing something wrong being here in the first place, she didn't need to add being a thief to the mix.
Curiosity, though, eventually got the better of her. She didn't try the clothes on, but she did find a dusty, finger-print marked mirror in a back corner of the store in which she held up several vintage dresses to herself. Putting the hangers back onto their rack, Alice sighed and was examining her woeful expression and the sad twist of her pale lips in the mirror, when she finally took note of the mirror itself. It had been half-covered by a maroon velveteen throw when she'd first spotted it, and she'd choked on the dust when she'd pulled it the rest of the way off of the dark, wood framed glass.
It obviously hadn't been touched in a very long time, like much of the rest of the shop.
"Sad," Alice thought, reaching out to touch the elegant curve of a carved rose. The mirror
was covered in them, full-blown roses, with impossibly intricate, basket-like hearts tucked into the four corners of the four-foot tall frame.
The instant Alice touched the smooth, time-worn wood, something moved in the ancient, spotted silver glass. Jerking back, surprised and scared, Alice gasped in fear, and couldn't believe what she was seeing when the glass rippled like water.
Almost falling in her haste to get back, Alice tripped over the clawed foot of curio cabinet behind her, and succeeded in putting her hand right through the curved display glass covering it.
Gasping again, this time a hiss of pain, she righted herself and pulled her left hand and forearm back out of the cabinet. Curling the sliced and bloodied limb protectively against her chest, she gave a frustrated sob, and took an automatic step back from the thing that had caused her so much pain.
Feeling a sickening pulse of blood run down her arm, blood that was hot against the cold damp of her pale skin, Alice bit her lip and tried to decide if she dared to look at the damage. What would she do? What could she do?
"Oh, why me?" Alice whispered out loud, groaning.
Unthinking, Alice clutched at the sticky, wounded arm, and went to lean back against the wall behind - but she'd become disoriented, and instead leaned directly into the weird mirror that had disturbed her in the first place. She tried to turn, to catch herself as felt herself falling, but it was too late. Being 5'6, and the mirror only four, she bumped the back of her head on the top of the heavy frame as she passed - inexplicably, right through the glass!
The pain in her skull was so intense she blacked-out - something she'd never done before in her life - but she still felt the sensation of dropping impossibly far as she lost consciousness.
To be continued