Chapter One

~Into the Frog Pond~

Allison absentmindedly ran her finger through the water, her homework forgotten as she sprawled out on the soft earth. The sky above was a perfect blue with idyllic white clouds in the foreground. The breeze was present enough that it felt nice under the warm sun, but light enough that it did not ruffle Allison's hair or clothes. Allison was lying on her back, staring vaguely up at the sky as her hand made circles in the pond.

The pond lay in a clearing in the forest just outside of St. Andrews' campus. St. Andrews was in Scotland, and was the college that Allison was attending for her third year. Over the course of those years Allison had spent a great deal of time exploring the lay of the land, being from America herself, not Scotland. Allison fell in love with the open space and the beautiful landscapes, and she felt right at home. This serene pond was her absolute favorite place to visit. Allison found that the calm water relaxed her, and the soft grass and gentle trees were truly like her own personal haven.

Smiling happily, Allison noticed a cloud above her that looked rather like a butterfly. Raising a finger she traced the outline of the image before it dispersed, floating away. Closing her eyes Allison took a deep breath to allow herself to absorb the crisp, nature scent. Such a pleasing scent it was.

Opening her eyes moments later, Allison's brow crinkled in confusion. Had that cloud really been there before? Right now there was a cloud just above her, but Allison hadn't noticed it at all before, and Allison thought she would have noticed, seeing as she was rather focused on the airy shapes above. Dismissing it as her own lack of observation, Allison raised a finger once more. Allison again traced the cloud's outline, only this time she noticed that it looked more like a cat's head.

A croak sounded loudly right beside the dreamy girl. Turning to the sound, Allison found herself staring right into a very large pair of yellow eyes: frog eyes. With another croak, the frog hopped even closer to her. Gently she extended a hand, wondering what it would be like to pet a frog.

Sounding a croak again, the frog jumped away from Allison's touch. Allison rose from her position on the ground and hesitantly crawled towards the frog. Each time Allison got close, the frog would take another hop away. Feeling somehow challenged, Allison relentlessly continued to pursue the frog, grinning in amusement all the time.

Soon the frog turned towards the pond. On her knees, at the very edge of the water, Allison reached out once more. As she saw the frog beginning to move again, she lunged forward without thinking.

Suddenly drenched, Allison's first thought was shock and amazement that the pond was clearly not as shallow as she'd thought. Before she could think any more, Allison began to feel a pulling sensation.

Looking down quickly, Allison thought she could see a type of whirlwind forming on the bottom of the pond. The pull of the whirlwind increased rapidly and Allison let out a cry as she was sucked towards it. Of course, Allison had forgotten that crying out loud under water is never the best idea.

Now with a throat and lungs seared by her intake of water, Allison uselessly struggled towards the surface of the water, but in a flash, the pond was gone.

Allison was engulfed by a constricting darkness. Feeling as if she were being pushed in on all sides, suffocated, Allison found herself unable to breathe as she was seized helplessly in the black tunnel.

Suddenly Allison slammed into something very hard. Coughing to expel the water from her lungs, Allison weakly pushed herself up from the ground, shaking off the water as much as she could. Looking around her, Allison saw that she was still standing beside the pond. Everything else however, had changed.

No more were the grass, the trees, the blue sky, the clouds. Gone was the cool air, the light breeze. Instead, a scorching hot sun beat down upon Allison as she stood horrorstruck in a barren wasteland with ground like red dust. Aside from the pond there was no sign of life, or indeed any sort of gentleness around her.

"Excuse me?"

Allison whirled about as she heard the voice, but there was no one there. Puzzled, Allison saw that the frog she had chased was beside the pond, the only life form near her.

Already beginning to sweat from the uncomfortable blazing heat, Allison peered closely at the frog. It looked normal enough.

"Are you Alice?" Allison gave a small cry of surprise but she quickly covered her mouth with her hand. There was no doubt about it. That frog was speaking to her.

Go with the flow Allison, she told herself. Although Allison felt somewhat nervous and frightened at this strange occurrence, more than anything she was curious and intrigued.

"I'm sorry?" she responded.

"You must be Alice!" exclaimed the small, high-pitched voice. "Oh I knew it was Alice! I've heard so many stories about Alice, but I wasn't born yet when you slayed the Jabberwocky. Oh but I found you I found you! I saw you, and I knew it must be Alice!"

"I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken," said Allison kindly, "You see, I'm Allison-"

"Yes yes!" interrupted the frog excitedly. "Alice in Wonderland. Yes I've heard how you always called it that. How sweet how sweet! But why did you come through this way? Why did you not go to the rabbit hole as before?" Opening her mouth to respond, Allison was not given a chance to speak as the over-excited frog began to hop with excitement.

"Oh never mind! It doesn't matter now! Come on, we must go see the Hatter! He's been dying to see you Alice. Don't tell him I told you, but he talks about you very often. Poor Hatter. Oh but we all love him so very dearly. Come on come on!"

The frog started hopping away, clearly expecting Allison to follow. Obediently Allison trailed after her. All the while, the frog continued to speak some utter nonsense about a place she referred to as 'Underland' and strange names like 'March Hare' and 'Jabberwocky'.

"I don't think you're understanding me," Allison attempted to call out once. "I'm Allison, not Alice. I don't know who you mean but it isn't me."

Giving a sigh, Allison was forced to accept the fact that the frog was just going to continue rambling, despite her protests.

Resigning herself to simply stay quiet, Allison tried to focus on what her guide told her, but there was too much of what the frog said that she simply didn't understand. Even aside from that, the burning hot sun and endless horizon of hard ground and red dust began to take its toll. All dampness had already evaporated from Allison's clothes, and she was now sweating profusely. Allison's eyesight was becoming a bit hazy, a bit dizzy, and the sweat made her skinny jeans cling to her legs uncomfortably. The soles of her laced black shoes were becoming hot, and Allison found it increasingly hard to ignore.

"Alice? Alice?" asked a persistent, concerned little voice. Allison glanced over at the frog and realized that she had subconsciously stopped walking and was bending over at the waist from dizziness and exhaustion. Allison squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to restore her vision, but the haze remained.

"I'm not... I'm..." she mumbled.

"Ooohh Alice, come come hurry hurry!" cried her frog friend. "We are almost to the edge, yes: almost to Underland. Don't despair! Just push through a bit more! Please Alice. Please try!"

Forcing her feet to continue moving forward, Allison forced herself to follow the frog, led on by its constant streams of encouragement. Finally, Allison looked up to find that they were quite nearly to the edge of a forest. Putting all her strength into rushing forward, Allison quickly reached the luscious wooded area.

The transition from the wasteland to the forest was unnatural. There was no slow change, no land between them to link the absolutely opposite areas: just the red dust-land directly bordering the lively, moist forest. The ground was green and soft, and the trees loomed high above Allison. Aside from that, the forest was different than anything on Earth, Allison was sure.

"This is trippy," she murmured. "I never had hallucinations this strange even when I was high."

"What?" asked the frog, friendly as ever.

"Oh, nothing, sorry. So tell me, where are we?"

"Don't be silly Alice! We're in Underland! I'm sorry the journey here was so rough, yes I'm sorry. But don't fret! We'll soon see all of your old friends. They'll be thrilled to see you!"

Shaking her head at the frog's confused- but consistent- idea of her, Allison followed as the frog once more took the lead. Looking around her, she took in the incredible sights, smells, and sounds around her.

The plants all seemed rather large, just to begin with. Besides that, there was plenty of greenery that Allison had never even seen before, although greenery was hardly a proper word to describe them. There were huge leaves of red, blue, purple; there were trees with speckled trunks, sparkling vines, all manner of odd, yet beautiful, things. All of the colors seemed more vibrant than any colors Allison had ever seen before.

The plant life was not the only fascinating thing she observed. All throughout the forest were strange and new creatures. Allison saw in the distance what appeared to be very very short men, but of a stockier build than the normal human. Their skin looked green and leathery and they tottered about heavily as they ran. Shortly after, Allison observed what she would swear was a faerie: it was small, looked human, but flitted through the air with shimmering wings. There were miniature, flying rocking-horses; there were little black creatures rolling over the forest ground that looked like spiky balls of darkness.

Completely overwhelmed, Allison forgot to look where she was going and she walked straight into a boulder. To her immense surprise, the rock was not solid like it appeared. The rock was solid alright, but it bended around her with a softness like landing on a squishy foam mattress. Allison merely laughed and stepped away from the rock, hurrying after her little froggy friend.

"Almost there!" shouted the frog. "Can't you hear it?" Now that she was listening, Allison could indeed hear something through the trees. It sounded like a party! As they got closer Allison could better hear all of the laughing, singing, and clanking of cups.

Stepping between a few trees, Allison found that they were in a clearing. In front of her was a windmill, but the windmill was not working. Instead, the windmill had been painted a bright white with blue blades. There was a neon rainbow sign that read 'Tea Time', underneath which was an open door. Through that door was where the ruckus appeared to be occurring. Allison could see only a bit, but she saw that it was like a pub. There were tables set up inside with all manner of creatures seated (or not) and drinking, socializing loudly with one another.

Allison stepped over the threshold, amazed at the sight around her: talking animals of all kinds along with an assortment of creatures that Allison had never seen before.

Before Allison had a chance to look over everything around her, the frog hopped closer to the center of the room.

"Look!" it cried. "Look, I've found Alice!"

Immediately the noise and merriment ceased as everyone in the room turned to Allison in surprise. Some looked shocked, some amazed, some confused. But Allison's eyes were drawn to a man standing behind the counter, for he had not turned around like all the others.

From the back, Allison could only see that he wore a hat, a long coat, and that his hair was mightily odd. The color was bright flaming orange, and it stuck out to the right and left of his head in tufts.

"Alice?" she heard him repeat softly. Finally, he spun around. The broad grin he wore revealed a gap between his teeth, and Allison now saw that his face was extremely white, and his eyes a vibrant pink color.

Slowly the man's smile faded as he viewed the young woman. Allison watched in fascination as his eyes shifted from pink to blue, but she felt guilty as she saw his face fall, becoming completely empty and dejected.

"Not Alice," he whispered to himself. "Of course not Alice."

The frog jumped about nervously, looking between Allison and the Hatter.

"But she... she found the way here! She said she was Alice!" it exclaimed.

"I'm sorry, but I never said that. I'm Allison, not Alice. I tried to tell you, but you were too eager to come here." The frog flushed and backed up in embarrassment.

"You don't need to be embarrassed," she said kindly. "Obviously Alice is very important to you all." Turning to the man who was now slumped against the counter and staring blankly at the floor, Allison continued,

"I'm sorry to have gotten your hopes up; I didn't mean to hurt you in any way."

"Not Alice, never Alice..." muttered the man.

"Hatter!" cried a little mouse as she ran over the counter towards the odd man. "Come on Hatter, snap out of it! We have a girl here, we ought to, I don't know, do something about her."

The Hatter's head snapped up and he looked at the mouse.

"Why does Alice never return, Dormouse?"

"Hatter," she repeated insistently gesturing towards Allison. Finally the Hatter turned his head to the woman.

"I'm fine," he said weakly. "Sorry. How did you come to Underland?"

"Well, I just followed the frog..." answered Allison. Now she turned to her guide. "What is your name, by the way?"

"Oh! I am Novindera," said the frog. "Hatter, she came through the frog pond." The Hatter turned to Allison with a look of puzzlement.

"Why on earth did you come through that way?"

"Well I didn't exactly do it on purpose," she pointed out. The Hatter made a face at her.

"Well... you dress funny," he shot back lightly. Allison laughed in amazement that he thought her clothes were funny. She was wearing light blue skinny jeans and a loose, white blouse. The Hatter on the other hand was sporting a spotted bowtie, colorful gloves, a frilly purple shirt, and his face in itself was like an explosion of color. Allison was immensely interested to notice that his eyes were now a light green, no longer blue or pink.

"Me?" she cried incredulously. "This is normal. What about you?"

Ignoring her, the Hatter turned to Novindera.

"And what were you doing in her world?" Novindera blinked nervously.

"Well sir, I am one of the sentries set to watch the Knave of Hearts and the bloody Red Queen. I often visit the frog pond after my shift ends, and well... I kept seeing this girl on the other side. She made ripples in the water and she came back so often that I thought... well I thought she must be Alice, trying to return. So I went through and brought her back."

"I see," said the Hatter thoughtfully.

"Well what are we going to do with her?" cried Dormouse.

"Do with me?" repeated Allison. "I feel like I'm on trial here. I haven't done anything wrong, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't treat me like some sort of problem."

"But, as it so happens, your presence here does present a problem," replied the Hatter, but not unkindly. "No one from your side has ever come to Underland before. No one but Alice. That is the way it is meant to be, you see."

"Well that isn't my fault," said Allison stubbornly. "I'm sorry, but maybe you could relax about your idea of what is 'meant to be' or not. It sounds like you believe in destiny or something."

"Fate, destiny, call it what you will, but don't underestimate it," lectured the Hatter firmly.

"How are we going to get her home?" Dormouse asked the Hatter. The Hatter began to respond, but he was interrupted by a softer, older voice.

"Take her to see Absolem." Everyone turned to face an old hound dog that came panting up to Allison.

"Absolem will know the best course to take," continued the dog.

"Bayard..." began the mouse, but the Hatter silenced her. Smiling at Allison, he swept his hat off his head and gave her a bow.

"Come with me."

Feeling rather confused, Allison followed as the Hatter strolled carelessly out of the tea shop.

"Who's Absolem?" she asked.

"The Blue Butterfly," was his answer.

"And why are we going to see him?"

"Absolem is wise!" said the Hatter proudly. "He will know how to get you home. Or not."

"Or not? But I will have to go home at some point," she told him.

"Well," said the Hatter, "there aren't too many ways to do that unfortunately. But perhaps... perhaps Absolem will know a way, hmm?"

The two continued their walk in silence, each turning to examine the other every once in a while.

"You truly do look rather strange..." mused the Hatter with a funny grin.

"Why do you keep saying that?" asked Allison curiously.

"Well- that is- you look much... different than Alice," he tried to explain. "Alice always wore dresses, and her hair was very blonde and... uncut."

"Uncut?"

"Well, yes. Yours is so short!" he exclaimed, lightly reaching out a hand to touch her hair (which was styled in a pixie cut).

"And your hair has different colors in it. How does it do that?"

"I highlighted it," she told him. "My natural color is dark brown, but the dark red that you see I put there myself."

"Fascinating," he whispered, seeming truly interested.

"Ah! Here we are!" cried the Hatter as he swept his arms out grandly. Allison looked around them.

"I don't see anything." The Hatter made a face at her before smirking slightly. Reaching out, the Hatter drew aside a massive leaf blocking their path. Walking past the leaf, Allison felt as if she had entered some kind of courtroom.

The area was clear, a small empty space in the forest. A tree stump lay before them, upon which a blue butterfly was poised on high.

"What is it, Hatter?" sounded a dull, deep voice. Allison's eyebrows rose in surprise. The voice seemed to come from nowhere, and yet it echoed all around them. Seeing no other possibility, Allison concluded that it was in fact the butterfly, Absolem, that was speaking.

"I have come to seek your counsel," explained the Hatter. "A girl from Alice's world has found her way here, and we don't know how to get her back."

"Alice?" repeated the voice, sounding mildly interested. "Step forward, girl."

Obediently Allison stepped up to the stump. The butterfly flapped its wings gently, and Allison found herself mesmerized by its sharp blue color.

"And who are you?" droned Absolem.

"I'm Allison."

"Not Alice then."

"No, not Alice," she confirmed definitively.

"But are you sure that you are Allison?"

"Well... yes...?" replied Allison hesitantly, wondering whether or not she was comprehending the question. It seemed too dumb a question to actually have been asked. Was it, therefore, a trick question?

"You are a pathetic girl," criticized the butterfly, "Can you not even tell me confidently who you are?"

Allison's mind whirled in confusion. What was he asking of her? Before she could compose her thoughts, the blue butterfly continued to speak.

"Right now there is no way for you to return to your home. You must stay here until the opportunity presents itself."

"But I can't stay!" protested Allison. "I've got an exam tomorrow!"

"That is all I have to say. Go away now, pathetic girl." Allison did not allow his insult to prickle her, so instead she politely inclined her head and backed away, leaving his presence. The Hatter was right behind her.

"I don't understand," she said slowly, "how am I to get home?"

"Well," replied the Hatter energetically, "I don't think you can. Ha ha! Isn't that fun?" The Hatter's enjoyment did not seem to be at Allison's expense: he sincerely seemed to think that the idea was fun. His laugh was jovial and brought a smile to Allison's lips, despite her inner turmoil at the strange situation.

"You sir, are quite mad," teased Allison. The Hatter laughed and winked at Allison.

"I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are!"

"Is that so Hatter?"

"Yes indeed, Al-" the Hatter stopped, the word stuck in his throat. "Al-"

"Allison," she said gently, assuming that his trouble was with the similarity between her name and Alice's. The Hatter made a face at this and shook his head.

"No I don't think I like that." Although Allison knew that the Hatter was being serious, the way he spoke was still very endearing and she gave a tinkling laugh. Suddenly a bright smile lit the Hatter's face and he turned to her excitedly.

"From this moment on, I deem you... Pixie!" he proclaimed.

"What, that's what you're going to call me?" she clarified.

"Yes," he confirmed, nodding his head for emphasis, "because with that hair and button nose, you look just like a pixie! If only you had wings..." The Hatter looked rather solemn for a moment, contemplating this.

A thought came suddenly to the Hatter and he gave a devilish grin.

"And I might know just where to get you some. Come on!"

The Hatter grabbed Allison's hand and pulled her along with him through the forest. Enjoying herself immensely, Allison allowed herself to be led on by her exuberant new friend.

What a world I've come to... she thought in amazement. I only hope that it is not all a dream.