Her tired eyes peered sleepily at her foggy surroundings. As she looked down, she glanced directly into a miny light source. Alice flinched involuntarily. She opened her eyes once more, her eyes getting accustomed to the pallid light. She realised that a girl around the age of ten was holding a lamp up study her. She seemed like a stereotypical kind of girl, with her slender frame and gentle gestures.
The cackle she had heard a moment ago could not have come from this girl. Her imagination had been seriously whacky ever since she entered 'Wonderland'.
"I-I'm lost and scared of the dark. I can't find my way back home. Can you accompany me?" the girl asked timidly. She seemed distraught and on the verge of breaking down at any moment.
"Alright," Alice agreed amiably. She leapt from the tree and landed on the balls of her feet.
The girl smiled tentatively at Alice and began to speak, "Are you Alice?"
"Yes I am, but how did you know my name? Did I meet you from somewhere else?" Alice replied, puzzled.
"Where have you been all this while? I was searching for you," the girl inquired softly. Her eyes glinted dangerously and she focused her piercing gaze on Alice. "Return my name to me. I am Alice. You are undeserving of the title, you nobody!" she bellowed.
Alice who was taken aback by her sudden outburst, could only gape at her in deep shock.
With inconceivable speed, the girl advanced towards Alice. Her fingers closed neatly around Alice's neck and she began strangling her. Alice could feel the blood draining her face, as if she were a rapidly deflating balloon. A numbness caused by the lack of oxygen lasted for a few seconds before the real pain began to hit her. She needed oxygen badly. Grasping the situation fully now, she tried to wrench the girl's grasp off her neck but she was too weak.
The effort seemed to deplete her of her limited oxygen even faster and she knew it was futile - the girl was too strong. The girl cackled maliciously and her eyes seemed to mock Alice.
Alice desperately aimed at one of the girl's knees and gave it a forceful kick. In an attempt to break her fall, the girl released her grip on Alice's neck. Sensing a wonderful opportunity to escape, Alice broke into a run. She ran and ran until she felt sure that the stranger was gone.
She turned back to see if the girl had ran after her. Then she turned her head to face the front and she gasped. The girl was right in front of her and she was clutching a blood-stained dagger.
"You can't escape from me now, you fraud Alice," she hissed threateningly. "I killed many other 'Alice's and I will kill you as well!"
Just as she lunged for the kill, she grabbed at her chest and collapsed onto the ground. A dark liquid flowed out of the hole in her chest percolated the grassland. She was dead.
"Now, now, getting yourself into trouble already, Probably Alice? If I were you, I wouldn't risk my little life by claiming that I were 'Alice'." A muscular man leaned against a tree trunk and surveyed her expressionlessly. He had on a black top hat, a dressy and old-fashioned black tuxedo, along with a pair of glossy black leathered shoes. "If I hadn't been there, you could have died, you know," his tone became reprimanding. "The gun is still working fine," he added casually.
"How did you shoot her when I didn't hear anything? Who are you?" Alice demanded shakily. This random stranger just suddenly appeared and saved her life. But he too appeared to be a maniac.
"Well, aren't you just a numb-skull? The gun is able to shoot without sound. And don't you know, just by looking at my hat, that I'm the Mad Hatter?" he asked irritably. "Yet another bothersome amateur that I have to defend. Come along now, other regrets may come for you."
He turned and strode briskly ahead. Alice glanced back at the dead girl and she saw a stirring in the bushes close to the dead girl. As she stared on, three deformed figures stepped out and ran towards her.
Like before, Alice only gawked at them, without making any moves to protect herself. She heard the crunch of leaves ahead of her stop and knew that the Hatter dude was glancing at the running figures.
"Damn," she heard him mutter. They suddenly crumbled to the ground with similar gaping holes in their chest like the dead girl. She turned around to see the Hatter keeping his silver gun. Yet more deformed humanoids were advancing towards them. The Hatter grabbed her arm and pulled her along in his run.
"You need to know how to keep out of trouble, even though I'm responsible for keeping you safe. Those 'people' who came out of the bushes and the dead girl who tried to kill you are Regrets. Regrets were once people. They had turned into these undead monstrosities because they were unsatisfied or regretted something deeply. Regrets love to drag people they like or hate with them. They drag their family members down with them when they are lonely, people who delve in self-pity or thoughts of death, and mostly, they would love to just get their hands on Alice," the Hatter explained with a sadistic grin.
"Then why did the girl tell me to return the name 'Alice' to her?" Alice questioned breathlessly.
"She was a 'Probably Alice' like you, but she failed in becoming the true Alice. And if you fail too, you will die," the Mad Hatter answered matter-of-factly.