Solitaryloner: Okay, so I changed the identity of the Jack of Hearts, in case you've read this story before I deleted the previous version. It was getting hard to write with Akaito as Jack, so...I'm hoping it'll be easier for me, now.
The Queen of Hearts...the ruler of Wonderland. Disobey her, and it will be off with your head. She is well-known for her love of the colour red, and she detests the colour white.
The card soldiers had mistakenly planted white roses instead of red ones. Frantically, they tried to paint all the roses red, hoping that the Queen wouldn't notice. They brushed and they brushed, and the drops of red which splattered to the ground looked almost like...
The Queen was lounging in her throne, swinging her slender legs over the hard arm of the ornate seat. Standing behind her was a blond man, his face as expressionless as usual. He had blue grey eyes, and his blond hair was perfect, without a single lock out of place. Such immaculate perfection was only to be expected, from someone who served the Queen - she desired nothing but the very best of the best.
The Queen surrounded herself in only the best - which was natural, since she was, after all, the Queen. Her servants were all the most beautiful people who could be found in this cursed place, and her personal servant, the man who now stood behind her throne, was the most perfect of them all. The Queen glanced up, beckoning him closer. ''Come here,'' she commanded, flicking her fingers impatiently at him.
Without a word, he approached her, his face not betraying any single hint of emotion. The Queen arched up, cupping his flawless face in her small hands, and she noticed something almost like...desire, flickering through his normally impassive gaze. Secretly, she smiled - she knew that he adored her, that he wanted her to be his...but then, she was the Queen. And the Queen didn't love anyone other than herself.
Her lips met his, and he let her kiss him for a brief while - she knew he wanted her to kiss him - before she finally pulled away, licking her lips slowly. He watched her, his blue grey eyes struggling to retain their usual unemotional look. ''You know, it won't be a crime for you to be less impassive,'' she murmured into his ear, feeling him shiver a little against her. ''At least, I wouldn't deem it a crime...'' she smiled.
He just shook his head and withdrew from her, as he usually did. The Queen tilted her head, but shrugged and set that aside. ''I hear that there's a new candidate for Alice?'' she yawned, shifting in the throne so that she was properly seated. The man glanced up at her, surprise flickering through his blue eyes. The Queen sighed softly, knowing that he wasn't going to speak unless she let him. ''You may speak. For now.''
''When did such a thing happen?'' the man asked, his voice quiet. He was always quiet. It was very strange, but ever since the first moment he had come to serve her, he had been a quiet man. Or perhaps man was too far a stretch. He couldn't be much older than she herself was - he was nineteen, at most. Still a youth. A youth trapped in problems that no sane adult would be willing to face, alone...
Then again, that was why he threw away his name, wasn't it? Threw away every shred of his past, coming to a dreamland which refused to let anyone escape. ''I don't know, SeeWoo,'' she shrugged, his flinch not escaping her attention - she rarely addressed him by his actual name, and every time she did that, she suspected memories of...before would flicker through him, making him feel things he didn't want to.
''Does the Queen of Hearts not know about everything which goes on within the cursed Wonderland?'' he asked, voice as soft as always. She had to strain her ears a little just to pick up what he had just said. ''After all, you are the Queen. And the Queen is the most important character in the whole of Wonderland, isn't she?'' he had a pleasant voice, which made her wonder why he didn't like to speak so much.
''I am the Queen, that's true...'' she studied her fingernails as she spoke, wondering what she could do to pass the time. ''But even then, the White Rabbit is more...powerful than I am. He is a very strange fellow, that one. I can never quite guess at what he's thinking. How he decided upon the latest 'Alice', I myself am not quite sure. He knows so much more than I do, after all...I can never tell what he'll do next.''
''Then what of the Cheshire Cat?'' the blond next asked. The Queen stiffened at the name - her eyes narrowed at the surge of memories the name brought forth. Instantly, she was off her throne, her black and red robes swooshing around her as she whipped back, glaring at her servant. He was not cowed, his gaze remaining as placidly unemotional as it always was. He was, after all, very used to her mood swings.
''Do not ever speak that foul name,'' she spat. ''You know how much I cannot stand that wretched cat, Jack of Hearts...'' as she spoke, she noticed Jack's hand, drifting slowly to the sword which was strapped to his hip. As though the very title of 'Jack of Hearts' made him recall something he didn't want to remember. ''Are you trying to displease me, Jack?'' her voice dropped, becoming soft and low. Dangerous.
''Never, my Queen,'' he bowed deferentially to her, making her relax a little. Slowly, she sat back down on her throne, her bad mood passing as quickly as smoke dissipated in the wind. Jack watched her for a while, not saying anything. Not moving a single muscle. He was very good at that...not moving. Not speaking. If one didn't know better, they might have thought that he was a statue, instead of a live human being.
''Now, we just sit here and wait,'' the Queen murmured, her eyes drifting to the clock on the far wall. A clock whose hands never moved, forever stuck at one time - at six pm. The time for tea. ''They're late,'' she added, her gaze narrowing at the clock. ''The 'Alice' is late. I really don't like it whenever they're late,'' she muttered to herself. ''You'd think they would have the decency to try and show up on time.''
''Perhaps it's because they fear you,'' Jack said softly. ''Who doesn't fear the very sound of your name, my Queen? The Queen of Hearts, the ruler of Wonderland, the one who can order them to off with their heads...it is no surprise that 'Alice' might be reluctant to meet you,'' Jack's blue eyes pierced her. It made her feel a little uncomfortable, which was strange. For her. ''The Queen of Hearts...Miku Hatsune.''
She shrugged. ''I thought I told you before not to refer to me using my real name,'' she said simply, the words not spoken with any real heat. She could not be angry over such a trivial issue - though she knew she should be. In Wonderland, names were important. Without a name, one was nothing - one became nothing but a piece of scrap paper, tossed around forever in the restless wind. It was...sad.
And that was a very cruel thing, the loss of a name. Just like the loss of a shadow. In order to become the Queen of Hearts, the feared ruler of Wonderland, she had given up the name of 'Miku Hatsune'...it was a name that she knew no more. She had no name now, save for that of her title - 'The Queen of Hearts'. She was not supposed to respond to any other name, the White Rabbit had reminded her. Repeatedly.
Her lips curled at the thought. A title she had once hankered after, for God knew how long - she had once wanted to be the Queen so badly, the thought of it had consumed her very being, leaving behind nothing but a burning ambition. To be the best of the best. She had always been a perfectionist, and to her, there had been nothing more perfect than being the ruler of Wonderland. The epitome of perfection.
Now, if she could go back in time to visit her younger self, she would berate her for her own stupidity. The Queen choked back a bitter laugh - perfection? In a way, yes. But she was the perfect ruler of an imperfect world, and as a result...didn't that twist her, in a way? She was the beautifully eternal Queen, the Queen whose youthful beauty seemed to rot away from the very inside. Rotting her, corrupting her...
Clawing her way up to the very top, she had ensured that no one else could ever usurp her throne. People loved her, everyone adored her, hungered after her, desired to make her their own - and she had taken advantage of all that, granting herself the position of 'Queen'. The 'King', she had...disposed of, shortly after attaining the throne. And because of what she had done, the dream had punished her.
Cursed to be the beautiful, youthful Queen for evermore. That was who she was, and all thoughts of being perfect had long fled from her mind. Perfection wasn't something she longed for anymore - she no longer desired to be at the top. To satisfy her own power hungry urges. Truly, after becoming the sole, eternal ruler of Wonderland, she had only ever had one real desire. One that she shared with many others.
I just want to run away from here...are you Alice? If you're Alice, get us all out of here - please, just get me out of this cursed dream.
I have completely no idea where the hell am I. He choked back a small, semi-hysterical laugh - hell was an apt description of this place, indeed. Len glanced around the gloomy forest - he was not very sure about how long he had been wandering around in this place for. Perhaps for only a second...or perhaps for an entire eternity. After all, he was in a dream, was he not? And he had no idea how time flowed, in this dream.
In fact, he would have said that time didn't flow at all, in this forest. From the very first moment he had stepped foot in here, it had been an eternal twilight, and he didn't like it. The darkness was not a welcoming one - this silent dimness hid secrets within it, taunting secrets which unnerved any soul unfortunate enough to pass through its depths. Len could honestly say that he was not feeling comfortable in here.
It was still night here...a never-ending, eternal night which crept up on people, startling them and refusing to let go. It was all very eerie, in his opinion - this was a dark night which suffocated others, delighting in making others suffer. He was honestly tired of wandering around here, unable to see any end in sight. Ah, but 'Alice', if you want to leave this dream...then you have to truly become Alice, first.
Len gritted his teeth. ''Stop messing around in my head, whoever you are,'' he snapped out, irritated by the mysterious voice. Whoever it was gave a small laugh, a dry, whispery laugh, just like the rustling of autumn leaves against the ground. But it didn't say anything else to acknowledge his comment, and that made him wonder whether he was going insane. First sign of madness, talking to empty air. Isn't it?
What you deem as insane in your little world of normalcy isn't what passes for sane, in this twisted world of madness. The voice now had a slight lilting edge to it, a subtle undercurrent of cruelty that struck him like a sledgehammer. And if you hope to survive here, 'Alice', then your sanity is the very first thing you're going to have to give up. Don't you agree with me?
Who are you? Len thought back, wondering if he would get an answer. There was another laugh in response to his question, a mocking laugh that made his hairs stand on end. It wasn't a very pleasant laugh - in fact, one could even say that it was the sort of laugh that would appear in a child's nightmare. It was a laugh that fed insanity to all who chanced to hear it, and even now, Len shook his head, feeling perturbed.
Who am I? It's not important. Just know that I control everything and everyone around here. Not the Queen of Hearts. Not the White Rabbit. I'm the little dream that is fighting to survive, in a world where everyone does their best to forget about it. I'm what causes you to look over your shoulder at every given opportunity. I'm what makes this darkness so ominous.
A dream? Len found this all rather amusing, for some reason. If you're the dream who doesn't want to cease existing, then why are you telling me to become Alice? I mean...if I become Alice, then I'll be able to get out of here. And once I do that, people will start forgetting all about you. Isn't that the one thing you wish to avoid? Being a dream?
Because I know you won't succeed, that's why. The dream slithered around his mind, its soft voice raspy and hissing. It reminded Len of a skeleton, for some strange reason - a wispy, barely there sort of voice. Like the twilight years of an old man's life. Don't you find it amusing to build someone's hopes up, then watch them fail? As the Cheshire Cat would say. He is a very strange fellow, that cat.
The dream continued, as though Len wasn't even there anymore - it sounded as if it was speaking to itself, almost. If I were 'Alice', I would try and find the Cheshire Cat, before I seek out the Queen of Hearts. The Cheshire Cat is a hated character in Wonderland, but he isn't the most cunning one. The most vicious one. Oh, he is far from being vicious, here.
Who is the vicious one, then? Len wondered why he was even talking to the dream. Hearing voices in his head...it was never a good thing, was it? But then, Wonderland wasn't the world he once knew. Perhaps, in Wonderland, what he usually considered insane passed for normalcy. Perhaps everyone could hear a voice in their head. Or perhaps only the insane could step into the twisted world of Wonderland. Who knew?
Oh, the Queen of Hearts. You don't want to cross her. It's off with your head if you do that, you see, the dream answered sagely. She has an agenda for everything she does, you know? Perhaps she will help you. Perhaps she will hinder you. It all depends on what agenda she has, for now...or maybe she will help you simply because you amuse her. She is a very strange character, here in Wonderland.
And you would be the strangest of them all, I presume. The dream didn't respond. Len blinked, looking around - he had been moving while he talked to the voice in his head, and now, a path loomed before him. It was a very strange path, one that somehow reminded him of a candy cane. On either side of the red and white path, there was a row of rosebushes. The roses were yellow instead of red. Curious.
He looked up. There was a wooden door with a yellow heart on it, right at the very end of the path. The door hung in mid-air, unattached to anything - no frame, no hinge, no wall. Nothing. It was just a door. Why, go on then, 'Alice', the dream murmured in his ear. Beyond the door lies what you've been searching for. But what would that be? A name? A shadow? A reason to live? Wonderland will not provide all that.
I'm searching for Alice. Len glanced at the door, feeling unnerved. What I want to know is...why is there no Alice in this Wonderland? What kind of Wonderland exists without an Alice? Is Alice not the most fundamental character in the whole of Wonderland? Without Alice, this place is just going around in endless circles, never breaking free of this cursed cycle. Isn't it?
You're asking the wrong question, the dream laughed. You should know why there's no Alice - you just said so yourself. A Wonderland without an Alice functions just like a confused circle...it spins around everywhere, but it doesn't have any ending in sight. As a dream which wants to survive, isn't that the one thing I desire the most? To never, ever end.
The dream was making Len feel like an idiot. Then why are you allowing other people to have a chance to become 'Alice'? I mean, if someone succeeds, they'll get to escape from this dream...and should that happen, wouldn't the other people who are trapped here be able to leave as well? Since the Alice would be able to find a way out of this cursed place?
I am not an unfair dream, the dream said slowly. I find mortals very amusing. The way they try to cling on to life, to try and escape the fates they have been allocated...don't you find it all rather funny? So I give you a sporting chance. A Wonderland without an Alice never ends, but I must admit it gets rather boring. So...there you have it. The reason why.
So Alice is here for your entertainment, then? Len thought dryly. The dream didn't reply again, and Len wondered why. Perhaps he had struck a nerve. Or perhaps the dream simply didn't wish to reply. Who knew the ways and thoughts of dreams? Len made his way down the path, half-expecting someone to pop out and ambush him at any moment - but that didn't happen, and he made it to the door without any problem.
What is it you desire the most? Wonderland will give it to you...but Wonderland does not provide one things without a price. That is how the human world works, does it not? No one ever gives without expecting anything in return. Wonderland is much like a mortal, in this case. It will not grant you anything without collecting its debt, in return.
So you're telling me I can just open this...door, that leads to apparently nowhere, and I can have whatever I want. So long as I pay the price for that. Len felt rather suspicious. Slowly, he looked around, behind the door - and he saw nothing but stretches of more forest. Right. This door doesn't even lead to anywhere. If I step through it, I'll just end up...in more forest.
Well, why don't you just try? The dream whispered enticingly. You don't know how this world works, do you? So you don't truly have a right to state whether or not that door leads to anywhere. But me...I control this land. And what I say rules. When I say that the door will give you whatever it is you desire...the voice turned icy cold. You'll do well to listen to me.
Len actually became a little nervous, at the sound of the dream's cruelty. Swallowing, he decided that it wouldn't do any harm, to try out what the dream suggested - reaching out, he placed his hand on the cold doorknob. Then he hesitated. What should he ask for, then? What was the one thing in Wonderland that he most wanted to find? He needed, wanted, to find his memories...but Wonderland will not provide that. It does not provide your true desire.
Would becoming Alice help him to regain a little of the memories he had lost, in the process of coming here? He could only hope. To become Alice...resolutely, Len turned the doorknob. He had to get out of Wonderland, and get back all his memories - why had he thrown his past away? It was something he couldn't seem to recall...and if he had to give up the name of 'Len' to become Alice...would he do that, then?
Help me find the Cheshire Cat, he thought, as he stepped through the door. He thought that, as he wished his wish, he heard the dream begin to laugh. It was an almost mocking laugh, and it sent a shiver of foreboding through him. He didn't like the laugh of the dream...but then, the moment he stepped through the door, the laughter faded, and he was no longer in a forest. Instead, he was...somewhere else.
He was overlooking a small town, down in the valley. He looked around - the forest was gone, the dream along with it. The door itself had disappeared as well. He blinked, startled. The forest, and everything that had happened to him while he was inside it, was fast becoming a distant memory...everything except for his one wish. His desire to find the Cheshire Cat.
Had he just imagined the dream's laugh, then?