It was like being able to experience the same nightmare all over again. Alice ran in the direction of the sounds of struggle, venturing deeper into the back alleys of her city. They were quite a few blocks from where the looking glass was last time, when she had run after Jack, but when she turned the corner and Hatter was dragged out of sight there it was; the same incandescent swirling mixture of fog set inside a large rectangle of gilded starlight. This time, instead of stopping up short and stumbling into the depths of the mirror, Alice took a deep breath and ran headlong into it, only shutting her eyes at the last moment.
She realized instantly that sprinting through the portal had been a mistake. She tumbled through the fog much faster than she had last time, her arms flailing and losing all sense of direction. When she did finally land (rather hard and face-first) on the ground, she remained immobile for a couple of beats, trying to catch her breath. She practiced opening and closing her eyes and inhaled the sweet scent of moist dirt. Grass tickled her cheek.
Alice took a deep breath and sat up, not wanting to lose too much time. When her eyes finally focused on the scene in front of her, though, it was all she could do not to panic and shut them again.
On her most recent journey to Wonderland, she had followed a hallway carpeted with authentic green grass but this time there was no hallway. All Alice saw as she looked from the space she had landed was emptiness. That was strange. She could have sworn she felt the same grassy texture as when she first visited wonderland.
She stood up unsteadily, wishing that there was a wall she could hold on to. Her feet found something flat to stand on, but there was no floor she could see. Losing all sense of direction and struck with an extreme sense of vertigo, Alice fought back tears. She was already terrified of this place and wondered if this could even be wonderland—it was nothing like the place she remembered.
A fog steadily spilled from an invisible opening above her and cascaded down and around her body. It was the same material as the portal of the mirror.
"Welcome... to the pool of tears," a throaty voice said.
Alice quickly looked around and strained her eyes but was unable to perceive the direction from which the voice was coming. She felt as though she was in Drs. Dee and Dum's interrogation room again. The panic continued to built within her and some of it escaped in the form of her voice cracking as she answered the voice with a question of her own:
The voice made a strange, guttural and choking noise which Alice incredulously concluded to be a laugh. This thing, whatever it was, seemed to think she was funny. Alice was not in the mood to entertain.
"That is not the right question to ask. What you really want to know the answer to is: why are you here?" the voice sounded flat; but how could Alice have expected an echo when there were no walls in the space?
"Please, I only wanted to go to Wonderland. I went through the Looking Glass and everything. How did I end up here? What is this place? Where am I?"
"Again, all the wrong questions...the emphasis is to be placed on why..." the voice intoned.
"Who are you?" Alice retorted. She needed to get a rise out of this creature to see that it was something she could fight. Her martial arts training wouldn't help against a ghostly foe.
"I am but a Figment, my dear. I am only as real as you make me."
A cat formed out of the haze and skittered towards Alice. She instinctively bent down to stroke its head, feeling the strong neck muscles and the curvature of the skull.
"Dinah!" she exclaimed.
The cat looked at her with pleading eyes and rubbed its face against her knee, purring loudly. Then Alice blinked and the cat was gone. In its place was a small sapling which instantly died, withered, and crumbled to dust. Alice recoiled.
"You ran too far..." the voice said. The tone had dropped significantly, adding a sinister layer to its broad proclamations. Alice stumbled backwards, but the voice was all around her; she couldn't escape. Alice shut her eyes, feeling tears seep through her eyelashes. Why this? Why her? She took one more step back but there was no invisible force to hold her weight. She lost her balance and fell back, screaming as she went.