9.0

6 April, 2008 by katelaity

Alice began to think that she had always been in the water, that the life she had once imagined had been only a dream and that she was to spend the rest of her days in a purgatory of tears cried some heartless giant. The salt waves lapped at her incessantly and she had no energy to rescue the cheese that they had so carefully secreted away for sustenance. Die today, die tomorrow, it made no real difference. It must sometime come, and sooner rather than later.

She longed for a friendly face, particularly when the sun rose to its heights and made her sleepy and desirous of a drink of water. The constant lap of the waves worked like a soothing voice lulling her into a twilight state that was not quite awake and was not quite asleep. Alice thought she heard Lizzie’s gentle voice and turned to see only the sunlight rippling off the waves and not even an albatross to be seen. Alive was not entirely certain that she could recognize an albatross at sight, but she felt certain that somehow she would know when she had met one.

How to greet an albatross properly, Alice mused. “Good afternoon, Sir?” or would a more general “How do you do, Miss?” be a better choice. “How do you find the seas today?” would undoubtedly be welcome to a weary traveler like herself. Would an albatross have a title? Doctor Albatross seemed unlikely — Lord or Lady Albatross? Duke or Duchess seemed even less likely, Alice had to admit after some thought, as she licked her dry lips and tried very hard to remember why Lizzie had been so adamant about not drinking the water.

It had all been such a hurly-burly. The Pirates shouting, the waves slapping the sides of the boat and the thunder making such a pullulating noise that one had very little room for thought in one’s head. Lizzie’s hurried instructions amid all the confusion had stuck at first with the iron-clad weight of a divine hand. Don’t drink the sea water, Alice. She had been quite firm.

But she was so thirsty! Surely it could not be wrong to have a little sip. Alice could not quite work up the interest in eating a piece of cheese and anyway, she feared it might make her more thirsty rather than less. It was hard to imagine being more thirsty than she was, however. Each lap of the wave seemed to want to jump into her mouth as if to say, “Drink me! Drink me!” Would it be so wrong to give in?

“It would certainly be most unfortunate,” a calm voice at her elbow said suddenly. Alice turned her head to see a large white bird floating beside her. “It is really most ungrateful of you to ignore the advise of one much more experienced than you, who only has your best intentions at heart.”

“Dear Albatross,” Alice responded, suddenly feeling so woebegone that she did not hesitate to address the bird so familiarly. “I know it is wrong, but I feel such a strong compulsion to drink the water, I hardly know how to avoid doing so.”

“You must think of home and your loved ones. What about that handsome Kit Barrington? Does he not delight and distract you?” The Albatross leaned toward Alice expectantly.

Alice let her mind drift back to that wonderful night of dancing. Surely that young man had left a strong impression. “Did he not have the most beautiful blue eyes? And his hair was glossy and black, curled like a halo around his head. His voice,” Alice paused, eyes closed to remember, “I believe his voice was strong and confident. Yes, I believe that is so.”

Thus alone on the waves Alice passed another interminable day.

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