9.1

13 April, 2008 by katelaity

When Alice next awoke it was deep night. She had a moment of confusion waking as she had from a dream. The pull of the bundle tied to her wrist had made her fancy that a large animal had been lashed to her arm and the considerable bulk of it was drawing her along. Alice had a vision of the far north woods as her location — huge trees leaping across her path as the beast charged along ahead of her.

“Stop, stop!” she cried but the creature did not seem to hear her protestations. Instead it only lunged on, dragging the unwilling young woman behind it. I shall never ask mother for a pet again, Alice woefully scolded herself. It was quite enough to have a pony, let alone this horrid beast that seemed bent on tumbling her into the next shire.

“Alice, you must keep hold of it!” Lizzie’s calm voice seemed to cut through the murkiness of the forest, and Alice looked around in vain to find her sweet cousin and beg her assistance. “Alice, the cheese!”

Alice wracked her brains to call to mind the purpose of the cheese. Everything seemed suddenly so confusing. She did seem to recall that the cheese was very important, but for what she was uncertain. Perhaps the animal that pulled her along so forcefully was in fact the cheese! Somehow it seemed right, but Alice found her self doubting the idea almost at once. Could a cheese be a beast? Could a beast be a cheese? The two questions paced back and forth across her head until Alice thought she might rather succumb to the dark shadows of the woods than consider the answers further.

Just as she was ready to give up all hope, a strange beast appeared before her. Was it the brute who had flung her along in its wake? Or was it some other fiend ready to torment her? The whooshing sound of the wind in the trees seemed very much like waves, she realized and as Alice stood looking at the strange creature she could feel them both sway back and forth as if on the seas.

The monster spoke. Monster, Alice thought, was perhaps uncharitable, but she was rather pressed to think of another word for something that appeared so curious in its form. It’s head was like a gryphon’s yet it had long black locks that seemed somehow familiar. The tiny wings at its back seemed unlikely to bear its weight yet the thing hovered just above the ground with the miniscule flaps. Its large shiny claws, gleaming from its furry paws and scaly feet, suggested a rather fiery temper, but its voice was soothing and kindly, if a bit rough and deep.

“By the bone-white skull and the sad catbird
You seek to find purchase on the sandy shores;
The strangest stories that you ever heard
Will pale next to tales of Alexander’s wars.”

In the next instant, the peculiar beast flapped its wings with finality and lifted up above the black tree tops.

“Come back, come back! I don’t understand!” Alice cried and waked herself to fresh tears on the ink-dark ocean.

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