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An army of birds sat in the branches of an old oak tree.
She walked quickly, carefully, quietly, cautiously, cradling the duffle bag she held in her arms like a mother cradles her child.
In front of her, the old warehouse loomed. Broken glass and rusting metal glinted in the sunset’s last rays.
No one used this place anymore. Nobody important, at least.
So it was the perfect place for them.
She walked up to the door and kicked it several times. The sound echoed hollowly.
There was no response. Sighing, she brought her foot back to kick again-
And the door was pulled open abruptly.
A pale skinned boy lounged against the doorframe, grinning at her. Red hair fell into green eyes, surrounded by freckles that had irritated him since she had first met him. He had been a skinny little thing, afraid of his own shadow. Now of course, he was a smug asshole. “‘Lo Alyss.” He said softly.
“Chester. You got the stuff?”
He chuckled and stood aside, holding the door open. She ducked past him and into the large room.
The wooden ceiling and interior walls were rotting. The concrete floor was rough and cold. The ‘furniture’ was old boxes covered in moth-eaten blankets.
All in all, the place was a piece of shit.
But it was safe, and it was in the part of town that had the lowest traffic besides people like them.
She dumped the duffel bag on he largest box in the room, the one that served as a table, and stepped back. A pile of blankets by the side of the table sat up suddenly, looking around.
“Who’s ‘at? Wa’s goin’ on?”
Alyss day down best to the duffle bag and looked down at the girl who had been sleeping on the floor. “Good morning, Cat.”
Cat pulled the blanket around her tighter. Long blue hair, black roots just beginning to show, tied back in a braid. Dark skin and large eyes, she was a beauty queen. Or would’ve been a beauty queen.
If she had stayed on the right side of the tracks. If she hadn’t started hanging out with the wrong people. Trying the wrong things.
Just like the rest of them.
Alyss turned to Chester and caught a glimpse of herself in one of he broken windows. Tangled, dirty blonde hair cropped just beneath her chin. Brown eyes and tanned skin. Dark rings around her eyes, scrapes and bruises all over… she looked like a raccoon who’d lost a fight.
Chester was tapping his foot against the pavement. “Did you come through?”
She nodded. “Where’s Hatter?”
“So informal, so cold…” a voice purred, and a boy stepped out from the shadows.
Dark blue eyes and a smile that looked more like a sneer. Brown hair that had a life of its own always tucked away under something. ‘Mad’ Maxwell Hatter. The only time he felt better than when he was high was when he was charging ridiculous prices so other people could get the ‘miracle pills’ he sold.
“I’ve already told you, call me Max.”
Alyss could practically hear the slime oozing off of him. “No thanks.” She said. “I’ve got the money, Hatter. Give us the usual.”
He theatrically tapped his chin. “You know, I think the prices may have gone up from last time-“
“What?!” The outraged scream from three throats had him holding his hands up as if he weren’t to blame from what he just said.
Plus the fact that Chester had crossed the room in about three strides and had two fists on the collar of his stupid, fancy shirt. That probably was also a factor.
There was a moment of silence.
Cat, who had jumped to her feet, still clutching the blanket around her, swayed slightly.
Chester stepped back, releasing his grip on Hatter’s shirt. “You better not‘ve raised prices.”
Hatter straightened his shirt and cleared his throat. “Well, I certainly didn’t, no. At least, not for the stuff you guys want.” He waved his hand carelessly, trying to pretend like Chester’s outburst hadn’t startled him.
But it had startled all of them.
They all liked to pretend like they weren’t addicted, but Chester had a high tolerance for everything. If he was gone, then what were the rest’s chances of ever stopping?
Alyss unzipped the duffle bag and Hatter walked over to check it out. He groaned slightly, taking out a stack of bills that were held together by a rubber band. “Is this covered in blood, Alyss?”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
Chester moved to the other side of the table and began to take out the rest of the money. Cat dragged another box closer and sat down, pulling out a cigarette and lighter from nowhere and lighting up.
Hatter flipped through the money, tossing flakes towards Alyss. She jerked back and wiped the blood off her face, shooting a glare at him.
He pursed his lips in response, waving the stained money at her. “You think I can use this? It looks like you robbed a bank to get this.”
“Maybe I did.” Alyss said.
Cat began to laugh. It was a shrill, high pitched sound. “Of course she did. Of course, of course, of course. Why wouldn’t she?”
“Did you rob a bank for this?” Hatter asked. “Tell me truthfully.”
“No.” She rubbed her hands on her jeans. “The blood is dried. I wasn’t the one who stole it.”
“Then who was?”
She shrugged. “Does it matter? I have the money.”
It looked like he wanted to say something more, but he didn’t. Chester’s hands were gripping the box so tightly it probably would’ve snapped if he had.
Instead, Hatter turned and retreated back into the shadows to grab what they always traded for.
But what he came back with was something entirely different.
He held a plastic bag with four grey oblong pills.
“What’s this?” Asked Chester, moving closer.
“Yeah, what is this shit, Hatter?” Cat asked. She sounded considerably more awake now. She blew smoke away from her face as she spoke again. “This isn’t the usual stuff.”
“No.” He agreed. “This is much better.”
“What is it?” Asked Alyss.
“They call it the Wonderland Pill. Or just Wonderland.”
“What does it do?”
He shook the bag. “Wanna find out?”
Cat immediately stuck her hand out. Alyss and Chester followed suit slightly more cautiously. Hatter shook a pill into each person’s hand, and took the last one out.
“Bottoms up!” He grinned, and swallowed it whole.
As the others did the same, Alyss rolled the pill around the palm of her hand. What was in it? What would it do?
The others were staring at her. Waiting.
What more harm could it do?
She tipped her head back and popped the pill into her mouth, closing her eyes.
When Alyss opened her eyes, everything was different. She felt lighter. Happier. Better.
She hopped to her feet and stretched. Her hands looked weird. How strange! How peculiar! How hilarious!
She started to laugh. She couldn’t help it. Her hands looked like they were covered in blood.
Best joke since sliced bread.
Was sliced bread a joke? She couldn’t remember.
Someone was singing. She looked around. Then she looked up.
Cat was sitting on one of the few lights still hanging from the ceiling, swinging her legs. She had long antennae sprouting from her forehead and two butterfly wings coming from her back. Her cigarette had turned into a omg pipe, and each smoke ring she blew was a curious shade of blue. She grinned down at Alyss and waved.
Alyss waved back, and took a moment to look down at herself.
Her t-shirt was a different color, a dark sort of indago-blue, and her hoodie wasn’t plain grey anymore, it was checked grey and light blue. Her jeans were the same, but her sneakers were whole, not falling apart, clean. Better. The bruises on her arms were still there, but lighter. Better.
What was in those pills?
And why didn’t she care?
Chester popped out of nowhere, grinning. His mouth was too big for his face. His eyes flowed lightly. A tail swished from behind him, matching his hair and the cat’s ears that now grew on top of his head.
“Now you see me~!” He said in a sing-song sort of voice. “Now you don’t!”
He faded away, leaving nothing but his smile, which vanished quickly afterwards.
She spun around, trying to locate him, but the world flipped upside down in response, and she fell to her knees as the floor she was standing on became the ceiling.
Everything was floating.
The boxes, the blankets, Cat, Alyss.
Hatter was reclining on air, sipping something out of a teacup. His head was swallowed by a ridiculous hat that was too big for him.
Alyss hopped tentatively, and found herself higher in the air.
She was flying.
The world was singing.
Whatever was in this pill was even better than the usual stuff.
There was a banging on the door.
Hatter flipped his teacup upside down accidentally. The tea- or whatever it was- began to slowly float around the room. Chester faded back in, and Cat flipped upside down on the light. They all stared at the door.
The room began to rotate slowly, returning back to normal. The banging got louder.
Muffled voices were shouting.
Cat flew down from the light, pipe clamped between her teeth. “Looks like we have visitors, Miss Alyss.”
“It’s the police.” Said Hatter softly. “We need to go.”
“Or…” Alyss said slowly. “We could let them in.”
“What?!” Hatter shrieked.
She was moving like she was walking through water. The liquid that had been in Hatter’s teacup sparkled as it hung in the air. In her peripheral vision, she saw Chester grab Hatter and stop him from coming after her.
Cat just sat and smoked.
She pulled open the door, and greeted the startled cop with her prettiest smile-
She meant to tug him inside, really.
Instead, she tore off his arm.
The way the blood spray floated in the air, mingling with the stuff from the teacup, was mesmerizing.
The man’s scream echoed in her ears, and his partner ran to his side in slow motion.
She pulled both of them in. The others pulled them apart.
When Alyss opened her eyes, everything was covered in blood. Hatter was gone. Cat and Chester lay on the ground, sleeping. The policemen lay in pieces, everywhere.
Her head throbbed, and she felt… disappointed.
Her hoodie was grey again, her shirt black, her shoes full of holes. The bruises on her arms were just as prominent as ever.
The world was grey and boring again.
The Wonderland was out of her system.
There was a small feeling in the back of her mind that had already started to whisper ‘More.’ But she ignored it.
This place was a mess, and they had two bodies to clean up.
Chester woke up quickly, and came to help her. He began to mop and toss out buckets of blood. Alyss gathered up the body parts that were strewn around.
Cat didn’t move.
Alyss, after tossing the various arms and legs and internal organs into a nearby dumpster, crouched beside Cat. She put a hand on her cheek.
She was cold.
Alyss felt frozen.
Cat was dead.
Now there was another body to take care of.
When the ‘MISSING’ ad appeared in the paper, Alyss didn’t react.
When the police came to her school and asked people who knew Cat where she might have gone, she didn’t react.
Well, they didn’t really ask where Cat was. They asked where ‘Caitlyn Angelica Pélar’ was.
Cat always hated that name.
At home, when the faces of the tow police officers that she and the others had dismembered flashed on the television screen, Alyss didn’t blink.
She was busy.
Busy cutting out Cat’s picture from the newspaper. Busy distracting herself. Busy trying not to think of the voice in the back of her head that was getting louder in its demands for ‘more’.
She called Chester. “Hey.”
“Hey.” His voice crackled over the speaker. Someone was laughing in the background. She didn’t know who it was.
“Do you know where Hatter is today?” She asked, tapping at the desk that she sat at.
There was a pause, and the laughter stopped. “No.”
He was lying.
“He isn’t picking up my calls.”
“Maybe because he knows it hasn’t been long enough to get the money we’d need.”
“We’d need?” She asked. “Who said it was ‘we’ and not just me?”
“Well, you’re asking about that Wonderland stuff, right? And if you’re going back for seconds, I’m going to join you.”
“You can hear it too?” She whispered.
“What?” The noises on his end had started up again. “I can’t hear you.”
She hung up.
She had to get the money.
Hatter was sitting on the table-box when Alyss got there. She threw the duffle bag, soaked through with blood, next to him.
He didn’t look surprised this time.
Nor did he complain about the cash being unusable.
When Chester walked in, the almost empty plastic bag was thrown at him. He caught it, and rolled the pill between his fingers.
Alyss and Hatter stood waiting.
He grinned at them, at the grin was different. Strange. Dangerous.
And Alyss wasn’t worried. The voice in the back of her head was howling. It was almost overwhelming.
She tilted her head back and swallowed the pill.
She was floating again.
The world was interesting again.
Everything was upside down again.
She began to laugh, quietly at first, then louder, louder, so loud she thought she was going to explode.
Cat, who had been sitting on the light again, jumped up to the floor.
Cat wasn’t dead. She had just stayed behind. Hiding in the shadows, sitting on the ceiling, fluttering her glossy wings and waiting for someone to open their eyes.
Chester and Hatter were dancing. Well, Hatter was dancing, trying to teach Chester, who wasn’t doing well.
It didn’t seem to bother him, though. His grin just kept getting wider and wider and- his smile almost extended off his face.
Cat floated on her back, spinning in lazy circles and blowing smoke rings.
Alyss walked over to the door and pulled it open.
The world looked like a Wonderland.
Everything was better. Everything was good.
The little voice in the back of her head spoke up again. She could’ve gotten angry at it. She could’ve said that it already had what it wanted.
But no, this was different.
A different beast entirely.
A different voice.
The first one had wanted the drug.
This one wanted to hunt.
The first house she saw didn’t have people living in it, no, it had things made of tar and obsidian with too many mouths and not enough eyes.
They were so painfully stupid.
She tripped over their cat in the garage twice trying to get to the weapons cabinet, and none of them noticed.
So really, they deserved it when she cut their hands and feet off which the axe she found.
And as the deceptively human looking blood spread across the floor, she walked right out the back door, whistling and swinging the axe.
She saluted the moon that was peeking out from above the horizon, and retired back to the warehouse.
She would check up on the others, and ask them if they felt like coming to hunt with her.
When Alyss opened her eyes, she was covered in blood, and the warehouse was empty.
Chester and Hatter has vanished.
All that remained was her duffle, and Hatter’s battered briefcase.
He thought it made him look refined.
Everyone else thought it made him look like a pretentious asshole.
Well, since he hadn’t taken the money, she might as well get it back.
She moved over to the box-table to grab her duffle bag and realized that Hatter had left his case unlocked, and it was open ever so slightly.
Well… she didn’t hear him telling her to stay away from his stuff.
Alyss opened the case slowly, and her mouth dropped open. If was filled of clear plastic bags, each containing four, grey, oblong pills.
A lifetime’s supply of access to Wonderland.
She dumped the case’s contents in her duffle bag, leaving the bloodstained money on the box-table. Sure, maybe Hatter would complain that she robbed him, but it wasn’t like she would be around to hear it.
When her face flashed on the television, right next to Cat’s, she laughed.
So did Cat.
The shadow-thing that has used to be a person choked out its last breath, writhing in the pool of blood on the ground.
Really, though, if was a comical idea.
She wasn’t lost.
She was in Wonderland.
CREDIT : Zumtimez