Treacle and Ink

April 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 5:03 pm

It’s me, Alice. I’m back. Every time, it gets a bit harder to return. Every time, like waking up from a deep, dark sleep, with leaden eyes and stiff, sore limbs. This time, I woke up with my feet on the pillow and my head at the end of the bed, although Dorcas swears she put me to bed right side up. I wonder how much longer it’ll be before something I really need is turned inside-out, or upside-down. Like, my lungs.

Every time I come back I feel a bit more detached from the real world. The things that happen in the mirror seem to be so much more alive, and true. I remember it very distinctly now. I think I met Marsh-Ayre! He’s younger than I thought, or maybe that’s just his mirror-self. Military bearing, neatly-trimmed beard, old-fashioned manners. I handed him the Temperance card and he stuck it into his sleeve. We were in a library – that place he said he likes to come and think.
“Don’t let on I’m cheating, alright old girl?” he said. “Needs must when Old Nick drives, and all that.”
“What are you going to do?” I said.
“Not sure old girl, not sure. This card must mean something, but dashed if I know what to do about it.”
“I’m not…” I said – it was already hard to remember who I was.
Marsh-Ayre put a kindly arm around my shoulders.
“Quick,” he said, “back the way you came, before the enemy finds you.”

But it was too late. Just thinking about the enemy, the masked Dr Doom, seemed to have brought him closer. I wasn’t in a library anymore, I was in a dungeon. Manacles and metal implements dangled from the wall. It was gloomy but I thought I could see men moving at the back. One was so familiar to me, the way he moved, his wooden leg, his… it was Maltravers. My own creation. He seemed to be pouring something – could it be blood? – into one pan of a set of scales. Doom grabbed me and pulled my arm up behind my back.
“Little Alice,” he said, “who’s caused me so much trouble. Because of you I have had to rethink my plans.”
I wriggled, trying to get free.
“I hoped I wouldn’t have to take this card. It’s not, aheheh, my metier. But fairness of a sort is meted out in a torture chamber after all. I’ll get there in the end and then…”
He pulled my arm a little harder. It hurt. I thought to myself ‘this isn’t real, it’s a dream, it’s a story, it’s not real, it can’t hurt.”
As if I’d spoken out loud he said: “oh little Alice, stories aren’t just in books, not anymore. They’re everywhere. And the walls between stories and reality are getting thinner and thinner. You’d better not stand in our way, little Alice, or we’ll take everything you love and make it…” he paused. I could feel his foul breath on my neck. “Merely fictional.”
I struggled, but I couldn’t break free.
“In fact,” he said, “I will show you what I can do.”

I woke up screaming. He’s almost there. He’s coming out of the mirror for me and Marsh-Ayre is still stuck inside. We have to work out what Marsh-Ayre needs to do to get some kind of Path in the game of Tarot. He now has 47 points, and the Caterpillar-Oracle told him he needs to find the woman who’s most important to him. But he just seems totally bemused. Maybe if we try to communicate with him through stories, like you did before, that would work.

As for me, I’m going for a quick tube ride to calm down, to remind myself of what’s real. Only a few stops. I’ll be back soon.


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