♠ ♠ ♠
Zuria took me to her home so we could discuss the incredible nonsense she threw at me in a private place. If you ask me, a desolated flower and mushroom field should have been private enough, but, whatever.
She walked a few steps back with me through the field and showed me another hole in the ground, telling me that’s where she came from.
I thought that, because of the rain, Wonderland residents had taken to the underground to live. To me that’s what made sense.
But then she explained to me why that was not possible.
She said that, unlike my flat world (I didn’t correct her on the “flat” thing because it was funny as hell), Wonderland was actually shaped like a spiral; rather, a conical spring, starting from the wider side which was the flower field we were on and from there it spirals down until who knows where.
Digging down the dirt deep enough to create a sizable home would only lead the hole somewhere else in Wonderland.
Just like how Earth’s roundness is too big to perceive, the same could be said for the shape of this land, although the way the holes worked made absolutely no sense to me.
The residents use different holes through the land to reach different places on the spiral, and you always go down a hole, even if you’re trying to reach a plane further up from where you are, like magic.
Beyond the land there’s nothing but a vast sea. I wasn’t entirely sure I could picture it without a reference, so she said she’d show me a map once we got to her place.
The geography of the place wasn’t really important at this point, but it would be, once the giant crystals appeared and whenever we had to travel somewhere else.
I experienced this first-hand when we made the trip down the hole to Zuria’s home.
We fell down at an incredibly slow pace, as if we had invisible parachutes attached to our backs.
The walls around us weren’t made of dirt; they had bookshelves as far down as the eye could see. It made me wonder who even had the time to climb up and find a book under these conditions.
It was stupid as hell.
When we reached the bottom, a cozy room awaited us.
It looked like the inside of a cabin, which reminded me of the last place I was in before coming here.
A nice, lit hearth was gently crackling in the middle. A faint smell of vanilla filled the air, and I could hear a teapot brewing from behind a slightly open wooden door to the side—probably where the kitchen was.
It was all illuminated by candles and some dim lamps that sort of looked like distorted clocks—as if someone had grabbed a clock made of dough and shaped it in the form of a lamp. That’s the best way I could describe them.
Near the hearth were two armchairs with thick cushions, and a small table with some open books and an empty tea cup separated them both.
Zuria gestured towards one of the chairs. I sat down and glared at her as she took a seat on the other one.
“...Okay. Explain to me once again this ‘become Alice’ shit. And why do we have to be all secret about it?”
She adjusted her glasses a little flustered at how quickly I broke the question.
“Um, well...first of all, would you like some tea?”
“O-Okay, then. Tea snacks?”
“You’re my guest, I insist.”
“We’re not friends, bunny girl. I’m not here for a tea party. I want to go back home!”
She looked away in silence.
Ooh, that made me so mad.
“Did you hear what I said!?” I slapped the armrest. “HEY!!”
I could tell she was startled.
“...I’m sorry. You just...”
Without turning her head towards me, her gaze followed me from the corner of her eye.
“...You just look so much like her…”
I deflated into the back of the chair, crossing my arms.
“..Yeah, well. We’re twins. That’s usually how it goes.”
“And that’s precisely why I think this might work…”
“What are you talking about?”
She straightened herself up before speaking again.
“If we convince people you’re the real Alice, we could go through the land gathering the other Spades while we look for the real one in the meantime. We don’t have much time to waste before the next Downpour…”
“What the hell, man. No one’s gonna believe I’m my sister!”
“You look the same…”
“Hello!? You’ve met her, right!? She’s nothing like me! Plus, she hates me! She hates me so much she dyed her hair blond so we wouldn’t have the same hair color and people wouldn’t immediately know we’re twins!”
“That’s not true. She would never do that.”
“Well, what other reason could there be!?”
“Girls don’t need a reason to dye their hair…”
“They don’t, but my sister sure as hell didn’t do it just because!”
“I can see talking to you about her doesn’t really go anywhere. You have quite a skewed view of Alice, after all.”
“Oh, shut up. You only knew her for a year. I’ve known her all my life. I think my opinion of her is way more valid than yours.”
“You’re free to think that, Allen.”
I looked away, huffing.
I hate it when people say my sister isn’t a bad person. They don’t know her like I did. She always got our parents’ attention over me because she was manipulative as hell, and it felt like no one ever realized except me.
“The Alice Spade,” Zuria said, “is usually beautiful. The White Rabbit Spade assigned to Alice that decade is the one that chooses them, and once the choice has been locked in, they reveal a picture of the new hero in the middle of town for all to see, and to hopefully get other Spades interested in joining.”
“...So that means…”
“That means people already know what she looks like, yes.”
I uncrossed my arms and leaned forward.
“So that’s why you want me to pretend to be her.”
“You’re the only one that could, Allen.”
...Ugh. I hated that she was right.
More importantly, I hated that I was considering this.
I scratched my head, sighing.
“I just gotta pretend, and you swear no one will ever find out? ‘Cause that shit’s embarrassing, y’know.”
“Oh, of course no one will find out! We can’t afford to have anyone know! It would be all over! I don’t like that I have to lie like this, but if it’s for the good of Wonderland, I don’t see any other choice.”
Huh. The fact that she was willing to keep my secret and help me keep others from finding out who I really was actually made me feel better.
But she was avoiding eye contact.
And fiddling with her ears like she did last time before spilling the beans about this. It made me think there was still something she was keeping from me.
“...What is it, now?”
“Well. It’s true no one should ever know, but there is one person we have to tell, no matter what.”
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
Zuria looked at me with some guilt for a second, before standing up to go get it without answering my question.