Chapter 1:

Chapter One

Alice: Descent to Madness

The park was a quiet, serene place, the only sound being that of cicadas. Perhaps that was what appealed to Alice, who had spent the better half of the afternoon there, despite the haze of heat that still lingered in the air, even as the sky became streaked with orange and purple clouds that drifted aimlessly. Bookmark here

It was a lot later than she remembered it being, though. Bookmark here

Alice jolted at this realization, sitting up straight in the bench she had been reclining in. A book nearly slid off her lap, but her hands quickly came down and trapped it against her thighs. Bookmark here

"I zoned out, didn't I?" She groaned to no one in particular, rubbing her temples. "Lorina will have my head if I'm not home for dinner..." Bookmark here

The girl could imagine her older sister's tired face, those nagging words that followed an exasperated "Alice!" She could smell the tea on her breath, see the plates laid out on the aged table behind her, and hear their cat Dinah's purrs over the voices that came from their old TV. Bookmark here

It had become so very familiar to her- a hallmark of her life.Bookmark here

Sighing, Alice flopped back against the wooden bench, gazing up at the sky. It had darkened further, taking on a more violet hue as tiny pinpricks of light appeared within its expanse.Bookmark here

She slipped the fantasy book she had been trying to read beneath her head, folding her hands over her stomach and staring upwards for a few minutes. From the small apartment she lived in, the view of the twilight sky was nowhere nearly as beautiful, and she was already there to begin with- surely being just a few minutes later wouldn't make much of a difference in how she'd be reprimanded. Bookmark here

A cool, gentle breeze washed over the girl, further encouraging her to stay. The cicadas' song was just so sweet, and the bench seemed to grow more and more comfortable by the moment.Bookmark here

She didn't even realize it as her eyelids grew heavier, fluttering shut as she slowly dozed, drifting off to sleep. At first, it was a dreamless slumber, an empty void of silent darkness.Bookmark here

"Alice." She thought she heard a muffled voice. Bookmark here

She ignored it. Bookmark here

"Alice." It said, a bit more clearly this time, followed by a faint ticking sound. "You're going to be late." Bookmark here

Was she? Did it matter? The girl was too comfortable to care about a voice in her dream. She simply hoped it would stop interrupting her peace- and for a moment, the silence seemed to return.Bookmark here

"Alice, your time is up." Bookmark here

Her eyes shot open, staring up at the dark sky above her. It had become midnight blue, almost black. She could see the golden glow of streetlights in her peripheral as she began to sit up.Bookmark here

It had gotten so late- how could she have been so careless to sleep so long? Lorina would be furious with her- a dreadful thought. It was best to hurry home.Bookmark here

She turned, and her blood ran cold. Bookmark here

Someone was standing right in front of her. Bookmark here

He was tall, looming over the bench, his physique broad and sturdy-looking. His clothing was strangely formal- black trousers, a burgundy button-up shirt, and a charcoal grey waistcoat, adorned by a silver pocket watch. Bookmark here

Most disturbing of all, he wore a full head mask. It was large, furry, and pure white, extending into a small muzzle with a pink nose. Its eyes were large and beady, and a deep red color. Atop its head were two long white ears, standing to attention. She watched them twitch, and then the eyes blinked. Bookmark here

It was not a mask. Bookmark here

"Alice," The rabbit's lips moved horribly, inhumanly. "If you don't want to run out of time, you'd better start running." Bookmark here

Her gaze flickered downwards, to its hands. Bookmark here

It had a knife. Bookmark here

Gasping, Alice scrambled backwards, blue eyes blown wide and her heart racing. The rabbit stepped forward, raising its blade. Bookmark here

Run- she had to run. Bookmark here

A scream tore from her throat as she sprung up from the bench, dashing away from the creature. Bookmark here

"Run, Alice, run!" The White Rabbit taunted, huge feet pounding as it gave chase. Bookmark here

She ran faster, the grass crunching beneath her boots. Bookmark here

"Stay away!" Alice shrieked, dashing through the park. Her heart felt ready to burst. Bookmark here

What was that thing?! How did it know her?! Why was she being chased?!Bookmark here

"Your time is up! Your time is up!" It chanted, grinning sickeningly with long yellow teeth. Bookmark here

"Leave me alone!" She cried out, leaping over a bush and stumbling. "Help! Help me!" Bookmark here

But the park was empty. There was not a soul in sight. Bookmark here

Hot on her trail, the White Rabbit cackled at the girl's fearful pleas. It was gaining on her, and then there was a flash of silver. Bookmark here

"No!" She screamed. Bookmark here

Alice felt a sharp sting rip across the back of her arm, gasping and forcing herself to run faster. She clamped her hand to the cut, feeling warm blood pour out against her fingers. Bookmark here

"What a beautiful red!" It bellowed. Checking over her shoulder, she saw it stop, tongue darting out to graze the blade. Bookmark here

Its eyes bugged out, rolling back in its head. Its ears twitched, stretching and flexing. Bookmark here

Sick. It was so sickening. Bookmark here

Alice kept running, trying to put more distance between the creature and her. Her lungs burned, her heart beating faster than it ever had. Bookmark here

She couldn't die here. Bookmark here

The gate- if she could get out, she could find help. She needed to get out. She needed to escape. She had to.Bookmark here

Frantic tears pooled in her eyes as she ran, and with blurred vision, Alice tried to wipe them away, panting. Leaves crunched under her feet as she dashed through the dark park.Bookmark here

The gate was in sight. She was almost there- almost safe.Bookmark here

But then Alice heard a cackle behind her.Bookmark here

She watched as a shadow flew overhead, and just as she had skidded to a stop, the White Rabbit landed in her path, the ground seeming to rumble under its huge feet. It turned around to face her, almost leisurely, laughing cruelly as her eyes widened, her hope dying. Bookmark here

"What's wrong, Alice?!" The horrible voice shouted, mocking her. "Aren't you late?! Don't you need to hurry?!"Bookmark here

Alice's throat tightened, terror knotting her stomach. The reality of her fate struck her like a ton of bricks. Bookmark here

It was going to kill her. She was going to die.Bookmark here

If she had gone home earlier- if only she had- she never would've been in danger like this. Lorina- she would never be scolded by Lorina again. There'd never be more of those simple midnight snacks with hot tea. She'd never again watch her sister tend to the roses in their flowerbox, never see her tired face after a long day of work- nor would she see her warm, gentle brown eyes ever again. She'd never pet Dinah again- never again fall asleep with the cat curled up in her lap, and she would never hear her purr again. She'd never get to paint a mural on her bedroom walls, see her favorite band live in concert- she'd never find her calling in life. She’d never get married, buy a home, have the standard two and a half kids- live the modern suburban dream- nothing.Bookmark here

For Alice, her life ended there.Bookmark here

"Why are you doing this to me?!" She sobbed out, staggering back and clutching her arm. "Stay away!" Bookmark here

It chuckled, red eyes brimming with mirth as it ambled closer. Bookmark here

"My dear Alice, you needn't ask questions!" The White Rabbit opened its arms almost welcomingly, the silver blade glinting in the dim light. Bookmark here

"No! D-Don't come any closer!" Alice ordered, though her voice betrayed her and trembled in terror. She backed away faster and faster, not wanting to turn and let the rabbit out of her sight. Bookmark here

"You think you have a say in this?!" It growled, its aggression returning with those yellow teeth bared at her. "How obtuse can you be?!” Bookmark here

The White Rabbit lunged at her- a blur of color. Bookmark here

"No!" Alice cried out. Stepping back, she stumbled, her heel catching on a gnarled tree root. Bookmark here

Her back slammed against the uneven ground, the air instantly knocked from her lungs and pain shooting up her spine. Her body curled as she braced herself for the attack, arms flying up to shield her face. Bookmark here

Thump. Bookmark here

It landed and loomed over her, eyes narrowed and ears standing erect, its lips curled in a cruel sneer.Bookmark here

But the White Rabbit didn't attack.Bookmark here

Instead, it seized ahold of her legs, dragging her away as if she were in a bodybag. Grass rustled in her ear and bark scratched her skin. Bookmark here

Alice quickly snapped out of her state of shock, squirming and thrashing in its grip. She tried to kick it, fighting for her freedom.Bookmark here

"Let go!" Bookmark here

But her legs were bound together, caged between the rabbit's arm and torso. Even as she desperately grasped at clumps of grass in a vain attempt to anchor herself, nothing she did slowed it down. The blades of grass simply tore and slipped through her fingers.Bookmark here

"Give up, Alice! Late or not, you're coming with me!" Bookmark here

Feeling her legs drop lower, Alice turned back towards the White Rabbit, who now appeared to be waist-deep in the ground. Bookmark here

"Wha-?!" She was yanked again, harder. The rabbit sank lower, and Alice's knees were hanging over the edge of a hole. Bookmark here

A chasm.Bookmark here

"Here we go!" It announced gleefully. Bookmark here

With one more tug, the soil crumbled beneath her. She screamed, and the two of them went plummeting down the rabbit hole.Bookmark here

Down. Down. Down. Bookmark here

She could only watch as the entrance to the hole got smaller and smaller and smaller as they fell, like a rapidly shrinking eye, until soon, she could no longer see the outside world.Bookmark here

Alice couldn't stop her scream, desperately clawing at the air for something- anything- to stop herself from plunging further down, but her fingers closed around nothing and the fall lasted longer than her voice did.Bookmark here

The speed at which they fell blurred the dark dirt walls around them, and the wind was a shrill whistle in her ears, blasting back her hair and making her eyes painfully dry. It was almost enough to overwhelm her senses- her pounding heart pummeled her ribcage.Bookmark here

The rabbit hole wasn't empty, though. Bookmark here

It was filled with furniture and household objects- lamps, chairs, books, tables, and even pots and pans. A jewelry box whizzed by her head, just barely missing it.Bookmark here

She felt a hand tug on her ankle, something starting to climb up her leg.Bookmark here

"Isn't this a great fall, Alice?!" Bookmark here

Her gaze instantly dropped, only to see the horrible, grinning face of the White Rabbit below her. In its hand was the knife, glinting dangerously. Bookmark here

"Get off me!" She swung her foot, kicking the creature in the face. It let out a yelp of surprise, and even Alice was somewhat shocked by what she had done.Bookmark here

Then it sank its teeth into her shin with animalistic fury, a sharp agony tearing through her leg. Bookmark here

"Ow! Fuck, that hurts!" Bookmark here

She slammed her boot against its head, harder and harder and more relentlessly until it released her, spitting out torn pieces of her striped stockings and flesh. Bookmark here

"You want to be difficult?!" It seethed with blood-stained lips. "Fine- you asked for it!" Bookmark here

The White Rabbit flipped mid-air, kicking at her with its huge feet and sending her crashing into a bookshelf. Her skull slammed against the wooden case of stories, and its contents began spilling out. A hardcover book landed on her head- on an already-sore spot. Bookmark here

"Ow!"Bookmark here

Trying to fend them off with its feet, the rabbit wasn't spared from the onslaught of falling novels either. Books struck them both, covering them in soon-to-be bruises.Bookmark here

Gritting her teeth and bearing the pain, Alice seized a table lamp from the air, hurling it down at the creature. It shattered against a nearby grandfather clock, the shards of porcelain raining down dangerously. Bookmark here

They were falling faster now- everything was even more of a blur.Bookmark here

"Augh!"Bookmark here

Before she could grab another weapon-substitute, loose playing cards went flying into her face, startling the girl and blinding her. Gasping, she frantically tried to swat them away.Bookmark here

Just as she managed to shake them off, she and the White Rabbit were face-to-face once again. Bookmark here

"I've had enough of you!" Bookmark here

It snatched her by the throat with one hand, raising its knife to strike.Bookmark here

Alice's eyes widened, her airflow cut off. Gasping for breath, she clung to its wrist and held tight, fighting to stop it from coming down on her. The rabbit squeezed her throat even tighter, and even as she wheezed and struggled, the knife came closer and closer to her own body. Bookmark here

"You can't stall any longer, Alice!" The White Rabbit declared, glaring with furious red eyes. "Bringing you alive doesn't matter anymore! I'm dealing with you- once and for all!"Bookmark here

Tears and dark spots distorting her vision, she clawed at its arm, gritting her teeth as she brought her knees to her chest, trying to put her legs between both their bodies.Bookmark here

Then she kicked down- as hard as she could- and let go. Bookmark here

"You-!"Bookmark here

Its grip on her neck slipped, but as she managed to kick it off, the White Rabbit slashed at her. As it plunged downwards, the blade sliced her clavicle, pain ripping through her flesh.Bookmark here

Panting as she pressed a hand to the bleeding wound, Alice's eyes widened as she realized how fast she was falling now- the ground was in sight, growing closer and closer.Bookmark here

The impact would surely kill her.Bookmark here

Before Alice could gasp or cry out, something yanked her back, breaking her fall.Bookmark here

Stunned, her breath was caught in her throat. She was still alive- miraculously so- and dangled midair.Bookmark here

The White Rabbit continued to tumble down the rabbit hole even faster, flipping and colliding with a suit of armor, and the low, metallic sound reverberated throughout the abyss. Bookmark here

Down. Down. Down. Bookmark here

The pieces had broken apart- the helmet, breastplate, and everything that made up the limbs- they were a jumbled mess, loudly crashing to the ground. Bookmark here

And the spear, it was- Bookmark here

There was a distinct, wet sound, like skewering meat. The White Rabbit gasped, and so did she. Bookmark here

A metallic scent filled the air. Bookmark here

"God!" Alice's eyes were wide, her hands coming up to cover her mouth, as she stared down at the grisly sight. Bookmark here

The White Rabbit's red eyes were bulging out of its head, mouth hanging open in shock and agony. Laying supine, its limbs were splayed out like those of a doll, before squirming and thrashing about.Bookmark here

But the most horrifying part was the blood. There was so much blood. It spattered its furry white face, staining its waistcoat and the glinting head of the spear, gliding down the pointed, heart-like tip, where it had impaled the White Rabbit's stomach. Bookmark here

She felt like she was going to be sick, watching as it writhed in pain and anguish, before going very still. Bookmark here

It remained quite still. Bookmark here

Breathing heavily, her heart throbbed painfully in her chest, and her stomach churned. Bookmark here

Alice peered back at where she hung- on a wooden coat rack- shakily reaching up to try to unhook her suspender strap from the peg it had gotten caught on. Bookmark here

After a few failed attempts, she pulled hard enough in the right direction to free herself, and fell forward.Bookmark here

She hit the ground hard, and received a face full of dirt. Bookmark here

"Ugh..." Coughing and groaning, Alice slowly sat up, trying to wipe her face and blow the dust out of her nose. Her body ached, her wounds and throat throbbing. Bookmark here

As she lifted her head, she was met with the gruesome sight of the dead White Rabbit. It was bleeding heavily and steadily, a sea of red pooling on the ground. Its eyes were wide and glazed over, staring straight through her soul. Bookmark here

Alice shuddered, feeling ill again. Before she could look away, small red round shapes began to pour from the large gash in its stomach, and she gasped in horror.Bookmark here

Then the creature began to decay- before her very eyes. Bookmark here

"What?!" The girl scrambled back, jaw dropping. Bookmark here

The White Rabbit, bloody waistcoat and all, crumbled away into a cluster of rose petals, until nothing of its being was left- not even a claw or tooth. Bookmark here

In its place, one thing remained, glinting in the dirt next to the spear. Bookmark here

Alice slowly crept closer, holding her breath. She extended a shaking hand towards it, her fingers closing around cold metal. Bookmark here

She picked it up, staring down at the uncanny object. Bookmark here

The White Rabbit's pocket watch. Bookmark here

Cased in silver with a long, delicate chain, it was hauntingly beautiful, its dial so clear that Alice could see her terror-stricken, disheveled reflection in it. Bookmark here

TikTikTikTikTikTikBookmark here

As if she had twisted the crown, the watch's hands started moving backwards. Bookmark here

Fearfully, she dropped it, springing back. Bookmark here

Had the White Rabbit planned for this?! Was it about to self-destruct?! Was she about to die?! Bookmark here

She pressed herself against the wall, squeezing her eyes shut and bracing herself for an explosion. Bookmark here

But nothing ever came.Bookmark here

The pocket watch merely slowed down, winding no more. It would seem almost normal, if not for how its hands moved counterclockwise. Bookmark here

Alice stared at it for a moment longer, hesitating before scooping it back up to see the time. Bookmark here

9:18 Bookmark here

The reality of the situation came crashing down on her- after falling asleep in the park, she was chased by a strange, knife-wielding rabbit-headed creature and dragged down a miles-long hole. She had wrestled with the rabbit midair while dodging furniture, and watched it die a horrible death, before disintegrating into rose petals. Bookmark here

"I'm...gonna go crazy..." She breathed out, her voice trembling. "I-I gotta get out of here..." Bookmark here

The girl numbly attached the silver chain to her waistband, the watch resting securely against her hip. Sparing a look around her surroundings, there was only one path to take- a single corridor pointing straight ahead. Bookmark here

Alice shut her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath before beginning to walk forward. Bookmark here

After what she'd just been through, she could only hope that this strange place would take mercy on her, that she'd be able to make it back home in one piece. Bookmark here

How likely was that? She wasn't certain. Bookmark here

All she could be sure of was that the watch had stopped ticking. The corridor had fallen silent. Bookmark here

"...Looks like I'm out of time." Alice laughed dryly, humorlessly. Bookmark here

It seemed this world was already rubbing off on her. Bookmark here

How dreadful.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.