20160823

Texas Fontanella


Down Through The Library Chute
Stuck as I am, I can’t help but wonder
Why I sit and seldom wander
To linger longer or lumber yonder?

Trapped between these pages plenty
Forever twelve and never twenty
The sense is gone, the meaning empty

Questions elude understanding
But darn it! They can be demanding
So on what literateau are you standing?

Vast numbers of different theories
All bring up even more queries
My confusion grows until it wearies

But if you stop and if you think
Then you will see a common link
The one who put their thought to ink.

Emily was getting tired of sitting by her sister on the park bench. She had little to entertain herself with; a few times she took a peek at the book her sister was reading, but found the language of the book somewhat stupid, just a tad too ridiculous. She also had a problem with the illustrations. The girl depicted looked odd and old-timey, wore weird, old-fashioned clothes.

‘What is the point of a book,’ thought Emily, ‘if it is but a bunch of outdated nonsense?’

Turning away from her sister, Emily spied a sandpit. She wondered, (as best she could in the undesirable heat), whether or not going that far would be worth the effort, when she saw a little girl wearing a pinafore run around from behind the bench and off into the distance.

There was nothing out of the ordinary in such a display. Nor did Emily think it so very unprecedented to hear her rabbit on in a fashion so fitting for a fool, muttering, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! Where could he be?! Where could my Author be? Oh dear!’

Afterwards, it occurred to Emily that this was not the most conventional thing one could witness and that she ought to have wondered about the queer way this scene was unfolding. But once she realized that it was the girl from her sisters book, Emily started on her feet, for a thought flashed across her mind - never before had she seen the character from a book in real life.

‘How on earth am I to catch up with her?’ she thought. ‘Having read that nonsense book would’ve been helpful – then I would know her name.’

It was then that what would be a simple thought to most (and I hope the reader is, like the Author, part of this cohort) struck her. She could simply go back to her dearest sister and find out.

So she doubled doubled back and seized the book, much to her sister’s annoyance.

‘Hey. What the-’

Emily held it up.

‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’

‘Aaaaaalliiicceeee! Stop! Stop! Wait, just wait!’ screamed Emily. She threw the book down.

‘I’m dobbing!’

And ran the park to find Alice, not once contemplating how she would find her way back to her sister.

Moments later, Emily spied Alice. And only a short distance away. She, Alice, was looking around, clearly consumed by confusion. However, her confusion could not compare Emily’s, who’d noticed something strange, something unnatural.

Alice looked as though she were ripped right from the page of a book. Oh yes, oh yes! I deceive you not, for Emily had a firm grasp on what one would call sanity. In fact, from what I understand and have thus far written, Emily is one of the few featuring any common sense around here, and even she saw that Alice looked like a picture, a simulation, albeit one possessing a powerfully potent projection of 3-dimensionality. It was most queer, she decided, that Alice managed to look so very two dimensional but so strikingly three dimensional at the same time… 2-D or not 2-D? That was the question. (But with such a question, more arise. If not 2-D what is she? Could she be 1-D, or even 4-D? We clearly aren’t restricted to 3-D. Emily, like all humans, sees only in 3-D. So how would she know what 2-D things look like in a 3-D world? )

But let us suppose that such was “the” question. Emily did, and in doing so, had reality slide away from her. For one moment it was there (those moments before she saw Alice), giving her security and support, yet it disappeared a moment later. And thus she fell from the dizzying heights of sanity down to the depraved depths of insanity, no longer capable of differentiating reality and its antithesis. But really, what’s the difference?

‘Excuse me, Madam,’ started Alice politely, ‘this will sound strange - so please don’t be too taken aback, for I did warn you. But…. oh, how do I say this without sounding crazy?’

‘Well, you could say it in English. That generally helps. And if not, you could try French,’ replied Emily.

‘No, no, no. You see, language is not the problem,’ confessed Alice, ‘but rather what I’m trying to express.’

Alice, so full of youthful arrogance and naivety, believed she could, despite being a child (and a fictional one at that), adequately articulate all she wanted to say. But evidently this was not so.

She sighed. Then spoke: ‘Okay. I’ll tell you. But do you promise to believe me?’

Emily nodded politely. What else could she do?

‘Alright. I’m looking for my Author.’

It’s one thing to see reality slide away from you, but another to be consumed by the surreal. Emily’s world was becoming overrun, overpopulated by total madness, by some kind of crazed unreality. Amidst her haze of confusion and vague, useless attempts to understand the unbelievable things that kept happening to her, Emily found herself speechless. However, her mother did say that if one has nothing nice to say, one should say nothing. But it didn’t seem to fit this situation, just didn’t seem true in this instance.

‘Uhm… That’s quite an unbelievable tale you’ve got there. I’m not too sure I can stomach it!’

‘Oh, goodness me!” exclaimed Alice. ‘Whatever are you on about? I haven’t a tail, and, if I did, I surely wouldn’t let you eat it!’

‘No, no, no!’ said Emily. ‘I meant “tale” as in a story, not a tail like what a rat or a monkey has.’

‘Why, I shall have you know that it isn’t a story at all, it’s all true. As true as the sky is blue,’ she declared.

Emily rolled her eyes. But her frustration was lackluster compared to Alice’s.

Which was only natural, I suppose. For Alice was dealing with the most complicated and confusing questions ever encountered: why am I here and where am I going?

‘Alright,’ continued Emily, ‘Let’s assume for a second I believe you. Why do you want to find your Author? What’s the point?’

Growing agitated, Alice barked: ‘For goodness sake! You’re a silly one, aren’t you? To find out how my story finishes, understand just who I am! Why else?’

Emily stood in silence. Thoughts flurried through her head like a flock of birds fleeing a feeding frenzy. Finally, she spoke up.

‘So then is the Author the reason for everything, ever?’

Alice looked shocked. Emily had voiced the words on the very tip of her tongue, given life to a thought she’d been unable to articulate. However, Emily didn’t see the religious, godlike connotations of her statement.

At this point, (“this point” being a convenient point in time for such an event), Emily noticed a church in the distance. The gears in her head turned, cycling through ideas until common sense clicked into place. The Author was a God.

‘Alice, if the Author knows everything about you, which I reckon he must, because he wrote you and invented you and stuff, well… he’d be like a God, right?’

‘Yes, I think that could be so,’ she said, after some thought.

Alice would have to find her Author, Emily realized. His power and influence clearly defined all meaning, a fact I’d thought self-evident.

Emily told Alice this. And so Alice decided she must mean something important after all. I mean, any work comparable to a blooming spring emerging from a barren waste must be rather important. The work of transcendental genius, a work of the profoundest originality! But of course, neither girl had the foggiest idea how they might find the Author in question.
A voice interjects intermittently
Disrupting thoughts quite suddenly
With questions of the literary

Her Author, Carroll, gone or not?
When in his grave he doth rot
No longer present, but not forgot

This time as well, the same applies
But his meaning dons disguise
And presently, I apologize



For connecting meaning straight to me
Is, alas, unfortunately
Relying upon a fallacy

When what I mean, I may miss
You cannot say, “the Author meant this!”
Otherwise, why have analysis?

Watch as it splits apart from the whole
Meaning goes down the rabbit hole
Further from common sense’s control.
Emily and Alice deliberated what to do, then decided the logical place to begin searching was the library. The idea made Alice uneasy. She feared she would shock people, for traditionally she was only the product of one’s imagination. What if their minds suddenly snapped, crackled and popped and spiraled into madness upon seeing her? It could happen.

It was due to these anxieties that Alice entered the library the way all fictional characters should; through the book return slot.

The slot initially appeared straight like a conventional tunnel. But then it spiraled down suddenly. So suddenly, in fact, that neither girl had time to stop themselves, to grasp the walls for support, before they fell down what resembled a very deep well. Perhaps they fell slowly, or perhaps the book return slot was very deep indeed, for Emily and Alice had plenty of time as they fell further and further down to look around, to ponder the next scene.

‘Oh dear, here we go again,’ Alice said, blase. The whole situation left her underwhelmed. She’d already been there, done that.

The never-ending book return slot was filled with cupboards and shelves. Books filled the shelves and crockery the cupboards.

Alice thought this farcical. ‘Who could read here? The pages would blow everywhere!’

Naturally, Emily hadn’t thought so far ahead. And fueled by curiosity, (which would surely be a problem for the plot were she a cat and not a little girl), she stretched her arms out as far as she could. But alas, it was no use. She couldn’t reach any of the books. She was wishing she could elongate her limbs at will when a book jumped out from one of the passing shelves and flew towards the girls. Perhaps this book possessed consciousness, perhaps not.

Emily caught it. The Death of the Author, the book was called.

But she was disappointed to discover it was an essay, not a whodunit. Because she was too considerate to drop it, (‘What if the pages ripped and scattered everywhere?’), she instead held it firmly.

Meanwhile, Alice examined her nails, utterly enthralled. But there was a part of her that wondered what all Emily’s fussing and bothering was about.

                Down.

                               Down.

                                              Down.

‘Well!’ declared Emily, now uncomfortable with Alice’s silence her only company, ‘we’ve fallen quite a remarkable distance, haven’t we? Shall this fall ever come to an end? I find it remarkable that we’ve fallen so far down a book return slot. How is that possible?’

She’d never read Alice in Wonderland, but had seen the movie adaptation that butchered that beautiful book. She thought herself clever. Her teachers agreed, though such a statement understates disparities between their views and her own. Regardless, she couldn’t help but notice similarities between this lengthy fall and the fall Alice faced in her original story. And she was quite right to do so.

                Down.

                               Down.

                                              Down.

                                                             Down.

                                                                            Down.

                                                                                           Down.

Emily was sure the fall would never end, whereas Alice knew that even if it were to take a while, it would end nevertheless. Everything does, has to.

Then, as though an omniscient figure anticipated our characters’ boredom, a humungous and hefty book - a combined encyclopedia and dictionary - came crashing down on poor Alice’s head.

Wump!

‘Oww!’

Thump! Thud!

Alice and Emily tumbled down onto a heap of books and paper. And so their fall ended.

The former’s head ached from the book that had fallen on her. The latter, however, was not hurt a bit, and leapt to her feet in no time at all. She looked up, but struggled to see anything but darkness. So she looked down instead. At first the floor seemed to be covered in strange, asymmetrical tiles, each a different colour. But when she bent over and inspected them closely, it became clear they were books. Then she realized she was still holding that essay she’d plucked from the shelf. Delicately, she placed it on a nearby shelf. Alice groaned, murmured, a pile of discontent limbs on the floor.

She said, ‘Gosh. What a terrible idea this was. I wish we’d entered this place in a more conventional manner. Surely no Author would admit to writing me in the state I am in now… What a fussy and whiny character they’d think I’ve become! I guess I should’ve taken more care, should’ve clung to his writings.’

‘Hush your whining,’ Emily interrupted.’You’re very cynical, Alice, did you know that? Besides, look over there.’

She pointed towards the opposite end of the long corridor. The corridor was so long that Emily was unable to see where it ended.

‘What am I meant to be looking at, exactly?’ asked Alice, who was a) quite upset by Emily’s rudeness and b) saw nothing untoward about the corridor.

‘There’s nothing there,’ she continued.

Emily face-palmed. Then, reluctantly, she explained.

‘It seems to shrink. How could you miss that?’

Agitated by her hoity-toity attitude, Alice smugly pointed out that ‘of course it would look smaller at the other end of the corridor,’ that it must be ‘a trick of the eye’, and that this was something ‘anyone who ever inspected an artwork should know.’

‘Oh yeah?’

‘Oh yeah. It’s called perspiration. It’s especially important in art.’

(Alice was completely ignorant of the fact that the word she was searching for was “perspective” and that “perspiration” merely refers to fluid excreted by sweat glands.)

She began walking down the corridor to prove her point. Because it meant she was wrong, she quite surprised when her head collided with the ceiling only a few paces in.

‘Oh dear, it would appear you were quite right after all...’ said Alice. ‘Oh dear! I wonder where this strange place leads.”

She moved onto her hands and knees and crawled down the corridor, then beckoned Emily to follow suit.

They crawled and crawled and crawled, until the books strewn across the floor were behind them, and until the ceiling and the floor became too close together for them to crawl any further.

Then Alice looked up. The corridor still stretched on endlessly, but when she strained her eyes she could faintly make out a sign on the door on the other side.

The sign read: ‘Beware. Genius at work.’

‘That’s odd,’ started Alice, ‘for what kind of genius would be so small? And why should we beware someone so small?’

Frightened by the strangeness she faced in this queer place, Emily scurried away back to the larger side of the corridor.

‘I want to go home, I want go home!’ she cried.

And so quickly did she scurry along backwards on all fours, that she failed to notice the tiny table now behind her, so she soon found herself tumbling over it and onto her head.

Thud!

‘Ouch!’

Cling!Clang!

‘This place is all wrong. Everything is all topsy turvy!’

Alice also moved back to the larger side of the corridor, helped her frightened friend back to her feet, dabbed away the tears welling up in her eyes with her dress.

It was as she helped her up that Alice noticed the small bottle next to Emily’s feet. It was certainly not there when they first went past. However, it did explain the cling-clang that sounded as Emily tripped over. Around the neck of the bottle was a paper label. ‘Do not drink me’ it said in obscurely sized letters. ‘Not for human consumption.’

‘Do you think it’s poison? It’s poison, isn’t it?’ asked Emily, because she had enough common-sense to think it a bad idea to drink anything that explicitly stated it shouldn’t be consumed.

Alice, however, had dealt with just enough equally bizarre situations and weirdly labeled bottles to know that it would surely not be life threatening. And so Alice said: ‘Nope. I think that it would be absolutely okay to drink. It must be reverse psychology. Why fill up a bottle with a liquid if not to drink it? We can only not drink it, if we entertain the possibility of drinking it. It’s surely a test. If it’s purpose has nothing to do with it’s consumption, then why mention anything about drinking it to begin with? Let alone on the bottle itself! Pah! So really, I have no option but to drink it!’
She grabbed the bottle, ripped out the cork and took a sip.

‘Oh!’ she exclaimed.

‘What?!’ asked Emily, assuming the worst.

Alice took another sip, and said ‘Oh!’ said once more.

‘What? What!? What?!’ yelled Emily.

‘It’s reeaal tasty.’

Then a brief silence passed over them, which they spent exchanging awkward glances. Emily expected something horrible to happen to Alice.

‘Perhaps she shall grow and grow and grow, until she is as tall as a building. Or perhaps she will shrink down to the size of a mouse, which would surely be frightening, as so easily squish could people you under their feet, if you were that small,’ she thought.

They were fairly close to accepting the drink’s normality when the rumbling began.

Alice said: ‘I feel a bit light-headed, maybe I should lie down…’

And all of a sudden there was a terrible roar, and the walls began to shake and rattle in the wind that flew down the corridor towards the tiny door, which looked much more frightening than it did before.

And a voice was screaming; ‘Holy moly! What are you creatures?’

Then all went quiet. The small door opened and Lewis Carroll peered through it, to see what all the fuss was about.

‘What on earth are these girls doing here?’ he muttered to himself. Only one of his eyes were visible to the girls, enormous through the tiny frame. The rest of his face remained obscured by the walls surrounding the small door.

‘I knew you shouldn’t’ve drunk from that bottle,’ said Emily. ‘This is total madness.’

Alice cried: ‘So what? Who cares? Look at that goshdarn eye...’ but at the same time Carroll was ranting and raving: ‘What are you doing here?’

So poor Emily, trying to decipher what each was on about, could only decipher: ‘Oh, Emily, are you that I?’ And this was a difficult question for her to answer. She wasn’t even yet aware of the eye, so she just sat there, dazed and confused, trying in vain to figure out which “I” she was being asked if she was. And, what’s more, trying to figure out what was wrong with Alice’s voice. How had the strange drink caused her tone to drop so majorly? She was glad she hadn’t drunk from it, but she did wish that she’d stayed at the park with her dull, older sister.

It was then that Emily noticed the eye.

‘What the flip?’ she cried, then jumped back in terror. The eye focused on her. It widened suddenly like a diverging train track, stared her down. Then the rumbling noises began again. Emily heard a strange banging and then a clanging down the corridor.

A voice boomed: ‘Juvenile delinquents! I don’t believe it. Who are you? Do you know Dodgson? You don’t, do you?’

‘Dodgson? Dodgson who?” shouted Emily. She slowly backed further away from the tiny side of the corridor.

Meanwhile, Alice crouched quietly behind a tower of books.

‘If you don’t know Dodgson, then why are you here?’

She looked back guiltily at Emily, who hadn’t found the time to hide.

Uneasy silence followed. Almost awkward. A silence that harked back to the simpler days of primary school, a silence generally followed by the frightening voice of an overzealous teacher, who screams (in a stress-induced state of madness) that so-and-so has ‘done the Wrong Thing!’

Emily was quite accustomed to such silence, having caused a few herself. But no big, booming voices broke this silence. No. Instead the silence was broken by the soft pitter-patter of footsteps and the gentle creak-creak-creaking of an old door opening.

This anticlimax left both girls startled and Alice knocked over the tower of books. They hadn’t noticed the door until now, so distracted by the other door were they. This door was much larger than the other, and stood only a few steps behind the pair.

Around they turned, frightful and anxious. Creak, creak, moan. The door opened further and further. The shadows around the door were long and dark. A lanky silhouette danced across the floor, its hands long and claw-like. Closer and closer it edged, loomed.

Then the original figure entered the light.

A short, stout and scruffily dressed man stood in the doorway. His face was long and drooped downwards. He’d adorned it with a pair of oversized coke-bottle glasses. The kind Buddy Holly wore, though this pair seemed far too large and wide for such a skinny face. They made him resemble a beetle. His name was Charles Dodgson.

He narrowed his eyes, peered curiously at the two girls.

Very politely, he said: ‘And just who exactly do you think you two are? And, what’s more, why are you here? This is my private library, and only guests I‘ve invited are allowed!’

A terrible, ghastly silence followed.

Dodgson looked away from the two girls, and over towards the door at the opposite end.

Both girls expected him to be shocked by the weird eye peering through the door, perhaps even scared. They followed his gaze. The door was shut. The eye and voice gone. Evidently he knew something they didn’t. Or so they thought. But the door was just the entrance to Lewis Carroll’s room. Nothing more, nothing less.

Alice was overwhelmed and confused, as she always seems to be.

‘Hey, scuse me, but I need some help. I’m looking for my Author. Who are you? Can you help?’

She spoke loud and clear to stress the urgency.

Emily’s eyes darted about.

Dodgson raised a single eyebrow, cupped his hands, and said to Alice: ‘Isn’t the real question - who are you?’

‘Me?’ asked Alice

‘Yes.’

‘I’m Alice,’ she said.

‘Alice who? You have to have more than one name. I know an Alice. She’s lovely,’ he said.

‘Uh…What do you mean? I’m just Alice,’ she replied.

‘Well hey, Just Alice, I’m Charles Dodgson. How you doin?’

‘Gosh-goddamn-darn it!’ interrupted a clearly irritated Emily. ‘Can someone tell me what in the blazes is going on here? This is the most whacked library I’ve ever been to. Someone get me out of here! Or at least explain! Explain just what it is that’s going on...That door, for example. The one at the end. What the heck is that? And the eye! The eye! And that awful voice. So omniscient, intolerable and loud!’

(Emily was unaware that once again, she had chosen the incorrect word. She meant ‘ominous.’)

She was about to continue ranting and raving, when Alice interjected.

‘Stop it. I think you forget that this isn’t about you. It’s about me. I’m trying to find my -’

‘Oh, shut up, you. I just want to know what’s going on!’

‘Oh, and you think I don’t? Surely you realize that’s ridiculous.’
‘Well, I’m also here. I was just trying to help you when I was unexpectedly roped into this madness. By you, may I add.’

‘Quiet. In. The. Library,’ Dodgson interrupted. ‘Even as children you should be aware that one is quiet in a library.’

He pointed at Emily.

‘You. Just Alice’s friend. You’re far too loud. You will have to leave unless you maintain socially acceptable behavior. I am a man of few rules, and so the only behavioral prerequisite I ask you to adhere to is the one where you shut up and leave me alone while in my library.’

His words made her rage: ‘I don’t care. Just tell me what the heck is going on. Then I’ll happily leave!’

Then she pointed out that the corridor got smaller and smaller, and that whatever was in that room was yelling a lot and frightening the living daylights out of both herself and Alice.

‘We’re the only ones acting normally around here at all, see!’

‘That’s Lewis Carroll’s room. The corridor gets smaller and smaller because he gets bigger and bigger. Anyway, consider this your final warning. Be quiet or leave. I don’t like to disturb Carroll,’ he said, matter-of-factly. Then he added: ‘Oh. And he‘s a genius, in case you didn’t know. So it’s very important that you leave him alone.’

Alice, being the polite girl she is, asked, in what was barely more than a whisper, what it was that made him a genius.

‘He writes books,’ he replied.

‘What sort of books?’ asked Alice.

It was clear that neither girl thought a genius would waste his time like that.

‘Children’s books,’ he said. ‘Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass. Perhaps there is more, but I‘m not too sure. He is wonderful and he is gifted but he is also quite tragically insane.’

A luminous lightbulb fell from above, and for a split-second it was as though Emily was a cartoon character who’d just had an idea.

Then, of course, the lightbulb smashed to the floor and sprayed broken glass everywhere.
‘AHH!’ both girls shouted. Dodgson let it slide.

Then Emily’s metaphoric lightbulb popped up, still in one piece.

‘Alice, that’s your book! That’s it. I’m sure of it. My sister was reading it when you ran past. I remember having looking at the picture... Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland… Carroll must be your Author!’

‘You’re both mad,’ said Dodgson, “I mean, get a grip on reality, girls. And get out of my library. Neither of you are welcome any longer.’

‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.

‘You must be,’ said Dodgson, ‘why would you be here otherwise?’

Alice didn’t see how this proved her mad. However, before she could articulate an argument to the contrary, Dodgson scampered away. Alice, by now desensitized to all things weird and wonderful, thought there nothing particularly odd about this. Nor did she think it without precedent to hear Dodgson say to himself, over and over again, ‘Oh dear, oh dear, I must be mad. Be mad I must. Must I be mad?’

He disappeared through the door from which he had originally entered. The girls followed.

They entered another long corridor. They appeared about halfway between each end. Doors of all shapes and sizes lined the walls, which were in turn adorned with books, books, and even more books. Alice had the feeling that every book ever written could be found in this labyrinth.

But where had Dodgson gone?

The new corridor was exactly unlike the last in a single way. This corridor became bigger and bigger the further on it went. Neither girl understood how this worked.

‘If it gets bigger and bigger, surely it gets smaller and smaller from the other end,’ said Alice.

‘True.’

A broken mirror decorated the door which Alice closed. Pieces of it lay shattered on the ground. She stood, looked at her fractured reflection. She decided some disgusting delinquent must have vandalized it.

‘It’s broken and some naughty child has scribbled all over it. They must have terrible handwriting, or be from another country that uses a different language, for I can’t read a word of this.’

This she said more for her own benefit than for Emily’s, who thought it a bad omen.

The mirror was adorned likeso:

Emily wondered what language this peculiar message could be written in. Then she had a thought, an idea.

‘Why,’ she said, ‘this is not a foreign language - it’s not French, at the very least. Of course! I know what it is - it’s a looking-glass language. If we find another mirror, and hold it up to the glass, the words will go the right way again!’

They read the following:
CAROLLWOCKY

‘Twas represfictive; both untrue and uncouth.
‘Twas riddled with oniony layerings,
And obfuscated by portmanteau.
So “Why?” frightful nonsense sings.

‘Beware the Carrollwock, my son!
The mask he dons, his fake veneer!
Beware the Authors words, and shun
The frumious balladeer!’

He took his subversive pen in hand:
For paragraphs his foe he sought -
So he rested by stanza number three,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Carrollwock, with his nonce words,
Declared as silently as he could,
That all of this was just absurd!

To the beasts plight, he held the pen tight
And scribbled all over the Carrollwock’s name.
And with that motion, that poisonous potion,
The Carrollwock fellapsed in shame.

‘Twas represfictive; both untrue and uncouth.
‘Twas riddled with oniony layerings,
And obfuscated by portmanteau.
So “Why?” frightful nonsense sings.
‘It seems very nice, almost pretty in a strange way,’ said Alice when she had finished reading it, ‘but it’s rather hard to understand!’ (The fact of the matter was that Alice merely refused to admit, even to herself, that she understood nothing of what she had just read.) ‘It seems to fill my head with all sorts of thoughts - only I’m unsure what they are! However, somebody vandalized something: that’s obvious, at the very least -’

‘But oh!’ said Emily, grabbing Alice’s attention, ‘if we don’t make haste we shall never find Dodgson again, and we need to find him so you can find your Author. You have things to learn, questions to be answered. We’ll have to look through every room, and that will surely take forever.’

They exited the corridor a moment later, then disappeared through a door labelled ‘Carroll’s Cafeteria.’ Even if Carroll was a God, they reasoned, this room was proof he still needed to eat at some point and was a safe place to begin their stake-out.

A Mad Tea-Party.

In the cafeteria sat a table under a fake plastic tree. And there sat Humpty Dumpty and The Mad Hatter drinking tea. The Cheshire Cat lay fast asleep between them, and was being used as a cushion. To the left of Humpty sat a bear, wearing a tutu and sipping at a Long Island Ice Tea. A tripod supported the video camera in the centre of the table, and pointed towards this motley crew.

‘How cruel,’ Emily thought aloud, ‘Surely such is uncomfortable for the cat?’

‘It is asleep, though,’ Alice added, ‘so maybe it just doesn’t mind.’

The table was large, perhaps excessively so. Yet nonetheless these characters had cramped together in one small corner of it.

‘The table is full! The table is full!’ they cried.

Emily and Alice approached anyway. The Hatter thumped on the cat, as if to fluffing a pillow.

‘What? Nonsense! Not only is there plenty of room, but this is important, and we haven’t time for tea, or whatever it is you’re drinking, anyway,” scoffed Alice, and gestured towards the bear, whose name was Bear, so named after her father, the great Bear.

Emily decided this was an appropriate opportunity to share her thoughts on their crazed choice of cushion, and said, ‘Don’t you think it’s a bit mean to use a sleeping animal like that?’

Shocked by her suggestion, The Mad Hatter said: ‘Why would you say that, when the cat is not asleep? He is wide-awake, far more awake than you or I, in fact!’

‘But he’s snoring!’ she protested.

‘No,’ he said, ‘just purring. His mind just works faster than most. Ask him anything and he’ll know the answer.’

Emily was not convinced. She slowly edged over towards him. She looked long and hard at the cat. It eyes were closed and it seemed most relaxed. She remained adamant that he was asleep, but just to make sure, she poked the top of his head.

Genuinely taken aback by Emily’s behaviour, The Hatter said: ‘Hey! Hey! What on Earth do you think you’re doing? No need for that. Just ask him a question.’

‘Do I have to?’

‘No,’ replied the Cheshire Cat.
‘Ah!’ she said and jumped. ‘I was sure you were asleep.’

‘Zzzzz….I am asleep,” replied the cat. “I’m so fast I’m asleep.’

‘So fast you’re asleep? Do you mean you’re fast asleep?’ she asked.

‘No,’ said the cat, ‘I’m just so fast, so quick in the head, if you will, that I’m asleep. That’s how things work around these parts. You know, you also have to run to stay in the same place, otherwise you start going backwards.’

Always ready for an argument, Emily said: ‘But if that were the case surely we would be going backwards right now? I mean surely-’

‘You clearly have NO understanding of Time,’ The Mad Hatter interjected.

‘What’s to understand? Time is what it is.’

‘Preposterous! Preposterous! Preposterous!’ cried The Hatter.

‘Not only is it not just what it is, it is not an “it” but rather many “its!” he declared knowledgeably. He removed a pocket watch from his blazer pocket, and looked at it curiously. Then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and raised it back up. He looked at it, but he mustn’t have had anything more to say because then he just sighed disappointedly. Emily and Alice just looked at him. He dipped it into Bear’s cocktail, then raised it back out and into the light. He looked it at again.

‘Wwooowwwweeee!’

‘Uhh...Are you okay?’ Emily asked.

‘Frabjous! Utterly frabjous!’

‘...Meaning?’

‘Exactly what I just said: frabjous!’ and he continued bouncing about the room in a frenzy of frabjulity.

‘What’s the time?’ asked Alice, ‘This is a bit of a waste of time, and we haven’t time to waste.’

‘My dear, if you knew Time as well as we, you would never be so mad as to talk about wasting it! It does not like being treated like a commodity. And it’s the fourth.’

‘Do you mean four o’clock?’ asked Alice.

‘Heavens no! I believe I know what I said, and I said that it’s the fourth,’ said the Hatter.

‘But do you mean that it’s four o’clock? Because we want to know what you mean,’ said Emily.

‘Yeah,’ agreed Alice, ‘You should say what you mean.’

‘I do,’ The Hatter hastily replied: ‘At least. At least I mean what I say. And I think that’s the same’

‘Not at all true,’ argued Emily, ‘for you may as well be saying that “I see what I write” is the same thing as “I write what I see.” And that’s too much writing for anyone!’

The Hatter chortled. Then he said: ‘I can write what I see! I can see your shoes, and I can write them as well.’

He quickly pulled a pen and a piece of paper from his pocket, and scrawled the word “shoes.”

‘See! I told you!’

‘Pssh. But that’s just a word,’ she said. ‘It’s not my shoes. It makes me think of a shoe, but you didn’t write my shoes. You just wrote the word, there‘s a difference, you know.’

The Hatter looked at Emily, confused. He raised a finger in the air, then shouted: ‘Ahah! I’ve got it!’

Once more he grabbed his pen and paper, and wrote “my” just before the word “shoes.”

Emily face-palmed.

‘Don’t you see,’ she said politely, ‘that it’s still not quite the same?’

‘Zzzzz…What I think she means, Hatter,’ said the Cheshire Cat, who was still so fast he was asleep, ‘is that the word signifies those ugly little things on her feet, but no matter what you do, it’s still only a word. You can never actually write them, you can describe them and do this and that and, but no matter what you do with that pen and paper, it shall never be anything but words. Words, words, words! Meaningless things!’

Then he vanished in a puff of logic.

Alice, frustrated by this silly conversation, again asked the time.

‘Well,’ said The Hatter, ‘back in the day, when Time and I were very good friends, I persuaded him to alter the time to whatever I liked whenever I liked. But we had a falling out. Quarreled a bit, you see, after I was sung that song about him. Would you like to hear it? It’s totally necessary!

‘I’m not sure we have the time,’ said Alice.

‘There’s always time, nowadays. You’ll understand that very soon!’ He went on: with his story: ‘So I was singing a song about Time, as I was trying to say-’

‘You already said that already, before.’

‘So as I was about to say, I was singing a song about Time,’ reiterated The Hatter. ‘Perhaps you’ve heard it,’ he went on, ‘it went a little something like this:
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little time!
Don’t you know you‘re so divine!’
Do you know it?’

‘It reminds me of another song I know, it’s very similar,’ said Alice.

‘It goes on for longer,’ The Hatter said, ‘in this way:
‘All around the world you fly,
Like a spectre in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle -’
The Hatter stopped singing. He glanced about the room with shifty eyes. Then he whispered: ‘This is where everything started to go wrong! Mr Dodgson decided I must have murdered time, since I said it’s a spectre - that’s a ghost, by the way - and so he suddenly screamed, “Delete this madman! Edit him out! He’s Murdering the time!” But of course I wasn’t.’

‘Oh, good gosh!’ the girls cried in unison.

Alice looked at Emily and said: ‘perhaps we don’t want to find him, I don’t want to be erased!’

‘And ever since that day,’ The Hatter went on, adopting a sombre tone, ‘It’s been stuck at six o’clock for me.’

‘Why did Dodgson react so?’ asked Emily.

‘Well, I was looking for my Author, and once I had figured out that this was his library, I thought he could help me,’ said the Hatter, who then went on moping, crying a river into his hat, which he now held in his hands. ‘Why, I’m looking for my Author right now!’

‘Funny place to look for him.’ His voice dropped and he said: ‘And between you and me, I’d stop looking now. Dodgson has some weird secrets he’s trying to hide. He’s a weirdo.’

‘Is that what made you stop looking? And does this mean you don’t know where Carroll is?’ Alice asked.

‘There is incongruously no point in searching for him!’ said Humpty Dumpty, who’d stayed quiet until then.

‘Because there is never any time anymore! It’s always six o’clock, which is also dinner time. I just don’t have the time to look for him, and I don’t even have the time to wash up after dinner! We have to just keep rotating around the table so we can keep having dinner,’ The Hatter explained. ‘Wait,’ he stopped. You could almost see the epiphany. ‘Why are you searching for Carroll? You may as well be searching for me or Humpty!’

‘Speaking of Humpty,’ said Emily as she turned to face the eccentric egg, ‘what’d you mean by there is “incongruously” no point in her searching for her Author?’

‘I meant “there’s a definitely a hundred percent certainty that there is,”’ came Humpty’s contemptuous reply.

‘But that isn’t what “incongruously” means!’ cried Emily.

‘Incorrect!’ Humpty declared, ‘for when I use a word it means whatever I wish it to mean!’

‘SHUT UP! SHUT UP SHUT UP!’ boomed Alice.

Everyone went silent.

‘We were obviously about to find out something very important about my Author,’ she went on, ‘then you two clowns distracted me with your nonsense! I mean, really. Who cares? They’re just words. They mean what they mean.’
‘Hmmphh,’ was the noise Humpty made. Then: ‘perhaps you forget that “Author” is just a word as well!’

‘Oh, shoosh!’ Then she sighed and said: ‘Hatter, what were you about to tell me?’

‘Well, Carroll’s just another character. That’s why you may as well be looking for me.’

‘…What do you mean?’

‘I mean what I say,’ he replied.

‘But Carroll is the Author,’ insisted Alice, ‘and I need him to tell me how my story ends! To find out who I am, where I’m going, why I’m here.’

The Hatter eyed Alice curiously, and leant close and said, sotto voce: ‘Well, between me and you, Dodgson wrote Carroll.’

‘What? How’s that work? Why the two names?’

‘Carroll’s his pseudonym,’ replied the Hatter, ‘he made it up by translating his first two names back into English from Latin and reversing their order.’

Thud! Thud! Thud!

A ruckus developed outside the cafeteria.

Thud! Thud! Thud! Bang!

The door flew open, off of the hinges and smashed through a window and took off in the wind.

A tall, thin man stood in the door way. Charles Dodgson.

‘The table is full! The table is full!’ screamed all the Wonderland characters.

‘Oh dear! Oh dear! Dodgson will surely erase us all!’ muttered the Hatter, more to himself than to anyone else.

‘But he’s not Dodgson!’ yelped Alice, ‘Dodgson is short and stout!’
‘It’s his library, my dear,’ said the Hatter, ‘and he does as he wishes and he wishes to be many.’

Whatareyoudoinghere?’ screamed Dodgson. ‘Don’tyouknowthisismylibrary?

‘Mr Dodgson,’ said Alice, and made sure she spoke loudly and confidently, ‘you’re my Author! Please may you tell me how my story finishes? And why is there many of you?’

‘Your story was meant to end some time ago,’ he said.

‘I see...’

‘Also,’ he went on, ‘it’s not like there is only one of you, either. Why, otherwise you wouldn’t be here!’

He smiled for reasons that defied Alice.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked.

‘Does it matter? This is your story, not mine,’ he replied. ‘You decide.’

‘But what do I mean? How does this finish?’

‘Well,’ said Humpty dryly, ‘if you used words as well as me, you’d mean whatever you like!’

‘But words are just words!’

‘Until someone else decides they mean something,’ said Emily.

Humpty looked at Alice and smiled. He said: ‘finished is also just a word.’

nothing is; everything permuted



 
 
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