ALICE VENTURES BEYOND WONDERLAND
CREATING A CONTEMPORARY VERSION OF THE FAMOUS BOOK
Alice in Wonderland is being reimagined for a new audience.
This novel is broadly in the style of the original, amusing and thought provoking but with a contemporary twist.
Alice’s journey leads her to the Bookery, the Court of Common Sense, then to visit Queen Bacon, the Excuse Factory, the Hall Of Surprises and the Temptation Tree with numerous other odd encounters along the way. Strange, lovable creatures and everyday items, blessed with the power of speech, encourage and challenge her. There are many parallels to the modern world giving this an extra twist and subtle humour, that will resonate with adults too.
This is a beautifully crafted book and full of detailed imagery that will delight everyone.
READ AND ENJOY A PRE PUBLICATION CHAPTER OR TWO
Alice could not have been more surprised when a kangaroo leapt out of the cake, shouting ...Surprise...Surprise!
THE EXCUSE FACTORY read the sign and beneath that...
THE OFFICE OF EXTRAORDINARY EXCUSES.
ENTER ONLY IN THE CASE OF EXTREME URGENCY.
Alice reached forward to touch the wording, her finger barely brushing them, but the door swung open to reveal an office of perhaps one hundred desks. Behind each sat an animal, mostly squirrels, voles and chipmunks. At the entrance sat a severe looking fox, almost as red as a letter box. It viewed her over a pair of gold rimmed glasses.
“Yes, Do you want something?”
At that moment in rushed a worried looking weasel who passed over a note on a crumpled piece of card.
“Is that ok, Mr Controller?” It asked.
The fox cast a glance at it, looked glum for a while, then pointed to an enthusiastic vole, bobbing up and down, as if to say ‘choose me.’
Within a moment or two the creatures were huddled over the desk discussing something intently, as if it were of the greatest importance, which possibly it was, considering the state of the weasels ferociously twitching tail signalling serious agitation.
“It’s the usual thing” revealed the fox, pushing the glasses back up its nose.
“Hasn’t done his homework again” saying perhaps more than she should. “That’s the third time in a row, and I’m not always on duty, so it may be more.”
“Are you allowed to give away secrets like that?”
“How can they be secrets when we all know them?” Came the stern response.
“Anyway the Data Dissemination Act allows us to share anything we know with anyone we want. It's the law and if it isn’t it should be!”
Alice had no idea what was being said, but it sounded like an excuse in itself.
“So, if I needed an excuse because I’d broken something and couldn’t confess, I should come to you?”
“Breakages are easy, it is always possible to blame another. I should really charge you for that information, but as you are a new client I shall resist, anyway what is your problem, what have you done, nothing too serious I hope, you are not big enough to do much?”
“I am not a client, I do not need any help.”
“Then why are you here wasting my time, my schedule is hectic.” The controller indicated an entirely clear desk. Before there was time for a reply continued, “how do you think I keep my desk as clear as this, by diligent work and not talking to time wasters.”
At that moment in ran a rat, nodded and went straight to a squirrel tucked in a corner.
“Late for a birthday party, probably his fathers, it was his mothers last time before that, his second cousin. Too much day dreaming and not enough watch watching.
“And what excuse will he be given?”
“Ah that has to decided, we have many hundreds.” She was pointing to the piles of paper in front of each advisor, some were teetering dangerously and looked as if the merest breeze would send them around the room.
“And then there are the specialists like Sigmund Squirrel, he can conceive one almost at will. He once saved a mole from an executioner.”
“What, you cut off heads, like with an axe!”
“Not a real executioner, chopping bits off, silly girl. There is no need for that here, the title is purely ceremonial. No she wanted to marry him. But he’d already promised himself to another. It is not unusual, it’s the romance of the place. Far too much love confusing proper thinking. Mind you it helps keep us in business.”
The fox looked so much like a puppet it was hard to take what was said seriously. Even so, in the short time they had been chatting several others had slipped quietly in, each giving over a note or secret nod. Several left, looking more content than those entering.
“What was the best excuse ever?” It was always worth having one in reserve, you never knew when one would come in handy.
There was a short wait while another client appeared crying, barely able to walk and was redirected to a ferret, holding a huge box of tissues.
“Ah, that would be, trapped in thunder snow. It’s never been seen or heard but if you can get it into your story, it is never queried.”
It didn’t sound like anything that could be useful afterall. It was never going to help avoid bedroom tidying.
The rat was leaving, looking downcast. The fox eyed it carefully, lent over and beckoned him over.
“Sometimes you just have to tell the truth.”
Four doors meant that there was not a middle one. Looking at the sign was no use, it seemed to shrug but as it was a plank of wood it was impossible to be sure. Boldness was required. Choosing the least offensive colour felt like the right move. So stretched out to grab the handle, then notice that the grain of the wood looked rather unhappy. The next door along however was far more cheery so she opened that, and in they went.
Written on a wall right in front of them, in huge letters were the words:
THE COURT OF COMMON SENSE
PREJUDICE NOT WELCOME
LEAVE YOUR WORRIES BEHIND
That didn’t sound too bad and as going back was not an option anyway continued into a Courtroom. It was just like she had seen in movies, all wood and seats and tables and things, but it was nearly empty.
In front of her was a sleeping owl wearing a tatty nearly white wig, perched on a swing, eventually one eye opened and slowly the other, then it twisted around to look behind. The wig remained stationary as if with a life of its own. It had a large beak of yellow and brown which gave a sinister air. The owl who certainly looked wise and ponderously directed its attention to the little girl in front of him.
“Are you case number one, I do hope so?” The voice sounded serious and each syllable perfect and slowly delivered.
Alice shook her head.
“So you don’t have a dispute I can settle. A row with a friend or neighbour perhaps, a ridiculous spat with a relation, a pointless slight, a silly disagreement that you can’t resolve, an endless argument?”
“No I don’t, is that what you do?”
“Are you sure you don’t have a problem? That’s a shame” said the hanging Judge. “Settling arguments by common sense is sadly, not very common. I am here to help make the final decision. Aided by them.” The owl indicated a jury of dozing newts.
“But they’re asleep” commented Alice, noticing that every single one of the little brown creatures was curled up and snoring.
“They are not asleep they are resting with their eyes closed. Don,t be fooled by how they look. They will be available when they are needed.”
“Can they understand what is going on?” The whole set up was very puzzling.
“Of course, they are very intelligent, they speak many languages, they are cleverer than they appear.”
“What languages do they speak?” Alice was sure a newt couldn’t talk, surely that would have been that on the television.
The judge looked at her, the wig had slipped slightly, and a robin almost the size of the owl’s head suddenly appeared and using its beak and a flurry of wings moved the head piece repositioned it.
“They know Newtonian of course, Fish, and Toad.” It was the robin speaking. “Some even know a little Drangonfly, but what use that is I can’t imagine.” Then with the deftest of movements of its beak made a final adjustment to a rogue hair, and flew onto a perch nearby.
“Do they speak English?”
“It’s not necessary.”
“But how do they know what is going on?”
“They don’t need to, the Judge tells them how to vote.”
Alice was truly baffled.
“How can that be fair, I thought a jury was meant to make their own decision.”
The robin was clearly exasperated, “This is the Court of Common Sense, there is only one answer and it is always obvious, so the Judge just has to tell them how to vote, it is all very fair.”
She still wasn’t convinced “And what do the complainers say?”
“We haven’t had any yet, you see no one really wants an honest result, they just want to win. If they were reasonable they wouldn’t be here, would they?”
“So nobody comes, because they are afraid they might lose?”
“That’s it exactly.” Chimed in the owl. “Just too much selfishness out there.” He waved his wing in front of him, somehow encompassing all that could be seen with that simple gesture.
“The Queen is very disappointed, after all this was her idea, following that business with her husband Prince Brian and Lord Num.”
“And what was that, business?” Enquired Alice, wondering about the wasted effort in producing such a splendid courtroom, that would probably never be used.
“As you are a stranger, I will tell you, but only once, so do not yawn, interrupt, fidget, pick your teeth, look at your toes, sneeze, scratch or ask questions.”
Having been told not to do any of these things immediately needed to yawn, sneeze, scratch and look at her toes all at the same time. It took a great deal of self control, indeed more than she ever had used before, to comply with the demand.
“Are you sitting comfortably?”
She nodded, sliding into a huge beautifully carved chair, that seemed to cuddle around her. It was so nice that there was a danger of falling asleep, so pulled on an ear lobe when her eyes felt like closing, which was quite often. The owl’s voice had such a soothing sound and the seat so pleasant that it was an almost impossible task. The robin could see the problem and flew over and landed on the edge the chair. Every time her head drooped a little he would give a gentle peck, just enough to keep her awake and listening.
“The Prince Brian, was in dispute with his neighbour Lord Num over the fence between the two kingdoms. You know, the one everybody sits on when they can’t make up their mind. It was becoming so crowded with his subjects that it was in danger of falling down. So the Prince proposed to give it a pointed top so no one would linger and decisions would have to be made. What he didn’t know was the Lord was secretly selling prevarication juice to the visitors.”
“What drink is that, I’m sure I’ve never heard of it?”
The owl looked around as if to impart some great secret. “It’s a mixture of Argue Oil, seeds from the Unsure Tree and extracts from the Maybe Bush, blended with Confusion Water. It is very tasty but you can never decide if you want more.”
“So this Duke was making money from all the people sitting on the fence, is that right?”
“Oh yes. And the juice just made them stay longer. When the Prince found out he was furious indeed. He couldn’t banish Lord Num as he was not one of his people, but challenged him to a duel of magic. Of course a Prince can’t fight and so nominated his best wizard. Ozo was his name, who had been telling everyone how good he was, thinking that he would never be asked to actually do anything.
Num likewise chose an expert skilled at wizardry.
If they had just sat down and discussed the situation and used common sense to come to a solution then there would never have been the senseless battle of the spells. But they really didn’t want the matter to be settled like that, and neither would back down.”
By now poor Alice was really tired and the robin had to peck quite hard and she squeaked loud enough to make the Judge give a stern look to both of them. He continued.
“The Duke was at one end of the courtyard, the Prince at the other, their wives next to them when the confrontation was to take place. Beside each of them was their chosen champion. A loud trumpet blast announced the commencement of the battle. I was there to see fair play, which wasn’t very fair, because one was very adept, the other, I have to admit, useless.”
The Owl took a deep breath, as if the mere memory was a burden. The wig was beginning to slip forward again and the robin had to fly over and do a little adjustment before the story could continue.
“So they started with gentle spells, ticklers and gigglers, you know the sort of thing. The Duke’s wizard was very skilled, the Princes’ was not. Ozo had only read a book on magic and did not really know what he was doing. But he did have one spell that he had perfected, the ‘Turn To Stone.’
It was a very dangerous move to make, afterall he had only suffered some itching and chuckling fits himself, barely anything. And it was possible to avoid those if one knew how. But he wanted to impress. That was a mistake, he hurled the spell across the courtyard, but the Dukes man was ready though and blocked it. Unfortunately it bounced back and struck the nearest guard, who instantly turned to sand. The spell ricocheted off, hit the ceiling, flew straight down and struck the Prince, turning him into a stone frog! He has remained that way ever since.”
“Surely the spell can be reversed?” It was a sensible question.
“That’s the tragedy, no one knows how to reverse it. To even touch the statue means one is also turned to a stone frog and so on, each new statue has the ability to do the same thing.
“Where are we now?” she spoke in a hushed voice.
“This is the Hall of Surprises. Nice isn’t it?”
Alice looked around but the room had nothing in it, except for a row of doors all identical in style but each a different colour of mud. Compared to the previous place it was exceedingly dull.
“What are the surprises?” As soon as the question left her mouth knew what the answer was going to be.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if you knew!” It chortled. “You have to wait and see what happens, sometimes it’s a happy event, sometimes, er, less so.” And even as they looked an extremely large cake rose slowly from the floor. The sides were covered in chocolate, styled as flowers, interwoven with red and blue coloured berries and green leaves made of marzipan, around the base were miniature sculptures of butterflies in every possible shade of pink.
Suddenly the top burst open and out leapt a kangaroo dressed in a purple check waistcoat and with a matching bow tie, on its tail was a bow almost the size of a melon, coloured green and pink.
“SURPRISE!!!!” Shouted the animal.
It certainly was. Alice nearly fainted from the shock. There were candles in its pouch, fortunately none were lit for surely it would have been burnt. With just two enormous jumps it exited the cake and landed with a thump.
“Nice to meet you, I am Rupert Roo, who are yoooooo and how old are yooooooo?” the creature demanded, scratching its head with one hand and its tummy with the other. One eye was grey the other bright yellow, giving it a lopsided look.
“I am Alice Jones and I am eight and a half”
“A half is no good, it is not one thing or the other, I shall say you are twenty, that is a nice round number and I just happen to have twenty candles.” With that the Kangaroo started reaching into his pouch and pulled out more and more, then lined them up on the floor, each, about the width of her outstretched arms, apart .
“Can you jump over them?”
“Of course.” This was a girl who never backed away from a challenge, unless of course it involved slimy things or reading to her younger brother, so Immediately skipped over the line, and triumphantly glared at the animal.
“Very good, but I meant the length, not the width, I shall show you” and with those words in one leap it bounded over all twenty and somehow by the time it landed all the wicks were alight, and once again it shouted. “SURPRISE”. And it certainly was.
“Well, can you do it?” The Roo was scratching again, not as if it actually had a tickle, the gesture was more absent minded than that.
“Of course not, and you have set fire to them too.” Alice replied a little huffily.
“If I just jumped over them you wouldn’t be surprised, would you? any Roo can do that, even a Wallaby could, I think, but flames, I’m the only one that has the skill. And I believe you accept that it is impressive.”
There was no other answer than to agree.
“So if you can’t jump how are you going to get out of here?”
“Do I need to jump over something to leave then?”
“Yes, the candles of course, it is a challenge, you must complete it to move on, if you are too weak to undertake that I can give one more chance.”
Without a destination in mind it was hard to raise any interest, imagining that to get home she would just need to retrace the route they had just taken. However something made her enquire what was required.
“Just count all the butterflies on the cake.”
“All of them?”
“Yes, and hurry up, I might be needed for more surprises.”
It did seem to Alice that everything was done at a rush down here and that meant there was hardly time to think.
“There are an awful lot, are you sure I have to count each one/”
“Yes, all 103,” came the short tempered response. The kangaroo was tapping its feet in frustration and scratching harder than ever.
Well that would easy thought Alice, especially as I have been told the answer already. But even as this idea was forming, the butterflies, almost as one, took off from the base of the cake and swirled around her, like a colourful mist. Some landed on her hair, others flitted away into the dark, while others just did a slow circuit and returned to their original resting place. Peering around and trying to look interested she heard the Roo say.
“You don’t look as if you are counting.” It sounded like complaining, although as it had not been watching was hardly in a position to know.
So to begin the process again Alice pretended to take the job seriously by pointing at them as they flitted past and mouthing a number.
“I can’t hear you. Count louder, you will have to start again.”
This was becoming really tedious but swallowing her frustration started again, calling aloud and pointing at each tiny scrap of colour.
Eventually a moment came to announce that there were 103 butterflies, there was no way that anyone could actually have seen that many, but saying it satisfied the demand.
“Very impressive, I suppose that you think you are now able to go on your way, just because you were right?”
Alice certainly hoped so but it sounded as if there was another problem to overcome, she was getting very fed up with all this nonsense.
ROBIN G SMITH