Go ask alice

chapter 1

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Anna Liddel stifled a yawn as her body rocked in time to the gentle sway of the carriage that rattled along the path to the old school house. The day was warm and the thick blanket of humidity was making her feel more stupid and sleepy as the journey wore on. The book open on her lap was doing nothing to remedy her weary state. It was a book called Meditations On First Philosophy by a 17th century French philosopher called Rene Descartes.

Anna's journey had taught her two things about Descartes: 1. He had a silly moustache and a stupid haircut. 2. He doubted the existence of everything but his own thoughts.

It was not the kind of book that she ever would have read by choice. She liked best books with pictures and conversations in them and this book didn't have any pictures or conversations in it at all so what was the use of it? She supposed she liked the part about the demon that deceives Descartes and presents his senses with false impressions of the outside world but aside from that she found the prose difficult to follow and the ideas hard to comprehend.

But she had to persevere. It was on the required reading list that the school had sent her and, not for the first time, she questioned if she had made a terrible mistake. If she wasn't even clever enough to understand Descartes then maybe she wasn't clever enough to find out what really happened to her mother.

When the carriage stopped Anna's patent leather shoes crunched against the gravel path and she smoothed down her blue dress and white pinafore as she looked up at the imposing building of Lutwidge School For Girls.

The school had been founded by Anna's mother Alice Liddel. She had used the money she had made from her first book, a surprisingly popular children's story called Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, to convert her childhood home into a school. It was to be a semi-charitable organisation that would offer girls from all walks of life an education on a par with their male counterparts. The school had been a modest success - until all the trouble had started for Alice that is.

"No one knew where you came from. You could be the daughter of anyone," Anna's Aunt Ina had told her matter-of-factly when she was 16. "But perhaps it is better we don't know - or better for him at any rate. He only stuck around long enough to ruin Alice's life and this family's reputation."

Aunt Ina always said "Alice", never "your mother". She would occasionally blame the scandal surrounding Anna's birth for the fact that she had never married but in truth she was a born spinster.

Enrolment in the school quickly dwindled. After all, it was entirely disreputable and just not at all the done thing for decent people to entrust their precious little girls' hearts and minds to a school run by such an immoral and wicked woman.

Some years later Alice left behind her daughter in the care of her sister, ostensibly to finish her second book in the now empty school without a child tugging at her skirts. But she was never seen again. Alice vanished and the last trace of her was the completed manuscript of Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There on the desk of her study and the looking glass smashed to smithereens.

Anna was only 7 years old when her mother vanished and in truth she remembered little of her. In her memories her mother seemed nightmarishly distorted. Sometimes so freakishly large that she loomed over her and seemed to press against the walls and ceilings and other times so small that she could scurry under the table like a dormouse or fall through the cracks in the floor.

After Alice's disappearance a small cult of fanatics that called themselves The Tea Party took over Lutwidge School For Girls. They dedicated themselves to the study of Alice's work and had a theory that her books were more than just children's stories, they believed that she had truly discovered a world beyond our every day perceptions where logic and reason had no meaning. A land of hidden forces where nothing was fixed, where the reality we saw and believed was ever shifting and unstable.

"It was all just stuff and nonsense, stories that she used to tell as a child but you never know what these academic types who have nothing better to do with their time might fancy they see in silly old claptrap," her aunt said.

Anna was brought back to the moment when a small but stout man rushed past her in such a hurry that he almost knocked her over.

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"

"Oh! Do be careful!" Anna cried out in alarm.

But the man did not stop to apologise, he only paused for a moment to take a gold pocket watch out of his waistcoat. He brought the watch close to his face and peered at it anxiously through a pair silver spectacles that perched on the end of his nose before hurrying off again in a funny hopping run up the path to the schoolhouse. His face was so nervous and twitchy that he made her think of nothing other than a giant rabbit. In fact, he looked so rabbit-like that she half expected to see a little white cotton tail poking out from the backside of his tweed trousers as she followed behind him.

Anna was burning with curiosity to know what could be so urgent that it would cause a man to forget all manners. However, though she entered the school but a few moments after the man, he was no where to be seen. Anna quickly forgot all about him anyway as she gazed around the great hall. The school was a good deal grander than the house where she had grown up with Aunt Ina. Her eyes were immediately drawn to a large portrait of her mother at the top of the staircase. In the painting Alice stood in front of a looking glass clutching a fanned out deck of playing cards to her breast with her right hand while her left hand was outstretched, holding the white knight of a chess set in her palm.

Anna realised that this was the first time she had seen her mother's face in over a decade but she could not dwell on it for long because she heard someone pointedly clearing their throat to get her attention. She turned to see a man sitting at a desk. The man had been sitting hunched over the desk shuffling papers but when Anna looked at him he sat up very straight, seeming to almost double in height. His torso looked bizarrely elongated to her, an illusion perhaps created by the pinstripe suit he was wearing. His hair was grey and his skin too had a sickly grey, almost blue tinge to it that Anna thought must be caused by the pipe he was smoking.

"Whooo... are... you?" he demanded, releasing a plume of smoke into Anna's face.

His words seemed to swirl out of his mouth along with the smoke. Anna almost fancied that she could see them twisting and stretching into the air... that was until she was overwhelmed by smoke and began to cough and splutter until her eyes watered.

"Whooo... are... you?" he demanded again, more impatiently than before as he puffed yet more smoke into Anna's face.

Anna wiped the tears from her eyes and gave one last cough in the hope that her obvious discomfort would prompt an apology but still it was not forthcoming. Even so she was determined not to indulge in rudeness just because everyone around her seemed to have forgotten their good manners today.

"Miss Anna Liddel, sir," she said with a pretty little curtsy. "If you please, I would like to enrol in the school."

"School? Hmmph!" The man huffed bad temperedly, sending another cloud of smoke into the air. "Do not be fooled by the name, Miss. This is not some finishing school for young ladies, you will not learn such mimsy and empty headed subjects as elocution and etiquette here."

"Why, yes, sir, I know but -"

"This is a centre of philosophical investigation where we hang a question mark over everything we have long taken for granted and dissipate all certainty," the man said rather pompously.

"Yes, sir, I know!" Anna cried rather more sharply than she intended and she felt so frustrated by the man's rude refusal to listen that she could not help herself stamping her foot petulantly.

The man sat up even straighter, a look of affront on his grey, jowly face. "Mind your temper!"

"I'm sorry. What I mean to say is, I have a letter from the headmistress Mrs Hart offering me a place at the school," she reached into her satchel and fished out the letter.

The man took one look at the letter, scrunched it up and tossed it into the wastepaper bin behind him and went back to his paperwork as if she wasn't even there.

"Oh, this isn't getting anywhere," she said hopelessly.
6 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 7 years , updated 2 years
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Nok 7 years
understandable. its a little more complex and deserved the extra set up. its really cool
Girlcrisis 7 years
Thanks Nok. Yeah, admittedly 2 chapters before any weight gain content isn't ideal. Unfortunately the premice took a little more time to set up than I imagined when I came up with the idea.
Nok 7 years
Absolutely brilliant. Could use a prologue to better hook people though. Takes a while to get to the action otherwise.
Love that use of magic too, I've only seen something similar once or twice. Its so delicious to have the magic not cause lasting gain o
Girlcrisis 7 years
Thanks guys. Although I do think that this one is a bit long winded and excessively high concept even by my standards.
Noarthereonl... 7 years
Wonderful new addition, I'm so intrigued by this tale!
Eponymous 7 years
This is absolutely amazing! I know I've said it before but, I really am in awe of your skill as a writer.
Littleextra 7 years
No problem! ☺ You're welcome. It's just with such rich imagery it's easy as a reader to lose yourself in it. Good stuff (secretly jealous!).
Girlcrisis 7 years
Thanks for the amazing compliment, littleextra. It's much appreciated.
Littleextra 7 years
The content is wonderful, but this is just so beautifully written, it's a joy to read! I love your writing style. Takes huge skill to write sentences that read so effortlessly but say so much. 😊
Girlcrisis 7 years
Thank you, luvsreallybiggirls. I LOVE your writing so will take that as a big compliment.

Glad to hear you're enjoying it, knightorder. There will certainly be more.
Noarthereonl... 7 years
so in love with this
Knightorder 7 years
I'm looking forward to this immensely (No pun intended). More please!