Four Impossible Things – Undergraduate Dissertation.

 

Four Impossible Things

BY

18440

BASED ON THE NOVEL

ALICE IN WONDERLAND’

BY

LEWIS CARROLL

 reading

Under the Supervision of:

Dr Andrew Nash

Illustrated by:

Rachel Lamonby

 red queen

CHAPTER I

Begin at the Beginning

The Five of Hearts had become rather tired of carrying serving trays of tea cups and cakes. He had repetitively tramped to and from the kitchen all morning. The large marquee that stood tall in the grand gardens of Alys had become a beacon of dread. The morning was hot, the sun just peeking through little streams of cloud that were scattered across the sky. The grass had been re-seeded for the wedding celebrations and new rose bushes were just starting to come into bloom in the flower beds.

‘Look out Five, I nearly dropped the glassware!’ Another card shouted. He was almost identical to Five save the large four on his back.

‘I couldn’t help it; Seven was in my way.’ He grumbled, dumping the heavy tray down with an unceremonious thump.

‘That’s right, Five! Always lay the blame on others.’ Seven said, stopping what he was doing to glare at him across the tables.

‘What’s happening?’ Another playing card asked as he approached the group, bunches of roses in his arms for the tables centre pieces.

‘That’s none of your business, Two!’ Five said with a sneer.

tea caddy

‘Well, whatever it is you better pack it in. The White Rabbit told me the guests are starting to arrive. We’ll be for it if these tables aren’t dressed by the time the Queen gets here.’

‘I don’t see why they had to get me up on my day off to come and set out tea cups and French Fancies. They’ve already had the wedding reception, it’s unfair is what it is!’

‘Stop whining Five. The first King and Queen held a croquet match for the nobility every year. It makes sense that they should hold one now they’ve come to the throne.’ Four said rather flatly.

‘It’s only because he’s new to the pack. Ten never argued so much.’ Seven said with a smug grin, quickly hiding it as Two threw him a look.

‘I heard that it was an arranged marriage. The King had a favour to ask of one of the far away kingdoms. The Princess hadn’t even seen him until he lifted up her veil!’ Six gossiped to Two as he pushed a tea caddy past the group.

‘Oh yes! I’ve heard that too. Cook told me that the Princess was ever so upset about it all. She had her heart set on finishing her secondary examinations you see.’ Seven added.

‘It won’t last!’ Five called out from across the marquee where he was busy knocking Seven’s tea spoons out of line.

‘Hush, hush! Here they come!’ Two hissed, quickly shoving the last of the flowers into vases and pushing the rest of the cards into line.

Cheery voices and the tinkle of laughter could be heard lightly on the wind as the White Rabbit hopped into view. He wore a formal bow tie around his neck and a pair of little white gloves, stiff from starch. Taking out a pocket watch from his black waist coat he checked the time, twitching his whiskers with anxiety as he realised they were running a little behind. As the guests filled the Green with a glittering throng of jewels and gold and wealth, the rabbit hopped to the front of the ever growing group and blew on the little brass trumpet he had acquired.

‘Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the King and Queen of Hearts. Rulers of the province and generous care-givers to the people.’ He bellowed, as loudly as a rabbit could bellow.

table setting

Everyone turned as the young couple swept into view. The King lent his hand to his young wife, assisting her down a set of stone steps and into the eager gaze of their guests. They complimented each other. He was tall, brooding and broad; his forehead large and frowning, dark eyebrows sat low over dim eyes that scanned his audience with a chilling gaze. He was visibly stern, even for all his finery, the gleaming gold of his buttons failing to reflect in his eyes. The Queen was his contrast; willowy and pale she appeared like a china doll in the sun. The dress she wore billowed, swamping her slight frame in its great folds. The small features of her face, framed in tumbling dark curls were dominated by his large and over bearing appearance. As he took her small, delicate hand in his large, ape like paws, any of those looking on could not help but wonder how easily he could crush her little fingers.

They stepped out onto the Green to face a sea of faces, eager for their first address. The Queen opened her tantalising, red mouth a fraction, taking a small breath of air to prepare herself for her well-rehearsed speech. She had barely begun to pronounce her first word when her husband cut her short.

‘Welcome my dear friends!’ The King called out into the crowd. “We are most pleased to see you all here today. My wife and I are terribly grateful for all your gifts and kind words of support. It is our wish to see that we reign as well and as comfortably as those before us. Now I believe my wife has set up a little croquet match for you all. Get to your places!’

The Queen’s mouth had slid silently shut as her new husband had begun to speak. She felt a stirring of anger in the pit of her stomach, just a small flutter but enough to make her green eyes flash a little in the mid-day sun. It was not unrecognised and as the crowd dispersed a few whispered mutterings could be heard between the women.

“Darling.’ She whispered, catching hold of his arm. He didn’t say a word, taking the flamingo that the Seven of Hearts held out to him. ‘I thought, perhaps, that it would be prudent, for me to say a little something.’

The King raised an eyebrow in her direction and said nothing. He shooed Seven away and began to make his way across the Green toward the mingling crowd.

‘It’s just that I practised!’ She called out as she tottered unsteadily behind him, pulling the long skirts up so that she could run to keep up. His head turned and as he caught a glimpse of her, he stopped dead in his tracks. Catching his wife by the arm he swung her to one side, out of sight of most of their guests.

‘Look Aaliyah I really don’t have the time or the patience today to listen to your constant whining. I have been chosen to be your husband and I shall rule here, do you understand? I won’t be made out to be a fool! Now, save your tears and get you gone. I don’t want to have to hear from you for the rest of the day. Am I quite clear?’ Snatching her arm back from his grasp Aaliyah quickly swatted away the few tears that had slipped down her cheeks. He took one last venomous look at her before turning away, extending his arms to greet some of the council men who stood nearby.

Her new husband departed from her, leaving her confidence and hope in tatters and a bitter taste in the back of her throat. A large pit of despair opened up in her stomach and the sunshine that fell across her face failed to warm her. She was a simple woman, replaced and uprooted from her place in life by this stranger, this man.

Two looked up from the table he was clearing to see the Queen standing alone in a small beam of sunlight, her small face carefully emotionless, her childlike innocence left in tatters.

‘Such a pity.’ He mumbled to himself.

‘What’s that Two?’ Five asked. He followed Two’s line of sight until he caught a glimpse of the Queen attempting to compose herself before re-joining the laughing group on the Green.

‘Ah! I told you. I told you nothing would come of it. Not even out of her bridal gown and it’s already a disaster.’ Five sneered through his cheshire cat grin.

‘Shut up Five. Get inside. Don’t you have some floors to mop?’ Two snapped back, pushing him toward the servant’s back door.

‘Watch it will you! You’ll see Two, one of these days things around here are going to change. Just because you’re the oldest in the pack doesn’t mean you’ll be around forever. Mark my words, it’ll be my turn one of these days!’ With that Five stormed away kicking one of the giant land snails that were carrying after dinner mints on their backs out of his way.

Two bent down to straighten the line. The snail Five had kicked was flatly refusing to come back out of his shell declaring:

‘I’ve had it with this place! I won’t be coming back out. I won’t do it!’ in rather muffled tones. Sighing to himself Two tossed the stubborn snail aside and watched with some despair as the Queen wandered around the grounds, a smile plastered firmly upon her perfect face. He shivered a little as a large black cloud swooped in overhead and enveloped the land in its shadowy blanket. The choking darkness snuffing out the light and ripping the warmth from the land. Everyone on the Green gazed upwards as the first few drops of freezing rain landed upon their cooling cheeks.

Spoons

CHAPTER II

A Cat and a King

Aaliyah tugged nervously on the hem of her laced sleeves with damp hands. She was acutely aware that all the eyes of the court were upon her. Barely a breath could be heard, the silence packing every corner of the room. Moments dragged into a lifetime as every creature awaited the Queen’s command to begin. No one in living memory had ever been tried for the high treason, a charge from which no man escaped with his head. The tension was almost unbearable but the Queen sat aloof, her eyes fixing on some unknown thing in the centre of the room. She appeared to all the world steady and certain, only the slight shaking of her hands showed Aaliyah’s uncertainty.

The day was hot, stifling the audience of the farce. No air circulated and the suffocatingly low roof made everyone squirm and pull at their tight, formal collars. The White Rabbit stood next to the throne, uncomfortable and stiff in the tabard provided. It was too long at the front and too wide in the shoulders and it slipped slightly to one side as he walked.

The King had already been seated across the room from the throne and his wife. Their eyes never moved from each other’s, the seriousness of what was about to happen pouring in. No shock, no care showed on his face. His own wife sat cold and unmoving only a few feet from him. She held his life in her plotting, desperate hands.

In an un-wanted a marriage of politics, distant and miserable they had lived separate lives for years. She had tried to create a little common ground for them both and he had brushed her off, too involved in a life of court, women and power. Soon the respect had vanished, the trying had disappeared and all that was left was regret and despair. His affair had only cemented the issue in her mind and now there was no hope of a reconciliation. He knew as well as anyone else that she needed to be rid of him and the ball and chain that he represented.

‘Herald, read the accusation,’ Aaliyah commanded with a strength and resolve in her voice that she did not trust. The three blasts the White Rabbit gave on his golden trumpet blew through her. Her heart stuttered in her chest as he called out the charges of Adultery and High Treason against her husband, the King.

‘The head!’ The Rabbit bellowed and with a sudden bang a side door flew open. Four young monkeys scurried across the paved floor holding high above them a large silver dish upon which, sat the head of a young, blonde girl. Her pallor was grey and demure, devoid of the young rose’s blush that had once filled them. Her hair matted in her own blood at the point where her neck suddenly ended; the skin ragged from the blunt edge of a blade. The frayed, musculature veins and arteries trailed slightly across the platter. The group skidded to an awkward halt next to the throne; all was silent, not one gasp of horror was permitted to pass a pair of pink lips. The small footmen visibly shook under their burden with fear, disgust and strain. One end of the dish suddenly dropped and splashed a little blood onto the head of the smallest monkey. The trickle of red worked its way down his worried brow. The monkey’s wild eyes crossed as he watched it with shuddering breaths trickle down his nose where it dripped with a plop onto the pure white floor.

Aaliyah felt the bile rise hot and fast in her throat as the small troop lowered the large silver plate abruptly down onto the pillar that separated her from her husband. The clang of metal upon stone rang out through the silent court making some flinch with surprise, and the young girls head rolled a little to the left. Her half closed eye lids scanning her horrified audience. The King broke his silence to gasp and shudder at the sight of his once so beautiful and fiery girl, destroyed by his wife’s malice and hatred. He watched as his Queen shuffled in her seat and tried to catch her breath. He could see the conflict in her eyes between uncertainty and the enigmatic call of a self-empowerment she had never possessed.

Leaning over, she whispered softly to the White Rabbit, ‘Call the first witness,’ Casting a nervous look over the charade he blew again on the trumpet and bellowed ‘First witness!’ into the silent court room.

From a hidden side door a couple of playing cards, their ceremonial swords at their waists chaperoned a haggard looking man into the court room. His wild eyes darted from the cards flanking him, to the King and Queen and the full gallery, the crumbs from a hastily abandoned tea party still hanging from his quivering moustache.

Everyone in Wonderland had heard the rumours of what occurred in that court room, justice had long since been twisted out of all recognition. Suddenly all became friendless, your situation desperate. The Hatter was too keenly aware of hopeless position, rumourmonger fuelling his fears. With that thought buzzing in his mind he raised his gaze to meet the Queen’s cold eyes.

Court

‘Y – your Majesty …’ The Hatter stuttered as he began.

‘Take off your hat!’ She bellowed, her voice bouncing off the cold tiled walls. Everyone jumped and a small dormouse in the front row of the gallery squeaked slightly with shock. The man’s fumbling fingers ripped the hat from his tousled head and nearly flung it across the floor with panic. His eyes rolled as he watched it skitter across the surface.

‘State your name and occupation for the court.’ The White Rabbit demanded, peering over his large scroll of parchment, the black ink smearing under his sweaty paws.

‘John Addenbrook. I am a hatter,’ he offered in a half murmur. The Queen pull out a small pair of glasses and poised them on the end of her nose to look him up and down. The colour drained from the Hatter’s face and he began to tap his foot a little with nerves.

Aaliyah was in her element. To those watching from the gallery she would have seemed the same young, pale woman shrinking under the weight of the proceedings. In all respects her outer shell remain intact, only the King knew better. His eyes had not left her small frame, he had seen the little smile that had slowly tugged at the corners of her mouth. He observed the way she sat a little straighter in the engulfing throne and how she held her chin a little higher than usual. Everything was entirely within her control and her subjects trembled in her presence. He knew that at last she had realised the true power of her sovereignty and he feared the consequences that may bring for him.

‘Give your evidence!’ Called out the White Rabbit; still refusing to look at anyone over the brow of his scroll.

The Hatter’s eyes were wide; a tiny bead of sweat made its slow journey down his forehead and paused on the tip of a whisker. He raised a shaky hand to swipe it away and took a few gulping breaths of air before opening his mouth to speak.

The Queen sat forward in her throne, bending her back to rest her hands on her knees. Her head thrust forward in an almost grotesque and malformed way, straining to hear every last detail of her hated husband’s downfall.

‘If your majesty pleases … I saw them. The – the King and …’ John trailed off, gesticulating wildly to the head that still sat upon the platter in the centre of the room. The hot air was wavering just above the frizzed golden curls; he was acutely aware of the terrible smell of warm blood and rotting flesh sticking in the back of his throat. He could not pull his gaze away from her half closed, blank eyes.

‘Quickly!’ Aaliyah screamed, finally breaking the silence in her eagerness to hear the words she’d longed for.

‘It was her. It was dark, but I know it was them. In the corridor – leaning up against the door to the King’s quarters. They were … kissing your majesty. I – I didn’t mean to pry, I know I had no business but I had a commission you see and …’

‘That’s enough. You are sure of what you saw? There could be no doubt?’ The White Rabbit asked, finally daring to raise his eyes to meet the Hatter’s.

‘Well, it was ever so dark you see, almost pitch black ….’ He trailed off into a half trawled squeak as the Queen’s face turned maroon with rage. The Hatter’s eyes widened a little as he felt the small, pointed end of a dagger prod him ever so slightly in the small of the back. Twisting his neck slightly he looked worriedly at the playing card to his right.

‘B-but I’m sure! Very sure, it was definitely her and the King! You can have my word upon it your Majesty! Please … I saw the March Hare that very afternoon!’ John spoke so rapidly it was almost impossible to tell what he saying. The fear and the nerves were becoming too much, the panic obvious through the trembling of his voice.

‘H-he said to me that he could marry them. He was going to marry the two of them! It’s a secret! A huge secret! They’d just have to get rid of the Queen … They were going to kill the Queen. He said it! He said it!’ The Hatter pointed wildly in the astonished Hare’s direction.

‘I didn’t!’ Cried the Hare

‘You did!’

‘I deny it!’ He screamed into the silent room. The Queen didn’t move; she sat still with her hands upon her knees, gazing at both with an expression impossible to interpret upon her face.

‘Are you claiming that The Hare was part of a conspiracy to commit High Treason? To usurp the throne? To murder our sovereign?’ The Rabbit asked, unable to hide the tone of doubt in his voice.

‘No!’ The Hare cried out before receiving a rap to the back of the head by one of the playing cards.

‘Yes!’ The Hatter called out, his foot tapping nineteen to the dozen.

Too stunned to speak the Hare let the room fall quiet in the midst of the Hatter’s echoing words. Everyone’s gaze fell upon the Queen; even the King raising his eyes from the bar before him to await her verdict.

Hatter

She sat back; chin cupped with one sweating palm. These two creatures were disposable, nothing but fuel to the political fire which had raged through the Royal Court for weeks. The endless questioning and whispering; she couldn’t stand it a moment longer. They had given their evidence, so what did their fate matter to her? Didn’t she deserve the life she had craved since childhood? The freedom that all men seemed to possess that had been stripped from her by her own gender. Suddenly the rage at her father, her title, her situation, all that anger at the universe rose up within her, a strangling hatred she could not force down.

“Off with their heads.’ She commanded, the smallest stutter in her voice.

An audible gasp rang around the stone walls. A screaming and squeaking erupted from the far left corner of the upper circle where the Hare’s wife could be seen clutching her head and sobbing. She cried all the harder as her husband was swiftly chained and ushered out of a side door, his panicked face searching for hers in the crowd. The Hatter, his tear streaked face boring into the floor was shoved along behind him.

After this outburst the rabbit riffled through his papers, his panicky eyes scanning the list of possible witnesses. All were crossed through with red ink, their heads now rotting in the castle’s ditches. Sighing slightly to himself he pulled a quill from a red ink bottle at his feet and crossed through the names John Addenbrook and March Hare.

He leaned forward, pulling himself up a little on the arm of the huge throne, his nose just peeking over the edge.

‘Your Majesty … we seem to have run out of witnesses.’

‘Where have they all gone?’ She asked raising her eyebrows in a most disturbing manner.

‘They’re … they’re dead your Majesty. You ordered their beheadings.’

‘Well there must be someone, find me someone. I will not have him go unpunished!’ She hissed back through gritted teeth.

Filled with dread the rabbit pulled on his collar hard and scanned the crowd for someone; anyone who could give evidence. His eyes fell upon the Royal Cook, the only member of staff foolish and inquisitive enough to attend the trial. Thinking on his feet the rabbit pulled himself up to full height and called out with authority.

‘Next witness: Milleneva Jesson, the Royal Cook.’

A large woman, red cheeked and foul tempered, she looked up from picking the dead skin from a callous on her palm. As her name was called, a look of irritation more than fear spread across her face. She stood and roughly rearranged the hem of her dress and took a huge sniff from a snuff box which she quickly stuffed back into her bra

‘Give your evidence’ said the Rabbit

‘I shan’t. I have none!’

The Queen cast an anxious and confused look across the mock jury that sat to her right before saying to the White Rabbit in low voice, ‘You must cross-examine this witness!’

So looking uncomfortable and heartily wishing that he had never taken this repulsive job in the first place the rabbit stepped before the throne.

‘It is a well-known fact that you are somewhat of a gossip around the Royal Court, is it not?’

‘I see what I hear and I hear what I see.’

‘There is a rumour, Ms Jesson. It states that you had the ear of this young lady who could so easily stray our King.’

The Cook looked up, catching the eye of the blood soaked head of the woman she had come to know so well. Her fondness for Alice was too stubborn to be denied, she would not betray her even now in death.

‘I know nothing! Nothing!’ She screamed, folding her arms and refusing to say another word.

The White Rabbit stole a look at the Queen, she sat purple with rage at this new defiance. She cast him a look out of the corner of her eye, with a sigh he motioned to the playing cards standing guard at the door.

‘Take her away.’ He said. His spirits sunk as he crossed the last name off his long list of witnesses. He dropped it in his horror as he realised it had become a list of the dead.

Trail

‘I wish you wouldn’t squeeze so. I can hardly breathe.’ A little dormouse hissed in the gallery, jostling the large pelican to his right. The hum of voices rattled throughout the courtroom; the deliberation period had dragging on into eternity until, suddenly a side door flew open with a rumble and a little line of animals trooped in. All had slates hanging around their necks, swinging in time to their steps. The squeaking of their feet on the polished floor made the Queen’s stomach knot; this was the moment.

Once all had filed back into their seats with much jostling and squeaking as the fish accidentally trod on the fox’s tail in his hurry to get a good front seat; the White Rabbit stepped forward to receive the verdict. He skidded a little in his haste to get to the two guinea-pigs that sat on the end of the jury bench squabbling in hushed tones over who would present the slate with the verdict upon it. Tugging it away from them he glanced at it for a moment before swallowing hard. His eyes briefly met the King’s before he hurriedly lowered them again, the shame of the farcical court too much to tolerate.

‘This court, in its wisdom and insight has considered all the evidence laid before it and deliberated at length and has come to a verdict of, guilty.’ The Rabbit was forced to pause and a loud intake of breath swept through the court although no one was really surprised. The Queen stood, her small shoes clicking as they touched the floor. Raising herself up to full height she crossed the tiles to stand before her husband, aloof and triumphant in her moment of glory.

‘I deem this prisoner guilty of the charge of high treason and only one punishment is fitting for such a crime. This man’s attempt to canker and destroy our Monarchy has failed, We still stand, We still have our dignity! For this failure in his judgement and his plotting he will pay with his life.’ She glared down upon him, his little form bent to kneel before her. No pity filled her, no pain, but as her eyes met the cold determination in his, her sense of triumph withered into anger.

‘Off with his head!’ She bellowed striding with purpose toward the heavy wooden doors that dwarfed her small frame. In a sudden moment the whole gallery erupted into sound. Squeaking, squawking voices declared their disbelief to the world.

‘But your Majesty! Will you not stay to see your judgement passed?’ The Rabbit called after her, scurrying forwards and almost tripping over his long tabard.

She paused, one hand on the huge door, so keenly aware of every eye in the room upon her. She owed no one anything anymore, she had given them their spectacle. Her life had always revolved around them, why should she be their actress? With that thought she gave the door one defiant push and stormed through; her new life already tainted with blood.

CHAPTER III

The Truth of the Matter

 Hare

It was midnight; every living thing in the castle and beyond was fast asleep except the White Rabbit. By the light of one small, stubbed candle he darned a hole in his white gloves. The day had been long and tiresome. As the Queen’s last confidant his roles at Court had steadily increased over the years until it felt as though he was the only person holding the system together. He caught a quick glimpse of himself in the small, gilded mirror that sat upon his desk. The fur around his eyes had turned from a pure white to a deep jet black, the tips of his whiskers fraying and grey, he looked every inch his fifteen years.

He sat, deep in his musings until a sudden giggle from one of the dark corners made him jump straight out of his chair. With shaking hands he lifted his glasses onto his face and peered into the blackness. A set of upside down, blindingly white teeth shone out at him, bright green eyes winking just below them.

‘Oh! Ches it’s you. You did give me a fright!’ The Rabbit exclaimed throwing his darning set at the slowly materialising cat.

‘Just dropping in. I’d heard on the grape vine you were having a rather bothersome time lately.’ The cat’s huge black and white form floated slowly down onto the Rabbit’s bed, resting his head upon his upturned paws.

‘The Queen has me working day and night! It’s beyond the ridiculous. I refuse to darn another thing Ches. I simply refuse! Did you hear? This afternoon she had me hunting down the perfect pig footstool of all the things!’

‘That’s just too bad.’ Cheshire said rolling over onto his back and flicking his large paws in the air. ‘You know, we could make her really angry! Shall we try? It would be such excellent sport!’

‘Oh, no, no!’ The Rabbit had turned quite green with the thought. ‘She’d have our heads in next to no time.’

‘Oh but think of it!’ The Cheshire Cat’s grin widened even further at the look on his old friend’s face. ‘It’s not fair, not fair at all the way she makes such a scene.’

‘Oh, hush!’ The Rabbit said in a panicked whisper. ‘Someone is sure to hear you! I won’t listen any more Cheshire, I simply won’t!’ With that he turned away from the cat, put his head on the table and pulled his large ears flat across his head.

Cheshire flipped himself over and evaporated, materialising on the desk in front of the Rabbit. The large ears twitched a little and a small eye peaked out from behind the fur.

‘Go away.’ He mumbled into the wood.

‘We could sneak into the Royal Chamber and prod the Bandersnatch until it cries. Or we could taunt the footmen on the door with a feather duster.’ The Rabbit couldn’t stand the mischievous look in the cat’s bright green eyes. Nothing he’d ever suggested had turned out for the best.

‘I did hear that the cook made some tarts today.’ Cheshire held in a titter as the Rabbit’s nose twitched suddenly. He let go of one ear which sprang up, revealing a bright, interested eye in the half light of the candle.

‘What sort of tarts?’ He asked, the desire quivering in his question.

‘Oh the usual sort. I believe they are quinberry jam.’ The cat inspected his claws in a nonchalant manner. One eye watching his friend lick his lips with a tiny pink tongue.

‘Is it true they only feed you butterflowers and nuts these days? Truly awful and to think, half of those tarts are sure to be wasted.’

‘Well, perhaps just one …’ The White Rabbit trailed off in thought.

‘That’s the spirit! Help yourself and why not? No one else helps another these days, it’s quite enough to put a fellow in a most despondent mood. Now if you will excuse me I think I’ll pay the dormouse a visit on my way out.’ Cheshire bounced off the desk and padded to the door that stood ajar. Slinking around the corner the White Rabbit just saw the tail disappear into thin air before the back legs had completely walked through the doorway.

The rabbit swivelled on his seat a little, nervously wringing his hands. He did want those tarts but if he was found, it didn’t bare thinking about. Sighing to himself and attempting to hold his cravings in he hopped off his stool and made his way to the door. Perhaps if he made a start on the paper work for tomorrow’s beheadings it would take his mind off it all.

Chesh

As he made his way down the corridor deep in thought, a small, scuffling nose peaked around a corner. A large padded paw stepped into the light and a pair of glowing yellow eyes followed the wiggling fluffy tail of the rabbit as it disappeared into the distance. A plush cheater growled to himself; now was his chance to get rid of the rabbit. The Court hierarchy had been solid for too long, it was time for a shift and he envisioned himself on top. The Queen had become so delicate she was sure to punish any sort of corruption. It was his only chance and he ran off to seize it.

He strode up to the large door of the Queen’s bedroom, panting a little from the excursion he knocked a little on the thick wood. A loud smashing could be heard from behind the door and the cheater jumped back as it flung open to reveal the panicked face of Five, peering around the door jam. Beads of sweat dripped from his corners and a rosy tinge flushed his worried face as brandy trickled down him in streams. His edges frayed and peeled at the corners and glass tinkled across the floor as the door was pulled further open.

‘Her majesty isn’t accepting callers at this time.’ Five spoke clearly, only the darting of his eyes shattering the false illusion of confidence.

‘This is a matter of great importance. I must insist I speak to her Majesty immediately.’

‘Go away Brachan. It’s not appropriate now, can’t you see that? I’ve not got time for this now.’ Five hissed, making to close the door on the cheater. Brachan step forward and placed a paw in the door way, half his snout and a few whiskers edging their way into the room.

‘Listen here boy. I must speak with the Queen. It would be wise to do as I say. You wouldn’t want to end up like Two would you? I heard he met with a rather sticky end.’ Brachan growled in a low whisper and watched with a twinge of amusement as the red hint drained from Five’s face.

Clearing his throat Five moved away from the door leaving it open a little. The sound of slightly raised tones could be heard just before a woman’s voice rang out down the corridor.

‘Bring him!’ Brachan wetted his paws and quickly groomed the fur flat on the top of his head. Five wrenched the door open, giving the cheetah a dirty look as he slipped past into the huge bed chamber.

Aaliyah stood at her window, undressed save her underwear and a laced, black dressing gown, gazing out onto the land that she had ruled over for the last five years. A state of decay, stagnant and dark. Laws were hard and the punishments harder. Petty crime ran rife, murder and theft and beatings and bloodshed were common. Only last week the Chief of Public Order had been on the business end of a telephone he was attempting to wrestle from a rather large brown bear. The Queen took a deep, filling drag on her cigarette, dark grey smoke pluming around her. The pungent smell of strong tobacco swimming around the room.

‘Explain the meaning of this intrusion.’ Aaliyah said, not taking her eyes from the dingy skyline.

‘Your Majesty.’ Brachan growled, bowing low to the ground. His whiskers brushed the red tiled floor disturbing a little of the dust. ‘I have grave news regarding your confidant, the Rabbit.’ His beady eyes caught the slightest flicker of movement as her index finger and thumb rubbed together.

‘Proceed.’ She said, attempting to hide the tone of curiosity in her voice.

‘This evening, not hardly ten minutes ago, I passed the Rabbit’s door and heard the most disturbing plotting.’ He took a moment to gauge Aaliyah’s reaction. Finding her stationary as stone he continued.

‘I heard him conversing with another. They spoke of the tarts your majesty, your quinberry tarts. It grieves me to tell you, he plots to steal them from you.’

A deep silence fell, filling every corner of the room and in the distance a low rumbling of thunder could be heard, echoing out of the darkness. The small, bright lights of the candles and wood fire barely held the night at bay. Brachan padded the floor a little, his tail scuffing the tilling, as Five trembled to himself. In the reflection of the window he could see the Queen’s face contort with rage and madness.

‘Fetch him.’ She commanded. With that word Five seized his opportunity to make a swift departure from the cold atmosphere of the bed chamber. The echoes boomed as he called out to the cards patrolling the corridors and ran off into the night.

Despair

‘You’ve picked up a bit of an attitude you know. I can’t say I’m all together keen on it.’

‘You’re a villain Ches! I don’t know what’s happened to you! To all of us, especially her. Beheadings and men and smoking and drinking and flying off the handle at absolutely everything! She’s completely mad!’ The rabbit squeaked, his voice growing ever higher as the rage in the pit of his belly grew and grew.

‘How fine you look when dressed in rage.’ The cat ruminated. ‘Your enemies are fortunate your condition is not permanent. You’re lucky too; red eyes suit so few.’ He floated slowly towards the door, arms folded.

‘Is our situation not dismal?’ He continued a rather sad look just passing over his face. ‘Has it all come to this? Are we not victims, pawns in a game with only one player, one winner and a great hoard of losers? The proper order of things is lost and we are afloat in a great sea of miseries.’

He left the Rabbit sitting in the dark, still crying, still hurting and yet his mind was whirring. What his friend had said was true, for all his misgivings and false advice he had truth at his core. They had been pawns, but no longer. Now his thoughts turned to darker things, to revenge and to war and to ruin.

‘There is always a way to skin a cat.’ He muttered to himself, a small tear dripping from the end of his whiskers. The revolution had begun.