A/N: Third story from the 52 week short story thingy. This week, I’m retelling a fairy tale. Warnings: alcohol, swearing and suicide.
When Alice told her parents that a group of her friends (herself included) were going to visit the woods on the outskirts of their town, which was known for its mystery and ghostly mist that seemed to settle over the dark trees every night, they thought she was insane.
But then she told them Clark was going they were fine with it.
They loved Clark.
In their eyes, he could do no wrong. Alice’s best friend since childhood, who was kind and supportive and friendly and said all the right things at the right time, add in a dash of charm and a quirky sense of humour, and just about anyone would love him. They thought he was a good influence. That he was a good man, who knew what he wanted in life. He didn’t. He was a twenty year old, struggling with an alcohol addiction (though he refused to admit it), his parents didn’t know but he’d dropped out of university, and had been staying with Alice at her campus for the most part of their third year. He was also suffering with depression.
Despite that, he liked to be called ‘The Mad Hatter’, a nickname he’d donned for himself when he was younger. Everyone at school thought he was crazy, and he decided to play up to it. He preferred being weird, than snobbish and stuck up like the rest of them. So, when Alice and Clark met, that was the first thing he said to her, and they’ve been friends ever since.
Jeremy, another of their friends, is often called ‘Mr. Rabbit’, because for as long as Alice can remember, he’d been obsessed with the Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He also happened to worry a lot, and thought a lot about the time. He was constantly checking his watch and planned ahead like a madman and Alice was convinced one day he’d end up getting one of those pocket watches and an eyeglass. The three of them were a sight.
Clark was over 6 foot, had dancing green eyes that really were afraid and alone, but hidden behind smiles, eccentric clothes and hats. Jeremy was antsy a lot of the time. He didn’t trust anyone. Alice wasn’t sure if he even trusted himself. And then there was Alice. She sort of stuck out like a sore thumb with the two of them, she wore mismatching brightly coloured dresses, with combat boots and had unruly dirty blond hair, with dark blue eyes and an airy voice that made her sound like Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series.
“Remind me again, why you wanted to do this?” Alice asked, as the three of them lay on their backs on the blankets, with a fire burning nearby, surrounded by the darkening woods, with only the night creatures to keep them company and the rustling of the leaves.
“Because, it’s fun,” Clark replied, smirking up at the starry sky.
“No, it’s stupid.”
“No one forced you to come, scaredy pants,” Clark rolled his eyes at Jeremy, who was lying next to Alice on her right side.
“Actually, I did,” Alice laughed, “he’s more responsible than you are. What if you go on some crazy journey through the woods and I lost you, can’t exactly find you by myself. Needed some back up, you know, in case we need to drag your crazy ass back home.”
“I am not crazy.”
“Right, sure you’re not,” Alice smirked, “that’s why everyone calls you ‘The Mad Hatter’.”
“Only because I want them to,” Clark replied defensively.
“No, because you went along with their lies,” Alice said, and suddenly the mood wasn’t as playful anymore. But then Clark was up and digging through his bag for something. And the moment was gone.
“I propose we drink,” Clark grinned, shoving bottles into Alice’s hands and Jeremy’s, “you both just finished university for the term, time for celebration.”
“Clark, I don’t think that’s a good idea –
“Look, I’m not going to get drunk, okay,” Clark rolled his eyes, “I don’t have a problem.”
“Mate, you do,” Jeremy said gently, “look, why don’t we just –?”
“No,” Clark snapped, angrily, “look, I wanna drink and if I wanna get shitfaced because I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing or where I’m going, I’m going to, ‘kay?”
“Suit yourself then,” Clark grunted, taking a huge swig, turning away from Alice, wondering into the woods, “I’m going exploring, you two losers coming?”
Alice shared a look with Jeremy before sighing, grabbing their things as the two of them stood, “yeah, hang on a sec, jerk.”
The three of them ended up getting lost and by the time it was two o’clock in the morning, they were falling all over each other, drunk and giggling at the silliest of things. Even Jeremy, so they were all pretty fucked. Alice suggested they sit somewhere for a while and they ended up stumbling upon a caretakers house, one that had been abandoned. Figuring that it was probably better to stay in there, than outdoors, they opened the door easily enough, the lock was old and flimsy and broke right off.
The roof had caved in a while back and the windows were blackened, tainted with soot and dirt. The wooden floor creaked like a haunted house, it was rooting and decaying too and there was an awful smell like death and drugs in the living room. But it was better than being out in the forest, drunk and alone. Or at least that’s what they thought.
The first strange thing that happened, was hearing the laugh of a child. As if a young girl was running around the house. Alice had curled up underneath her blanket next to her two friends, when they heard the pitter patter of running feet, and then the sound of an airy, ghostly laugh.
“What was that?” Alice asked, sitting up a little straighter, trying to hear the laugh again. But let’s face it, they were all pretty wasted, so they could’ve heard the wind and thought it was a little girl from a horror film prancing around, laughing at them.
“Nothin’,” Clark mumbled, tucking himself against her side, his head on her shoulder, “drink some more. Go to sleep.”
Alice stared at her friend, “mate…we finished the alcohol. What else do you have stashed in that bag of yours, eh?”
Clark smirked against her neck and mumbled drunkenly, “wouldn’t you like to know…”
“Ugh, get off me Clark, not one of your one nighters,” Alice groaned, shoving him away from her but he didn’t budge, he was a dead weight against her side. Jeremy was no better; he’d curled up into a ball and shut the world out, having fallen asleep as soon as his head hit his bag.
“You could be,” Clark chuckled, kissing her neck.
Alice rolled her eyes, ruffling his hair, “no thanks, Hatter.”
“Suit yourself,” Clark mumbled, smirking against her shoulder, “just sayin’, could make it worth ya time, baby. Like no one else, make you feel really good.”
“Oh my God,” Alice laughed, pushing him away from her and this time he went, “do you use that on all your lady lovers?”
Clark grinned cheekily, leaning against the broken wall by his side, “not tellin’.”
“You fucker,” Alice smirked, throwing her bag at him lightly.
Clark’s eyes widened and just when he was about to tackle her (probably to tickle her, like he usually did when he was drunk), they heard something else. The sound of two boys bickering and the young girl’s voice again. This time, they were introducing themselves, as if they were upstairs. But there was no upstairs. The roof had freaking caved in on it all.
“Tweedledum and Tweeledee,” the girl was saying, “those are your names? How curious. Strange even.”
Alice snorted, “wow, we must be really fuckin’ drunk if –
But her words were cut off, when someone opened the front door and walked inside.
“Fuck,” Clark hissed, staring into the passage through the broken wall, “s’a woman.”
“Woman, who –?”
“Whoever is in my house, get out or I shall have your head, I swear it!”
Alice stared at Clark, wide eyed, “what the fuck?”
“Off with their heads, off with their heads!” the girl and two boys sang from upstairs, appearing in the room in front of Alice. They looked frail, pale and sickly, the touch of death strong on their hearts, dried blood on their faces and broken smiles lit up the room.
The woman was walking closer and closer to the room, “who stepped foot in my house?”
“Clark, seriously what the –?”
But Alice’s question was cut off when she turned to the side to find herself alone, just her and the creepy girl, the weird plump twins and now, the witchy, devilish woman, who was entering the living room.
“Did you touch my roses?” the woman asked, scornfully. She had red eyes, red hair, red clothes, red lips…she looked like someone had painted her red. Painted…hang on…
“I asked you a question girl!”
Alice looked up at the dangerous looking woman and frowned, “I’m sorry?”
“Did you touch my roses?”
“What roses?” Alice asked, “where are my friends, what have you –?”
“Did you touch my roses?” the woman snarled, as the weird children in the background began singing about ‘painting the roses red’ or something to that affect.
“I didn’t see any roses. I didn’t touch them, I swear, I just –
“Off with her head!” the woman screeched and the next thing Alice knew, she was being dragged up to her feet and the room was spinning, in a red blur.
“Alice, Alice wake up!”
Groaning, Alice blearily opened her eyes and stared up at the woman looking down at her, “…mum?”
“Oh sweetheart,” her mother sighed worriedly, pulling Alice into her arms, “I’m so sorry darling. I’m so sorry.”
“For what?” Alice asked, drawing back from her mother’s arms, realising that she was still in the woods, but alone and covered in a blanket, her hair had leaves and twigs stuck in it.
“It’s Clark, sweetheart,” her mother said sadly, “they found him this morning. I’m so sorry Alice. He must’ve left sometime in the night and the lake – and –
“No, no!” Alice cried, shaking her head, “no, we were here and we went walking and we had something to drink, but he didn’t, he couldn’t have…where’s Jeremy?”
“He’s talking to the police now,” her mother said gently, “but honey, you had nothingto drink. They’ve tested your breath. Jeremy said you went looking for Clark, stayed up ‘till God knows what time, but you couldn’t find him. Jeremy suggest you sit and wait, maybe he’d come back. Look see, you tried calling, texting…when Jeremy came back, you’d fallen asleep, out of exhaustion, and then he called the police.”
“No. No. He wouldn’t. He was fine, Clark was fine. I – I want to see him.”
“Clark! Clark!” Alice screamed at the top of her lungs, hysterical, as if he would just appear out of the woods like nothing happened. He didn’t. He wouldn’t ever again.
Last night hadn’t been a celebration. It had been a goodbye.