This horror-story is a darker continuation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". It follows the destruction of The Mad Hatter's sanity after Alice grows up.
The Clock Strikes Black
Eighteen-year-old Emeline De Vane has always been warned of a ghost that walks through her manor at night. Ignoring these warnings, Emeline leaves her room, becoming kidnapped by the ghost, himself.
Waking up, she finds herself before a man who introduces himself as The Mad Hatter, who has mistaken her for 'Alice'. Trapped in a twisted Wonderland, young Emeline must struggle to find a way back home before The Mad Hatter manages to trap her for all time.
It had not yet struck ten in the evening, yet Emeline could already be found trying to fall asleep. For years she had regarded the stories just as they were. They have just told me these things to confine me in my room. She had told herself such things countless times, yet still hid herself away when the night came. She refused to hide under the covers as she had when she was a child. These silly lies they tell me, you would think they would tire of their games. And yet, she couldn’t deny hearing the voices that echoed down the halls as she tried, in vain, to sleep.
“Come to me,” the voice enticed, its silken tone daring her to betray her better judgment.
“What harm could come of it?” Reason left her as curiosity took hold. She rose from her bed, nervously clutching the bedclothes. If I am as brave as Tristan, I should get through this easily enough. It was only too easy for her to tell herself that she was brave, but following thought with action was a harder matter. She could not yet hear the footsteps, but knew they would come. They always come. Many times she wondered why the ghost laughed when it was said he died of a broken heart. Could that be the twist of madness? One must act happy, even if they are morose? Chills ran up her spine; she didn’t wish to explore the depths of insanity.
In the dead of night she finally heard the familiar footfalls, teasing her as they repeatedly passed her door. Dark chuckles could be heard, as though the ghost enjoyed her increasing feelings of trapped paranoia.
She jumped in fear as something was tapped against her door, followed by a dragging sound as though someone was tracing a cane across the outer wall.
It has never done that before. Terrified, she sat frozen in her bed.
“Come to me,” the voice whispered from beyond the door. A shadow crossed the threshold beneath the door. Ghosts do not have shadows...
Quickly, before her terror reached an unbearable point, she rose from the bed and dashed across the room. She dare not whisper, knowing they might hear her. The fact that she couldn’t call to her sister for help, fearing the thought of putting others in jeopardy, made her heart pulse frantically.
“If you will not come out to me, I am afraid I will have to come in to you,” the voice hissed, causing Emeline’s stomach to twist in terror.
Breathing heavily, she walked to the door, fingers tentatively grasping at her nightgown. Her bare feet felt almost warm against the cool carpet as she inched closer to the door. What awaits me beyond this door? Her hand uselessly wrapped the thin night gown around her other fingers as though to distract herself from the impending danger, the action utterly failing. Looking back, she wasn’t sure what had lured her to the door, no doubt placing herself further into harm’s way. Perhaps it had been her unfailing curiosity, although she tried to vehemently blame a ghost’s trickery.
Her trembling hands reached for the handle, which would give way to the stranger on the other side.
Immediately, she knew by the slight movement of the handle that a hand rested upon it on the opposite side.
“I know you are in front of the door, must I pull you out?” The voice was coaxing, yet she detected a hint of impatience, steel wrapped in a silken veil. The tone did nothing to quell her fear. What would a ghost want with a young girl?
Using all of her strength, she wrenched the door open, deaf to the crash as the ancient wood hit against the other wall. Though she had expected to see only air, she found herself face to face with a cunning smile and flashing silver eyes. It was then that she knew that this was the man who had stolen away dreams and gifted her with nightmares. With a spindling form he loomed over her, teeth glinting menacingly as though already planning something wicked.
“Hello Alice.” She stood motionless, not sure whether she should run into the sanctuary of her room or marvel at the handsome features of the man’s face. “Oh, how I have missed you.” He sighed, hands clamping onto her shoulders as if inspecting her from the shadows. The untold mysteries surrounding him left her frozen in fascination, a faint buzz soon filling her mind as she tried to take hold of the situation.
Before she could speak, he grabbed her by the hand, leading her quickly down the hall. “We must go,” he said quietly, though his voice would soon rise in triumph. The words, as though cast in fire, melted her frozen posture. Though the promise of adventure excited her, reason still reared its head as her instincts told her to stay behind.
“Stop, please, Sir!” She finally called to him, hoping that someone would hear her as his grip tightened around her delicate hand.
“We have no time for this. You will come with me this instant!” Emeline tried to stop walking in hopes of stalling him, but he pulled her along until he suddenly stopped, looking around with an evaluating gaze.
“He is around somewhere, is he not?” She blinked as his arm twisted to pull her, bringing her to fall against his muscled back.
“I do not understand!” She whispered furiously as he turned to her, not yet frightened by the man whose eyes changed to darkness.
“We have no time for this,” He repeated. “I will silence him later if you are inclined.” The words held a dark intent, the levels of his danger spiking in her mind. Panic stricken, she managed to break away from him, running several few feet away before she froze. She wasn’t sure what stopped her, but a deep compulsion caused her to turn back, an unknown desire telling her to run back into his arms. But you do not even know this man. Her mind whispered fearfully before she was visited by her still childish imagination. Of course I know who he is, he is the ghost from the stories. The need to run filled her, but her legs remained stubbornly frozen, curiosity keeping her still.
He moved ever so slightly, catching her attention with the silvery reflection of his eyes.
“Come to me,” he beckoned, offering his hand for her to take. Taking the hand would be madness, something unheard of in her time, though she couldn’t help but wonder. She could see a promise in his eyes, something that spoke of a great adventure. They calmly invited her, belaying all evidence that had previously warned her of his palpable danger. Why not? Her curiosity whispered, prodding her with its insufferable questions. Why not?
Drifting slowly, she crossed the hall, hand darting forward to clasp his own. All thought scattered as she stared at him, hypnotized. His hand closed around hers, sending a slight jolt through her heart.
“Say your final farewell to this place, for you will not see it again.” She averted her eyes, breaking the spell he had cast over her. Coming back to her senses she elbowed him in the ribs, again realizing that he could do her harm.
An inhuman growl rose from his throat and she would have been stunned had the man not impatiently pressed against the side of her neck, causing her to fall unconscious into his waiting arms. “You always were rather delicate.” He mused, laughing maliciously as he stepped through a mirror at the end of the hall. A clock chime echoed throughout the large house, drowning out his manic laughter as the mirror glinted innocently in the moonlight.