Short Story: Wonder

I didn’t post last week, because I ran out of time, and I haven’t written anything this week either, so have a short story I wrote in November based roughly on what I remember of Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, but with a weird royal-spy twist for some reason.


I straighten from my curtsey, trying not to wince. The King had decreed that all must smile in His royal presence, lest it be assumed you were plotting something. None had dared ask what the punishment would be—His Majesty was more stable than our last ruler, but His smile measurer and closest advisor was omnipresent and overeager, his own smile always unsettlingly wide.

“What plea do you bring before the court!” The majordomo’s voice rings out from the umbrella-like canopy of his official mushroom, and I force my smile to widen despite the clouds of noxious smoke now billowing into my face.

“Your majesty, I come to warn you of the encroaching threat of the balloon army. They were not stopped by the rose bushes as expected. They suffered heavy losses, but proceeded apace.”

The King’s ears twitch, almost dislodging His crown (still bearing the Heart symbol of the now-deposed Queen). He checks His pocket watch, and mutters something that I cannot hear.

I hesitate before speaking again, my face a painful rictus as I continue. “Furthermore, the leader of the army seemingly has the ability to generate new forces at will.”

The Smile Measurer stretches and paces a tight circle in the air, his glowing eyes and smile as always giving off the air of barely-veiled menace. “And who is this leader, who possesses such a power?”

Cheeks aching, my eyes dart from the Cheshire Cat to His Majesty, who now appeared to be rocking backwards and forwards on His throne, muttering into His royal waistcoat.

“The leader is one known to His Majesty, though her name has been forbidden in these halls.”

“Impossible!” The Caterpillar shouts, “The false queen hasn’t been seen in years.”

I sink back into the deepest curtsey I can muster, careful to keep smiling despite the smoke now veiling me. I remain in position, thighs and cheeks burning from overexertion.

The King’s advisor fades into view mere inches from my face, grin and eyes materialising first. “And why do you grin so, when delivering such grave news to our gracious ruler?”

“I am but a loyal subject, obeying His Majesty’s decrees.”

“Without question?” The Cat asked, fading a little around the edges.

I allow my smile to slip the slightest fraction, lest it disappear entirely. “We were discussing actions, not questions, were we not?”

“Ah,” the Smile Measurer stalks once more towards the throne, “Your Majesty, might I suggest you meet with Alice, to see what she desires?”

“Alice? A terrible, tardy child. I should hardly speak with her.”

“A pity,” a voice calls from the back of the room, “It might have ended things quicker. I do know how you despise unpunctuality.”

I allow the smile to fall from my face and rise from my painful curtsey. Tipping my head to the Cheshire Cat as I move to stand by my mother: our true ruler, and her balloon animal guards.

The Cheshire Cat smiles, joining us. “Long live the Queen.”

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