Charlotte stepped over the knots of trees in the bizarre forest. She didn’t remember falling asleep in a forest. In fact she didn’t remember falling asleep at all. The last thing that she remembered was Thomas hitting her and her crying out in pain, eventually it stopped hurting, it always did, and then she was here.
Where was here?
Charlotte was in a dark forest type place that had a lot of twisted trees.
Did Thomas take her there?
Where was he?
She hoped he wasn’t hurt, that would devastate her.
She couldn’t live without him.
He was the only one that loved her.
Charlotte looked around frantically trying to find out where he was. “Thomas! Are you there?” There was no answer. Somehow she knew there wouldn’t be but that brought a tightness to her chest the panic rising as she continued on her path forward. Where was he? He wouldn’t leave her there! He loved her! He loved her. Didn’t he?
Her thoughts on Thomas instead of where she was going Charlotte stumbled over more tree roots falling to the ground her tights ripping at the knees. She pushed herself off the ground wiping the leaves and dirt off of her hands and her legs. She felt like she was getting no where but she couldn’t just sit there could she? Well she could but what good would that do? The panic that Thomas wasn’t there was rising, tears rising to her eyes. She hadn’t been without Thomas in so long that she wasn’t sure what to do. Wouldn’t he tell her? Wasn’t that what he did for her?“Hello!? Is anyone there?” Charlotte queried to the forest itself. She didn’t know what else to do. When nothing answered she began to walk in the direction that she had been facing. She didn’t understand what was happening. Everything felt so real. Too real. What was this place? Where was Thomas?
As Charlotte continued a first wisp of smoke curled in front of her nothing more then a simple whiff. The wisp disappeared almost as quickly as it came snapped away with the branch that swiped toward Charlotte’s face.
“Thomas?” she was confused as to why he would leave her here. Wherever here was. “Where am I?” As she continued to speak to the forest a myriad of smoke began to form in front of and around her. At first it formed into a ball, expanding into the shape of a very odd looking cat before it continued to mull and mix itself into odd shapes and forms. The main portion of the foul smoke didn’t particularly make sense, there wasn’t anything bringing it together but it formed in front of her. As it formed and mixed it began to take shape in front of her until there was a figure shrouded by it.
Charlotte began to cough the pungent smell of the smoke making her sick. It stung her eyes making more tears.
At first you couldn’t tell what stood beyond the smoke that consumed everything around her but a low chuckle emanated from the thick miasma before them. “Eh ha ha. You look like you need me,” the masculine voice said. The man took in a deep breath in before blowing out in a whoosh blowing the blinding smoke both away from them both exposing his older appearance and the cigar he was holding.
Charlotte continued to cough even as the smoke cleared from around them. She gagged as she leaned on a tree which hurt her hand.
“What did you need?” the man questioned placing the cigar back to his lips to take another breath of the foul smelling cigar and blowing it back the smoke into her face a low chuckle still emanating from the raspy voiced man as he did so.
Charlotte frowned and coughed again, her stomach wrenching at the smell. “I’m sorry? Who-cah-are-cah-you?”
The strange man stared at her a moment, the low chuckle had stopped for a moment. “Oh right,” he said with a frown, the obvious disappointment in his voice. The smile quickly returned and a chuckle returned to emanate from around them.
Keeping the cigar in his lips he leaned over and bowed to her, a low sweeping bow, his forehead nearly touched the ground before he popped back up. “I’m Tarik,” he introduced. “And you are Charlotte, new to Wonderland.”
“Wonderland?” she coughed.
“Where else did you think you were? Oz?”
Tarik took the cigar out of his mouth, “Don’t answer that. If you’re that stupid I’m not sure we should be associated. There is not yellow brick road so I’ll assume you didn’t think it was Oz,” he advised her mumbling something about stupid humans and their lore. “Anyways,” he said waving his hand away, the pungent smoke wrapping around his hand before it continued on. “I’m here to be your guide to getting acquainted with Wonderland or whatever that is that you want to call it. Just know that I won’t be here forever so you better think up your questions before we get to Metro.”
“Metro?” Charlotte started finally able to pull away from the tree, her hand covered in blood and spots like her hand had been set onto needles.
Tarik sighed moving to wrap his arms around her shoulders, the cigar returning to his mouth as he tightly gripped her and started to move her forward.
“Ow, that hurts,” she protested but he was stronger than he looked and didn’t let her go even as she stumbled.
“Look sweet heart. You’re cute, I’ll give you that much but you’re not too bright and if you want to survive here you’re going to have to start thinking a little more quickly. I’ll give you a few hints okay?”
He cut her off. “You’ll thank me later. Stay away from the Queens, they have their own rivalry to battle out. Find yourself a caterpillar to help you find why you’re here so you can get outta here before your stuck? Alright sweet heart?”
“Out of here? Out of Wonderland? Isn’t this place supposed to be filled with wonder and beauty?”
Tarik chuckled, removing one hand from her shoulder closest to him and waving it in a circle. “Course it is and it still has some of it’s old pizazz. Well a very minor amount,” he explained. “Hasn’t really been the same since she left.”
“Who left? Alice?”
“Of course Alice, who else would I be talking about? She had a special way with Wonderlanders that really made things mesh but now… Well you’ll see.”
“And what are you?”
“A Cheshire of course.”
“Aren’t Cheshires cats?”
Tarik groaned and bobbed his head from side to side before he looked to the woman with a sinister side glance. “I never said that Alice wasn’t a bitch now did I?”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ll just say she had a terrible sense of humor.”
“You probably never will. Now,” he said as they came to an opening in the trees that lead to a blackened meadow that went all the way up to the large metropolis of Wonderland. The buildings weren’t all straight, some had hats, others had card suits. There was even one with a large garden of flowers on top of it. “There’s your destination. I suggest you hurry before it gets too late. While the daylight hours has some pretty bad things, the night holds even worse terror. Go on,” he said giving her a shove throwing her onto the ground in the prickly meadow.
Charlotte cried out at the rocks dug painfully into her knees. As she rolled over to cater to them the man was gone, all that was left was a puff of smoke with a wicked grin lingering where he had once stood.
Charlotte still had no idea where she was but wherever it was she wanted to go home. Even Thomas’ fist was better than this.