Alice was tired.
The Tree had brought her here long ago, when she was just a child. At first, it had been fun. She had explored and played; the Hatter and the Queen had been the most gentle of playmates. Then the Hatter went Mad, and the Queen turned Red.
Alice decided it was time to go home.
She went back the way she had come, along the trail that the Tree That Wasn’t Really A Tree had shown her. She walked and walked, trying to avoid the stares of her former friends. Creatures she had once shared tea with crept menacingly closer, eyes clouded with the madness. The Madness. It was getting worse, spreading faster and faster, paranoia and rage. Fear and anxiety.
The path was different than before. The trees loomed taller, darker, leaves thick with malice. No friendly rabbits lead the way, no caterpillars offered advice. Then she came to the Gate. The Gate was shut. She pulled with all of her might, but it held fast.
“Please, Alice. Can you hear me?” a soft voice sighed. “Can you squeeze my hand? Alice?”
She had been ignoring the voices. She had been hearing them since she first set foot in the Wonderland, loud at first. Demanding, insistent.
Go away. She had thought fiercely. Leave me alone. I am happy here. But the voices remained. She was able to block out nearly all of them, and the few she could still hear were merely whispers. Now, though… she was not happy. Wonderland had gone Dark, and strange things were on the move. It was time to go.
I’m here! She cried with all her might. I am here! She slammed her fists on the Gate. Please! Hear me! Help me! I don’t like this anymore! I want to go home!
The voices were silent.
The Tree! The Tree showed me the way in, it must show me the way out! She could see the long branches spreading past the Gate. The roots crept almost to the path, but fell short, just out of her reach. With each moment, they seemed a little farther away. The Tree That Wasn’t Really A Tree was abandoning her. The Tree had tricked her.
“Oh, Alice. Why did you leave us this way?” the soft, kind voice had returned. “Why is she like this?”
A deeper voice responded, “I don’t know. I don’t think she is ever coming back to us. We have to let her go. She’s already gone.”
No! Screamed Alice. No, I am here! Right here! Just open the Gate! Please! She sobbed and cried. Thrashed and fought. Alas, the deed was done.
Alice was trapped in the Dark Wonderland, with the Madness.
Years and years passed in the Dark Wonderland, where all wonders had fled. The Madness grew.
Time wore on. As she grew older Alice was able to focus her energy, and could almost see out of Wonderland. She could almost open her eyes, almost move her mouth. She realized what had happened. The Tree had tricked her, trapped her in her own mind. Stolen her sanity, and now her body appeared vacant. The voices she heard were her parents, speaking over her body, trying to communicate. Praying she was still there. And they were giving up.
Her spirit withered. She felt herself fading and slipping.
Alice splintered in her second decade.
Alice shattered in her third.
The Tree had won.
Alice was the Dark Wonderland, and the Dark Wonderland was Alice.