Hive

Sometimes, when it was really quiet, she could hear a soft buzzing in her head.

It wasn’t always in the same spot; usually at the base of her skull, sometimes closer to the front, near her nose.

“Sinus pressure.” She dismissed her worries. “It is allergy season, after all.”

But the humming was getting louder. She could feel a vibration in her skull. She was beginning to get worried, jumpy. When her hair touched her face or her neck, it felt like the many legs of an insect, insidiously creeping over her skin.

The twitchy feelings were maddening, and the thrumming was getting stronger, more insistent.

She decided to get a haircut. A short one. She walked into the first place she saw, an old-fashioned barber shop with a striped pole in front.

“We don’t do women’s cuts.” The barber informed her.

“Buzz it.” She demanded.

The sound of the shaver was a roaring hum, the vibration over her scalp felt glorious. It drowned out the sizzling drone inside her head.

As he unclipped her smock, the humming returned.

The barber handed her a mirror, and asked, “That is quite the scar you’ve got there. Where’d you come by that?”

“On my head? I don’t have any scars on my head.”

“Sure enough you do, right above your neck.” He spun her chair so she could see for herself. He pointed, “Just there.”

An angry, purple-red mark was etched into her skin. “I don’t know where it came from…” She murmured. She reached to touch it, and it pulsed against her fingers. She felt it hum and throb.

The buzzing in her head resumed at full force, even louder than before. And now it hurt.

“Are you alright?” Asked the barber, folding the smock. “I would get that checked out.”

“I-I’m fine. Just a headache. I must have whacked my head on something… thanks.”

The pain was getting worse, she could feel it creeping behind her eyes. She hurried home, trying to ignore the thrum of activity in her head. It was in her neck, too. She could feel the vibrations shudder through her shoulders.

Her fingertips felt numb, as if she had been shocked. She collapsed on the couch, breathing heavily. Her skin was crawling, the buzzing had become a roar.

I should go to the hospital. She thought before losing consciousness.

*****

When she woke up, it was dark. It was silent. She sat up slowly, and gingerly touched the back of her neck; the wound was still there. It hadn’t been a dream.

She stood up and stepped on something with a sickening crunch. She choked back a scream and stood still. The buzzing started again, but this time it was not in her head. It was in the room. A hissing, throbbing hum that made her hair stand on end. There was no mistaking it.

The buzzing in her head was the same noise that filled the room.

She carefully reached out and turned on the light.

The Orchard

I am walking through the apple orchard with my mother and my brother. The sun is shining brightly, shadows dappling the dry ground. The colors are brilliant, the bees are buzzing and the soft breeze is scented with fresh hay.

I am afraid.

We are walking fast, and I know he is going to find us, the red faced man with the too-yellow hair. I can picture the barn at the top of the hill, the sharp tools lining the walls, the chains hanging from the rafters. We can’t hide in that barn. He wants us in that barn. Red paint peeling, iron rusting, dirt floor heavy with death.

I can sense him high in the trees, slithering like a snake. Scenting the air, he knows where we are. He is watching, waiting. I know he is there.

I can’t stop walking forward, up that hill. There is nowhere else to go. My mother grips my hand tightly, without looking at me. My brother’s eyes never leave the ground.

We can’t outrun him. We can’t hide.

We are destined to end up in that barn, and there is nothing I can do.

The Curious

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.

Alice hurried.

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.