10 comments

Fantasy Fiction

Angel sat with her knees drawn up. The wind whipped her hair around like a Medusa. Sand stung her cheeks and she buried her face in her knees, letting the tears fall. Even though she was hidden under the embankment of the bridge, the wind pulled at her.  Come into the darkness, it seemed to say.


Why, oh why hadn’t she listened to the weather reports? Well, she had, but meteorologists were always wrong. And Houston just didn’t get storms like this. 


She’d gotten worried about the weather on her commute to work. The clouds had gathered overhead and the wind had picked up. Her car was buffeted, pushing her into oncoming traffic. But she kept control of the steering wheel.


The clouds had turned a sinister shade of green just before the tornado touched the ground. It danced over the overpass and swept her car off the road. Now the vehicle was a ton of twisted metal, locked in an everlasting embrace with a concrete pylon.


The adrenaline from the accident was abating and Angel started to shake.


The car’s engine still smoked, but at least the fire had gone out. The hood hissed and steamed as large drops of rain pelted the scorched metal. Bolts of lightning blinded her, leaving purple jags across her eyes. Thunder hit her like a beer truck.


Then the rain started in earnest. It was as though the sky had opened up and dropped the ocean onto her car. 


What was the use of anything? She’d been late, so she'd been hurrying. Now her car was wrecked. She would miss the evening shift. Her work uniform was filthy from the crawl up the embankment as she hid from the weather. Even if she got there, they'd send her home.


Angel knew she’d get fired for sure this time. And when she got home, Joey was certain to be angry again. Would he finally leave her? It would be a wrenching, inconsolable loss, but a relief, too. She was tired of the fights. She rubbed her jaw where he had last hit her, but it had new bruises now.


“Are you alright?”


“NO!” she sobbed. She was just coming to realize that every inch of her body ached. She lifted her head from her knees and crimson splotches dotted her Alice blue leggings. She touched her forehead and her hand came away red. She must have hit her head on the steering wheel because it throbbed like crazy.


Angel wiped her tears with the back of her hand, smearing her makeup. “What will I do?” she wailed.


The cat looked toward the wreckage of the car and the dark storm beyond. “Are you mad?” he asked.


“Mad? I’m furious. I’m livid. I’m so upset I … well, I’d say ‘I could cry’, but …” Her voice trailed off. She stared at the cat.


“Mad? Excellent! We’re all mad here. Follow me,” said the cat, and he sauntered away. He was large and orange, not like an orange tabby, but more like a pumpkin; wrinkled and bright, with green tufts sticking out at jaunty angles.


Angel blinked.  A talking cat?  I must be hallucinating, she thought. She pressed the palm of her hand to her head again and it came away bloody.  I have a concussion. I might be dying. I hope someone finds my body. 


Shaking, she stood up, then turned away from the smoking wreck and followed the cat into the sunlight.


#


“Wait a minute. Where are we?”


They had stepped out from under the bridge. It was bright and sunny. The air was still and pleasantly warm, not like the thick soup they call “outdoors” around Houston.


Angel paused, taking in her surroundings. There was thick, cool grass beneath her feet. There was a lush copse of trees not far off. A large picnic table sat in the middle of an idyllic meadow, and there was a small gathering there. The sky was bright blue. A cacophony of birds chirped gleefully.


Angel looked over her shoulder. There was the overpass she’d just come out from. Beyond it, she could see her still-smoldering car. The sky was dark beyond the car and the rain blurred the distance. Flashes of lightning brightened the dirt where she had been. Somewhere in the distance, as if in a dream, she could hear the mournful wail of an ambulance.


Above the bridge, the sky resumed its story-book blue.


The cat strolled toward the table, his tail swishing high in the air. He paused and looked over his shoulder. “Are you coming?” His grin was as big as his face and his whiskers twitched in excitement.


“Oh yes,” exclaimed Angel. She hurried along until she could almost touch his tail. “Who are you?” she asked, looking him over as she tried to determine if he was really a cat.


“I’m not quite sure,” he said. “I knew who I was this morning, but I have changed a few times since then. But you can call me Chester.” It seemed that his tail waved a bit more proudly for a moment. “I’m taking you to see our old friends, Milly and Harry.”


Angel looked at the cat, confused, yet something about this seemed familiar.


The two walked toward the table. Angel was desperate to ask questions, but her head still hurt and she wasn’t sure she’d remember any of it.


As they approached, it was obvious that there was a party of some sort. There was a lopsided cake, obviously hand decorated, and none-too-well. There were several tea pots, as if someone had scattered them like leaves. 


To one side of the table, there was an ancient woman wearing the most ridiculous top hat, with a wisp of a fascinator dangling to cover her brow. Beside her sat a very hairy man, not quite as old. He had grey at his temples and he looked distinguished but also disheveled. Angel thought he might have had too much to drink. Between them was a child, a little girl, wearing jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt. Angel thought they made a very strange family.


“Alice!” shouted the woman. 


Angel was taken aback. “I’m sorry, my name is Angel. Do I know you?”


“Well, I don’t know if you know me, but I most certainly know you. It’s me, Milly. Don’t you remember me? When you were here last, we had such a marvelous time trying on different hats in my store.”


Angel blinked as she wracked her brain. “No…” she said slowly. “I’m sure I would remember you. You seem very ... unforgettable.” She tried to be polite.


“Well, then, surely you remember Harry. We’ve been married since last we saw you. We are absolutely blissfully happy now, aren’t we, Dear?”


“What-what?” startled Harry. He shook his head and fleas dropped out of his hair and scurried away. The little girl captured one and bit it in two.


“Yes, Dear, go back to sleep.” She whispered conspiratorially. “It was all that marching. It’s addled his brains, you know. We can all be grateful for his insanity.” Then Milly spoke up again. “And this,” she gestured to the little girl with her teacup, “is Mouse. Surely you remember her. We adopted her, then decided we’d best get married to make this an entire family-thing.”


Angel was now thoroughly confused. Chester rubbed against her legs, pushing her toward the table. There was an empty place setting. Angel sat and Milly poured her some tea.


“So, tell us, Alice, how have you been getting along? It’s been so long since we’ve seen you!”


“Please, call me Angel, Miss Milly. I can see that you know me, but I don’t know when last we met, so I don’t know where to start.”


"Begin at the beginning,” Milly chanted happily, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop."


And so, Angel told her life story. About growing up outside of Houston, losing her family and her home when the floods came with the hurricane. About growing up in the orphanage system with no parent-figure. About graduating from high school without getting pregnant. And until today, working at the diner to support herself and Joey.  


“Joey. That doesn’t sound like a very nice name.”


“He’s not a very nice guy,” Angel responded. She looked down at her hands to avoid Milly's eyes. She thought of all the times he’d hit her.


“Hmm,” said Harry. “Then I can’t imagine why you let him stay with you.”


“I just can’t imagine a life without him,” she whispered forlornly.


“Imagination is the only weapon in the war with reality. I suppose that’s why you’re here,” chimed Chester. His smile, if anything, grew bigger.


Angel picked up a dainty fork and took a bite of her cake. It melted in her mouth like a butter-cream candy. She murred contentedly, savoring the sweet, smooth flavor. “This is excellent cake. Is this for someone’s birthday?”


“No, Alice, we made it for you,” piped Mouse. “We knew you were coming, it was only a matter of time.”


Angel paused for a moment, thinking about the little girl’s words. “How could you know I was coming?” she asked.


“As it was written, so it shall be,” Milly and Harry said together.


Chester intoned, as though he had said it many times before, “When the day becomes the night and the sky becomes the sea, when the clock strikes heavy and there’s no time for tea; and in our darkest hour, before my final rhyme, she will come back home to Wonderland and turn back the hands of time.”


Angel/Alice nodded. Somehow, it all made sense.

October 18, 2023 22:29

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10 comments

Michał Przywara
20:44 Oct 26, 2023

Interesting take on the prompt! Of course we wonder, did she actually go to Wonderland, or is this the concussion? I suppose it could be both :) "Imagination is the only weapon in the war with reality." - I like that. The title put me in mind of The Lord of the Rings, but this story is a different kind of fantasy. Still, it's relevant. The descriptions of Angel's life, with being an orphan and now being stuck in a dead-end job and an even worse relationship, makes it seem like wandering is all she does. It sounds quite aimless, given how...

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Sue Schroeder
16:08 Oct 27, 2023

Thank you for your kind words and thoughts, Michal. Yes, it could be the concussion, or it could be a new reality. Did the original Alice go down the rabbit hole, or was that just wishful thinking? Did Dorothy really go to Oz or what that just a dream? Did Aragorn lose himself or find himself as he wandered? These are all great questions.

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19:49 Oct 24, 2023

I really liked this story. Your choice of words make the story much more vivid!

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Sue Schroeder
20:46 Oct 24, 2023

Thank you, Vicki, for your kind words. I would love to write more about her adventures. We'll see where the prompts take me!

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Rona Skidmore
11:12 Oct 19, 2023

Love the description and connection to Wonderland... Very imaginative. I want to know more!

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Sue Schroeder
18:46 Oct 19, 2023

Thank you, Rona. I could envision "going down the rabbit hole" with this concept.

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Kim Alicia
02:39 Oct 19, 2023

A well written, engaging story. Angel's emotions shone through!

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Sue Schroeder
02:41 Oct 19, 2023

Thank you so much, Kim. Angel was a perfect ... angel! (And so are you)

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John Duda
02:12 Oct 19, 2023

Great story. I love your choice of words. They made the story come alive.

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Sue Schroeder
02:14 Oct 19, 2023

Thank you for your comment. It's lovely to hear from you!

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