Alice was no longer curious in the same way. At 22, she’d felt for years that there was something different about her.
In her dreams–not the daytime reveries in which she was plucked to the land of Mad Hatters and White Knights whose words gave her a headache because they ran backwards–she was a proper Victorian gentleman, a scholar with leisure time to spare who investigated crimes using a new deductive method he had invented.
Armistead Ramsgate was a fresh breed of detective. And gradually, it appeared that Alice was able to cloak herself in his skin not only in daydreams, but at points in real life. These points appeared as mathematical characters that expanded from textbooks (a girl pursuing the rigors of mathematics being a thing frowned upon by family, friends and nosy neighbors, but she didn’t care so much what they thought) into affable, ambulatory gateways that provided a cloaking mechanism for her. Armistead showed up in drawing rooms, the toast of London society, puffing on his Meerschomb pipe as he enlarged on the virtues of “the behavioral analysis”. Alice was sitting by the river, dosing off over a book on Symbolic Logic by her old friend Professor Carroll, when suddenly she saw a familiar, furry face blur by. She refocused her eyes for daydream vision and noted with a start–and a burst of adrenaline–that the White Rabbit was splashed with clots of blood, his fur matted with it, tufts hardened to rusty spires.
“How now, my good rabbit,” she greeted him, and her voice deepened with the gravity of Detective Ramsgate.
“Who are you?” the White Rabbit burst out. Then he consulted his pocketwatch. “Time is running out. I have to catch him. Toodles”.
Ramsgate recalled the White Rabbit’s penchant for mania and realized something was terribly, terribly wrong in Wonderland. She jumped down the familiar rabbithole; the sawlike edges of the vortex were crusted with gore, and menacing faces grinned at her as they sailed down like cards to the bottom, and out. Alice had the Eat Me, Drink Me routine wired by this point, and after the tiresome exercises in redundancy popped through a series of mirrored hallways to Wonderland.
Body parts dotted the landscape. The Cheshire Cat’s head was impaled on a lamp post and his grin flickered in blue flame. Unhappy card faces punched with jagged tears ran frantically back and forth. The Mad Hatter, his eyes gouged out and weeping mercury, plunged forward into her arms.
“I’m not really mad, you know,” he gasped before expiring.
Ramsgate shuddered and wondered if direct contact with the Hatter’s corpse might drive him actually insane.
“Don’t worry, you’re the only rational being left,” said the Mad Hatter’s instant ghost. “Have fun, strange gentleman!”
“How do you like my new, improved Wonderland?” asked a voice from behind–low, breathy, sensual and female. Ramsgate whirled around. The voice seemed to be coming from behind what was left of the mushroom. He looked up and saw bits of caterpillar wriggling from the branches of a very tall and worried tree.
“I don’t like it one bit,” Ramsgate exclaimed, for a second lapsing into the Alice voice. He cleared his throat and began again. “Sir, you have disrupted the fragile equipoise of mad logic in this world, and that is a crime. I will discover you and ensure you meet with the punishment you so justly deserve.”
“Tut, tut, Alice,” chided the voice. “So formal. You’ve obviously forgotten the value of fun!”
The voice had a point, thought Alice. Shrugging off the Ramsgate suit, she stood, an unusually tall, full-figured woman, with long blonde hair, clear blue eyes, wearing a gown tailored after the fashions of classical Athens. “The game’s a foot,” she improvised.
“That makes no sense at all. In order for the game to be a foot, we would have to redesign it entirely along the lines of podiatry.”
“Now who lacks a sense of fun?” she said, scoffing.
“I deduce from the state of your victims that you, sir, are an unpleasant, small female with a grave personality disorder. You have no self-esteem to speak of and enjoy cruelty as recompense for what you think of as the world’s conspiracy against you. Failing to find contentment in the killing spree you carved through Whitechapel, you fell down a rabbithole of your psyche’s own devising. I name you, Madamoiselle. You are the Ripper in Black. Show yourself!”
“A nice speech. I suppose next you’re going to say I was jealous of those whores,” said the voice. “All right, I’m coming out.” There was a bustle in the hedgerow and the Ripper appeared. As predicted, she was a frowsy, stunted woman wearing an eyepatch, a dark gray suit with a cloak, a tall black silk hat over severely cropped red hair, and just a hint of frilly garters emerging from her trousers.
Alice gasped with laughter.
“I’ll cut you, I will,” said the Ripper, lapsing into the Cockney dialect of her youth.
“I see Paris, I see France…” then Alice was on the ground, helpless with mirth.
“You little bitch! I’ll tear out that tarty tongue of yours and feast on it, me!”
“Seriously?” asked Alice, wiping the tears from her cheek. She hadn’t had this much fun in years. ”
“Grimly serious, yes, I am. Behold the Ripper in Black!”
“That’s not a moniker I’ve seen in the newspapers, Mistress Black.”
The Ripper tittered. “It’s my own invention.”
“And speaking of which…” Alice negotiated several trains of thought, then jumped off. “This is still Wonderland, and Wonderland rules apply.”
“Meaning what, exactly?”
“Meaning…” Alice enacted her words as she uttered them. “Meaning…I’m going to turn you inside out and expose your guts to a laughing chorus of revived animals, berserk royalty, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Jabberwock.”
The Ripper’s steaming entrails flopped about as she lay on the grass, a small, squeaky voice cursing Alice and her family to the seventh generation from deep inside her inverted mortal coil.
Alice smiled with satisfaction. “That being much too easy, I expect you will return in some other form. Be that as it may, I have equations to solve and puzzles to operate.”
And Wonderland was restored, at least temporarily, a plaque erected to honor Alice for her “Contributions beyond the call of duty,” a grand festival hosted by the Mad Hatter, and a delay of execution from all the different varieties of Queen.