I suddenly fell face first onto what felt like a futon. If you have ever been on a futon, you will know that this was not an altogether pleasant thing to land on but it beat many alternatives. I moved my hands and felt what definitely seemed very much like a futon. I lifted my head and let out the breath I guess I had been holding. The futon was blue and very futon-like and I was happy to land on something familiar and grounded after my trip through the abyss. I slowly pushed up onto my hands and feet and tried not to throw up my student center cheese fries. I stayed still for what felt like a long time. My stomach settled and I realized there were people standing around me. I started to stand and Booker moved to help me up.
“You should have been here when we didn’t have the futon,” She said with a chuckle and that same goofy grin from back in the library.
“I can’t imagine it was pretty. Where the Hell are we?” I asked, cutting to the chase. My head was still pretty much spinning. I did not realize I was still carrying my messenger bag until it bumped into my ribs. It made me flinch, much to Booker’s amusement.
“We call this Wonderland. It’s kind of our underground base of operations. Don’t worry, it’s more animated Disney Wonderland than it is live action Disney Underland. You’re safe here,” Booker said as she started walking. I took my cue to follow her, I guessed we were ignoring the other people who were slowly filtering away but they were eyeing me hard as they did. We were in some sort of tunnel. “Specifically, I call this section The Burrows.”
“An obvious name. Why am I here?” I asked. The word ‘why’ had been a question I felt still needed answering starting back in the library. However, we had barely stopped moving so far and I was getting worried nobody was going to explain.
“We’re going to meet with my boss,” Booker said. “She’ll explain everything.” She acted like that was sufficient enough of a statement.
“Who is your boss? What is this? What is going on?” I asked loudly. I had had enough.
We turned into a huge dome-shaped room. There was a woman in a red and blue dress. She had an easy smile on her face determination in her eyes. One eye was green and the other was black and it was both unsettling and captivating.
“I am the boss here. My name is Alice,” She said. “Welcome to Wonderland, William.” Oh great, another stranger who knew my name.
“Oh, I get it. I fell through a hole into Wonderland and now I am meeting Alice Very original,” I said, fighting not to laugh nervously. “What’s next? The Red Queen?” It was all too much. I admit now that this was a lot of sarcasm to lay at the feet of a woman I didn’t know. She knew my name, though.
“I guess you could call me the Red Queen too if you wanted to but it is a bit formal. I can be both the inquisitive Alice and the ruthless Red Queen. I am what I need to be,” She said. “And yes, this is our Wonderland but not the Wonderland, of course. We have fashioned a strange but safe haven here.”
“It has definitely been strange. Why am I here?” I asked. It felt like I was getting a headache but I also felt like we were making headway towards an actual explanation.
“I can answer that by explaining who we are. We are formally known as the Danali but we have been known by many names throughout our history. Currently, we move under the banner of Wonderland which is both a place and a movement,” She said. This much made some sense. “We are an ancient order of magic users devoted to making the world better. We want to bring magic back to the world for the benefit of mankind.”
“And the editors obviously don’t want that,” I said. The guns seemed to be proof of that but I wanted Alice to confirm.
“No. They definitely do not,” Alice said with the briefest of nods. “They are the Order of St. Francis de Sales but the term ‘editors’ is a cute name that is both shorter and very descriptive of their motives. They are trying to control the story.”
“And the world is the story. Booker told me,” I said. I noticed that Booker had left the room at some point.
“Yes, that’s how we see things. The story has grown cold and we want to heat it up again. Bring warmth to the world again,” Alice said. “That’s where you come in.”
“Wait, that’s where I come in? I have nothing to do with magic.”
“We often tap artists, writers and dreamers to join us here.”
“I’m a researcher,” I said. “I am an editor. I am kind of the enemy.” I smiled weakly.
“You understand the flow of a story. You understand what makes things tick. I believe yo could be a dynamic ally,” Alice explained.
“Against the editors?” I asked.
“Yes and the Oncoming Storm.”
“They are a what and a who. They are our true opposite number. They seek to use magic to dominate. They want to cleanse the Earth through destruction.”
“So, basically the evil army?” I asked.
“In the simplest terms. Our main task these days has been to keep them in check.”
I took a deep breath and I turned away from Queen Alice. This was a lot to take in. When I woke up I did not believe that magic was real. In fact, I had not believed in magic since I was very little. While I had a very strong suspension of disbelief, that was not the same as buying into all the great fiction I had seen in my life. Now I was being told that this was not just fiction and that some elements may have been real this whole time. I would have doubted that more but, barring heavy drugs, I was pretty sure that I had already experienced magical feats.
Alice was standing there and waiting for a very important answer to a very heavy question. Magic was real and there was a three-way battle over how to deal with that fact. Alice had said that Wonderland was ancient and that meant the battle was probably an old one. Long campaigns with no definitive answer were misery. The question was whether or not to enlist in that campaign. If the answer was yes, there was the promise of learning how to harness magic. This was attractive but it was attractive like a campfire was. If these people though they were in complete control of something like magic, they were insane.