Jordan frowned and stood to look at the clock on the wall. It was 6:25. "I wonder who that could be." He walked over to the door as the doorbell rang once again. " I'm coming! Hold on a minute!" He called, obviously getting annoyed. He swung the door open and Alois could hear his father's voice from the kitchen, though he couldn't see him or whoever was at the door.
"Hello? Can I help you, sir?" Jordan's voice asked from the foyer.
Alois heard no answer. In fact, he didn't hear anything. After his father had spoken, everything became totally silent throughout the house. Even his mother, who had been eating her green beans, stopped her chewing to listen for a response.
Any response, Thought Alois, ears straining, just somebody say something, please!
Then, all of a sudden, there was a sharp gasp from his father and a single shout of, "ELIZABETH!", cut abruptly short.
In a single moment, Elizabeth leapt to her feet, sending her dinner plate crashing to the floor. She grabbed onto her son's arm roughly and dragged him to his feet, pushing him to the back door. Alois could clearly hear footsteps, slow and heavy walking slowly into the house. The sound of booted heels clacking ominously against the polished wood flooring reverberated through his ears like a warning alarm.
"Mom!" Alois' voice sounded frantic, even to his own ears as questions poured out of his mouth like projectile word vomit. "Mom what's happening!? Who's here?! Where's dad! What's going on?"
But Elizabeth didn't answer any of her son's questions. She snatched up a large chopping knife from the kitchen counter. It still had bits of meat and fat clinging to it from when she had cut the stake into pieces for dinner. The sharp blade was otherwise unstained and as sharp as ever. "Go! Just run, Alois, run and don't look back! Go to the hospital! Grandma will explain!" And with that, Elizabeth pushed Alois out the doorway and slammed the door. He heard the tumblers in the door turn and lock. Then there was a scream of rage, a roar, and the sound of smashing glass.
Alois did as he was told and ran.
That was the last time he ever saw Elizabeth Arkwright.
As he ran, the street lamps switched on around him. The sun had set. Night had fallen. And Alois began to cry.
The tears stung at the corners of his eyes and spilled down his cheeks. The cold New York air whipped his face and his heart beat was rapid and painful. He couldn't breath. He wanted to stop running. Needed to. But he knew he couldn't. He didn't know why he couldn't. He had left his house far behind now. But he just couldn't. As soon as he got to a more well lit place with stores and people and bustling traffic. Then he would stop.
And he did. He slumped down on a bench right outside a two story H&M. He was shaking and he felt his tears, dry on his face. He jammed his hands in his pockets to warm them and blinked. There was something in his pocket. He pulled it out.
The money that his mother had given him for a lunch that he never got to buy. There was extra there aside from the ten dollars for lunch. He always kept some of his allowance with him in case after school he needed to get a cab ride to the hospital or home.
And, boy do I need that now. He thought. He stood up and hailed a taxi. When one stopped, he climbed into the back seat and buckled in. "where ya goin', kid?" the cab driver asked, putting out his cigarette in an ashtray he had set in the cup holder.
"Lenox Hill Psychiatric Hospital..."
The cabbie whistled and glanced back at him. "Jeez kid, why do ya wanna go there?"
"Visiting." Was all Alois could say. He didn't think he could muster up more words than that. The cab driver shrugged and drove off without another word.
The cab came to a stop just outside Lenox. Alois paid the driver and got out of the cab. He looked up at the hospital. He shivered. He always hated places like this, with their windows sealed shut and their patients on so much medication, at first, that they can't figure out what to do with themselves. He had seen people who had only been in the hospital a matter of days. They were so drugged up that they couldn't even get out of bed.
Alois sighed and swallowed his fear. He walked inside through the automatic doors. He went to the front desk and frowned at the woman sitting there. She was maybe 40, with her mousy brown hair pulled into a tight bun and her sharp-rimmed glasses slid down her nose. She seemed more like a librarian to him than anything else. "Can I help you?"
I looked her straight in the eyes and was finally able to form words again. "I'm here to see Alice Liddel."
She frowned but nodded slightly. "Come with me. Make it quick."
Not likely, thought Alois with a sneer as the woman turned her back. Something has happened to my parents and my grandmother has the answer to why. And I'm not leaving without answers. 'Make it quick', my ass!
The woman led him down a long hallway and over to the door marked 'Liddel, A.'. The woman knocked and called, "Mrs. Liddel. You have a visitor."
A voice from within the room called back, "Really? Come in!" The voice was familiar and Alois could associate it with the face of his grandmother but not with much else. He couldn't see his grandmother baking him cookies or reading him a bed time story. He barely knew her but here he was at the door of her room, about to ask what had happened to his parents? Where they were? What was happening? Where they still Alive? How could he trust this perfect stranger with the information of what happened to him that night?
But he had to and he knew it. Grandma Alice was his only hope. The woman opened the door and shoved Alois inside. The door closed behind him. He looked over to the shape of the old woman sitting on her bed, by the window. Moonlight streamed into the room and lit it just barely. Alois' voice was quiet. "H-Hello, Grandma...."
The woman turned and smiled sadly at him. "Good evening, Alois." Her face was pale, lined and gaunt. There were dark rings under her eyes and her snow white hair fell long in unruly curls just like Alois'. "It's happened, hasn't it? He's come."
Alois walked over to her hesitantly. "Who's come? What happened to my parents?"
She smiled sadly at him again and patted the bed next to her. He sat down. She took his hand with her own shaking, stick thin, brittle one. "First things first, Alois. I have to tall you the truth. Elizabeth and Jordan are not your parents. Elizabeth was a friend of mine when I was a child. We grew up together."
"But-" Alois began. But your like, 60! She's only 37! He finished in his mind.
"Yes, I know, I look too old. But when we were both ten years old, He showed up. He whisked me away to another world. A corrupt and dark world full of terror and despair. A world that, he said, was my family's fault. And I had been chosen to pay the price."
Alois' mind was whirling with questions, but all he could say was, "Who's 'he'?"
"The White Rabbit." She hissed. "I escaped that awful place, but not before their Queen had drained me of my childhood. I went from being 10 to being 35 in no longer, well-in this world, than a day. Now the White Rabbit has come back from Wonderland. He found out about you and you've been chosen, Alois!"
Alois could have fainted right there. But he didn't. "My parents...Where are they...?"
She shook her head. "I can't say for certain but they are definitely somewhere in Wonderland. Besides, like I said, they aren't your parents." She took a deep breath. "When I came back, I became pregnant years after. I gave the baby first to my elder sister, well- younger at that point. She was 30. She gave her to Elizabeth, who agreed to take him in at 26. You've been raised under the pretence that Elizabeth is your mother. But she's not." She took another deep breath.
Alois' breath caught in his throat.
"You aren't an Arkwright. Your a Liddel."
A voice spoke from the doorway. The speaker was tall with pure white hair, pale skin and one gleaming red eye. The other was covered by a fancy black eye patch with a red heart in the middle. Alois' eyes widened as he finally managed to speak.