Authors: Christina Henry
“Careful, this white rabbit will lead you on a psychotic journey through the bowels of magic and madness. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the ride.”
—Brom, author of
The Child Thief
“I loved falling down the rabbit hole with this dark, gritty tale. A unique spin on a classic and one wild ride!”
New York Times
bestselling author of
Alice in Zombieland
A dark, delightfully disturbing fall down a rabbit hole of madness and mystery. This is not your mamma’s Alice . . .
encompasses the sensation of a slippery world fueled by insanity, where reality can fall from under your feet with each step unless you are very, very careful. It’s a delightfully twisted take on the classic and breathes new life into Carroll’s creations . . . If you’re looking for a book that will make you feel like you were just on a bender with the Blue Caterpillar, I highly recommend
—R. S. Belcher, author of
The Shotgun Arcana
Beware the jaws that bite, the claws that snatch . . .
“He’s out, he’s out, he’s out,” he chanted. “Now the world will break and burn and bleed, everyone will bleed.”
“The Jabberwock?” Alice said.
“His mouth will open wide and we will all fall in, fall in and be devoured,” Hatcher said. “We must get away, away before he finds me. He knows I can hear him. He knows that I know what evil he will do.”
Suddenly there was a tremendous noise from the asylum, a sound like the very heart of the building crashing in on itself. Alice and Hatcher turned to watch, and all the walls collapsed like a melting sandcastle. There seemed to be nothing but fire now, and the fire shot impossibly upward into the sky, well past the point where there was anything to burn. It filled the horizon, the wings of a monster outstretched...
Praise for the Black Wings novels
“A fast-paced, spine-tingling adventure ride that won’t let you go till the end.”
“Henry delivers once again. Maddy is a strong, courageous character, and she grows with every book in the series.”
RT Book Reviews
“For urban paranormal action, this is a good choice . . .
really has a heart of gold.”
Kings River Life Magazine
“A complex and engaging universe . . . Delightfully horrifying.”
Open Book Society
“A killer read . . . Secrets and revelations of the most awesome and diabolical kind.”
My Bookish Ways
“Action-packed, complex and filled with believable characters, Maddy’s story is loaded with twists and turns.”
RT Book Reviews
“Another amazing read by Christina Henry.”
“Great snarky dialogue, continuous action, excellent world-building and innovative twists on urban fantasy conventions are par for the course in Henry’s series.”
RT Book Reviews
“A roller coaster of emotions . . . An incredible read from start to finish.”
“This series reminds me of the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher or Rachel in the Hollows series by Kim Harrison.”
Dark Faerie Tales
“Action-packed. You are sucked in from page one and set on a roller-coaster ride of action till the end.” —
“A riveting adventure of a novel . . .
has within its pages the most utterly believable and wonderful depiction I’ve ever seen of a character forced to face her darkest fears.”
“Madeline Black is back and super badass in her second installment . . . If you’re looking for a brilliant urban fantasy with pageturning action, witty dialogue and fun characters—this is your book.”
“The style of this book is just like the first book in the series— playful and light, yet also adventurous and dark . . . The bottom line is that if you enjoy adventure stories, you will enjoy this book, especially if you’re a nonstop action junky.”
THE BLACK WINGS NOVELS
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
This book is an original publication of Penguin Random House LLC.
Copyright © 2015 by Tina Raffaele.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61818-9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Henry, Christina, 1974–
Alice / Christina Henry.
pages ; cm
1. Imaginary places—Fiction. I. Carroll, Lewis, 1832–1898. Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. II. Title.
Ace trade paperback edition / August 2015
Cover illustration © Pep Monserrat; border 1 © volha Manusovich / iStock / Thinkstock; border 2 © traffico/Shutterstock.
Cover design by Judith Lagerman
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Danielle Stockley, because you believed in Maddy and Alice and me
If she moved her head all the way up against the wall and tilted it to the left she could just see the edge of the moon through the bars. Just a silver sliver, almost close enough to eat. A sliver of cheese, a sliver of cake, a cup of tea to be polite. Someone had given her a cup of tea once, someone with blue-green eyes and long ears. Funny how she couldn’t remember his face, though. All that part was hazy, her memory of him wrapped in smoke but for the eyes and ears. And the ears were long and furry.
When they found her all she would say was, “The Rabbit. The Rabbit. The Rabbit.” Over and over. When she acted like that they said she was mad. Alice knew she wasn’t mad. Maybe. Not deep down. But the powders they gave her made the world all muzzy and sideways and sometimes she
Everything had happened just as she said, when she could say something besides “Rabbit.” She and Dor went into the Old City for Dor’s birthday. Sixteenth birthday. Sixteen candles on your cake, a sliver of cake and a cup of tea for you, my dear. They both went in, but only Alice came out. Two weeks later came Alice, covered in blood, babbling about tea and a rabbit, wearing a dress that wasn’t hers. Red running down the insides of her legs and blue marks on her thighs were fingers had been.
Her hand went without thought to her left cheek, touched the long thick scar that followed the line of bone from her hairline to the top of her lip. Her face had been flayed open when they found her, and she couldn’t say how or why. It had been open for a long while, the blood oozing from it gone black and brackish, the skin around it tattered at the edges. The doctors told her parents they had done their best, but she would never be beautiful again.
Her sister said it was her own fault. If she had stayed out of the Old City as she was supposed to, this never would have happened. There was a reason why they lived in the New City, the ring of shiny new buildings that kept the Old City at bay. The Old City wasn’t for people like them. It was for the filth you threw away. All children were warned about the dangers of straying to the Old City. Alice didn’t belong there.
The hospital where Alice had lived for the last ten years was in the Old City, so her sister was wrong. Alice did belong there.
Sometimes her parents came to visit, doing their duty; their noses wrinkled like she was something that smelled bad, even though the attendants always dragged her out and gave her a bath first. She hated the baths. They were icy cold and rough with scrubbing, and she was never permitted to clean herself. If she struggled or cried out they would hit her with the bath brush or pinch hard enough to leave a mark, always somewhere that couldn’t be seen, the side of her breast or the soft part of her belly, with a promise of “more where that came from” unless she behaved.
Her parents didn’t visit so much anymore. Alice couldn’t really remember the last time, but she knew it had been a long time. The days all ran together in her room, no books to read, no things to do. Hatcher said she should exercise so she would be fit when she got out, but somewhere in her heart Alice knew she would never get out. She was a broken thing, and the New City did not like broken things. They liked the new and the whole. Alice hardly recalled when she was new and whole. That girl seemed like someone else she’d known once, long ago and far away.
“Alice?” A voice through the mouse hole.
Many years before, a mouse had gotten into the wall and chewed through the batting between her cell and Hatcher’s. Alice didn’t know what had happened to the mouse. Probably caught in a trap in the kitchens, or went out on the riverside and drowned. But the mouse had led her to Hatcher, a rough voice coming through the wall. She had really thought she’d gone round the bend at first, hearing voices coming from nowhere.
“Hey, you,” the voice had said.
She’d looked around wildly, afraid, and scuttled into a corner on the far side of the window, opposite the door.
“Hey, you. Down here,” the voice said.
Alice had resolutely put her fingers in her ears. Everyone knew hearing voices was a sign of madness, and she’d promised herself she would not be mad no matter what they said, no matter how she felt. After several moments of happy silence she released her fingers and looked around the room in relief.
A great sigh exhaled from the walls. “The mouse hole, you nit.”
Alice stared in alarm at the small opening in the corner opposite. Somehow a talking mouse was worse than voices in her head. If mice were talking, then there really were men with blue-green eyes and long furry ears. And while she didn’t remember his face, she did remember she’d been afraid. She stared at the mouse hole like something horrible might suddenly emerge from it, like the Rabbit might unfold himself from that space and finish whatever he had started.
Another sigh, this one shorter and much more impatient. “You’re not hearing bloody voices and a mouse is not speaking to you. I’m in the room next to yours and I can see you through the hole. You’re not crazy and there’s no magic, so will you please come here and speak with me before I go madder than I already have?”
“If you’re not in my head and you’re not magic, then how do you know what I’m thinking?” Alice asked, her voice suspicious. She was beginning to wonder whether this wasn’t some trick of the doctors, some way to draw her into a trap.
The attendants gave her a powder with her breakfast and dinner, to “keep her calm,” they said. But she knew that those powders still allowed her some freedom to be Alice, to think and dream and try to remember the lost bits of her life. When they took her out of her room for a bath or a visit, she sometimes saw other patients, people standing still with dead eyes and drool on their chins, people who were alive and didn’t know it. Those people were “difficult to deal with.” They got injections instead of powders. Alice didn’t want injections, so she wasn’t going to say or do anything that would alarm the doctors. Doctors who might be trying to trick her with voices in the wall.
“I know what you’re thinking, because that’s what I’d be thinking if I were you,” the voice said. “We’re in the loony bin, aren’t we? Now, come over and have a look through the hole and you’ll see.”
She stood cautiously, still unsure it was not a trick, whether of her mind or the doctors. She crossed under the window and crouched by the mouse hole.
“All I can see are your knees,” the voice complained. “Come all the way down, won’t you?”
Alice lowered to her stomach, keeping her head well away from the opening. She had a vague fear that a needle might flash through the hole and plunge into her eye.
Once her cheek was on the ground she could see through the small, tight opening. On the other side was an iron grey eye and part of a nose. There was a bulge just where the rest of the nose disappeared from view, like it might have been broken once. It didn’t look like any doctor she knew, but Alice wasn’t taking any chances. “Let me see your whole face,” she said.
“Good,” the grey eye said. “You’re thinking. That’s good. Not just a pretty face, then.”
Alice’s hand moved automatically to cover her scar; then she remembered she was lying on that side of her face and he couldn’t really see it anyway. Let him think she was pretty if he wanted. It would be nice to be pretty to someone even with her fair hair all snarled and nothing to wear but a woolen shift. She heard the
of wool on batting as the grey eye moved away from the hole and became two grey eyes, a long broken nose and a bushy black beard with flecks of white in it.
“All right, then?” the voice asked. “I’m Hatcher.”
And that was how they met. Hatcher was ten years older than Alice, and nobody ever came to see him.
“Why are you here?” she asked one day, long after they were friends, or at least friends who never really saw each other.
“I killed a lot of people with an axe,” he said. “That’s how I got my name. Hatcher.”
“What was your name before?” Alice asked. She was surprisingly undisturbed by the knowledge that her new friend was an axe murderer. It seemed unrelated to who he was now, the rough voice and grey eyes through the hole in the wall.
“I don’t remember,” he said. “I don’t remember anything from before, really. They found me with a bloodied axe in my hand and five people dead around me all slashed to pieces. I tried to do the same for the police when they came for me, so I must have killed those people.”
you do it?”
“Don’t remember,” he said, and his voice change a little, became hard. “It’s like there’s this haze over my eyes, black smoke filling everything up. I remember the weight of the axe in my hand, and the hot blood on my face, in my mouth. I remember the sound of the blade in soft flesh.”
“I remember that too,” Alice said, although she didn’t know why she said that. For a moment it had been true, though. She could hear the sound of a knife piercing skin, that sliding slicing noise, and someone screaming.
“Did you kill a lot of people too?” Hatcher asked.
“I don’t know,” Alice said. “I might have.”
“It’s all right if you did,” Hatcher said. “I would understand.”
“I really don’t know,” Alice said. “I remember before and I remember after, but that fortnight is gone, save for a few flashes.”
“The man with the long ears.”
“Yes,” Alice said. The man who hunted her, faceless, through her nightmares.
“When we get out we’ll find him, and then you’ll know what happened to you,” Hatcher said.
That had been eight years before, and they were both still there, rooms side by side in a hospital that had no intention of ever letting them go.
“Alice?” Hatcher said again. “I can’t sleep.”
She blinked away the memory, brought on by the moon and the sound of his voice.
“I can’t sleep either, Hatch,” she said, crawling along the floor to the mouse hole. It was much darker down here. There was no light in their rooms save that of the silver moon through the bars, and the occasional passage of a lamp by the attendant walking the halls. She could not see the color of his eyes, only the wet gleam of them.
“The Jabberwock’s awake, Alice,” Hatcher said.
It was then she noticed his voice was thin and reedy. Hatcher wasn’t often afraid. Mostly he seemed strong, almost relentlessly so. All day long she heard him in his room, grunting with effort as he went through his exercises. When the attendants came to take Hatcher to his bath, there was always a lot of noise, punching and kicking and yelling. More than once Alice heard the crunch of bone, the angry curse of an attendant.
She asked once how come he didn’t get injections like all the other troublemakers. He’d grinned, his grey eyes crinkling at the corners, and said the injection had made him wild, wilder than before, so after that they left him alone. He didn’t even get powders in his food.
Hatcher was never scared, except when he talked about the Jabberwock.
“There’s no Jabberwock, Hatch,” Alice said, her voice low and soothing. She’d heard tales of the monster before. Not often, although lately it seemed to be on his mind more.
“I know you don’t believe in him. But he’s here, Alice. They keep him downstairs, in the basement. And when he’s awake I can feel him,” Hatcher said.
There was a pleading note under the fear, and Alice relented. After all, she believed in a man with rabbit ears, and Hatcher accepted that without question.
“What can you feel?” she asked.
“I feel the night crawling up all around, blotting out the moon. I feel blood running down the walls, rivers of it in the streets below. And I feel his teeth closing around me. That’s what he’ll do, Alice, if he’s ever set free. He’s been imprisoned here a long time, longer than you or me.”
“How could anyone trap such a beast?” Alice wondered aloud.
Hatcher shifted restlessly on the floor. She could hear him moving around. “I don’t know for sure,” he said, and his voice was quieter now, so that she had to strain to hear him. “I think a Magician must have done it.”
“A Magician?” Alice asked. This was more far-fetched that anything Hatcher had said before. “All the Magicians are gone. They were driven out or killed centuries ago, during the Purge. This place is not that old. How could a Magician have captured the Jabberwock and imprisoned it here?”
“Only a Magician would have the skill,” Hatcher insisted. “No ordinary man would survive the encounter.”
Alice was willing to indulge his fantasy of a monster in the basement, but she couldn’t countenance this myth about a Magician. It didn’t seem wise to argue, though. Hatcher took no powders and had no injections, and sometimes he could get agitated. If he got agitated he might howl for hours, or beat his hands against the wall until they were bloody despite the padding.
So she said nothing, only listened to his shallow breath, and the cries of the other inmates echoing through the building.
“I wish I could hold your hand,” Hatcher said. “I’ve never seen you altogether, you know. Just bits through the hole. I try to put all the bits together in my head so I can see all of you, but it doesn’t look quite right.”
“In my head you’re just grey eyes and a beard,” Alice said.
Hatcher laughed softly, but there was no mirth in it. “Like the Rabbit, just eyes and fur. What would have happened if we met on the street, Alice? Would we have said hello?”
She hesitated for a moment. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but neither did she want to lie. Her parents lied. They said things like, “You’re looking well,” and, “We’re sure you’ll be home soon”—things Alice knew were not true.
“Alice?” Hatcher asked again, and brought her back to him.
“I don’t know if we would have seen each other to say hello,” she said carefully. “I lived in the New City, and I think . . . You seem like you were from the Old City.”
“Well, la-di-da,” Hatcher said, and his voice was hard. “Fancy girl wouldn’t soil her dainty hem in the Old City. Except you did. You got good and soiled. And now you’re here, just like me.”
His words were like knotted fists to her gut, and all the breath seemed to leave her for a moment. But they were true words, and she would not pretend otherwise. The truth was all she had left. The truth, and Hatcher.