The game was utter nonsense. Whoever heard of playing croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs? Complete and utter twaddle.
And that trial. Farce, circus, charade, shambles! She had finally lost her temper, which, in turn, caused the Queen to lose her temper and order her card soldiers to lop off the interloping girl’s head.
And then the mushrooms! Right? Left? Who can remember? All she knew was, the next thing, she was a giant again and the cards were stabbing at her ankles with their spears.
The cards fanned out in her hand easily, screeching and crying, and then fell like a black and red rain of spades, clubs, diamonds, and hearts. She swatted at them but they only cut her hands with their razor-thin edges, painting those white roses – her one glory – red. Beneath the hem of her dress, she could hear the Queen of Hearts shrieking.
“Off with her head! Off with her head!”
“No!” Alice reached down a bleeding hand and grabbed hold of the now three-inch-tall Queen. “You have given orders quite enough!” she spat at the woman, her grip shaking. “This entire world is quite enough. I am tired of Tweedles. I am tired of Hatters. I am tired of White Rabbits. It’s time for you to be silent now, for I am most tired of you. It’s time to be off with your head!” And her grip tightened around the Queen’s peary form.
It is too grotesque for polite society to describe what came next but the hush that fell over all of Wonderland was profound. It was as if the absence of the Red Queen’s voice stopped the turning of the world.
The once violently-loud corpse dropped with a heavy wet splat from Alice’s hand as she felt that familiar tingling in her limbs. A shimmer like water loomed in the sky just above her head, a glimpse of something familiar just beyond its edges. But the traveling girl shook her head with a grim set to her pert little mouth.
“No,” came her answer to the offer. “I think…I rather like it here now.”
She sank and shrank until she came face-to-face with the King of Hearts once again. Stunned into silence himself, he recoiled from the girl with the bone-white lips and crimson hands.
“Well, now. That’s better, don’t you think?” she asked him with calmest aplomb.
“I…” but the King could think of nothing to say. It was as though an utter transformation had come over this girl, this strange, novel, darling girl whom he had found endearing.
Now she walked as a woman of ice, her skin a woodbine pallor and her hands bound in blood-dark gloves. Stepping over to the Queen of Hearts’ throne, Alice ascended the dais to the grand chair that sat there. Turning to face the awestruck crowd of cards, King, croquet balls, and racquets, as well as the myriad of Wonderland’s citizens that had gathered for the mock trial (including the Mock Turtle), she opened her mouth and then closed it again directly without a sound. Lifting her hands, she studied them for a long moment before wiping them unceremoniously on her skirt, staining the blue gingham a dark scarlet that burned to a murky hue. And then it began to spread, sinking into the fabric and dying it a nighttime black. It inked and suffused the fabric, continuing on to cover those lily-white hands up to her elbows in gloves as silky as sealskin, and darkening those blue eyes to steely flint.
It was a darker magic than anything Wonderland had ever seen. Magic created and strengthened by the spilling of blood. The Red Queen had killed for spite. Alice had killed for revenge, for rage. Smoke curled over the ground, flirting with Alice’s gown hem, smoke heavy with malice and a sharp-toothed grin shining from within.
“Well! You certainly went mad, didn’t you?” the Cheshire Cat, a skeletal version of his formerly rotund self, purred, stroking his claws along crooked whiskers.
Alice said nothing in reply but only sat regally upon the throne, eliciting a gasp from those assembled. Whispers ran back and forth of her sitting on the Queen’s throne, whispers that were silenced by a gracefully raised hand and a sharp growl from her sentinel Cat.
“The Red Queen is dead,” Alice intoned.
The Cheshire’s grin split his gaunt face as he showed gleaming claws to the sickly blue moonlight. “Long live the Black Queen!” The glistening teal eyes, dark with wickedness, dared anyone else to claim otherwise. “Long. Live. The Black Queen.”
“Long…live…the Queen. Long live…the Queen.” The halting chant began, full of temerity. Soon, however, fear lent strength to cowardice and the faint chant soon grew to a resounding roar that shook the very trees of Wonderland.
Upon her checkerboard throne, the new Black Queen smiled and, reaching out, pet the savage feline at her side.