Surprise! Another chapter! Thanks to everybody who's read this so far. I'm hoping to continue this even further, but bear with me as my concentration levels are legendarily bad at the moment.
Pain yanks Alice harshly out of her reverie; a cluster of tangles in her hair. She blinks, startled, and in the time it takes for her eyes to focus again, the vision that held her enthralled is gone. Really, it was only there for a second. It could have been anything. A trick of the light. Her over-active imagination, lack of sleep… anything.
There's no way she truly saw what she thinks she saw.
Still, she squints at the mirror, making sure. Nothing. Just herself. Squinting. Late.
"Mom? Mom, are you ready to go?"
Crap. Chloe. Chloe's late for school. With one last extended backwards glance towards the floor-length mirror, she bolts, hairbrush still in hand.
Chloe's in the hallway, rucksack on her back, coat zipped up, socks pulled up and ready to roll. She's excited, that much is plain from the fact that she's bouncing up and down where she stands.
"C'mon, Mom! I've got my writing test today, and I know exactly what I'm gonna write about!"
"What's that, honey?" She barely has to ask; the mark of Wonderland is still clearly writ upon her daughter, popping up regularly in conversation, in dreams, in pictures tacked to her bedroom wall. She's under its spell. Just like she was when she was that age.
History really does repeat itself.
"…Sounds good, right, Mom? Almost as good as something you'd write."
"Almost? Sweetie, with an idea like that, you'll be outselling me in no time!" Not that that's exactly hard, but still. "Let's get going, Ms Future-Literary-Sensation!" Her elation is only barely forced. It's great to see Chloe so happy nowadays, so open.
But Chloe stops short. "Um … aren't you forgetting something?" Alice freezes.
"No." Keys, cellphone, Chloe actually has a lunch today… Wordlessly, Chloe points downwards. Alice's eyes follow her finger's downward trajectory… and catch sight of her own feet. Sans shoes.
"Oh." She's about to dash and get them when the phone rings. "Damn. Chloe, could you run and get them for me? This'll probably only take a sec; it's gonna be one of those scam calls for sure." Chloe scampers off, and Alice answers the phone.
It's not a scam call.
The connection lasts for a heartbeat, maybe a little less, and then the image flickers and is gone. Madeline beats her blood-slick palm against the frosted glass and screams with frustration. No, no, she's come too far to lose now. She tries again, touching her hand to the scarlet print. This time, she gives it her all. She'll make it out of here, or die in the attempt.
A sudden surge of energy courses down her trembling arm. Her vision starts to blur and dim around the edges. Her mouth tastes like copper, and sweat soaks her gown and mats her hair. It's agony, but sure enough the mirror ripples again and an image swims into focus.
It's Alice. Shrunken down.
No, idiot. She remembers someone else. Annoyingly precocious, frustratingly brave. The daughter.
"Chloe?" Whispering the name makes her more certain of it. "Chloe." Louder this time.
Chloe glances up. Looks her right in the eye.
"Alice, hi. Look, I know this a weird time to ring, but… I was wondering, do you maybe wanna go out somewhere this weekend? You, me and Chloe. Ice-skating or something." Alice smiles, in spite of Jack's legendarily bad timing. What more could she ask for right now?
"Jack, that sounds fantastic! When should we…?" She's cut off by the sudden scream from upstairs. Panic erases her elation in a heartbeat; she barely has time to gabble "I'll-call-you-back" into the receiver before she takes off running.
By the time she makes it to her bedroom, having tripped up and stubbed her toe on the stairs already, she's mentally prepared for a range of scenarios, from huge invading spiders, to sudden outbreaks of the Rage virus.
She's not prepared at all for what she sees.
Okay, so it's not the longest chapter in history, but there will be more. Feedback would be very much appreciated at this stage, along with suggestions for elements you would like to see in the story. I have a plot outline, but not much else, so any suggestion is a good one :)