ALICE IN SWAMPLAND
By Dakota Orlando
© 2019, 2020
1. Chasing Rudy
Alice awoke with her kitten, Dinah, still fast asleep in her lap. She discovered a dragonfly staring at her. He was dressed in a man’s suit complete with a waistcoat and a long, red tie. Standing nearly three feet tall on two legs, his lower thorax stuck out behind him, reminiscent of a tail. She had fallen asleep under a tree with her sister reading aloud the most deplorably boring book.
“I beg your, pardon, sir, but why are you a dragonfly?” She looked around the Oxford park. “Where is my sister? Am I still dreaming?”
“Oh, I don’t know … I don’t know.” He whipped a leg to his lips. “Shhhhhh! Shhhhhh! I looked into the Ukraine …,” his many eyes grew substantially larger, “because it fell into my lap. And now … all I know is … that I’m late.”
Alice sat up and cradled Dinah in her arms. Since she had never seen such a giant dragonfly before, she did not know whether being around it was safe for her, or for Dinah. “My name is Alice. What, may I ask, are you late for?”
He fluttered his wings a time or two. “I’m Rudy … and I can tell you this … I can prove that somebody else committed the crime … but I’m late! Then there’s that woman in Ukraine. She’s bad. I have to dump her, or the Great Kanaima will have my head. So, off I must flit.”
“Flit to where?”
He pointed to the south. “Over there.” He pointed to the east. “Over there.” He pointed to the northeast. “And there! I have to go to many faraway places to appease the Great Kanaima! I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called and asked me to do it.” He pulled out a small tablet with a glass front and held it up. It glowed, and soon Alice discerned words printed on it. “Then, I reported every conversation back to them.” He held it up and jiggled it from side to side. “And it’s all here … right here.”
“Why can’t you stop and rest awhile? I have never met a dragonfly that could talk. In fact, I have never met any creature that could talk.” She stood and curtsied, realizing that she had forgotten the manners that her sister so painstakingly taught her. “I would love so much to have a conversation with you, sir.”
He swayed back and forth. “No time! No time!” He pulled a watch from his waistcoat pocket and stared at it. His eyes bulged wide. “Yikes! I’ve got to go! I’m late … so very, very late!” He slipped his watch back into his pocket, spread his wings wide, and took off toward the east.
Alice straightened up. “Come, Dinah, let us follow him. He is not flying very high. Perhaps we can catch him and find out where he is off to.” She ran, grasping Dinah tightly until she saw Rudy land near a hedgerow. A large hole opened up, and he ducked and crawled into it.
“Let us hurry, Dinah, before the hole closes.”
“Meow,” Dinah said.
She ran to the hole, but it closed before she could kneel in front of it. “Oh, no, Dinah. This is the worst luck. How can we ever get in there?” She pulled the branches aside, but as soon as she reached for more, the first ones closed up. She leaned back on her heels. “Oh, we will never get in there!”
She set Dinah down and attacked the bushes again.
“Yes, Dinah, I am hurrying as fast as I can. If I can only push these branches so they will catch on the others, we might get through.”
“Meow, meow, meow!”
Alice leaned away from the bushes, and all of the moved branches returned to their original positions. “What is it, Dinah? Can’t you see I am—”
Alice looked at her cat. Dinah pawed at a mushroom, but it was no ordinary mushroom. This one had a tag tied around it. She picked it up and stared at the writing. “Eat Me.” Alice felt her eyebrows rise as she looked back at Dinah. “This is most peculiar. Perhaps Rudy left it behind. Perhaps he wants us to follow him.” She held it out to Dinah. “Should I?”
“I think you said ‘yes.’” Alice snatched up Dinah with one hand. “I wonder what it will do. Many are poisonous, but I do not think Rudy would have left it for me to eat if it was. That would be a horrible thing to do to another person.” She stared at it and looked back at Dinah. “Oh, well. This is probably still a dream, at any rate.” She bit into it and scrunched up her face, narrowing her eyes. “It has a rather dreary taste.” She pinched off a piece and placed it in Dinah’s mouth. “You had better have some. Whatever it does to me, it should do to you as well.”
They chewed and swallowed.
“There, Dinah, we ate some.” She turned her head from side to side. “But I do not feel a—” Alice’s stomach began to ache, and she clutched it. “Oh, dear. I do not think we should have done that. Perhaps Rudy is a dishonest dragonfly.” She fell to the ground and felt her eyes closing. A quick glance at Dinah revealed her lying down, her eyes already closed.
“I think Rudy has ….” Alice closed her eyes, and her mind fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.
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