ALICE IN SWAMPLAND
By Dakota Orlando
© 2019, 2020
Episode 3. Ant Sean
After jumping into the hole to avoid being rudely swallowed by Bill the Snake, down Alice fell … and fell, and fell. Her dress puffed out like a parachute, and she and Dinah drifted slowly down … down …down.
That is fortunate. At this speed, when we hit the bottom, we can land safely. Alice peered into the darkness below. If there is a bottom at all. “Oh, Dinah, if we drift too long, we shall miss our dinner. What will my sister say? What will she think happened to us?”
“Right, Dinah. We had to jump. It was either that or become someone else’s dinner.” Alice spied a glow beneath her. Entering the lighted area, she noticed the sides of the hole were filled with double-wide, open doorways.
A sign above one set read, “Don’s Office.” Inside, Alice spied a lizard standing on two feet with a giant mosquito flitting about its head and a swamp rat running about its feet.
Through another opening labeled, “Steve’s Place,” an alligator stood and pulled a big sheet of what looked to be uncut banknotes off a stack of sheets. The alligator’s grin seemed wider than its mouth could produce. Another alligator entered wearing a lady’s hat, her eyelashes exaggerated beyond reality. They looked at one another, nodded, then guffawed.
Another doorway with a sign that read, “Tom’s Playhouse,” revealed a giant Leech smearing oil over ducklings, their mother flapping and crying in outrage.
Yet through another, a gargantuan Venus flytrap waved its leafy arms about before a roomful of well-dressed boys and girls as if conducting a singing session. Other slovenly-dressed boys and girls sat off to the sides, lining the walls. “Now, children, let’s all sing the Charter song.”
She waved her leafy arms, one of which contained a baton.
“Charter is our school of choice.
Public education does suck.
Only the rich shall have a voice.
And the poor … well, who gives a muck!”
Occasionally, the plant creature would swoop down and swallow one of the poorly dressed children. The rest seemed to be unconcerned that a poorer child had just been eaten, and continued singing with broad smiles on their faces. Above the doorway, the sign read, “Betsy’s Classroom.”
“How gruesome, Dinah. Did you ever see such a collection of grotesque creatures in all your life?”
“Neither have I.”
Alice and Dinah drifted past an area with no doorways and soon found themselves in darkness again. After a while, the light returned to reveal a domed building in the wall. A large sign on the top read, “Mitch’s Graveyard.” The dome opened from one side by tipping upward. Inside, a giant Anaconda snake surrounded a group of seated men, its head raised almost as high as where the dome had opened.
“Think of me as the Grim Reaper.” The Anaconda said. “None of that stuff is going to pass … none of it!”
They drifted past it. “None of what stuff, Dinah? Whatever is he talking about? He is only another snake, just like Bill. I suppose he is going to eat all those people. This is a strange land … a world turned upside down.”
Then the same building came into view, and this time the sign on top read, “Lindsey’s Demolition Derby.” The domed roof tilted away, revealing mostly men being chased by a wild boar that shouted, “This seems to me like a political setup! It’s all hearsay! You can’t get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay! This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics! Boy, you all want power, and I hope you never get it!”
“Now, that is one angry, wild boar,” Alice said.
“You are right, Dinah. He is a wild bore as well.”
They drifted past the horrifying scene. “I hope we never see him again.”
We drifted into an area of bright light glowing from smooth, white walls. The hole turned from round to square, to round, to square again, back to round, then finally square.
“I wish this strange land would make up its mind. Round … square … it is getting rather tiresome seeing it change all the time.” Alice looked past her puffed-out dress. “It is bizarre. I wish we could land somewhere and be done with all this falling.”
Alice’s feet hit something solid, something flat, something very hard, and since she was not expecting it, she could not keep her feet. Alice fell over, careful not to land on top of Dinah. Her dress settled back to normal, and she could see all around her.
“Dinah, it looks as if we landed on flat, white, polished marble; and it appears to stretch to the walls in every direction.”
Alice allowed Dinah to jump to the stone floor. “Meow.”
“So, you noticed that, too, Dinah.” She stood and turned around slowly three-hundred-and-sixty-five degrees. “The hole is round again. Well, which way shall we go? Every direction looks the same as any other.”
While Alice and Dinah looked around for a direction to take, Alice felt a tapping on her right shoulder. Turning about, she faced an insect twice her size. Its hindquarters pointed toward them, and a sharp, needle-like spike aimed at her heart.
Alice threw up a hand. “Please don’t! Are you some kind of bee?”
“Bee?” it asked. “Bee?” It turned its menacing stinger away from her. “I’m no bee.” It lifted one of its six legs. “Do you see any wings here?” He lowered the leg. “I’m not a bee. I’m a fire ant … Sean the Fire Ant, to be exact.” He whipped his back end around again. “But I do have a stinger, and it is filled with poison … just for you!”
Alice threw out her hands. “Now, wait a moment! Why do you want to sting me?”
“What?” Sean straightened out his hindquarters and raised his antennae. “It’s not obvious?” Alice shook her head, and he continued, “I’m here to protect the Great Kanaima. I go everywhere with him, and if people say things bad about what he says …,” he whipped his hindquarters around, “… I remind them that the Great Kanaima only speaks the truth. And they either accept that … or I sting them to death.”
“My, you are a very violent insect.”
He lifted his head high. “I have to be … and I’m proud of it.” He grinned. “That and my dancing prowess.”
Alice managed a smile. “Then you have no reason to sting me … or Dinah, for that matter. Neither of us has said a bad word about the Great Kanaima.”
Alice looked down at her. “That’s right, Dinah. We both love dancing.”
Sean pointed his antennae at her. “What language is that beast speaking?”
“Where I come from, it is commonly known as cat.”
“There is a language called cat? Where are you from, anyway?”
She folded her arms. “I live in Oxford.”
“With the oxen?”
“Heavens no.” Alice giggled. “The ox in oxford has nothing to do with animals. It is a sophisticated town in England where Oxford University is located. The people there are highly educated.” She lowered her arms. “And if you do not believe me, then go there and ask for Professor Charles Dodgson.”
“My,” Sean said, “you have thrown a lot of information at me. I don’t think I can digest it all.”
Alice looked at Dinah. “No, that’s silly. One does not eat one’s words.” She placed a finger on her pursed lips and thought of the creatures she had seen on her fall into this strange land. “Or do they?”
“Well,” Sean said, “where shall I begin?” He placed one clawed hand on his head and the other under what appeared to be a rudimentary elbow. “Where is England?”
Alice pointed up.
Sean looked in that direction. “You fell from there?” He looked back at Alice in time to catch her nod. “And who is this Professor Dodgson to you?”
“He is my mentor. He made me who I am. For you see, I have no mother or father … only a sister. We live in a park … and we have a home, but I have not the faintest notion as to where the home is. I know it exists, however.”
“And how do you know that?”
“My sister and I speak of it often.”
“That is utter nonsense. Only the Great Kanaima can speak of things and make them exist. Facts … experience … reality? Who really needs them? If the Great Kanaima says something exists,” he threw two of his legs into the air, “then it exists.”
“Maybe he can say my home exists, then I may have one for sure.”
“What’s your sister’s name?”
Alice thought and thought. “Hmmmmmm … I do not think she ever mentioned it.”
He jerked his thorax back. “You don’t know your own sister’s name? Come on, girl. Are you trying to pull all six of my legs.”
“I know she is older … she’s more educated than I am and reads books … books without pictures that I find quite boring.”
“How old are you?”
“And your sister?”
“I do not know. She has not—”
“I know … she has not mentioned it.” He lowered his thorax, placing his head very close to Alice. “You are a very peculiar little girl.” He pointed a foreleg at her. “I’ve never seen such golden hair.”
“It is blond.”
“I think I’ll take you to the Great Kanaima, but then, that could be a waste of time. It may be more appropriate to sting you and be done with it. But first …,” he snatched up Dinah and swung his stinger around to face her, “… I must understand what she spoke of to determine if she said anything insulting about the Great Kanaima.”
Alice lunged forward. “No … please do not sting her! She is a mere kitten!”
Sean swept Alice away with another leg and stuck his stinger into Dinah’s stomach.
Alice started forward.
“Stop!” Sean said. “Let her be!”
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