ALICE IN SWAMPLAND
By Dakota Orlando
© 2019, 2020
Episode 4. Down the Roman Column
Sean shoved Alice away with his antennae as he removed his stinger from Dinah. He lowered the kitten to the marble floor and backed away. “There. Now we can see what she has to say about the Great Kanaima.”
Alice threw her hands to her head and shook it. “But you killed her!”
“No, I didn’t. Watch.”
Dinah’s body writhed, then it began to lengthen. She climbed to her feet and sat like any other cat would sit, except that her head came up to Alice’s chest.
“My,” Alice said. “She’s grown so large.”
Dinah looked at her and opened her mouth. Alice fully expected her to ‘meow,’ but something else came out.
“Alice?” Dinah said. “What on earth is happening? Why are you so short?” She shuddered. “I am utilizing English language skills. What happened to my simplistic animal nonsense sound?”
“Obviously, they’ve expanded as I intended,” Sean said.
Alice gawked at him. “You made her do that with your stinger?” She blinked several times. “This must be a dream.”
“Life is but a dream,” Sean said.
Dinah stood on her hind paws and strolled about. “‘To sleep … perchance to dream: aye, there’s the rub.’”
“Dinah?” Alice said.
Dinah turned. “Life, a dream?” She thrust a paw upward. “Nay, life is but A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”
Alice stretched a hand toward her. “Who knew all these months you’ve been studying Shakespeare?”
“It’s all nonsense to me,” Sean said. “Let’s find out what she said about the Great Kanaima.” He turned toward Dinah. “What did you say about my master? Was it anything bad?”
“Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily … uh ….”
“Life is but a dream!” Alice said.
“No,” Dinah said. “Quite the contrary. “Life is butter dream.”
Alice nodded. “That is what I said, my precious pet.”
Dinah pointed a paw at her. “You said but … but a dream. In this topsy-turvy land, it is far more appropriate to say, butter … butter dream.” She folded her forearms. “Things are slippery in the swamp, and so is butter slippery. Do you understand now, sweet Alice?”
Alice scratched her head. “I think I see the distinction you’re trying to—”
Sean shoved an antenna toward Dinah. “Silly song lyrics? Is that what you’re about?”
Dinah threw her head back. “Well, I certainly do not know enough about the Great Kanaima to render an educated opinion.”
“Oh, dear,” Alice said. “Dinah, you sound so educated.”
Sean raised his antennae. “Well, she won’t fit very well in our swamp if that’s the case.”
Alice continued staring at her cat. “Have you been reading my sister’s books while I wasn’t looking?”
She held up a paw and flipped it over. “Well, what did you expect me to be … just a dumb animal? I do live near Oxford University, after all.” She pointed up. “And I come from the Heaviside Layer.” She lowered her paw. “I’ve been there eight times.”
Alices’ eyes opened wider than carriage wheels. “You mean you have but one life left?”
She placed a paw over her heart. “Alas, I have but … one life to live.”
Sean stepped closer and turned sideways. “I’m convinced your Dinah said nothing bad about my master. Climb on my back, and we’ll go see him.”
Alice and Dinah climbed on, and Sean started off in a direction. In a very short period of time, they reached the edge of the marble floor and peered down into a circular room at what seemed like three hundred feet below. Alice remembered that she and Dinah had shrunken down to mere inches in height. How they would regain their original size still lay ahead as a mystery.
Below, the lizard Alice had seen on the way down stood—propped up on his larger hind legs, whipping a thick tail about behind him. It nearly struck the swamp rat, who managed to dodge it at the last second. The oversized mosquito buzzed around the lizard’s head, and all three seemed to be talking at the same time.
“Oh, look, Dinah. Something I hadn’t noticed before. The giant mosquito has long, blond hair. Most peculiar, I must say. I have heard that only the female mosquito sucks the blood out of people, so we must be on guard, for she certainly appears to be rude enough.”
Sean turned his head around the best that an ant could. “Hold on now. I will climb down so you can meet the Great Kanaima. Did I tell you he has a very good brain?”
“No,” Alice replied. “I think you failed to mention it. Perhaps he knows the whereabouts of Rudy the Dragonfly.”
“Maybe,” Sean said. “Let’s travel down and find out.”
“Travel,” Dinah said. “‘Now spurs the lated traveler apace to gain the timely inn.’”
Sean shook his head. “Whatever.” He started down the side, then Alice noticed that the object they were atop was a column … much like the ones she had seen illustrated in one of her sister’s books on the Roman Empire.
As Alice descended, she felt her body grow. She glanced behind her to see Dinah’s grow as well. However, Sean’s body did not, and it became increasingly more difficult to remain on his back the lower they descended.
“Excuse me, Sean, but if Dinah and I keep growing, and you do not, we will fall off.”
“Insects are a bit slower on the metabolism.”
“Then you had better hurry it along.” Alice slid forward and had to turn on her stomach to grab ahold of Sean’s thorax. “Help! Help me! I’m going to fall!”
“‘There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow.’” Dinah quoted. “‘If it be now, tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come.’”
“You are far from a Hamlet, Dinah,” Alice said. “Let it be and help me up.”
Dinah looked at her with a cat grin. “You know what a Hamlet is, don’t you?”
“No. In general, a little ham … and I love to ham it up.”
“And that’s what you are.” Alice slipped over Sean’s side and dangled by one arm. “Help!”
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