It was exhilarating running through the green fields in the warm sunshine. Jeanette wondered if the gravity were less here on Grammar, or maybe there was more oxygen. It was more likely, though, that she’d been in a whole lot of awful places recently, and she’d missed this--precisely this.
The bunny wasn’t in a terrible hurry, or it would have left her far behind. She was careful not to thrash around too much, and when there was a bush or a tree, she hid behind it. The rabbit was so snowy white, that, even when it was far ahead of her, she could pick it out.
There was another reason she hurried after, even though she felt a bit stupid about it. Maybe the most wonderful place she’d ever been in was the world she called the Rose and Briar World. It was, well, just about perfect. (It certainly had the best food.) And she remembered standing in the torture chamber of the bug fortress that had once been Haven, seeing the remnants of so many toons--of her kind, and then opening up her set of pictures and seeing the once-pure green lawn now filled with white rabbits. She was certain that’s where they escaped to. So ever since then, a white bunny on green grass was what she thought of when she thought of a happy ending.
The rabbit made a turn and ran into a bunch of trees, and Jeanette sped up. Maybe she’d see a beautiful little glen, maybe with other animals, and a brook, or something.
The sun through the leaves was dappled and dazzling, and it was almost magical enough (in an old, old sense of the term) that she’d stopped focusing so much on the bunny--
--when she found herself falling through space.
In her defense, Alice in Wonderland had never been a big part of Jeanette Ransom’s childhood (which, strictly speaking, was still going on). She had seen one movie adaptation which had not impressed her, and Her father had said she should hold off on reading the book until she was older and could appreciate the word and logic games in it. So it was a minor datum in her treasury of fantasy.
She certainly thought about it now, though.
She landed in a room. Outside of some shrinking and growing stuff, that was all she remembered of the story. Except that it was all a dream--an ending she always hated, and would not be good to go by here.
There was the possibility that the white rabbit had brought her to the Rose and Briar world--and she had a little thrill of pleasure at the idea--but that wasn’t good to go by either. So she calmed herself and was ready.
There were no doors or windows in the room, and no furniture. There was light, but it was hard to say from where. It made her feel the way she did when she and Dada had moved into a new apartment. Not alien, though: as she looked around, there was the stuff around the edges of the ceiling and the floor, and the floor was made of thin glossy wood. And--this is what clinched it--there were power outlets close to the floor.
Home, then? Or was something picking her brain for details? Was this a prison for her, or just not finished?
Or--and another memory came to life--an elevator?
She went over an inventory of her resources. She still wore the pretty embroidered blouse that Queen Parise had given her. She ran her fingers over the embroidery, but that trick hadn’t worked for her for quite a while. She was wearing her necklace and bracelets, which meant she had both physical and magical force shields. She had her backpack--of course!--and she wondered if she had the accordion set of photographs from the Rose and Briar World. Probably--but almost certainly at the bottom.
She sneezed. And sneezed again, and again.
The room now had furniture.
There was dark green carpeting now, and a big desk, and a standing lamp that was off, There was also a window, but it had curtains with flowers on them. There were a couple of chairs. There was still no door.
It was all from her world and her time. One of the things that occurred to her was that it was a being that was so alien that it was trying to figure out a way to talk to her by picking at her memories. Well, that would be fine, and it made more and more sense as she thought about it. That meant that she was going to have it make the first move. And considering that no power bolts were blasting, that was fine too.
She went around and sat at the desk. It was a big wood desk, and had drawers. She opened them, and they were empty.
She did remember the most amazing moments when she was in the Rose and Briar World, how the world had gone and built an entire hydroelectric dam and transmission lines in order to let her power up her phone and tablet. So she started to lean in that direction, and modified her strategy.
She took off her backpack and opened it, and sure enough, down at the bottom was the accordion set of pictures of that beautiful place. But as she did so, she touched something she hadn’t thought about for an awfully long time: her little gearwork wish-fulfillment teleporter. Since Diotima the Lynx had died, it hurt to think about the device she had made. She could feel her throat tighten and her eyes get hot. But she put it on the desk next to the photographs.
She tried to think of what she should wish for: nothing living and nothing magical, and the dispenser arms weren’t all that big. She tried to think of something important or useful from any of the good places she’d been (and there’d been many)--but couldn’t. A book? What book? No idea there either.
She decided just to try something simple, to see if the machine worked from however many thousands of universes and eons away she was now. She had used it to get an awful lot of Snickers bars, and built up quite a reserve--she and Lord Elphinstone had finally eaten the last one together--but maybe something nice and small. Maybe the thing that was building the room might get nervous if she tried something too big…
She decided on some Skittles. Not too many, but she realized she missed them. She remembered the difference between eating them one at a time and putting a whole bunch of them in her mouth at one time, crunching them together and then letting them sit. But just a few to start with.
So she looked at the butterflies at the top of the machine until they started to move and flutter. It made her hurt just a little to do that, but she focussed.
In a gush, Skittles poured out of the machine until they nearly covered the desk.
“Th-thank you--!” she said to the air.
Underneath the Skittles there was a strip of paper the size of a fortune cookie fortune.
It said YOU’RE WELCOME.
There was a knock at the door. (There was a door.)
“Come in,” she squeaked.
There was a magnificently beautiful woman in the doorway, wearing an elaborate red satin gown. She had a lot of red jewelry. Her hair was deep dark red and her lips were bright red. She was holding a white bunny rabbit in her hands and stroking it.
She looked a little like Queen Parise, a little like Gal Gadot--and an awful lot like her Mom.
“Hello, Jeanette,” she said in a voice that sounded like all of them, with a big scoop of Ngozi Makena Odile thrown in for good measure, “You may call me the Queen of Hearts.”