So if you haven’t heard me rabbiting on about my most recent WIP, it’s called Wanderland, and it’s a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. And also it contains lots of OTHER fairytales, because…well, I couldn’t help myself.
They’re all pretty weird, so be warned. Also, it is a first draft, so none of this will probably even make it to the second draft, but I hope you enjoy it anyway 🙂 I mean, I’m still nervous to actually be posting these excerpts, but I thought I’d do it before the stage where I hate the whole thing.
Alice – main character
Charlie – Alice’s brother
Zella – nickname for Rapunzel – someone they’re travelling with
Zagadka – the Sphinx who gave the riddle in excerpt 2
From chapter 20, in the land of Tramautumn – in which Alice and company happen upon the house of the Crooked Man
After three separate sunsets in a row, we came upon a crooked house. It rose up straight into the air, slim and pitching to the right. It was made up of a patchwork of materials – bricks and slabs of stone and wooden planks and marble and tiles and metres upon metres of what looked like…sticky tape? Was that what the house was held together with?
At the front of the yard was a little crooked gate, which opened upwards. Charlie and I came into the middle of the yard, where there grew little crooked flowers that grew the wrong way up. Purring on the front step was a little crooked cat, its tail bent several different ways and its whiskers on top of its head. It was a ginger cat and its paws turned inwards.
‘Morning good,’ said the cat. ‘The crooked man has been expecting you.’
The door burst open and the crooked man stepped into our line of vision. He held a cane in one hand, knobbly and zigzagging all the way to the ground. His legs pointed backwards and his tall hat was a miniature replica of his house. I watched in amazement as he did a handstand on top of the walking stick, his backwards-facing feet almost touching the roof. ‘Morning good!’ he yelled. ‘I’m Leslie, or the Crooked Man. This is my house, the boundary between Zonsonderdang and Alba. Yes? You have heard of me?’
‘I haven’t heard of Zonsonderdang and Alba,’ I said, amused. There was something about Leslie that put a smile to my face. I couldn’t imagine anything but happiness here.
‘The lands of sunset and sunrise,’ said Leslie, righting himself again. He spread out a hand each side of him. Jiggled his left arm. ‘Zonsonderdang, the sunset area.’ Bounced his right arm up and down. ‘Alba, of the sunrise.’
‘And what about your house? What is this land?’ I said.
‘Leslie’s Land,’ he said, grinning. His teeth were crooked as well. ‘And I see you’ve met Diddle?’
I assumed that was the cat. I extended a hand and she shook it, purring. ‘The only cat I’ve met here has been the Cheshire Cat.’
‘An old friend,’ said Diddle. ‘But I wanted to travel the world, learn to play the fiddle…he wanted to keep disappearing all over the place. Frightfully boring, if you ask me.’
‘So she came to live with me!’ said Leslie, doing a little jig. ‘Aren’t I just the luckiest person alive?’
There was no irony or sarcasm in his words. He seemed to be genuinely in love with life, which was…well, refreshing to say the least. Whenever I said something like that, something that was heartfelt, Charlie always criticised. Or someone at school did. We valued humour over love, I guess.
Wanderland, for all its faults, was never afraid to be genuine. It lied and tricked and was never what it seemed to be, but it owned that. It embraced it.
‘Why is a raven like a writing desk,’ I repeated. ‘Okay, brainstorm. Fun fact: a group of ravens is called an unkindness.’
Zella gave me a withering look. ‘How does that help?’
‘I just thought you might be interested.’
‘Are you always this irritating?’
‘Charlie must adore you as a sister.’ She began to pace. ‘Ravens and writing-desks. Right. Okay. Ravens have…wings.’
‘Ground-breaking,’ I said.
She ignored me. ‘And writing desks have…erm. They have quills?’
‘Can you make a quill out of a raven feather?’ I mused.
Zella’s eyes widened. ‘That’s it! You’ve solved it!’ Before I could say anything, she galloped over to Zagadka and yelled, ‘You can make a quill out of a raven feather!’
Zagadka yawned. ‘No.’
When Zella returned her shoulders were a little lower than they’d been before. ‘Wasn’t the answer.’
‘You should have said something.’
‘I would have, but you were a little fast for me.’ I smiled. ‘It’s okay, we’ve got two more guesses.’
She sat on the sand and let a handful of it trickle through her fingers. ‘That’s how much time we’ve got left.’
I joined her on the sand. ‘Maybe we have to think about this a different way. We need an answer that isn’t what you’d expect.’
‘Well, yes. That’s why it’s a riddle.’
But I wasn’t really listening. ‘Something tricky…what do you do on a writing-desk? You write, obviously. What do you write? Notes, I’d expect. But ravens don’t write notes. And they don’t sing, either. Do they sing? I don’t quite know. Maybe they do, but very out of tune.’ I laughed. ‘The ravens are a bit flat, today…’ I paused. ‘A bit flat. Flat notes. Hang on.’
Zella seemed confused. ‘What? What’s happening?’
‘I think I’ve got it.’ I hauled myself back onto the wheelchair. ‘Push me to Zagadka please, Zella.’
‘What did your last slave die of?’
But she pushed me. And then I said to Zagadka, ‘Both can produce a few notes, though they are very flat.’
Zagadka blinked slowly and then smiled. ‘Well done. You’ve progressed to the second riddle.’
You have got to be kidding me.
(and yes, both gifs WERE necessary)
Hey Diddle Diddle
What tune is your fiddle?
It sounds so awfully sad.
The little dog laughs when his tears are all spent
So at least we can say he is mad.
If you call me Diddle
The cat with the fiddle
Then certainly, that would be right.
But if you’d like the truth then do listen in close
Because Diddle is not here tonight.
I used to be Diddle
The cat with the fiddle
Who jumped, danced, sang all the day.
But Wanderland’s crumbling, the sky is so dark
I’m afraid I have lost my way.