A slightly remixed and ridiculous version of ''Alice In Wonderland''.
It occurred to Joan that there was a solitary kind of peace to museums, the same kind one would normally find in a graveyard. Which wasn’t exactly favourable for museums, though her opinion could have been tempered by the fact that the place was eight people short of empty, something that in turn was affected by the fact that her step-father Arif was the curator of the Royal Ontario Museum and brought her here after high-school was over and he picked her up. Few people in the world would be intensely stimulated by the idea of daily trips to the ROM, and Joan certainly wasn’t one of them. There had been the odd exhibits that were genuinely fascinating though, if only before the first thirteen visits.
She walked through one of those exhibits, watching the artefacts of ancient Rome slowly pass her by with a steely uncaring. She’d once heard her father describe seeing Roman ruins and feeling the surge of age and history meld almost seamlessly with the modern, the past and the present coming together to create places of balance that was both eerie and wonderful to behold. Though for all the poetry, Joan was fairly sure it was all complete bullocks because all she saw in front of her was an almost fetishist collection of pottery. Broken pottery. Covered in a brown sheen that heavily resembled something that recently left a rather unwholesome orifice of a ninety-year-old man, the visual image of which left her cringing.
Joan sighed. Imagination had never been something she ever excelled at, especially in regards to the diarrhea of senior citizens. But then, men like her father did have their hobbies. He almost predictably never understood her passion computer programming, but then she found four-thousand year-old toiletry as thrilling as, well, ninety-year old diarrhea, setting them both on some plane of evenness she was in even less of a mood to consider than the marble penis of Marc Anthony that stared her in the face.
Turning the corner into the hallway dedicated to the ancient Celts, Joan frowned. Halfway down the hall there rocked a boy comfortably reclined in front of a shrouded door with a stack of fliers in his hands. Normally people in a museum didn’t give her pause for thought, though people in a museum on a workday when the Jazz-festival (an event she herself was conveniently banned from going to) was less than half an hour away.
‘’Excuse me?’’ she called down the hall with her usual tone of blunt petulance. Her frowned deepened as her reply was limited to the sound of snoring. Walking up to the figure, she noticed that the better part of the young man’s face and body was covered by a combination of a large gray hat and a black coat that rose and fell in the smug unison of someone who normally did as much work as an emphazemic landlady with no legs or brain. Something that Joan found strangely but ultimately and satisfyingly offensive in people who worked for her father. Well, satisfying once she was done tearing them to shreds.
‘’Hey,’’ she said with a poke.
‘’Get up.’’ She was rewarded with a louder snore.
‘’Asshat, get up.’’
The second urging of course got even less results than the first, if one didn’t count the overwhelming stench of deodorant that wafted out of the coat when the figure shifted, leading her to a conclusion that she’d come to years ago the relatively hard way in a manner she hoped to Christ the lazy bastard would hear.
‘’Men are fucking pigs.’’
With a disapproving shake of her head that, to her dismay, even she found motherly, Joan looked at the doorway shrouded by a black curtain. Squinting, she found herself staring at a shoddily cut piece of cardboard taped to the left flap of the shroud. Looking closer, she could almost make out the hilariously bad scrawling that looked as indecipherable as the Latin carvings in the room she’d just left and read somewhere along the lines of,
‘’Foray into the imagination. A precisely general look at some of the possibilities the MIND is capable of.’’
An attempted hook that Joan met with a pitying chuckle. She’d always been completely bewildered by people who bothered getting moony-eyed and pretentious over things like the moon and then looked down their noses when she told them with frank honesty that it was a floating rock in space. Sure it was circular floating rock, but a floating rock nonetheless and that any poetry they found in a rock with an American flag stuck in it deserved to be shoved violently up the intended artists’ far more unwholesome orifices. Joan never seem to have found the orgasmic beauty that apparently the rest of her English class had in the metaphorical description of a duck‘s webbed right foot, though appreciated the complexity of it’s working and composition. Because Joan loved the simple complexity of things, anything, their truth and their definition. Truth was her virtue and passion. It was beauty incarnate to her.
Or it would have been if she had ever cared to describe it so. As it was, she just liked to see things without poncy bastards adding needlessly obtuse opinions and mysteries to them. There was nothing beyond what people saw, and making things more than they were just seemed like pointless escapism to her. That being said and remembered, it was what was written after the initial note that shook Joan to the depths of her core.
‘’Yes yes Joan, you don’t like MAGIC. Well, try this out and you might change your mind. You can always walk off and laugh cynically if you don’t like it. Love, BIGSNMWDBQSE.’’
Joan’s head shot up to the door. Or, she tried to look at it. Well, she would have if she hadn’t tripped on something she couldn’t see and fell headfirst into the shroud.
What sickened her more was the fact that she never touched the ground after her fall.
Joan fell out of darkness to the bustling sounds of business and people. The jarring contrast to the stillness of the museum left her reeling, or would have if she hadn’t been hugging the ground and spiting out sand. Dragging herself off the floor, she blinked owlishly to see past the slow moving but densely packed shadows that seemed to reach over her head. Standing, she saw something that took her breath away.
It occurred to Joan after that the sight of the city in front of her oughtn’t have punched her in the stomach like it did. It wasn’t a particularly impressive city in reflection, nothing she hadn’t seen on Kensington Street on busy day, anyway. Hell, as far as she had seen the marketplace she stood in didn’t even have any weed-filled degenerates asking for money or any pretentious tuxedo-clad poufs looking down their noses at her scraggly collection of blue-jeans and brown t-shirt. Though vendors still shouted their wares as loud as they could, buskers seemed to be playing instruments that Joan would later remember as some horrid mix between Bavarian accordions and bagpipes, armed guards wandered the streets with the bored look of law enforcers everywhere and the sun bounced off of sun baked clay bricked houses and wooden huts alike.
But there had been a boat. In the air. A cursory look back into Joan’s history would reveal a strong dislike for the idea of flying boats. Her mother had told her stories of flying boats when she had been very young, and after a brief moment of reflection Joan had decided she hadn’t liked the idea. Boats to young Joan had been commonly associated with fish, and there being few fish in the air the entire idea just seemed like an idiotic waste of time. As she got older, the idea started to present itself in an even less favourable light as cold and hard reality kicked in with a fury to match her principle on a good day. Magic died in the face of her search for the beauty of truth, and with magic went flying boats.
But then again, there they were. Unless of course she’d gone mad. Completely and utterly batshite crazy with both hemispheres of the brain flapping. Chloroformed by the boy sleeping on a rocking chair in front of a sign that had spoken to her and taken to some dark and dreary basement to be tortured and molested, possibly.
Though on the other hand, she could feel the wind of flying galleons on her face.
It was at this point that Joan again felt the kick of cold reality and a very angry and very tall gentlemen covered in lovely fur as blue as the sky from pointed head to all eight toes on four feet picked her roughly up by it’s two extra hands and set her down a little off to it’s right.
‘’And stay out of my way.’’ the nine-foot or so tall creature said with a waggling finger and voice pitched high enough to remind Joan of her mother. A point Joan normally would laugh about, though merriment had an ugly tendency to be discouraged by three-inch incisors an inch away from the face. Resuming her bewildered blinking, Joan looked about herself and started to shiver. The alley she had backed into gave her a clear view of the whole of the de-facto market, and more precisely it’s inhabitants.
Which, for the most par and to Joan’s slight comfort, were human, if unlike anyone she’d ever seen, some towering over other with swirling designs painted on their exposed limbs and bright green hair, some wrapped in black pointed cowls that covered their faces, some that were shorter, dark-haired and haggled with others dark-skinned, blue-haired and swarthy, grinning at their intended victims with the glee of businessmen anywhere. Other blue behemoths lurched around with a slow gait, babbling at each other at high speeds in their high pitched voices. Small, grey, alien-like monstrosities scurried from stall to stall, carrying what seemed like sacks of grain between them. Tentacled cod also seemed to be prevalent, dragging themselves with a bored look of distaste that light up every time the shoppers saw what looked like bleeding biscuits. And over it all, a low buzzing noise could be heard, an added trait that the part of Joan’s mind that hadn’t shut down like a cat sitting in the middle of the road put to the niggling sense that there was something insectoid hovering just beyond her peripherals. It would also occur to Joan that her choice of words would prove ironic at best and ridiculously convenient.
Because Joan had never liked surprises. It was why her friends threw her surprise birthday parties every now and again. It was also why her father sometimes started wordlessly driving in the opposite direction of the familiar path to the museum after school just to throw her off every now and again, or why her mother sometimes used to throw new clothing at her every now and again (though that was something she got the feeling all mothers did, if her friend Rolande was to be believed). The unpredictability unsettled her, so she made it her life’s work to not only look for truth in all things, but to also avoid surprises at any time of the day. But when she was faced with surprises, Joan took them badly.
So this time, she ran. Splashing down an alley filling with fresh rain (her mind fleetingly noting that the square she had just left was still sunny and bright) the first sane animal she’d seen in the past five minutes stopped her dead in her tracks. Well, it didn’t, but the equally jarring experience of seeing a plain black cat licking itself safely under a metal overhang of a suspended and ridiculously wide-headed shovel without a care in the world seemed to be enough for Joan. The strong patter of rain pouring in between the cracks in the wood of the house she leaned on (which was a deep, grass green), the girl knelt down and started to convince herself she was having a nervous breakdown.
‘’Oh do stop that,’’ a voice laden with the English-accent commanding a respect second only to Her Majesty herself called out.
Joan looked up into the rain, pulling her drenched sweater closer and whipping her head blindly about to see the voice.
‘’I’m serious, self-pity really never got anyone anywhere. Well except for Jesus, but by the time the Lagalien started torturing him his singing career was pretty much kicking off anyway, pity-hook or no.’’ Without any better option, Joan’s eyes rested on the cat, which, in keeping with the tune of bats hit insanity of the rest of this God-forsaken place, was staring straight at her.
‘’Oh dear. I know you, don’t I?’’ The cat cocked it’s head to the side, registering the look of religiously profound misunderstanding that the still small minority of sanity in Joan’s mind hoped was draped across her face.
‘’Yes, yes I do,’’ the furry little animal said with a sigh. ‘’Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your little visit. Unfortunately I think you’ve had enough for one day, no?’’
Joan did some thing that could have been a nod.
‘’Hrm, well, I do think you’ve had enough as you haven’t even given me a smarmy comment or anything. Goodbye, dear!’’ That last the cat shouted as it jumped on Joan’s screaming face, enveloping her for the second time that day in pitch black.
Joan opened her eyes again to the stinging quiet of the museum that left a ringing in her ears. Well, if one didn’t count that dreadful snoring coming from underneath the grey hat that still rocked back and forth, up and down. The sound of a door opening from down the hall made her flinch violently, making her notice that her clothes were dry and her skin still warm. This was what Joan was pondering as the door banged shut, waking the kid in the coat in front of her.
‘’What…what…WHAT? Wot-wot-wot? Wot? Aow!‘’ That last rang loud as the boy shot up fast headfirst into a hanging sign.
Joan looked to the figure rubbing his face under the hat.
‘’You had something to do with this, didn’t you?’’
‘’Sorry, what? Louder please, preferably louder than the fat German lady holding the C-sharp in my head.’’
‘’You had something to do with this, didn’t you?’’ she repeated with the same calm and blunt tone.
‘’Do with what exactly?’’
‘’The door. The door you’re sitting next to. You had something to do with all of this.’’
The face turned to it’s left which, to Joan’s shock, showed no doorway.
‘’Yes. Yes, of course, the door I’m sitting next to.’’
‘’Don’t play, asshole, there was a door there and you know it.’’
‘’Sorry love. Trick of the imagination, possibly helped along by some kind of magic fairy dust?’’
‘’Oh shuttup. There was a door here, a portal, some kind of…conduit to an…imagination. A weird…someone’s…imagination?’’ The word seemed to dawn on Joan’s tongue like a realization.
‘’Yes, some odd things do tend to go on in there.’’
Joan whipped her head around fast enough to hurt her neck, though she’d already expected to see nothing. Looking through enough Spark notes for Harry Potter plots had taught her that much.
‘’Joan? Joan, are you there?’’
Joan turned to the voice of her step-father and ran down the hall. At the sight of his rather ungainly and thin frame topped by a sparse face totting a pair of glasses much to big for them, she crushed Arif Doyle in a fierce hug.
‘’Whoa! What’s this all about?’’
‘’Dad, I saw a black door, and a city and floating boats and a nine foot tall fucking smurf and floating Christ-fucking boats, and-’’
Her father cut her off with a wave of his hand. Looking gravely at his daughter, he began to speak in a voice that he used when he wanted to be serious, a tone that Joan had learned to filter out in sixteen years.
‘’Joan, you’re mother has been dead for six years now. Yes her stories were good, but they’re just stories, okay? We went through this in counselling. And-’’ It wasn’t that the rest was unimportant, or that she’d heard it before or that it made her feel like she was ten years old again every time she heard it (though the speech was all of those things) that Joan almost immediately blurred what her father said to her out.
‘’Look, if you’re feeling some nostalgia, maybe we can go out, have a bite to eat and talk about it if you want. Joan? How ‘bout it?’’ Joan could tell Arif was staring intently at her now, though she couldn’t have answered even if she knew.
After all, how could she when down the hall a black cat was staring at her with a cocked head?