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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2250986
I find myself in Wonderland
A Question of Direction

I awoke and I may, or may not, have dreamed. Unexpectedly, I performed this awaking in a wood that I do not remember falling asleep in. In itself, this was enough to cause me some apprehension, but it was the fact that I was lost that soon caused me the greater worry. There was nothing to indicate which direction would take me more immediately from the wood. The trees were all remarkably similar, at least to my eyes. Trees themselves may find it very easy to distinguish one of their fellows from a multitude of others, but this is a talent that is usually restricted to the members of the relevant species.

The spaces between the trees were all much the same too, and it was apparent that gloom reigned under the foliage in whichever direction I looked. If I were to find my way out of the wood, I must surely just choose a direction and try to keep to it. There must eventually be an end to all these trees, I reasoned.

And so I set out.

It wasn’t long before I came to a place where the trees thinned out to create a small clearing. The light increased and blue sky could be seen through gaps in the foliage above. I would have been relieved but my attention was drawn to the centre of the clearing where grew what looked like an enormous mushroom. Smoke drifted up into the motionless air above the mushroom but I could not see what was causing it.

A faint memory stirred in the recesses of my mind but, driven by curiosity, I approached and, hauling myself up by the edge of the fungus’ canopy, I could see that the smoke came from a hookah beside an enormous blue caterpillar.

You will understand when I tell you that I gave an immediate expression of surprise at this sight. “Oh,” I said. This seemed as much as was needed to indicate, not only my amazement at what confronted me, but also my certainty that, for whatever reason, I now found myself lost in both a wood and the tale of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“What do you mean?” asked the caterpillar through the smoke issuing from its mouth.

Somehow I controlled the urge to repeat my initial comment. “I do beg your pardon,” I said. “ You took me by surprise.”

It blew a series of smoke rings. “I do not grant it.”

“Do not grant what?” I was genuinely puzzled by its remark.

“My pardon. I have given the matter considerable thought and have decided that you may have done something that does not deserve pardon. Have you committed a crime of some kind?” It looked at me with one eye narrowed in suspicion.

“Oh, no. It is just that I wished to apologise for having disturbed you in this way.”

“Is disturbing a crime?” it asked.

I frowned. “Well, no, I don’t think it is. But it might be considered a little rude.”

“How much is a little?”

I confess that I was not ready for this question. For a few moments I stood there in thought, moving my hands toward and away from each other, as though considering greater and lesser amounts. In the end, I had to confess that I did not know.

It took another deep breath of smoke from the hookah. “So you may have been a little rude or possibly a very large rude after all. It seems to me that I had best resolve the matter by granting the required pardon. Is there anything else you wanted?”

At last we had arrived at some sort of a point. I hastened to ask the important question. “Which way should I take to get out of this wood?”

“What do you mean, ‘take’?. Are you now admitting that you are a thief?”

“Well no,” I replied. “Where I come from, ways are free to be taken or rejected without payment. I just want to leave the wood.”

“In that case, proceed until the wood disappears.”

As if this had solved our misunderstanding, it then began to emit clouds of smoke. When these cleared, I could see that it had disappeared.

It had given me an answer to my most important question, however. I now knew where I was and could see that the way out of the wood was to move on to the next chapter.

I left before the caterpillar could return and complicate things further.

Word count: 749
For The Taboo Words Contest, May 2021
Prompt: Lost in a book
Taboo words: Story, book, page, world, character.

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