HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…Clockwork Wonderland.
Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors who see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.
Laurel Anne Hill
With Foreword by David Watson
Gone a’ hunting
by Laurel Anne Hill
The white rabbit disappeared, just vanished under the giant oak, it did. Alease halted so fast, she pitched forward and nearly dropped her bow.
Crikey! Where could tonight’s supper have gone? Even more puzzling, the rabbit hadn’t slipped from sight next to the massive tree trunk or where thick boughs sagged against the leaf-strewn ground. Right in plain view, it had happened, like a bleeding enchantment were to blame.
Alease slid her arrow back over her shoulder and into her quiver. What the blazes would she do now? A beating awaited her if she didn’t bring some sort of game home. Even worse, Papa would thrash Emily, her little sister, too. Because he could, that’s why. Emily being born had killed Mama.
Damn, damn, triple damn. Alease pressed her teeth against her lower lip and tightened her grip on her bow. She would have caught that rabbit if she’d brought Papa’s flintlock. Yet the sound of gunfire would attract grounds keepers on patrol. The Earl of Westor had little use for poachers in his prized grove of oaks. Not that she’d ever seen him.
No, ‘twas a faerie—not lack of a gun— responsible for Alease’s ill luck. What a dirty trick to imitate Mama’s voice.
Bye, Baby Bunting. Papa’s gone a’hunting. That sweet song had lured Alease away from the little forest where Westor permitted local hunters.
Alease turned to leave the forbidden grove. Her boots crunched against dried leaves. So many ancient oaks grew in this area. No wonder all sorts of mischievous magical beings resided therein. Left over from the Middle Ages, they were. Bet they had tales to tell. She drew closer to the majestic tree she faced, its gnarled roots like hard, ropy veins pushing up the earth’s skin.
“Please help me find the rabbit,” she said. She plucked a clump of mistletoe off a lower branch. Bleeding parasite. “See? I’ll do ye good deeds in turn.”
The mid-afternoon breeze rustled through the tree. The skirt of her homespun dress fluttered. From somewhere, a rising wind moaned.
“I’m late,” a squeaky voice said.
Not the wind speaking. The words had come from somewhere below her, as if the soles on her leather boots could speak. A curious occurrence.
“Oh, my fur and whiskers.” That same voice again.
Fur and whiskers…the forest werefolk must be roaming about. Normally, shapeshifters stayed silent and out of sight until dusk. Might that white rabbit be one? Never good to meet them magical creatures. She ought to head home right away, even if it meant facing Papa’s anger.
Once again, she’d beg Papa not to strike her sister. Emily was a good girl, did her chores without sass. Mama had died ten years ago, just before Alease turned eight. After so long, why couldn’t Papa forgive Emily for being alive? He even picked on Alease for trying to protect her little sister. Maybe too much rum diluted his good sense.
A clock ticked. The thing was loud as a stately church timepiece in London. Such a sound did not belong. Did she notice a faint, pained squeal, as well? Alease stiffened.
The ground opened up and gave way. Blimey! Alease sank—dropped straight down into the earth. She tumbled head-over-heels and sideways, everything dark around her. Scratchy things dug into her arms and legs. Invisible hands yanked her long blonde hair. The clock’s ticking hammered at her ears. She screamed.
Her landing came with a splash. Icy water closed over her, knocked the breath out of her. She kicked hard toward the surface. A force pulled her back under. Her bow. It must be her bow snagged on something. No, her hands held nothing at all. Was her quiver caught?
Her chest ached. Muscles begged for air. Dearest saints, she was going to drown. She kicked even harder.
She rose. Her face broke through the water’s surface. Precious air filled her lungs. Sunlight stung her eyes. From where? Then came the sensation of being lifted, freed from a watery grave. Her dress clung to her skin. She dangled, dripping wet. A white rabbit on its hind legs—thrice as bleeding big as she was—faced her. He’d plucked her out of the water as if she was a piece of laundry.
“Now see what you’ve gone and done with your meddling?” the rabbit asked in clear, crisp English. Huge tears rolled down from his pink eyes and splashed as they hit the water.
“Yes, yours. First, I grew like some magic beanstalk. Next came the stake through my hind paw. And look what my tears have done. I’ll never wiggle through the keyhole. Not even through the door. Unless…”
What was he talking about? How could an ordinary rabbit turn into a giant who walked, talked, thought, and cried? For that matter, how could daylight penetrate any part of this underground cavern? She’d landed in a bad place, she had. A demon’s lair. A shiver crossed her shoulders.
“I heard you making promises,” the rabbit grumbled, “to the grand master of magic oaks. Are your brains addled?”
“Me brains are just fine,” Alease said, still dangling. “Or were before all this.”
“You…” The rabbit sobbed. “Caused all this.”
“But I didn’t mean no harm.”
“Of course you did. You meant to serve me for supper.”
The water below her roiled, a pink hue spreading. Oh, dear. Blood flowed from the poor creature’s wounded foot. Lady of Mercy, Alease had tried to kill the rabbit, and he’d saved her from drowning. She was a sad specimen of humanity, she was.
“If ye don’t stop with the crying,” Alease pleaded, “I shan’t be able to help either one of us.”
To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.