Preface: Darling Mine was written as a part of an anthology companion that went unreleased for Christine Converse’s Bedlam Stories. As the anthology was canceled(at least so far) due to a licensing issue some time ago, I thought I’d make the story available here instead. Perhaps one day, the full anthology will be released, but in the event it’s not, I didn’t want this to have gone to waste.
You do not have to read Bedlam Stories to follow Darling Mine, but I highly recommend the book, the video trailer for which you can find at the bottom of this story.
All that being said… I hope you enjoy this.
by Jace Ridley
I can fly, you know.
I can. A beautiful boy named Peter once showed me how. All it takes is a pinch of fairy dust and the right kind of happy thought. The trouble is, I don’t have many of those left. Not here, in this place. There are very few happy thoughts in Bedlam, and even fewer happy people.
Alice took them all away.
She took my happy thoughts from me. She took so many things when I came here. All I could do was sit there and let it happen. I lost my home when my parents sent me here, and I lost my Neverland when I came to Bedlam Island.
My name is Wendy. Wendy Darling, I think. This is my story. It doesn’t have a happy ending. I don’t win in the end. I only managed to endure it.
It’s… hard to remember everything sometimes. So much of what I was is lost and things became fragmented. What’s left of my mind is like a jumbled puzzle. It’s probably missing a few pieces, but the corners are usually there and if I stay calm, and in the warm light, I can usually fill in most of the details.
Anyway, Wendy is what the nurses call me.
I lived in England when I was very young, and I was educated by my mother, and quite mannerly. I knew how to speak courteously and be the type of young girl my parents could be proud of.
Then one night, Peter came.
His shadow had gotten away and hid in my bedroom. I helped him catch it. I ran away with him to Neverland with my brothers, John and Michael. It was all such a wonderful adventure! I loved being with Peter and the other Lost Boys so much. Some looked to me as a mother, though I was only 15 years old. But I never saw Peter as a child. He was near my own age, and had such a pretty face.
When I told my parents of these adventures, they believed them only a dream. When I insisted, I was punished. John and Michael never spoke up to defend me. When it didn’t stop, they sent me away.
I came to Bedlam in late fall of 1919 on a day where the sun never came out from behind gray motionless clouds. It was a cold, dreary day bathed in the pale tones of late autumn. As they led me from the boat onto the island, it looked like a place that could only exist in my darkest dreams.
I didn’t know then just how dark dreams could be.
My father led me by the hand and I knew I couldn’t resist him, no matter how badly I wanted to run away and hide. The cobblestone path to the front door was broken and weeds of pale green struggled to grow between them, and it left the footing uneven. My black buckled shoes clopped noisily as I held back the sob that built in my chest like a pot about to over boil.
The smell is what hit me first, and the strongest thing I remember about that day. My mother always kept a clean house, but this smelled so acridly violent of cleanliness, it was sickening. My stomach churned at the smell of some fierce antiseptic that seemed to coat every surface of the building.
I sat in a chair, alone, while my father joined the doctor in his office. I tried to ignore the smell, but I could find no respite from it. It was everywhere, and my nose didn’t seem to be getting better.
That was the first time I heard the voice.
“Wendy Darling, darling mine…” it whispered.
It was the voice of another young girl. I looked around, but I couldn’t see anyone. And how would they know my name?
“H-Hello…?” I said, unsure I was talking to anyone at all.
And there was a bell’s chime of quiet laughter from nowhere. My eyes cast around the room, trying to find someone playing a trick on me, but there was no one.
Across from where I sat there was a large mirror with an ornate frame and a long crack in the surface. I stared at it for several seconds, looking at myself, and the fear and confusion in my eyes. They had told me I was going insane, that I was losing my mind. Were they right?
I buried my face in my hands and rubbed at my eyes, trying to hold back tears.
When I looked up again, what I saw in the mirror wasn’t me anymore.
It was a young girl with dirty blonde hair, wearing a stained and tattered shapeless grey dress. Her eyes were solid black holes with red centers, and they were dead. Vacant, and yet still, somehow full of covetous hate and anger. Her pale skin was filthy and stained with dark red blood.
And she smiled at me, the most vicious, cruel smile.
I had never been afraid of anything so much in my life.
I screamed and threw my hands back over my eyes!
I heard voices around me, and felt hands grab at my wrists, but I couldn’t stop screaming. The voices were adult and unfamiliar, telling me to calm down. I would not take my hands from my eyes. I didn’t want to see her again!
She was staring at me. She wanted something from me, and her hungry dead eyes bore through the darkness and I could still see her in my mind.
She put a finger to her lips.
“Shhhhhhhhh…” she said.
I felt a pinprick in my arm, and then I was lost in the darkness.
I woke in the afternoon sunlight as it beamed in through the window of the room I had been placed in. I was on the bed, my wrists and ankles locked in place with restraints. No one came for me. I laid there, in the silence, listening to my own breathing and the sound of water dripping from a pipe somewhere. And I cried.
Night came, and took away my warm sunlight. I was cold, and had cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. Still, no one had come in to check on me. Not my father, nor the nurses, or any Doctor.
I stared out the window, looking at the stars.
One of them moved and grew a little brighter, coming closer until it was just outside my window. I felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me again, and I closed them fighting back more tears.
Then the window opened, and my eyes flew open.
“Wendy?” The voice was a delicate, high pitched whisper. “Wendy, is that you?”
“Tinkerbell?” I said quietly.
“Peter! I found her! I found her!” the little glowing ball of light yelled. “She’s over here!”
“Tink?” a voice said from outside.
“She’s over here! Help me! Tootles! I found the Wendy!”
A hand reached up and lifted the window open, and Tinkerbell flew inside, leaving trails of glittering fairy dust all along her path. She landed atop the steel post headboard above me. Her small features looked down at me with a sad smile.
“You’ll be okay, Wendy. We’re here to rescue you!” she said.
“There are bars on the window, Peter! What are we gonna do?!” came a voice from outside I knew.
“Get rid of them!”
A rope slipped around the bars and back out of sight, and then a beautiful young boy stuck his head up to the bars and smiled down at me. I would know his elfin features and broad, mischievous smile anywhere.
“Peter… oh Peter, please get me out of here…” I cried.
“We’re coming in. Hold tight.” His face disappeared from the window. “Ready, Tootles!?”
“Ready!” another voice came from outside.
The rope strained against the bars for several long seconds, but finally, they came free as the Lost Boys outside pulled hard against them. They popped out of the window with a loud CLANG! And in through the window flew my Peter. He drew a short knife from his belt, bent over me, and cut off the restraints from my arms and legs.
“We have to go quick! They need you!”
“Who needs me, Peter?” I said, getting to my feet. I still wore my shoes from earlier.
“The others! ALL of the others!”
“What is happening?”
He looked at me, and the always assuring smile was nowhere to be seen. “Neverland is under attack.”
We flew. My happy thought was seeing Peter’s face through the bars of my cell. I used it to fly all the way to Neverland. Peter flew at my side and Tinkerbell rode on his shoulder. Tootles, Nibs and Slightly flew close behind us.
Just the second star to the left, and straight on ‘til morning…
We reached Neverland quickly. Much more quickly than normal, I think. There was no playing. No games in the air as we flew over the cities. We flew with purpose and no one much spoke. They all looked so worried.
When we landed on the great hill that overlooked Neverland, so much had changed. The trees were turning as if it were fall. Many were already bare.
“Oh my… What has happened?”
“It started before we left. We don’t know. These… things came out of great big holes in the air and started chasing us. Hunting the Piccaninny! Even the Mermaids!” Tinkerbell said. “They even attacked the Pirates!” she whispered.
“We didn’t know what else to do, Wendy,” Peter said, and his eyes were wet. “We went to your house to get you, but Nana told us you were gone. Then we overheard the big people downstairs, and one was crying because you had been taken away. It took us all night and all day to find you.”
We watched as the light in the sky dimmed, and black clouds flowed overhead. The wind picked up and lightning cracked, followed by the boom of striking thunder. A funnel formed in the clouds right above us, and lengthened down to a tendril. The tip touched the ground in front of us.
Out of the black cloud walked the little blonde girl I had seen in the mirror.
Tinkerbell dove into Peter’s pocket, and I took a step back.
The Lost Boys stepped back, further into the trees. Peter stayed by my side as we edged back from the grinning yellow haired girl that walked slowly toward us.
“Wendy Darling, darling mine…” she said, and her voice rasped with each syllable. The sound was horrid and unnatural in the voice of a child. Each word made me shudder.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Why are you doing this?”
“I… am Alice. And you have something I want.”
Out of the funneled black clouds behind her walked five large, square men holding spears. They looked like playing cards made of some kind of light colored leather, and covered in heavy stitching. They marched past her and straight toward us, spears thrust ahead in a picket line.
“Run!” I said, and Peter and I took off into the woods.
They came after us as we ran headlong into the darkened woods of Neverland.
Tootles, Nibs and Slightly were only feet in front of us as we ran, ran for our lives, and behind us came the roiling black cloud that followed the young blonde haired girl. The touch of the cloud set the trees on fire and the ashes of burnt leaves fell around us like snow. But worse yet, the Playing Card Soldiers were gaining on us with their military march.
We finally came to the cliff face that looked down into the water, and we had nowhere else to go. We could run no further, as our breath caught up with us and burning smoke filled the air around us. I fell to my hands and knees, gasping for fresh air where none was to be found.
We were trapped.
Fire crackled like lightning inside the black cloud that flowed from the girl named Alice, and turned everything in its path to cinders. Fire burned in the girl’s strange, red eyes, as she walked leisurely toward us. She wore the most peculiar and dangerous smile I could imagine on the face of a child. The smoke billowed and twisted from her like the long legs of a spider, and even engulfed the Card Soldiers as they marched.
They burned with everything else.
Alice didn’t even seem to notice.
She walked toward us, chanting at me. “Wendy Darling, darling mine… darling mine… darling mine… Darling’s mine!”
I struggled to my feet and grabbed Peter’s arm, lifting him to his own. We stumbled over to the others and pushed them forward.
“We have no choice! Jump!” I yelled.
And they did. We all jumped from the cliff, and landed feet first with a loud splash in the ice cold water a few seconds later. It was so cold and so dark in the watery depth, but it was better than being burned alive.
I forced myself back to the surface and looked up at the cliff top. Alice stared down at me from the ledge and the fire in her eyes flared. The black cloud writhed behind her in violent, fluid waves and then CRASHED down around her, setting the cliff face on fire. When it had passed, Alice was gone.
Peter bobbed in the water at my side, the Lost Boys a few feet off.
“Wendy, we can swim down and under the rocks. We can get home that way, and hide!”
“Do you really think they won’t find us there, Peter?” Tootles said.
“I don’t know what else to do!” Peter cried.
“We have to at least get the others out,” I said. “We can’t leave them and hope it’ll be alright. They could be in trouble.”
“Where are we supposed to go?” Slightly said, a hint of a cry in his voice.
“I… I don’t know. Maybe it’s time we all went home.” I said. I dare not think of the Asylum. Just the sweet warmth of the hearth at the house we lived in, and my Mother’s arms.
But we all knew that wouldn’t work. They knew Neverland was different. It didn’t work the same as the rest of the world. Most of the Lost Boys didn’t have a home to go to.
“Let’s just get inside and get the others,” I said, trying not to let the defeat I was feeling trail into my voice. Someone had to be strong for them.
“The twins are supposed to be watching out for them,” Nibs said. “Follow me down! I know the way, Wendy!”
And Nibs dove back under the water. We all took a big breath of air and followed, swimming down, under the side of the cliff and into a narrow passage. We came up again less than a minute later in an underground pool where stairs had been roughly cut into the ground. We climbed up onto the rock steps, and began our ascent into the underground hideout of the Lost Boys.
There is nothing that smells quite like blood. It’s salty and coppery and can make your stomach churn inside you. But that is all we could smell as we entered the Gathering Room in the hideout. There were broken bodies, ripped and shredded, gnawed and devoured, strewn across the room. Bodies of young orphans lost to Neverland since who knows when.
I can’t begin to describe it. I can’t make myself see it again in my mind’s eye, lest I go madder still. We ran away, up the carved path, just trying to get out. Whatever had done this, whatever had mangled the boys so badly, was still inside somewhere. We could hear the skritching, unnatural movement of something with many legs.
We saw so many bodies, but only a few faces remained.
Saddleboy. Gads. Romp and his little brother Stomp. It’s too ghastly to describe.
But we never saw the Twins.
We rounded a dark corner that met the hallway to Peter’s room, and out of the shadows came the thing. It was bright green with violent red veins. Long bodied, bulbous and malformed, it was at least fifteen feet long, and it had metal vice like grips at the end of each stubby limb. It was the largest Caterpillar I had ever seen.
The caterpillar moved with unnatural speed and grace as it undulated toward us and around the tunnel walls. It oozed purple, foul scented smoke from vents riveted onto its body. And its jaws were razor blades.
It was on us almost faster than we could think to move again, but we darted toward the exit tunnel. Peter and Tink were at my side with Nibs and Tootles on his heels. But… Slightly didn’t make it.
The Caterpillar grabbed Slightly by the ankle and hoisted him up by it as he yelled for help. The Caterpillar stopped moving forward, and we were so frozen with terror, we couldn’t move. It used six of its powerful hands to grab slightly at each wrist, each angle, his head, and his neck. Then all at once, it yanked the six pieces in six different directions.
There was loud popping noise as Slightly’s screams abruptly ended and bones broke. Then there were six different pieces of Slightly, and the sound of pattering rain as his blood splattered on the ground beneath.
The Caterpillar let out a roar that sounded like nothing I had ever heard before, and the smoke from his vents billowed stronger. The metal razor blade teeth slipped past each other, snik-snak! like the sharpening of a carving knife at Christmas.
It lifted Slightly’s dangling arm, and fed it down into the metal gullet that was the Caterpillar’s mouth.
We found enough in us to run again, before it might notice we were gone. Up the slick rocky surface of the tunnel, we could see the nighttime stars in the distance. We made it back out into the smoke scented air as the creature behind us bellowed again, but we kept on moving toward the hilltop.
We slowed as we made it to the crest of the hill. Nothing seemed to be following us. From the hill top we could see much of the island, and it wasn’t encouraging. The trees still burned, and it was coming toward the top of the hill where we stood.
“Oh no! The Faeries! I have to warn the Faeries!” Tinkerbell squeaked in panic, and flew off into tree tops above us.
Below lay the docks and the Jolly Roger was under siege. Pirates battled Playing Card Soldiers, spear to sword. The pirates might even have been able to hold their own if that is all they were confronted with.
But worse than Card Soldiers or Giant Caterpillars, there was a dragon in the sky. Malformed and ugly, the dragon had bat-like wings and a long, snake of a neck, with a short snub nosed face. Its teeth were jagged and broken. Tentacles protruded from its head like thick leathery strands of hair. It roared, swooped down, and picked pirates off the ship deck before dropping them into the drink.
In the water, the Pirates faced another danger. The Crocodile waited there. It too had been changed. The clock it swallowed so long ago was an afterthought, as its body had been mutilated and large clockwork gears fitted into its joints. Each second that passed brought with it a horrible, loud clang of the clock we could hear even up on the hill. The Crocodile ripped into the ships and the dock, and swallowed the pirates whole.
“Wendy Darling, darling mine…” came the fury filled, chiming voice behind me.
I turned on the spot. There Alice stood again, the black clouds above us. The wind picked up as they churned. She was watching the four of us.
“Why are you doing this!?” I screamed at her, trying to hold back tears.
The small laugh that came from her was not what a laugh should ever sound like. It dripped with bile and hatred.
“Because I can. Because my world was taken from me. Because why should you have it when I can’t?” Each syllable became harder edged as she spat them at me. “And now you’ve come to Bedlam, where I can touch you, and you’re like me.”
“I’m nothing like you!” I yelled again.
“Oh no? You created all of this,” and she raised her hands and spun slowly in a circle. “Like I had once. My Wonderland. But… the Doctor took it away, and he’ll do the same to you. So I’m going to do it first.”
The Piccaninny Indians began to appear over the hill behind her, and she turned her head to look at them. Tiger Lily, the beautiful Indian princess stood in her leather dress at the head of the dozen braves behind her. They looked bruised and beaten, as if they had been in a fight.
“We have more company,” Alice said. “Well, let’s invite everyone then.”
The black cloud above spiraled into a whirlwind and descended down into the trees stopping a few feet above our heads. No fire crackled inside this time. Just as fast, it rose back up again to hang just over the tree tops.
Hundreds of tiny bodies, glowing in pale yellowish light fell from the trees and landed in thuds on the ground. The open eyed, still body of Tinkerbell landed a few feet in front of us. She had never made it all the way to her people.
“Oh… no… Tink! No! The Faeries!” Peter yelled.
Alice looked at him. “Don’t worry, Peter. They’ll be fine. In fact, they’ll be better than ever.”
Hundreds of tendrils descended from the swirling black cloud above, each one a small tornado, crackling with red energy. Each tendril found the body of a fallen faerie, and the red streaks of lightning within the cloud filled them and changed them.
Peter and I watched as Tinkerbell was transformed. The black cloud filled her eyes, nose and mouth, and the red lightning struck into her. Her arms changed into sharp curved blades at the elbow, and the color drained from her skin. Her clothes were burned away, and metal wire bound her legs together and her mouth closed. She no longer glowed with pale yellow light, but with malevolent ruby light that was reflected in her blank, staring eyes.
It all happened so quickly, that when the tendrils receded, we all stood motionless. The Faeries rose into the air all at the exact same time. The little winged figures hung motionless around us.
And that trilling laugh of pure malevolence came again. “See?” Alice said. “Better than ever… Take them.”
Two little words kicked over the hornet’s nest. The Faeries all streaked at the Piccaninny in harsh blurs of red light. All but one. Tinkerbell.
They flew at Indians, and were on them before even a single brave could defend himself. Angry gashes started to appear on their skin as the faeries swarmed around them like an angry hive. Tiger Lily let out a scream as three faeries took long cuts from her cheek, down her arm, and across her stomach.
The Piccaninny were cut to ribbons by the mob in seconds, each one a mass of red slashes, gashes and flowing red blood.
In the distraction of shock and terror, Tinkerbell had gotten behind us. We hadn’t been watching her. As Peter and I turned back to Tootles and Nibs, we saw Tinkerbell hovering between them, and then she flew off to join the rest of her kin. I was confused for a second. The looks on their faces were unchanged.
Then two thin red lines began to form on their throats, and blood started to ooze from them before becoming a river. Tootles and Nibs had been taken from us too.
“P… Pe… Peter?” Tootles said, through a mouth full of blood.
Tootles fell backwards, his head rolling off his shoulders and down the hill side.
Nibs simply fell where he was, and collapsed onto his chest, his own head landing a few feet away.
“No… no…” Peter cried, and tears poured down his face.
I held him around the shoulders, and I glared at Alice. “We did nothing to you. NOTHING!”
“So?” she said.
I let go of Peter, and looked at Alice head on. The black wall of roiling clouds now completely enclosed the three of us in a circle.
“There was no reason for any of this! Neverland was a place for the orphans long before I ever came along. Why would you come after us? Why would you kill all these people?”
“You still don’t understand… do you?” she said. “You ARE this place, Wendy Darling.”
Darling mine, darling mine… It echoed in my head without her saying it.
“You create it with your very soul, though you don’t have the control over it, or the strength I did with Wonderland. You dreamed this place into existence.”
“No,” I said. “I’m not insane!”
She laughed at me. “We’re all mad here, Wendy. You. Me. Everyone in Bedlam. And more to come, I feel. Someone stronger than you. Someone that will enable me to escape my prison. So that I can take so much back from those that took everything from me.”
I lost control. I threw myself at her in a screaming rage as she threw these words at me. I hurled myself against her with every bit of strength in my body. I was going to hurt her. I was going to save my Peter, and save Neverland.
And it was all completely futile.
As I reached within inches of her, the black tendrils of cloud descended and locked around my wrists, lifting me off the ground. They did the same to Peter and he now hung in the air beside me. We had been caught. The tendrils felt like steel manacles wrapped around my wrists, and I couldn’t move them anymore than I’d have been able to break open chains.
She smiled at us, and we were lifted high into the air.
“Say goodbye to Neverland, Wendy Darling… darling mine…” her voice came to us from every direction at once; each word was a thunder crack in the roiling black cloud that was everywhere now. Higher and higher we went until everything was black.
Then there was the feeling of falling. Falling feels like flying, but there’s no steering. No second star to the left. Just the great plummet that ends abruptly when you hit whatever is beneath you. We fell so far and so fast, the wind burned against my clenched eyelids and the skin of my cheeks.
We hit the floor with a whooshing thud as all the air was expelled from our lungs. There was light again. Peter had fallen next to me, and he regained his feet first. He helped me to mine.
We stood on the ornate tile floor of a palace.
In front of us there was a raised platform where a black throne sat, and behind the throne, the roiling black cloud. To each side of us lay shadowy areas just out of sight.
As we got to our feet, I heard a graveled, tinny voice yell “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!” and the first monster walked out of the shadows. It was a woman once. Now it wore a crown of jagged black metal. Her dress was made of red, bloody skin and was held on by black barbed wire chains. One arm was missing entirely, and the opposite hand had been replaced by strong, wicked metal pincers. It was connected to her remaining arm with metal bracing that had been embedded into the flesh.
And she was coming for us.
From the opposite side a short, squat humanoid figure with an enormous head waddled out. She mumbled into the giant black metal mask that hid everything but her eyes, and had been grafted onto her gigantic face. She wore an actual fabric dress that was stained with blood and decay.
“OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!” the woman in the red skin dress screamed again.
Peter and I stood back to back, each looking at one of them as they neared. Our hands were clasped tight together. Chains dragged behind the monsters and connected them to the wall. The links clinked loudly as they slipped through iron rings attached to the wall.
Alice appeared again, standing beside the throne.
“NO.” She said.
The monsters slunk back near the shadows, and we started to breathe again.
Alice sat on her throne. Something large and hulking, and feline, slunk around behind the throne in the shadows, but I couldn’t see it. From the glints of metal mixed with ivory fangs, I was fairly certain I didn’t want to anyway.
“Bring them forth!” Alice ordered.
From the sides, two doors I didn’t notice before opened on opposing sides. Alice’s royal court approached their Queen.
From my left, there came a knight dressed in white armor made from bleached bone. Behind him was another figure that seemed familiar. I realized it was James Hook. Or it had been once. Now it looked like just another monster.
He no longer even had his other hand. It had been replaced with a permanent sword blade. His coat, once red and velvet, was now tanned light leather covered with harsh stitches. His shirt and pants were the same, but filthy and covered in blood. His face had been pulled back tight on his skull by dozens of small, black hooks.
Behind him was another man with a very tall top hat with a cage at the top and a long black leather coat with spindles of coarse thread running down each bicep on the coat. He was otherwise hidden beneath it. His face was splayed open and held back with needles and intricate threadwork.
On the other side, another knight came in, this time in armor of fresh bone still stained with blood. Behind him came a pair of hulking figures that looked identical and wore matching filthy, tattered clothes and bowties. They had been the Twins once.
Behind them was one last monstrous figure. It had been a gigantic rabbit once. Now its features and body had been so badly mutilated and corrupted that it was more machine than even beast. As it walked past me, it looked at me and its face opened up into four sections of flapped skin.
Inside its… jaws… was the severed head of Tootles.
They all lined up on either side of Alice’s black throne.
Alice looked at the twisted version of Captain James Hook. He stepped forward and down off the platform. Hook walked over in front of us, his eyes on Peter.
“Kill him,” Alice said in a cold rage.
Hook wasted no time. He swung at us with the sword blade that had replaced his hand. I fell with a muffled yelp and skittered on my hands and feet backwards. Peter didn’t need to. He drew his short sword with grace and speed and met Hook’s blade with a loud clang of metal on metal.
The fight began. Peter dashed in quick motions, back and forth and Hook swung with sword blade and hook hand, trying to find purchase in Peter’s flesh. He found nothing. Peter ducked and jumped and flipped over or under or around each strike, and then took Hook’s feet out from under him. With a primal scream I had never heard from Peter before, and a downward thrust of his sword, he plunged the blade into Hook’s heart. It was over that quickly.
Alice was laughing on her throne again. She wasn’t done playing.
“Hatter…” she said.
The figure in the black leather coat came down off the platform. He and Peter circled each other. Hatter wielded no sword. Instead, his fists were full of long needles. The dance began again, but Hatter was much faster than Hook had been and the fight was much more even at first.
I could do nothing but sit and watch in horror, helpless, powerless to stop them.
Powerless to help.
Powerless to do anything but sit, and sob, and watch as Peter began to bleed from dozens of tiny slices that were taken from his skin and rips in his clothes. The needles found their mark with each pass of Hatter’s fists.
Peter groaned, and cried out, and his fighting back was all but useless as every time he struck Hatter, the tall figure seemed to shrug it off, and he would find Peter’s body with a strike of his own.
Finally, Peter didn’t get up. He was on one knee, clutching at his side. He was bleeding in a hundred or two hundred different places. He looked at me for help and I just sat there, defeated.
Hatter raised his fist again, and I knew the death blow was coming. My Peter. My poor boy.
And then Alice spoke. “That’s enough, Hatter.”
Hatter’s arm dropped to his side, and he laughed in rich tones of amusement. He gave a deep flourishing bow to his queen, and then sat down with his back against the side of her throne.
I felt like I’d never stop crying as I looked at Peter.
“Now, do you see, Wendy?” Alice said. “Do you?”
I nodded. We had lost. Neverland had been lost. The Lost Boys were all dead. Peter was bleeding on the floor, and even the Pirates were all gone. My beloved Neverland had been taken from me, and it had barely been able to put up a fight against this evil.
“I don’t need to kill you, Wendy,” Alice said. “But I will, if you don’t let go.”
I looked up at her on her black throne. I couldn’t even hate anymore. It was all gone. All of my love. All of my hate. It was just dust in the tempest that brewed behind her.
“What do you want me to do?” I said through the drying tears, and my voice cracked.
“You will give me your soul, your Neverland, and you will do as I say in the Asylum, when I have need of you… and if you’re a good girl, I will give you Eternal Life at my side when I rise.”
I stood up, and walked toward Alice, all of my resistance gone. It had all vanished when Peter fell. My last hope. My first love. My only solace. It was all gone. But at least if I did what she said, the pain would stop. This nightmare might end.
“Take up his sword,” Alice said.
I bent and picked up Peter’s sword. He was getting weaker as he lost blood. I should have cried seeing him like that again, but there were no more tears in me.
“Now use it,” she said. “End your dream. Give me Neverland.”
And I raised the sword up, over Peter’s shrunken form. He looked so small there. Finally, he managed the strength to raise his head and look up at me.
“Goodbye,” I said, and my voice cracked as the tears didn’t come. “Goodbye, Peter.”
I thrust the sword’s blade into his chest.
Peter Pan was dead. Neverland was dead. I… who I was… was dead.
I don’t know now how much time has passed since then. I woke up in the bed in the Asylum. Peter never came again. I never dreamed any more. Not of Neverland and… not of anything else. It was all gone.
But sometimes Alice still talks to me.
Wendy Darling, darling mine…
One day, she told me to go to the roof of the Asylum, and be loud, and I would see someone important, and I did. I climbed up onto the ledge and extended my arms to the sky, and I did what she wanted. I caused a scene, and waited to see them.
“Alice will rise again!” I screamed. “Alice! You promised ME eternal life in exchange for my soul!”
I looked down at the newly arrived girls heading into the Asylum. Two of them were different than the rest. One hard dark hair and pale skin, the other was a bit older and had lighter hair. They were the ones Alice was waiting for. I knew it.
“I’m here to do your bidding!”
I leaned forward, prepared to jump off.
But three of the men from the staff at the asylum grabbed me and pulled me back.
“No!!! You cannot make me!” I screamed as loud as I could, my voice straining and making my throat raw. They had stopped me. Alice was going to be so angry.
I prayed hard, so hard, that Alice would know it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault! They grabbed me and pulled me back! I did what she wanted!
And in my sobs and panicked writhing as I tried to get away, I felt that familiar needle prick in my thigh, and I was embraced by the darkness.
I don’t know how long I slept, but it couldn’t have been too long. Perhaps an hour?
But in that hour, I had dreamed.
For the first time in… maybe years? I had dreamed. And I knew what I had to do.
I walked out of my room and into the halls of the Asylum with my arms wrapped tight around me. I had to keep my thoughts straight, and I needed to find the new girl, the one with lighter hair. I needed to talk to her. I needed to warn her.
I found her staring at the green wall outside Doctor Braun’s office. Nurse Ball had just led the darker haired one into the office, and closed the door. This was the only chance I was going to have. I had to do it now.
I walked up to her and I poked her hard in the arm.
“You saw her,” I said.
“Ow! Hey!” she yelled and turned to look at me.
I studied her face, and the eyes. She didn’t belong here. She knew that. She didn’t belong in the Asylum, and not just because Alice wanted her here.
“What are you talking about?” she said to me.
“You’ve seen Alice,” I said.
She moved back slightly from me. I realized I was probably scaring her. Good. She needed to be afraid. Everyone needed to be afraid.
“Who?” she asked.
Don’t do this, Wendy… the voice came into my head. Alice’s voice. I tilted my head to the side, listening out of reflex.
“Alice? Who is she?” the girl asked me again.
I forced myself to ignore the voice, and to focus.
“She’s Bedlam! She’s everywhere…”
Wendy Darling, darling mine… This is your last chance. Do not do this… or you will pay for it.
Again, I made myself shake it off. That voice. That anger and cold hatred. I had to finish this now. It was the only way I could help, if there was any help to be had.
I snapped my head back and looked at this new arrival. I didn’t even know her name. The anger poured through me. For Peter. For Neverland. For Tinkerbell, Nibs, Tootles, and Slightly. For James Hook and Tiger Lily. For all of them.
I jumped up onto the bench beside her and jabbed my finger forward at her face.
“Stay away from Alice!” I said. “Are you listening to me? Stay away! Once she gets inside your head, you’re FINISHED!”
She stared at me, scared, remaining as still as statues.
We were interrupted as the door opened. They carried out the pale dark haired girl.
“What have they done to her?” the new girl said.
“Dr. Braun will see you now.” Nurse Ball said to her, and held open the office door. The nurse looked at me and I cringed.
“WALK!” she said.
But I had done it. I had done it! I warned her. That’s all I could do. I fought back, and I warned her. I started humming one of my favorite old songs that the Lost Boys had made up in one of their games. It was the first time I had thought of it in forever! I skipped down the hall away from them.
I only remember pieces of the next few days, maybe. I can’t keep track of time anymore. It doesn’t matter in here, anyway. They had sedated me again, and confined me to straight jacket so I would be easier to control.
I half walked, half stumbled down the hall and past a room with an open door. The two new arrivals were in there, and I heard the dark haired one they called Dorothy yelling.
“Are you okay? Talk to me, Nell!”
The other, Nell, turned to look at her. It looked like she was going to say something, but I started talking first.
“I warned you about Alice,” I said. “Now she’s in your head. And she won’t get out…”
I started rocking back and forth as I tried to focus. “I told you so, I told you so…”
I wandered down the hall again, weaving in crooked lines and trying to keep going as I started singing to them in my half drunken state.
“Doctor wanted into her Dreams,
Alice can’t wait to hear your scream.
And all of your nurses and all of your men,
Won’t be able to put you together again”
They kept me sedated for so long, I don’t know how long ago that was. Eventually, I woke up in my room, free of the straight jacket, and no one was around. I don’t know what happened.
What I do know is this.
I know that Alice destroyed everything I loved.
I know that I finally fought back.
I know that she won’t let me get away with it.
I know that I can’t stop her from killing me when she comes for me.
And I know that right now, there is a war going on in the Asylum. People are burning. Alice is back because despite my warning, Nell didn’t listen. Not really. No one ever does. That made my decision so much easier.
I climbed up the stairs far away from the fire I could smell everywhere. So much had burnt. It was like being back in Neverland and the smell of burning trees.
But this was burning people. Burning walls. Burning anger and revenge.
Making my way up each step, I went back to the roof, in the cold breeze above the sixth floor of the Asylum. Alice can’t get me here. She can never come for me or hurt again. She’s already taken everything.
I stood on the roof ledge, and this time there were no men to pull me back. It was just me and the wind. So I thought of my very happiest thought. I thought of how I fought back in memory of all I had lost, and I jump forward, off the ledge.
I can fly, you know.