"The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo."
"Why are you quoting from my favorite book, Mr. Gryphon?" I stop what I am doing and look up at him.
"Because it seems to me this is part of the problem. Flamingo management," he says. Mr. Gryphon is leaning up against a large monolith. We are in a dark place with a bunch of large stones surrounding us. They are rather like the stones at Stonehenge in scale and placement. The sky looks dark, but not from the night nor from storms or clouds. It's just dark.
I am leaning down over a large stone slab attempting to strike a match. The wind howls around us in a vortex. I can even see the savage trails of wind blowing around us. The invisible made seen. In this place the wind doesn't effect us all that much with the exception of a few icy gusts here and there. I have three matches and I'm attempting to light the first.
The passage Mr. Gryphon refers to is in Chapter VIII entitled "The Queen's Croquet-Ground." In it Alice is attempting to play croquet where the flamingos are the mallets and hedgehogs are the balls. Each time she tries to strike the hedgehog, though, the flamingo just turns and looks at her.
"Miss Turtle, why are we here?" A dark shadow appears on the horizon in the distance. Mr. Gryphon is looking at it and he has asked me this question with a distracted air.
"You're supposed to read my mind, Sir. Why do you always ask that question?" I ask. I've managed to get match lit, but it blows out again. I put the spent match down and pick up the second one.
"I only ask for the benefit of our audience, Miss Turtle." I can tell by his voice that he is still looking at the shadow. I look at the second match carefully to be sure of its wholeness.
"Am I Alice now?" I've been wondering this question for a while considering the mass confusion I've been feeling about my life and what I'm supposed to be doing with it. For example today I was wondering if my life will be the same as it is now. I mean, in five years will I still be sitting here at my computer writing these odd stories? I suppose that wouldn't be a bad thing, but I worry that I will still be confused and made helpless by the ever growing feeling of indecision I feel on a daily basis. Alice was lost in Wonderland, BUT and this is a big one, she kept moving and exploring even with her confusion and even among some threatening situations. I have not, I suppose.
"I thought everything in those blasted books are you and more." I do not look at my seven foot tall half-lion, half-eagle friend. This truth makes me uncomfortable as I don't want to think about my being suffused with such madness, but...it is true. They are all me and more.
"Strange how we identify with certain things. I suppose I could identify with less interesting things such as the lives of Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears. God, help me if I saw myself in those train wrecked lives."
"It's only a different train wreck, Miss Turtle, even with all its critical acclaim and 'for the ages' status amongst world literature."
I've managed to get the second match lit and smile. The dark shadow is coming and I can see Mr. Gryphon is concerned, but I am not. I am not worried for a change even though I don't know what is going on right now. Darkness, icy wind and that old ominous feeling permeates me but to no effect. My match has been lit and there is no blast of wind. I reach down to the ground next to the stone and pick up an old lamp and light it. I get the cover on before the light can go out. I put the last match in my apron pocket and hold the lamp up for Mr. Gryphon to see. I am still smiling.
"The man's lamp, is it? The lamp the demon gave him that would never go out?"
"The very one, Sir. Since the light is out and the man is no longer here we must assume he found his way out of that dark purgatory."
"That is encouraging because we're going to need it," he says as he looks towards the shadow coming closer with alarming speed. What little light is left is going out as the shadow approaches. The only thing visible is the pitch black beyond. Mr. Gryphon steps closer to me and reaches out his hand. I take it as the darkness blots out around us like an invasion from the vacuum of space. I take a deep breath and look back. The stones are still there. I breathe a sigh of relief.
"No, we aren't in purgatory, then," I say, "Instead, we or rather I am lost. The features of the landscape are the same, but the light has gone out." I sit on the stone that I'd found the matches on.
"What now, Miss Turtle?" He has sat down next to me. The wind is dying down a little and I can hear the beyond, murmuring and whispering to us.
"You mentioned something about flamingos earlier, Mr. Gryphon, and you are quite right in your observation. The task now is to find the flamingo and the croquet ground. That shouldn't take long. It's around here somewhere."
"Can't manage that bird until we have it in hand," he says. I hand him the lamp, get up and smooth out my skirts. I double check to make sure the match is still in my pocket. It's amazing how you find you don't need certain things, how lightly you can travel when it's all said and done.
I lead the way walking away from the stones. Mr. Gryphon follows silently. After all, he knows this is my crisis, my confusion.