Celebrate Easter with Down the Rabbit Hole

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 10.57.14 PMDown the Rabbit Hole is an Alice in Wonderland & fairy tale mash up from my short story collection Views from the Tower.  The original inspiration for Down the Rabbit Hole came when I imagined how frightening it would be to meet one of those oversized Easter bunnies  – the kind you get your picture with at the mall – in a dark alley.  I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the mall Easter bunny – it’s like I pay $24.95 to scar my children for life and all I get in return is an 8×10 of them screaming their brains out on the lap of a dude in a creeptastic suit.  There have to be better ways to celebrate the holiday, right?

One way to make it all better is to put a really handsome guy in the suit and throw in a female lead with a gun.  In fact, the hot guy meets female lead with a weapon makes everything better #writingtipsbyme.  So here for your Easter reading pleasure…

Down the Rabbit Hole

I knew better than to go following a white rabbit down a rabbit hole. I mean, first rule of Fairy Tale Investigations, right?

And yet here I was trailing a large white rabbit through a maze of winding, dark alleyways.

In my defense, it wasn’t a real white rabbit.  It was a guy in a bunny costume, complete with floppy ears and silly grin.  The kind of bunny that overzealous parents stuck frightened children on the laps of for pictures once a year.  In other words, creepy as hell. Cause what isn’t creepy about a six-foot-three-inch bunny with a bow tie?  Nothing, that’s what.
The bunny picked up his pace, so I increased mine. He hadn’t given any indication he’d noticed he was being followed and I’d thought I’d been pretty discreet. There were a lot less people here than there had been in the alleys right off the main street though, so it was getting harder and harder to remain inconspicuous.

The oversized rabbit ducked around a corner and after pausing a moment to pull my gun out of its holster, I followed.
I came face to face with a giant, toothy grin. So much for remaining inconspicuous.

“Why are you following me, lady?” The voice was gruff; I’m pretty sure he was disguising it.

I leveled my gun at one of the costume’s buck teeth. “Special Agent Harrison. I need you to take off the bunny head. Slowly. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

The bunny slowly reached up and removed its head. The man inside the suit was stunningly attractive. Black hair, sea-colored eyes, ridiculously square jaw. But then, I’d expected that.

“Can I see some identification?” he asked, tucking the bunny head under his arm. I was right, the voice had been a fake. His real voice could have melted butter on a subzero day.

I kept my gun trained on him with one hand and reached into my back pocket with the other. Flipping open the little black wallet, I flashed him my badge and i.d. He glanced at it. I didn’t appreciate how unimpressed he looked.
“Your name is Alice?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Special Agent Harrison,” I corrected as I stuck the badge wallet back into my pocket.

“Special Agent Alice Harrison. And here you are following a white rabbit. Alice, I’m not going to lie to you: I’m concerned for your career advancement. Irony aside, it’s just not the best general life choice. You never know where you’ll end up.”

“Technically, I wasn’t following a rabbit. I was following you. And you’re just a Charming in a rabbit suit.”
“Oh, I’m never ‘just’ anything.” He gave me a lazy grin and a wink. Was this guy flirting with me? While I had a gun pointed at him? I felt my blood pressure notch up in irritation.

“Yeah, actually, you’re ‘just’ under arrest.”

He didn’t even look flustered as he leaned against the nearest wall, casually crossing his ankles. “What for?”

“You are Erick Phillips, current Charming of the “100 Years Sleep” tale?”

“Yup, that’s me. Though really, Alice, “Charming” is such a politically incorrect term. As if all that matters about me are my good looks and wonderful personality.”

“Special Agent Harrison,” I reminded him. From where I was standing, and honestly, my gun arm was getting tired so this could have just been the annoyance talking, his personality didn’t look so wonderful. My bias could have also been due to the arrest warrant burning a hole in my pocket. “Erick Phillips you are under arrest for world jumping without a permit, purposeful tale deviation, and failure to pay all fees and tariffs associated with said world jumping.”

Phillips smirked at me. “How like the Office of Narrative Order to be so concerned with money.”

“The last charge actually carries the longest minimum sentence.” I shrugged as I unhooked the handcuffs from my belt. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine.”

“Oh, that’s cute. Do they hand out mugs with that clever little saying on them at the O.N.O?”

“I’m pretty sure they’d prefer you didn’t do the crime in the first place. Turn around and place your hands on your head.”

“How would they pay your salary then, Alice, if everyone followed all of the rules all of the time?” The dimples almost made his smile look sincere. Almost.

“Mr. Phillips, please turn around and place your hands on your head,” I repeated. He continued to lean against the alley wall, nonchalantly, as if I was discussing the weather rather than putting him under arrest.

“You can’t seriously think you’re going to actually be arresting me today?” He raised that same eyebrow at me again. I gritted my teeth. That was the problem with Charmings, they always expected to get their own way. They never followed orders.

“Mr. Phillips, your arrest isn’t up for discussion. Seeing as I have you at the end of a gun, it would behoove you to comply.”

“You’re not going to shoot me.”

“Turn around and put your hands on your head.”

“Can you just imagine all of the time and expense of having to replace a Charming? In one of the main fifteen too. It’s a pretty important tale. I’m not bragging or anything; it’s not like I asked for the job, but I can’t imagine the O.N.O. wants a dead Charming on their hands. The paperwork alone could take years. What if my L.L. wakes up before my replacement is ready? What happens to my tale then?”

I felt the beginnings of a stress headache starting behind my eyes. He wasn’t wrong, just the thought of the paperwork made me queasy. I would be on desk duty filling out those forms for the next eight months at least.

“Don’t you even use your Leading Lady’s name? What kind of a Charming are you?” I’m not sure why the question popped out; maybe I was just so surprised at his casual mention of the woman who was supposed to be his true love. I really should just shoot him, preferably somewhere non-vital. A leg wound wouldn’t put him out of his tale that long, and more importantly, would require a lot less paperwork on my end. I let my gun drift in the direction of his leg.

“She’s been asleep for almost a hundred years. I’ve never even met her. Sure, we’re scheduled to meet and fall in love, but meanwhile real life is happening.” He shrugged his shoulders casually. Even though they were covered by the dreadful bunny costume, I could tell they were broader than regulation for Charmings. I’m sure this guy had no problems with women. The thought of it made me strangely angry. It’s not like his poor Leading Lady was taking an extended nap because she wanted to. If he was going to complain about not having asked to be a Charming, then surely his L.L. had just as much right to complain.

“And ‘real life’ just happens to include breaking several very important laws?” I asked sarcastically. I was now aiming my gun directly at his knee. A blown out knee cap would be satisfyingly painful, but it wouldn’t kill him. It might even serve the double purpose of making him stay put in his own story for awhile.

“When you’re fighting a battle for freedom against a corrupt and oppressive regime sometimes laws get broken. And don’t think I haven’t noticed where you’re aiming.”

I was so surprised by his statement that I almost dropped the gun. “The O.N.O. aren’t oppressors!”

Phillips took advantage of my momentary lapse. He darted forward, dropping the bunny head, and wrested my gun from my hand. Fear flooded through me. I was wearing a vest, but he was smart enough to know that and shoot me somewhere else.

“Don’t look so scared,” he laughed quietly as he opened the chamber. The bullets clinked together as they fell into the costume’s large paw. “You say they’re not oppressive because you work for them. You are them. Maybe if you spent a little time in a tale or two you’d have a different opinion.” He handed my now empty gun back with a flourish. “And now, my lady, I must away.” He took a few steps down the alley before turning back and piercing me with a sharp stare. “I could show you. Right now. You’ve got a look about you, like you don’t quite belong to them yet.”

I shook my head, mutely. Something flashed across his face, and I had the oddest sense that I’d disappointed him.
“Don’t follow the white rabbit, Alice.” He shot me a grin before placing the costume head firmly back on and running away.

I holstered my gun with shaking hands. I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain my missing bullets. But that was the least of my worries. I was more concerned with my sudden, inexplicable desire to go running after a criminal Charming in a bunny suit.

I turned and made my way slowly back out of the maze of alleyways. My vehicle was parked on the main road and it took a good ten minutes of walking to make my way back.

There was a small white box sitting on the hood of my vehicle. It had a tag attached to it, like a gift. I glared at it suspiciously for a moment before flipping the tag over.

– Special Agent Alice Harrison –

I glanced up and down the street, a chill running through me. I had the sudden, horrifying thought that I hadn’t been tailing Erick Phillips so much as he’d been letting me follow him.

I cautiously opened up the white box. Inside was a small glass bottle filled with a red liquid. It looked a bit like wine, but I knew better. There was a tag attached to the bottle as well; heavy cream colored paper tied to the bottle with a piece of twine.

For when you finally are ready to face the truth. I’m sure you know what to do.
-E.P.

My fist closed around the bottle, clutching it so hard that the ridges bit into my hand. I felt faint and a bit dizzy, like I’d stepped onto a carousel that was moving way too fast. I looked up and down the street again. No one.

I should have broken the bottle. Should have smashed it against the pavement and let it splinter into a million pieces; let that blood red liquid leak out all over the concrete and run away.

Instead I put it in my pocket, got into my vehicle and put the key in the ignition. I was tired and I wanted to go home, take a hot shower, and go to bed. There was no reason for me to go into the office again tonight. I had nothing to report.

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