Aspects of Arch: Who is King Arch In Our World?

Like a recurring nightmare, the enemies of Wonderland always seek to strike at the very Heart of our imaginations. Following the Boarderland King's contact with the Heart Crystal, many ask the questions: “What happened to King Arch?”

If we are to peer into the Pool of Tears, and our memories of recent events, we can see the first and perhaps most damaging instance of such a “collision.” While it boggles the imagination as to how Queen Redd might have survived such an experience, what was spawned on the other side of the looking glass was less than surprising considering the Redd's vicious determination.

So it stands to reason that if we are to search for a sign of Arch, we must look not for a villain calling himself “King of Boarderland & Wonderland”. Instead, we must seek out the fragments of Arch's foul imagination having taken root in the minds of men.


JACK THE RIPPER

Jack The Ripper
Jack The Ripper

A mysterious murderer who needs no introduction. The infamous serial killer who haunted Whitechapel exhibits the brutality and misogyny that made King Arch such a foul enemy of Queen Alyss and is considered by many to be the symbolic death of England's Victorian era.

While we may never truly understand the man and the motive behind “The Ripper,” one can see the glimmer of King Arch's cruelty and cunning when it comes to terrorizing the vulnerable. But not every aspect of Arch is so blatantly malevolent, some find themselves at odds with the realm they are in and seem to try and bring it down or escape it.

PETE BROWNING

Pete Browning

A star of the early days of modern American baseball, Pete Browning was a heavy drinking but talented athlete who carried some strange beliefs, including the idea that baseball bats only contained a limited number of hits in them before they lost their “pow.”

His attitude and skill would give him the moniker of “The Louisville Slugger” years before the title would be branded by the H&B Company. While not the madman that Arch was, Browning clearly was a giant in his field and would be an “Arch”etype for many of baseball's most colorful players.

SANTE GERONIMO CASERIO

Sante Geronimo Caserio
Sante Geronimo Caserio

The Italian anarchist whose notoriety erupted from his assassination of the French president Carnot to avenge the executions of his fellow anarchists. The bombastic trial of Caserio is punctuated by his bold refusal of plea deals and his proclamations of his anarchist ideas. King Arch's distrust of “Queendoms” seems to have reached a full boil of distrust of any form of authority and their allies. Perhaps a sign of what King Arch's continued reign of Wonderland would have looked like, a violent anarchy.

GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER

General Custer
General Custer

An educated and decorated commander in the American Union Army who would met his brutal end at the Battle of Little Bighorn, or the “Battle of Greasy Grass” as it was known to the Natives who fought against this military man.

King Arch himself could only be this aggressive and merciless in battle, as Custer would even use full military force against the unarmed peoples of the Indian Nations. And like the Boarderland King, his force of personality has echoed through time to blur the line between hero and villain.

FERDINAND ESTERHAZY

Ferdinand Esterhazy
Ferdinand Esterhazy

A French military officer and spy for Germany, his nation's enemy at the time. What is most villainous about this possible aspect of Arch's tale is not just his betrayal of oaths & friends, but the antisemitic scapegoating of Alfred Dreyfus as the individual responsible for Esterhazy's treason.

Unfortunately, Esterhazy would not face justice and would be quietly dismissed from military service. He would spend his final days in Britain where he would live on his military pension until his death and burial under a false name & date. Like Arch, this one has “gotten away with it.”

NED KELLY

Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly

Equally hero and villain in his homeland of Australia, Ned Kelly truly embodies the aspect of Arch that made him “king” to the rough-and-tumble peoples of the Boarderlands. A long history of robbery, bush ranging, and eventually the murder of police officials, would come to an end at Kelly's trial and execution.

Today, Ned Kelly holds the distinct “honor” of being synonymous with rebellion and “Robin Hood” banditry in Australia. However, one needs only to look at the long list of deaths associated with the man to appreciate that one person's hero can be another's worst nightmare.

BLACK BART

Black Bart
Black Bart

An unusual entry into this list of potential aspects of King Arch, considering this colorful stagecoach robber of the American West was rumored to have never fired a single shot during his robberies. Black Bart was reputed to be a “gentleman bandit” with an air of sophistication, even leaving poetic messages at two robberies for the police.

Following his arrest and serving time in the notorious San Quentin Prison, Charles “Black Bart” Boles disappear into the realm of rumors and tall tales.

WILLIAM BUCKLEY

William Buckley
William Buckley

Formerly a soldier from “Alice's” England, William Buckley would be convicted of theft and be sentenced to the Australian penal colonies. When the settlement proved lacking in vital resources such as fresh water and eventually Buckley left to try his own luck.

Buckley's would be saved by members of the Wathaurong people and he would live amongst them for the next thirty-two years. Buckley would prevent conflict between indigenous and English colonizers, the latter of which would learn who Buckley was, leading to his eventual pardon and return to European society.


It seems that the dark imagination of men like King Arch persists through the Continuum into realms beyond Wonderland, or perhaps the Boarderland tyrant himself persists like an ink stain on a page. Should Arch be half the villain that Queen Redd continues to be, then perhaps the realm of Wonderland should expect a return.

To read more about the Boarderlands, check out The Books of The Looking Glass Wars.

Though we can never be certain of King Arch's fate, we must stay vigilante should the tyrant ever show his face(s) in the Pool of Tears again.


Meet The Author

Marco Arizpe

Marco Arizpe graduated from the University of Southern California and The American Film Institute with degrees in filmmaking and screenwriting. His brand of borderland gothic horror stems from his experiences growing up in a small town where Texas and Mexico meet. Culturally steeped in a rich history of all things terrifying, Marco never fails to bring forward indigenous folklore in contemporary and fresh settings.

The Looking Glass Wars, Season One Outline: Part III

Redd stalks the imperial hallways, convinced that Alyss is plotting an attack and impatient for The Cat to return with her actual head. Learning of Hatter Madigan’s reappearance, Redd decides—in contrast to the common wisdom of coaches everywhere—that the best defense is an aggressive offense.

On Earth, unable to ignore her memories but still suppressing most of her past, Alice begins to question her history. Where did she come from? Why are her recollections of “fictitious” Wonderland the only ones she possesses from her earliest years?

Alice seeks out Lewis Carroll, intuiting that her estrangement from him is relevant and that he can provide answers. But Carroll tells her what she least wants to hear—that her terrible nightmares and visions, the same ones he had long ago turned into nonsense and published in an effort to help her overcome what he believed to be her traumas as an orphan—well, everything in them is (or was) real. Just as she had insisted, they were when a little girl. He knows this because he’s met Hatter Madigan—the real Mad Hatter.

The acknowledged truth of Alice’s past only burdens her further. Every day, she’s pressured by her family to conform to the traditional role of a woman in Victorian society (marriage, children, passivity). Every day, she contends with Jesus Jones’ gang for the theater (the site of her orphanage). And every day, the crown acts as a stealth wedge attempting to drive her and Prince Leopold apart.

It’s always easier to give in, and we might think that Alice’s life would be less troubled were she to accept a proposal of marriage and forget her do-gooder ambitions. We’d be wrong. Prince Leopold, defying his overbearing mother, proposes to Alice, and buffeted on all sides by responsibilities, other people’s hopes and expectations, she goes into something of a tailspin.

Alice is pulled between worlds

She puts off answering Leopold, knowing that, though she loves him, agreeing to become his wife will have negative implications for her work with orphans. She’s no longer naïve enough to think that the queen shares her enthusiasm for improving the children’s welfare. Nor is she unaware that the queen judges her to be an uppity no-name who’s grown from a foundling to mistakenly acting as if a woman can make her own decisions, conduct business, etc.—i.e., do everything a man can do.

Disappointed but gallant, the gentleman suitor Hargreaves waits tactfully for Alice in the wings, but the pressure from her family intensifies. Marriage to a royal would significantly raise the Liddells’ standing in society. Adding to Alice’s stress, Jesus Jones’ gang burns down her recently opened orphanage.

“They want me to return to Wonderland and take up the throne?” Alice mourns to her reflection in a looking glass. “Me? When everything I touch falls apart. What kind of queen could I possibly be?”

Queen Genevieve materializes in the quicksilver. “A warrior queen,” she says, then vanishes.

It’s not enough. Or maybe it’s all too much. As Alice once did when a child, she vows to put aside the memories and passions that prevent her from getting on well in our world. She will embrace, more than ever, her adopted role as a Victorian woman, albeit a privileged one; she agrees to marry Prince Leopold.

In Lewis Carroll’s Adventures, Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a kaleidoscopically absurd Wonderland. In reality, Wonderland erupts into our world and there’s nothing absurd about it.

The royal wedding between Prince Leopold and Alice is our season’s last major set-piece. The Cat, having assumed the life of one of his aristocratic victims, has been invited and intends to finally separate Alice’s head from her body, though he’s wistful; murdering her will mean an end to the fun he’s been having, a return to Redd in Wonderland. But Hatter, unwilling to leave Alice alone longer than necessary, is also at the wedding, and when The Cat makes his move, Hatter steps up to defend his princess. It’s a vicious fight, and the otherworldly abilities of the combatants leave everyone dumbstruck. But not Leopold; he who spent his childhood coddled as a hemophiliac, who has dreamed of a life of action, intercepts a blow meant for Alice—a blow that looks to be fatal.

The Cat Attacks

Alyss issues her first command: Hatter must take Leopold to Wonderland, where only the power of imagination can save him.

Hatter’s mind reels back to when Queen Genevieve ordered him to leave her and save Alyss. And now Alyss is asking him to leave in order to save Leopold? He’s on the verge of refusing when…

Dalton’s betrayal comes to the fore as a swarm of Redd’s card soldiers invade the proceedings (some of the soldiers traveling through The Pool of Tears wound up in far-flung locales, providing a moment of levity). Dalton, it turns out, has been loyal to Redd all along, having sent word to her about Alyss’s precise whereabouts, and she has tasked him with overseeing the princess’s elimination. Surely, Redd had sneered, Dalton, The Cat, and her top hand of card soldiers could manage to kill an inexperienced girl?

But Hatter didn’t come back to Earth alone. Dodge and a cadre of Alyssians engage against Redd’s forces, and the sight of Dodge—Alyss’s first/best friend—stirs something deep inside her. Redd’s coup, the event that changed her life—and so many others’—forever, comes back to her in full…

We’re with seven-year-old Alyss as Redd and her mercenaries storm the princess’s birthday party—Redd wearing a gown of black, toothy roses and screaming “Off with their heads!” while bodies fall. We’re with Alyss as she hides under a table beside ten-year-old Dodge and sees The Cat murder Dodge’s father.

“No!” Dodge cries, charging at The Cat and getting swatted away, four parallel lines of blood marring his cheek.

We’re with Alyss as she and Queen Genevieve are pursued down palace halls by The Cat, until—

Thwip! Hatter kills the feline assassin with a deft throw of his spinning hat blades. Genevieve urges the Milliner to take Alyss and go, to keep the princess safe so that she might one day rule Wonderland. Genevieve, her emotions barely in check, then tells young Alyss that no matter what happens, she will always be with her, on the other side of the looking glass.

With a hiss, The Cat (who has nine lives) regains life and pounces. Hatter scoops up Alyss and jumps into a looking glass. Within moments he and the princess are racing through woods to The Pool of Tears, chased by The Cat: the cold open.

Alyss remembers all of this acutely, its truth informing every cell of her being, while our season finale’s massive, magical battle rages around her. Quigly, Hargreaves, and even Lewis Carroll fight to protect Alyss. How much of their protection she needs is up for debate, though, because she proves surprisingly adept in combat thanks to her waxing powers of imagination.

Amid the melee, Hatter is forced to kill the brother with whom he so recently reunited, and we end not with a victory so much as a mutual retreat.

Hatter vs. Dalton, The Madigan Brothers fight
Hatter vs. Dalton

The Cat, with Dalton dead and Alyss proving too powerful for him, slips out of the fray and camouflages himself by murdering an ordinary Londoner, assuming his/her form. Hatter hurries to Wonderland with a dying Leopold. And Alyss’s worry for her beloved does more to convince her to return to her birthplace than Dodge Anders’ entreaties. In other words, she travels to Wonderland and joins the Alyssians, not because she’s convinced that she’s destined to battle Redd for the queendom but because of her love for Leopold.

Redd is, of course, enraged by the failure of her troops to do away with Alyss. She lashes out at the queendom, Dark Imagination bruising every corner of society. And the further Wonderland falls into a pit of corruption and violence, the more Earth does too. The only way to save both worlds is to rid them of Redd forever.

For Alyss to accomplish that, however, she’ll need to assume the throne, which she can only do by navigating her Looking Glass Maze to realize her full imaginative power. And successfully navigating her maze, if she can locate it, isn’t a given. Plus, there’s much to be done along the way—card houses to unite, armies to raise, battles to wage.

But during a single season Alyss has transformed from Victorian social justice warrior to Wonderland Joan of Arc, the de facto leader of a rebellion that we’ll track in LGW’s second season, with the action taking place primarily in a world of rediscovery for Alyss—Wonderland, strange, familiar, home.

The war between Light and Dark Imagination is just beginning.


Read Part One of The Looking Glass Wars Season One Outline

Read Part Two of The Looking Glass Wars Season One Outline


For More on the World of the Looking Glass Wars:

Part One: Wonderland’s Imagination Empowers

Part Two: Wonderland Beginnings

Part Three: Roadmap To Phantasia

This is How They Found the Music for the New Alice In Wonderland Project - The Looking Glass Wars

Before I started writing The Looking Glass Wars, I did a lot of research on the cultural impact of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was struck by the depth and richness of the music influenced by Lewis Carroll’s books.  Artists from Jefferson Airplane and Bob Dylan to Tom Petty to Gwen Stefani have used imagery based on ‘Alice’ in their songs and videos.  I wondered what would it sound like if the true story of Alyss Heart of Wonderland was told through contemporize music?

What if I could expand the intellectual dimension of reading my book into a heightened sensory experience using music to open aural portals connecting our world to Wonderland? Considering my book is set in two dimensions and so much of the story unfolds in Wonderland, it came to me that for the reader to fully experience my characters and their world, I should extend the mental dimension of the page to the aural dimension to make it more sensory and emotional. Acting on this imaginative impulse I decided to create an ‘aural novel’ of sorts, by producing a soundtrack much in the same way a director would for a film. It was an abstract concept, but one that I felt held a secret, a locked promise if faithfully and artistically pursued. The musical landscape offered an incredible choice of talent and within a short time several artists were at work on their songs.

I called Canadian music supervisor Androo Mitchell, a friend and colleague who I previously worked with on the film Wicked, to help select and collaborate with the artists for the project.

Androo was intrigued by the idea, and we got to work.

My primary directive to the artists was to take my characters and the themes and write music that is personal to them.

One of many standout songs is “Puddles,” – “This is no ordinary water/ Do not be fooled” – it took shape after English electronic soundscaper Grant Baldwin (aka Phontaine) and Gemma Luna imagined themselves as Alyss jumping into puddles, desperately searching for the one that would take her home. A reference to the Pool of Tears, (a portal between Wonderland and our world) Alice must find ‘a puddle where no puddle should be’ if she is to ever return to Wonderland and claim her rightful place on the throne.

Grant Baldwin (aka Phontaine) at work in his studio
Grant Baldwin (aka Phontaine) at work in his studio

Another artist, Julianna Raye – whose music Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker described as “languidly gorgeous,” remarked, “[She] has the bruise of heartbreak in her blue voice”: “My contribution to the soundtrack is called ‘Mirror.’  I was moved by Alyss’ romance with [the guardsman] Dodge and began thinking about the things that separate us.  We can cut ourselves off from our past and essentially become separate within ourselves.  Loving someone can help you reconnect with your true, whole nature.  Of course, what we believe is our ‘true’ self is forever changing.  I thought ‘The Looking Glass Wars’ did a wonderful job of exploring those themes.”

Hypnogaja’s Looking Glass is morose and stylish and manages the capture the essence of the world beyond the mirror with a unique, abstract approach. And within one beat, the song jumps to another mood, one of survival through the battle. Their song reflects both Carroll’s fiction as well as the true story of Alyss/Alice found in my research and books.

One of the coolest things Silence did with the song “Shattered,” was take sampling from The Looking Glass Wars audiobook voice actor Gerald Doyle’s reading and distort it with a heavy echo effect distinguished by a tense cello sample.

One of my favorite songs is “To Another World,” produced by the audio Ninja and performed by Velvet front man Kuba, who earned gold honors at the Canadian Music Week national songwriter’s competition. The song has become the anthem for every school visit talk I have with students. “Welcome to wonderland / Welcome to my world.”

Adham Shaikh Melds Electronic Music with Wonderland
Adham Shaikh Melds Electronic Music with Wonderland

“Through the Looking Glass,” from composer/producer/2006 Juno Award nominee (World Music Album of the Year) Adham Shaikh.

Courier Heart,” from Eccodek (brainchild of producer/songwriter/remixer Andrew McPherson) featuring the seductive vocals of Ambre McLean; Silence’s grooving, glockenspiel-spiced “Deadly”; “Sea of Redd,” rendered by Phontaine featuring the rare-groove croon of Nadia; Intrepid listeners may also discover an otherworldly “score” excerpt composed by Nick Young, leader of forward-looking Los Angeles rock combo A.i.

Androo was amazed during the germination of the soundtrack how the artists showed him how some of the pieces fit together.  “Music has the power to distill emotions and ideas and I saw that over and over during this process,” 

“I was the ‘live’ conduit between two very creative forces, the writer of the novel and the people behind the music,” Mitchell elaborated, “and did I ever get electrocuted!”

“The artists were constantly coming to me with their works-in-progress, and I’d hear a lyric or a fragment of melody that would make me feel something about one of the characters I hadn’t felt before.  I came to know these characters on a much deeper level, which frequently left me speechless.”

All the songs present a kaleidoscopic view of my books and themes set against a sonic backdrop of trip-hop, modern rock, and a psychedelic sound collage.  Because of the diversity of music, the album is a beautiful, haunting representation of Alyss’s world and the narrative of my book.

Ultimately, though, I was more concerned that each song evoking an emotional response, rather than adhering to any storyline.  Likewise, listeners need not be familiar with The Looking Glass Wars to lose themselves in The Looking Glass Wars Soundtrack.  First and foremost, the music had to come together as an album, a work of art independent of the book. However, I discovered once people get into any part of The Looking Glass Wars, they want to figure out how all the pieces fit together.

The Looking Glass Wars Soundtrack

And this is where it all became strange. As the music came together and the tracks were compiled, I came to know these characters, my characters, on a much deeper level. Ultimately, I found it both shocking and exhilarating to so intimately experience the anguish and passion of the heroic, monstrous, vengeful, and loving denizens of Wonderland.

I couldn’t quite get over how fully the artists were able to connection with my book, there was extraordinary collaborative synchronicity.  And the idea that they had taken a product of my imagination and articulated it into these magical songs was incredible.

Androo said at the time, “It’s easy to be inspired by a story like this.  After all, one of the book’s most important ideas is about broadening the horizons of our imaginations.”

All the musicians’ creativity and innovation inspired by Alice in Wonderland, rely on a rich heritage of prior intellectual efforts, revisiting, re-envisioning, and reimagining Alice of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Alice/Alyss is aware of the depth of her roots and owes her identity to all her various artistic incarnations, shaped by our changing social fabric and morals.

The world of The Looking Glass Wars is complex; it is messy. It leaves behind the childlikewonder of Wonderland by pitting Alyss Heart – the princess of Wonderland – against the “real” world on Earth.

The Looking Glass Wars soundtrack takes you through a journey that’s relaxed at times and sometimes exudes climax. It is a simple tale and an abstract musical journey for the listeners.

The album dually reflects our ideals and horrors. Today truth is relative—we all live in our own version of the truth. How we view the world depends on how we look through the looking glass.

I’ve been humbled by my good fortune in enlisting these creative souls to further cultivate my Wonderverse, I must have taken the right magic mushrooms.

The Looking Glass Wars Soundtrack Song List
The Looking Glass Wars Soundtrack Song List

Visit the Music page to listen to samples of The Looking Glass Wars Soundtrack, or visit the store to purchase your copy of the CD.


Lyrics - “Shattered” by Silence

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, sleepy door mice and a curious little blonde girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for imagination.

The Looking Glass Wars…

Imagination

Alyss Heart
A fairy tale life was shattered
Behind the fantasy

Wonderland

Parallel worlds
True story
Forget all you know

Now discover the truth

Shattered
Lies
True Story
This is no tea party

Shattered
Lies
You may have heard of this dear old book

Shattered
Lies
True Story
This is no tea party

Shattered
Lies
Uncover the truth
Forget all you know

Now discover the truth

The real Wonderland is a world torn apart
Where imagination is power 
Forget all you know

Now discover the truth

The real Wonderland is a world torn apart
Where imagination is power

Alyss entrusted Lewis Carroll to tell the truth
Shattered
Lies
The true story is no tea party
Shattered
Lies

You may have heard of this dear old book
Shattered
Lies
The true story is no tea party
Lies

Uncover the truth
Forget all you know

Now discover the truth
The real Wonderland is a world torn apart

Where imagination is power

Forget all you know
Now discover the truth

The real Wonderland is a world torn apart

Where imagination is power

Lyrics - “Sea of Redd” by Phontaine

It's all in my head
they said, they said
but all I see is redd
a sea of redd, a sea of redd. 
She killed off all I loved
in a moment of time
now she's mine 
and all I see is redd
a sea of redd, a sea of redd…

Heiress to the throne
forget everything,
erase the known. 
The army of me
fighting evil, a horrible disease. 
My body's full of fear
revenge is ready, the time is here. 
My heart is beating bold
strong and steady, ice cold. 

It's all in my head
they said, they said
but all I see is redd
a sea of redd, a sea of redd. 
She killed off all I loved
in a moment of time
now she's mine 
and all I see is redd
a sea of redd…

The shape shifting feline
is no friend of mine
his ways are wicked to the mind.
The palace, the crystal mines
the lord of diamonds, don't forget this time… 
Black and white, good and bad
with shades of grey I've never had 

Wonderland’s a pool of tears
once a puddle 
now it's up to our ears. 

It’s all in my head
they said, they said 
and all I see is redd
a sea of redd, a sea of redd

Who is Alyss? Shatter the Myth, Discover the Real Alice In Wonderland

Meet Alyss Heart of Wonderland: a princess brought up with all the entitlement due an heir to the throne. On her seventh birthday, she was targeted in a bloody coup perpetrated by her aunt Redd, in which her father and mother, the king and queen, were killed. The royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan (the real Mad Hatter) whisked her to relative safety through The Pool of Tears, a portal to other worlds, but—

Swirling waters and a strong undercurrent wrenched Alyss  out of Hatter’s grasp.

Alone, she shot out of a dirty street puddle in the middle of a soot-stained, rain-soaked city. She wiped the sopping sleeve of her birthday dress across her eyes, blinked. It was still there: the filthy, gray city.

London, England. 1859.

A shout. A great clatter of creaking wood and clomping hooves, and Alyss—feeling the fuming breath of the horses as they passed—was almost run over by an ornate carriage.

“God save the queen!” someone shouted.

Disoriented, Alyss raced after the carriage that she believed was carrying her mother, only to be stopped by guards outside Buckingham Palace. They weren’t about to let this wet, bedraggled urchin through the gates.

“Like as not, you intend the queen some harm,” one of them teased.

“The queen is my mother!” Alyss declared.

“You don’t say?” The soldier turned to the others. “You hear that? This little girl’s mother is the queen. We might have to die protecting her, I suppose.”

“All hail the royal lady,” another soldier said with a bow, causing his colleagues to laugh.

Hurt, indignant, increasingly afraid, Alyss tried to find her way back to the puddle that had landed her in this nightmare. But there were so many streets, so many puddles.

This is not real. It cannot be real, she repeated to herself.

In all her life, she had never been alone before. There had always been servants, tutors, palace guardsmen watching out for her, pampering her.

Nightmare, hallucination: whatever this was had to end.

I am at my birthday party. The flowers in the palace courtyard are singing to me. Courtiers are smiling, and

She was soon in despair, jumping up and down in a single puddle, sobbing; it was impossible to determine whether the wetness on her cheeks was from tears or from the splash of water.

“Not the best means of bathing I’ve ever seen,” said Quigly Gaffer, watching from a safe distance.

Sniffling, as regally as she could given her sodden, confused state, Alyss explained to Quigly that she was Wonderland roy­alty. He didn’t believe her, but he was intrigued by this pretty, lost little girl and took to calling her princess. Five years her senior, he was the leader of a gang of street urchins—orphaned kids who fanned out through the city during the day, scamming and thieving, and met up in alleys at night, sharing what food scraps and money they had scrounged together.

Out of a necessity that came with a frequently empty belly, and with nights spent in trash-filled alleys, Alyss soon understood: this world was no dream; Queen Victoria was not her mother. She could either collapse in paralyzing sadness for everything she had lost, or she could do what she must to survive. And she had to sur­vive. Hatter Madigan would not leave her here. He would find her and bring her back to her rightful place in Wonderland.

She vowed to stay alive until he came.

Alyss' Birthday Dress - Art by Chris Appelhans

In Quigly’s company, Alyss was exposed to an underclass of society she otherwise could never have fathomed, as mollycoddled as her previous life had been. She learned—deep inside herself, where there were no words, her experiences shaping the woman she would become—that for most of the universe’s inhabitants, life wasn’t all tarty tarts and unconditional love; it was a struggle against hardship, unfairness, abuse and adversity, where even to survive—let alone survive with dignity—was heroic. For many, she learned (again, deep down, a knowledge beyond words) that survival sometimes meant fighting back against unjust societal conventions, such as criminalization of the poor. If she and Quigly and his gang didn’t scam and thieve, they wouldn’t eat: they could be petty criminals or starve.

Nights, Alyss regaled the youngest orphans with her memories of Wonderland and tales of the engendering power of Imagination. She was still impossibly young, of course, and yet the strife of the streets was hardening her, wising her up: Alyss understood that her parents were dead. Visions of the bloody coup perpetrated by her aunt Redd came to her on sleepless nights: her mother’s chessmen cut down by rogue card soldiers; the frightening creature with a feline head and claws, as fierce in combat as Hatter Madigan, that stormed about gutting innocent courtiers and civilians while she herself hid under a table. These visions were Alyss’s truth, her history. Yet she told the orphans, albeit in wistful tones, only of the good in Wonderland—the singing flowers, the radiant skies, the inventiveness of its citizenry, the seemingly magical things a strong imagination could do.

Quigly thought she was weaving otherworldly tales so that the youngsters could momentarily lose themselves and forget the squalor in which they lived. He didn’t like indulging them in make-believe when cruel reality was all around. No amount of imagination could rescue them, he complained.

“But what I’m telling them is real,” Alyss protested. “And the power of imagination, it’s all true . . . I can prove it.”

She used her own significant imaginative powers to make a dandelion flower sing.

“Nice trick,” Quigly sniffed. He’d heard about magicians who could “throw” their voices.

“It’s not a trick,” Alyss insisted.

But Quigly shrugged her off. As long as she could make a flower sing, she could earn money for them by performing on the street. The day came, however, when she was unable to rouse the dandelion to song. She could only guess at the reasons for this, which she tried to explain.

“Maybe the longer I’m away from Wonderland, the weaker my imagination becomes?”

She wasn’t wrong, though she didn’t know the more specific reason why her imagination was weakening—it had everything to do with her fading memories. Because it was getting harder for her to clearly recall Wonderland sights and sounds; and aside from the coup itself, the bloody event that had exiled her to Earth, doubts about what exactly she remembered were creeping in.

Quigly accused her of refusing to do the “flower trick,” believing she planned to perform without him and keep all the earnings for herself. The more she insisted that she was not refusing to do anything, that her imaginative power was real, the more resentful he became. Which was Alyss’s first hint that proclaiming the truth of Wonderland and her history might pre­vent her from getting along peaceably with people in this world.

Alyss On The Street - Art By Catia Chien

Hoping to regain Quigly’s confidence, she volunteered to help him rob a butcher shop. She was caught during the robbery, and Quigly, a chicken under each arm, made his own escape instead of coming to her rescue.

At the center of a disorienting swirl of events, it was as if Alyss were in a new Pool of Tears. In the police station—raucous with unsavory characters—her instinct to claim her identity as a princess reasserted itself, and she balked at being rudely thrown in a cell with drunks and worse—men, women, children, murderers, petty thieves, and the insane all together. The bobbies were momentarily distracted from her complaints when a prostitute was brought in, loudly claiming to be a friend of some duke. They laughed, spat on the prostitute, and beat her up before throwing her into Alyss’s cell. Then—

“What was that you said?” a bobby asked Alyss. “Who’d you say you are?”

She lowered her face and stayed silent.

She was placed in the Charing Cross foundling hospital. It was no palace. Sure, she had a bed instead of an alley to sleep in, but she shared a room with twenty other would-be adoptees, none of whom wanted to hear anything about Wonderland. They assumed that Alyss, with her stories, was trying to prove that she was special, above them. Every day, she was teased and taunted; every day, lectured by the Charing Cross wardens that she couldn’t hide in a fantasy world, that misfortune abounded and she must face it with fortitude, not with escapist claptrap.

“Do you like it here?” one warden asked her.

“No.”

Then she’d keep prattle of Wonderland to nil, the warden said, because if she didn’t, she’d never get adopted. At first it was a strategy of survival—for Alyss not to talk about Wonderland, to quit telling her “stories” instead of suffering the indignities that came from insisting on truths no one believed. Months passed, and she worked hard to fade into the background of things, to be just another orphan ever in hope of adoption.

Yet memories of Redd’s coup—and she did still consider them memories—haunted her. In her mind’s eye, she frequently saw Redd’s feline assassin swatting Sir Justice Anders, the leader of the palace guard, to the ground and raking a claw across his chest. She saw her friend Dodge, her best friend and Sir Justice’s son, bolt out from under the table where he’d been hiding to snatch up his father’s sword and attack the feline, only to be slapped across the dining room with four gashes of blood on his cheek.

It felt to Alyss as if all pleasantness associated with Wonder­land had been painted completely over with violence.

And her imaginative powers? They alternated between weak and nonexistent. On occasion, in a rare private moment, she could get some small twig to give out a peep, but it exhausted her, and she no longer understood the point of trying. Hatter Madigan wouldn’t be coming for her, she was convinced. He was likely dead, along with her parents. Sleeping in a drafty room with twenty other girls at Charing Cross was her life now. This, and the days she and others were illegally hired out by a warden to work as “mule scavengers” and “piecers” in textile mills, where girls regularly had arms and hands torn off by the machines that spun cotton into thread (“mules”). Gruesome as these accidents were, Alyss would be particularly scarred by one she witnessed, in which a girl had her head crushed by a mule. Scarred and moti­vated, for though she had no way of knowing it at the time, her hours of child labor would drive her as an adult to fight against the morally dubious but widespread exploitation of children.

To survive then, Alyss imbibed deep draughts of conformity, but her beauty would always cause her to stand out—a beauty that seemed heightened on account of what people mistook as her passivity.

After she’d been a year at Charing Cross, Alyss understood that prospective parents came to the orphanage to, in essence, shop—choosing a child that they believed would suit their tastes and temperaments.

She decided to do some shopping of her own.

The longer she remained at the orphanage, she knew, the greater the odds she would succumb to a gruesome accident at a mill or factory. Yet if the couple that came browsing for a child seemed the type that would treat her as little more than a servant or pet, she subtly compromised her chances of being chosen—hiding, coughing as if she might have tuberculosis, or throwing enough of a fit to turn them off but not anger the Charing Cross wardens too much, because if she angered the wardens too much, they wouldn’t try to place her.

Then Dean Liddell and his wife, a gentle couple who some­times visited the orphanage, smiled at her, though they first smiled at another girl, Lucy. Before they could get to know Lucy, however, Alyss took a chance, fearing she’d miss another oppor­tunity as good as this one.

“You look like my mother,” she murmured of Mrs. Liddell. “She was a queen.”

Appreciating imagination and independent thought, the Liddells were taken with Alyss’s stories of a queendom where she was a princess. To Lucy’s misfortune, their smiles lingered on Alyss alone, and a door opened for her into another new world: that of quaint, staid Oxford.

Adopted by the Liddells, Alyss found herself surrounded by middle-class comforts, by music and literature and art. She had two younger sisters, Edith and Lorina, and she told them what she still definitely remembered about Wonderland. Some of this was innocent enough—her descriptions of her albino tutor, for example, and the general who could split himself into two iden­tical Wonderlanders. But the rest? The murders of her parents, the deception and cruelty of Redd, a woman who wore a dress of flesh-eating roses? It wasn’t any sort of story the young girls wanted to hear.

One day, Alyss and her sisters were picnicking with Reverend Charles Dodgson, a family friend, and while Edith and Lorina went off to pick flowers, Alyss mentioned Wonderland to the reverend. He was intrigued and encouraged her to continue in a way that no one ever had. She believed that she had at last found, in this peculiar bachelor, an ear sympathetic to her history.

The Mad Tea Party - by Sir John Tenniel

Dodgson took notes and doodled while Alyss unspooled her tale, which notes he later worked into a more complete form and presented to Alyss as a novel entitled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He had given himself the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

“But this is full of nonsense!” Alyss said, her pulse quicken­ing as she flipped through the book in which her dark truth had been transformed into lighthearted, romping characters.

Lewis Carroll gently explained that he believed Alyss had made up her horrific stories because of the traumas she’d experi­enced on the streets and in the orphanage. The characters she had told him about represented certain demons to her, he believed, and by turning them into the silly creatures of his book, he hoped she would learn that they were nothing to fear—that she could, in fact, dismiss them from her now pleasant existence.

Alyss felt as if her heart has been scraped raw. Reverend Dodgson didn’t believe her? He had never believed her? And now he’d written this stupid book that made fun of all she’d con­fessed to him?

“I never want to speak to you again!” she cried and ran home.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was, of course, a tremendous commercial success, which, especially the first couple of years after its publication, only deepened Alyss’s sense of Dodgson’s betrayal. The book turned her into a minor celebrity, a fact she resented and did her best to ignore. But as the years passed, and though she still kept Dodgson at a distance, resentment less­ened amid the hubbub of her days as a middle-class Victorian young lady.

And with the years and the hubbub, Alyss Heart of Wonderland more and more lost herself to Alice Liddell of Oxford.

Her few remaining Wonderland memories grew increasingly unreal. At first she tried to convince herself that she still believed in them, but then she couldn’t be sure if something she “remembered”—Redd’s dress of flesh-eating roses, for instance— had actually existed or if perhaps she had made it up. For a while her fading memories persisted in her dreams, until finally, it happened:

Where Wonderland had once been only in her head, it was now not even there.

Lewis Carroll’s characters had completely usurped the real Wonderlanders of her past, and as her memories were erased, so too were her powerful imaginative abilities. Alice Liddell couldn’t have imagined the faintest peep from the smallest flower, no matter how hard she tried. Not that she did.

Or does.

Victorian Alice - Art by Andrea Wicklund

Alice has now grown into a thoroughly Victorian young lady, attending concerts and teas while her parents lobby for certain respectable gentlemen to become her husband. Rather, she has almost grown into a thoroughly Victorian young lady, since she does have modern ideas about how orphans and the poor should be treated (she revisits Charing Cross and learns that Lucy, her rival for the Liddells, had died there of tuberculosis), and about women being allowed to study at Oxford, to say nothing of having more control over their own lives.

And so here she is, Alice Liddell, a middle-class twenty-year old, busy with suitors and with passionate schemes for improving the lives of the unfortunate, for whom Wonderland—once a dream—is about to again become reality.

Warrior Alyss - Art by Vance Kovacs