Tentative opening for a novel-in-progress, “Alice,” which seems to be developing as a post-apocalyptic, adult-hippie fairy tale. Any thoughts?
* * *
Alice sat by the pond cupping her hand in the water, as if searching for an undersea plant or animal. The sun was going down. She stripped off her gown and dove in to do something but she could not remember what. When she came up, something was in her hand and the stars were above. They were the same stars as ever, but the constellations were different. Virgo and Scorpio and all the others were gone, and some new arrangement had begun. Something moved in the woods beside the pond. Not really in the woods. In a juniper bush. It was too big to be a fairy. Alice did not know what it was that moved in the juniper bush.
As Alice approached the shack, she could hear in the dark the whispering of the forest. She saw the lovely silhouette of Evelyn through the window, sleeping in bed. She entered, and Evelyn opened her eyes.
“I was at the pond,” Alice said.
“Was the rain king there?” asked Evelyn.
“No. Not today. But something happened. I dove in and the whole cosmos changed. The stars are still there but all the old constellations are gone. Virgo and Scorpio are gone now.”
Alice chose those astrological signs to exemplify because she was Scorpio and Evelyn was Virgo.
Evelyn sat up. She was taller than average, with a nobility of stature that contrasted with the petite Alice.
“So then it’s a new age,” said Evelyn.
Alice took out the thing that she had in her hand when she came up from diving in the pond. She looked at it, a small iron rod with a little flag at the end. A skeleton key. “A magic gift from old times,” smiled Alice to herself. She put it under a box in the corner. She did not really think that the skeleton key was a magic gift from old times, but it seemed respectful to put it under the box.
She sat on the bed. Evelyn leaned toward her, pushed a brown curl from the brown eye of Alice, and kissed her on the mouth.
“We can hope,” she whispered.
“Yes,” said Alice. “And when we can’t hope, we can love.”
And they lay down together in the wood frame bed in the wood frame house in the woods.
The next day, John Wilson came over to the shack. No one ever called him “John.” They always said, “John Wilson.”
“Something happened with the fairies last night,” said John Wilson.
“I knew it,” said Alice.
John Wilson lifted one of his bushy eyebrows, and the black hairs came to attention. Alice thought of a black cat’s tail with the hairs standing in response to a threat.
“Your eyebrow looks like a black cat’s tail,” she said.
John Wilson reached up with a massive paw and touched his eyebrow, and then touched his equally bushy mustache, as if to compare the two. He looked for a moment like a distraught walrus sloshed in a button-down shirt. Then he went on.
“The fairies,” said John Wilson. “The hum went away by the pond last night. No hum for an hour and a half.”
The fairies kept the whole of New Arcadia going. They were rarely visible but often audible, a humming that recalled the humming of bees restless to massacre the males and slaughter the other princesses to please their sister, the newly chosen queen. The fairies did not work in the fields or in the Factory. They did not cook or clean. But it was they who wove a sense of destiny into New Arcadia. Without a sense of destiny there would be no going on, for there would be nowhere to go.
The fairies had no enemies – for how could destiny have an enemy? – save one. Ladybugs. Tiny orange specks with wings. Wings with tinier black dots. The ladybugs made no humming noise. No hint of massacres for the newly crowned queen. They just flittered in quiet beauty, careful to disturb no one, seen but not heard. Thus, no one, not Alice or Evelyn, not the kleptomaniac, not the mapmaker, not the white witch, not the rain king, not John Wilson, not even the sweeper as far as anyone could tell, could divine their purpose or what it was about them that touched the spleen of the fairies.