Everything was colors, and the drink in her hand held them. Shifting, shimmering, shining out like the room in miniature, it was hard to believe they were just reflections. It was too alive to drink, so she didn’t.
She had forgotten her own name.
“I’m…” she tried to say, but her lips got caught on one another and the haze crept between the crevices in her mind. The patrons laughed their carnival laughs, some patted her and some took her by the arm, whisked away to a new corner of reality with shifting texture. That which is solid is vapor, that which is invisible is blood.
They all looked human enough, except the ones that didn’t.
“Wonderland Wine,” is all one told her, cradling the bottom of her glass in his hand, and his cheshire grin was a memory that faded in an instant. It popped up behind other groups as they talked, here and everywhere. She followed it through a room of syrup color. Details melted.
Where was she going?
He wasn’t even a rabbit.
Her blonde hair was green in the mirror. There was noise but it might not have been music, it was like singing insects and flower scales, it was backdrop to the room and the plants sang it as they crept over the walls wherever they pleased. The floor was snow and then pure sand, then gentle rain-dropped pools which did not stop but spread to more surfaces. She saw diamonds in the purple irises of the face in front of her, then they were doors that shut. She was not allowed yet.
Her skirt was streaked with yellow paste and when rubbed between her fingers, it grew into a buttercup that dripped glass, shattering upon the floor. “Don’t waste it,” she heard a voice say, and the cheshire man folded her flowered hand into his. As her palm opened, a brilliant scarab flew out into the pierced night ceiling.
There was a constant desire to move, in this place where the gravity kept shifting and the patrons stepped their cloven hooves into new conversations at any moment, like a coordinated lurch of social grace. Her eyes had wings now, they flew the room to catch the smile they had lost. Her lips were glaciers as she called out,
“Where am I?”
and after all this time she had not learned. The laughter threw her off balance but she was caught in three-fingered hands, snuffling snouts were human smiles again and she smiled back.
“You are here, and you are fine.”
“Now hold, but do not drink the wine.”
The rhymes came from nowhere and her eyelashes were spiderwebs.
“This is… fae?” she watched petals rain down on the squawking party goers, their elegant feathers and glittering masks twisting with delight.
“Close,” one answered, close to her ear. The cheshire sat on her shoulder, resting his chin close to her earlobe. “You’re missing it if you ask questions.”
Walls blended with the air and sank back to imagination.
“If you need to, try the wine,” said the clever voice, “it will help you accept it. But you’ll miss part of the magic.”
As she held the glass to her face, the light refracted through a collection of antique keys sharing the space with the wine, letting up small streams of fizz. Then they were thin finger bones.
“I have faith you don’t need it though.”
She watched an apple become a bird. She changed her own form to a bumblebee and back. Her nails grew long fern tendrils which she tickled onto piano smiles. It was a slow understanding, molasses realization of truth and relativity.
It had felt like a dream from the moment she had stepped into it, chasing the grin.
Somewhere, this secret world had existed this way the whole time.
It wasn’t the wine.