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The Inklings In Wonderland

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Published in Edition Two (2024) as part of the Provocations of the Past column.


Amy Wortmann (@amywortmann): 

I’ve been tasked with setting the table, and it’s been occupying me for some time now. What does one fill a table with, in Wonderland? The tea sets are so ornate, and so small: tall teapots and dozens of china cups, their handles so delicate they could be shattered by a sunray. And the saucers—what does one put in the saucer? I’ve brought jars. One contains something that might be jam, but might also be more visceral. The other contains a carrot that startled me at dinner when I cut it; its insides had the same webbed texture as the cadaver I worked with last Thursday. Anatomy labs and tea parties, both crimson at the edges. The saucers glisten with the same sheen as the tray drenched in formaldehyde. As I stare down at it, my hunger turns into something else. It’s hard, at times, not to wonder: how did I even get here?

One for the Hatter. One for the March Hare—I must remind Sagar what he likes to be called. Speaking of, one for Saga. For Kartiya, and Lachlan, whose appearance has been more and more fleeting as of late. In the bustle, I almost forget a seat for myself. The scene is half soft and half yellow, a motley mishmash of ornate tablecloths and Jabberwocky nonsense-words. Not quite a gamble, but certainly a gimble; my fingers smooth out the tablecloth and catch on the wood underneath. No good, no good—toss it into the borogoves. What a bizarre place to find myself.

That’s the aim, though, isn’t it? Set the table, leave no crease on the cloth, bread and butter to quell the party jitters. Make sure the table is long enough. Make sure what’s in the cups tastes enough like tea that no one questions it.

Kartiya Ilardo (@kartiya.ilardo):

It was a far reaching table. Longer than my arms could reach, I can already feel the strain if I dare to try. 

But I dared to try. Oh, so badly I wanted to touch the March Hare. His coat of fur, droopy yet confident covering every inch of his little body. But all I could do was stare in utter awe. How I envied the Mad Hatter, the ungrateful gloot. Spitting unanswerable riddles, confusing our little minds, well, at least he would think they were little. No. Turning my head towards my fellow Inklings who sat next to me, in the corner of this far reaching table, we were not feeble-minded like he wanted us and Alice to believe. We knew. We knew. 

Angus holds out his finger to grab a bite. I cringe in response, Amy does as well. 

Amy and I both hold each other in an is he really going to eat that? gaze.

Surely not Angus.

He’s better than this. This, who knows, old food. The ceramics were stained with old tea and the bread could be mistaken for an ancient rock. 

Angus, do not touch the bread. 

We all startle back when Lachlan lurches himself across the table,  causing a commotion at the other end of the table. Angus’s finger recoils in shock and I see him try and grapple onto our friend’s body. 

I am too much in my own world of shock to even fathom the chaos that has ensued. My eyes acting as my fingers, they open as wide as they can, in my mind I feel as though the longer I stare, the slower Lachlan will travel. 

But Angus’s horrified stained face tells me otherwise. Amy screams now as Lachlan downs the blacked tea. Remnants crawl down the sides of his mouth which wears a drunk smile. I look over at the Mad Hatter whose expression seems chiselled and hard. He stares only at me. My body paralyses as the commotion ensues around me. Me and the Hatter, in a sort of trance, one where I am hostage to his coldness. 

“Kartiya.” Angus taps me on the shoulder urgently. 

I break contact with the Hatter and stare to where Amy’s terrorised face and blue eyes pierce into Lachlan’s body on the table. Shards of ceramics remain and echo the provocative action taken by our friend. Black tea stains Lachlan’s top. The Ralph Lauren bear cries blood. It is an image that stains your mind. 

We do not know what to do. I stare back at the Hatter, who holds me like prey. His pointy bird beak upturned at us all at the other end of the table. Then I look at the real prey in the room, the Hare, and I imagine once more, how soft he would feel upon my fingertips. 

A.A. Sagar (@angus.albert.s):

For some time now, I've been travelling with my writers. Where exactly? Somewhere between what a child wishes for, and the first signs of sin.We have so far encountered a Cheshire Cat, disconcerting with his vanishing act. An immense caterpillar, a bit of a smoker and blue. A white rabbit obsessed with the time. Strange bars of soap that shrink or enlarge, and carnivorous flowers! Why, in this dreadful land of bizarreness, am I not entertained? Inspired? Achieving beautiful creative madness? That’s why we came here. To fill our wells with the absurd. Drink from the font of insanity. Just a drop. Not tooooo much. Otherwise I might become too salty. But we haven’t found the font. We haven’t found inspiration. Just frustrating characters, hostile rainbows, and frankly, I have reached my wit’s end. 

I need a break, a break, “A break, I say!” a little too loudly. Several shouters respond from the other side of a rainbow vine, “No room! No room!”

One voice sounds fragile like fine china. One a bit nutty, the other impatient. In front of us is a rather large table clearly adorned with twelve extra seats. “Sirs,” I ask, “are you blind?”

“Are you deaf?” they retort. 

I take some steps forward then realise a mousy figure stuffed inside an absurdly large teapot. My head cocks incredulously. 

“What do you call a mouse in a teapot?” says the Hatter. 

I shrug my shoulders. I wish this ridiculous place would pour away like tea. Kartiya offers an unsure guess, “Mousetea?” 

The table bursts into outrageous laughter, and the teapot vibrates so much with it that it gently cracks away like an eggshell. Out flops the wobbly Dormouse and even I can’t hold back a snigger at the sight. I strangle the expression and readjust my collar before defiantly grabbing a seat. A large armchair at the end, opposite the Hatter. Strange, it’s still warm. I ask who was here before us.

After that malevolent cat, I no longer trust the treeline to be eyes-empty. 

The White Rabbit sneers, “A most uncivil girl, making unkind personal remarks.”

‘White Rabbit!” I shout, and blink in disbelief. 

“Good sir!” he shouts and leaps atop the table, “I. am. the March Hare.” 

Sitting next to me, Amy whispers scornfully, “One cannot simply assume what type of rabbit one is!” 

I go to offer an apology but Hare is totally engrossed in his watch. I’m sick of this place. So strange, weird, unpredictable. In frustration I reach for a piece of butter-bread. I can bear the inhospitable desert. I cannot tolerate inhospitable hospitality. The only feature free to redeem this misadventure was the bread. I will fill my well with bread. I can survive on bread. My dreams barely find me crumbs. Nothing substantial, the game is always just ahead of my hopeful traps. Inspiration can wait. My well will be filled with bread.  

L. F. Ferguson:

I have had enough of these fools that call themselves, Inklings. Ah, they are but imitators… copiers of the great Inklings that came before them. I cannot stand their pointy, sharp faces any longer. The black stale tea calls my name. Lachlan… Lachlan… drink me… 

The tea beckons me, and I it, and so I lurch across the table. I feel the Inkling’s fingers brush against my hurtling body. Get away from me. I need this tea. Something to transport me elsewhere, maybe the Queen’s Garden. Just not here please. Take me to where Alice is, the only sane one. 

It looks like a leech’s home, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some in here. 

I down the drink and stare at the March Hare who seems almost pleased with my action. A sadistic upturn of his little whiskers spurs me down the drink. I fall into blackness. The echoes of my Inklings coddle me into what I think is an infinite sleep. 

Take me to her… please. 

The Provocative Inklings are an established emerging Melbourne-based writers group who experiment with many forms and aim to create a supportive community of writers. @theprovocativeinklings

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024

EDITION ONE 2024 'INDIE SLEAZE' AVAILABLE NOW!

It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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