Splintered Page 15

There’s another group of pictures: a white rabbit, bony enough to be a skeleton; flowers sporting arms, legs, and mouths dripping with blood; a walrus with something protruding from his lower half like tree roots. It’s the Wonderland crew after a heavy dose of radiation poisoning. It’s also a connection: In some way, the moth and these nether-realm beings are tied to the Lewis Carroll tale. No wonder Grandma Alicia kept painting the story’s characters on her walls.

Ever since Alice, my family has been nuts. Could be she really did go down a rabbit hole and came back to tell the tale, but she was never the same after the experience. I mean, who would be?

The hairs on my body lift as if a current runs through me.

After the last of the graphics, there’s an antique ivy and floral border on either side of the black background, and a poem centered in a white fancy font.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

I’ve seen the riddle in Carroll’s original book. Notepad in hand, I scribble Wonderland at the top and jot down the poem, word for word.

I open a new search window to look for interpretations. One site has four different possible meanings. What if they’re all wrong? I skim over two until the third one catches my eye.

There are illustrations alongside the words—creatures with long curlicue noses digging holes beneath sundials. A sense of knowing overtakes me, and I close my eyes. Children play on the screen of my eyelids. A winged boy and a blond girl dive into a hole beneath a statue of a child that balances a sundial on his head.

I don’t know where the images came from. I must’ve seen them in a movie—but I can’t remember which one. They seem so real— and so familiar.

I jot down the definitions from that interpretation of the poem. According to whoever wrote it, brillig is four o’clock in the afternoon; a tove is a mythical creature—a mix between a badger and a lizard with a corkscrew nose. They’re known for making their nests beneath sundials. Gyre and gimble are verbs meaning to dig into the earth like a giant screw, turning out soil until a deep tunnel is formed. In the context of the poem, the hole is being dug in a distinctive location, considering a wabe is the grass plot under a sundial.

The other words aren’t defined, but it’s a start.

According to the poem and the images in my mind, it seems that the rabbit hole could be under that little-boy sundial statue.

Now I just have to find it.

I hop back to the netherlings site and scroll down to see if there are any details I missed. At the bottom is a huge chunk of black space all the way to the end. No more text, no more pictures, even though there’s plenty of room for them. Could be the Webmaster meant to save the space for later.

I’m about to exit the site and do a search on sundials in England in hopes to find a city and address, when movement in the dark background catches my attention. It’s like watching a cricket swim through ink. But instead of a cricket, a simulated black moth flutters across the screen, just like the one from my past.

I’m starting to think the moth is tied to everything: the little boy and girl I saw by the sundial, my family’s very real curse. If only I could remember more about the insect. But my memories are blotted and misty, like looking down through clouds from dizzying heights.

The animation catches my attention again. It starts at the top of the empty space. When it gets a quarter of the way down, glowing blue text appears beneath the drag of the moth’s wings.

Find the treasure.

I read and reread until my eyes burn, shocked by the similarity to what Alison said. “The daisies are hiding treasure. Buried treasure.”

Dad plowed the flower garden after she was first committed years ago—destroyed it. There was nothing buried there. So what could she mean?

Another line of text appears onscreen. If you wish to save your mother, use the key.

I shove back from the computer, heart pounding and palms sweating in my gloves. I didn’t imagine it. The words are staring back at me, blinking.

How is someone talking to me?

How would they know about Alison, and how did they find me?

I look around the empty store.

I should tell someone. Dad’s out of the question; he’d sign me up for shock treatments, for sure. Jenara will think it’s just one of my tormentors from school playing a sick joke.

But Jeb. Despite the weirdness between us, I know he’ll always be there for me. I’ll show him the website. Just the thought of his reassuring smile—the one that says he gets me in a way no one else does—coaxes me from the brink of terror.

At the sound of the doorbell, I glance up. Taelor’s face looks back and I nearly groan aloud. Her chic, shoulder-length hair glimmers gold in the sun. The words Glitz and Flash and Everything Panache are written in shimmery letters across the bag she carries.

I turn again to the computer. The screen’s gone blank and an error message flashes.

“Hey, Alyssa.” Taelor peruses the jewelry rack on her way to the counter. “Any good sales today?” She holds up a skull rhinestone brooch with glittery crossbone dangles. “Preferably something that doesn’t smell like a funeral home.”

Ignoring her, I search for the URL. The error message returns. I jiggle the mouse. If I can’t find the site again, I’ll never be able to convince Jeb what I saw was real.

Taelor strolls closer. One of the straps on her designer purse slips off a sun-bronzed shoulder. “Guess it doesn’t matter. People like you don’t care who’s been wearing this stuff or how dead they are.”

After pausing to crinkle her nose at a shirt, she plops her shopping bag and designer purse on the opposite side of the counter, lithe arms propped on the edge. She was once a force on the tennis court, but when her dad never showed up for her tournaments, she gave it up. What a waste.

The extra four inches of my boots set me almost eye level with her. “Don’t you have a prom to get ready for?” I ask, hoping she’ll leave.

Her gaze gets all round and innocent. “That’s why I’m here. I went next door to pick up Jeb’s graduation gift. I thought I’d drop it by his place this afternoon so he can wear it tonight.”

I don’t even ask what she could possibly be getting Jeb from a jewelry store.

“What’s this?” She thrusts a hand across the counter and pulls my notes toward her. I try to grab them away, but she’s too fast. “Wonderland, huh? So you’re doing some research on the family rabbits.”

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