Splintered Page 23

If reality is anything like the Alice book, she doesn’t fall so much as floats her way down. The physical laws might be different within the hole.

So maybe it’s not how far down but how fast.

I drop the flashlight in. It bobs down slowly, like a glowing bubble. I almost laugh aloud.

I take a swig of water from one of the bottles at the bottom of the bag. Then I zip it closed and position the pack on my shoulders.

Perched on my hands and knees at the hole’s edge, I have a moment of doubt. I weigh a lot more than a piece of plastic and some batteries. Maybe I should push in a few heavy rocks, just to be sure.


The shout from behind makes me scramble. Dirt gives way beneath my hands. Screaming, I clutch at empty air and tumble in.

Inside, the hole widens. More like a feather on a breeze than a skydiver, I float, my position shifting from vertical to horizontal. My stomach quivers, trying to adjust to weightlessness.

Overhead, someone dives in after me.

In seconds, he latches on to my wrist and tugs to align our bodies.

It’s impossible . . .


His arms lock us together, his gaze intent on the slowly passing scenery. “Sweet mother of—”

“Stuff and nonsense,” I interrupt with a quote from the original Wonderland book. “How are you here?”

“Where is here?” he asks, mesmerized by our surroundings.

Open wardrobes filled with clothes, other furniture, stacks of books on floating shelves, pantries, jelly jars, and empty picture frames all cling randomly to the tunnel’s sides as if stuck with Velcro. Thick ivy curls around each item and embeds it in the dirt walls, pinning everything in place.

Each time we pass something, Jeb draws me closer, his expression a mix of dread and awe. At one point, I work my arm free and snag a jar wrapped in leaves. I bring it between us and twist off the lid, then stretch out once more to leave the jar upside down, floating alongside us. A dribble of orange marmalade oozes from it and stays suspended as we drift—down, down, down until our feet gently meet the bottom, as if we’ve been lowered on ropes.

The entrance to the rabbit hole is nothing but a pinhole of sunlight up above. We stand in an empty, windowless room, domed and dimly lit by candles hanging upside down in candelabras. The scent of wax and dust wafts all around us. My legs wobble, as if I’ve been running laps for a week. We must have fallen at least a half mile. We’re still embracing, but neither of us seems to want to let go.

After a few minutes, Jeb eases us an arm’s length apart and stares at me—into me.

“How?” I whisper, still unable to grasp that he’s here.

He pales, shaking his head. “I . . . I slipped on the porch in the rain. That has to be it. Yeah, that’s why I’m wet. I’m dreaming this now. But . . .” He presses our foreheads together and I make a mental note of every other place our bodies touch. His hands glide up my rib cage before stopping on either side of my face. “You feel real,” he whispers, his hot breath mingling with mine. Every point of contact between us heats to white flame. “And you’re so pretty.”

Okay, that’s proof he’s delusional and in shock. First off, he’s never said anything like that to me. Second, my makeup has to look like soggy newspapers by now.

The key. It’s a wish granter. My dark guide told me to want with all my heart. So when I visualized Jeb by my side before stepping in, because I wanted him with me, he came through, too.

I never meant to drag him into this.

Interlocking our fingers, I coax his palms from my face. “Maybe there’s some way to send you back.” Although I have a bad feeling there’s not. Something he said earlier sinks in. “Wait . . . what do you mean, you slipped on the porch? I heard the limo drive away.”

“Tae and I had a fight. She left for prom without me. I wanted to check on you one last time—couldn’t leave things like they were. You didn’t answer the door. It was unlocked, so I . . . that must be when I hit my head.”

I grip his shoulders. “You didn’t hit your head. We’re really here. This is real.”

“Uh-uh.” He steps back. “That would mean you really jumped into the mirror. I really dived in to catch you. Then I got stuck in a tree and had to climb down to find you. No. Not possible.”

“This shouldn’t have happened,” I mumble, wrestling my guilt. “Wonderland is my nightmare. Not yours.”

“Wonderland?” He points to the tunnel overhead. “That was the rabbit hole?”

“Yeah. Alison had clues to this place hidden behind the daisies on Dad’s chair. That’s why I tore it up.”

One look at Jeb’s face and I know he doesn’t buy it.

Taking a deep breath, I slip off the backpack and draw out the brochure and treasures. I consider telling him about the moth and my dark guide, but those details stick inside me, an immovable mass.

“I haven’t had a good look at most of the things yet,” I add. “But I think they’re leading me here. I think—I think the Lewis Carroll book wasn’t exactly fiction. It was a real-life account of my greatgreat-great-grandmother’s experiences, with some discrepancies. For one, there was nothing mentioned about a sundial covering the rabbit hole.”

We both look at the wink of light overhead.

Jeb rocks back and forth, as if he’s seasick. He gets his bearings and levels his gaze at me again. “Did your dad know about this stuff you found?”

“No. If he did, he would’ve signed Alison up for shock treatments even sooner.”

“Shock treatments? I thought she hit her head in a car accident. Got brain-damaged.”

“I was covering. There was never an accident. She’s been Wonderland-crazy for years. Now I can prove she’s not. That it’s all real.”

Doubt darkens Jeb’s face. “We have to get back first. And that’s not going to be easy.”

He’s right. There’s no door. It’s like we’ve fallen into a genie bottle and the only way out is to become smoke and drift up.

“We’ve got to get help.” He fishes his cell phone out of his jacket. After punching several buttons, he frowns.

“No service?” I ask.

He drops his phone into my backpack and sifts through the contents, his expression determined. “What else do you have in here?”

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