I waited for Claude at the base of the stairs. I didn’t know if I was slotted for more quizzes, or if I could go, but I knew that I wasn’t going to wait very long to find out. I may not have memorized a lot of books, but I could at least remember enough quotes to raise a bit of chaos. Claude came tumbling down the stairs after me, having been caught off guard from my exploit with cotton candy death clown’s sword.
“Well Claude, I believe I’d like to visit with the Chair. They will apparently have been watching this whole spectacle on some kind of camera,” I commanded, motioning him towards the door. He eyed me, suddenly wary. I quarked an eyebrow at him. “What’s up?” I asked, acting like everything happening was as normal as the moon rising after the sun setting.
He gulped, trying to place what was wrong with this situation, outside of the major issue that I was walking around unattended. “Why do you want to see the Chair?” he asked as he lead me out of the chamber.
“You really want to know what I have to ask the Chair? You sure?” I asked, smiling, skipping down the hall backwards, just out of reaching of his stilling hand.
“What are you on about Ms. Alice?” Claude asked when I was halfway down the hall, basking under a halogen light. Have you ever been drunk on power, on a knowledge that you could turn your situation on it’s head and watch it fall to pieces just to do it all over again? I was so smashed at that point. I knew at that point that the Mad Hatter Simil knew nothing of crazy.
“This: All the names I know from nurse:
Gardener’s garters, Shepherd’s purse,
Bachelor’s buttons, Lady’s smock,
And the Lady Hollyhock. – Stevenson if you have to ask Claude,” I responded, spouting off The Flower by Robert Louis Stevenson. The whole hall was covered in a thick carpet of herbacious bordered gardens, filled with flitting butterflies and birds.
Claude stopped his advances, finding himself sinking a foot deep in plant matter. He looked up at me, terrified. “Oh…shit…” his eyes turned round.
“You’re lucky I have the entirety of Poe’s works memorized,” I smiled slyly.
He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Emergency in ward W3 out front of the quizzing arena. We have a Shifter. I repeat, we have a Shifter.” Claude kept his distance, his hand outstretched.
“Oh now, Claude, is that really necessary? I did ask for you to take me to the Chair after all,” I laughed, speaking forth a warm Mississippi water flow to lay on a little raft from Tom Sawyer. His outstretched hand had me vaguely interested. He apparently wasn’t sure of whatever I was doing.
“Ms. Alice, please unRead this and come with me peacefully.” His color had gone a grotesque mottled green.
“Blight of all hard works on land and river, return to your sun flow,” I motioned and the water evaporated, leaving the hall a little cleaner I thought. I tip toe danced over to him, seeing the anxiety flash across his face as I approached. “So the Chair is wrong?” I slid up behind him, around him, just to dance away again.
“What is wrong with you Ms. Alice? You weren’t like this when I got you this morning.” Claude looked at me petting a little white rabbit with a large pocket watch.
I glanced up, my eyes flashing death. “Let’s get something straight here, Missuer Claude,” I waved away the rabbit, not even unReading it. I didn’t think Claude could look any more sick, but he succeeded. “My name is Mrs.,” I stressed that point, “ Grace Alice Oppenheimer.” I sidled up to him, so close that I could see him tremble. “Second,” I paused for dramatic emphasis, watching a bead of sweat drip down the side of his face, “for the sake of saying it, who wouldn’t snap after four days of this bullshit?” I jumped back as I heard a clang of metal slash through the ceiling tiles of the hall.
Simil crashed between Claude and myself, his sword dropping to point at my chest. I could feel a malicious smile slide across my face. I considered just a set of words from Akatsuki No Yona and a small hand dagger immediately found a home in my groping palm. My next thought flashed to Rick Riordan’s works and a Roman shield clamped itself to my left arm. Simil’s sword bashed down harshly on the wood and leather, shocking my shoulder. Black spots flashed in my eyes. “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” I smiled meliciously, repeating one of my favorite lines from Indiana Jones. The entirity of the hall suddenly became a slithering writhe of serpents. Simil lept back from a deadly cobra, taking it’s head off, and several others on his way.
“Simil, what do we do with her? She’s…she’s” Claude had reached his limit as he sank to the floor.
“Oh, poor man…should I have been nicer to him? You know, like giving him some food after three days of jail time, or neglecting to chain him in front of 300 people, or taking him to his children and spouse?” I snapped out, venting my anger. Simil ignored the outburst, standing guard over the unconscious man. “Begone oh vile creature that spreads upon the burning earth, for I am neither giver, nor taker, but watcher who deems necessary a leveling of this blight,” I waved away the snakes with the same line that I had used to get rid of the pythons in the education room.
I knew I was giving up my advantage by doing so, but I was spent and I knew by the black spots wringing my vision that it wasn’t going to take long for me to join Claude, sprawled on the cold polished floor in a slump. Tears blurred my vision. “I just want to see Carl, Dante. I just want to go home,” I yowled. I heard a clatter, but didn’t look up from the spot in the floor that my vision had centered on. I felt arms wrap around me, holding me close, the warmth easing me into a grand blackness of dreamless bliss.