Alice is the sequel to Inck.
Alice looked at Inck for a long time, frozen, staring at the vacant expression of hope for many moments. And then, when she felt she had absorbed all she could from this last mortal message, the final emotion from her mother, Alice moved. She reached forward and closed the eyes. She took the fruit and ate it. Then, she began to dig.
It took a long time to complete the task. When she was done, the night was nearly upon her. Alice looked around curiously. The fruit had been dry, and she would need water before she slept.
Alice didn’t know this, but if she hadn’t gotten anything to drink soon, she would have died in her sleep, only hours after her mother, forever failing her quest. But that did not happen. It would not have happened even if the other woman had not seen and helped her. There was a river to the east, and Alice would have found it.
Instead, an eccentric older woman found her. A woman who had ruined many lives, and was now renowned across the entire world for her misdeeds. She hadn’t been watching Alice for very long, she didn’t even know where the girl had come from. The little creature appeared to be no more than four. Crystal Jealousy watched the tiny creature with great interest. Yes, she thought, no more than four, and only just. She has a baby face, but her body is far more capable than a toddler’s. This girl will likely survive without my help.
Jealousy wondered what the creature would do next. She could see by its dry, cracking lips that the small girl was dehydrated. It didn’t help that Alice also swayed as she stood. Jealousy watched her peering around, looking for a lake, or stream. She wouldn’t find anything for quite a distance.
Jealousy knew about the Plainkind. In fact, like a bard, she knew a bit about everything. Unlike most bards, Jealousy was neither musically inclined, nor mortal. Her four thousand years on the planet had allowed her to become an adept in every venture of life. Every venture except parenthood.
She watched Alice hunt and kill a rabbit, and mused as the girl promptly sunk her fangs in and drank its blood. Clever. Jealousy remembered that the Plainkind had evolved specifically to drink blood, not water. Water was a delicacy in the desert, but blood was rather easy to come by.
Jealousy had hidden herself in a tree, upwind of Alice, and so the tiny creature could not smell her. The Plainkind didn’t hunt by scent, but it was a precaution nonetheless.
“Water is found downhill.” Jealousy said.
Alice heard and looked up, exactly like a feasting leopard. She looked around, but saw nothing. She hadn’t even understood what was said, because Alice didn’t speak the language. She only barely spoke her own language. Jealousy watched as she looked around, and then gazed with approval as the girl focused on the east. Alice began to walk, stumble really, towards the river.
Jealousy figured that her job was done now, and decided to leave. Instead, she followed the girl. They walked until both could see the river. Good, she’s safe. I can leave now.
Alice, quite dehydrated, had decided that she would like very much to sit down for a little bit before continuing. She really should not have.
Jealousy watched the trembling girl sit down. Oh Mother Nature… Why? She’ll die in her sleep in that condition! Why why why!
Crystal Jealousy Rhye was not the kind of person who just watched and didn’t interfere. That had been a phase back when she realized that she was never going to die of natural causes, but immortals quickly grew out of such infantile ways of thought.
Jealousy marched up to Alice, very huffy, and lifted her up. She awkwardly carried the small child down to the river, and threw her in.
Alice awoke, entirely wet, and underwater.
The reason that Jealousy did something so surprising was actually quite brilliant. It’s a little known fact that the Plainkind don’t have lungs. Instead, they have an organ that can adapt at high speed to breathe whatever it inhales. So, Alice’s breathing membranes changed, and instead of drowning when she inhaled the river water, she began to breathe it in.
Alice, entirely confused, lay face down on the bottom of the river and breathed it in. This, Jealousy knew, would be the fastest way to hydrate the girl. Eventually Alice realized that the reason it was a bit harder to breathe and move, and the reason everything looked so dark and warpy was because she was in the water.
“Wet.” She bubbled, and then laughed.
Jealousy watched her from the shore. The part of the river Alice was in was not deep, and when she sat, her head came out into open air. She choked, her lungs no longer capable of taking in regular atmosphere. Then, they adapted again, and she was fine.
Alice looked at her saviour for the first time and imprinted. Plainkind people imprint, similar to birds, but with one very important difference. They only imprint onto outsiders, meaning some Plainkind people never imprint in their lives. Jealousy quickly realized her mistake.
“Oh no. No no no. Stop, no, you can’t!”
Alice began to cry. Jealousy ran into the river and picked her up. She gave a deep sigh.
Years passed, and Jealousy raised Alice as her own. They toured the kingdom, and Jealousy taught the girl anything. Mostly how to speak. They would have long conversations that looped back on themselves. She learned the girl’s name was Alice.
When Alice turned twelve, Jealousy decided that they should probably settle down somewhere nice, and so they stopped at the capital, Murdock.
Jealousy gazed at the castle that stood in front of the city. A very large man, the King, exited it. They locked eyes, and the King frowned.
“Who are you?” The King asked.
“I-” Jealousy felt a deep connection with this man, it felt like a deep, cranial nerve had been touched.
Alice, ever cheery, shouted, “I’m Alice!”
Jealousy put Alice into the King’s arms, and then she ran away and never returned. The King watched her run, far into the woods and wondered.
“Was that my first child?”
He thought long and hard into his past, but his thoughts were interrupted when Alice grabbed his nose. He put the incredibly heavy girl down.
“I’ll have to do something with you.” He said.
He would not have given her away to the nurse if he had known the woman would die in a matter of months suffering of cholera. But she did, and once again Alice was left alone. But now she was nearly thirteen. Lucky for her, there was a nice priest by the name of Batshiva who helped her, fed her, and did what little an impoverished immigrant could.
And even better, over the next year she befriended every single child in the city. And a year after that she met a young man named Finch Dirge Zeth and both of their lives merged to become one single story. A story filled with strife, longing, suppressed memory, love, discovery, and 1980s style action. The first half of all that has already been told, but the second half and more are currently happening, and as I cannot see into the future with great accuracy, I can’t tell you more quite yet.
And if you’re wondering, yes, Alice does meet with Crystal Jealousy again. And Jealousy does reconcile with her family and realize her last name is Rhye, and that she is the first Prince of the Solune. But all that happens much later.
P.S. I’m happy to declare that Monday is now the day for short stories, and other experimental art forms! I’ve done so many serials that I forgot how fun the short story medium is.
So, Monday, unless a serial is getting particularly interesting, expect something that is not at all a serial.