Turned around now, I see the Pillar mass-finishing a few other Reds. I wish I’d learned to use that hose of his hookah. It’s much more efficient than my yeeha-jumping techniques.
The Red choking me is too strong. I kick him with my legs and try to free myself from his grip with my hands, but it’s all in vain. My choking noises are getting louder, like scattered vowels of lost words.
“You’re saying something?” the Pillar says in the middle of his own fight. He strangles an attacking Red and then waves a hand behind his ears, pretending he can’t hear what I’m saying. “Louder, Alice. Can’t hear you.”
I choke harder, now starting to lose my voice instead of getting louder. To top it off, another Red attacks me from the front. I stretch my legs against his chest to stop him from approaching. Now I’m squeezed between the two.
“That must be an awkward position you’re in,” the Pillar says, whipping his hose at other Reds. “Is that None Fu, too?”
My soul burns with revenge. I’m provoked like I have never been before. If I manage to kill the two Reds, it’ll be mainly to prove to the Pillar I don’t need him.
A crazy idea presents itself. I pull Lewis’s key from my pocket and stretch my hand backward into the Red’s face, attacking him with the small golden weapon.
Surprisingly, it works.
Well, kind of, as he sneezes red bubbles all over my hair and face. At least my neck is free now.
Freed from his grip, I land on the floor and pull the Red’s cloak and bind it with the other Red’s cloak in a heavy knot. The two mercenaries struggle to free themselves. No one must have done this to them before.
“Now that’s None Fu,” I tell the Pillar, kicking another Red in the face.
“See? I knew you could handle yourself. That’s why I didn’t help.” He is about to pull off the Scientist’s cloak when three of them strangle him from behind, pulling his hookah away.
“Need some help now?” I kick the Scientist in the back then hit his head, knocking him unconscious.
“Not in a million years,” he says but struggles to free himself.
I use the Scientist’s hand like a baseball bat and hit the first Red with it, then slap the other with the other hand. It’s not much of a fight but enough distraction for the Pillar to handle the rest.
Then I plunge through the door, still pulling the Scientist’s heavy body along.
Outside, it’s pitch black. I don’t have the slightest idea where we are. All I see is a silver Jeep parked at the curb. I keep pulling the Scientist, the Pillar still fighting inside.
The Scientist is a bit heavy, so it takes some time to sit him in the backseat. I kill a couple of Reds and then jump into the Jeep and ignite the engine.
I have no intention of waiting for the Pillar. Besides, I see a few attacking Reds in the distance. I push the pedal into the darkness, leaving the Pillar behind.
With the fog lights on, I chug my way into some sort of jungle, with no idea where I’m heading.
The car bumps every other second. I squint, leaning forward, my chest on the wheel. For a moment, I wonder how I’m such a good driver. If so, why did I crash the school bus in the past?
It’s only a few minutes before an army of Jeeps pops up behind me. Their lights are much stronger than mine. I feel like a thief exposed by the watchtower’s light while trying to escape a prison.
The worst part is that I don’t know where I am going. How can I contact the Pillar’s chauffeur to pick me up?
“Hey, Scientist!” I shout at the back of my Jeep. “Wake up!”
I hear no reply from the comatose body in the back.
Instead, I hear the Reds in the Jeeps behind me. They’re telling me to stop and give the Scientist back, or they’ll let their animals loose after me.
“Scientist! Wake up. How am I supposed to kill Carolus?”
This time, I get back a sort of response. A snore.
Then I hear the animals let loose behind me. They don’t sound like dogs. I hear them treading the earth so loud my Jeep shakes. What kind of dogs are those?
Adjusting the rearview mirror while hitting another bump in the road, I see silhouettes of oversized animals, eager to eat a piece of me. They’re panting, not like dog, but...wait...they’re not panting.
Am I being chased by lions?
“You still have a chance to stop!” one of the Reds says.
“And you have a chance to back off before I kill your precious Scientisto!” I roar back, mostly shaking when I see they’re really lions in the rearview mirrors.
Not the usual lions you see at the zoo. These are a bit heavier. Fatter. Rounder. Dotted with black spots, and they have sharp, irregular teeth.
I let out the loudest shriek, my eyes bulging out, hardly gripping the wheel. I grip the wheel harder when I’m about to lose control of it.
It’s the teeth that have me panicked.
I know those teeth. I’ve seen them before. They look like the Bandersnatch teeth in my bullets.
The lions are so close they bump their heads against the back of my Jeep.
I wonder why this Scientist hasn’t woken up yet. I didn’t hit him that hard, did I?
Clutching the pedal to its max, a light suddenly appears in the sky.
Finally, the Pillar’s chopper.
I hear the kids rooting for me up there. “Alice save us!”
“Alice needs someone to save her,” I mumble, trying not to think about the lion running parallel to my Jeep now.
“I’m throwing you a rope to pick you up!” the chauffeur says, as a rope dangles before my eyes.
“I need two. I have to bring the Scientist along. He must know more than what he has told us.”
“I only have one rope. Attach him to it, and I will send it down to you again!”
“How am I supposed to attach him to the rope while driving?” I scream.
I pull my umbrella and squeeze it between the chair and the clutch so the Jeep keeps speeding, then grip the rope and jump in the back. There is a metal belt that I bind to the Scientist’s body, and then I tell the chauffeur to pull it up.
Another lion slashes his paws at me in an acrobatic move, and I fall back to the driver’s seat.
“I’m sending it back!” the chauffeur shouts.
That’s the same instant when the car starts slowing down.
One look at the dashboard, and I realize I’m out of fuel.
In a flash, I grip the rope and begin to tighten the belt around my waist. For some reason, it’s not working. It won’t click closed.
“It’s not working!”
“That’s not good.”
“No shit. I know it’s not good.”
“No, Alice, you don’t understand,” the kids shout. “There is a cliff ahead of you.”
“This is some Hollywood movie I’m in,” I mumble again. “Lions, Reds, and a cliff. All I need is an earthquake.”
The Jeep keeps slowing down, and one of lions manages to jump inside.
I can’t even scream now. I don’t remember Alice in Wonderland dying in Wonderland.
The belt finally clicks and I tell them to pull me up.
The lions snatches my shoe away then pulls on the tip of my jeans. He could easily have my feet for an appetizer now, but I guess he’s into the whole meal.
Embarrassed, I have no choice but to pull off my jeans, but not before I pull out the key and tuck it between my teeth.
I stare at the roaring lions and the maddening Reds below me, and let out a sigh.
But it’s not long before the Reds start laughing hysterically at me. The kids too.
Damn my pink underwear, shining bright in the dark of the Brazilian jungle.
The Pillar’s Chopper, Midair, Brazil
Up in the plane, the children welcome me and give me a blanket to cover my legs until further notice.
“Thank you,” I tell the chauffeur.