Their world was an odd one. It was an unknown dimension stuck somewhere between reality and dreams. In this world, logic was just twisted right around. And that was putting it lightly. When one got stuck in this dimension, they usually got lost trying to get out. It was easy to lose one's way.
There was a small meadow within the forest. A single ray of light illuminated it, a field of vibrant flowers. The rest of the thicket was dark and murky, a deep shade of gray with midnight blue mixed in for added effect. A young man laid in the very center of the meadow, late teens about. His hair was shoulder length and a glossy black color, likely from being unwashed.
He slowly rose, groaning. His head was hurting mildly and he had no recollection of where he was or what he was doing. He groaned again from his throat and sat up, teetering a bit. His skin tight black jeans were covered with grass stains, obviously still fresh to a degree.
"Ugh....the hell am I?"
"A dimension that is neither here....nor there...." A disembodied voice echoed around him from the depths of the woodland.
"The hell is that supposed ta' mean?"
"It is exactly that. Neither here or there. Nowhere."
"Sure, sure. Where's the exit?"
He growled in frustration once he realized the voice was no longer there. He tugged the fishnet sleeves on his thin gray blue sweater and pushed himself to his feet. He looked around, turning in a complete circle to take in the area. It was nowhere that he could recognize.
"Just where the hell am I...?"
Disoriented, he started for the woods. He could see a faint light at the end of it and a path stretching out in front of him. His steps crunched underneath him as he walked forward. It was too dark to see what he was stepping on and he didn't care. He only wished to stay on the beaten path in this foreign territory. He was confused enough as it was.
The path split into many different directions, each leading into a different portion of the obviously huge forest land. There was surely a sign at the intersection, but it would be impossible to read in such little light.
"Pick any direction, dear boy. There is no wrong way at all..."
He shuddered at the haunting voice. It felt like it was everywhere at once. There was no way to pinpoint the direction of the source with all of the echoing through hollow, dead trees. He whipped around at the sound of scraping against dying bark.
"Follow the path of the dreaded Bandersnatch, encounter the awful Jabberwocky, visit the Mad Hatter....it really doesn't matter at all to me."
Why did these names sound so familiar, yet foreign? The teen considered his options. He didn't wish to go anywhere near the Jabberwocky, if it could be avoided. He didn't like the sound of the Bandersnatch too much either. He presumed the last choice would be the safest way possible for now.
"I think I'd rather see this 'Mad Hatter' person. With all due respect."
"Suit yourself, feeble human. There is no escape either way." The voice had a playful lilt to it. "You'll want to go that way, however."
One of the branching paths lit up in front of him. He scoffed and took a step forward onto the illuminated path. He didn't feel he needed the help or guidance, but accepted it reluctantly. The odd chortle behind him made the boy quicken his pace out of alarm. He felt something bearing down on him, almost on top of him.
"Damn damn damn damn!!" He bolted for the light at the end of the tunnel.
"Awww, come play with me!"
He ran faster and made a hasty lunge for the exit. He skidded through the dirt and decaying grass, much like a baseball player diving for home base. He quickly looked back to see a brief glimpse of deep, though hazy jade eyes looking back at him from the darkness before dissolving away.
"Geez...the hell was that?"
"Who are you now?"
"Huh? Me?" He looked around.
"Yes, you. Silly head."
"Ah, charmed. Ambroise."
He looked around, not seeing anybody too close by. He heard footfalls approach him from behind and oriented himself to face the source. It appeared to be a tall, dark blonde man sporting a delicate looking top hat reaching his gloved hand out to him.
"A-Am..." He struggled to pronounciate the name as he took the strange fellow's hand and was hoisted to his feet like a simple rag doll.
"Don't choke on it kid. Call me Hatter."
"R-Right, okay." He bit his lip awkwardly.
Hatter led him towards a table deeper in the clearing. It was decorated with a table cloth and all sorts of small streamers. He was promptly seated in one of many colored chairs, the darkest one there. The odd blonde sat across the table.
"We don't see many humans around here anymore." He folded his hands underneath his chin.
"Heh. I can see why."
"Oh, be nice." He shook his head. "This place isn't so bad. Once you get used to..."
His voice trailed off as his gaze settled elsewhere. Devon turned to look at what the other was so interested in. He couldn't see anything in the darkness. Hatter abruptly stood up, knocking an ornate teapot over in his rush. Brown crept across the table cloth, staining it.
"We have to go. Now!" He pulled out a long blade from under the table.
"Really? Now?" He shrugged and got to his feet. "Okay then..."
Hatter's jaw dropped as the teen started break dancing. He seemed skilled in it, and as much as it amused him to see it, the impressive moves wouldn't get them anywhere. He coughed into his sleeve and cleared his throat.
"Not what I meant. I wanted you to duck."
Devon stopped spinning about on his head and dropped to the ground like a rock and laid still. The skies above the thick canopy turned a dark red and the trees sagged over. Sap dripped down the cracks in the tree bark, like tears of agony. There were scraping sounds, like what Devon heard earlier.
"You know you aren't welcome here."
"I didn't get the memo yet. Shall we say it....disappeared?" A shape started to fade into view amongst some low hanging branches.
It was obviously feline like, but retained human qualities. There was a messy mop of dark colored hair atop its head between its two pointed ears, accented by piercing cyan highlights. Its face was human, with an everlasting sneer spread across it.
It wore a black muscle shirt, its arms exposed. Heh, human enough. There was only a little bit of dark fuzz. Its wrists and hands were adorned by fingerless leather gloves with spiked bracelets. Baggy pants sagged down its thin hips, rusted chains attached to the sides. The pants covered its feet and lastly, a long tail poked out between his clothes to the back. Its entire body was slender and lanky, like it had been starved for ages. Yet it seemed well muscled.
The feline yawned and slowly climbed down the tree. "Is that any way to treat me? Considering..." He paused and cleaned his face off, licking at the gloves and smearing the wet fabric across. "My power is far greater than yours."
"I don't care about that. In the end you're the same as the rest of us. Bloody mad and incapable of fitting in with normal society."
It let out a soft cackle and slowly paced towards Devon, who had already started to sit up. The teen backed off, scuttling away defensively. The cat faded into nothingness with a sweep of its tail across its body.
"I can ease your pain for good. Erase that torturous past from existence." Devon felt something grip his shoulders as the voice whispered into his ear.
"Cheshire, don't you dare...." Hatter warned tensely.
Cheshire leaned in closer to Dev, gripping his shoulders more firmly. He completely ignored the lighter haired man and continued in a low voice. "It'd be easy and relatively....painless. I could do it in the blink of an eye."
"Could it be that fast? Really?"
"Trust me. You've got nothing else to lose."
Devon sat still, no longer too surprised by the cold touch on his shoulders or the paw slowly reaching down his chest. The feline smirked, his toothy grin hanging in the air over the teen's head. Hatter glared and stepped close, brandishing his sword more. Cheshire reflexively skipped backwards, his smile fading.
"Don't listen to him, Dev." He poked his cheek with the tip of the sword very lightly. "He's up to no good."
"Oh, be fair, Ambroise." Cheshire reappeared on top of the table and sat down.
"Hey!! Leave the sugar cubes alone!"
"Shut up. I'm not hurting anything." The cat's paws were digging into one of the bowls, retrieving a few of the cubes which were quickly eaten with a loud slurp.
"I paid for those!" Hatter glared furiously. "Get your stinking paws away from them!"
"Hah." Cheshire ate a few more and licked his paws clean, savoring the last few crystals. "Remember my offer, human. It may just save you."
He started to disappear again, his lanky body fading from sight. Devon watched, still stunned by the feline's words. Soon, the Cheshire cat was gone. Hatter quickly looked through the sugar cubes, concerned about how tainted they had become.
"Damned furry charlatan." He went through at least 15 sugar cubes, inspecting them closely.
"I might....have to trust him..."
"Wait, what?!" The Hatter's attention snapped back to him.
"I'm certain he holds the key out of this place." Devon kicked at a few pebbles. "As much as I don't like to think about it...."
"There are other ways to get out of here, you know." He neatly piled the sugar cubes into a pyramid before stepping back to examine his work.
"I don't....want to stay any longer in this madhouse!"
Hatter rolled his eyes, scoffing. He liked it here, at least. It couldn't be helped if the outsiders didn't share his enthusiasm. Taking in a shaky breath, he was already regretting his decision.
"Fine, I'll lead you to him." he said slowly, biting his lip repeatedly. "But I'm not responsible for what happens in his dimension."
"Heh, I'm sure I'll be fine."
"Watch yerself, kid. This isn't a normal cat we're dealing with."
"Please, cats love me back in my world." The teen rolled his eyes. "What's another cat?"
Hatter didn't answer, only stepping down another path that branched off from this clearing. Devon quickly walked after him, looking around at the enveloping darkness of the forest again. There were numerous glowing lights in this section of the forest, a pale blue color. It was actually quite calming, he could hear animals chattering and scurrying amongst the foliage.
It was probably good that he still couldn't see for the most part. Who knows how horrendous the creatures of this twisted land could be. He guessed from the shapes of the lights it was some kind of odd glowing mushroom. Foreign to his eyes, he figured they weren't healthy to be in close proximity too, even though they were absolutely gorgeous from a distance.
"Through here." Hatter finally spoke up, leading him through a thicket of vines.
"Mm'kay." He stepped through, careful not to get tangled up in the green tendrils.
"Things are gonna get really odd, just to warn you. Cheshire's dimension is anything but stable." The taller man glanced back at him as he stepped through the threshold into the feline's space.
Devon trailed in after him and glanced around at the bizarre area. There were blue crystals floating in the air above his head and the whole place seemed discombobulated in every way. The air was thick and heavy, but at the same time, Devon felt weightless on the ground. It made no sense to him. There was a low chuckling through the air, causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand.
"Welcome, puny human. You have decided to be freed from your past, I see."
"Jus' get it over with so I can go home."
"Oh, I don't think you want to go back there so soon...." The feline's smirk grew wider, twisting his face in the darkest of ways. "I believe it would be better for you to stay here as long as possible."
"I'd rather go home now, thank you." Devon crossed his arms. "I feel like I've been high this whole time."
"That would be a convenient answer to what you see. But sadly, not true."
"Just do whatever you gotta do and get me outta here."
The cat slunk down from the top of the tree, snickering sinisterly. Devon stood his ground as he approached slowly, as if stalking him. He only watched the cat like man closely, unconcerned for the moment.
"My services aren't free."
"I don't have any money."
Cheshire smirked wider and licked his lips. "I don't take cash either, human. I want more than that."
"Something personal.....something valuable....something you no longer need anyway..."
The enigmatic feline shook his head and stood up to his full height, about 6 feet at least. Devon flinched a bit. The cat didn't seem to be that big earlier. Cheshire laughed and leaned over to him, those eyes glowing.
"I'll cut you a deal, human." His voice purred deeply, vibrating the dense air.
"I'll get you out of here, but in exchange I get to play with your soul after you....expire...."
"If you're fine with waiting awhile, then sure." Devon shrugged. "I'm likely to end up in Hell anyway with the way I'm going."
"Mm~ Just what I like to hear...." Cheshire smirked. "You may open your eyes now and wake up~~"
Devon woke with a start in an uncomfy cot. He had no clue where he was, his vision blurry and very unfocused. He could see bright white lights overhead and could hear a very steady beeping from the side. His head throbbing and felt rubbed raw. Hell, every nerve in his body was on fire.
"Where am I?" His voice was soft and rough sounding as a build up of blood and mucus went up his throat.
He gave a loud hack and sputtered at the remaining metallic taste on his tongue. His throat started to burn and he coughed more, squinting his eyes closed from the effort. Once he finished with his coughing fit, he heard a steady beeping and began noticing a small tube going into his arm.
"Aw, no way...I knew I shouldn't have drank alcohol and then went break dancing...or whatever the hell I was doing..."
Devon remained stable for a few days, before his injuries proved to be too much for him to recover from. He suffered a couple broken ribs, one of which pierced his heart and the other piercing his lung. His arm had also been broken, over a healing fracture too from earlier. But the worse injury happened on top of his skull. A clean break going through it, the bone split enough to reveal the slightest hints of his brain, all a bloody mess.
All in all, his body had been pretty banged up from the accident. He had very little signs of full recovery as it was, but nature decided to take its course and claim his life like so many other idiots before him.
When his soul opened its eyes once more, he was again in a different dimension and somehow, he knew there would be no way out. The scenery was very dark and bloody, with skulls and other bones scattered everywhere upon the grimy ground.
"I warned you human....your imagination....could be the death of you...." A familiar voice rang through the repulsive smelling air.
"W-What?" He turned and became whiter in shock.
Cheshire stood behind him, ears back and claws fully extended. His usual smirk had turned into a killer's smile. He looked more animal than human, his tail lashing behind him as he readied to pounce. Devon knew in the back of his mind, there would be no escape this time...