Alice hooted as the hammer splintered down. The going-going-gone refrain repeated in her ears as the lot was removed from the gawping eyes and gaping mouths of public consumption. It had been a frantic bidding session and the air was sharp with a hushed electric hum and the high pitchiness of sweat. But this was the last the moon-faced Alice would see of Tenniel as a clutch of officials surrounded her.
She was escorted through a mahogany door, along a dark corridor, over an enclosed bridge, down a back staircase, beneath clanking pipes, into a room marked “Interrogation”. Here stood a plain table, two standard-issue public-sector chairs and a uniformed man, arms crossed. Three of the walls were bare; on the fourth hung a substantial shiny surface: a screen, maybe, or a mirror.
The questions came thick and fast, burrowing into Alice, too many to fight off. “What are you playing at?” “Where did you think you’d get the money?” “Why do you keep doing this?” Alice stared dead ahead, at once baffled and baffling. No one appeared to have a grip on reality – the interviewers didn’t seem to know why she was here and Alice was definitely none the wiser. Accusations followed: “You’ve never been the same since that bump on the head”; “You’re a menace to society”; “You need to be locked up to protect yourself”.
The strange men’s voices rang in echoes and the stringent striplight cast the scene starkly. Alice’s whole being was overcome with a wrench of nausea, as if the feeling that she was all at sea were real. The four waxy faces started swimming around her own, melting into the walls and the glossy oblong whose edges were distorting and bending, as if through a fish eye.
Then, suddenly, the cloudy looking-glass cleared, becoming a plain window Alice could peek through. On the other side stood a rabbit, as tall as her and wearing a natty waistcoat. Alice started screaming, and never stopped.