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I don't need to wake up with amnesia to pretend I am insane. I don't need evidence to know that the Pillar, Cheshire, White Queen, the Duchess, and the whole Wonderland War are figments of a lonely girl's imagination. After the Cheshire's visit, the

I've marked each of the six days on the wall, among the dried blood of whoever suffered in this cell before me. Six perpendicular strokes, carved with my short nails as if I am the female version of Count of Monte Cristo, feeling clueless, betrayed, and imprisoned in a dungeon in a faraway island.

A shattered laugh escapes my lips when I stare at the tattoo on my arms:

I don't think you know what a Wonderland Monster can do to you. With all my pretending that none of last week's madness ever happened, one thing persists to feel so real to me; one thing never fails to scare me and give me nightmares.

The Cheshire Cat.

With no distinguishable face or identity, he frightens the very essence of me. I fear him so much that I need to pinch myself to make sure I am not possessed by him every once in a while. Had I not been scared of mirrors, I would have used them each morning to confirm the absence of his evil grin on my lips.

"You're insane, Alice," my Tiger Lily whispers behind me. She, who is supposed to be my one and only friend, has been mean to me lately. I wonder if they have done something to her when she was in Dr. Truckle's custody.

"

I don't turn around to face her. Usually, when she talks to me, it means I am in my highest moments of insanity. I bend my knees against my chest and I bury my head between them, hugging myself with my own arms. I close my eyes and decide to clap my hands over my ears until she stops talking.

"Nothing is real." Tiger Lily refuses to shut up. "Even Jack isn't real."

My hands stop halfway and my eyes spring open. A single sticky tear rolls down my cheek. I tremble as it glides down slowly. Then I catch it before it hits the ground. I stare at it wobbling in the palm of my hand. My tears are terrified of uh he unknown, the same way I am.

"I mean Adam," Lily teases. "If you killed Adam, then who is Jack but a figment of your imagination?"

Provoked, I turn back, only to find a harmless orange flower in pot near the crack in the wall. I am not even sure she was talking to me. Mentioning Jack triggered a bittersweet knot of pain inside of me. If there is anything I am certain of, it's that Jack Diamonds—true or imagination—is the only thing I wish is real.

Now that I was shown he was my boyfriend, I understand my previously unexplained strong feelings toward him. I don't want to resist my feelings because, in a world as mad as mine, they shine on me with rays of sanity. I don't even have these kinds of strong feelings toward my helpless mother or my two mocking sisters. Jack seems to be my only chance for family.

Lily is right, though. If Jack is Adam, the boyfriend I killed, he must be dead too.

A sudden pounding on my cell's door relieves me from the burden of thinking about Jack.

It's Waltraud Wagner at my door, the head of wardens in the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum. Torturing me in the Mush Room pleasures her above all else. "Did you change your mind yet?" she blurts in her horrible German accent, reeking of cigarette smoke and junk food.

"What do you mean?" I tighten my fist around my single tear, squeezing it away.

"You've been unusually obedient for the past six days, confessing your insanity and such." She slaps her prod against her fleshy palm. "It's not like you," she remarks.

"I'm insane, Waltraud. I'm fully aware of it."

"I hardly believe you. How would an insane person know they're insane?" She is testing me. Admitting my insanity doesn't appeal to her. It rids her of reasons to fry me in the Mush Room. "People are kept in asylums because they aren't aware of their insanity. Their ignorance to their insanity endangers society. That's why we lock them away."

"Are you saying insane people who are aware of their insanity don't deserve to be locked away in asylums?" It's a nonsensical argument already.

"Insane people who know they are insane are smart enough to fool society into thinking they aren't," Waltraud replies. I blink twice to the confusing sentence she just said. "Think of Hitler, for an example." She laughs like a heavyweight ogre. Sometimes I think she is a Nazi. I was told she killed her patients in the asylum she worked for in Austria. But when she makes fun of Hitler, I am not sure anymore. "Or, in your case, you're admitting insanity to avoid shock therapy."

A twisty smile curves on my lips. Waltraud isn't that dumb after all. "That's a serious accusation, Waltraud," I say.

"It

"Such a

Catch-22

"I don't have time to read books," Waltraud puffs. "Does it have pictures in it?"

"No, it doesn't," I say. Waltraud probably read

"What use is a book without pictures?" She snickers behind the door.

"It's a book that describes how something can't be proven until a previous thing is certainly proven. However, the previous thing can't easily be proven either, to put it mildly." I neglect her comment about a book without pictures.

"I don't understand a word you say." She truly doesn't.

"Think of a chicken and an egg. We have no way to know which came first."

"I don't understand that either," she puffs. "I hate chickens." I hear her scratch her head. "But I love eggs."

I wish I could drive her mad myself. Wouldn't it be fun to have her in my cell instead of me?

A scream interrupts our ridiculous conversation all of a sudden. I have been hearing this for a few days now. It's a patient girl pleading to be spared from the Mush Room. It's probably Ogier torturing her. The Mushroomers in the other cells pound on their bars, demanding the pain to end. The screams have tripled since I've stopped being sent to the Mush Room. Waltraud and Ogier have been compensating my absence with too many other patients.

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