The Day Frollo Took Over Wonderland

Once I had a dream where Wonderland got taken over by Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame so I decided to write a story about it.


teacher

When I got home one evening, I said to myself what all teachers must have thought at least once: ‘My students are idiots.’ As soon as I said it out loud to myself, I imagined saying it out loud in front of said students. I probably won’t have been the first teacher to do such a thing, I thought, but it probably wouldn’t make them any less stupid.

What made me say those things, you might ask? Well, I am an English Literature teacher, and one thing you learn in that position is that children these days don’t appreciate a good story.

Certainly everyone who has ever taught English Literature has had those moments. When you had to tell your class that Frankenstein was the monster’s creator, not the monster, and the monster doesn’t have a square head. When you had to tell your class Romeo and Juliet wasn’t really supposed to be romantic. When you had to tell them there was more to the story than what popular culture told them.

It was that day I had been teaching my class about The Hunchback of NotreNotre Dame de Paris. I asked my class if they knew anything about the story. First person I pointed to, Billy, all he said about it was that it was “the story about the hunchback”. It had more than just a hunchback, I told him, and then Jenny – one of the few students who actually wrote poetry in her free time, not that the poems of hers I’ve read are anything exceptional – elaborated on Billy’s point. ‘Yeah, Quasimodo his name was, I think. And…he had to live alone in the belltower, just because he looked different. I think that sucks.’

Most of what she said wasn’t wrong, but I told her that he didn’t live alone, he had been adopted. ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘it was the bad guy, King Rollo or something.’

Oh, that was it. I not only corrected her about Frollo’s name, I told her that he was more than just “the bad guy”. He did evil deeds due to his lust for Esmerelda, but he did adopt Quasimodo of his own will and he did tutor Pierre. The class only saw him as “the bad guy” because that’s how Hollywood portrayed him, because of how the story had been simplified for mass consumption.

It reminded me of something I heard – I think it was from Jenny, even – about how people often rewrite Alice in Wonderland into a horror story. Someone rewrote it so that Wonderland was a monochrome wasteland ruled by a faceless demon version of the Mad Hatter. Some people.

I remembered my youth, when I read the works of Lewis Carroll, and liked the books the way they were. After reading them, I went out into the garden on those sunny summer days and looked for a rabbit hole myself. Those memories dominated my mind as I marked the day’s papers, so I only gave them half the attention I usually did. Not that it really mattered.

Each paper I looked at, I thought about the student behind it and wondered if they ever did read a great classic that wasn’t assigned to them. They didn’t have the imagination or intelligence I had when I was their age, they just lied around playing those computer games all day, their understanding of the work was basic at best…

All of a sudden, I lost all interest in marking. There was something else that deserved my attention.

Down the hall hopped a giant white rabbit. Not just any white rabbit, The White Rabbit, complete with jacket and waistcoat. The very character I had been hoping to see running through my garden as a child was running down my halls, and seeing him made me a child once again. While I knew I should have been taking a picture or alerting the public about the existence of a fictional character, I found myself chasing after him, watching him hop outside my front door.

When he leapt down that giant hole that had suddenly appeared in my front garden, I leapt down myself without a moment’s hesitation.

I fell down a hole, yet there didn’t seem to be much of a fall. I know that Alice fell and fell and passed by several objects on the way down, and yet for me, there was no transition between diving into the hole and landing among some wet weeds.

Whatever images the word “Wonderland” conjured up for me, this place had none of that. It looked more like I was in the garden of an abandoned home than anything from Lewis Carroll. The sky was shrouded in dark grey clouds, as if a storm was coming, and I stood in an overgrown garden filled with weeds and dead flowers, shuddering from the harsh breeze.

The White Rabbit took a look around and sighed, shaking his head. ‘It’s been like this ever since Frollo took over.’

My childhood dream had turned into a mockery. I swore I even saw Jenny in the garden – dirty blonde hair, checkered shirt and all – laughing at me. Just when I think I’m entering the world of my childhood, I instead enter a world full of literary perversions. Any sense of excitement or wonder I had drained from me instantly, and I could only clutch my fists.

I almost didn’t notice the White Rabbit hopping away towards something that actually did seem to come towards a fairy tale – a giant castle, decorated with hearts on its walls, and towers that resembled red licorice.

Again I followed him, all the while trying to make sense of what I had just heard. Frollo only did the evil things he did because of lust, and he was an archdeacon; he certainly didn’t seem the type for taking over a fantasy world. Did he think Esmerelda would love him if he ruled Wonderland?

As I ran through the garden, I accidentally kicked a can into the air, and when I looked down, I saw another, along with other modern rubbish.

The modern world had invaded Wonderland. It had probably invaded Frollo’s Notre Dame as well. If Frollo knew about modern junk food, he probably knew about the adaptations of his story. His psyche was unstable enough without having to learn there were films made that portrayed him as eviller than he actually was. He had been driven to hang someone, now he had been driven to embrace popular culture’s perception of him.

Now this was my chance to be a hero, like those I had read about. Not only would I free Wonderland, I would finally put my wide knowledge of literature to good use. All would finally recognise my genius. Certainly it was no accident the White Rabbit came to me; certainly he knew that there was no-one as wise as I.

The White Rabbit ran into the castle. I would have ran in after him if not for a certain figure approaching the door. A certain bald figure in priestly robes.

Something told me this was Frollo, and all of a sudden, I fully realised where I was and what I was doing. This was the realm of my childhood, the sky and grass and ground and trees and dead plants springing from the words Carroll wrote. Here before me was a character from the lugubrious works of Victor Hugo, one driven mad by lust, no less. A figure I thought of as wholly fictional, now flesh and bone before me, staring at me in a way that made my blood cold.

frollo

Yet still I cried out to him, ‘Stop!’ He narrowed his eyes and grimaced, yet I continued, ‘I know what this is,’ I continued, ‘I know what they’ve done…those stupid…you’ve been portrayed as evil….overly evil by…you did this to Wonderland because of…how they didn’t understand you. I know you’re more complex…you don’t have to…you don’t have to…’

His response was to laugh. A laugh that stung my ears and paralysed my muscles; were it not for that, I would’ve hit him in the face right there and then. He laughed and laughed, probably how he laughed when Esmerelda was hung.

‘You think I did this?’ Frollo said, looking back at the castle, then back at me, ‘Ah, they said Frollo took over, but they didn’t say which Frollo.’

I didn’t answer, but I couldn’t tell if it were out of fear or confusion. As soon as he said that, the thought entered my mind that if the literary Frollo could come into existence, one of his cinematic counterparts could as well.

‘This world has been taken over by my brother, Jehan,’ sighed Frollo, ‘Can you believe in more than a century since this world was formed, he was the one who introduced them to alcohol? They liked beer so much, they made him the new King.’ Frollo gestured towards the garden I stood in. ‘That had nothing to do with me. The people here just don’t do as much gardening as they used to, and as for the sky, well, Wonderland has rainy days like your world does.’ He took another look at the castle. ‘I came here to talk to him about this. At least he doesn’t ask me for money anymore.’

He noticed my silence and continued, ‘Oh, do you not know my brother? Have you not read my…’

‘I have, I have!’

‘If the long descriptions dissuaded you, I won’t hold it against you…’

‘No, I have, I know how your book has been…’

‘Well,’ said Frollo, ‘in relation to an earlier point, you were half right. This is because of my story’s prominence in popular culture. You see, despite my…actions, people constantly approach me, asking me to sign copies of my book as well as the film adaptations, Quasimodo too, yet Jehan, while adapted often, never quite got the cinematic fame I have. Some adaptations of Hugo’s work are fine works in their own right, but don’t include him. That’s one reason he went and did what he did here.’

Sure enough, the front door of the castle opened again, and out came a man with unkempt blonde hair holding a tankard. Following him were several playing card men, each holding tankards of their own, stumbling out of the castle. ‘Hello, brother,’ said Jehan, for that was who he was, ‘you’ve brought a friend. Have some.’

Another tankard was shoved in my face. After all that I had seen, this was exactly what I needed.

As soon as I guzzled it, I suddenly found myself back in my home, a paper stuck to my face with saliva. Of course, the logical answer to this was that it was all a dream, yet that childlike part of me awoke again and told me it was real.

The White Rabbit had to have come to me for a reason.

I took a look inside my fridge. All my beer was gone, white fur in their place.

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The Ringmonster

ringmonster

If it’s a cold, dark night,
And you’re taking a stroll,
And you hear a voice crying,
‘Roll up, roll…’

And you see a strange figure,
One green and fat,
With a red jacket,
And a big top hat,

And little demons follow him,
Wherever he may go,
Then you’ve met the Ringmonster,
And you’re the star of his show.

‘Come and see the human,’
The Ringmonster often cries,
‘If you get real close you can,
See the fear in their eyes!

‘Look at the human,
How it runs away!’
Yes, you might try and run
But his show is here to stay.

The Ringmonster has a circus,
And it is your town,
His audience will laugh at you,
For they see you as a clown.

The Lemon Possum’s Evil Easter

possumandmoose

This poem features the Lemon Possum, who has previously appeared in these two poems.

Late on Holy Saturday night,
In a deep, dark wood,
Around a bubbling cauldron,
A pink-furred creature stood,

He had large antlers,
Resting on his head,
He also looked like yoghurt,
Made from a fruit that’s red,

He was planning something bad,
Evil he’d let loose,
For he was a nasty monster,
He was the Strawberry Moose!

‘Midnight draws near,’
He said with narrowed eyes,
‘And when it comes, that is when
My mistress will arise!’

Midnight came, Easter Sunday,
From the cauldron came a claw,
The Moose’s spell had worked,
The Lemon Possum lived once more!

‘Oh, Strawberry Moose, you did it,’
She said with a toothy grin,
‘Now that I’ve been resurrected,
Our reign of terror can begin!

‘It’s the perfect time for our attack,
For it’s Easter Day,
Let us travel far and wide,
And bring forth tooth decay!’

So the Lemon Possum and the Strawberry Moose,
Went from home to home,
Stuffing each full of mountains of chocolate,
Along with cake and ice-cream cones.

‘Come sunrise, everyone
Will proceed to stuff their face,
And I, the Lemon Possum,
Will rule the human race!’

She laughed at this idea,
Which she found so funny,
Then she and the Moose,
Ran into the Easter Bunny!

‘Ah, the Easter Bunny,
Like us, you give out sweeties,’
Said the Possum, ‘Join us,
And we’ll give all di…’

 ‘No!’ cried the rabbit,
‘I’m not like you at all!
The amount of sweets I give out
Is relatively small!

‘Besides I don’t always
Munch on chocs and sweets,
Most of the time I prefer
A different kind of treat!’

He conjured up a carrot,
And then he conjured more,
The Possum and Moose screamed,
‘This is something we abhor!’

They were scared,
So they ran away,
But they’ll be back,
Another day,

So eat your Easter eggs,
After the bunny’s been,
But don’t forget, after that
Be sure to eat your greens.

The Easter Bunny’s a Mad Scientist

madscientisteasterbunny

The Easter Bunny’s a mad scientist,
Who works in a mad lab,
True, there he makes chocolate,
Eggs for kids to grab,

But there’s other things he makes,
He looks for a new way,
To deliver the sweets to kids,
On Easter Sunday,

One year he made robots,
To give eggs to boys and girls,
But they all went haywire,
And tried to rule the world,

That might have been a failure,
But he’s got something new this year,
A new and efficient way,
To spread chocolate far and near,

For just last month,
He paid a visit to a farm,
In order to create a monster,
That would have a festive charm,

He grabbed a big fat hen,
And fed her a strange potion,
The hen, she shook and clucked and screamed,
Then there was an explosion,

The Easter Bunny laughed in glee,
At the creature he did make,
The hen still had an avian head,
But her body was like a snake.

She was also a giant,
Sporting dragon wings,
She now sported twenty legs,
And little spiky things,

But how can this creature,
Do the Easter Bunny’s job?
Well, she now can shoot
Easter Eggs out of her gob.

So the night before Easter,
Before you go to bed,
Open your bedroom window,
For soon a big hen head,

Will poke through and barf Easter eggs,
All over the floor,
(Though seeing that, you may not
Want to eat them anymore).

The Chocolate Egg

I suddenly awoke at 3:00am on Easter Sunday. My pyjamas and my duvet reeked of sweat, and my throat throbbed and stung, demanding hydration. I knew I had to stand up and open the window, I knew I had to go downstairs for water, but I couldn’t. My brain begged I get up, yet my body remained still. Only my head moved, just to look at the window that needed opening, and the alarm clock proudly displaying the time and date. 3:01am Easter Sunday.

Well, the clock didn’t actually have the phrase “Easter Sunday” on it, but that’s what came to mind when I saw the date. In fact, thinking about Easter was what actually gave me the strength to stand up and open that goddamn window. Today, I thought, today I was going to meet up with Margo, and we would give each other a big chocolate egg, complete with personalised message, and then we’d go out and have dinner. I had made the reservations, I remembered, and just before they were entirely booked too.

So I had something to look forward to that day. In order to enjoy that something, I needed to be well-rested. I couldn’t be well-rested if I was hot and thirsty. I had already opened the window, and let its refreshing breeze waft into my bedroom, so now all I needed to do was get a drink of water.

As I went downstairs, I remembered Easters past, where I woke up almost as early as I did on Christmas morning, and quietly solved the clues the Easter Bunny had left and collected my eggs. I didn’t eat them right away, but saved them until the time I was actually supposed to wake up. I couldn’t remember if it was out of respect for my parents or just so the eggs could be my trophies for a few hours.

There was another chocolate egg. A big, unwrapped chocolate egg sitting on my kitchen counter. It wasn’t the egg I was going to give Margo, nor was it any egg I had bought or had been given. I couldn’t help but stare at it, forgetting my dehydration. I made sure not to touch it and told myself to call the police immediately, yet my inner child couldn’t help but chime in with a “The Easter Bunny’s been!”

Well, no matter what my inner child thought, I walked over to the telephone, but just before I could dial, I heard a thud right behind me. Instinctively I turned around and there was the egg in the hall, now sporting spider legs and sharp teeth.

chocolateegg

I no longer cared that I was dehydrated. I no longer thought about calling the police. All I could think of at that moment was help.

‘Help!’ I screamed. ‘Help!’ I yelled until I was hoarse, in a tiny hope that someone would hear me. Nobody came, but the egg still clattered along the hall. At that point, I leapt towards the front door, pulling at it furiously with futility, for I had temporarily forgotten the concept of “locking”. Just as keys came back into my mind, the egg pounced, digging its legs into my back, making my veins burn.

I tried to scream in pain, but all that came out was a gasp. I fell to the ground, and the egg leapt up into the air, landing on my stomach. It walked towards me, each of its legs clicking as it did so, and looked me over as if deciding which part of me would be the most delicious.

Again its legs dug into my skin. Again my veins seemed to scream.

Then it stood still.

It made not a movement.

I saw my chance and I crushed it.

Now what lay on my stomach were nothing but pieces of chocolate, what you’d expect if you broke a regular hollow Easter egg. No legs or eyeballs or teeth. You’d expect a creature that looked as hungry as it did to have organs, but nothing.

I ate it. I don’t know why I did it, but I ate it.

I had bought an egg and forgotten all about it. That’s what I told myself. I bought myself a chocolate egg and had thought so much about the dinner it had completely slipped my mind. The egg being a monster was all a dream. Dreams always feel real. It’s like when you wake up in the morning, then go back to sleep and then have a dream about getting ready for the day and you think you actually have gotten ready only to suddenly find yourself in bed.

I suddenly awoke at 4:00am on Easter Sunday. I needed to have a shit.

The screaming and monsters and bad dreams forgotten, I made my way to the toilet and plopped myself on my little throne, letting it loose.

I heard cheers.

As soon as I stood up, several little chocolate eggs hopped out of the toilet and ran out of the bathroom.

Fred the Vampire Fox

fredthefox

There once was a fox,
His name was Fred,
He didn’t eat chickens,
But he’d feast instead,

Upon human beings
For he sucked their blood,
Yes, Fred was a vampire,
Which he thought was good,

Vampires can’t go out,
During the day?
Fred thought, well,
I’m nocturnal anyway.

Most foxes live in holes,
Fred lived in a castle,
And when fox hunters,
Would cause his kind hassle,

He’d invite them to his home,
And take them inside,
But only so he could
Feed them to his brides,

Fred’s reign of terror,
Was well-known by all,
From the humans so big,
To the mice that were small,

Something else knew as well,
And it made him mad,
He marched towards Fred,
Who cried, ‘This is bad!’

For this certain something,
Was bigger and stronger,
Than Fred who couldn’t
Stay around for much longer,

So away flew Fred,
Gone for all time,
Terrified by a werewolf,
The scarier canine!

Daryl and Denise – Epilogue

‘Typical.’ Denise shook her head, smirking, as Daryl rose from the temple floor. ‘Didn’t kill Aosoth, couldn’t kill the little bugger there.’ Turning around, Daryl saw the creature Aruff had created for him to fight: a small round thing that almost resembled a miniature Spartypuss. It chuckled in a high-pitched way that reminded Daryl of an especially annoying cartoon character used in an advert. Were it that or Denise’s expression he wasn’t sure, but right afterwards, he got back onto his feet and kicked away the little thing, allowing it to bounce off a wall.

‘Very good, Daryl,’ said Aruff, slowly clapping. ‘Maybe next we can move you onto goblins.’

‘Still,’ said Denise, ‘It’s a start.’

Rubbing his head, Daryl took another look at the creature he kicked, and then back at Denise. ‘How long did it take you to get as good as you are?’

Denise sighed, rubbing her forehead. ‘Oh, don’t mind that. Anyway, I think that’ll be enough training for today. Now then, Daryl, do you still want to go back to your old village and get reacquainted?’

‘Of course,’ said Daryl, straightening out his tweed jacket, his vest, his tie. ‘It’s been yoinks since I’ve been there…’

‘Yoinks?’

‘A word I picked up from a book. Anyway…’ As they usually did, a thought suddenly popped into Daryl’s mind without warning. ‘They m-might not like me though.’

‘Of course they won’t,’ said Denise, folding her arms, ‘But don’t worry. I’ll talk with them about it.’

‘Okay,’ said Daryl, similar to the way a small child may reluctantly agree to his mother’s demands.

‘Hey!’ said Aruff, his voice echoing throughout the temple. ‘Do you want to atone or not?’

Turning away from Denise, Daryl nodded. ‘Yeah, sure do!’

‘Good.’ With that, Aruff created an elephantine blob that reached to the ceiling, with no facial features save for a mouth lined with fangs. Daryl charged, and ended up swallowed by the creature, swimming in slime.

Denise rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, this is going to be fun.’