The first thing I saw when the darkness cleared was Jenny. Jenny the shark, looking at her fins, feeling her sharp teeth. ‘Jenny…’
‘You wanted this to happen, didn’t you?’ snapped Jenny, ‘You wanted me here like this.’
How could he? That’s what we want to find out.
The darkness fully cleared and Jenny and I, along with Karl, now stood in a monochrome courtroom. Karl looked around before pointing at me and saying, ‘Not a word.’
‘Typical,’ came a female voice, and in floated a yellow furry creature with fangs almost as big as those of my dark side.
‘You!’ snarled Karl.
‘Yes,’ smirked the furry thing, ‘Me. Thought you were rid of me, didn’t you?’
I’ve only met her recently, said Dark Side as he put on a judge’s wig, but I find we have so much in common.
‘Don’t worry, Karl,’ said the creature, ‘this is more for Derek’s sake than it is for yours. For Derek…’ She put on her own little wig. ‘…stands accused of lying about what a good little pacifist shark he is.’
‘You know,’ said Karl, eying the exit, ‘if this isn’t for my sake, may I leave?’
‘No, you may not,’ laughed the yellow creature, ‘part of the reason Derek isn’t as nice as he says he is is because you’re still alive.’
Yes. Your workers will say you’re much worse than my friend the Lemon Possum here. If Derek really wanted to help others, he would do away with you. Or perhaps Jenny would like to.
Dark Side gestured to Jenny, who cringed at him mentioning her name. Even Karl flinched.
‘Leave her alone!’ I cried.
Dark Side chuckled. I want to do you two a favour. The Hatter here has such power and he abuses it. Join me and we can use that power to better the world! To improve it! Us three working together to give everyone what they deserve!
‘Oh, give me a break!’ snarled Karl, rolling his eyes.
‘Nobody asked you,’ replied the Lemon Possum, ‘Anyway, you two,’ she continued, gesturing towards me and Jenny, ‘didn’t you see the power Dark Side has in this realm? The power I have?’ She demonstrated said power by making herself disappear than reappear and conjure up cakes and sweets from thin air. ‘Don’t you want…’
Before she could finish her sentence, Jenny sprung up towards her and knocked her into a wall. ‘Shut up!’ snarled Jenny.
‘Finally, someone did it,’ said Karl.
Ah, maybe you would make a good shark after all then, laughed Dark Side. You…
‘You can cork it too!’ cried Jenny.
That was exactly what I needed to hear. That was what made me wrap my fins around a courtroom chair and hurl it towards Dark Side. It missed, but I couldn’t help but smile at the bewildered expression on his face. It did shortly get replaced by a grin. Well, looks like you have some courage after all, Derek.
‘You’ve been bugging me for too long…’ I said as Jenny and Karl stood to the side of me.
Why be angry at me? Why not be angry at Gwen? She doesn’t care about you or Jenny, she just wants to prove her genius. And Karl, the only reason you got any form of success is because the human race sees you as a novelty. Why not be angry at them? Why not direct your rage towards the Mad Hatter, who exploits the tragedies of others so he can be more powerful?
I took a deep breath and stared my Dark Side in the eyes. ‘You’re no better than they are.’
Again Dark Side laughed. What have you been telling Acacia, Derek? Have you been trying to make her as weak and pathetic as you? I made her human too, hoping she would do a better job, but she’s reluctant and you must have done something to make her that way. No matter. I’ll keep trying with her. I’ll mould her into a lovely little killer and…
‘About that.’ A chair actually came into contact with Dark Side’s head. Before us stood a purple creature in a black dress with horns and a pointed tail. ‘Acacia can’t come here, but I can,’ she said, ‘and she’s pretty annoyed with you.’
As soon as Dark Side growled in irritation, the courtroom doors burst open, revealing none other than the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the creatures that earlier attacked me and Karl. ‘Objection!’ cried the Hatter, before adding, ‘I like saying that.’
Dark Side smiled. Glad you could join us.
‘Huh, some creature you are. Derek and Jenny and Acacia were supposed to be making you more powerful and you were supposed to be making them make you more powerful. A fine job you did there then.’
Don’t talk to me like I’m your inferior.
‘But you are. You’re as useless as that demon there.’
The demon snarled at him. ‘Listen to Mr. Big Shot. Not even that kangaroo deserves you.’ She clicked her fingers and Karl disappeared.
‘He’ll be back,’ said the Mad Hatter, ‘and you don’t scare me. You lost your powers once, you’ll lose them again. I’m certain that Dark Side will become completely powerless one day too.’
At that, the Hatter’s creatures charged towards Dark Side, digging their claws into his skin as he tried to shake them off. I flew out of the courtroom and I was followed by Jenny and the March Hare. As she flew, Jenny took a look at the March Hare and said, ‘What in the world is that thing?’
‘I’ve been looking for him,’ I cried, ‘I think he can help us!’
‘What makes you think that?’
‘I can!’ replied the March Hare, ‘I can change you back, Jenny! I’ll make you human again and make it so you can never come back here! Follow me!’
We did as he told us to, darting down a hall of doors through one that led towards a perfect recreation of the machine that turned me human. After taking a moment to catch her breath, Jenny said, ‘That’s Gwen’s machine.’
‘Yes,’ said the March Hare, his finger hovering over a control panel, ‘a few presses of these buttons and you should be human again.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘The Hatter mentioned it, Dark Side mentioned it. It was meant for me, I think. If it could make me human again, and could make Acacia human, it could do the same for you.’
‘Well, I’m willing to try anything…’ Jenny turned to me. ‘Derek, if this works, come back with me.’
‘Just forget about this place,’ said Jenny, ‘Just leave him to starve. You’re not him, Derek. You’re more human than anyone I’ve met. Go in there with me.’
Immediately I remembered my days as a human, the plans I had made. I remembered the feeling of the wind against my face, the taste of food, the energy I felt when I ran and jumped. Then I thought of the Mad Hatter’s eyes lighting up with glee as I took his offer. He wanted me to do it.
‘Jenny,’ I replied, ‘I have to stay here…I think I’m supposed to stay here.’
At that, she bowed, moved her face closer to mine and we kissed. Though we couldn’t hold each other as we did so, we kissed and tried to make it last as long as possible.
As soon as she pulled away, a tube dropped down from the ceiling and sucked Jenny into the huge tank that made up the bulk of the machine.
From outside, I could hear thumping. ‘Quick!’ I yelled.
The March Hare frantically pushed buttons, but the door burst open to reveal the Mad Hatter, accompanied by two of his little creatures. ‘Traitor!’ he snarled, ‘And have I not been good to you?’
‘I…’ The March Hare turned away from the control panel and towards the Hatter. ‘I don’t know.’
‘We’re not through with Jenny,’ said the Hatter, ‘She can still be of use to us, as can Derek.’
I growled at him.
‘Oh, look at this, trying to be brave.’ The Hatter cackled, a laugh almost as painful to listen to as that of my Dark Side. ‘I know you. I know everyone, Derek. I know that you’re a coward and you always will be a coward!’
I growled again, baring my teeth.
‘Oh, you want me dead, do you? You want to murder! You’re feeding your Dark Side, Derek! He’s going to grow more powerful, you know! When he does, I’ll be the only one who could stop him and then you’d have no choice but to join me! And Jenny!’ He turned to Jenny behind the glass. ‘Jenny, do you really want to be a weak little human! Don’t you like the strength this form grants you?’
‘Mad Hatter…’ she said, ‘Whoever you are…’
She spat in his direction.
‘Ungrateful little…’ At that, I slapped him with my tail and the March Hare pressed the final button, bathing the room in white light. ‘No!’ barked the Hatter, ‘Stop it!’ I charged towards the two creatures that he brought, and the March Hare joined me, gnashing his oversized teeth.
As I held back the Mad Hatter and his little army, I turned to Jenny. I saw her body shrink. I saw her fins stretch and her tail split in two.
The Mad Hatter reached for the control panel. I knocked him into the wall with my snout.
Jenny’s hair sprung up from her head. Her dorsal fin shrunk into her back. She looked like she was screaming, but no sound came out.
The two monsters dug their claws into their flesh as they did with my dark side, and though I wanted to scream myself, I let them torture me, for the more they did, the less they focussed on Jenny.
‘Turn that machine off!’ cried the Hatter, ‘I made you what you are, I am your master!’
‘But the other hares…’
‘What about them! It’s not my fault they’re ungrateful! You’re protecting them! Now turn it off and make her a shark again!’
‘No!’ cried the March Hare.
Jenny grew back her hands and feet. Her body absorbed her gills. As the light faded, she did too.
‘You imbecile!’ the Mad Hatter decked the March Hare across the face.
The monsters took their claws off me and turned to face the Hatter with frightened expressions on their faces.
Then I chose to leave Wonderland. At least for a while.
I returned to the town where I had spent my human days; to be specific, the beach where I went to return to Gwen’s home. There I found exactly who I expected to find there. A young woman with a brown hair – she was a different species than when I first met her, but I knew who she was as soon as I saw her. Acacia.
‘Derek,’ she said, ‘you’re here. I can still see you.’
‘Yeah,’ I replied.
‘You know,’ she said, ‘I guess you were right. About you know, some things. Being human actually isn’t that bad. There’s some nice perks to it, and I even made a new friend. Did you ever try beer?’
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘Well, you should have. Also, that Dark Side of yours was a right nuisance. You were right about that too.’
‘Well,’ I said to her, ‘I’ll make sure he never bothers you again.’
‘Well,’ laughed Acacia, ‘hopefully you’ll do something right for once.’
I was just about to leave when I noticed some red stains on Acacia’s clothes.
‘Acacia,’ I said, ‘what did you do?’