Trudging through the forest undergrowth, Alice was no happy-camper. She and Ace had been returning from a short trip to the market, through the woods, when she’d suddenly tripped and fell down a rabbit hole. For a minute—or was it an hour? She couldn’t tell—Alice floated in darkness, buoyed awake by the warmth of sunlight under her eyelids. Crescents of mud caked under her fingernails, and dirt and roots scratched her knee, but when she clambered back up the barren hole, her chaperon was gone.
“Ace!” she called. “Ace, where are you?!”
If this turns out to be another stupid trick, I’ll knee him, she thought darkly, batting at skeletal fingers as the branches reached out to catch in her hair, graze down her shoulders. Why hadn’t he come save her at her yelp? She was right behind him! Unless it was just another cruel attempt at a prank: hide until she comes to, then jump her when she’s vulnerable. But, no. Ace wouldn’t—he wouldn’t do that. He knows her too much not to do that.
And if that be the case, where is he now, lovely?
Gone to get help. Surely. He couldn’t reach her through the rabbit hole, so he went out to get help.
Such faith, precious. But you know who he is; you’ve seen the red stains. How are you so sure he didn’t abandon you to die?
“Ace!” Again, she called, but this time her voice edged with a sliver of panic. “A-Ace! This isn’t funny anymore! Where are you?!”