Qualm - n. 2. A sensation of doubt or misgiving; uneasiness.
Was she without qualms? No she wasn't. Who wouldn't have them? Idiots, she supposed. She got the call just after sitting down on the couch and opening up her book to read - it was an annotated copy of Alice in Wonderland that she was perusing in the hopes that it might be useful in the university course she gave every year - Prejudice and Perception in Children's Literature. She had a cup of freshly brewed tea - jasmine - and a thin chocolate wafer. What could be nicer, she thought? And then the phone jangled her from her paradise.
She didn't recognize the voice - it seemed male, low and throaty, a Tom Waites sort of growl. "You don't know me," it started out, and she was going to put the phone down when the voice went on, "just call me the white rabbit," then a bit of a chuckle came out of the phone and she wondered if this wasn't a student making a prank call. "I want you to meet me at the Summer Street Garden beside the Pan statue. I have something for you that you've been wanting for a long, long time." And the phone was hung up.
It was ridiculous to go, she knew. But ... she couldn't resist the challenge. The call to adventure - who knows? Maybe her safe, sweet life was going to be ripped apart but that's what life was for, wasn't it? And so she donned her large crimson hoodie and set out. At the very least she'd have something new to tell her students tomorrow. God knows there was no one else to tell. No lovers, friends or family. Not even a furry familiar. Ah well, she'd set her course long ago and was, for the most part, content with it.
Despite the uneasiness in her body, the small voice telling her to be careful, the vague sensation of doubt - she set out for the park, a short ramble from her small flat downtown. It was trying to be spring but the air was cool and there was, as usual this time of year, a thick fog that seemed to collect around street lights like bad boys on a corner. She hurried past a gang of kids laughing and yammering, feeling her loneliness rise.
The gate to the Victorian-styled garden swung open and she was in, past the still sleeping flower beds and on her way to the statue of Pan with his goat-like body and wicked laughing eyes. He stood at a far flung edge of the garden, in a bed that would be teeming with plants in the summer but was now empty. She couldn't see anyone near the statue and again she wondered at her impulse. Was she crazy to have come?
Then she heard it - a slow and low whistle - a tune she knew but couldn't immediately place - ah, yes, it was Jefferson Airport's White Rabbit. And she saw him. He stepped out from behind an oak and smiled at her. He was wearing a fedora, a blue raincoat and she couldn't see much of his face in the fog full light. She found her voice - "Are you the White Rabbit?". He laughed and her fear disappeared.
"Yes - I'm the rabbit and here is your prize for daring to come out on so frightful a night," and he held forth a small package wrapped up in a piece of old red material.
She took it with trepidation and opened it immediately. It was a journal and a small metal box of water colours. She looked up but he was gone - not even a trace of him. She opened the journal to the first page and it said -
Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.That was on the first page - the second had a single line reading ' tomorrow, after your class, take the ferry to the other side'. What?
She wandered back to her quiet flat knowing that her life was never going to be the same. And it wasn't.