It was a strange thing to come by in the middle of the forest. Amongst the ancient trees and a thick carpet of green moss was a table with two matching chairs whittled out of tree stumps.
Each chair was tucked neatly and considerately under the table.
There were no people or houses for miles, so you can imagine my surprise when I came upon such an unusual sight in such a vast stretch of wilderness.
I pulled out one of the chairs and sat down.
The table before me was just wide enough to fit two dinner plates, which made sense given there were two chairs. I ran my hand along its worn surface. I could feel every ripple of the former tree’s rings under my palm. The wood was warm from soaking in the sun and, far from rotting away under the elements, it felt as strong and solid as stone. My hand froze as it ran across a coarse patch on the edge of the table. I lifted my palm. Underneath was a message scratched into the wood.
It’s always tea time.
Each letter that made up this simple line was carved deeply into the table, as though whoever had written it had gone over it again and again. The letters were crude and widely spaced. I stood up and made my way to the chair on the opposite side of the table. There was a message on this end too.
We’re all mad here.
This line was written in a different hand. It wasn’t engraved as deeply as the other message had been either, and the letters softly flowed into one another. I sat down in the other chair, resting my aching feet. A flock of crimson rosellas flew by, their brilliant feathers flapping through the air. The leaves on all the trees around me began to rustle, which was very strange because there was no trace of a breeze. Even the wild daisies and snowdrops bobbed their pretty heads laughingly.
I stood up slowly.
I could hear paws thumping violently along the ground, getting louder and louder as they drew nearer. It was coming closer. I could hear a strange ticking sound as constant as a metronome. Still no-one and nothing came into the clearing.
I don’t know where it came from.
But when I looked down there was a small cup and saucer sitting on the table-top. The pretty little cup was shaped like a tulip, and on the handle was a small paper ribbon with the words Drink Me printed on it.
I peered into the cup.
There was a dark liquid inside that could have been tea, but I wasn’t about to take the risk to find out. I rose from the little chair and backed away from the table. The ticking was getting faster. It was racing away like a heartbeat, the sound filling the glade and washing over me as those paws thumped closer and closer through the forest.
There was a crashing through the trees. Birds scattered into the sky and all the flowers closed their petals over their faces. In a panic I rushed forward, grasped the cup and drank. The tea was warm and sweet as it trickled down my throat.
Suddenly the ticking stopped. As I went to put the cup back down, it went tumbling to the ground, because in the very spot where the table had been was now a rabbit hole.
A very large rabbit hole.
One so deep that if you were to drop down into it, you may very well spend the rest of your days falling.
I closed my eyes and jumped.