I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was two years ago on one January afternoon, and I was on my way home from the grocery store. I had been rear-ended a couple days earlier, so I was forced to go on foot. I was passing an alleyway near my street, when I spotted something lying on the ground.
Curious, I went over and examined it. It was a DVD case, with some of the most horrendous cover art I’ve ever seen – the title read “Alice in Wonderland,” and it had several of the characters on the cover, but there was something wrong with them. While a few of them were somewhat recognizable, nothing else had any resemblance to the book at all.
The one I think was supposed to be Alice had stick figure arms, a pencil-thin neck, and a huge, deformed football-shaped head almost as big as the rest of her body. The Caterpillar looked like he was made out of blue, purple and green balls. There was a dragon, which I assumed at the time was supposed to be the Jabberwock, was textured in large green scales, spikes on top of its head, and no arms at all. Another thing that caught my eye was a rat in a cook’s outfit, making me guess it was supposed to be the Cook. What bothered me the most about the cover was that all the characters looked as though they were staring directly at me with dead-eyed expressions, which made a chill run down my spine.
Still, I was curious, and after checking to see if the case contained a DVD (which it did), I decided to take it home and watch it out of morbid curiosity. As I got up, I thought I heard a voice say, “You will enjoy this,” but when I saw that there was no one around, I shrugged it off as my imagination.
When I got home, after putting away my groceries, I put the DVD into my computer. The screen lit up with bright colors, which were accompanied by a song that sounded like it was recorded in the 50’s. As soon as the option appeared, I hit ‘Play’. I was met with a scene of the deformed Alice from the cover chasing an equally badly-drawn white rabbit, which led her to the famous rabbit hole. The audio still sounded like a 50’s audio play which, coupled with the animation quality, came off as disturbing. But all that was forgotten as soon as Alice leapt into the rabbit hole.
I was mesmerized by what I was seeing. It almost felt like a dream – the animation and the audio hadn’t changed, but there was just something about it that made me feel… happy. I even found myself singing along to some of the musical numbers; “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance? Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance?” Now, I could swear I heard someone else singing as well, but I was too invested in the movie to care. Right then, nothing mattered but the movie.
Then came the part when Alice left wonderland. Suddenly, it didn’t hold my interest anymore. I remembered the grotesque animation and the outdated audio I had listened to earlier, but now, it just made me feel uneasy. Disgusted, I ejected the DVD from my computer, and put it back in the case. That’s when I heard a laugh from outside my window. I turned, and that’s when I saw her. Outside my window, staring at me, was the same deformed Alice from the movie. She was staring at me with that dead-eyed gaze, and she had that hideous permanent smile on her face. The only difference was, this time, it was no cartoon. I panicked, and went for the bat I kept from my high school baseball team – but when I looked back at the window, she was gone.
As the months passed, I tried to forget about it. I had thrown the DVD away – that is, I personally went to the dump, and tossed it directly into the landfill. I was afraid that, if I did it any other way, she would just bring it back to me. Eventually, I was finally able to put it out of my mind. I had been promoted to manager at my job at the Burger King, and I was finally starting to feel content with where my life was heading. Then, one day, I found a small package in the mail. Wondering what it was, I began to open it. My eyes widened with shock when I saw what it was.
It was the DVD. It had a bit of grime left on it from the dump, and it was accompanied by a short message, reading “Won’t you join the dance?” I pushed the box away, not wanting to look at it. Then, I heard a tapping at my door. I considered who it could be – just because the DVD had come back to me, didn’t mean it was that girl again. Nonetheless, I proceeded with caution toward the door. When I opened it, I was greeted by my boss. He and I were good friends outside the workplace, and he had come for a casual visit. Noticing the box, he asked about it.
I explained about the DVD, leaving out the part about the girl, of course. This caused him to become interested, and after a bit of pressure, I reluctantly agreed to watch the DVD with him. As the movie started, we were met with the same terrible animation, and the same outdated audio. And, as soon as Alice fell down the rabbit hole, we were both mesmerized. “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance? Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance?”
When the movie ended, my boss looked at me with a shocked expression on his face. “I think I heard about this somewhere before,” he told me, and asked if he could borrow my computer. He then took me to the TV Tropes So Bad, It’s Horrible page for western animation, and pointed out the entry immediately under the animated film tab. While it did mention the atrocious character designs, and confirmed that it really was just a public domain audio play set to animation, it didn’t say anything about the hypnotic effect the film has after Alice falls down the rabbit hole. There was also a link, which took us to a web archive of the film’s official site, which seemed overly-enthusiastic about its product.
A laugh came from the window. We turned to see the girl was there again, staring at us. My boss nearly fainted from shock as he stared back at the girl’s deformed features. Then, a hairy paw took her hand, and led her away. My boss and I stood in silence for several minutes, before he asked me about her. I told him the rest of the story, about how I had seen her when I watched the movie the first time. I didn’t tell him before because I didn’t think he’d believe me. He told me he understood, and promised that he’d keep his eyes open in case she ever comes back. With that, he left, leaving me alone in the house.
The next day, I heard from co-workers that he had disappeared. An investigation was being mounted, and each one of us were suspects. When I was questioned, I explained everything that had happened the last time I saw him, again leaving out the girl in the window. Neighbors confirmed that he had indeed left my place, and that I had gone nowhere else until coming into work that following day. This satisfied the investigators, and I was allowed to go. A thought crossed my mind as I returned to work as usual – what if she had done something to him?
After returning home, I took my bat and the DVD, and went back out again. I was determined to find this girl, to see if my suspicion was correct. I entered my car, and began driving around the city. Hours passed, but I couldn’t find any trace of her, until I heard a humming from the back seat. I stopped, and checked the rear view mirror. When her face came into view, I let out a scream. As if on cue, a hairy arm smashed through my window, and slammed into my head, knocking me unconscious.
When I came to, I was in a cold, dark place. I could hear music playing in the background, which I started to recognize after a moment. “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance? Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you…”
“Join the dance!” came a voice right beside me. I turned to see it was the girl. As I was backing away, she turned her head and said in a cheery voice, “Don’t be afraid! You’re in Wonderland!”
Confused, I stared at her for several minutes, before asking her who she was. “I’m Alice!” she replied in that cheery voice, “You saw my movie!”
I nodded in response. The girl continued, “You didn’t like my movie, did you?” I shook my head. Suddenly, the girl’s smile turned into a frown. “You will like my movie,” she said darkly.
I was suddenly grabbed and carried over to a table, where I was strapped down. The table lowered, and the girl smiled down at me. “You’ll like it even more than your friend does!” she laughed.
I looked over to see that my boss was also strapped down, and staring up with a look of contentment on his face. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my arm. For a moment, I thought I saw a needle in my peripheral vision. I immediately started to feel calmer. The girl then started talking.
“A couple years ago,” the girl said, “my rat and I invited two nice men to my house. I showed them my favorite radio show, and my rat helped them agree to make a movie out of it.” She paused for a moment, before continuing in a darker tone, “I love that radio show. It was about me and all my friends! That’s why I wanted a movie made of it. But, when other people watched my movie, they didn’t like it. They thought it looked bad. That’s why I added new sounds to help people pay attention, so they can see and enjoy it.”
My head was starting to feel numb. Before long, I realized I was staring up at a flat-screen TV. The girl kept talking. “But then nobody saw it!” she said, “so I had to show people myself! I put it in places where people would see it, but they still didn’t like it! That’s why I bring them here, so I can show them how wonderful it is!”
All of a sudden, I started to feel… good. As the screen above me flickered on, I found that the girl was right. The movie was wonderful, and it was the best thing ever made.
Every day, when I wake up, the first and only thing I want to do is watch the movie. Every day, I wake up singing. “Will you, won’t you, will you won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance? Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance?"