Oh Dreary Me

Matthew Kirshenblatt

A tribute to "The Wasp in the Wig", the "lost chapter" of Lewis Carrol's "Alice Through the Looking Glass"

It pondered the riddle of itself: the insect trapped in its windowpane. If anyone had paid attention, they might have heard an intermittent buzzing sound and the muted thud of a soft insect body colliding helplessly against its prison of glass.

Yet no-one heard it. No-one even knew it existed anymore and those that did were long since gone and forgotten. Instead, it was left in the musty darkness of an old attic room. It could smell the cold air through the ornate wood frame of the thing that held it: a frigid breeze that was far enough away to remind it of its fate yet close enough to keep its body in a perpetual low-grade state of ache.

All it could do now was feebly tap on the hard and unforgiving layer of frost that held it -- a substance so much more colourless than amber -- and watch the small strange form stir on her sleeping pallet in the shadowy corner. Its insides squirmed with age-old hunger at the sight.

Every time it still struggled to liberate itself, it remembered when it was free. It recalled the feeling of the summer air on its wings before the cold of this place made them tatter and rot. The ghostly feeling of atrophied silken membranes tingled on its back with that mournful thought. Its fur had been vibrant and yellow with prominent black stripes, and it once sported a strong and powerful stinger that brought many an enemy down on its joyous brown sugar expeditions.

But its stinger had fallen out long ago and its sting only now existed inside its own body. And while it knew that a bee’s sting lasts only a moment before it dies, a wasp’s pain -- like the conceit that brought it here -- lasts forever.

It never ends. It never dies. Wasps only hurt.

Thinking about this and the small form of the girl in front of it filled the wasp with regret for having ever sailed through that crack in the windowpane so many years ago. It knew that its cousins beyond its glittering boundary were also vulnerable to the cold, but at least it eventually killed them. But the cold only made the wasp feel pain: each soft breeze slicing its body into the shards it so desperately wished it could have rendered its prison.

It recalled scrambling madly at the glass as it found itself cut off from its Queen and home: its Summer Land …

Its window proved to be only one-way. The crack in its prison could never take the wasp back to its own world. It had grown progressively weaker in this crystal between places: slowly growing mad in its confinement and its hunger. Yet it also knew one other thing about the crack in its window. It didn’t lead back.

Rather, it led forward.

Things could reach it from the other side: the bright-coloured man -- and his one-eyed companion proved that much. They had fed the wasp sugar cubes through the crack. They wanted it for something.

The only thing the wasp understood -- as it had devoured its sugar greedily -- was that the brightly coloured man -- who smelled so sweet, very sweet -- believed it represented the spite of old age and death. As the wasp learned about them, it realized that the sweet-scented man thought the wasp only essential in that way. The wasp knew only too well of its own decrepitude and it became yet another indignity to be further reminded of it every day.

Then it remembered the argument between the two men. The one-eyed man in particular smelled of fear and revulsion and it only grew until that last day when they disappeared … and stopped feeding it. Then its prison was moved up here to this attic where its buzzing became an exercise of futility in the dark.

It stayed in this place for years with only the memory one girl’s kindness to keep itself sane: an exchange that may never have happened. The wasp believed that the shape in the pallet of the attic -- the girl before it now -- looked not unlike her. The wasp looked across the room at the tiny form with her too-round forehead. She both attracted and repulsed it as well. But it was enough.

The wasp saw the small mahogany table pressed in front of its prison and the remnants of crumbs on its surface. It writhed and twisted: reaching for the remains of the confection that the child left unwittingly behind her. A multitude of insect stings seemed to sear through it for its efforts: into its very being. The crack to its world was sealed, but it never tried to reach into this place, never dared … It was so cold out there that it knew it would die.

But the wasp was tired and it was hungry, hungry, hungry …

Even as the wasp desperately envisioned the crack and the grains of melted sand around it being replaced with grains of fragmented sugar, the surface of the oval dark-framed mirror shivered as the wasp finally staggered out into this world.

If the sleeping girl had been awake, she would have seen it kneeling there in the gloom: an awkward spindly figure in light brown livery, stained britches and with frilled laces at its wrists and throat. Under the holes in its ragged clothing, its body was ghastly and white with black stripes. But ultimately, she would have seen what the wasp had to see reflected back at it for many years: a shrivelled waxen visage under an off-white wig.

It looked up from its meal of stale crumbs and focused on the girl with withered antennae and a multifaceted gaze broken by cataracts.

The wasp lurched towards her: its body trembling with imminent want and death. But it was worth it. These sugary beings had ignored it for far too long and it was angry and dying. It was through with riddles, and shining circles, and young pink things with mouths far too small for their heads.

It was hungry.

Worrity worrity,” its voice finally droned like a swarm of locusts as it reached a hand-like claw for her sleeping face and extended its mandibles wide, “Worrity worrity …”

Copyright © Matthew Kirshenblatt 2011 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 18:13 Fri 09 Dec 2011
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