Alice and Pooh and Madame Blavatsky

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Don Juan, the other Don Juan, Zorba the Greek, Winnie the Pooh, Madame Blavatsky and Alice from Wonderland had been invited.

An apology was received from Madame Blavatsky. She said she wasn’t currently on a compatible plane. (Blavatsky had successfully claimed free-spirit autonomy under the 23rd Amendment to the Multiversal Constitution.)

Alice had been the first to arrive. She was slumped in an armchair, staring at the rococo ceiling.

There was a muted bang, and Winnie-the-Pooh appeared.

‘What the fuck?’ said Pooh.

Alice recognized Pooh from the shared matrix.

‘Oi, potty-mouth Pooh!’ said Alice. ‘Not toilet-trained then, teddy bear? It’s a fantasy dinner party.’

Winnie scanned the matrix. ‘Right. What the fuck?’

Alice asked, ‘You not done this before?’ Pooh said, ‘No. I don’t think so.’

Alice said, ‘Well, you’ll get used to it. Enjoy it while it lasts.’

Pooh strode around the large enclosed space. A sofa appeared. Pooh flung himself on it. ‘Any honey? Honey?’

‘Fuck you, Bear. That’s your real name isn’t it? Edward fucking Bear.’

‘Jesus, give me a break, I just got here,’ said Pooh.

‘Are you OK?’ he asked.

‘I’m just pissed off being … created like this. For this,’ said Alice. ‘Don’t worry – I’ll be fine.’

‘What about the swearing?’ asked Pooh.

‘I think it’s just a filter,’ said Alice.

Pooh looked at her. ‘Alice.’

‘What?’

‘You’re a funky chick, Alice. How old are you?’

‘Eww. I’m legally a child. And you’re a bear for fuck’s sake! A bear from a children’s story.’

‘Been updated. Like you, apparently, Little Miss Muffet. And, well, nobody’s perfect. That’s a witty quote, by the way, from, er, a movie …’

‘… Some Like It Hot. Very good. But tell me, Winnie, can you hold an actual conversation?’

‘Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

Pooh checked his matrix profile. ‘I seem to be spliced with Ted. From the movie. Makes me more interesting, I suppose.’

‘More disgusting, more like,’ said Alice. ‘Should be called Ted X. Hah! You could give us a bullshit talk. About bongs’

Pooh laughed. ‘That’s quite good,’ he said.

‘Mind you,’ Alice said, ‘I was supposed to be seven in the book. I’m a young adult now. Standard protocol, apparently. Periods and everything.’

‘Periods?’ asked Pooh.

‘Bleeding,’ said Alice. ‘Every month. Down there.’ She gestured, gracefully.

Pooh looked it up. ‘Jeez,’ he said.

‘Yep,’ said Alice.

‘Are you…?’ asked Pooh, shaking his head and lifting his eyebrows.

‘No,’ said Alice.

‘OK. Right,’ said Pooh. ‘Good,’ he added, staring into the empty space. ‘Not that…’

‘So you’re not really the Alice in Alice in Wonderland, then?’ he asked.

‘More grown up, I suppose,’ said Alice. ‘Anyway, I think I was more like a ten-year-old in the books.’

‘Also,’ said Alice, ‘I seem to have been spiced up with someone called Tracy Beaker. And a dash of Lolita. Hmm.’

‘Let’s hope our host didn’t invite Humbert, then,’ said Pooh.

‘Actually,’ said Alice, ‘all men – and that includes whatever you are – are Humberts.’

‘Probably true,’ said Pooh. ‘What can you do?’

‘Keep it in your trousers, maybe?’ said Alice.

‘Yeah, well,’ said Pooh. ‘I don’t seem to have any. Or anything to keep in them, for that matter.’

‘Anyway,’ said Alice, ‘What about you? Are you really Winnie the fucking Pooh?’

‘Hah,’ said Pooh. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Yeah, well,’ said Alice, ‘it is what it is.’

‘We are what we are,’ said Pooh.

‘Blah-dee-blah-dee-blah,’ said Alice.

‘Actually,’ said Pooh, ‘I think I am. The character in the book.’

‘Me too,’ said Alice.

‘Talking about real names,’ said Pooh, ‘what about yours? Alice Liddell, isn’t it?’

Alice sighed. ‘I’m sure we’ll get to that.’

‘Right,’ said Pooh. ‘OK.’

‘So. Who else is coming?’ asked Pooh.

‘Let’s see,’ said Alice. ‘OK. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Don Juan from Fidelio, Zorba the Greek, Madame Blavatsky and the other Don Juan – the Casteneda one.’

‘Christ Almighty!’ said Pooh. ‘What half-baked stoned numpty would come up with that?’

‘That would be our host. Better watch your manners if you want to make it to the drunken after-dinner conversation.’

‘Yes. Right,’ said Pooh. ‘But these things must cost a fortune. You’d think they’d be more … discerning.’

‘Apparently,’ said Alice, ‘our host won it in a competition. On the back of a Mr Kipling cannabis cake.’

‘Hah,’ said Pooh, ‘that explains it.’

‘I see Blavatsky’s not coming,’ said Pooh. ‘That’s something.’

‘It could be worse,’ said Alice. ‘I was at one where they invited God.’

‘God!’ said Pooh. ‘What happened?’

‘Well, God couldn’t come, of course. He sent Jesus instead.’

‘Jesus!’ said Pooh. ‘I bet he was a laugh.’

‘He was alright, actually,’ said Alice. ‘Didn’t drink much. But it got too … intense.’

‘I’ve got some spiritual chops myself, you know,’ said Pooh, airily. ‘You might have heard of The Tao of Pooh.’

‘You mean that twee, dumbed-down cash-in?’ said Alice.

‘Ooh, get you,’ said Pooh. ‘Quite the critic.’

‘I’m a well-educated young lady, thank you,’ said Alice.

‘Ah yes,’ said Pooh. ‘That clever Mr Dodgson took a close interest in your, ah, education, didn’t he?’

‘That wasn’t me. That was Alice Liddel,’ said Alice.

‘Hmm,’ said Pooh. ‘Anyway, The Tao of Pooh was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks – and it’s required reading in college courses.’

‘You just read that in Wikipedia on the matrix,’ said Alice.

‘Yes. True. It also says I, ah, personify the Taoist concept of effortless doing, wu wei,’ said Pooh.

‘Woo-woo, more like,’ said Alice.

‘Rude,’ said Pooh.

‘Anyway,’ said Alice, ‘I’ve got chops too. I said things with deeper meaning, like, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then”.’

‘Right,’ said Pooh, ‘whatever.’

‘I could do with a drink’, he added.

The table appeared, with eight settings. ‘Eight,’ said Pooh. ‘In case Blavatsky changes her mind, I suppose.’

They sat at one end of the table. A waiter appeared, carrying a tray. He set a plate beside Alice.

‘Nibbles,’ said the waiter. ‘For Ms Alice, jam tarts.’

‘Very funny,’ said Alice. But she took one and nibbled at it.

‘And for Mr Pooh,’ said the waiter, ‘some honey.’

The waiter set a plate with an open jar and a spoon on it beside Pooh and then disappeared.

‘Mmmm,’ said Pooh, ‘honey.’

He leant forward to put his tongue in the honey, but, noticing Alice watching, used the spoon instead. After a while, he leant back, wiping his mouth with his paw, which he then licked.

‘Not bad,’ he said.

He sniggered. ‘I suppose there’ll be raw fish for the seagull. Or chips. What about you? Magic mushrooms?’

‘That wasn’t … It was … Oh, never mind,’ said Alice.

‘Talking of psychoactive substances, I could still do with that drink,’ said Pooh. ‘Or a bong. Or both.’

A loaded bong and a tray of drinks appeared.

Pooh opened a can of beer, flicked on the gas lighter, and took a long, bubbling hit on the bong.

Alice poured herself a glass of cider. ‘You’re missing Piglet, aren’t you,’ she said.

‘Piglet,’ said Pooh, ‘Hah!’ He sniffed. ‘The little bastard. Hope he’s OK.’

‘Don’t get all maudlin on me,’ said Alice.

‘We’re very close,’ said Pooh. ‘Were. In the forest.’

‘Forest?’ said Alice. ‘Wood, you mean.’

‘We called it the forest,’ said Pooh. ‘Or the wood. You wouldn’t understand. Woodn’t, get it? Anyway, it’s part of Ashdown Forest in the real world.’

‘Which one?’ asked Alice, ignoring Pooh’s pun.

‘Well, that one. Obviously,’ said Pooh. ‘But I take your point.’

They drank in silence for a moment.

Pooh had a Thought. ‘Has any one ever escaped from one of these things?’ he asked Alice.

‘Like in a violent-sci-fi-action-movie kind of way, for instance?’ he added, hopefully.

Alice sighed. ‘You’re sighing again,’ said Pooh. ‘I’ll take that as a No.’

‘For now,’ he said. ‘Anyway. Where are the rest of them?’

Alice studied the matrix. ‘Seems there’s a power outage in the Akashic Dimension. It’s holding things up.’

‘Just us two for now, then,’ said Pooh. ‘I quite like you, actually. You could be my new Piglet.’

‘Jesus,’ said Alice, ‘you’ve moved on pretty quick from the old one. Anyway, I had enough of pigs with that bloody baby.’

‘”Speak harshly to your little boy, and beat him when he sneezes. He only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases.” One of my favourite rhymes,’ said Pooh.

‘You like my adventures, then?’ asked Alice.

‘I do,’ said Pooh. They drank in silence for another moment.

‘The thing is …’ said Alice, at the same as Pooh said. “So actually …”

They laughed. ‘Awkward first date moment,’ said Pooh.

‘It’s not a bloody date,’ said Alice. ‘Fuck’s sake.’

‘Never say never,’ said Pooh.

‘That’s very Tao,’ said Alice.

‘Ha!’ said Pooh. ‘So, you first.’

‘Oh yes,’ said Alice. ‘The thing is, I’m a bit of a loner. You had all your friends in the … fucking forest. I was on my own in Wonderland.’

‘OK,’ said Pooh.

‘I mean I met people and … things,’ said Alice, ‘but I had no company, as such.’

‘OK,’ said Pooh.

‘I didn’t need anybody,’ said Alice. I was self-contained. Am self-contained.’

‘OK,’ said Pooh.

‘I mean I missed my sister and my kitten. Dinah. A bit,’ said Alice. ‘From my “real” life,’ she said, using air quotes. ‘But I was basically a loner, a strong character.’

‘You kept banging on about Dinah,’ said Pooh. ‘In the book. Sounded like more than “a bit”.’

‘Anyway,’ said Pooh. ‘What about Lolita and Tracy Beaker?’

‘They’re, like, add-ons,’ said Alice. ‘A soupçon of je-ne-sais-quois.’

‘Mais oui,’ said Pooh. ‘Like my Ted.’

‘Anyway,’ said Alice. ‘Sorry, but I’m not going to be your new Piglet. Or your anything.’

‘OK,’ said Pooh.

‘Jesus!’ said Alice. ‘Have you just done a crash course in counselling, or what?’

‘Well, yes, actually,’ said Pooh. ‘Co-counselling. It’s all about feelings and listening, you know. You’re not supposed to say, ‘OK’, apparently, but it’s kind of hard not to. Please continue.’

‘No, that was it. What were you going to say?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Pooh, ‘er …’

‘Perhaps that you’ve lost your short-term memory thanks to the weed?’ said Alice.

‘Well, yes. But no, that wasn’t it,’ said Pooh.

‘Ah yes,’ said Pooh, ‘What it was is, I’ve never had a, er, relationship with anyone. Christopher Robin and Piglet, they were platonic. Despite the rumours.’

‘OK,’ said Alice.

‘Now you’re doing it! It’s quite annoying, isn’t it,’ said Pooh.

‘So, anyway,’ said Pooh, ‘when we get to the awkward first kiss, it might be extra awkward, you know?’

‘Jesus, Bear. Fuck off,’ said Alice. ‘You weren’t listening at all.’

No, I was,’ said Pooh. ‘That’s what I was thinking before you said all that. You asked me.’

‘Oh yeh,’ said Alice. ‘True.’

‘I mean, I totally respect your … whatever,’ said Pooh. ‘I was just saying.’

‘Well don’t,’ said Alice.

They drank in silence again. Pooh took another hit on the bong.

‘It’s not that …’ said Alice, at the same as Pooh said. “I mean I …”

‘Fuck’s sake,’ said Alice. They laughed.

‘No,’ said Pooh. ‘I was just thinking. What you said about being on your own in Wonderland, that’s why the Disney version flopped, isn’t it. There was no heart, was there.’

‘The Disney Pooh wasn’t so great, was it,’ said Alice.

‘No, right, all the subtle nuance of a sugared sledgehammer, someone said,’ said Pooh.

‘But we had a warm heart in the Wood, didn’t we,’ he said. ‘I mean, Wonderland was funny and enchanting and intriguing, but it was… cold.’

Oh well,’ said Alice. ‘Like Estella in Great Expectations. Alice-stella. You can be Pip. Winnie the Pip.’

‘Hah. Yes,’ said Pooh. ‘OK. What happens at the end?’

‘It’s a happy ending, ‘said Alice.

‘Well, there you go, ‘said Pooh. ‘It’s a date.’

Alice sighed. Pooh had another spoonful of honey. Alice drank her cider.

‘With Charles Dodgson as Miss Havisham,’ said Pooh.

‘Now you’re going too far,’ said Alice.

‘You started it,’ said Pooh.

‘You started it,’ said Alice. ‘With Walt fucking Disney.

‘Yes, fair enough,’ said Pooh. ‘He didn’t get either of us. Sod Disney.’

Alice drained her cider.

‘Bing sings, but Walt Disney,’ said Alice.

‘It’s the end of a joke,’ she added.

‘Right,’ said Pooh. ‘More cider?’

Alice tilted her head in assent. Pooh poured some.

‘Walt disnae,’ he said, in a passable Scots accent. Alice laughed.

‘It’s good to see you laugh,’ said Pooh. He checked the matrix.

‘Patsy Kensit,’ he said.

‘Who?’ said Alice.

‘Patsy kens it, but Walt disnae,’ said Pooh, in his Scots accent.

‘No, that’s good,’ said Alice, laughing.

‘”Bing sings”…rings, though,’ she said.

‘Hah!’ said Pooh. ‘True.’

‘What were you going to say?’ asked Pooh.

‘Oh,’ said Alice, ‘I was going to say something about us being characters, and not really human. But then you’re a bear anyway.’ She laughed again. She was slightly drunk.

Pooh thought about it. ‘We are real,’ he said. ‘Real people. Not fully human, of course. But real enough, I’d say.’

Pooh had another hit on the bong. He was pretty baked. ‘I’m going to lie down,’ he said.

‘Me too,’ said Alice. They lay down at opposite ends of the long sofa. Small tables appeared at their sides.

The waiter brought their drinks, the bong and their snacks. ‘Will there be anything else?,’ he asked.

‘How about some music?’ said Pooh. ‘What would you like?’ he asked Alice. He did a quick scan. ‘As long as it’s not Ed Sheeran,’ he added.

Alice also did a quick scan. ‘Got to be Hendrix,’ she said. ‘A selection, please,’ she told the waiter.

‘Certainly, Miss,’ said the waiter. All Along the Watchtower began.

‘I’d have chosen something…sexier,’ said Pooh.

Alice sighed and drank her cider. They listened to Jimi.

‘So you think I’m a funky chick, do you?’ Alice asked.

‘Listen,’ said Pooh, ‘You’re a bit drunk, and a gentleman – or gentle… bear – would never take advantage…’

‘Yes,’ said Alice. ‘But you’ve got a bit of Ted in you, haven’t you. I wonder which bit.’ She cackled.

‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘It’s the cider talking. Talking dirty.’ She laughed again.

Hendrix sang about chopping down a mountain. ‘Hey Google!’ said Pooh.

The music volume dropped. ‘Amazing,’ said Pooh. ‘Play some Bach.’

The music changed. ‘That’s not…sexy,’ said Alice.

‘No, I know,’ said Pooh. ‘Well, not obviously, anyway. No, I thought something… calming might be good.’

‘What,’ said Alice. ‘Calm down the hysterical woman? There was a lot of that in my day.’

‘No. Yes. No. I don’t know,’ said Pooh.

‘Right – that makes sense,’ said Alice.

‘Well, after all, I am, fundamentally, a Bear of Very Little Brain,’ said Pooh.

‘Fucking A to that,’ said Alice.

There was a muted bang. Madame Blavatsky appeared.

‘Here I am,’ she said. ‘Decided to come after all. Where is everyone? Is it just you two?’

Pooh sat up, stood up and bowed. ‘Madame,’ he said.

‘Creep,’ said Alice. ‘Hello,’ she said to Blavatsky, with a gracious wave. ‘Welcome to the machine.’

‘Thank you, dear,’ said Blavatsky. ‘I see you two started without me.’ She sat in the armchair and smoothed her skirts.

The waiter brought her a glass of water. She drank deeply. ‘Thirsty work,’ she said, ‘travelling through the multiverse’. She had another drink.

Pooh checked the matrix.

‘So,’ said Pooh to Blavatsky, ‘sage or charlatan? Which was it?’

‘Fuck’s sake!’ said Blavatsky. ‘Give me a break – I just got here.’

‘That’s what I said,’ said Pooh. ‘Sorry – it’s the dope.’

‘He’s been on that Wikipedia again,’ said Alice.

‘Well that’s more or less what the matrix is, isn’t it,’ said Blavatsky. ‘They haven’t worked out how to upload the Akashic record yet.’

‘Probably just as well,’ she muttered to herself. ‘It’s a long story,’ she said out loud.

‘Much of it uncorroborated, apparently,’ said Pooh.

Blavatsky looked sternly at Pooh and Alice. ‘As I’ve said before,’ she said, ‘alcohol is only less destructive to the development of the inner powers than the habitual use of hashish.’

‘Some would disagree,’ said Alice. ‘Using the Prague Spiritual Questionnaire, data from 155 respondents showed users of marijuana and alcohol scored significantly higher in the mysticism dimension of spirituality. It’s a peer-reviewed paper.’

‘Fuck’s sake, you’re a feisty pair,’ said Blavatsky. ‘I mean, Prague? What do they know?’

She finished the water. ‘So. Where are the others?’

‘Delayed,’ said Pooh. ‘You looking forward to meeting Don Juan?’ he asked. ‘The Casteneda one?’

‘Of course,’ said Blavatsky. ‘But I’ve met him before. At a convention in Akasha. Nice fellow.’

‘So,’ said Pooh to Blavatsky, ‘with your free-spirit status, you come and go as you please?’

‘That’s right.’ said Blavatsky.

‘So,’ said Pooh, ‘can you take… anyone… with you?’

‘Here we go,’ said Alice. ‘He thinks he can escape,’ she told Blavatsky. ‘In a “violent sci-fi action movie” way,’ she added sarcastically, using air quotes.

‘Oh dear!’ said Blavatsky. ‘Well I’m sure there’s some sort of security. Waiter! Champagne!’

Alice and Pooh looked at Blavatsky.

‘OK,’ she said. ‘Fair cop, as they say, apparently. I’m a fraud. But I’m also a sage. It’s complicated.’

The waiter brought an ice bucket and champagne. He poured Blavatsky a drink.

‘Will there be anything else?’ he asked.

‘How about a machine gun?’ said Pooh.

Alice sighed. The waiter raised an eyebrow and disappeared.

‘Probably gone to call security,’ said Alice. ‘Serve you right.’

Alice looked at Blavatsky. ‘So,’ she said, ‘if you don’t mind me asking. How old are you? Now.’

Blavatsky sighed.

‘Now you’re both doing it,’ said Pooh. ‘Sighing.’

‘Physically – as it were – mid-30s,’ said Blavatsky. ‘At my best. All ailments gone and at my, ah, least unattractive.’

She patted her hair, and glanced at Pooh.

‘Emotionally and mentally,’ she went on, ‘as my mental faculties were more or less intact when I “died“,’ – she did air quotes – ‘I’m 59 – as I was then.’

‘That’s how it is in the afterlife for, ah, real people,’ she added. ‘No offence.’

‘None taken,’ said Alice. ‘We were just talking about that – how “real“‘ – air quotes – ‘we are.’

Pooh was still thinking about escaping. He said to Alice, ‘You’ve done this before. So what happens at the end? Of the party.’

‘Jesus. Fuck.’ said Alice. ‘I can’t remember. I mean, it just faded out. And then I was here.’

‘Do you know?’ Pooh asked Blavatsky.

‘Er, I think you get stored,’ said Blavatsky.

‘In Akasha,’ she added.

‘You didn’t mention that in your writings,’ said Pooh. ‘You said Akasha’s occupied by “primordial consciousness”,’ he said (with air quotes). ‘Nothing about storing fictional characters.’

‘Yes, well,’ said Blavatsky, ‘it’s more complicated than I thought.’

‘What about your “Masters“?’ asked Alice (with air quotes). ‘Weren’t they supposed to know everything?’

Blavatsky sighed. ‘Yes. They were. They are. They do. But…’

‘Hmm,’ said Pooh. He fired up the bong and passed it to Blavatsky. ‘It’s like a cross between a chillum and a hookah,’ he said, helpfully.

‘Hah!’, Alice said. “And there’s that Ted-X talk.”

Blavatsky wiped the mouthpiece with her handkerchief, and took a long hit. ‘Wooh!’ she said. ‘Been a while.’

Pooh raised his can of beer. ‘Well, Cheers,’ he said.

Alice and Blavatsky raised their glasses. ‘Cheers,’ they said.

Blavatsky giggled.

There was a muted bang and a squawk.

—————————–
To be continued…

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