Alice in Kindleland (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)
Chapter 1: Downloading the Rabbit Hole
Alice was beginning to get very tired of waiting in line with her sister at the bank, and having nothing to do. She felt very cross with herself for having left her book at home. Once or twice she had peeped into the cellphone her sister was using, but it only had pictures on it, “and what use is a picture without conversations?”
Suddenly, a White Reader ran close by her. There was nothing so remarkable in that, nor was it so unusual to hear it say, “Oh, my e-books and Whispernet! I’m late!” Alice had heard talking e-book readers before, and had always found the mispronunciations off-putting, because she was very careful about “pronounciations” herself, as Alice said it.
However, when she looked closely at the Reader’s homescreen, she saw that one of the entries was in bright purple letters. “Oh my, ” thought Alice, “I have never seen color on an e-reader before.” The words said Click Me. Alice thought back over all of the Internet privacy lessons she had learned in school, and she could not recall anything about not clicking on purple letters. Alice was so very bored, she clicked on it.
Download, download, download! Alice felt herself being pulled into the White Reader. As she passed through the screen, the e-ink lightly dusted her hair and clothes, like the pollen from an acacia tree she had once seen at the zoo. Thinking about the zoo made her think about animals, and thinking about animals made her think of her dog, Ellen Barking.
“I wonder if Ellen would like going into an e-book reader,” Alice thought. “I’m not sure that she would like this spinning around and around.” For Alice was still spinning slowly, as she had been since passing through the screen. Either this was a very large file, or a very slow network. “It has certainly been more than sixty seconds. Ellen does like to spin herself around before laying
down, but I don’t know if I shall end up laying down or standing up. Perhaps she could catch a frog in here…that always makes her hoppy.” Somehow, hoppy did not sound like the right word, but Alice was getting quite jumbled with all the spinning.
“I wonder if there are frogs in an e-reader. She might catch a blog. But do dogs read blogs? Or do blogs eat dogs? Oh dear, I should not like my dog being eaten, I think.”
Alice found herself alighting gently in a net. As she looked ’round, she saw a most peculiar mouse some distance away in the net. Instead of ears it had two buttons. Instead of the usual tail, it had a long cable that trailed off so that Alice could not see the end of it, if it had one.
Alice tried to call to the mouse, but found that she could not yell. In fact, she could not even use her normal “indoor voice”.
“This must be the Whispernet the White Reader mentioned,” rasped Alice.
She determined to make her way to the odd creature, as it was the only thing of interest she could see. She wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish it: she was still a little dizzy from her download, and was afraid she could fall off the net.
She began walking, which is always a good idea when you want to get somewhere. She encountered the mouse’s tail. “Curious,” said Alice. “The tail isn’t a tail at all. It seems to be a wire. And what odd little twists and turns it is taking.”
As she walked along the tail, she noticed that the bumps were making letters.
“Wire A, Wire B…”
Alice had learned her alphabet well. She followed along, repeating each of the letters, so she would not lose her way.
As she approached the mouse, she called out the letters, still in a whisper:
“Wire S, Wire T, Wire U…”
“Why am I?” whispered the mouse, sounding very indignant. “I never! That is a very impertinent and existential question to ask someone upon first meeting a person. Why are you?”
Alice was quite taken aback by this. “That really isn’t what I meant at all. I was just reading your tail.”
“Homonyms! I quite detest homonyms. They are so ambiguous.”
While Alice had almost always paid attention in school, she wasn’t quite sure what the mouse meant, but it didn’t sound at all pleasant.
“Please, Mr. Mouse,” said Alice, making a curtsey…which is not an easy thing to do on a net. “I didn’t mean to butt in…”
“Are you making fun of my ears? Or is that another homonym?”
Alice had quite forgotten that the mouse had buttons instead of ears. She thought to herself, “I wonder how it can hear me?”
“I wasn’t making fun of them. It is true they’re quite different from other mouse ears I have seen. I have never seen other mice with buttons on their heads, I’m sure.”
“They’re and their! Now you are doing it on purpose.”
“I am not!” said Alice, who although she knew to be polite to her betters, thought that might not apply to rodents, even ones with wire tails.
At this the Mouse turned away.
Alice was afraid she had offended it, and tried to answer the question.
“I was bored, so I wanted to find–”
“Bored or board?”
“I don’t think I can be ‘board’.”
“Are you saying you have never been on a ship?”
Alice was getting more and more confused. She had once been on a small ferry, but was afraid to mention it…she knew there were “fairies” and “ferries”, and though she wasn’t entirely sure of
the difference, she had begun to understand that it was two words that sounded alike that so bothered the Mouse.
“I have,” said Alice, feeling very clever that she did not mention the type of ship.
“Then you have been aboard.”
“Now you’re doing it.”
“Annoying and confusing, isn’t it?”
“I just wanted to find…”
At this the mouse pulled out a small pad of paper and furiously scribbled on it, then handed it to Alice with a flourish.
It read, “25 pence penalty for using homonyms”
Alice complained,”25 pence?”
The Mouse smugly replied, “You said you wanted to be fined. I have fined you.”
“But I didn’t! I said I wanted to find-”
“To, two, too! Hand it back!”
The Mouse scratched out the 25 pence, and wrote instead “2 pound penalty for using homonyms”.
“There,” said the Mouse, “you have been two fined. Happy?”
Alice was not feeling happy. However, she thought, at least I am not bored. Still, she had had quite enough of the mouse.
She set off on the net, to see what other interesting things she could find.
Chapter 2: The Mad e-Party
As Alice traveled along the Whispernet, she found it had begun to gently bounce higher and then lower, as though someone had grabbed it by a side and was moving it up and down, like she did when she was
making the bed.
“I think Ellen would enjoy this,” thought Alice, as the wind blew past her face.
“Who is Ellen?” said a voice. Since the voice was a whisper, Alice wasn’t quite sure where the source was. She looked around, and saw a giant rabbit, nearly twice as large as Alice herself.
The rabbit was standing on a board that seemed to coast up and down on the net.
“It must be a surf bunny,” thought Alice, “surfing the net.”
Out loud, she said, “Ellen is my dog.”
“Oh,” said the Surf Bunny, “I don’t like dogs.”
“Do you like homonyms?” asked Alice.
“What are those?”
Alice liked the Bunny much better than the Mouse. She felt much more comfortable asking a question.
“Please, Bunny, can you help me? I am trying to find something interesting.”
“I am a specialist at finding things. Climb in my ear.”
Alice thought this might be the strangest thing she had heard since going through the e-reader screen.
“I wouldn’t fit.”
Alice watched as the Surf Bunny’s ear began to grow. As it grew, it became red and smoke came out of it. Soon, it became a perfect train engine, with the Bunny trailing behind it like the rest of the train, its fuzzy tail serving as the caboose.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing!” said Alice.
“You’ve never heard of an Engine-ear?”
“I have heard of something like it,” said Alice doubtfully.
“Like it you will! And it is not just any engine…it is a search engine! What are you trying to find?”
“Well, I was looking for something interesting.”
“Interesting…a bank account? They have interest. One million bank accounts found.”
“No, like a party.”
“Oh, I have just the thing! All aboard! Toot-toot!”
Alice took a seat in the engine, and off they went.
As they went, the Surf Bunny sang this song:
“I won’t leave you in the lurch
You want results? Use my search
You might think it’s very funny
Searching with a surfing bunny”
Alice did find it quite amusing. Suddenly, she realized that the she could hear the bunny quite clearly.
“We must have gone off the Whispernet,” said Alice.
“Yep. We can’t stay on it all the time…we’d run out of energy. Here we are!”
Alice stepped out of the engine, and it began to turn back into a bunny ear.
“Thank you, Bunny!” said Alice. She went to scratch it behind the ear (for Ellen like that very much) when suddenly she got a tremendous electric shock.
“Oh, I forgot to warn you: I’m the Conductor, too. Enjoy the e-party!”
“What is an e-party?” said Alice.
“It won’t be boring!” said the Bunny, as it left with a wave. Surfers almost never go anywhere without a wave.
“I have heard of a tea party, but not an e-party,” thought Alice.
Alice saw a table with a curious collection of creatures around it. There was a large toad, a small animal who appeared to be snoring
loudly, and a very small man with a very large top hat. “He must be a magician and that must be the party,” thought Alice.
As she got near the table, the small man jumped up.
“I don’t like you!” screamed the man, and leaping as high in the air as he could, he took a gold star from his hat and slapped it on Alice’s forehead.
“Oh!” said Alice, quite taken aback.
“Terrible reply,” said the man. “Where was the development? Where was the wit! Don’t waste your money!”
“Don’t mind him,” croaked the toad. “That’s the Mad Rater. And this is the Dormant.”
“Not useful!” screamed the Mad Rater.
“No’ useful,” mumbled the Dormant.
Suddenly, Alice heard the sound of a brass band.
She turned to look, and saw two large balloons, shaped liked the numbers 1 and 2. She thought at first that the music was coming from them. However, she soon realized there was a deflated balloon on the ground in the shape of the number three.
“How curious,” said Alice.
“Our music all comes from the Empty Three. You should know that! One star!” said the Rater.
“Emp’ee Three,” mumbled the Dormant.
Alice looked around for the toad, but didn’t see it.
“I’m here,” came the toad’s voice. “Since they voted me not useful, you have to say you want to see me, or you won’t.”
“I do want to see you,” said Alice, who had taken somewhat of a liking to the creature.
“Then now you do.”
“I do. I know you are a toad…did you say that was a dormouse?”
“A dormant. We can’t get it out of sleep mode.”
“But it was talking.”
“Yes, it can talk when asleep.”
“How can it make any sense?”
“It wouldn’t make much difference either way, I’m afraid.”
“Five stars!” screamed the Mad Rater.
“Oh. I thought you had said Dormouse. What a large number of rodents I have seen today! A mouse, a bunny, and now a dormant.”
The toad swelled itself to many times its size, and slowly let out an answer that seemed to go on for a very long time.
“A mouse is, as you suggest, properly a rodent. It is a member of the genus Mus, subfamly Murinae, Family Muridae, Superfamily Muroidea, order Rodentia. The bunny is a lagomorph, from the Greek ‘Lagos’ or hare, and the Latin ‘morph’, for shape. Hares are part of the order Lagomorpha, along with the pikas. The dormouse, which it is not, but it it was, is indeed a member of the order Rodentia, and in the suborder of Sciuromorpha.”
“Not useful!” screamed the Mad Rater and the Dormant together.
The toad disappeared again.
“I want to see you,” said Alice, and the toad appeared again.
“Why do they keep doing that? It seems quite mad.”
“It is. Not crazy, mind you, but they are both angry.”
“Why do you come here, then?”
“I like parties.”
“So do I,” said Alice. “What is your name?”
“They call me the Much Air. I do know that I tend to ramble on some times, so I don’t mind it. It is a reasonable assessment of my contributions to the conversation. I can’t help it, I just don’t seem to be able to stop talking. I enjoy it, and it seems to me that other people like it as well.”
“Not useful!” cried the Rater and the Dormant.
“You really should stop saying that,” said Alice to the pair.
“I don’t like armadillos!” screamed the Mad Rater, pulling the star off Alice’s forehead and slapping on a new one.
“I’m not an armadillo!” said Alice, who wasn’t quite sure what that was, but was quite certain she wasn’t one.
The White Reader came up along side Alice. “Let us sit.”
“Where do we sit?” asked Alice, who had just noticed that there were no chairs at the table.
“There, on that rope.”
Alice noticed a tightrope like she had seen in the circus, about a foot off the ground.
“Of course. You can’t go to an e-party if you aren’t on-line.”
Alice noticed a very rigid line going all the way around the table.
“What is that?”
“Those are the Guidelines. No one follows them.”
“Then why have them at all?” asked Alice.
“Not useful!” screamed the Mad Rater, looking right at Alice.
“Not useful.” mumbled the Dormant.
“Not useful,” said the White Reader quietly.
Alice felt herself disappearing.
“Come on, sleepyhead. We’re next.” Alice’s sister nudged her as a voice said, “I can help you here.”
Alice saw that it was a large bald man. He rather reminded her of the Much Air.
“Who are you?” asked Alice quizzically.
“I’m the Teller…”
This story was inspired by a comment by Nicolette Rivers. A version of it originally appeared in this thread in the Amazon Kindle community on June 23, 2009.
This version originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.