Authors: Mainak Dhar
Hunting the Snark
An Alice in Deadland Adventure
Copyright © 2013 Mainak
All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction, and all characters and incidents
depicted in it are purely the result of the author’s imagination, or have been
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely
Table of Contents
As always, for
Puja & Aaditya
GREETINGS FROM THE DEADLAND
In late November of 2011, I
uploaded my novel Alice in Deadland to the Kindle store using Amazon’s KDP
self-publishing program. I had first discovered the tremendous opportunity in
reaching readers worldwide through the Kindle store in March, and after a
modest beginning (I sold 118 ebooks in my first month), I was beginning to see
some success, having sold some 20,000 ebooks by November. However, nothing had
prepared me for the reception my story about a girl called Alice in a dystopian
world called the Deadland got from readers. Alice in Deadland quickly became an
Amazon.com bestseller and encouragement from readers like yourself led me to
write the sequel, Through The Killing Glass, which was published in March 2012.
As of November 2012, the two Alice
in Deadland novels had been downloaded by well over 100,000 readers on the
Kindle store. This was the kind of reception most writers dream of, and
certainly more than I had ever expected. I received more than two hundred
reader emails and also started a Facebook group for Alice in Deadland fans (at
The feedback I got was pretty unanimous—readers wanted to know more about the
world that Alice found herself in. How had our civilization been reduced to the
Deadland? What was the story behind some of the characters readers encountered
such as the Queen and Bunny Ears?
That feedback motivated me to keep
the story alive, and I wrote the prequel to the series, Off With Their Heads.
As I interacted with readers, I was inspired to take the story further. Many of
my readers asked me what would happen if Alice came back to the land her
parents came from, the land where the architects of The Rising were still
entrenched—the United States? So, this story was born, and I do hope you have
as much fun reading it as I did while writing it. As a mark of gratitude to the
readers who have inspired me along the way, I ‘drafted’ many of them into the
resistance to help Alice on this new and perilous journey. You know who you
are—this is your story as much as it is mine.
The one day of freedom the people
of Shanghai enjoyed was exhilarating till it was ended by a mushroom cloud.
Galvanized by news from returning
veterans from the Indian Deadland about the true nature of the war on terror
being waged there, discontent had been simmering in the Mainland for months.
Then, one day, a young girl had appeared on TV screens, shocking at first due
to her half-human, half-Biter nature. The words she had to say were even more
shocking. Alice Gladwell’s story laid bare the lies the Central Committee had been
peddling for years and finally brought home to millions of Mainlanders what the
war had really been about. The Rising had occurred more than fifteen years ago,
but now they knew that it had not been the sudden emergence of undead monsters
called Biters that had brought it about. Very human machinations and politics
had led to the spread of the infection. The war that was being waged in the
name of security was in fact being waged to secure the interests of the Central
Committee and Zeus, the mercenary army that acted on its behalf.
The Central Committee had reacted
as tyrants have throughout history when confronted with uprisings. They lashed
out with overwhelming force. But again, as history teaches us, air power and
artillery are never powerful enough to crush a people’s desire for freedom.
Under the guidance of senior Red Guard officers who had defected to their
cause, their armory bolstered by missiles and heavy weapons defectors brought
with them, the dissidents began to turn the tide. There was fierce fighting for
four months, with heavy losses on both sides, and then suddenly the Zeus
troopers began to leave. Their masters had seen that the Central Committee was
now living on borrowed time, and they wanted to cut their losses. That finally
turned the tide, and the Central Committee fell.
As with most revolutions, the end
was not pretty. Old men who had clung onto power at the cost of thousands of
lives were executed in the streets, and in a particularly vicious form of
justice, several Central Committee members were exiled out of the city to try
and survive in lands infested with Biters.
That morning, General Chen had
been on the video link with Wonderland, relaying news of their final victory to
his comrades there. It had been more than a month since he had seen Alice, the
girl he had first tried to destroy, and then been inspired by, as he waged his
own battle for liberation in the Mainland. Alice had told him that the people
of Wonderland had used the last four months to rebuild their city after the damage
it had suffered in the assault by the Red Guards, spearheaded by the half-Biter
Red Queen that the Central Committee had created in its labs to destroy Alice.
Biters and humans were beginning to live together, and while trust was going to
take time to build, most people in Wonderland had come to accept coexistence.
Hearing and seeing the progress in Wonderland gave Chen hope that his own
nation would one day know such peace. If the barren wasteland that had come to
be known as the Deadland could now be the home of such a flourishing and
peaceful city, there was hope that humanity, and human civilization, could be
resurrected after more than fifteen years of war.
His time in the torture chambers
of the Central Committee had left him with one ruined eye and a leg that didn’t
quite work any more. However, his days of fighting were long over. Now as he
watched civilians and Red Guards mingle in the battle-scarred streets of
Shanghai, he felt that perhaps there was going to be peace again in his
Soon after his call with Alice, he
was called by one of his officers, the man’s wavering voice betraying his
‘Sir, there’s something wrong. The
men at the airfield are picking up an incoming target on their radar.’
Chen got on the radio to the
airfield, which had been won in a bitterly fought battle just a couple of weeks
ago. Loyal Red Guards were now manning the radar and the few helicopters that
had survived the battles. When the radar operator told him that the contact was
moving in at over a thousand kilometers per hour, Chen began to worry. There
were no fighter jets left in the Mainland and the handful of helicopters that
had survived the fighting were now under the control of his forces. Nobody had
fired a cruise missile in more than fifteen years. Indeed, there were not
supposed to be any left.
A forward patrol then radioed in,
saying that they had spotted a low-flying rocket flying towards Shanghai. Chen
slammed his fist on the table in frustration. When the American Zeus officers
had left, he had been puzzled as to why they had gone to such lengths to
sabotage the few air defenses left around Shanghai. Now he began to suspect
that their withdrawal had been part of a plan. Still, some of his men would
have hand-held surface-to-air missiles, and he began barking orders to have
them moved to the likely path of the incoming rocket. Even as he started
issuing his orders, he knew that in a city the size of Shanghai, he would never
get enough men in position in time.
‘Sir, the rocket is now just a
minute away from impact. Target seems to be the centre of the city.’
Chen put down his headset and went
to the balcony of the hotel that had been serving as his makeshift
headquarters. People were still celebrating outside and a group of young
soldiers flirted with a few women. He smiled sadly, knowing now that the battle
was far from over. Someone had fired one missile at the city, and it would
certainly not be the last.
Part of his mind wondered where
the rocket would have come from. As the Central Committee had fallen, Chen had
learned that the men who ruled the Mainland had only been functionaries of
hidden masters called the Executive Committee. Perhaps the Executive Committee
had retaliated for the loss of its dominions in China with the missile strike.
There were no more functioning air
raid warnings, so word was being passed around, largely through word of mouth
or radios, warning people to take cover. Someone below shouted, pointing at the
sky, and Chen looked up to see a small, dark shape diving in towards the city.
He thought of going back to warn the radar operator to keep a watch for more
missiles when the missile exploded.
Chen died a few seconds later,
along with thousands of others caught in the fireball. As the blast wave spread
through the city, thousands more perished, and the few who survived had to live
out the remainder of their lives with burns and radiation, and with no access
to any medical facilities.
‘Come on, turn on the screen!’
Arjun had spoken the words, giving
voice to what many of the hundreds gathered around the screen felt. As had been
the routine over the last few months, the people of Wonderland had gathered
around a giant TV screen which Danish had hooked up to his computer, projecting
the latest news from around the world and also updates on what was happening in
The small community that had
started out in the ruins of what had once been the city of Delhi had almost
been decimated by the attack launched by the Central Committee’s Red Guards and
the force of Biters led by the half-Biter Red Queen. Everyone at Wonderland
knew that they had enjoyed a very narrow escape, and the crowd around the
screen at the abandoned stadium reflected that. Alice was there of course, and
while she had decided not to seek any formal position of authority, it was an
unspoken truth that this young girl was their leader. There were those who had
started Wonderland with Alice—men like Arjun, the guerilla fighter who had once
been a shoe salesman; and Satish, the Zeus officer who had defected with many
of his men and weapons and played a pivotal role in the battles that had
followed—and then there were the Biters.
Just six months ago, the Biters
had been shunted off to a reservation on the outskirts of Wonderland, but now
they were standing mingled among the human inhabitants of Wonderland. Part of
that was due to the fact that Alice’s blood samples that Dr. Edwards had taken
back to the United States with him had led to the development of a vaccine,
which had over the last two months been administered to all the humans in
Wonderland. At one stroke, knowing that they could no longer be transformed
into Biters on being bitten made people far more comfortable with the idea of
having Biters around. Also, it brought home the truth that the Biters were not
some sort of supernatural undead, but were suffering from some sort of
disease—a disease that could still not be cured, but at least could now be
vaccinated against. However, part of that newfound acceptance of the Biters
came from the knowledge that without Alice and her Biters, Wonderland would
have been lost. Biters like Bunny Ears, now standing next to Alice, with one
hand missing below the elbow and bloody scars over his body—testament to the
many battles he had fought in defense of Wonderland.
Danish, who had become the eyes
and ears of Wonderland, monitoring the world outside from the communications
center called Looking Glass set up in an old temple, was now hooking up his
computers to the screen. All morning, he had been in communication with his
counterparts in Shanghai, and the people of Wonderland had been rejoicing in
the news that the Central Committee had finally crumbled. What would follow was
still unclear, but at least the destiny of the Mainland now lay in the hands of
her people, not the Central Committee who were looking out for only their own
interests. Danish was trying to hook up his computers to cameras set up in the
middle of Shanghai where General Chen had told them they would formally
announce victory and lay out the path ahead.
Alice saw the people gathered
around her, and she knew that finally, she was home. She had been born soon
after The Rising, when the Biters emerged and the world’s powers tore
themselves apart in an orgy of nuclear madness. She had grown up in the
Deadland outside what had been Delhi, and her home had been a settlement whose
security from bandits and Biters and freedom from the mercenary armies of the
Central Committee had been zealously defended by her father and others like
him. They had paid dearly for that freedom—Alice had lost her family in the
fighting, and she had also lost her humanity. She was now half-Biter, and after
all that she had gone through, she did not regret it any more. At sixteen, she
was too young to think of things like destiny, but Arjun had once told her that
perhaps this was what she was meant to do, and she was beginning to think he
was right. Seeing the Biters and humans standing together, children playing
freely, people laughing and joking together, without worrying about air raids
or attacks by Red Guards, she felt that it had all been worth it. She was
looking forward to seeing the people of the Mainland rejoice in their own
hard-fought freedom. There is nothing sweeter than freedom won at the cost of
your own blood, sweat and tears.