By Beatrice Preti, Class of 2017
“I don’t believe I was ever this bad,” said the strange being, who was falling beside Alice ,though it seemed to be enjoying the ride. “Here, take this. You’ll need it.”
“What is — oomph!”
Alice landed face-first in a pile of wonderfully soft pillows. “Oh, my,” said Alice. “These pillows are so wonderfully…soft, I think…I could…just…”
“Get up! Get up!” Alice’s coffee addict guide clapped in Alice’s ears. “In medicine, we don’t have time to sleep!”
“That’s ridiculous!” said Alice. “Everyone needs sleep.”
The coffee addict seemed to consider this. “Perhaps,” it conceded, “but even if you do make time to sleep, you’ll just toss and turn and drift in and out of nightmares.”
“Good heavens!” said Alice. “Whatever happened to self-care?”
The coffee addict shook its head. “Idealists. But here, quick! You need your PPE to continue.”
“PPE! I love PPE!”
The coffee addict looked at Alice. “Seriously? I need more coffee.”
It was now that Alice realised her gender-neutral guide was already clad in full scrubs, complete with a surgical mask, gloves, and hat. The chest pocket of her top was embroidered with a name: Mary Ann.
“OMG!!!!!” screamed Alice. “You look like a REAL DOCTOR! SO COOOOOOOL!!!!!!”
Mary Ann raised an eyebrow.
“It’s just that you’re…so…perfectly lovely…” Alice whispered, now slightly embarrassed.
“You need to put your mask on before we go inside,” said Mary Ann.
As if in response to Alice’s question, there was a gust of wind, and the two girls were lifted into the air and blown through a series of intricate corridors, full of twists and turns.
“Dear me! What is this?” cried Alice.
“It’s the path to medical school,” said Mary Ann. “Did you think it was a straight road?”
The wind deposited its cargo gently on the ground.
“Welcome to deGrooteland,” said Mary Ann.
“Why is everything so big?” Alice said, looking at the miniature houses, roads, and cars around her. Even Mary Ann seemed to have shrunk.
“It’s just your pre-med ego,” said Mary Ann. “Don’t worry. You’ll be cut down to size very soon.”
“Golly! You’re entirely bonkers!” said Alice.
Mary Ann smiled. “All the best people are.”
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” A white rabbit bounded down one of the roads. “I’m late! I’m late! I’m so very, very late!”
“It’s my rabbit!” Alice exclaimed. “The one from outside my house!”
The rabbit bristled. “For God’s sake, I am not anyone’s rabbit, certainly not yours, young miss!”
“I’m sorry,” Alice said, with true regret. “It’s just I’ve seen you before. At least, I think I’ve seen you before. Have I? Dear me, I’m not sure if I know!”
“You’re not sure if you know,” the rabbit repeated, grumbling. “You know that you don’t know what you think you know, that’s good. But do you know the difference between what you know and what you think you know? Or what you know you don’t know, or what you don’t know you know?”
“Er, pardon me?” said Alice.
The rabbit pulled out a little pocket watch from its jacket pocket. “Good heavens! I’m LATE! No time to talk! I’m late, I’m late, I’m LATE!”
“And so are we,” said Mary Ann, grabbing Alice’s hand. “Let’s GO!”
“But I’m still too tall to walk without squishing anything!” said Alice woefully. “I’m afraid I shall be stuck!”
And so she was. Already Alice was already half the height of the nearest house.
“Curiouser and curiouser!” exclaimed Alice.
“Hurry up!” said Mary Ann, pulling Alice by the hand. “No time for sight-seeing. Suppose the Queen should call a Code Blue. Then what would you do?”
“Oh, look!” Alice said, completely disregarding the question. She pointed to a little picnic table ahead of them, laid out as if for tea.
“Oh, no,” said Mary Ann. “That’s not good.”
“What is it?” asked Alice.
“It’s the Hatter. It looks like he’s…”
“Ah, guests!!!!” A strange man with a heavily-decorated surgeon’s hat grasped Mary Ann and Alice by the shoulders. “Please, have some tea.”
“We’re too busy,” said Mary Ann, shoving the man’s hand away. “Especially for a man who contaminates his PPE with crude, childish drawings. Did you even sterilise the crayons?”
“That’s nonsense,” said the man. “And with so many smart words, you can’t be in much of a rush. Besides, it only gets worse in the direction you were going. At least, it gets much worse before it gets any better. Or don’t you remember?”
“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, but which direction is that?” asked Alice.
“Why, forward, of course!” said the man. “Only way there is to go in deGroote-land. No way to retrace the steps we have already taken; we can only look back with fond memories.” The man smiled vapidly before seeming to awaken. “Oh, please let me introduce myself.” The man doffed his hat. “I am the Hatter. Welcome to Contradictia!”
“Contradictia?” asked Alice. “Heavens, that’s a mouthful!”
“It’s the first circle of deGrooteland,” explained Mary Ann. “Out of the seven.”
“Seven…circles?” asked Alice. “But I thought the seven circles referred to Hell, not ‘the Grootland’.”
“Hell, med school, what’s the difference?” said the Hatter. “Though most people, when they’re in the first circle of either, hardly seem to realise they’re dead as of yet.”
“Oh,” said Alice, not quite sure she liked this ‘Grootland’.