By Beatrice Preti, Class of 2017
“Now. Tea.” The Hatter snapped his fingers, and three teacups appeared. “Please enjoy,” he said, with a little bow, as he passed Mary Ann and Alice a cup each. “I brewed it myself.”
Mary Ann sniffed twice before emptying her cup on the ground. “I need coffee,” she growled.
“Of course,” said the Hatter, snapping his fingers again. “I quite forget about the dietary requirements of you medical students.”
Alice took a sip of the tea. “Oh, goodness!” she said. “This tastes rather peculiar. Almost like coffee. Are you sure you haven’t given me Mary Ann’s cup?”
“Of course not! I did say it was a special blend, didn’t I? We couldn’t just give you tea. Tea causes atherosclerosis. That could lead to a heart attack and kill you!”
“Heavens!” exclaimed Alice, quickly setting down her cup. “Why don’t you just serve coffee, then?”
“Well, m’dear, coffee also causes heart attacks.”
“Well, why don’t you just serve something else? Rather than mixing the two?”
“But, m’dear,” said the Hatter, patient as ever, “coffee and tea have powerful antioxidants which help prevent atherosclerosis.”
“But you just said…”
“This is Contradictia,” said Mary Ann, dryly. “Nothing here ever makes sense. Don’t expect a straight answer.”
“But however do you get anything solved?” said Alice.
“You don’t,” said Mary Ann, draining her cup. “There are no straight answers in deGrooteland. They call it PBL. Pain-Based Learning, I think. You just take your best guess, and move forward. Make your mistakes, and learn from them.”
“That’s terrible!” said Alice.
“It’s evidence-based. Figures, huh?” Mary Ann looked at her empty cup sorrowfully. “Well, thanks for the coffee, Hatter, but we have places to be.”
The Hatter’s eyes glowed for a moment before he grinned maniacally. “Places to be? Are you surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre?”
“Oh, God,” said Mary Ann. “Here he goes ag — Alice, put your mask ON! You can’t be in deGroote-land without your PPE on!” Mere moments after Alice had fixed the elastics on her mask, the Hatter vaporized into a thousand tiny spirochetes circulating in the air.
“Pathogens,” said Mary Ann, scornfully. “They’re everywhere. Never trust one you see just idling about. Especially when they offer you free tea and coffee.”
“I’m confused,” said Alice.
“Of course you are,” said Mary Ann. “Haven’t you been listening? That’s Pain-Based Learning for you. And to think we’ve only just begun…”
A heavy breeze whisked Alice and Mary Ann off their feet once again. When they landed, Alice noticed the eerie atmosphere, complete with a dark sky, heavy clouds, and weak, flickering lights.
“Where are we?” said Alice. “It seems so…depressing.”
“Seventh circle,” said Mary Ann, matter-of-factly.
“Seventh circle!” cried Alice. “But what happened to all of the ones in between?”
“We passed them. You must have blinked. In deGroote-land, time flies so fast that if you blink, you might miss everything.”
Alice blinked. Twice. “Oh…”
“HALT! IN THE NAME OF THE QUEEN OF DEGROOTE-LAND, HALT!”
Mary Ann rolled her eyes. “Just great…”
A little man in red-and-black scrubs appeared behind Alice and Mary Ann. “Who are you, and why are you trespassing on the Queen’s most precious land, Insecuricity?”
“Insecuricity?” asked Alice, tripping slightly over the many syllables. “What’s that?”
“It’s the seventh circle of deGrooteland,” said Mary Ann. “The worst part.”
“That’s the worst part?” said Alice. “But ‘Insecure-city’ doesn’t sound like it would be so very wretched! Insecurity doesn’t sound very bad.”
“Oh, but it is,” said Mary Ann. “Remember what I said before about all of the important lessons coming from within yourself. Insecurity will damage any career, medical or otherwise. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?”
“M-M-Medical?” stuttered the red-and-black scrubs man. “That’s a forbidden word here!”
“Medical? Why?” asked Alice.
“WHY?” roared the little man. “Because the people in this circle are so insecure about themselves that they’ve completely messed up any chance they might have had at a medical career! They’ve found themselves lost and adrift amid broken dreams and things that might have been. They are groveling and bleeding their hearts out on the ground around us as we speak right now, that’s WHY!”
“Asking why is trrrrrrrrrrrreasonous,” said a female voice several feet above Alice. “CODE BLUE!”
“Oh, no,” said Mary Ann. “It’s the evil Queen of deGrooteland –
“The Queen has called a Code Blue!” shouted the scrubs man. “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”
“Heavens!” said Alice.
“CODE BLUE!” screamed the Queen, again.
“OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!” screamed the scrub man.
“Time to go!” said Mary Ann, grabbing Alice’s hand.
“But where can we go?” said Alice. “The Hatter said the only way to go is forward, and we’ve reached the seventh circle!”
“But once you’ve fallen into the pits of Hell,” said Mary Ann, with an uncharacteristic wink, “if you have the strength, you can always find your way back out…”
Alice awoke with a start, hitting her head twice on her Organic Bio-Molecular Chemistry textbook.
“I’m alive!” was her first thought. “Oh, glory!”
On her right, Dinah mewed impatiently.
“Dear me, has it really been so long?” asked Alice. “You’ll never believe, Dinah, I had the most glorious dream…”
Dinah mewed again, gesturing towards the window.
“Do you m-mean to say, Dinah,” Alice said nervously, “that there is a d-dead white rabbit outside the window?”