A Hook and a Hatter by Stephanie Ayers

Chapter One


Captain James Hook sat up abruptly. The ground was lumpy and uncomfortable, and his back complained. His limbs joined in that complaint, so he took a moment to stretch before looking around.

He wasn’t in Neverland anymore. He wasn’t anywhere he recognized, definitely nowhere along the seven seas he usually sailed. Even worse, he saw no sign of his beloved ship, The Jolly Roger.

“Smee!” he called.

No answer came.

“Dratted nincompoop! Smee! Answer me!” he demanded as he stood.

Dusting himself off, he noticed movement in the distance. His throat was parched, and his stomach rumbled. And Smee still did not answer. James scowled.

The last thing he remembered was the funny looking man with a top hat appearing mysteriously on the foredeck of his ship. The man had smiled—a wide, toothy grin that made his large eyes rounder—as he spun his top hat, and that was the end of his memory. Had the strange man taken control of the Jolly Roger and dumped him on this godforsaken land? Where was he for that matter?

Used to the greenery and thriving life on Neverland, this place was the opposite. The earth was dry, almost barren-like, except for a few bristly bushes scattered around. They reminded him of the cacti he’d seen on one of the islands; only they were fuller and had thick branches rather than needles.

Curious to see if they held water like cacti does, he stomped over to one and snapped a prickly branch until a drop of liquid landed on the tip of his index finger. Ever cautious and used to the poisonous pranks of Pan and his Lost Boys, he sniffed his finger. Odorless.

He studied the drop on his finger, a perfectly shaped sphere that seemed to cling to his skin. Colorless.

Hook sniffed it again, as if it had suddenly changed, but it hadn’t. It remained odorless. His lips crooked as he considered his options. A drop was rarely enough to hurt a man of his size, but he wasn’t in Neverland anymore. Things could be very potent here—wherever here was. On the other hand, it could be water, and while a drop wouldn’t quench his thirst, it would give him options if the movement he saw was farther away than he thought.

“Decisions, decisions,” he said out loud.

Smee would know what to do. The man was an idiot, but he was a loyal one, and despite his scattered mind, he always had an answer, and he was usually right.

“Smee suggests you taste it. What harm could a tiny drop do?” Smee’s voice said so clearly, it startled Hook to find the man still absent.

And that should have been the first warning. Smee would never abandon Hook, not even if his own life depended on it.

“Smee says we should taste it, so taste it we shall do.”

Hook brought his finger to his mouth and tapped it against his tongue. Tasteless. Odorless, colorless, tasteless, yet liquid. It must be water. At least that was his thought until a sharp pain stabbed his abdomen, nearly doubling him over. He gasped as the pain ebbed and flowed like the oceans he sailed on. He’d never been seasick. Was this what it felt like?

He didn’t have time to think about it before he crumbled to the ground and passed out.