The Hatter

Alice meets Lewis Carroll.


3. We Are All Mad Here

~~With a bright flash of light the shop disappeared and I found myself in what appeared to be a forest. I say appeared to be because none of the trees was anything like a tree I had seen before. Alice stood beside me yelling at no one in particular. “Had to touch the hat, didn’t me. Had to put us both in danger.” Her words didn’t make much sense to me, but I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. She turned to me, a grave look in her now grey eyes, “What were you thinking of when you touched the hat?”
 “I suppose I was thinking that you had called yourself the Hatter, so you must be the Mad Hatter.”
 “I called myself a Hatter, not the Hatter.” She looked around, her eyes softening slightly. “It’s alright, you’ll get to meet the Hatter now.” She paused for a second and looked around, “Now where are we?” Her whisper echoes through the trees. “We have to be close, but the house is protected, can’t land too close to it.” She turned again and stops, a new light in her eyes. “We must be in the forest in front of the house!” She laughed, this time it seemed mad, though still quite enchanting.
 “Where are we?”
 “Wonderland, of course.” Her statement was so matter of a fact that I found it quite difficult to argue.
 “You mean your hat shop?”
 “No, this place is the real Wonderland. The heart of all dreams and imaginings. Come on, it’s nearly brillig, tea is waiting.” We headed straight ahead, I couldn’t tell which direction we were headed, in fact, I’m not sure they have traditional directions in Wonderland. I attempted to get my bearing in this strange new place, so it took me several moments to realize she had used the word brillig.
 “Oh, I had forgotten. It means four o’clock. Though I’m not sure the Hatter would agree with me.”
 “Brillig means many different things?” I was feeling as though I would never understand anything here.
 “Of course not, brillig is always four o’clock. The Hatter would argue that it is not in fact four, but only three, thus the perfect time for tea.” She laughed again and chanted: “Not four but three, the perfect time for tea. Shall you join the Hatter, though it does not matter, it will always be three, always time for tea.”
 My mind was running wild, searching for something that made any sense, something logical. Alice seemed to have completely lost her mind, so I could not rely upon her. Yet, I had no one else. We came upon a small house in a large clearing. Noises could be heard all around us, yet I could not locate where they were coming from. As we approached the house I had thought that Alice might knock, but rather she simply opened the door and entered without an invitation. We made our way through the empty house. Movement caught my eye in what I assumed to be the kitchen. There were no plates or dishes of any kind within the cupboards, a large tea pot sat on the stove as a man prepared to steep tea. The man was tall, he towered over both Alice and I, yet what caught my attention was not his size, but the pair of rabbit ears that stuck out of his head.
 “March Hare! What a pleasure to see you.”
 “Alice! The pleasure is mine.” He bows briefly before turning back to the tea he had been preparing.
 “What are you doing?” I thought this question was quite redundant considering it was quite obvious that he was making tea.
 “The Hatter ran out of tea.” The comment did not seem odd, yet Alice seemed enraged as she raced out of the house to the garden. Though I must admit garden is a generous word. It was nothing more than a massive table set with every kind of tea set one could find. Sitting at one end was a man, no more than my age. Around him sat an assortment of creatures. One was what appeared to be an egg perched upon a wall, another was an oversized dormouse, two more were rotund men wearing the same clothes.
There were nearly twelve guests seated at the table, yet none but the man was drinking tea. He seemed to get more tea on the table than in his mouth or in his cup. His black hair was a mess and his piercing green eyes seemed to see right through a person. When he saw Alice walking up he jumped out of his seat and vaulted onto the table, knocking over several filled tea pots. “Alice! You’ve returned!” He raised his now empty cup in greeting.
“What on earth are you thinking Hatter?” Alice’s shout caused me to turn my head away from the comedic activities that were happening at the end of the table.
“To what are you referring?” The Hatter seemed genuinely confused.
“Not inviting me to tea.” She smiled at him, a beautiful smile that I think could only belong to her.
He laughed then and threw a full glass of tea to Alice. “You should know by now, my dear Alice that you are always welcome.” He bowed graciously before collapsing back into his chair.
While I had been watching the Hatter Alice had deftly caught her glass of tea and began drinking it. She sat down and put two lumps of sugar in it. She looked perfectly comfortable in the madness that surrounded her. It was as though the circumstance she found herself in was commonplace. “What is the celebration? For I dare say that the Hatter has never, in all the time I have known him, had so many house guests at one time.”
“The occasion is Humpty Dumpty’s unbirthday celebration.” The Hatter laughed manically. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could never put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”
“Truly, you must stop sitting on walls, Humpty Dumpty.”
 “Yes, but the Queen has promised to send all her horses and men to aid those of the King if they should be unable to put me back together again.” The egg-shaped creature atop the wall replied in a high squeak. He did not seem pleasant, but not unpleasant, if you understand my meaning. “I have done them both a huge favor, they could not help but reward me quite generously.”
 “Yes, but I assure you, neither of them wishes you to fall, for it would be no pleasant experience for you or them.” She laughed uncontrollably then and the whole company could not help but join her.
 “Switch!” The Hatter’s cry rang out quite loudly, startling everyone out of their revelry. Everyone save Alice shifted one seat to their right.
 I leaned over and whispered to Alice the question that had been nagging me, “What on earth is an unbirthday?”
 Her answer was as nonsensical as the concept of an unbirthday. “Everyone has a birthday one day a year, an unbirthday means that any other day of the year there is a chance for you to receive gifts. Essentially
it is a chance to celebrate everyone at once.”
 Before I could ask any more questions about unbirthdays the Hatter seemed to notice me for the first time. “Alice, where are your manners? You neglected to inform me that we had a new guest.” He leapt over the table and greeted me with a bow, saying, “The Mad Hatter, at your service.”
 “Charles, at yours.” I mimicked his greeting, still unsure of how I should act towards the odd person who was greeting me. Now that I had a closer view of him I noticed that the Hatters clothes were tattered and torn, and many of the pieces did not match anything else on his body. He had multicolored handkerchiefs hanging out of nearly every pocket and hole that he could shove them.
 “I apologize, but I despise Charles’, do you mind if I call you Lewis? Lewis Carroll, that shall be your name.” His exclamation seemed odd, yet I felt as though I could not stop him from doing as he pleased.
 “I must say that Lewis does suit you far better than Charles.” Alice chimed in. In that moment I became Lewis Carroll. “Hatter, I apologize for leaving so soon, but we must be on our way.” I couldn’t help but wish that Alice was joking. I wanted to stay, I was finally getting used to the madness. It was far more than just entertaining, it was freedom. I no longer had to be a person that I was not. In the few hours we had been there I had fallen in love with Wonderland. She takes my hand and starts to drag me away.
 “Someday you will have to decide.”
 “Sometime your tea drinking shall have to subside.”
 “Sometime, perhaps, but for now it is three, Will you not have tea with me?”
 “You know that I cannot stay.”
 “And who is to say?”
 “If I insit?
 “Then I must persist.”
 “Stil I must go.”
 “I shall always say NO. For my heart shall bleed”
 “You know it is what I need.”
 “Then it is still three. I shall return to my tea.”
 I watched her turn away, slowly her face turned to stone. She was careful not to show any emotion. The glimpse of pain in her eye did not go unnoticed. It remains today the first sign of weakness Alice displayed to me. “The Queen of Diamonds would never give up so easily.”
 Her throat quivered and the pain grew in her eyes as she said, “I am not the Queen of Diamonds.” She gripped my wrist tighter and dragged me behind her as she walked away from the quaint little house in the middle of the wood.
As we walked I noticed that rather than getting smaller behind us it seemed to get larger. It was almost as though we were losing ground rather than gaining it. We weren’t walking particularly fast and nothing else struck me as odd until we made our way out of the wood into the shade of what appeared to be a mushroom. I looked back and the giant trees had covered up my view of the odd house. I slowly realized that as we had walked away we had shrunk.
 “What would the Queen of Diamonds do? That’s all they can ask can’t they. Every time I come back they wonder what she would do. Can’t they see that she isn’t here?” Alice muttered under her breath as she made her way slowly around the mushroom, looking up at the bottom of the mushroom as though it held some sort of secret within it. “Ah ha!” Her
exclamation surprised me and I must admit that I jumped high enough to bump my head on the mushroom, brushing parts of it into my hair. “Eat this.” She handed me something and I began to put it into my mouth. She quickly shoved me out from underneath the mushroom before I could swallow. When it was down my throat something peculiar happened my head shot up and my body followed slowly behind it. The experience was quite disorienting, but as soon as I regained my barring Alice was standing next to me smiling passively.
 “Alice, who is the Queen of Diamonds?” Apparently I asked the wrong question because her stare became like ice once more, the smile still plastered onto her face.
 “The Queen of Diamonds was one of the four Queens of Wonderland. She was a fearless warrior who destroyed her enemies and submitted to no one”
 “She left.”
 “Why would she leave?”
 “Her people were threatened and there was no other choice.” Her face warned me against asking anything more and I followed her into the field.

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