Curse of Hearts
Perhaps you’ve heard the tale of Alice in Wonderland before, perhaps more than once. There are many variations to the plot as the legend is told and retold, but I can assure you that this Wonderland is the actual Wonderland. Everything stated and described in this version of Alice in Wonderland is completely and utterly true. There are absolutely no exaggerations to be read at all, which rather makes this story a documentary, or perhaps a biography, of a sort.
But this particular story begins with Alice, in the small girl’s room in the Liddell Manor. The room was rather large for a girl Alice’s age of seven, but she hardly spent any time in that room anyhow. Most of her time was spent outside, with friends when they came to visit, or using her own imagination to play the day away. She was not interested in school or textbooks, or even sewing or piano lessons. Alice did not care for anything that required her to think of things that most scholars found important, but focused on the studies that she found important herself, such as finding the best hiding places or drawing or just watching the clouds drift by to dream of lands far away. Her parents’ friends often commented on this weird behavior when they were not around, "What a strange girl…"
But that is beside the point. What truly matters is that Alice did not care for what her impression was on others. She would always be herself around anyone, and never allow anyone put her down. This is just as well, for without that sort of personality, one would not be able to survive in the wondrous land that Alice will come to explore in her later years.
Now, this is the peculiar story of Alice in Wonderland…
The boy was a small black silhouette against the moonlight that shone in through the window. He watched her as she slept peacefully in her bed. The candle that she used as her nightlight had long since gone out; the melted wax was to be scraped away in the morning. Alice’s dark hair slightly obscured her face from him. He silently crept forward and swept it back with a gentle hand, then leaned down and touched his lips to her cheek before fading away.
Alice stirred, opening her black eyes drowsily and slowly looking about her, not fully comprehending why she had woken. Then they drifted back down, and she was once again fast asleep, chest rising and falling with each breath.
If someone had looked out of the window, perhaps they would have seen the silhouette walking towards the forest in the backyard, putting on a too-big black top hat with a blue band around the seam. Perhaps he also would have noticed the white rabbit in a waistcoat that hurried alongside the silhouette, frantically pointing to its pocket watch. And perhaps that person would also have thought, "What a rather strange dream," and gone straight to bed to sleep and forget the child’s silhouette with the top hat and the rabbit in the waistcoat.
But Alice, who had not seen either to begin with, dreamt of them. She dreamt that she was having a cup of tea with the two in a forest of color, along with a crazed hare and an egotistic mouse. What she did not know was this: It was not a dream she saw, but a future memory…
"Ready or not, here I come!" shouted Alice, pushing herself away from the gritty oak tree she had been counting by. She quickly scanned the area of the forest with her black eyes, looking for any stray hider she could call out.
Alice took off in one direction to seek out her friends, short dark hair bouncing with each step. "Come out, come out wherever you are!"
She slowed and turned in a circle. She was surrounded by trees; any one of them could be harboring a fugitive.
"Oi, Alice!" sang a boy abruptly.
Alice whipped around in time to catch a glimpse of him as he ducked behind a tree.
"Aha!" cried Alice, sprinting after him. Her yellow sundress billowed as she skidded around the tree and came into another clearing. "Thomas!"
He was gone.
Alice spied the stump surrounded by green grass and white flowers in the center of the area, and couldn’t help but to laugh. "Found you!" she grinned, bounding on top of it to gaze down at him on the other side.
But Thomas was not there. In his stead was a rather large rabbit hole.
"Oh…" Alice sighed in disappointment. She was sure that Thomas would have been there. Unless…
Alice got down and kneeled in front of the hole. "Thomas, are you down there? Hello?"
Her voice echoed back at her, and something glinted in the sunlight near the bottom. Alice squinted and leaned closer to get a better view. It could be the buckle of Thomas’s trousers…
She cried out as she slipped in, then again when she did not hit the bottom but began to fall. She flailed her arms and legs, mouth gaping in an O of surprise as the circle of light that shone from the entrance of the rabbit hole grew smaller and smaller above her.
Then she felt the impact, and all was dark and tranquil…
The first thing she was aware of when she woke was her pounding headache. With a moan, she brought her hand to her head and held it for a moment before forcing her eyes open.
After her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she found that she was inside a circular room with no doors. The room smelled rather unused and musty, with a hint of mold in the air. She shuddered at the chilly dampness, goose bumps prickling her skin. In the center of the room was a glass table. Sitting upon it was a vial with a label attached to the lid. Alice made her way to the table, footsteps echoing loudly, as though she were walking a long corridor.
"Drink me," Alice read aloud after picking it up in a small hand, squinting to read the label of the vial in the darkness.
She unscrewed the blue vial and sniffed its contents. It had no odor, and after only another moment of hesitation, she took a sip.
It was bitter, and she coughed at the medicinal taste. Oh, how she hated medicine!
Then she realized that the table was getting bigger. Everything was getting bigger. No, it was she who was getting smaller! To her relief, though, her yellow dress shrank with her.
Alice looked around desperately for something, someone, scared out of her wits. For a moment, she thought to scream and call for help as loudly as she could. Someone was bound to hear her. But then she noticed the rusty key at her feet. With a frown, she picked it up and looked around.
She hurried over to it--practically glided--and pushed the key into the lock. The key turned with a click almost deafening in the silence, and the door swung effortlessly open.
Once her eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, a strange new world was revealed to her. As far as the eye could see, everything was as colorful as the rainbow, and everything so tall…Trees were of every color and height and width; flowers ranged from white to black and tall to short and were all varieties of shapes and sizes; even the insects were multi-colored—though most were a little too large for her to be comfortable around. The sky, however, was the same light blue tinge that was so familiar.
She took a single step outside, and something crunched underfoot. With a startled intake of breath, she switched feet and looked under her sandal.
It was a small rectangular box, about the size of her palm, with a newly gained crack in the lid. Eat me, read the label.
Alice, now down on her knees, opened the container and saw that it was a flat, brown slab of chocolate. With a sort of eagerness to rid herself of the aftertaste of the drink, she crammed it into her mouth. Then her face twisted up with displeasure, and she nearly spat it out. The chocolate was also acrid.
But, to her surprise, she was growing. Back to normal size—no, taller, taller, taller…
"Oh, no…" sighed Alice, looking down. Everything seemed so tiny to her now. It was unnerving to see her feet so far away, and it threw her terribly off-balance. But somehow, she managed to keep moving forward into the rainbow forest.
"Hello?" she called. "Thomas? Gregory? Bonnie? Caty? Jedidiah?"
There was no answer but for her echo.
Alice’s throat tightened as she began to feel sorry for her lonesome self. Like many seven-year olds, Alice was easily overwhelmed, and so she sank down to the ground and leaned against a coarse orange tree, tears welling up in her eyes.
"And just what do you think you are doing?" droned a male’s voice.
Alice jumped and looked around. "Who’s there? Where are you? Can you help me?"
"It is I," replied the voice. It came from beside her, but all that was there was a fat white caterpillar with stubby red legs and a red stripe down where its spine would be (if it were a vertebrate). "And I am here, on this leaf."
Alice slowly turned back to the caterpillar. Then she hesitantly pointed a finger at it. "You…?" she asked uncertainly.
"Yes, you stupid girl," said the caterpillar. "My name is Mr. Caterpillar. And what are you?" Suddenly, he brought out a hookah and began to smoke it, confusing the poor girl even more.
"Alice, eh? Well, Alice," sneered Mr. Caterpillar, "I dislike you. In fact, I’d love to help you, as long as it required not seeing you as quickly as possible. Now, what is it?"
"I…I want to go home," blurted Alice.
"I don’t know the way. I don’t know where I am!" Tears threatened to overspill, and she wiped her runny nose on the back of her hand.
"Stupid Alice," scoffed Mr. Caterpillar. "This is Wonderland, of course."
"Which way is home?"
"Stupid girl," moaned Mr. Caterpillar again. "…I shall help you this time, but when you come back, you’d better leave a trail of bread crumbs behind you!" He took a long drag on his hookah, and then promptly blew it all into Alice’s face.
Alice choked on the white smoke and tried to wave it away with her hand.
Then the smoke cleared, and she was alone. She looked around.
She was in the clearing with the stump, birds chirping all around her.
"Hey, Alice!" called Bonnie from a distance. "Hurry up and find us, we’re bored!"
"C—Coming!" Alice yelled back, still shaken from strange vision she had just seen. As she ran off, the small silhouette watched her wistfully from the rabbit hole.
9 Years Later
Alice slowly hiked through the crumbling leaves of autumn, hands clasped behind her back. She stared at her feet in the yellow sandals that matched her yellow dress as she walked, the wind tousling her short black hair.
It was a particularly warm day, even for autumn. Warm enough to wear her favorite sundress and sandals, and to go to her favorite get away while her father prepared (if that much could be said about his bland and unexciting cooking) dinner.
She made it to the stump in the clearing that she had come across those years ago, and sat down upon it. Alice stared up at the sky, where the clouds that drifted by had already begun to change to pinks and oranges as the sun set below the horizon. Alice rested her feet on the concrete that protruded from what was once a rabbit hole (her father had filled it in when she had told him she had fallen into it).
She sighed heavily, breasts rising and falling. "Time to reflect on my horrible life…" she murmured to no one in particular.
Alice thought of how her mother had died two years prior in a freak train crash, how now she lived with her awkward dad, how she didn’t do well in school because she was always daydreaming, how she wasn’t good at sports, how she couldn’t cook or clean or organize, and how worst of all: she was single. She sighed wistfully again, wishing for the things that she could not have, and more importantly, never would. It was as people said: Alice really did take after her clumsy, unskilled father.
Her mother had gotten on the train that fateful day last-minute to make it to a meeting in London. If she had made it to the meeting, her mother would have discovered that she was being let off due to extensive circumstances, but she never did. Instead, the train she was riding somehow slipped off of the tracks, and the hulking heap of metal found afterwards had left no survivors. It was a closed-casket funeral.
Alice’s father fell into a depression after the accident, and hardly even looked at his daughter, who resembled his late wife in nearly every way. It wasn’t until a day two months after the accident that he realized how much pain Alice herself was in, and how much she needed him that he forced himself to rise above his own loneliness to take care of his only daughter. Mr. Liddell came to know the difficulty of raising a teenage daughter with no help, but he forced himself to endure. He also came to find that fathers were not allowed into their daughter’s room—at least, not without knocking first.
If he had been allowed into Alice’s room, however, he would have noticed the drawings and sketches that lined her pale yellow walls. Some were of his late wife, some of him, and some a grinning cat or a man in a top hat, or a smoking caterpillar or a rabbit in a waistcoat, or of a castle made of cards (all in the suit of hearts), or a small mouse that sat with another rabbit drinking tea (if he knew more about animals, he would have known that it was a hare rather than a rabbit). He might have also noticed the one that stood out the most: it was one in the center of the wall, the only one of its kind, and in color, unlike the rest. It was of a bright blue sky, but in the center of the paper: a pitch-black, swirling mass. And perhaps the first thing that would strike him would be: "My daughter is such a wonderful artist!" But the fact is that he would never be allowed into Alice’s room, because she locked it when she went out and stashed the key in the one place he would probably never notice: around her own neck, which she fingered now as she thought about her life.
Suddenly, there was a loud, bone-jarring rumble from beneath her. She had only a split second to catch a last glimpse of her own sky before the ground cracked open, collapsing in on itself, and she was swallowed by the gaping, black sinkhole. One yellow sandal survived the fall, and came to a rest in the dying grass beside the monstrous void.
When Alice came to, a raving, squeaky voice was the first thing that came into focus: "…ible! Terrible, terrible! Oh, no, no, no, nonononnonononononoooo…"
Alice’s eyes fluttered open. She saw the rabbit in a waistcoat take out his golden pocket watch and look frantically at it, then turn on his paws and begin to pace again.
"Excuse me," Alice croaked. She remembered this dream; it was one she had had often before.
White Rabbit jumped, heart racing, then realized it was only her. "So you’re awake! Are you Alice?"
"Yes," frowned Alice, "how did you know?" No matter how many times the dream occurred, she always felt a little strange, as if she were experiencing déjà vu. But isn’t that how all dreams are?
"What did you do?!" White Rabbit screeched at her as she propped herself up on her elbows, looking around dumbly. "This is terrible! Oh, the queen will have my head!" He gripped his throat in his paws with a frightened squeak. Then he once again dug out his pocket watch to glance at the time.
Alice looked up. "What’s that?" A swirling black mass hovered high above the towering trees, a blemish in the clear blue sky.
"That’s the hole you ripped in the heavens!" replied White Rabbit curtly. "Terrible! Oh, so terrible!"
"Chill, dude," said a small brown mouse, leaping up and grabbing hold of White Rabbit’s ear. "You’ll get through this, dude. Just relax." He dropped to the ground and looked over Alice with his large brown eyes, then smoothed back the light brown fur upon his head. "Hey, baby," he greeted with a flirtatious smile, exposing his long and wide front two teeth. "The name’s Doormouse."
"Alice," Alice replied dutifully. She glanced over at March Hare, who sat by himself by a blue tree, twitching involuntarily as he admired a bent, silver spoon.
"Alice," snapped White Rabbit, "you’ve got to get rid of this problem before her Majesty gets rid of us! This is your fault entirely!"
"My fault?" scoffed Alice, giving him a look of disbelief at his absurd accusation. She pushed herself up to her feet, brushing off the dirt and dust that had accumulated on the back of her skirt. "All I did was sit on a stump!"
"Hee hee!" giggled March Hare to himself. "Spoon."
"My, my, my," drawled a smile that appeared out of nowhere. Alice jumped back as the rest of the blue and purple Cheshire Cat appeared. He was floating in midair a few paces away from the group. "It’s no good, fighting at a time like this. It’s obvious that Alice here doesn’t realize the horror she’s unleashed unto Wonderland."
"What horror?" Alice frowned.
"You see?" grinned Cheshire Cat, green eyes gleaming. His purple and blue striped tail flicked back and forth. "But I, on the other paw, have the knowledge needed to help you. If you would, follow me…" He began to float away in a spiraling path that made Alice feel a bit queasy. Everything about this place made her feel out of place, but dismissed the feeling. It was only a dream, after all.
White Rabbit, March Hare, and Doormouse all trailed him without hesitation. Alice’s curiosity got the better of her, and she ended up jogging awkwardly to catch up, having only one sandal.
They were led to a busy square, and Alice easily became lost amongst the gawking townsfolk. The people, all dressed in strange and awkward fashions (Alice noted that one lady was dressed as some sort of wild animal, another who looked suspiciously like Shakespeare, and a person she couldn’t identify as male or female who resembled a hobgoblin), gaped in horror at the terrible omen in the sky, and many whispered about it being the queen’s downfall. Alice couldn’t help but to listen in on a few of the conversations. From what she gathered, the queen was a gruesome tyrant who frequently cut off the heads of her subjects. There was also some talk about her son, who disappeared five years ago (one rumor was that she had had him beheaded, also).
"Pardon me," Cheshire Cat said. His voice carried over the crowd, silencing them. "I do believe that I hold the solution to this problem within the wide expanse of my knowledge…"
"So tell us!" shouted someone in the crowd.
A few others voiced their agreements.
Cheshire Cat turned himself upside-down, still hovering mid-air, his grin widening still. "You need a sacrifice. A virgin."
There was a moment of hushed silence.
Then someone shouted, "Grab the first virgin you see!"
A few in the crowd who were virgins seemed to shrivel up inside of themselves, cursing themselves for not taking the chance when they had it.
"Ah-ah-ah…" Cheshire Cat grinned even more widely, something Alice thought not possible. "A virgin from…the real world. Like that girl there in the yellow dress." With that, he disappeared, and everyone surrounding Alice slowly turned toward her.
Alice fought back fiercely as they grabbed her and forced her onto a table someone had brought out into the square. They tied her down with ropes that had materialized from somewhere; the whereabouts of said ropes she did not know.
"Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!" chanted the crowd.
A burly man with a blood-stained apron stepped forward and raised a large butcher knife over his head. The knife caught the sun and reflected it brightly.
Alice gave one final struggle to free herself from her bindings, and then gave up. She turned her face to one side, squeezing her eyes shut as she did, waiting for death.
This is where her dream ended.
"WAIT!" yelped a young man, hand outstretched. Alice opened her eyes, mouth slack in surprise. Why hadn’t the dream ended? The butcher paused, and the young man took the chance to yank the knife from his rough, red hands. The blonde-haired young man closed his purple eyes as he sighed in relief, settling his top hat with the blue band around the seam back onto his head.
"What are you doing?!" growled a voice in the mob.
Hatter stood by Alice, who was still tied to the slab of rough wood, and put his hands on his hips. "This woman is no longer a virgin. I deflowered her just this morning…Sorry, everyone." He shrugged his shoulders apathetically, the black fabric of the unbuttoned suit he wore rustling quietly as it folded and creased with his movement.
The mob groaned in disappointment, but dispersed quickly while grumbling like ornery old men.
Soon, it was only Hatter and Alice in the square. "That was close," he chuckled, using the (practically stolen) knife to cut her free.
"Th—Thank you," stuttered Alice, rubbing her wrist where the rope had chafed her skin. She blushed when the thought struck her that he was very handsome. Especially his charming smile…
"Why don’t you come to my place?" asked Hatter. "I’m sure this has all been quite a shock for you, what with all the sacrificial air…Perhaps some tea to calm your nerves?"
"Oh, please, don’t trouble yourself," Alice laughed nervously, flushing another shade deeper.
"It’s no trouble at all, Alice," Hatter replied, still smiling sweetly. Alice found she like his smile much better than Cheshire Cat’s, and didn’t notice that she had not yet told him her name.
Hatter held out his hand to her, and she reluctantly took it and allowed the boy to lead her away from the square. It was a rather short walk, to the building with the sign out front that read: The Mad Hatter’s.
"I live above the shop," he explained. "I sell hats for a living—Make them all myself."
"They’re lovely," Alice complimented, looking over the racks as they passed them. And they were indeed; there were hats in all sizes for all different head shapes and styles and colors, some with feathers or beads or sequins or dyes.
"You’d be surprised how in demand these are nowadays," Hatter chuckled. He led her up the stairs into a small room. Off to one side of the room was a door and another on the opposite wall, the color of old and disintegrating chalk. In the center of the room was a dining table with three chairs and a tea set with chips in the cup, minus the teapot. The brown wooden floor was polished to a shine, and was by far the most pleasing thing to the eye.
"Sit where you like," Hatter offered. "I’ll go and get the tea. There’s a lot I want to ask you."
"I’m out of questions," Hatter announced finally, taking a sip of his green tea.
Alice sighed with a mixture of relief and exhaustion. "I feel like you know me better than I know myself now…"
Hatter chuckled, and Alice followed suit.
Then she turned serious. "Say," she said.
Hatter looked at her expectantly.
"You don’t happen to know the way back to the real world, do you?"
Hatter thought for a moment. "My best guess would be through the hole in the sky. The gate has been blocked ever since someone poured concrete down the rabbit hole. Now no one can get in or go out."
"Oh…Is there any way to get up to the hole in the sky?" Alice asked, feeling slightly embarrassed and a bit guilty.
Hatter frowned. "Not that I know of…"
Alice cast her eyes down in disappointment.
"But," continued Hatter, "I’ll do my best to do whatever it takes to help."
"Really?" Alice breathed, a smile forming on her lips.
Hatter nodded, smirking with pleasure at her happiness.
"Oh, thank you so much!" Alice cried, throwing her arms around his neck. He tensed in surprise, then relaxed and hugged her back.
"Why don’t we go for a walk?" suggested Hatter. "It could help us think."
"Great idea," replied Alice, glowing with happiness.
They gathered up their things and headed out.
"Wait," Hatter stopped suddenly. "You’re missing a shoe."
Alice looked down at her feet. She wiggled the toes of her bare left foot. "Oh, yeah…I forgot."
"Wait here," commanded Hatter, running back up the stairs. His pounding feet faded and a door slammed. Alice turned and looked out of the window, up at the gaping blackness in the bright blue.
The tyrannical Queen of Hearts brooded on her throne, her blue eyes as deep and angry as a raging sea. The tense air surrounding her made it seem as if her blood red hair could spontaneously combust at any moment.
The strange black mass in the atmosphere was certainly a bad omen. This is why she had to consult James Caterpillar, so that she could know for sure what was to come. Therefore, she would be able to stop the happenings before they even began.
A cloud of thick white smoke wafted into her breathing space. She coughed abruptly and tried to wave it away with her gloved hands. "Put out that smoke, you blasted bug, James!"
"I cannot see the future without it, your Majesty," muttered Mr. Caterpillar in annoyance. "And it’s Mr. Caterpillar." He exhaled another lungful of tingling smoke.
"Then blow your blasted smoke in the other direction!" snarled the queen, still choking. Tears leaked from her eyes.
"I cannot control the wind, your Majesty." He took another long drag and exhaled slowly, obviously biding his time.
Then images began to form inside the swirls of gases, revealing what was to happen in the near future.
A woman charges into the castle, followed by many soldiers of various creatures. A white rose turns to red. There is a mighty, raging battle, with many losses on both sides. A glass heart shatters. The rebels emerge victorious. The ground coming up fast. The rebel’s leader taking the throne. A girl with short dark hair is crowned beside the rebel’s leader.
The queen gasped with disgust. "Who is that girl? Why does she wear my crown? Who, I asked, who?!" barked the queen.
"It is," replied Mr. Caterpillar, "without a doubt, Alice, your Majesty."
"Where can I find this Alice, James?" sniffed the queen indignantly.
"This Alice happens to already be here in Wonderland," Mr. Caterpillar said, taking another drag on his hookah. "She is the cause of the phenomenon you witness above us."
"Then off with her head! Guards! Bring me this Alice…" commanded the queen, voice heavily coated with malice. She continued to glare at the wavering image of Alice in the smoke.
Hatter and Alice walked side by side down the empty street. Alice walked with her hands clasped behind her back; Hatter had put his hands in his pants pockets.
"So," Alice said. "You’ve asked all those questions about me, but I know nearly nothing about you."
"Ah, well, let’s see," chuckled Hatter, looking up at the sky with a small smile. "My name is Hatter. I am 18—or 19; I’m not sure--years old. My favorite color is blue, and I love tea and cake. I own a hat shop. I live alone; have been since I was 13...Or 14."
"Oh, you’re an orphan…I’m sorry," Alice told him sympathetically.
"Huh? Oh, no. I ran away."
Alice smirked in a sort of irritation, then composed herself. "Where are your parents now?"
"The Castle of Hearts."
"Are they slaves?"
Alice waited a moment, but he didn’t bother to explain. "I see…" she sighed.
They stepped out of the alleyway and into the town square. Suddenly, they were completely surrounded by red-masked guards. Each one was armed with a long spear, aimed directly at Hatter and Alice’s throats.
"Uh-oh…" Hatter murmured to Alice. "Looks like someone ratted me out for selling illegal drugs hidden in the hats back at my shop…"
"What?!" Alice yelped in his ear, causing him to flinch.
"I’ll distract them, and you run that way!" Hatter whispered. He threw his index finger up into the air. "LOOK OUT!! The sky is falling!!"
The guards instinctively ducked and covered their heads with their arms, causing them to drop their weapons.
Alice and Hatter both took off in opposite directions as quickly as their legs could take them. The men realize then that they had been fooled, but managed to effectively regroup and divide to pursue the targets.
Alice, who had never been athletic in her life, presently found that she was unable to breathe and had to stop. She hid herself in the shadows of the nearest alleyway, struggling to quiet her panting. Sweat dripped down her face as her heart raced within her chest. She curled her toes in the yellow sandals Hatter had replaced her other one with (quite similar to the pair she had worn when she had set out to her stump) in an effort to keep completely still.
After what seemed like eternity of silence, Alice finally got up the courage to venture back out into the filthy street.
"Got’cha!" cackled a guard, gripping her arm tightly.
Alice jumped in fright, then tried to run. However, she was too slow to escape before the rest of the soldiers appeared to apprehend her.
Unlike Alice, Hatter had been on the run for last five years from the Queen of Hearts. He refused to go out easily, and it was just as well that he was in excellent condition.
He had managed to outrun his pursuers, scale a tree to obscure himself from view, and enjoy watching them scurry to find him, intent on dishing out their vengeance at his expense.
"Well, if it isn’t the prince," grinned Cheshire Cat, appearing on Hatter’s back.
"I told you not to call me that," hissed Hatter, wobbling dangerously. "You’re throwing me off balance!"
"Oh my, we wouldn’t want that, now would we?" he grinned more widely. Then Cheshire Cat yawned and stretched out his plump body, digging his sharp claws into Hatter’s back.
"OW!! Mother of--!" Hatter clapped a hand over his mouth, but too late. He had been spotted. Now it was a battle for survival.
Cheshire Cat laughed a delighted giggle of a sort as he faded into thin air.
Alice glared warily at the Queen of Hearts through the bars of the iron cage. The queen appeared smugly victorious, as if she had won a major battle. One of the red-clad guards that stood silently beside the cage thought that, when the queen wasn’t broiling under a cloud of doom that rained angry fire, the queen was very beautiful (If the queen discovered this thought, she would have offed with his head.).
"So, you’re Alice," stated the queen. She wore her deep red hair up in a pile upon her head, the heart-shaped crown resting atop it. Her earrings were a heart, with a necklace to match (Alice assumed that the heart-shaped pendant of the necklace was hollow glass, for something was swirling around inside of it.). Her elegant, silky dress was pure white, with a red heart embroidered on the front of the chest, and red lace encircling her midsection. The underskirt also appeared to be of red lace.
"So what if I am?" Alice retorted angrily.
Her rudeness didn’t seem to faze the woman on the smaller of the two thrones. The larger one was heart-shaped, but empty. Alice subconsciously wondered if the king (if there had ever been one) was no longer with them. "The hole in the heavens was your doing, was it not?" the queen asked.
"What?! That’s nonsense!" Alice spat, gripping a bar in each hand. She shook her head, hair swaying about her face.
"Calmness, Dear," soothed the queen. "I’m on your side."
"But you’re evil," Alice reminded her. Under her breath, she added, "And plus, I’m in a cage…"
"Me? Evil? Dear Alice, do I really resemble the stereotypical evil queen?" the queen queried, pursing her cherry lips in a sort of pout.
"No…" Alice replied after a second or two of consideration. "But I was taught to never judge a book by its cover."
"Then allow me to prove to you," smiled the queen, holding out her perfectly manicured hand, "that I am loved by all of my wonderful subjects…"
Hatter panted heavily, standing amongst the unconscious, groaning men. He was battered and bruised, but otherwise okay.
He leaned down and picked up his top hat in one hand, while with the back of the other he wiped away the blood that trickled down his chin from his busted lip. The young man brushed off the bits of dead leaves stuck to the fabric of the hat and then set it upon his head once more.
"Hatter!" squeaked a desperate voice. "Hatter, Hatter!"
"What is it, Doormouse?" Hatter asked, squatting down to let the small brown mouse leap onto his open palm.
"It’s Alice," Doormouse told him in his high-pitched voice. "She’s been Alicenapped!"
"Alicenapped, you say?" Hatter frowned. "By whom?"
"Who do you think, thread-for-brains?" shouted Doormouse, shaking a tiny fist.
"I nominate…" Hatter took a moment to consider. "Cheshire Cat as the culprit!" he announced, throwing a pointed finger at Cheshire Cat, who was still hovering high up in the tree.
"It’s impolite to point fingers," he replied coolly, slowly rotating so that he floated belly-up. He was still grinning as widely as ever, showing off his stark white fangs. "And besides, how could it have been I who had," he made a gesture with his paws to imitate quotation marks, "Alicenapped the girl if I was busy helping you defeat the queen, Prince?"
Hatter thought for another moment, eyebrows knitting together. Then he took his top hat off of his head and scrutinized it. "Gentlemen," he announced. "It seems that it’s getting more difficult to…think the more…I…" He drifted off, then took a step forward.
Rather, he tried to take a step forward, but instead tumbled to the leaf-covered ground in a lifeless heap, blacked out. Doormouse managed a scurrying leap out of Hatter’s limp hand just before he was crushed under the significant weight of the human.
"Oh, my," was Cheshire Cat’s only further comment (with a wide smile, of course) before fading away again, this time not to return.
"Hatter?" Doormouse uttered after a stunned silence.
There was no reply.
"Oh, dear," Doormouse squeaked, briefly glancing around him. Nothing but trees and the occasional (still lethargic) guard strewn about here and there. "Oh, no…I’ve got to do something! I’ll carry him into the…What am I thinking? I must go look for help!" He scurried off, leaving Hatter to lie in his comatose state.
A particularly heavy gust of wind wafted through the trees, picking up crumbling leaves and swaying the flimsy tops of the tall woods. It also snared the black top hat with the blue band around the seam that lay aside, forgotten for the time being, and carried it far away, through the deep, colorful forest, past the old village full of strange people where its owner resided, over the stone wall that surrounded the Castle of Hearts made of cards (in the suit of hearts only), and finally stuck under the thorns of a white rose bush, where servants hastily ran brushes dipped in red dye over the petals, which were requested (commanded, really) to be red by the queen herself.
The time between spring and winter ends quite suddenly in Wonderland, as does day and night. One could be simply taking a midnight stroll in June only to find dawn around the next bend, or a heavy snowdrift towering over one’s head. On some occasions, both the moon and the sun could be seen at once.
It was on one such in-between day that White Rabbit hurried down a forest path, taking a quick glance at the face of his pocket watch. The night was warm and lit with moonlight, the various colors of the trees darkened in the eerie gloom. The black hole in the sky was still visible to the left of the moon.
Suddenly there was a flurry of white snow brought on a pummeling gust of wind, nearly knocking White Rabbit off of his long padded paws.
“Oh dear,” he shivered, looking about. “Hatter!” he called loudly, cupping a forepaw over his mouth. “Hatter, where are you?”
“The better question is,” mumbled a slightly irritable voice above him, “ ‘Where is my hat?’ ”
White Rabbit looked up. There, perched in the lowermost branches of a green tree was Hatter, looking rather sickly and tired. He pressed a hand against his bleeding side.
“Oh dear!” exclaimed White Rabbit once more. “What’s happened to you, Hatter? We must bring you to a doctor at once!”
Hatter gave him a small, tight-lipped smile. “White Rabbit,” he said, “I want you to know that you have served me well over these years.”
“Oh, Hatter, don’t speak like that!” flustered the rabbit, wringing his paws nervously. “I’m still your loyal servant, as I was!”
“You’ve been my servant, and friend, for longer than I ever thought you’d be,” Hatter continued. “And for that, I commend you, White Rabbit. Even my own mother could hardly stand me.”
“Hatter, do come down from there,” pleaded White Rabbit. “It’s only the blood loss making you to speak of such false things. Come; let us go to a doctor!”
“I am not a fool, White Rabbit. I know that not many survive wounds like this. Not without magic, at least.” Hatter looked up at the sky, daylight beginning to break. “Once I am gone, White Rabbit, could you deliver me a message?”
Unhappy tears swelled in White Rabbit’s eyes, but did not yet spill. “Yes, my lord.”
“Tell Alice to find her other shoe,” Hatter said with a small grin, eyes slowly slipping closed.
“I will, Hatter, my lord, my friend,” promised White Rabbit solemnly, bowing his head.
“Thank you…” murmured Hatter, chin drooping towards his chest. Then he was still.
A single tear slipped down White Rabbit’s furry cheek, and he wept as he took out of his pocket his watch to note the time of his friend’s passing.
Another gust of cold snow passed by, obscuring the landscape. White Rabbit turned and ambled away sadly, not looking back. Once the draft had passed, it was morning, and Hatter had vanished. In his place was Cheshire Cat, chuckling mischievously.
“Ha!” giggled a servant, sitting up from her crouch. “Look at what I found under the rose bush!” She placed the top hat with the blue band around the seam onto her head of brown hair.
Her friend also laughed, covering her mouth with a hand. “If the crown fits, wear it!” she exclaimed.
“Crown?” snapped a voice behind them, causing the poor girls to startle. “The only crown here is mine,” the queen said indignantly and regally.
“Y—Yes, my queen, of course,” stuttered the servants fearfully, bowing to the tyrant.
Alice frowned, not so much as at the queen’s dictatorial demeanor, but at the familiar head piece. “Wait,” she breathed, quite rudely plucking it from the girl’s head. “This is Hatter’s!”
“To whom does it belong?” inquired the queen, cocking an eyebrow.
“My friend’s,” Alice repeated. “I wonder how it came to be here?”
The queen looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. To the two servants she snapped, “Off to work with you!”
The girls bowed deeply once more and hurried away, grateful to keep their heads.
“Now then,” sighed the queen, closing her eyes as if to compose herself. “Where were we?”
Alice shrugged her shoulders, still focusing her attention on the hat. Where did it come from? Was he here?
“Your Majesty,” Alice ventured cautiously.
“Did your guards capture anyone else on the day that I was captured?” Alice asked, looking up at her. She could see the black hole behind the queen, hovering and swirling in the same particular way that the queen’s heart-shaped necklace did.
The queen seemed mildly surprised. “No. Why do you ask?”
“Because I had a friend with me at the moment when they came for me,” Alice replied, lowering her eyes back to the top hat. “And this is his.”
“I see,” the queen nodded after a moment. “I shall see to it that he is found.”
Alice smiled gratefully. “Thank you, Your Majesty…You’re not at all that bad.”
The queen raised a red eyebrow, causing Alice to flush in embarrassment.
“I mean,” she stuttered quickly, “I had heard from some of the villagers that you were a cruel tyrant or something.”
The Queen of Hearts’ eyebrow lowered and she turned back to the direction that they had been walking through the garden. “Interesting. Let us continue, shall we?”
Alice nodded with a small smile and followed a few steps behind her. Then, after a moment more of scrutinizing the hat, placed it atop her own head with a short giggle.
When Hatter awoke, he found himself in a small, dimly lit, circular room with no doors. He sat up, then groaned when his head pounded painfully with protest against the sudden movement.
“Damn it,” he breathed, squeezing his eyes closed against the throbbing of his temples. He rubbed then with gentle fingertips until it dulled, then looked around once more.
He instantly recognized his surroundings.
With a sigh, he slowly stood up, passing a hand over his forehead to swipe at the drying blood. Then he glanced around for his top hat.
When he didn’t see it, he felt the top of his head with a palm, but only felt his soft, shaggy blonde hair.
“Damn it!” he cursed loudly, his voice echoing back to him. “Where’s my hat?” He turned in a circle, eyes taking in the structure of the room, hoping that he had perhaps missed it, muttering “My hat.”
It was not there.
He slammed his fist against the nearest wall, sending a new wave of pain up his arm. He ignored it angrily. “My father gave me that hat,” he growled through tightly clenched teeth. “And I’ll be damned if I lose it!”
He stalked over the glass table in the center of the room and picked up the vial. Without hesitation, for he knew what he was doing after countless times of practice, and took a long swig. Then he slammed the tiny bottle labeled Drink me back down to the table and waited impatiently to shrink.
Once the size of his good friend Doormouse, he stooped and picked up the rusted key and then briskly strolled over to the small mouse hole that was the entrance to Wonderland. “I’m going to kill that cat,” was the last thing he muttered in that room before stepping into the strangely-colored forest that belonged to the great Mr. Caterpillar.