Liddell's Otherlands Services

BY : Boo-Sama
Category: -Misc Video Games/RPGs > AU - Alternate Universe
Dragon prints: 437
Disclaimer: I do not own American's McGee's Alice, or any of the characters within it. This fanfic is entirely non-profit, and made only for fun.

The sun quickly set over the skies of London as a man in a hat slowly walked through town. The usual noise of kids playing, merchants yelling, and citizens chattering slowly suffocated as the sun’s rays slowly died off over the horizon. This did not bother the man, however. Spite his usual line of work as an actor, he personally prefered the quiet over the usual boisterous noises that usually occurs in town. If it were up to him, he’d be living uptown where it was nowhere as cramped, but fate has a strange way of denying such casual luxuries.

 

Today was a special day, however. At this time, he’d usually be at home, taking in the small bit of offtime he had before his next role was assigned to him. However, things have not been so scerine as of late. Usually he looked forward to work. As once said before, he was an actor for the London Royal Opera House, and in his personal opinion, one of the finer ones that worked there. Most people there would tend to ham it up their lines, overexerting in areas they really shouldn’t be, or underselling certain phrases, or moving in ways that just didn’t seem right, or combinations of all the above, the list goes on. He, on the other hand, would try to be more sincere in his actions. To him, he wasn’t an “actor”, but a living, breathing catalyst for whomever he had to play. He’d take his prep time for every character he had to portray very, very seriously, often neglecting his family life to make time to make sure he had every detail of the character down to smallest detail. He’d even sometimes write short stories starring that person in various scenarios just to test his own knowledge on them.

 

Spite his serious attitude behind his work, he did genuinely enjoy his work, perhaps even a bit too much at times. He relished in outplaying those he worked with, dominating the scene, showing everyone in the crowd what true talent was made of. He’s made many enemies due to his often cocky attitude, but at the same time, he’s also made a few friends who can respect his need to always be on top. In fact, he never would have met his wife if he wasn’t the way he is now. She was banker, he was an actor. Many would say that sort of love would never happen, since one job was serious business, and the other being “frilly” art. But he saw a lot in her. She knew what it was like to compete in a competitive business, and he, strangely enough, did too. This similar knowledge and passion for their work bonded them, and it wasn’t long until kids were on the way.

 

Of course, as said, things have changed as of late. He’s been restless, not in a motivational way, but very literally. Entire nights have slipped from him, his eyes wide awake at night. The sound of crickets consuming his thoughts as he tried to just relax in his bed, a strange gnawing at the back of his mind that he was… Forgetting something. He didn’t know what, but it haunted him every night, denying him the tiniest bit of shut eye. His friends have told him it’s just a normal case of insomnia caused by him always overworking himself, that it will all just pass in time, and to just take it easy for a bit. They just told him to unwind, to relax, to live a little instead of worrying about whatever thing was bugging him. However, this was simply not an option. His last play had suffered somewhat due to this affliction, causing him to stumble on important lines, embarrassing himself in front of thousands, least in his mind. The errors he made were small errors, yes, but small seeds can grow in into large oaks, and he wasn’t letting this get out of hand so long as he could help it. He honestly wasn’t sure what was keeping him up more now at this point. His insomnia, or the idea of once again putting on such a lackluster performance due to it. Something had to be done about it, this much was certain.

 

He considered therapy in many different areas. The hospital would be the most obvious solution, but sadly, they were booked until midway into his next play’s setup, which was time he needed to prep, so that wasn’t going to happen. Another option would be the local asylum, which did have some spots open for simple therapy sessions. However, the man would very honestly rather die than to have a rumor going around that he’s nuts. The best choice he had to work with was, conveniently enough, a fellow coworker.

 

The woman in question just did backstage help, such as constructing minor props, moving items, so on. In most other cases, he’d never bat an eye at her, but as of late, she’s been batting eyes at him, as if she knows something was off. He assumed it was just another young lass fawning over him like so many do, but after a while, it was getting uncomfortable. It was almost as if time skipped forwards every time he saw her, sailing ahead full minutes until he snapped back into reality the second she was gone. He never would have spoken to her personally, if only to avoid that weird feeling, but one day, out of work, he bumped into on the street. She proclaimed he dropped something, and passed him a small card, a cue card, to be precise most likely stolen from opera house, with a date, time, and location for a free checkup at her own freelance therapy session. He would have asked more about it, perhaps even call her out for assuming her was crazy, but by the time he knew what he had in his hands, she was already gone.

 

Under any other circumstances, the man would have taken this card and cast into the fireplace as soon as they got home. This woman was clearly not well, he could see it in her eyes. Yet… This wasn’t usual circumstances. The business was, as said, surprisingly free, and the time given was perfect, being two days before rehearsals started, giving him a full extra day to actually relax before getting back to work. Also, with her being such a nobody, no one would ever bat an eye seeing him leave what could easily just be his senile sister’s house. To him, the potential reward of having a sound night’s sleep in time for rehearsal outweighed that of the potential risks, and, well, here he was now.

 

With most of the daylight officially gone, he reached the front door of this woman’s residence. Above the door was a simple, hanging, wooden sign in a somewhat fancy wording that merely said “Liddell’s Otherland Services”, as well as some somewhat both admittedly cute and mildly disturbing cartoon characters under and around the words. He could recognize some as characters from “Alice in Wonderland”. The giveaway for him was the small tea party being had under the “Other” part of “Otherlands” being held by a weird, clockwork version of the Mad Hatter, his rabbit friend, and of course the little rat that lived in the teapot. The names of the rabbit and rat escaped him, but that was hardly of concern, but what was, for him, was the hatter. He stared at the man’s amazingly tall hat. A top hat to trump all top hats. The man himself wore a top hat for various different reasons. First, it was fashionable, obviously. Second, the name. “Top Hat”. A hat, that is on top. It is superior. It is STRONG. Just like him. Third, it was passed down to him by his father after he passed on. His father was not dead, but in jail for seemingly the rest of his life. He never figured out why he was in jail, especially with his mother having died long ago, but if he was in there for what wouldbe the rest of his life, it must have been abhorrent. Nonetheless, he loved his father. He’s the reason the man became an actor to start with, and his final gift from him to the man before being locked up was this very top hat. His top hat. This reason, the sentimentality of the hat, is reason alone to wear it everyday, but the previous two reasons cemented that idea.

 

The man finally regained his train of thought and remembered why he was here. He looked intently at the door before knocking….. There was no beating around it, this door was a piece of crap. It was beaten, battered, had shards of wood missing from it, peeled paint, it was just an absolute eyesore. The man feared that anything stronger than a light tap would smash right through it. Spite this, he gave it a somewhat hearty knock to make sure he was heard.

 

“The door’s unlocked!” The woman replied from what sounded like a different room in the building, upping her voice so she could be clearly heard. The man signed a bit, finding her not opening the door for him a bit rude. Nonetheless, this was free, so he most likely shouldn’t have raised his expectations above that of mediocrity.

 

He opened the door, only to be greeted with a small black cat scurrying out and rubbing against his leg affectionately, catching his immediate attention. He didn't really like cats, in fact, he didn’t like animals much at all, but especially cats. They were noisy, annoying, unpleasant, and only got in the way of more important things. There were so many stray cats around here, hounding him whenever he had anything edible on him, meowing constantly, and pissing, oh do not get him started on the damn piss. Some even had the gall to hiss at him, as if they had any say in what or where he could or could not go. There was this one white cat he hated with a particular passion, often times perching up on this slightly above head level stone wall he had to walk past on his way to the opera house, only to bat his hat off in a sudden surprise attack, followed by making a tactical retreat to the other side of the wall whenever he made a move to smack it out of a sudden need for revenge. It always changed position each time, but it was always around that wall, just waiting to make him waste precious seconds of his day picking up or sometimes chasing his fallen hat down the street. If it were up to him, every single cat in this damned town would be stuffed in a bag and tossed into the river, but that wouldn’t sit well with his daughter, now, would it? She loved these damned things for some reason, and he never understood why. She most likely just fell for their fluffy, adorable siren charm. Maybe when she moves out, she can have as many cats as she damn wants, but under his roof? Not a chance in hell.

 

Since he didn’t want to piss off his new therapist, he resisted the urge to kick the blasted thing away, assuming it was her cat. The place is suck a lump of crap, it wouldn’t surprise him if strays didn’t just climb in and out whenever they felt like it. He’s almost glad he didn’t since, after making a full lap around him, the cat trotted back into the house to find it’s master, as if it found something important to show her, which made finding where she was a lot easier.

 

Following it in, he passed through a curtain of glass beads, and was intruded by the workplace of an entirely sane, level headed individual whom he could CLEARLY trust with his innermost thoughts with. The walls were covered in wooden shelves filled with all sorts of sane people things. Glass jars containing who knows what, skeletons of various animals, including cats, rats so on. There were also sculptures, letters, a few hand drawn pictures of characters he’d seen on the sign outside. You get the, no pun intended, picture.

 

In addition, there were several glass bottles hanging from the the ceiling from what seemed to be some thin rope. The ceiling wasn’t too high up, but it was definitely high enough to make hanging such things a pain for most people, something the man would never in his life think about bothering with. He think he heard something about this being a thing in gypsy culture, which, spite being a Christian, was fine with him. Let em believe what they want, he always thought. Just more room for him in heaven when the times comes.

 

Finally, there was a red couch facing a fireplace, which was brightly lit, with a small coffee table to compliment the couch. On the table laid a teapot that, from this distance, smelled like it had somewhat freshly brewed tea inside it with some form of fruity flavoring that the man couldn’t pin down from smell alone. There were, as well, as some tea cups and platters ready for serving. On the couch sat the woman he was looking ever so much to talk to, especially after seeing all of this “sane people” stuff.

 

“Please, sit down, make yourself at home.” The woman said in a calm, somewhat welcoming voice, turning a bit to see the man, patting the seat on the couch next to her, green eyes reflecting beautifully off the light of the fireplace.

 

“... Would you… Happen to have a place I could hang up my coat?” The man asked, looking around the room a bit to see if he could find a proper place himself.

 

“Of course. Right behind you.” She replied, pointing behind him, then turning her attention back to the fire. The man turned around, embarrassed to find that yes, there was a coat rack right there. The only notable feature about it was the cat skull mounted at the very top of it… The man by all means should have found this disturbing, but really, he couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of it. He’d most likely decorate his front yard with similar decorations if he were a barbarian with no sense of self respect, but still, seeing something like this in person was rather entertaining. Anyways, he hung his coat up upon the rack. He considered placing his hat up there too, but knowing there was at least one cat on cat on prowl, he decided against it. The last thing he wanted was for it to knock it off the hook and piss on it. At long last with, hat on head, he got around to walking around the couch, taking his seat next to the right of the woman.

 

“Care for some tea?” The woman asked, immediately grabbing a cup to fill for herself. Her hair was a bit of a pigsty, her dress was dirty, her stockings were dirty as well, and her boots were disgusting. Not much else to say about her other than the key she kept around her neck, which he actually recognized as the sign for venus, since he did study some astrology… No real, professional reason, he just thought astrology was cool. He assumed it was just her personal idea of fashion and left it at that.

 

“Oh, no thank you. If it’s alright, I’d rather just get to the point.” The man responded. As thirsty as he was, he didn’t want to humor this woman too much, letting her think this scenario was, in the least, homely.

 

“Oh, nonsense. The tea is part of the point.” She replied, taking a sip for herself.

 

“... Did you... Spike it with something?” He asked, raising an eyebrow. He’s not sure why he asked, since she would lie either way, but maybe she would be dumb enough to simply confess to her own crime.

 

“Oh no, that’s not what I meant at all. It’s just tea. What I meant was that this procedure I use most commonly works best when the patient is fully relaxed. If tea is not to your suiting, I could instead find you something else to drink. Some warm milk, perhaps?”

 

“... Uh.” The man was a bit confused. Was… Was that an insult? Perhaps along the lines of calling him childish for not accepting her offering of tea? He couldn’t quite tell if she was being genuine or not. He opened his mouth to reply, but abruptly, the woman spoke again.

 

“Oh, nonsense, cat, I didn’t mean it like that.” She said somewhat softly, looking to her left. The man tilted his head to see what she was talking to, only to see nothing there, not even her cat. In fact, the cat was by the fireplace in front on them, stretching out it’s little furry body as it laid across from it, soaking in the heat of the fire.

 

“... Um, your cat is over there.” He pointed out, suddenly realizing how ludicrous what he just said was.

 

“What? O-oh no, I was talking to…” She stopped herself mid sentence after redirecting her attention to the man. “... Oh nevermind. So drinks, what would you like? I won’t take no for an answer, you will have something.” She replied, trying to save herself from… Whatever that was. The man pretended nothing happened and moved on. Seeing her persistence, he decided fighting her request would only lead to more wasted time.

 

“Um, well, tea is fine if I must have something for this to work.” He replied, moving his neck around to work out a small kink he felt stir up. The woman nodded, put down her cup, and poured him a a cup. She placed the cup on a small white-glass platter with a doily on it, and left it for him to do with as he pleased. The man picked the cup up, and sniffed to get a general idea of what he should expect to taste. It was still hot, so caution should be taken when sipping as to not burn himself, or worse, spit out the contents in panic, which would be most rude. Granted, he most likely shouldn’t care too much of this woman’s opinion on him, given how much of a pigsty she left this place knowing full well he was coming, but he was a gentleman nonetheless. Mustering just a bit of courage, he took a small sip of the tea. As he smelt before, it definitely had something fruity mixed in. “Does this, by any chance, have strawberry mixed in?” The man asked, taking his best guess.

 

“Oh no, it’s pomegranate.”

 

P-p-pomegranate!?” The word slipped from the man’s mouth, flabbergasted at the idea of this shut-in having access to such a fruit. “Where the bloody hell did someone like you get pomegranate from!?”

 

“The lady at the market, Mrs. Wiggins. She supplies me with whatever fruit I want, so long as I have the coin for it. I don’t know how, I just assume she just has the right friends, but I ask her what fruit I want, I give her some preemptive pay, and the next week, she has what I want.” She replied, ignoring the man’s informality, taking another sip of the tea. As her lips parted from the cup, she continued talking. “There’s also a small touch of basil, just to give it that extra flavor.” The man shrugged in response to the second ingredient.

 

“Well, basil isn't anything too spectacular.” He added.

 

“It’s not, really, but I feel a bit of basil can make just about anything better when used correctly. Personally, I’ve never really been one for sweets, but basil can even make some treats taste good.” She took yet another sip. She then put the cup down. “Anyways, would you like to share your name?” The man chuckled a bit with a mouth full of tea. He put the cup down and swallowed what was in his mouth before he could spit it out.

 

“My name? Dear girl, as if you don’t already know.”

 

“I don’t, actually. I’m just a backstage worker. It’s not my job to memorize the names of the actors, just to make sure everything is where it should be.” The man looked oddly at her… Something about what she said wasn’t right. He couldn’t pin it down, but it was most likely just his own ego being flabbergasted that someone that works at the opera doesn’t know his name.

 

“You made me an appointment without even knowing my name?” The man asked in somewhat rude tone, bending over a bit while making eye-contact.

 

“If you call this an appointment, then yes “Mr. Hat””. She replied somewhat jokingly. That was most likely what she’s been mentally noting him as all this time… “Mr. Hat”... It was a funny name. He did always wear this hat everywhere he went. Something about someone recognizing him from it rather than his actual appearance was somewhat charming to him.

 

“Well… Why fix what isn't broken?” Hat asked, laying back in his seat a bit, smuggly.

 

“Well, I see no reason not to if you’re fine with it, Mr. Hat.” The woman replied. The man chuckled a bit at the name. Mr. Hat. Mr. Hat. Mr. Hat. He didn't know why, it was quite unusual, but he fell in love with that name so quickly. By all means, it should be insulting, but for some reason, it just stuck with him. It was almost… Enchanting, flattering even. As if confirmation of his own status, like what her personally saw in the hat himself. Maybe after this he’d steal that name and make it his subtitle. Who knows? “Well, allow me to introduce myself. I am Alice Liddell.” The man suddenly cut her off, a connection to her name he somehow didn’t notice before popping into his mind abruptly.

 

“Alice… Alice Liddell... Alice in Wonderland! That would explain the design of your sign, does it not?” The man commented, followed by taking another sip of tea. “I assume you made that connection so people would memorize your business name a bit better, correct?”

 

“No, actually, the connection existed long before I settled down here. Me and the story have been a bit of, how you say, kindred spirits since I was only about 3. Whenever my father read the story to me and my sister, he’d always make the connection that I was the Alice in the story. He also made the connection between my sister and the queen of hearts just so she wouldn’t feel left out, which in some ways one could take that as an insult but…” Alice began to laugh a bit as fond memories of her childhood flooded back into her mind. “She loved every second of the attention, even though she was about eleven years older than me!. Whenever the queen spoke, he’d let my sister read it. Every time she did, she’d use her best queen impression, more for comedy sake than to be genuine. The way she scoffed after lines and yelled “OFF WITH HER HEAD” still rings to me to this day. I remember once, when father was too busy to read me the book one night, my sister read me it, but as the the queen of hearts the entire way through. She even forced me, as some form of ironic joke, to read all the queen’s dialog whenever she had something to say, most likely in an attempt to start reading at such a young age.” Alice chuckled a bit as the warm, comforting memories of her sister bounced around in her mind, filling the once disturbing room with a new tone of childlike wonderment. Mr. Hat eventually gave in and gave a small chuckle of his own to accompany her.

 

“Perhaps you could get a meeting between us sometime if she’s still interested in that sort of thing. With a connection like me, she could go far in the opera house! Perhaps not at first, some more basic, how you say, “gigs” would have to be done first, but-” Alice raised her hand a bit, motioning him to stop. He suddenly realized her previous happy tone had abruptly ceased.

 

“She’s dead now, everyone in my family is.” She replied. Then man reddined a bit from accidentally bringing up such a sensitive subject… He could feel something as he got the news. Not sadness, but more… Something else. He pushed the feeling away so he could apologize properly.

 

“.... Oh…. I apologize for-”

 

“Don’t be. You meant your words in the kindest sense, and if my sister were still around today, I’m sure she would be flattered.” Alice put a small smile back on to show there were no hurt feelings. Before she continued, the took the she had around her neck, and gandered at it, continuing to do so as she spoke. “Besides, it doesn’t hurt me much anymore now. It did, believe me, still does at times, but now…” Her eyes moved up twords the fire, watching her cat sleep soundly so close it it. She very intently stared at the log afflicted by the fire, the small bits of bark still remaining on it slowly shrinking, curling up, and eventually cracking off entirely, falling into the infernal abyss of ash bellow. “It’s just a bad memory.” With that, she released the key from her grip, allowing it to drop back down to it’s regular position. Hat wanted to ask her how they died, but was very, very hesitant to ask. Besides, he was the one who needed therapy, not her. Speaking of which…

 

“That reminds me, are we about ready to move onto the therapy session?” Hat asked as politely as he could… He suddenly realized how incredibly rude that could be interpreted as. There was a brief pause from Alice as her face contorted in a sort of mild anger.

 

“Oh that is ENOUGH! SHOO! GET OUT OF HERE!!!” She abruptly yelled, getting off from the couch. The man reeled back a bit from shock as she yelled this.

 

“I-I-I apologize, I now realize how-”

 

NOT YOU!!!” She replied, twisting her head back towards him. “OUT! OUT! OUT!” she went around her side of the couch, seemingly kicking the area in front of her, chasing something off that wasn’t there. The man put down his tea and got up to investigate what the hell was happening, only to watch as Alice left the room entirely, chasing off her invisible guest. Eventually, she returned, ever so slightly sweaty. She left out a heavy sigh as she came back before speaking. “Sorry about that. Care for some more tea?”

 

DO NOT PRETEND THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN!” The man very hastily replied. “WHO DID YOU JUST CHASE OFF!?

 

“Oh, just the cat.”

 

.... YOUR CAT IS THERE!!!” The man yelled, pointing at Alice’s cat in front of the fireplace as she walked past him to sit back down on the left side of the couch.

 

“Oh no, the other…...” The cat was now out of the the bag, both literally and metaphorically. Alice realized she was now going to have to explain herself. Thank goodness she wasn’t facing him at the moment, it would be unprofessional to blush out of embarrassment in front of someone like this.

 

“There is no other cat!!! None that I’ve seen, and none I saw you chasing out! Explain yourself!” Alice took a deep breath, and did as he so politely asked.

 

“Just because you can’t see or hear it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Alice replied. The man simply scratched the back of his hat, as if it were his head.

 

“Yes but.. Something as large as cat?-”

 

“To as something as large as an earthquake.” She quickly cut off before he could blabber on about how it didn’t make sense. The Man’s mind slowly melted trying to figure out what the hell she was talking about. “Creatures and travistys exist in all forms around the world, some more visible than others. Some are animals are like Dinah” She motioned her hand towards the cat by the fireplace “Clearly visible, heard, touched, smelt, even tasted if you went out of your way to do so. Some are more elusive, like raccoons. As big as they are, so many households can go years without even realizing one has taken refuge in it. Then there’s also insects. Some bening so small, they can’t even be seen by the naked eye.”

 

“Is there a point your making here? This doesn’t explain you kicking thin air and demanding it to leave.”

 

“The point I’m making is that some animals, or creatures, exist on different planes of existence altogether. Only within the certain minds of certain people. That cat I scared off? It was my cat. A special cat only I may see, hear, touch, smell, or taste if I so choose to.” She took a quick pause to finish the last of her tea. “I know that face you’re making. I don’t even need to look at you to know you’re making it. You don’t believe me, but believe me when I say I neither care nor take offense. It is an abstract concept, and those who hear it tend to have it go in one ear and out the other, and I expect you to be no different. In fact, I’m rather certain you think I’m quite mad.”

 

“Uh, no, I don’t think you’re-”

 

Don’t. Lie.” She sharply replied, almost slamming her cup down, and rising from her seat once more. “I know I’m mad. I spent half my life in an asylum, for god’s sake, I should know it more than anyone…” She paused, as she turned around to face Mr. Hat, her silhouette becoming far more intimidating as the fire burned behind her. “... But, we’re all mad, aren’t we?”

 

“... Well, that’s-”

 

“It’s not debatable! It’s fact. Obsessions with numbers in banking, obsession with colors in art, obsession with food in cooking, and yes, obsession with characters in acting. It’s all people’s different forms of madness, it’s only how they express it that worries people. As someone almost consumed by her own madness, I don’t care if I interact in public with the imaginary world around me. That’s my privilege as a survivor of true, utter madness.” Her tone slowly became more, and more serious. “And as someone who’s been plunged deeper into her persona, blackened wonderland than anyone else and lived to tell the tale, least to my knowledge, I know you’re on the brink. THAT’S why I picked you out.” The man backed up a bit, slightly reaching for his coat while not letting a single eye off of Alice, now officially afraid of what she was talking about.

 

“What.. What are you talking about woman? I merely have insomnia! Nothing more, nothing less. Just some unrest thoughts I need to get off my chest, whatever they may be. I do not need this lecture about you, me, and everyone else being mad to make me feel better!”

 

“You once again miss the point, Mr. Hat.” She continued, her voice now along the lines of lecturing “You’re not truly mad yet. But trust me, you will.

 

“And what if I simply leave right now and seek help elsewhere?” The Man bluffed, trying to stay on top of this situation.

 

“I won’t stop you.” Alice replied simply. “But I will lay down your options here, which you do have complete control of, since I know how important that is to you.” …. Yeah, she has a complete read on him now. “Your first option is to grab your coat, leave this place, and never look back. After today, I will not even lay as much of an eye on you, and we will continue to simply be coworkers. However, if you stay here, I’ll help you before you wither away in an asylum trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not for twenty years straight, watching as the golden years of your life escape from your fingertips like water. Just. Like. I did.

 

“...Is that a threat?”

 

“No, it’s simply cause and effect. If you leave now without the proper help, you will go fully mad. Whether or not you will recover like I did, I am not certain, but I think both of us would prefer if that never happened to start with.” She extended a hand to him over the couch, softening her tone a bit. “No one should ever have to go through what I did. No one. At least not alone.”

 

“... And… What do you plan to do about it no one else can?” Alice took a deep breath, exhaled, and continued, hand still extended.

 

“Sit down, and have some more tea. It will not work if you’re as wound up as you are right now. I’ve tried it once before, and it simply does not work.” The man stared at her hand for a bit, wondering if accepting her offer was truly the right decision. They say curiosity killed the cat, but given that’d he’d rather die than to go with his only other option, taking her advice seemed like the only logical option, at least in the non-existent, self-made corner he backed himself into by saying that to himself.

 

“..... Alright, fine. Just don’t murder me, alright? I’m a very important man with many important things to do soon. To expire here would be a tragedy in more ways than one.” The Man replied, half jokingly as he shook Alice’s hand.

 

“Well, I don’t see any train stations nearby, so you should be fine.” She replied with a smile. The Man raised an eyebrow at the comment.

 

“... Huh?” She began laughing a bit.

 

“Oh nothing. Just a little inside joke! Nothing you’d understand. No offense, of course.”

 

“.... Between you and the cat?”

 

“In a way.” She replied, her smile becoming somewhat more devilish as the words left her lips. She sat down once again and patted the spot next to her to motion him to sit next to her. He did so, finished his tea, and Alice poured him another cup. He had a feeling of dread as he picked up the cup. He knew this was a bad idea. This woman was a loon, through and through. However, her knowing that and saying it outloud was slight, somewhat humorous comfort he couldn’t deny. He took a deep breath, and declined in his seat, leaning all the way back in. Whatever was to go down tonight, at least he’s getting a free drink first.

 

***

 

The Man, or Mr. Hat, was no longer sure how long it’s been at this point. For what felt like the last few hours, he and Alice were more or less just hanging out, talking about the lives of one another, enjoying some tea and even some cake Alice had leftover in her kitchen. They didn’t talk about anything too personal or worrisome, just small little things that happened in their everyday life, such as the annoying white cat Mr. Hat deals with on his way to work, and, for Alice, this street urchin that had a massive crush on her, spite her being at least 15 years older than him.

 

However, sooner or later, the time came where Mr. Hat was finally relaxed, at least as much as he’d ever be. Alice took notice, and pointed it out.

 

“I do believe you’re ready for your treatment.” Alice softly said, getting up to get something from the back of the room.

 

“Treatment?- OH! Oh yes, of course.” Mr. Hat replied. Somehow, spite him coming here for the soul reason to be treated, he had completely forgotten why he came here in the first place.

 

“That’s a good sign, Hat. It means you’re definitely relaxed to the point of forgetfulness. However, do not take that the wrong way. What we’ll be doing today will not be an exercise in forgetting, but in remembering.” She said, emphasis on that last word.

 

“Remembering? What is it you want me to remember?” Hat responded, confused.

 

“Do you know why you have trouble sleeping?” Alice asked back, fiddling with something in the back of the room.


“Of course not. That’s why I came here. If I knew, I would have taken care of this myself a long while ago.

 

“Precisely! Which is why we need to get you to remember what ails you. If you do not know what’s keeping you up at night, how are we to treat it?” Hat thought about this question for a bit.

 

“Well, what if it’s a sickness I have no memory of? Like, example, a flu?”

 

“Then you’d be at the hospital, or in bed, not with me. Trust me, I can tell disease from mental disorder a mile away. Not disorder as in ADHD or schizophrenia, but as in a “disorder” in the mind, as in something simply being not “in order” with your mind.” Hat was somewhat relieved at these words, implying there was nothing incredibly wrong with him. He took a quick somewhat audible sigh of relief from this as Alice continued to talk. “Basically, a memory or two have wiggled out of the recesses of your mind, buzzing around your brain, making an incessant noise that refuses to let your sleep.” The sound of a match lighting up could be heard. Mr. Hat turned around to investigate what Alice was doing. From the looks of it, she was lighting up an essence stick, followed by mounting it on an appropriate little iron wall cozy. “I’m going to see about quelling those flies so they no longer bother you.”

 

“Why not terminate the flies entirely?” He asked in response.  “Swat them down like the insects they are?”

 

“We could, and the short run, that would be most effective. However, aren’t you curious as to why the flies are there to start with?”

 

“..... Is this still a metaphor, or-”

 

“Memories don’t just pop out of nowhere, Hat, not to this extent. To simply forget them will simply numb the pain. To remember and accept them, however, is more painful, but will grant actual closure. It will end the pain entirely. Do you understand?” Hat thought about this for a moment… It seemed to make enough sense.

 

“Yes.” He plainly said in response. Alice lit up another stick and hung it up, then another. After lighting one last stick, she approached him from behind.

 

“Alright. Now, before we start, I must make something perfectly clear. Once we begin, you are not to open your eyes, even for a moment, and you are not to struggle. If anything bad, or painful happens, and you notice yourself struggling, know that I’m here, and that nothing bad will happen to you. All you are to do is to close your eyes, and enter your wonderland.”

 

“... My wonderland?” He asked.

 

“Your happy place, in simpler terms. A place where you escape to in order to feel safe and happy, no matter how bad things get.”

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t really have one of those.”

 

“Nonsense, everyone does. When you dream, you go to your wonderland. Your realm of personal thought and splendor, your imagination.”

 

“And… What are nightmares if wonderland is always happy?”

 

“Corruptions in wonderland come and go sometimes as life passes. This is usually a byproduct of fear. It could just be something petty, like thinking there’s a monster in the closet, to very real fears, such as the loss of one’s… ” She seemed to correct herself, possibly to avoid talking about her own family… Yet strangely, her tone didn’t match that idea, for some reason. “How about instead, the idea of becoming homeless. However, these things pass in time. When they do not, however, that’s when there’s a problem, and today, if you cannot tell, we are treating the problem you have.”

 

“So you plan on fixing my wonderland?”

 

“Yes, that is the idea.”

 

“... Would that by chance have anything to do with the name? “Liddell’s Otherland Services?””

 

“Ha. Very sharp of you to notice, but yes, that is why I gave it that name. Otherlands is a personal term I use for other people’s wonderlands. “Other-Lands”. It also has a bit of a catchy ring to it, don’t you think?”

 

“I would be a liar if I said it didn’t have certain “sticky” quality to it.”

 

“Indeed. Now, without wasting anymore time-” Suddenly, her hands clamped onto Hat’s shoulders, and she proceeded to begin rubbing them. There was a moment of resistance from Hat, but after a second, he began to almost go fully limp. He had no idea how this woman would know something like this, but she was a damned natural at massaging his shoulders. Clearly, this wasn’t the first time she’s done this, it was simply impossible. “Close your eyes, and enter Wonderland.” To the best of his ability, the man softly closed his eyes, and began to imagine somewhere else. Somewhere better. Somewhere where strife and conflict had, or at least shouldn’t have, no place. “Do you see anything yet?” She asked, continuing to massage him. Soon, the incense also did it’s magic as it enveloped the man’s senses, causing the last of his tension to float away.

 

“.... I…. I think so.” Hat responded, an image coming to mind.

 

“Describe it.”

 

***

 

The crowd cheered as Hat and his partner danced across the fine wooden floor if the opera stage. He merely performed a basic tango with her, but the flair he added with every step, every motion, it drove the audience insane. He relished their constant cheers of approval as he performed the show he had trained for so long now to give to them, his gift to an audience of over a thousand men and woman. He at first tried to contain his smile, but instead let it spread across his cheeks, spite his character being what should be a stick in the mud dancing only to satiate a particularly thirsty girl he would later fall in love with in the play. The audience, however, did not seem to mind this change to the script, continuing to shower him with whistles and praises.

 

And where am I in this?

 

“Huh?” The man replied, focusing on dancing while a strange, but familiar voice spoke to him.

 

I’m not behind you right now, Hat. You’re in your wonderland, not in this room. If I am not here, where am I there?

 

Hat thought about this for a bit… “If I can hear you, you must be in direct earshot meaning that you’re..” He raised his dancing partner up after performing the dip, and looked at her face. It was, in fact, Alice.

 

“Excellent. Now keep dancing.” She said. The two continued their dance across the stage, the people still hollering out of love for his work. For some reason, she wore a white, almost wedding like dress. It was ravishing, lacy, and incredibly well made. Though to be fair this was the royal opera house. To expect anything less would be an incredible insult. The dress reminded him of the dress his wife wore during their wedding... Now that he was thinking about it, where was his family? As such a leading star, he had the privilege of giving his family high class tickets to all of his shows. He also always went out of his way to make sure they sat front row, so they should be in easy eyeshot of him. Once the dance allowed him to get a good view, he looked down the front row. Most of them were of people he didn’t recognize, but what did stick out were three empty seats right in the middle of the front row… The place his family should be.

 

“Alice… My family.” Hat said, hushing his voice to make sure he wasn’t heard over the music to the audience’s perspective.

 

“What about them?” Alice asked back in the same hushed tone.

 

“They’re missing.”

 

“They might just be late, just focus on the show for now.” This was rather unexpected for Alice to ask. He assumed someone that should be helping him would ask, well, why they’re gone. But… If the show is more important at the moment, so be it. The two tangoed for a few minutes longer, masterfully landing every motion, until suddenly Alice began talking again. Not in a way to ask him about his wonderland, but more in the sense of outside disturbance.

 

Shoo, shoo.” She whispered, trying hard to make sure Hat didn’t hear her.

 

“What? Is it the cat again?”

 

“Yes, just don’t mind me, he’ll-”

 

“Oh no, you said it yourself. If this is my wonderland, Alice. There is no outside room, and right now, I don’t see anything bugging you at the moment.” Hat teased, watching as Alice’s face contorted in a confused, somewhat frustrated way. She attempted to respond, but all that came out were sputters. “You said it yourself, Alice. He’s either here, or he’s not here. So where is he?”

 

“.... Oh fuck me.” Alice finally responded, knowing she’s been beaten by her own logic. Hat wasn’t entirely sure why he pushed this other than to just tease her. Perhaps out of a vague curiosity leading him to force her to spill the beans about her imaginary cat. Either way, this should make this entire experience far more interesting. With a snap of her fingers, the Cheshire Cat finally decloaked from his hidden location, which was ironically in the middle of the stage. The crowd, strangely enough, didn’t seem to notice.

 

“Have I finally been called? Has someone finally remembered I exist?” The cat asked in his usual, deep, snarky voice.

 

“What the hell is wrong with that cat?” Hat asked Alice in a flabbergasted tone, not caring what the audience thought of it, staring at it’s skinny physic, large size, and disturbingly human-like teeth.

 

“If looks could break glass, yours would turn it back into sand, so I’d watch your tongue if I were you, unless you would prefer if I just take it away.”

 

“Alice…. Control your cat.” Hat asked Alice, giving the cat a glare while he was facing away from them.

 

“If you couldn't tell already, I can’t. He does whatever he wants without much in the lines of limitations other than giant flesh tentacles bursting from the floor to decapitate him.”... Hat pretended that made sense. “I would remove him from this place, but that would just break the immersion… Wouldn’t it?” Hat realized he made a grave mistake. Regardless, the scene went on, now with an additional pair of eyes watching. Before long, the scene finally came to an end after some dialog exchanges, and the trio had departed to the back for their break during the intermission.

 

***

 

Mr. Hat loafed onto a cushioned chair in his dressing room in his formal tux outfit while Alice walked into the closet to change into something more appropriate. As he laid there, the cat once again appeared next to him. With nothing much to do at the moment until Alice came out, he decided to talk to it.

 

“So…. Do you have a name?” Hat asked, eyes closed, taking in the full softness of the chair.

 

“If you must label me, you may call me Cheshire, though do not let the name crumble my intimidating appearance, for I am nowhere even close to cheesy.”

 

“ALICE, DOES THIS FUCKING CAT TALK IN ANYTHING THAT ISN’T WORD GAMES!?” Hat yelled so that Alice may hear him from the wardrobe.

 

“NO.” Alice blunty responded from the closet.

 

“Just checking.” He responded back in a more hushed voice, not caring if Alice could hear him or not, feeling the oncoming dread of having to deal with this wretched thing. If it wasn’t enough that he hated cats, this one talks, and not only does it talk, but it talks in bloody riddles. Riddles and poems have its place in the world, Hat can even admit he is a fan of most poety. However, when it’s 90% of one’s dialog, that’s when it starts to get annoying. And to think, he wanted this to be more annoying for her than him.

 

“To be fair, the way you talk is pretty cheesy.” Slipped from Hat’s mouth to the cat. It didn’t take him long to realize backsassing the Cheshire Cat was a bad idea.

 

“It appears you talk, but lack the use of all your senses. Since this is a therapy session, I will do my part in making sure they all still do work, starting with hearing.” He raised his paw and showed off a single, wickedly sharp claw to Hat. “What did I just say a few minutes ago, Mr. Hat?”... Eyup, a mistake were certainly made.

 

“.... Something, something, cat got your tongue joke?” The claw came closer to his face.

 

“Word. For. Word.”

 

“Alright, let’s get moving.” Alice said, walking out of the wardrobe. Cheshire, on que, disappeared as to not displease Alice with his casual death threats.

 

“OH THANK GOD.” Hat replied, bursting from his chair. However, his jovial mood quickly died upon seeing what Alice was wearing. It wasn’t what she was supposed to be wearing. Instead, it was a blue, somewhat frilly dress complimented with a white apron, the pockets on which had the symbols of of eris and jupiter, and around her neck, along with the venus key necklace, another necklace of a silver horseshoe, most likely representing “omega”. Below that, she wore some stripped, leg-length socks, and high heel boots. Similar to what she wore in the real world, just less dirty.

 

“Th-that’s not what you’re supposed to wear!” Hat replied, somewhat shocked. “We’re on in five minutes, how are you going to-” Without him saying another word, Alice took out a pocket watch, and clicked the top of it. There was a giant mind-distorting wave of power accompanied with a high pitch noise, as well as the sound of clocks ticking, and slowing down. After a few seconds, the wave disappeared, and all seemed to go back to normal. He quickly looked around the room, trying to see what changed only to notice something very odd…. A fly, hovering at a standstill mid flight.

 

“Did…. Did you just stop time?” Hat asked, checking his watch, only to see it still moving as if nothing happened.

 

“Not quite, I merely boosted the properties of the hour and minute hand for everyone but us. I do believe five hours should be more than enough time to find your family before the next scene, would it not?” Alice asked, putting the watch back into one of her apron pockets.

 

“Well, I suppose so. But they could be anywhere in town, where will we start looking?” Hat asked, going back into the wardrobe and pulling out his signature hat.

 

“One would imagine the best place to look for something lost is to cover one’s own tracks.” Cheshire responded, fading back into existence, following by licking his dirty paw and rubbing it against his forehead.

 

“So you’re saying the first place to check is... Home?” Hat asked the cat. As he said these words, Hat began to sweat ever so slightly, as if the room had turned up a few degrees unexpectedly.

 

“.... In lemmings terms, yes. But to keep one’s eyes peeled the whole way wou-”

 

“Yeah, I get the point. Alright Alice, I’m ready, let’s get moving.” He immediately made his way for the back exit of the opera house and left before even Alice could, slamming the door open as hard as he could on his way out. Both Alice and her Cat stood in slight awe of his sudden motivation to get out there, which wasn’t surprising, knowing how anyone would feel if their entire family went missing out of the blue.

 

“It appears as if chivalry is dead, after all.” The cat said. He had no art behind this line, he merely spoke his mind.

 

“I do believe chivalry can wait until we’ve found Hat’s family, cat. I wouldn’t be too prioritized over manners either if my family failed to meet me at my own birthday.”

 

“People are tardy to important events all the time for one or more reasons at the same time. But when time has halted, why put in so much hustle into one’s step?”

 

“I think… I think he might be remembering something important. About home. Follow softly, cat, and try not to interrupt unless spoken to. This might be a breakthrough.” Without another word, even of confirmation from the cat, Alice took off as to not lose Hat. Spite nobody listening, the cat made on last snarky comment before disappearing.

 

“Let’s just hope this breakthrough doesn’t break her in extension.”

 

***

 

Mr. Hat ran through the near-time-stopped nighttime streets, upping his pace to get home as fast as he could. It was raining when Alice stopped time, leading to a series of water droplets frozen in place getting his his way. He merely shoved through the water droplets, creating a sort of tunnel of water around himself as he did so. This, in extension, gave Alice an easy trail to follow so she wouldn’t lose him in his haste to get home.

 

As he neared his house, Hat could feel his lungs burning from the excessive exercise of running from work to home in such a short span of time. Before he could even open the door to his house, he slammed his hands on the front door, and took several raspy deep breaths, trying to relax a bit before opening the door. With his body as relaxed as it could be under the given circumstances, he opened the door, and saw his kids… Waiting for their mother to come home……………………………………………...

 

Mr. Hat, is something wrong?

 

What? No, no. Just…. Whatever.

 

He looked down as his kids, trapped in time, lazily waiting for their mother to come home from work to take them to their father’s play. The younger son, playing with a small toy train, and his older sister, patiently sitting on the couch, keeping an eye on her brother. He walked past his son, and approached his daughter… He took his right hand, and took it through her long hair. The feeling was… Nostalgic. Something he hasn't felt in a while…….

 

Before long, Alice came into the house.

 

“Who’s this?” She asked Hat, taking a gander at the small boy as she passed him by to take a closer look at the girl.

 

“This… This is my daughter.” Hat replied, removing his hand from her hair, only to take it back to the top, and stroke down again.

 

“What’s her name?”

 

“......” Hat was silent for a moment, letting his hand through her hair once again. He took it to the top, and brushed again, then again, and again.

 

“.... Hat?”

 

“I don’t know, Alice. I don’t remember.” He finally replied, taking his hand through her hair once again.

 

“... What about hi-”

 

“I don’t know either.” He once again said, knowing she was talking about his son.

 

“What do you know about them? If you don’t mind me asking.” Alice used the softest voice she could, knowing this was potentially thin ice, giving his previous hostilities.

 

“......... Heh….” He let out a small laugh, staring at his daughter. His teeth clenched a bit looking at her. With a sudden, abrupt force, her grabbed her hair. “I know that I hate them.

 

“Why?” Alice asked plainly in response. Mr. Hat began to slowly tug downward on his daughter’s hair.

 

“Because they exist. Should I have a better reason not to hate them?” He asked back to Alice. Spite the scenario, Alice simply remained quiet. She knew he knew she needed more info than that, so she simply waited for him to continue. “... Kids, Alice, are like cats. They are noisy, annoying, unpleasant, and only get in the way the way of more important things. No matter how cute they look, or innocent they act, or how much they plead. They are, in the end, just a larger sort of vermin. The only good child is a silent child. A child who keeps its mouth shut and nods to whatever you say, a child that hears an order, and simply does it. A child that knows its place and stays out of the way till the day they move out and make something of their own life. My children are no different, and yet…” He let go of his daughters hair for a moment, and walked past alice, to his son. “They still cry. They still complain. They still whine. They still keep asking my where mommy went, when I keep telling them the same answer over-” He stomped on the back of his son, stomping again and again with every over spoken. “-, and over, and over, and OVER again.” With the last stump, a spew of crimson came out along with a wicked  of his son’s mouth, along with a wicked snapping noise, blood spraying onto the toy train and carpet in front of him. Alice, in response, softly put a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Where is mommy, Mr. Hat?” She asked.

 

“... Do you really want to know?”

 

“No, but if I do not, I cannot help. So please, tell me where she is now.” Before long, the walls of the house began to collapse, the ceiling simply ceased to exist, and as the walls finally fell into the newly formed abyss of nothingness beside them, a single, lit up stage could be seen. On it, several completely black, silhouetted people could be seen.

 

“My wife, Alice, was a banker.” He started, watching as the actors got into position. “Top of her game. She saw me one day on a casual day at the opera house with some of the spare money she made at work, and saw me, acting. After a show, I’m usually treated by a hoard of lovestruck woman, amazed by my acting skills, wishing for me to make them my bride… Except her.” He took a moment, and let the actors do their thing. In the middle of the stage, there was a woman, surrounded by men. In front of the woman, one man holding a cigar stood, watching.

 

“Please, now is not the best time. I-I need to get back home, my children are-” The woman was shoved by one of the men.

 

“You're out of excuses, Doris. Where’s our money?” The cigar man asked, taking no note of one of his men taking slight physical action against her.

 

“She was different, Alice. She didn’t love me for my work, she was, instead, impressed by my dedication to it.” Hat continued, taking a seat to watch the show. “She, too, had dedication. Unlike the rest, she strived to be the best she could be, at any cost, at any risk. She was a troublemaker, but she was a troublemaker I could get behind. She was like me, Alice. She took no shit, and when life gave her lemons, she forced them back down the throat of whoever gave her them.”

 

Your money is coming, just please, I need to get home now.” The woman replied, getting shoved once again by a different man.

 

“Nah, Doris, not this time. Where’s my money?” The cigar man asked again, taking a nice, deep breath of his smoke.

 

“But, of course, it was never easy for her. Every man’s dream is to dominate the world, Alice, every man, even those femmine pansy boys. But for a woman… The dream is far harder to attain. The world was built for men to be on top, not woman. That’s just how it goes in life. And, obviously, when a man can’t get what he wants from the inferior sex, they get aggravated.”

 

“You won’t be getting ANYTHING from me if you don’t let me go home THIS. INSTANT.

 

“I see…. Charly, Iggs, grab her.” Two of the thugs then sprung to life and grabbed her arms. The woman struggled a bit as they did so.

 

“H-H-HEY!!! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOUR DOING!?” The woman barked, struggling harder and harder, trying to wiggle free from the men’s grip. Maybe she could have, if another thug didn’t smack her in the stomach with a lead pipe for doing so. “Wha… What?” She asked, shocked that such physical violence was taken.

 

“My wife, however, wasn’t like the other broads. As said before, she never took that shit. If she could hear me, she’d smack me right across the face for saying that. But really, Alice it’s just how the world goes.”

 

“Money, Dorris. I know you have some. The banks ain’t closed yet, meaning they still got money in there. Where is it?”

 

“You. Are getting. NOTHING from me. Not unless you let me go, you let me go home, and you APOLOGIZE for such a-” The lead pipe struck her again, in the same spot.

 

“Nah, nah, nah, lady. We ain’t playing this. I get it, you were the top lady, you like respect, but now you need to share that respect, and listen to me when I fucking ask you WHERE. IS. THE MONEY!?

 

“Up your ass, that’s where.” The pipe stuck her on the head. She let out a wail of pain as this happened, a glowing, neon red blood coming down the silhouettes head.

 

“I wanted to believe her, Alice. I did. I wanted to believe there was hope for the world. That we could all just get together in harmony, as if everything and one could love each other given the right circumstances. With enough dedication, we could break the bonds society laid out for us. But, alas, Alice, that’s just a hope.”

 

“This ain’t gonna do, Doris, not at all.” The man with the cigar walked flicked his smoke away, up to his croney, and took his lead pipe. He walked in front of her, pipe in hand, and hunched over to the woman, making direct eye contact. “One. Last. Chance.”

 

“Go fuck yourse-” The stage abruptly darkened as the cigar man raised the lead pipe, coating the entire area in blackness.

 

“She had the money, Alice, she did. We both knew it. I talked to her, I DEMANDED she just give them the money. But no, Alice, she wouldn’t do it again, she refused. She said, after tonight, she would call the cops. She knew where they were, she was going to have them snuffed out, to undo the illegal ties she had to them, no matter the cost. And WHAT HAPPENED that one night? The one night before she could tell them off, the one night before she was home free. WHAT HAPPENED!?!?...... Dedication, Alice. Dedication killed my wife. Her dedication to her own stupid morals killed her. So I ask myself “Why am I so dedicated? Why am I bothering to strive so hard when all it does it get people hurt, killed, and leads to nothing but egotistical desires? And all I can come up with… Is that it’s just me. I’ve lived with these ideas my entire life, Alice. I can’t just live a different way entirely now. So everyday, I live a life I know only causes suffering, causes torment, causes death. The only way I could even sleep was to just stuff these ideas into the deepest recesses of my mind… And now….. They’re all back.”

 

The light came back, and the room went back to normal, as if nothing ever happened.

 

“Police reports later found her in a washed up bag several months later. It took three detectives to figure out who the body belonged to from how smashed in the face is. Besides her, they also found a lead pipe. All and any usable fingerprints it may have had on it washed away with the tide.”

 

“.... I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Hat.” Alice responded, somewhat distraught from the backstory. “But… Why does this lead you to hate your children.”

 

BECAUSE THEY WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT HER!!! I tell them over and over. “Mommy’s gone, she’s not coming back, she’s dead.” but it was never enough for them!!! They refused to let me be!!! So one night-” He grabbed his children by the hair. Unlike before, they were no longer time trapped, and were fully capable of screaming. “I took them to their room, and gave them the full disclosure.” Alice followed Hat as he dragged his children into their room, almost tossing them in, and slamming the door behind him.

 

“WITH EXAMPLE”

 

Alice listed as Hat retold the story to his kids, clearly citing police reports as he did. She could hear one child squirming on the other side of the door, trying to get out, only for Hat to grab it and seemingly toss it back. Soon, she could hear something break, followed by the hard smacking of wood on flesh. She could hear crying… Then gurgling…. Then quiet sobbing. No more detail was needed besides this… It spoke for itself.

 

Soon, the door to the room opened, not by hand, but by an unseen force. The room, on the inside, and all who were in it, were black and white. No color to be seen, just bleak monochrome. On the floor laid laid Hat’s son, complete mangled from blunt trauma, dead. In the corner was his daughter, bruised, but still alive, sobbing quietly, unsure of what to do. And above it all sat Mr. Hat on his son’s train-patterned bed, holding a the stand of a chair he had manually ripped off to demonstrate his example. He was sobbing lightly as he sat there, completely distraught.

 

“Is this why you cannot sleep?” She asked Hat, trying to keep a calm demeanor in the face of chaos.

 

“.... I can’t tell, Alice. This is where it all blurs out. All I remember is that… I hate my children…. I hate them so much…. Every time I see them, I remember her face and…. I see her face.” He continued to cry into his hands, direct eyesight completely blocked by his hat. Alice kneeled down so that it could at least potentially happen.

 

“I think there’s more to it than that, Hat.” Through sobs, Hat finally looked up to see Alice once again.

 

“... What do you mean? Is this… Is this not enough for you!? Tell me where I can fix this already. DO YOUR JOB!!!! MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!!

 

“It cannot go away, Hat, it never will. You can only learn to live with it.”

 

I CAN’T LIVE WITH THIS, ALICE!!!!! It’s bad enough you made me REMEMBER these repressed memories, but now all you do is tell me to live with it!?!? I don’t know who’s more sick and twisted. Me, or you.” Alice took no offense to this… But she did, however… Chuckle. “What’s so funny?”

 

“It’s.. It’s just funny to me.”

 

“WHAT’S SO FUNNY!?!?”

 

“How completely hopeless you are.”

 

She just kept laughing… The room, abruptly, began to change color. Red. The room slowly began to turn red. Neon red filled the room, the blacks keeping their color, making for a disturbing scene of pure, blinding red and and black, Alice mockingly laughing throughout the mix.

 

“You’re disgusting, Hat. A plague on this world. To kill your own son is a sin that can never be forgiven. For this sin to ever be forgiven, you must perish.”

 

“SHUT UP!!!!!”  No longer able to contain himself, Hat grabbed the broken lamp from the floor, and made a move to stab Alice. However, Alice simply dissolved into a red smoke. The room around him slowly began to shrink. As to not be consumed, he began to move. He raced down the stairs, nearly slipping in his rush, soon doing just so and crashing into the wall in front of the stairs. He looked to his left, only to see a parade of black and red Alices, all standing there, staring at him. Along with her, red versions of his son, red versions of his daughter, red versions of his wife. Red versions of… Himself. They all stood in the living room staring at him, judging him.

 

“Answer for your sins, Hat.”

“Why did you kill me, Hat?”

“Where am I now, Hat?”

“You’re a disgusting man, Hat.”

“YOU’RE A DISGRACE, HAT!!!!”

 

He took only a moment to stare back in horror, but as the walls closed in on him once again, he had to keep moving.

 

“FUCK OFF!!!! GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!!!!” He he screamed as he shoved past the red beings, their skin cutting him from mere touch, as if they were made of razor blades. Spite his best attempts to no longer touch them, they stood so cramped together, it was impossible not to graze them. He just kept moving, pieces of skin tearing from the bone as he moved past, until finally, finally, he saw the door, shrunk, just like the rest of the house. Without a moment to lose, he got on his knees, opened the tiny handle, and crawled out of the house.

 

He took a few deep breaths, blood running down his body, onto the wooden floor, as he looked back at the house. The red and black home soon shrunk smaller, and smaller, until finally becoming a speck… The speck then grew vertically, into a red line, and soon, into a red Alice. In her hands, the vorpal blade. She walked towards him ,nothing but blackness in her eyes.

 

“Please… No Alice, please!!! I-I can be a better person! I swear, I can move on if I try!!!” He begged as she closed in. She kicked him over, onto the floor, and descended onto him. With knife in hands, she slowly raised it up, ready to stab. “PLEASE, JUST GIVE ME A SECOND CHANCE, FOR GOD’S SAKE!!! I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!!!!! I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!!!!!!” The knife then plunged down, and…….

 

*clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

 

Suddenly, without warning, the lights flicked on. He opened his eyes, and watched as Alice got off him, wiping the paint from her face. Once she was off, Hat scrambled up to see who the hell was clapping, only to see Cheshire, sarcastically clapping his paws together while perched in a director’s chair in the far back of the audience stand…. Wearing a beret and black lensed glasses?

 

“And the truth finally comes out.” The cat gested in his ridiculous attire.

 

“..... WHAT?” Was all Mr. Hat could muster. He then noticed, in the sears in front of the cat, we're the silhouettes, and his children. They all stood up, and clapped. Soon, he realized this wasn’t even just some random stage… It was the opera house stage.... And his family… They were in their spots. Son, daughter, and silouette wife, even the red beings… All there. Mr. Hat said nothing, he just got onto his two feet, and bowed while shaking from fear, pretending he was okay for the audience, and applause and cheers soon followed. Soon, the silhouettes climbed onto the stage, and shook his hand as they passed.

 

“Great job, Michael!” one said, passing him by, and exiting through the back.

“Excellent, as usual, Michael!”

“Sorry for the scare, Michael!”

“Lovely job, Michael!”

“Another classic, Michael!”

“Oh god, that was too intense, I’m crying Michael!”

“Wonderful again, Michael”

“Michael”

“Michel”

Michael

 

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Mr. Hat stood on the stage now… Alone… The only ones left in the entire stage was him, Alice, and the cat. Alice, after letting him just stand there for a bit, got onto the stage with him, still somewhat coated in red paint.

 

“What’s your name, Mr. Hat?” Alice asked him, seemingly genuinely.

 

“... My name… My name is Michael Thorne.”

 

“... Who are you, Michael Thorne?”

 

“I…. I’m a renowned actor…. I’m a christian…. I hate my children…. I love my wife……. I hate myself..….. I killed my son…. And…….. And….” He choked on his words a bit, unable to continue. To relieve the stress, just for a moment, Alice asked a new question.

 

What… Was your wife’s name?”

 

“.... Doris Thorne….”

 

“And your son’s?”

 

“........ I don’t know…”

 

“And your daughters?”

 

“...... I…. I don’t know….”

 

“...What’s your name?”

 

“.... Michael….. Thorne.” Alice slapped him.

 

“... Wha… What?” He asked, feeling his cheek where Alice slapped him. He looked past her, and looked at the Cheshire Cat.

 

“Love is tough, Mr. Hat. It peels, cunts, and wounds the flesh, but without it, you’ll never be able to feel anything else.” It spoke, smiling at him.

 

What’s. Your. Name.” Alice asked again.

 

“....... I don’t know.” Hat replied, tearing up. “I don’t know anymore.”

 

“Then perhaps this question will be a bit easier, since you look up to him so much.” Alice said, taking his hat off, and showing it to him. “What was your father’s name?”

 

“............” He stared at the hat….. The hat….. The hat he always wore…. The hat his father gave to him before he…… Went to jail for……...

 

“.... My father’s name” he began.. “Was Michael Thorne.

 

“And your mother’s?”

 

“.... Doris Thorne.”

 

“And your brothers?”

 

“Peter Thorne.”

 

“And yours?”

 

“............. Hatty Thorne.” And with that… She slowly sunk into the stage floor, still standing… Or was she laying down? The last thing she saw before passing out was the lights around her flicking of, one by one, and Alice’s green eyes beading down onto her, a smile stretching across her face.

 

***

 

Hat’s eyes groggily awoken. He no longer had any idea what time it was… It must have been a dream. A nightmare. There was no Alice, no cat, no… Whatever else happened. Everything was back to normal. He took off the sheets covering his body and…. Noticed there was a small, stuffed, white rabbit doll… He tossed the toy across the room, breaking a vase in the process, heart sinking. The next thing he did was cuff his own chest, feeling the presence of… A breast… No… NO, he simply gained weight, that’s all. That’s all!... There was only one place left to check for confirmation. As disgusting as it was, he had to do it, to prove once and for all he was Michael Thorne. No one else, he was himself… He reached down and…….

 

... Oh god.” Hatty said to herself, tearing up. Suddenly, most likely to check on what the smashing noise was, Alice popped into the room via the door. Her eyes quickly glanced at the smashed remains of one of her family’s last surviving family heirlooms before glancing over at Hatty, who just stared back with sad, stuffy eyes.

 

“We…. Uh…” Alice stumbled on her words a bit, unsure how to go about talking about this. Instead of beating around the bush, she decided to just spit it out. “We have a lot to talk about. Come downstairs whenever your ready… I made tea”. Alice went in, picked up the rabbit doll, gave it back to Hatty, and left without another word.

 

Hatty took a moment to look at the small rabbit doll. It had a tiny top hat stitched on, a small, soft red vest, a small yellow button-up shirt under it, and a pair of spats to boot. It wasn’t particularly well made, it felt as if the seems around it could snap clean off with the slightest of ease, as if it were home made, perhaps even by Alice herself. It’s design also seemed disturbingly accurate to the rabbit character she saw on the sign to Alice’s place so long ago, as if it were a slightly cuter representation of it. Whatever its history was, Hatty found an odd comfort from the stuffed object, almost reminding her of the dolls she once had as a child before this mess began. She clutched the doll tightly to her chest, and rolled back to bed. She’d stay for about an hour before finally coming downstairs to talk to Alice.

 

***

 

Hatty laid on the couch, the fireplace this time not being lit by her own request request, instead just opting to lighting a few candles here and there to light up the room up. Upon Hatty’s lap laid Dinah, who was obnoxiously purring as she rubbed it. Ironically, Hatty loved cats, it was her father who hated them, not her. She always wanted a cat, but her father would always list off the reasons why she couldn't have one. They were noisy, annoying, unpleasant, and only got in the way of more important things. She vividly remembered one day yelling at him that “if their so obnoxious, why do you put up with us?”, the “us”, of course, relating to her and her brother, only to get the response “I simply don’t know”. This was before her mother’s murder, of course. She would never heckle her father like that over a cat in that state, especially at the age she was then. But he was more than sure to bring it up while beating her brother to death… Perhaps this was why she desired Alice to bring the cat to her wonderland… Her true subcontions begging to see who he was out of her hidden desire to see what a talking cat was like… That didn’t make it any less of a shit idea to involve him, that cat was an asshole.

 

“If it’s of any comfort, Hatty” Alice began, standing in a small rocking chair beside the couch to give Hatty her space. “You’re still a renowned actor, debatably better than your father in some ways. I personally have never seen you in action, sadly, I’m just backstage help, so take my word with some salt, but I’ve caught small glimpses from time to time, and from what I hear, you are very, genuinely good.”

 

“I think I know how this all started, Alice.” Hatty began abruptly, almost changing the subject entirely. She leaned up a bit, disturbing the cat on her ever so slightly, and took a swig of tea. “... But… Before I do… What’s in this tea? It’s not pomegranate this time… Is it orange?” Alice chuckled slightly at the question.

 

“Why, yes actually. It is orange this time.”

 

HA! you can’t fool me forever Alice!” Hatty laughed, triumphantly. Alice couldn’t help but laugh more at Hatty’s sudden positive attitude. “But, yes, the point.” She took a final swig of tea before putting the cup back down and laying back down. After doing so, Dinah crawled higher onto Hatty’s body, almost to try and pin her down so she wouldn’t rise up again. Hatty opened her mouth, but all that came out was awkward chuckles at Dinah flopped right onto her chest.

 

“Pfftftftf, yo-your cat, Alice.” Hatty laughed, trying to contain herself. “Your cat is all forms of delightful.”

 

“Dinah has always been a smart cat, Hatty.” Alice commented, looking at the scenario. “But, I will admit, “smart”’s definition does tend to vary from person to person. Just because a cat has a small concept of cause and effect doesn’t mean it’s going to use it to the best of it’s advantage.” The two chuckled a bit before Hatty finally got onto the point.

 

“My entire life, Alice, I’ve been trying to figure out why my father did what he did. Such a prestein, top of the line actor, with thousands upon thousands of fans... Throwing everything away out of a single bout of frustration. He was never really a kind man, in fact he always fought a lot with my mother before she died, but, from what he told me behind her back…. He did love her. Against what you would think, my father would never bad mouthed her to anyone, even when she was debatably out of line. Even my mother bad mouthed my father, but never my father about my mother. It was strange, Alice.” Hatty took a breath to allow herself to keep talking, and went on.

 

“Once I got out of the orphanage I lived in, my goal was to figure out my father. I eavesdropped on him many times as a child, studying his character skills, listening to his self monologues, ect, so I thought to myself “if I could make a character out of my father, I could begin to understand him”. So, I did… But, after doing the research, Alice… Something caved in. The memories of what happened all came flooding back at once. The memories of that night, that I worked so hard to repress... All I saw was red when it happened. I saw myself, in that room, smashing in my own brother’s skull and… Somehow, Hatty left my body, and my father, Michael, walking in… How long was I like that, Alice?”

 

“A few months to a year. Sadly, I don’t have an exact time span, but it was for a while. At first, I thought it was just an elaborate acting exercise, but when I asked for your name-”

 

“Hold on, you said you never asked for your name.” Hatty cut Alice off, eyebrow raised.

 

“I did, but every time I did, you insisted I already knew it, and any further pushing would cause you to hastily retreat like a rabbit at the sight of a fox.” Alice replied. “Every. Single. Time.”

 

“..... Oh…. That might explain some things.” She responded. She began to slowly assumed those moments when she saw Alice, when time sped up… She slowly began to recall the small pieces of idol smalltalk Alice tried to make with her before Hatty, or in this case, Mr. Hat, evacuated the scene before Alice triggered any form of memory of his past past self.

 

“That’s when I started to realize you needed help, and when I heard the rumors of you having insomnia, I jumped on it as the perfect opportunity to see about getting you here to get things sorted out. Granted, you didn’t seem to take to the formal approach, but it seems as if the more “opera cliche” approche got the down the same effect.” Alice took a quick pause. “Sorry about lying to you so much, Hatty, I-”

 

“Nonono, don’t be. It got us here, didn’t it? Though I would like to add that the laughing was a bit much.” There was a long pause of silence. “..... Alice?”

 

“... What laughing?”

 

“The…. The laughing. The laughing when you heard about my family, the laughing you did, followed by calling me hopeless, the other comments....”

 

“.... Oh…. That.” Alice took a clean, long, deep breath.

 

“What?”

 

“Hatty…. I never laughed. After you talked about your family, what happened to your brother….. You had a heart attack.” Hatty’s eyes widened a bit. “Your fine now, but you almost jumped out of my hands and fell onto the floor, seizing, eventually screaming at me not to kill you, that you… Didn’t do anything wrong.” Alice took another breath. “At that point, I had to see about just getting to the point, knowing you’d most likely not be able to handle anymore… Thankfully, that seemed to be the right call”. Spite the news, Hatty began to laugh. Alice looked back in a massive amount of confusion.

 

“That was all a bloody heart attack!? Oh my god, that’s a riot!” Hatty said, continuing to laugh. “And you climbing on me to save my life was interpreted as….. PFFFAHAHAHAHHAA!!!! Oh dear lord, that’s a damn riot!!! And the cat, after all of that shit, after I nearly fucking died, he was just wearing a tiny beret and black glasses as if he were a little director.” Alice suddenly raised a brow.

 

“Black glasses?” Alice asked, still very much confused. She was happy that Hatty, for whatever reason, was taking her near death experience with such humorous stride, unless the laughter was ironic, but still, the concept of black glasses was… Odd.

 

“Yes, like pitch black lensed glasses that seemed impossible to see through! I don’t even know why he would, but he just was!”

 

“Well, the mind plays all sorts of trick on you when in such a fragile state, it’s nothing to get to hooked up on.”

 

“True, true.” Suddenly, a thought came to Hatty’s mind. Suddenly, something sprang to Hatty’s mind. Something she never imagined her saying till now, but, to help relieve the last of the tension within the room, decided to share it with Alice.  “You know Alice, I’m real glad I went through this.”

 

“Of course. Being able to open all those closed doo-”

 

“No not that. If I never went through this, if I never crossdressed as my father, I never would have tried on pants.”Alice chuckled a bit from the surprise turn of the conversation.

 

“Wh-what?” She asked Hatty, keeping back laughter. “Why?”

 

“Dresses are nice, Alice, but I’ll be frank. I like the way pants feel. It’s almost comforting the way they wrap around your entire leg, not too tightly, but enough. I think I’ll keep wearing them!”

 

“To be fair, that’s the reason I wear such high socks.” She replied, taking a sip of tea.

 

“But high socks are too tight! I like the feeling of both freedom and confinement at the same time. It’s like the best of both worlds.” Hatty took a quick pause, rubbing Dinah’s head for a little bit. “Besides, I kinda like how it rubs down there sometimes.” Alice realized the grave mistake she made by sipping her tea as it came flooding out her mouth from the shock of what just came out of Hatty’s. Alice, frantically moving to put her tea down before she dropped it,  let out a massive, nasally laugh, sides hurting from her own uncontained chuckles.

 

“AAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!!! AAAA HAHAHHAHAH!!” Was all that left Alice’s mouth for a few seconds. Dinah, most likely as creeped out as Hatty was, evacuated from Hatty’s chest to go to another room. Soon enough, however, Hatty began to chuckle alongside Alice, until also caving into laughter. She was mostly joking about that “rubbing” comment, but nonetheless, she felt it was the right thing to say to ease the last of the dark tensions from the room. People like Alice most likely don’t laugh enough, anyways. Hatty felt as if she was doing a service to her by saying that. The two just laughed for what felt like forever, at some point, forgetting why they were even laughing to start with. After awhile, Hatty wondered whether or not she was always like this. This weird, bubbly shameless joker character… Maybe she just forgot about it until just now.

 

***

The two exchanged some more stories, told jokes, and enjoyed the time they had together for a good, long while. However, Hatty eventually felt the need to get home.

 

“Anyways, I should most likely be getting home. What time is it?” Alice took out a pocket watch and checked as Hatty finally got off the couch.

 

“About 10:00 AM.”

 

“Nine? I stayed here the entire night!?”

 

“You needed your sleep.” Alice replied, smiling.

 

“Well then I must get home post haste! Tomorrow is when I’ll be getting my new scene, and I cannot botch it up like I did last time!” Hatty reclaimed her hat from the tea table, put it on, and made a move for the door. “Thank you so much, Alice, for everything!!! I hope we… Actually, we work in the same building so-”

 

“Reunion won’t be too long at all, Hatty. I look forward to seeing you at work tomorrow.” Something about Alice saying that gave Hatty an immense comfort, knowing she wouldn’t be alone like she was before.

 

“I look even more forward to seeing you…. By the way, Alice, before I go, just to make sure everything is straight… How popular of an actor am I?” Alice put a finger on her lip to think, then replied.

 

“I’d say at least a teir 2 actor at the house. Not quite as high as your dad yet, but almost.”

 

“... How rich am I?”

 

“Enough to feed a family if you had one.”

 

“... How would you like a ticket to the next show? I know you work there, but I think I might be able to pull you some strings to have someone fill in for you so you may have a seat.” Somewhat out of character, Alice’s eyes brightened up a bit in slight excitement.

 

“I… I always wanted to see an opera, I just never got the chance nor money to-”

 

“Say no more, Alice, your face says it all. Take it as payment for helping me so much- and I know this was free, but it would mean a lot to me if you came, if only to make sure everything goes fine during the next show, given my “mental illness”.” Alice could tell she was making as many excuses as she could for Alice to watch her next show, so she just caved in without a fuss.

 

“I would be honored to see your next show, Hatty.” Alice replied, trying to hide her personal excitement.

 

“Then it is a deal! Once tickets come out, I’ll secure you a spot one way or another!” Hatty once again began to make a move for the exit. “I’d love to stay, Alice but I must-”

 

“I completely understand. I’ll see you soon, Hatty. Very soon.”

 

“I’ll see you soon too, Alice. Thank you again, and goodbye.” Alice did a slight bow, and Hatty left the door with new found energy. Alice walked out the door, watching as Hatty sprinted into the sunrise, a new woman.

 

“I told told you the milk was a good idea. A complete child at heart, she was.” The Cheshire Cat commented, now appearing next to Alice. Alice smacked him on the back of the head in protest, the cat letting out a petit grunt as she did.

 

“That is quite enough, cat. Do not ruin this for me.”

 

“I’d never dream of it, or, would it be never wonderland it? Granted, that is your vocabulary, so I would assume that’s what you would prefer.”

 

“Don’t talk smart to me, you’re the one who evidently thinks black lensed glasses are a good idea.” Without much hesitation, the cat opened his mouth which had pair of black glasses in it, took it out, and put them on.

 

“What can I say? They’re all the rage, and knowing your rage, you might be crazy for them too, though insanity also seems like something you’d be into as well.”

 

“.... Can you even see through those?” There was an awkward pause.

 

“It’s about as black as the queen’s heart, I do admit. However, losing only one of my five senses is only a minor cost for style factor alone. In way, I feel these trade in my fifth sense for a sixth, so who am I to judge?”

 

“Do you really think those will catch on?” The cat took a moment to think about the question.

 

“I’d say in roughly a hundred years when the world learns to not take life so seriously.”

 

“Ha, that’ll be the day.” Alice took a moment to just look at the sunset with her stupid, temporarily blind Cheshire Cat.

 

“Well, I am quite hungry. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should not be skipped by any means, don’t you agree?”

 

“For you, yes, but as for me, I feel rather content.”

 

“Oh please. Look at you. Your so thin, if I were to plant you in the ground, an oak of pure flesh would emerge in due time.”

 

“Stick and stones may break my bones, cat, but when I’m the stick and your nothing but bones, where does that leave you?” Cheshire removed his glasses , placing it back in his mouth, followed by swallowing, and looked down at his own frame…. He was rather skinny.

 

“... Touche, Alice. Touche.” He responded. Without another word, Alice triumphantly walked back into the house, the cat disappearing alongside her, most likely to reappear in the kitchen,  just spare himself the time of walking. It’s not often that Alice beats the cat at his own game, but when she does…. It was always a damn good day.

 

***

 

After exhausting herself from running, Hatty finally broke down into a regular walk. She listen to the noise of kids playing, merchants yelling, and citizens chattering. So many would find the noise irritating, but not to Hatty. She relished the sound. It was the entire reason she moved down here to start with, for the liveliness of the town. The noise only grew louder and louder as the sun rose, and more people awoken. As it did, Hatty’s smile only grew bigger and bigger…

 

The smile quickly faded, however, as she watched her hat fly clean off her head from an unforeseen force. She watched as the hat tumbled with the morning wind, down the street, and into an alleyway. However, unlike so many other times, Hatty felt no compulsion to chase it… It was most likely time for a new one, anyways. Instead, her interest was grabbed by the wall beside her, the top of which held a skinny, somewhat fluffy white cat. It was a stray, no doubt about it, no housecat would look that malnourished unless the family simply had no food to offer it, in which case, one would wonder why they would even have a cat to start with. Instead of trying the hit the cat for attacking her hat, Hatty this time slowly moved her hands around it, and picked it up, strangely with no protest from the cat. She stared at it for the longest time while it was in her hands while the cat dully blinked back…

 

“... How do you feel about the name “Mr. Hat”?” Hatty asked the cat. While holding the cat the way she was, she could think of two good reasons it was a male.

 

*Meow*

 

“You like it?”

 

*Meow*

 

“Well alright then. Your name is Mr. Hat! Come on, Mr. Hat, let’s go home. I’m sure I have some leftovers you could chew one while I find you some real food.” Hatty flopped the cat over and held it in her arms like a baby as she walked down the street. As she walked, she could feel her long, curly blonde hair flutter in the breeze, something she hasn’t felt for so long from wearing that hat. Perhaps she’d just let it flow like this until she found something more suitable for her. Top hats were overrated anyways. Something smaller, or at least less stiff would be far more preferable…. Crap, she forgot her coat at Alice’s… Oh well, it wasn’t the last time they’d be seeing each other, no real loss. Besides… The breeze felt nice.

 

Together, Hatty and Mr. Hat walked into the sunrise, happy that their lives, after being put on hold for so long, could finally get back on track…. You know, Hatty found it funny. She came to Alice’s as man with the hat, and upon leaving, she was a woman with a different sort of hat.



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