-Alice finds the Hatter-
If one were to venture to a certain part of the big wide world, one would find a place not too different from different. It was a different place, a lonely, quiet different place. In that place, stood a lonely town. Well, what used to be a town. Its grounds were now in ruins – remnants of what used to be the most magical place in the world.
In the town, there was a little shop. A shop that still opened at ten o’clock and closed precisely when the needle strikes six. Because at six o’clock, it was tea time. And no one ever misses tea time.
If one were to peer through the dusty old windows of the shop by the lake, one would find a dusty old counter and a mad hatter slouched behind it – making hats as if his life depended on it. Maybe it did, no one knew.
His hands worked swift and precise, his eyes fixed hard on the colourful ribbon but his mad mind was in its own mad world.
Oh, Alice, dear where have you been?
So near, so far or in between?
What have you heard what have you seen?
Alice, Alice, please, Alice!
The bell at the door tinkled. The hatter snapped out of his trance. His fluorescent eyes shifted to the window sill.
“Oh dear look at the time!” The white rabbit would have said.
It was past six. The sun was going down. No tea today.
Oh, tell us are you big or small
To try this one or try them all
It’s such a long, long way to fall
Alice, Alice, oh, Alice
The door shut softly – but even the slightest movement made his porcelain figures tip and break. He watched as the Chesire Cat lost its infamous smile. A little something broke in his tipsy heart.
How can you know this way not that?
You choose the door you choose the path
Perhaps you should be coming back
Another day, another day
He dared not move. He had waited a long time for this moment.
And nothing is quite what is seems
You’re dreaming are you dreaming, oh, Alice?
Oh, how will you find your way? Oh, how will you find your way?
There’s no time for tears today. There’s no time for tears today.
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude, but I know you’re there,” the girl’s voice asked politely. The hatter inhaled sharply.
There was a rustle and she muttered, “Oh dear, what a clutter. You really do need this place cleaned up.”
She picked up the scattered papers from the floor. She forehead wrinkled as she tried to decipher the Illegible scribbles.
Mmmm, M,M,M, mousetraps, memory…mmmmmuchness
The words were nonsense but they seemed familiar somehow. Pieces of advise from a half remembered dream.
So many doors – how did you choose
So much to gain so much to lose
So many things got in your way
No time today, no time today
Be careful not to lose your head
Just think of what the doormouse said…Alice!
Her footsteps neared and before he knew it, her little blue shoes invaded his line of sight.
“There you are. I knew you would be waiting,”she said as she offered one of her tiny hands in front of him. “Don’t worry. I understand now. I won’t run away.”
The mad hatter said nothing, his mad eyes fixed upon her blue ones.
“Where’s your friend?” she said, deciding to break the silence.
The hatter took time to register that the question was directed to him. He fidgeted. His voice seemed unused for such a long long time.
He paused for a moment and cleared his dry throat.
“March Hare went out for tea. He will be back soon, I predict. I told him to go on without me,” the madman lied. An awful taste formed on his tongue.
“Without you? You are the Lord of Tea, you can’t miss that.”
“I was expecting you.”
The Hatter nodded sadly. His lower lip extended in an over exaggerated pout.
The blue clad girl remained silent and sat by the window sill – examining the broken pieces of the Cheshire Cat.
“I’m truly sorry about this,” she said gesturing to a broken piece of what happened to be the smiling cat’s ear. “It must have looked really pretty when it was unbroken.”
The Hatter kept his talkative mouth shut.
You’ve seen him before! Don’t you remember!
There is no use anyway. It’s too late now.
The happy Hatter grimaced at the sad afterthought.
Meanwhile, Alice twirled a stray golden lock. She examined the renowned Hatter.
“Your hair is orange.”
The Hatter was surprised at her bluntness.
“Yes, of course it is. So are my eyes. Well, actually, their all the colours… But still…,” the Hatter stopped rambling. Something strangely peculiar for a mad Hatter. “Mercury poisoning,” he said finally.
“It when from them,” he pointed to his beloved hats. “to all the way up here,” he stretched the word ‘all’ and let out a humorless chuckle as he pointed to his tipsy head.
Alice nodded carefully and got down from her perch. It looked as if something had caught her eye. “It’s not that. It is just that a Hatter always needs his hat. I’ve never seen your hair before,” she said as she bent down and picked up something so sentimentally familiar that the Hatter almost cried.
“Because it was always under this,” she said as she stood on her tip toes and placed it in a perfectly crooked way on top of his carrot top. She smiled fondly at it, noting that everything was still in place, still the same. That notion somehow made her feel grounded – like at least something thing from the past didn’t change.
The Hatter’s breath caught in his throat. She had seemed so much like her old self at that moment.
The short reminiscence was almost too nostalgic for a mad Hatter to comprehend, but this hatter had seen too much in his lifetime. Too much different. Too much muchness, the Dormouse used to say.
The blonde haired girl took his hands in her little ones and looked dead centre into his colorful eyes.
“There was something I needed to ask you,or rather, something I needed to answer you.”
“And what is that, dear Alice?” the Hatter replied even though he already knew.
There was a pause. She let out a startled gasp and her bright blue eyes widened all of sudden in genuine surprise.
“I can’t remember now! But…when I do, I will let you know.”
The Hatter merely nodded as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world and moved behind the counter he was previously leaning on while he let the little girl ponder on her thoughts and words.
He tossed the completed hat that he had been working on, over to the accumulating pile at the corner of the shop and reached for two cups of tea from the drawer beneath his work bench. He felt Alice’s gaze on him. He grinned mischievously, “Always keep spares,” he said as he began to stir.
“Two cubes of sugar?”
Alice nodded solemnly, just like the old days. It was sad,really.
The hatter nodded and made to reach for another drawer but he stopped mid way.
“I do apologize, but these shackles really do restrict my movements. Would you mind loosening them for a little?”
The petite girl nodded and unlocked them completely.
“I trust you won’t try anything silly. The knave is outside with her Majesty’s guards. The Red Queen wouldn’t be too pleased to find out that he had slaughtered her own personal hat maker.”
The Hatter forced a jovial smile while he massaged his aching ankles.
“Why, Alice, don’t be mad,” he emphasized. “Why in wonderland, would I escape when I am greeted with such enthralling company.”
Alice smiled politely back and the Hatter found something more breaking in his tipsy heart.
This was the Red Queen’s doing. That wretched beast. She stole his Alice! His wonderful Alice! And replaced her with this monster.
Alice sipped her tea slowly and watched as the Hatter did the same. The answer to his forgotten question swirling in her mind. It was strange how she had forgotten so quickly. It was as if every time she was this close to remembering her past, her mind would go blank and she would forget everything. She would be left with bits and pieces- odd ends of what used to be. Nothing ever made proper sense to her. And the excruciating problem, was, that she wanted to remember. And she somehow knew that this strange mad Hatter had played an important role in her life.
Once she was done, she gathered her blue dress and stood up.
“Thank you for yet another wonderful cup of tea. If you’ll excuse me, I will send in the guards to collect the hats.”
The Hatter made no move to get up. He simply paused and said,
“Alice, why is a raven like a writing desk?”
The question made Alice stop in her tracks. She turned and looked him the eye.
She laughed. And the Hatter smiled as he found himself missing her laugh already.
And for a split second, Alice remembered before she forgot again.
“There is no answer at all isn’t there?”
The Hatter smiled and shook his head, “No. No there isn’t.”
“Then why ask it in the first place?”
“So that you will remember,” he said in a hushed voice.
Then it happened. She gave him an odd expression.
He shrugged and gathered his tea cups. “Nothing, dear Alice. Nothing at all.”
The odd expression remained even as she turned to leave. And he silently felt an ounce of hope well inside of him.
That is it, young Alice. Let it come back and take you away. Let wonderland whisk you away again.
And as the guards entered to collect their load and put on his shackles once again, he caught a glimpse of the rising crescent moon and thought,
Maybe old Cheshire didn’t lose his smile after all.
Did someone pull you by the hand?
How many miles to Wonderland?
Please tell us so we’ll understand
Oh how will you find you way? … Oh, how will you find you way?
-Inspired by Danny Elfman’s Alice in Wonderland soundtrack.-