Curiouser and Curiouser With You

Chapter 13: Bad Hatter

"I believe I hear crying," Alice suddenly remarked as a low, muffled noise filled her ear. One of the March Hare's ears perked up slightly, hoping to catch the sound.

"It's coming from over there," the March Hare said as his finger directed the group towards the sound. Alice took the lead and began to walk towards where the March Hare had pointed. After walking for such a long time without finding a single person to guide them to the rabbit hole, Alice would be glad to run into anyone even if they were crying.

Alice pushed a bush aside to unveil a bumblebee crying under a tree. She gasped a little at the sight of it: the furry creature using one of its legs to wipe the tears away from its eyes as its antennae twitched about. The Bumblebee began to sob heavily.

"Oh you poor thing," Alice said as she walked towards the Bumblebee. However, she kept a distance away from him in case he should sting her. "Why are you crying?"

"I'" the Bumblebee attempted to state in between his gasping for breath. "No-no one...wants to-to play with me."

"And why does no one want to play with you?" Alice asked, feeling rather sorry for the Bumblebee. She could tell from his high pitched voice that he was a rather young bumblebee, merely a child in bumblebee years.

"Be-because they think I'll-I'll sting them," the Bumblebee answered pitifully. Now feeling guilty for having kept her distance, Alice sat beside the Bumblebee on the grass with Milo lying in her lap. "But I-I won't sting them! I won't!"

"If they won't let you play because they believe you will sting them," Hatter began as he sat down on the other side of the Bumblebee, placing the snoozing Dormouse next to him, "then they aren't really your friends."

"B-but they are my friends," the Bumblebee cried pitifully.

"Not really. True friends would accept you for who you are," Hatter explained.

"Th-then I've got no friends!" the Bumblebee returned, sobbing harder than ever.

"Oh Hatter, you've made it worse," Alice stated, patting the poor Bumblebee on the back. Yet, at the same time, she could not help but to feel some sort of connection to Hatter's words. It was as though Hatter was speaking to her rather than the Bumblebee as she recalled the friends she had in her own world who no longer wanted to be associated with her due to the stories of Wonderland she told.

"But I was just telling him the truth!" Hatter exclaimed, taken aback by her reprimanding.

"Now see here, crying will get you no where," the March Hare stated as gently as possible. "Why don't you explain to your friends you have no intention of hurting them?"

"B-but I've already tr-tr-tried," the Bumblebee answered. "And they still won't let me play!"

"Well, I'm completely stumped then," the March Hare replied, sitting across from the Bumblebee.

"I'm telling you, this Bumblebee is with the wrong crowd," Hatter interjected. "Now listen to me." Alice was immediately prepared to stop Hatter from talking until she realized the area was unusually quiet. Strangely, the Bumblebee ceased his crying for the time being. "I had a cousin once," Hatter continued, seeing that he had received permission to continue. "twice removed."

"Twice removed?" Alice inquired.

"Yes. It took us two times to remove him from the family," Hatter explained. Naturally, Alice became quite puzzled by Hatter's explanation and chose to remain silent.

"At least it only took you two times: I had a cousin that required us to remove her six times," the March Hare added. "She wasn't very bright." This comment confused Alice even more than before. She would simply have to ask Lorina about the matter when she returned home for as far as she knew, there was no way to permanently remove someone from the family.

"My cousin," Hatter began again, "was not a very good fellow. He was a hatter but he was a bad hatter. Never once was he able to come up with an original idea so instead he ran about copying everyone else's hat designs."

"Everyone else?" Alice interjected once more. As far as she knew, Hatter was the only hatter around.

"There's more than one hatter in Wonderland," the March Hare answered as though this was a silly question.

"There used to be anyway," Hatter returned. "When my father was a hatter along with my mother, uncle, aunt, and cousin. But that's not the point really. Anyway, so my cousin was a hatter and he would steal ideas from everyone else."

"Did he ever steal from you?" Alice pressed.

"Occasionally though by that time he had already been removed from the family once. Anyway, the point of the story is: he was simply a bad hatter. It is those types of people you need to stay away from."

"But my friends aren't bad hatters," the Bumblebee said, feeling rather confused by Hatter's story about his cousin who was a bad hatter.

"I think what he's trying to say," Alice offered, "is that there are some people that will be cruel to you no matter how well you know them and if that's the case then you shouldn't be friends with them."

"Exactly!" Hatter exclaimed rather suddenly. "Although my cousin was my cousin, he did not act like a cousin should and therefore he is not my cousin. Why, the March Hare is more of a cousin than he ever was."

"And I take that compliment wholeheartedly," the March Hare replied. Alice was about to wonder aloud whether she was considered a cousin or not by Hatter but then decided against it. After all, it was very rude to place Hatter in such a position. However, strangely enough, Alice was not even bothered by the fact Hatter neglected to include her, to think of her as a cousin rather than a friend. Why was she not bothered by it? She never really saw them being related to one another as brother and sister or even as cousins. That seemed like an unusual concept to Alice. They were just very good friends. No, best friends. Hatter was more of a friend than anyone she had spent time with in her own world. He was simply always there.

At that moment, a foreign feeling crept over Alice. However, she quickly discovered the sensation passing over her was not foreign at all for she had felt the same way after Hatter had woken up from their afternoon nap. Energy was once again passing through her rapidly, causing her face to feel a bit red. She only hoped no one noticed such a thing. Alice glanced towards Hatter and the March Hare who were encouraging the Bumblebee to wipe his tears and seek out new, faithful friends. The Bumblebee was clearly pleased by this. Luckily, they had yet to notice Alice's unusually red complexion.

"I wonder why I'm getting this way?" Alice thought as she attempted to relax and make the heat die down. It was curious; lately she only appeared to be feeling this way when she thought of Hatter.

"Will you all be my friends?" the Bumblebee inquired.

"Certainly," the March Hare answered. "You can come to our tea parties anytime you wish." There was plenty of room after all: a whole table full.

"You wouldn't by any chance happen to have honey at these tea parties would you?" the Bumblebee asked. There simply was not an enjoyable tea party without a nice bit of honey in the Bumblebee's eyes.

"We have treacle," the Dormouse responded sleepily.

"And jam," Hatter added.

"And butter," the March Hare offered. "But we could get honey if you like." The March Hare then began to wonder what sort of new concoctions they could come up with now that honey was going to be added to the list of treats. He wondered what tea would taste like if there was honey in it.

"But you must also find friends your own age," Hatter continued, being rather stern about this point. Even though someone as young as Alice became good friends with him, the March Hare, and the Dormouse, she still had friends her own age when she was younger. The same must happen for the Bumblebee for everyone requires friends that are age appropriate.

"Yes, we don't play," the Dormouse stated before drifting off to sleep again.

"You don't anyway," the March Hare countered.

"I will find friends who won't think I'll sting them," the Bumblebee offered proudly.

"And that is a very good thing," Hatter replied. He then looked over to Alice who had not said much in a while. Before Hatter had time to notice that her face possessed a tint of pink, Hatter's eyes shifted back towards the Bumblebee. "I say, you wouldn't by any chance happen to know where the rabbit hole is, would you?" The Bumblebee became rather excited by this question for some reason to the point where he produced a low buzzing sound and his antennae twitched wildly.

"The rabbit hole? Why, other insects play near there all the time! Some dare one another to jump towards it and see what happens. But no one ever goes through with it," the Bumblebee said briskly.

"Where is the rabbit hole?" the March Hare asked excitedly.

"Just keep heading in that direction," the Bumblebee informed, pointing with one of his small legs. "The river is just a short walk away."

"River?" Hatter asked.

"Yes, you have to cross the river to get to the rabbit hole," the Bumblebee answered. "Of course, we merely fly over it."

"We'll figure something out when we get there," the March Hare reasoned, seeing that Hatter was already beginning to contemplate the matter. Hatter merely consented as he turned towards Alice again.

"Alice," Hatter said as he stepped closer to her. "Are you all right?" Seeing the tint of pink in her face, Hatter placed a hand on her forehead thinking perhaps she may have a fever of some sort. But this only caused Alice to turn even redder than before as she felt Hatter's warm skin pressing through his white glove. "Well, you don't have a fever," Hatter was saying.

"I'm fine, Hatter. It's just a bit hot outside, that is all," Alice replied though she knew her feelings had nothing to do with the weather. Besides, it was not even hot outside. Never the less, Hatter removed his hand from her forehead.

"In that case," Hatter remarked, as though staring at her for too long tormented him, "we should be moving on." Alice merely nodded in consent, her face beginning to cool down. With that, Alice, Hatter, and the March Hare said farewell to the Bumblebee before they traveled towards the river that would lead them to the rabbit hole.

Alice did not know why but she felt as though the three of them were growing smaller and smaller as they came closer to the river. The grass was gradually beginning to look taller with each passing step. However, as queer as this was, Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse (then again, the Dormouse was not likely to notice much) did not seem to notice this change or if they did they did not mention it. By the time the group reached the river, Alice guessed the river would have been nothing more than a small stream they would have had to cross if they had been their normal heights. But the stream was much larger now, appearing impossible to swim across. What was even stranger was a group of creatures were running in a large circle.

"What are they doing?" the March Hare questioned as he watched them.

"We're having a Caucus-Race!" a dodo replied as he ran passed them, continuing on his path within the circle.

"To get dry," an eaglet added as she ran behind the Dodo.

"Won't you join us?" a lory asked.

"You really must," a mouse added.

"No thank you: we are quite dry," Alice replied though who she was replying to she wasn't sure: they were all running past them and Alice did not know if any of them even heard her.

"Do you have any idea how we may be able to cross the river?" Hatter inquired though like Alice, he was not sure who was speaking to as creatures ran past him.

"Perhaps you should try swimming," a duck interjected.

"We'd prefer not to swim," the March Hare responded. Not only would it be difficult, the March Hare really did not want to have to dry his fur afterwords. He simply was not fond of wet fur.

"There must be some other way," Alice stated as she looked around for an alternative. She noticed a Gryphon flying above them but she knew it was flying much too high for it to possibly hear them. Alice thought about making a raft out of the blades of grass but realized that this would take much too long. There were some leaves here and there but the leaves looked too light to carry all of them across the river. Alice sighed: there just was nothing to create a method of transport in a reasonable amount of time.

Alice's eyes then fell upon a small boat that seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Hatter noticed it too and immediately trotted towards it, dodging the creatures that were still running their Caucus-Race and nearly running into the Dodo. Once Hatter managed to reach the boat he inspected it briefly, having put the Dormouse down momentarily, before calling the others over. Alice and the March Hare followed, also being forced to avoid the race occurring. The March Hare was faster than the other creatures and easily avoided them. However, Alice was not so agile and forced the Lory to run around her. Unfortunately, Alice did not have time to apologize for the Lory was too far from her by the time she could react to the situation.

"We can use this," Hatter remarked when both were able to reach him. He gently lifted the Dormouse and placed him inside the boat. Hatter then assisted Alice into the boat before handing one of the oars to the March Hare. Hatter struggled to push the boat into the water (he did not think that perhaps he should have pushed it a bit more before letting everyone get in). After some difficulty, Hatter hopped into the boat and began to paddle along with the March Hare: their strokes synchronized.

While the boat moved along the river towards where the rabbit hole was hopefully located, the March Hare made it his mission to splash the Dormouse with a bit of water from his oar. The Dormouse awoke rather suddenly, shaking the water off his fur.

"For the last time, I don't want any tea!" the Dormouse exclaimed, forgetting where he was for a moment.

"That wasn't tea," the March Hare explained. The Dormouse licked a bit of the liquid that was still embedded onto his fur.

"It's rather salty," the Dormouse remarked. "Definitely not tea."

"That's because this river is made of tears," Alice explained.

"Tears?" the March Hare inquired. "How do you know?"

"Well, because I think I made this river. If it's the same river that is," Alice replied, recalling the incident where she cried so much that by the time she had shrunk in size, she had created a river. It was strange because she had not thought of such things for a very long time. Only now were the memories resurfacing. Hatter looked sadly upon the river of tears as he continued to row through. To think someone who had been able to influence Wonderland so much was now about to leave permanently.

The boat was merrily making its way towards a small door (though compared to the current size of everyone, the door was rather large). They passed through the doorway, saying goodbye to the sunlight, and into a large room. The boat gradually came to a stop as it came into contact with a hard white and black tiled floor. Hatter helped Alice out of the boat as she stared up at a glass table. The March Hare gazed around, not entirely satisfied.

"I wish we were a little taller," the March Hare complained. The room was awfully large and the table was ridiculously high. How could they possibly search this foreign place if they were at such a wretched height?

"It's not so bad," the Dormouse replied. Now he was finally able to understand what his relatives went through each and every day as they went about their daily business being the size of common mice.

"Still, it would be helpful to be taller," Alice remarked, agreeing with the March Hare. Just then, a small silver box appeared near the boat. Curiously, Hatter walked towards it and opened the box in order to discover its contents. There, the party was able to find a cake lying peacefully within the box with the words "EAT ME" written across the top of it.

"Should we eat it?" Hatter questioned, suspicious. After all, how many times did one find a mysterious box containing a cake that insisted on being eaten? That did not make much sense if one thought about it. Unless of course the cake was a suicide cake: then that was perfectly understandable. However, this clearly was not a suicide cake, just a regular cake.

"It insists that we do eat it," the March Hare argued. But Hatter was not convinced by the March Hare's remark. Instead, he turned to Alice since she had supposedly been to this part of Wonderland before. Therefore, it was only logical that she would know what the best thing to do was.

"We should eat it," Alice said, responding to Hatter's look. Hatter merely nodded and took a small piece of the cake for having Alice try it first was simply out of the question. After a small bite, Hatter felt himself growing. Alice, the March Hare, and the Dormouse stepped away from Hatter as he continued to grow with the March Hare grabbing the cake since Alice's hands were already full with Milo. As he finished the piece of cake he had taken, Hatter found himself to be normal height again. Satisfied, he gazed down at the small March Hare, Alice, and Dormouse who looked up at him.

"Oh my, you are all so small!" Hatter exclaimed, being careful not to move his feet too much and possibly hurt his friends. He was especially fond of seeing Alice at such a height: how she looked as though she were a tiny doll that he could carry around in his breast pocket. If he was not risking the potential of offending Alice, Hatter would have liked nothing more than to hold Alice in his hand and watch her walk about. The March Hare took a piece of the cake and handed it to the Dormouse. As the Dormouse nibbled, The March Hare gave two pieces to Alice: one for her and one for Milo before taking a piece himself. Gradually, the remaining members of the group were growing. Alice did not know how Milo was able to grow since he technically could not eat anything but either way he grew as Alice grew.

Once everyone had retained their height, it was now Alice's turn to lead the group as they walked through a long hallway. There were many doors along this particular hallway and Hatter and the March Hare impulsively attempted to open a few of them. But Alice knew all the doors were locked as memories of her very first journey were continuing to come back to her. After Hatter and the March Hare found this to be true, they stopped trying to open the doors altogether, merely following Alice as she led them to the rabbit hole.

"It's not much farther," Alice said quietly. Hatter's heart sank at this information. He only had a little bit of time left to be with Alice. Just a miniscule amount of time left. The March Hare and the Dormouse were silent as they heard Alice speak of this as they too were upset. No one dared to utter another word as they came to the end of the hall where the rabbit hole was waiting for Alice.

Alice gazed up at the rabbit hole. It looked like a dark abyss that would never come into contact with light ever again. She could feel a soft wind that traveled gracefully up the rabbit hole. Alice had no doubt that this breeze would be the force to carry her out of Wonderland for good.

She stared back at Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse, uncertainty present in her face. Was this truly the right decision? Should she leave her friends behind like this? But then Alice remembered that she would have to leave no matter what happened at one point and she would rather not disappear on her friends.

Before Alice could think about it any longer, she bent down to the Dormouse, grasping onto his fur with Milo in between them.

"Goodbye," Alice said softly as though she could not believe she was uttering such words.

"Goodbye Alice," the Dormouse answered sleepily. "Don't forget to write."

"I certainly will try," Alice replied. She could see if she may be able to pass letters through the looking glass. Though, deep down, Alice knew trying such a thing would only end up in vain. If she could pass a letter through the looking glass, she could pass through it herself. But this was not to be. It was most likely the looking glasses would be closed once she returned home. Not to mention, Alice was not even sure if the Dormouse was fully awake. Perhaps he thought her leaving was nothing more than a dream, a dream that would be undone in short time.

Alice moved on to say goodbye to the March Hare.

"Goodbye Alice: it was fun while it lasted," the March Hare said though he felt rather uncomfortable having Milo between him and Alice. He found this to be quite strange and wondered why Alice did not find this strange either.

"Goodbye," Alice replied and at this point she struggled desperately to keep herself from crying. She forced herself to think that if they had been saying goodbye in March she would not be this upset.

"And goodbye Milo," the March Hare added. There was a moment of silence as Milo said his goodbye to the March Hare. "Yes, I will miss you too," the March Hare added after Milo had apparently spoken.

Alice then turned to Hatter. Without hesitation, Alice wrapped her arms around Hatter's waist. Head resting against his chest, Alice felt Hatter holding onto her tightly as though he never wanted to let go.

"Goodbye Hatter," Alice murmured.

"Alice," Hatter whispered, "please don't leave." She simply could not leave him, she could never leave him. Alice did not know what to say to this; only her eyes were starting to tear. If only he understood she didn't want to leave, she would do anything to keep herself in Wonderland. Yet, even though she knew she would be upset from the beginning, still, her heart was aching like never before. But Alice did not know why this was so. Alice looked up at Hatter whose eyes were pleading with her.

"I'm sorry Hatter," Alice replied softly, hoping that only he could hear her. Her eyes focused downwards, resting on Milo who was still tucked in between her arms. Gazing up at Hatter once more, Alice handed Milo to Hatter. "Here," she said as he gingerly held Milo. "Something to remember me by...And, besides...I think he will be much better off if he remained here." The look in Hatter's eyes was not satisfied in the slightest. He continued to stare at her as though he were gazing in a never ending void, as though there was something just beyond the horizon of her eyes that he could not possibly reach but yearned to. Hatter was completely transfixed deep within Alice's pure blue eyes he did not even realize she was slowly backing away towards the rabbit hole.

"Goodbye," Alice said once more before she turned away from them, plunging herself into the rabbit hole. She was only there for a split second before a sudden gust of wind swished her up the vast portal. Had she turned around, she would have seen Hatter with his arm stretched out, in his final attempt to stop her from leaving.

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