A/N: This was my final project for my Fiction class last semester. I worked on it for about half the semester but I was trying a new process and I'm not entirely happy with the outcome. When reading it all the way through I just don't get the feeling I wanted when I did bits and pieces of it. Let me know how you feel at the end and how you liked (or did not like) it. Also I'm never sure about the rating so if you think I sure raise it, let me know.
She's not sure where she is but it feels familiar to her. It's black around her. She can't see anything, but a smooth, dark voice drawls her name.
As she walks cautiously towards the voice, her bare feet step on cold concrete. It's now she's aware she's in a knee length white dress but it doesn't feel important. She can see the concrete her feet feel, but nothing else. The voice calls again from her right. She floats towards it silently as if in a daze, with no fear.
She can see grey mist floating in front of her, almost like clouds. The voice calls, "Yes Alice, come closer," and she steps into it. It feels like mist on her skin but like thin air in her lungs. Her breathing increases. She looks down but no longer sees her feet or the concrete.
There's a mirror and she sees herself in the mist. A mix of confusion and curiosity fills her as the air becomes even thinner making it harder to breathe.
"There we are Alice." She watches her mouth in the reflection, the voice not her own. The glass of the mirror starts to flicker and ripple as if becoming a thick liquid. Her reflection fades away with the ripples and is replaced with a man.
He wears a black top hat and a sinister smirk. He wears a dark suit though she doesn't really take notice of it. She's entrapped by his eyes and his hair. His grey eyes sparkle even though they are narrowed. His hair is thick and shoulder length, falling from his hat. But most of all, it's pure white. Not grey, but white. Yet he's young and attractive.
His face is long with a strong jaw. His most prominent feature, other than his eyes, is his nose. It's longer than most would call normal but it somehow adds to his face. Adds balance. Looks right.
"We're waiting for you Alice." It was his voice, that smooth drawl, that had called to her. The mist is thick on her skin but becoming even thinner. When the man lifts a pocket watch, a sudden wave of panic rolls over her. It's a simple watch, gold cover, gold chain. It's open and she can see the roman numerals. The numbers go up to thirteen. It's stopped at thirteen-twenty and isn't ticking. She tries to move her feet but she's stuck, cold stone wrapped around them. "We'll start it when you come back." She twists and turns while he starts to laugh. She can't breathe and the mist is coating her. "Come and play Alice!" He growls as he leaps through the mirror to grab her.
"Alice!" She's being pulled through the mirror. She can't breathe. "Alice!"
Alice sat up gasping air as her friend woke her. If she hadn't needed air so much, she would have screamed. It took her a moment to shake the feeling of warm hands holding her and to realize where she was.
"You okay?" Telly asked watching Alice catch her breath. All Alice did was nod and stand up. "Third time this week." Alice nodded again.
The dreams were increasing and getting worse. She'd never actually been pulled through the mirror before. Something didn't feel right about it.
"You fell asleep around the time we started the Hardy-Weinburg Equation." Telly said. They had gotten together in an unused classroom to study, which was becoming increasingly difficult for Alice. "I didn't think it would hurt to let you sleep for a bit."
"It's okay." Alice sighed. "I'm fine." She sat back down and started taking notes again though not paying attention to what she wrote. She could feel Telly just watching her.
"Same dream I take it?" Telly asked. She was the only one Alice had ever told about the dream, at least in detail. "You wanna talk about it?"
"No." Alice sighed. "Just the same as always. I'll be fine." She lied.
"Are you sure? I have class but I can stay if you want." She offered, putting a hand on Alice's shoulder.
"No, you should go to class." Alice smiled at her friend as she started to pack up her books.
"I still think, from what you've told me, that it's just an attractive man with a sexy voice who wants you to go play with him." Telly laughed trying to lighten the mood. Alice sighed, simply not in a joking mood. "Relax." Telly put a hand on Alice's back as she stood up. "Study biology. There's nothing worse than that. I'll see you later."
"See ya." She didn't even watch Telly leave. "Stupid dream." She muttered to herself while packing up her books.
Alice was sick of her nightmare. It didn't even make sense. She wished she'd kept the dream to herself sometimes. Telly always tried to make a joke out of it but it just made Alice feel worse.
She sighed heavily as she walked down the empty hallway ready to go home. She reached for her cell phone in her pocket but remembered she had decided on her white sundress at the last minute. No pockets.
"Alice!" She heard Telly's voice as she reached into her bag to get her phone. Stopping, she looked around but found no one.
"Telly?" She called. The response was almost instant.
"In here." Alice looked toward the voice and saw the door of the women's bathroom just ahead. She narrowed her eyes and stayed where she was. "Come closer. We're waiting." Telly teased.
Alice felt her face grow red with anger and embarrassment. With frustration backing up her confidence, overpowering her nervousness, she stomped to the door.
"That isn't funny, Telly." She growled but when she opened the door, she saw no one. "Telly!" She called, not allowing her fear to bubble up. It was small, the stalls the only place she could hide.
"Come closer, dear Alice." She felt her throat close up. It wasn't Telly's voice. It was his voice. "Alice." He drawled.
"I'm dreaming." She told herself but it didn't slow her rapid heartbeat or calm her. "Water. I just need to splash myself awake." She let her bag drop off of her shoulder to the ground and rushed to a sink, consciously avoiding the mirror. She turned on the cold water and thrust her hands under it to cup the water.
"Tick-tock, Alice." She felt breath against her ear and turned around startled. There was nothing but empty stalls. Her breathing was heavy and the water on her hands felt hot and sticky.
It wasn't right. It was different than the others. It never changed.
Alice wanted to run, get away from her nightmare. Tears started building in her eyes.
"Come and play!" The urgency and roughness of the voice startled her again. She spun around and found herself face-to-face with the man in her mirror.
"Leave me alone!" Her scream was shrill. She closed her eyes and put her hands over her ears. Tears streaming down her face and voice low and cracked, she whispered, "Who are you?"
"Do you…not remember me?" The softness and confusion in his voice caused her to open her eyes.
His head was cocked to the side, studying her. Looking into his eyes, hearing his other voice, recognition washed over her for a few brief seconds.
"Hatter?" The name was both foreign and familiar. She knew his name but not him.
His confusion disappeared but his head remained cocked. A smirk slowly spread across his lips and he held up the all-too-familiar pocket watch.
"It's time." He suddenly dropped the watch and leaned forward, through the mirror.
Alice tried to scream, to fight, but he was strong and she was weak. Her screams were pushed back into her throat as she felt herself unable to breathe.
Everything was blurry, her mind still trying to clear away fog and figure out what happened. It was dark. That much she could tell. Shadows and silhouettes were what she saw. Only rarely did they move.
Sounds were another story entirely. They were surrounding her, enclosing her. Wind rustled leaves above her and echoed through her ears. Birds made noises in different directions but never songs, only low chirps or "caw's." The sound of dishes clattering together came from in front of her. But most of all, the noise that she heard clearest, was humming, a deep, slow hum coming from the tall silhouette in front of her.
Her eyes were clearing, color and shapes reappearing. The man in front of her faced away and he was tall because of his dark top hat resting on his head.
She looked up, trying to place herself somewhere, hopefully somewhere she knew. Trees stood tall above her, stealing the sunlight, stopping it from shining in. It was as if it was dusk. Soft light gliding over a harsh reality. She could have been anywhere.
In front of the man, there was a table. A long table covered with a cloth that had turned yellow with time. Objects of all colors sat on it, though she still couldn't make out what they were.
Alice shook her head and tried to rub her temples. When she tried to lift her hands, she found them strapped down to the arms of the chair she was sitting on. She jerked her arms but they wouldn't move. A stab of fear rose into her gut. The humming suddenly stopped.
"Well, well, well…" She knew that voice. "Look who's awake." Somebody laughed but it wasn't from the voice she knew. It was a bouncy, unstable laugh that didn't sound like it had an end. The other man's voice said, "Don't give her such a large dose next time. She's been out for over an hour."
Her eyes cleared and shapes evened out. Colors came forward and she noticed a creature sitting at the table, off to her left. His laugh stopped abruptly and he muttered a sarcastic, "Sorry." He was a rabbit, but with a man's voice and posture. He sat on the wooden chair, two seats from the head of the table. Small and short, his feet could not have been touching the ground. His body moved like a man's, arms extending. The only things that really made him a rabbit were the grey fur covering his body, his long ears that hung to below his shoulders, and his face. It was shaped like a rabbit, protruding with feral eyes. She watched amazed as he picked up a teacup and a saucer which clattered noisily when he laughed again. His eyes went wide as the sound came from him.
Alice turned her attention to the man in front of her, the one she knew, confused and frightened by the rabbit man. He turned to face her and the first thing she seemed to notice was his tie. It hung loosely around his neck, the two ends barely connected together with a bad knot. Then she saw him. White hair, sparkling eyes, dark suit. She knew she was dreaming. She had to be.
He stared at her intensely. He didn't seem to be aware of anything else, even his companion's laughter. He was entirely focused on her. His grey eyes pinned her where she was and even though she wanted to squirm in her seat, she felt she could not. All she could do was watch as tears brimmed on her eyes.
A slow smirk played on his lips as he reached into his pocket. His eyes never moved from hers and wouldn't allow hers to move either. He held up a chain to the side of his face. At the end of it, was a spinning pocket watch.
Suddenly, the stab of fear Alice felt in her gut was running wild in her body. She didn't know why she feared the pocket watch so, only that it was instinct and she could not stop it. Her breaths were heavy and erratic. He man smiled wickedly, excited by her reaction.
"March!" He called, eyes still not leaving hers. "Start it up." When he threw it to the side towards the creature, her eyes finally left his and followed the watch as March caught it, dropping his teacup to catch it. The sound of shattering porcelain was surprisingly dull.
Her eyes shifted back as the man stepped closer to her, sweeping a knife into his hand from the table, which seemed to have mostly broken dishes on it. As he strolled, he twirled it in one hand until he held it by the wooden handle. It was long and thin. She could see the hint of sunlight that shown down reflect on the silver blade. The edge looked straight and smooth from a distance but as he walked closer, she saw it was jagged. It looked like someone had skillfully hacked away some of the blade edge, leaving some very small parts rough and pointed. Alice felt the air catch in her throat trying not to think about what he planned to do with that knife.
He kept walking closer. His smile remained as he bent his knees to become level with her.
Alice found herself leaning as far back as the chair would allow. Her muscles were tensed, trying to keep completely still. She swallowed hard, still watching his eyes but trying to look away.
She held in a gasp when she felt the blade of the knife just below her knee. He had no reaction to her, just slowly slid the knife up and over the hem of her white dress. His other hand fell onto hers which was balled into a fist. His skin was warm over hers, enveloping her hand.
His eyes closed and he leaned back just slightly taking a deep, satisfied breath. Alice let go of a breath she didn't realize she was holding. When he spoke, it was rough, deep, and dark. So much unlike what she'd heard before.
"I've missed you." It was almost a whisper. His hand squeezed hers just slightly, lovingly.
"Hatter!" March yelled. Alice felt the blade slide sharply away from her leg and Hatter's eyes opened to look at March. "It's ticking!" March yelled right before he threw the watch as hard as he could. The watch hit Hatter's top hat sending it to the ground. March started laughing and pointing, the fingers of his paws separated like fingers of a hand.
Hatter leaned down to take his hat but left the watch on the ground. He placed the knife in her lap, on the fabric of her dress between her legs, blade pointing at her. His smiled returned.
"What…" She paused, amazed she could even use her voice. "What kind of dream is this?" Hatter's smile widened and his eyes darkened.
"This is no dream." He started laughing, an insane, slow laugh as he placed his hat back on his head. His laugh stopped and his smile became a half smirk. "This is Wonderland," He lifted himself up and leaned towards her until his cheek was inches from hers. "Where you belong." He whispered.
"What the hell is Wonderland?" Her voice shook as she tried to sound assertive. He chuckled and pulled back from her. Completely ignoring her question, he circled behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"You're twenty now aren't you Alice?" She tried to lean forward, away from his hand brushing her shoulder. His hand simply followed her. "That's a long time I've been waiting." He circled around to her side, his hand running over her shoulders and back, trailing behind him. "So long a time that you've forgotten me."
"Let me go." She growled, trying to hide the fear he knew was there.
He could see it bubble up and flicker in her blue eyes amongst the strength. He couldn't help the chuckle that came from him. She still hadn't grown up.
He let his hand run from her shoulder to her wrist, slowly feeling her cool skin warm at his touch. Once his fingers reached the rope holding her wrists down, he lifted his palm, letting only his fingertips touch her. He could feel the muscles and tendons twitch underneath her skin. There was the fear he wanted.
He bent his knees until he was looking up at her, fingers still on her wrist. He wanted to toy with her, play with her before she really started to fall. He tapped his fingers on either side of the rope, dancing and touching to his own tune. His eyes slowly moved away from hers and down to his hand.
Alice didn't like the look in his eyes, the way they watched his fingers intently. Almost emptily. She looked away, up at the trees and closed her eyes, fighting back tears filled with anger and fear.
Every time he lifted a finger, she hoped it wouldn't come back down, that he was done. But each time, it returned to her wrist in a cool sting.
"For most it starts with a headache." She looked back to him at the sound of his voice. It was hoarse, not all there, like he was lost in a memory. "It won't be bad. But eventually your brain will shift in your skull and throw itself against the bone." Alice felt herself hold her breath, unsure of what he was talking about but dreading it at the same time.
He suddenly stopped. She felt one finger on her wrist, the rest suspended in the air. His eyes lifted first, dark and wicked they smiled at her. She pressed herself into the chair back. His head followed his eyes, chin tilting up so his head was cocked.
"At least, that's what it will feel like." He smiled again, watching her eyes pull back and the corners of her lips tremble just slightly. Laughing, he stood up and walked to her front. "I've been waiting years, Alice." He reached out and gently placed his hand on top of her golden hair. "And you don't remember me." His voice was soft, even a little hurt. When he moved to run his hand down her hair, she shook her head and pulled away from him.
"Don't touch me, Hatter." As she spat the words, his name slipped out with conviction, like she knew him. His eyes lit up but his smile went dark. Alice felt her own eyes go wide and her jaw go slack.
"Your memories are returning." He stepped back to the table. "Let us jog your memory. Help move it along." Nodding, he put his palm on his chest. "I'm the Mad Hatter. Everyone calls me Hatter though." Motioning to the creature at the table who was biting down on a spoon, he continued. "This is the March Hare. We just call him March though."
Alice remembered. As he spoke, it felt as if she knew what he was going to say. It was like someone saying something and getting flashes of a dream she forgot she had the night before. Images and conversations sat on the tip of her tongue waiting for the right trigger to pull them out into the open.
Not wanting to remember, wanting it to be another dream, she pushed all half thoughts away and bit her lip. Blinking, tears rolled down her cheeks.
"What do you want from me?" She asked.
"Your future, our future, has been foretold." Hatter rushed in front of her and crouched down again.
"He told us!" March piped up from the table. "He told us!" Alice glanced at the man creature to see him with his head sideways, parallel to the ground and smiling crookedly.
"Indeed he did." Hatter nodded and smiled, wrapping a hand around her ankle.
"What are you doing?" Alice shrieked trying to pull her leg from his grasp. "Stop it!" She kicked at him with her free leg, hitting his shoulder but not fazing him.
"March!" Hatter's voice was demanding and urgent. Alice watched as March dropped the spoon he was holding and run over to Hatter's side, like a dog called by his master. Standing next to Hatter, who was still crouched, March was the same height. He stared awkwardly at Hatter. "A little help?" Hatter almost sounded sarcastic.
Alice resumed her kicking when March came around to her other leg and gripped it with his furry paws. Both were surprisingly strong and able to control her kicks.
Hatter reached into his suit with one hand and pulled out a thick piece of rope. He wrapped it around her ankle and the chair leg with ease, as if she wasn't struggling in panic. After tying a firm knot, he retrieved another piece of rope and shifted to her other leg. March loosened his grip too soon and Alice's foot came up under his chin, knocking him backwards.
"Oh would you hold still?" Hatter said taking hold of her wild leg. Within seconds, it too was restrained. "Get up March." He called down to his friend on the ground while he stood.
Alice felt streams of tears flowing down her cheeks. She watched Hatter walk to the table, his back to her and start to rearrange the dishes.
March suddenly sat up from the dirt, smiling at her. Getting on all fours he hopped, much like a rabbit, back over to her.
"Was that supposed to hurt?" He whispered and glanced nervously at Hatter who wasn't paying attention.
Alice felt the pads of his paws, rough and real surrounded by his wiry fur on her skin. She tried to kick again but despite the impression from Hatter's tie, he could make a strong knot. Only her knee moved forward an inch or so.
She turned her head and looked away from him, biting her lip again. Suddenly, she heard a "thwump" and the paw was gone.
"No touching!" Hatter yelled at March furiously. March lay on the ground again, limbs sprawled and desperately gripping at the ground like he was going to move to stand, but stayed still.
"But he said she'd need help!" March sounded like a child cowering and making excuses for having his hand in the cookie jar.
"From me!" Hatter yelled, his voice booming. Alice could almost feel the reverberation in her chest. "You are never to touch her again!" March just nodded weakly. "You didn't even listen when he spoke, did you?"
"Who is he?" Alice interrupted, not liking the fire and anger, the possession in Hatter's eyes. Hatter suddenly turned away from March, who crawled away, and the angry look was gone.
"The Caterpillar." He shrugged happily, as if that explained it all. Alice blinked away the rest of her tears and tried to think.
"What did he say?" Her head was throbbing dully. A small smile played on his lips and he took a step towards her.
"Wonderland is in ruins. The Queen died some years ago and the land has been torn ever since." Alice listened carefully as Hatter talked to her but she had a hard time focusing. His presence, him standing by her, made her nervous. "Caterpillar told us that a girl name Alice from your world, from Reality, would fix this."
Hatter saw her eyes scrunch just slightly, fighting a small headache no doubt. He paused his story, watching her. She was afraid. Her eyes danced around his, avoided March all together. A good sign.
"You and I will rule Wonderland together." Her eyes widened and he smiled, drinking in her shock and fear. "This is why you must be mad. That's how it's foretold." Her face fell blank. Hatter stared quietly.
But then her eyes filled with tears again, and her face fell into a memory. Hatter crouched in front of her, remembering as well.
Hatter was arguing with March over something useless; which side she would sit at. Hatter pointed at the girl and looked at her briefly. He noticed his guest running her fingers over his watch. A tilted smile came to his lips and he left his friend in mid-argument.
She was beautiful for a young girl. Her face was a little round but would most likely thin out over the years. She wore a puffy blue dress that she didn't seem fond of. He loved when she had fallen over and because of the puffiness of the dress, had a hard time getting up. He enjoyed the view for a moment before helping her.
From the moment he saw the young girl, he knew she was the one the Caterpillar had told him about. She would be his queen when the time came. She would rule Wonderland in madness.
He approached his Alice and crouched down behind her, his head over her shoulder. She didn't seem to mind his presence.
"What's this, Hatter?" Her voice was young, innocent, curious. He liked that.
"That," He paused, reaching around her to take his watch and hold it in front of her. "That my dear is a pocket watch." He flipped it open and let it rest in the palm of his left hand. He let his right hand rest on her small hip.
She watched it for a few seconds before asking, "Why isn't it ticking?" She started touching the face of the watch.
"The butter March used to fix it had crumbs in it." He could feel his own warm breath bounce off of her ear. She still didn't seem aware.
"Butter?" She questioned. "You're supposed to wind it."
He moved just the slightest bit closer and whispered, "Maybe you should try." He resisted moving any closer, afraid he would break her from the trance she seemed to be in.
He watched her hair from where he was. Golden and soft. He imagined it lighter, close to white like his own. It smelled of earth, of child and wind. He wanted it smelling of power and madness.
"Why is it going backwards?" He didn't even realize she wound it. He had to snap himself back to the watch and felt his lips turn upwards.
"Silly girl." He allowed his real voice to come through. The playful, happy, kid-friendly voice replaced by the dark, mad voice. "How do you think we became mad?" This seemed to snap her out of her daydream. She turned to look at him and leaned away when she noticed how close he was. He kept her in place with his hand on her hip. He squeezed his fingers. "Now you'll stay here forever." He tried not to laugh at her widening eyes and her flinch when he let his fingers dig deep into her flesh beneath her blue dress.
"Oh no." She shook her head and tried to move again, her small hands wrapping around his fingers, trying to pry them away from her. "Forever? I can't." He threw the watch on the table. March started laughing when it clattered against the dishes. Hatter put his now free hand on her other hip and got down on his knees in front of her.
"The mad always stay here." Hatter drawled, words slow and taunting, unlike March whose laughter increased, causing Alice to glance nervously at him.
"But…" She faltered, still trying to move away from him. "I'm not mad!" Her voice was panicked.
"Oh," He pulled with his hands, pulling her toward him. "But you will be…" He lifted a hand to brush hair behind her ear. "Dear Alice. The watch is the key. When it's done ticking, you'll be mad."
She made a move to run but hesitated a second too long. Hatter saw her escape planned in her eyes and even before she darted, his hands were on her shoulders holding her still. She still attempted to run but he spun her quickly. Pressed against her back again, he put one arm around her neck, holding her still.
"You were drawn to it." He laughed as she continued to struggle in his arms. "There's a reason for you being here." Alice maneuvered her chin under his arm and clamped her teeth on it. With a short grunt, his grip was gone and Alice ran. "You can't run from it!" He called after her. "We'll come for you! The watch is the key!" His maniacal laughter chased her out of the forest.
Hatter, still crouched down in between Alice's legs, put his elbows on his knees. He watched as she slowly came out of her flashback, bringing her back to the present. He nodded slowly as her eyes cleared.
"You remember, don't you?" He taunted.
"No!" Alice screamed suddenly. She shut her eyes tight and thrashed as much as her restraints would allow. She thrust her back off the chair, tried to rip her wrists from the arm rests, twisting her shoulders to move the chair. They all did nothing. "This can't be happening." She whispered in defeat, hanging her head down.
"Oh but it is." Hatter said delighted. Alice looked up just slightly and saw him crouched in front of her. "The watch is ticking. You're already beginning your descent." His voice was smooth like melted chocolate but tasted bitter in her stomach. Through tear filled eyes he was blurry and all she could make out was his smile. It was a smile full of white teeth, tilted and deceivingly warm. It was the smile of a madman with a secret.
Suddenly, her eyes cleared and turned to stone. Lifting her head to level with Hatter, she bared her teeth as if to growl to frighten off a dangerous predator. He simply leaned forward and waited patiently.
"It was a dream!" Her voice was shrill and cracked, not as strong or mean as her face. Hatter didn't even flinch as she screamed at him. He stayed still for a moment before pursing his lips and nodding, like he was in deep thought. His eyes traveled to the side, for the first time not looking at her.
"Does this feel like a dream to you?" He looked back to her and placed his hands over her knees, his palms encasing her kneecaps. She couldn't stand to look at him and looked up, biting her lower lip. His hands slid down until his fingers were just under the hem of her dress.
"Please don't." She closed her eyes and felt tears slipping down. She felt the coarse skin of his fingertips slide underneath her dress to touch the skin of her legs. She shivered and tensed as a small whimper came from her throat. He chuckled and licked his lips.
He rested his arms on her legs as his hands continued upwards, touching her as much as he could. Her dress fell into the creases of his elbows and bunched up as he leaned forward. She felt as if her entire body was covered by him, almost like a heavy blanket weighing her down. His thumbs made small circles on her inner thigh while his hand rested on the top.
She suddenly felt the heat of his fingers through the fabric of her underwear on her hip. His thumb was only an inch or so away from the juncture of her thigh and pelvis. Her legs were starting to shake from tensing for so long and the dull pounding in her head was becoming more apparent.
"Tell me Alice," Hatter whispered. "Does it feel like a dream?" Tears fell down her face as she tried to hold in sobs. She clenched her fists, knuckles turning white, rope digging into her wrists.
The fabric of his suit sleeves was stiff and loose, hanging off his arms, pooling around her legs. Something hard glided underneath it, between the suit and his arm, and into his right hand.
Suddenly the touch of skin was replaced by the cool steel of a blade pressed to her inner thigh. A small cry escaped her closed lips and she fought not to squirm. Her chest pounded with the pain of holding her breath.
"Please… Stop." She pleaded with him, still looking at the tree tops, trying to imagine herself anywhere else. He withdrew his hands and his knife. Very slowly. On one leg she felt his warm skin roaming back down, replaced with cold air. On the other she felt the cold steel retreat, replaced by warm air. She felt as if she was in two places. And it hurt.
Hatter's knife hand jerked, the edge of the blade slicing her inner thigh about midway down. She screamed and crumbled forward as if she was hit in the gut. Hatter removed himself and stood up with blood on his fingers and the knife. He slowly turned and placed the knife on the table behind him.
Alice screamed in pain and felt her head start to pound, her body suddenly stinging everywhere. The pain on her leg was too intense. It wasn't right.
She could feel the warm wetness of blood sliding down her leg and onto the ground. The blood itself felt as if it was gasoline set on fire, but the wound was worse. She could feel it slowly tear open, like a pair of old blue jeans. She could feel her skin as fabric, slowly breaking open thread by thread, string of skin by string of skin.
"Relax, Alice," Hatter hummed as she clutched the arm rests. "It feels worse than it is. It's a small cut. Your going mad makes it much worse." She refused to look at him, her pain almost drowning out his voice. She could almost imagine him not there. She let her head hang down. "Once you're fully mad though, pain will be a thing of the past."
She suddenly felt him behind her, his breath against her neck. Startled, she jerked up and opened her eyes. He wasted no time and as soon as he could, he wrapped his fingers around her neck. His grip was firm but not tight. She could feel his hand in every detail when she inhaled, expanding her throat into his touch just slightly.
He leaned forward, his mouth next to her ear. Her hair acted as a barrier between them fortunately. She wanted him separated from her. Gone forever.
"You know, Alice." He inhaled, taking in the smell of her. His other hand, the one that wasn't stroking her throat, reached around her and ran down the front of her body, starting at her shoulder, down across the side of her breast, and playfully down her side. "I talk to Time." His hand reached her leg, her burning wound. "I could talk to him for you." The feel of the fabric of her dress pressing into the wound hurt, like fingers digging into it. She held back screams and just groaned.
But then he lifted her dress above the wound and started rubbing it, running his fingers gently in circles over the cut skin. The pain stopped. No more fiery blood dripping down her leg and no more tearing. She felt her entire body go slack into his hand around her neck, tired and weak from tensing for so long.
He kept rubbing the wound. Before she realized it, her eyes were closed and she was enjoying his touch, like the hands of a masseuse. His hands were warm and gentle.
"I could ask him to skip to your descent. It might be easier." He whispered. A low hum came from her lips. Hatter ceased his touching. "No, no, no. You can't fall asleep yet. Stay focused." He moved away from her, removing all traces of him from her skin.
Alice felt it build up, start from her very core and rumble her organs, her bones, before bursting out. Seizures. Pain. White lightning. It all came crashing onto her body at once making her scream. The sound echoed through the forest, scared away birds that flew from the trees into the sky she could never see.
March bit his tongue and hid a smile behind a teacup he brought up to his face. Hatter stood up tall and grabbed the edges of his suit. With a shake of his shoulders and a pull of his hands, he straightened it out then cracked his neck, as if he couldn't hear the screams of pain coming from the girl in front of him.
The scream slowly stopped, faded out. Her face was twisted and her mouth still opened like she was screaming. Her body crumpled into itself as much as her binds would let it. A sound made from her tongue pressing to the back and top of her throat, a sound that sounded like a gulp and a choke, came from her lips in uneven intervals.
"Come March, we have an errand to run." Hatter said while moving to walk into the forest. March pushed himself away from the table and hopped on all fours to follow him, leaving Alice alone to suffer.
A half hour later they returned, Hatter with a large object covered with a cloth in his hands and March empty handed. March quickly returned to his seat while Hatter put the object on the table, his body blocking the view for Alice if she had the will to look. She was silent, controlling her breath, focusing solely on that to keep focus away from her pain.
Hatter grabbed the yellow cloth covering his surprise. He played with it in his fingers and looked up at March. His friend was sitting still at his seat, staring at Hatter, waiting.
Hatter nodded and removed the cloth. March clapped and laughed when he saw the cake. Hatter chuckled as he put ten candles in a half circle on the rim; one for each year he had been patient. He could hear March bouncing in his chair, knocking over dishes singing, "A very merry unbirthday to you. To who? To you! Oh me!" Hatter found himself slowly humming along, a couple of beats behind.
The candles were short and used, yellow wax dried in clumps on the side from past uses. The cake was two tiers of vanilla with white frosting. Dark red icing trim on the edges gave it that un-celebratory feel that he wanted. In navy blue icing, he had scribbled "To Alice" sideways on the top tier.
Hatter lit a match and brought it to each candle slowly, still humming. He paused when he heard Alice groan. It was the first sound other than heavy, controlled breathing she had made in a while. His humming stopped and he blew out the match.
"What a small world this is." He said, sweeping his left hand under the glass plate underneath the cake. "Today is your unbirthday." He turned on his heel, the dirt beneath him sinking down.
Alice looked worse, which Hatter found a good thing. She was gripping the arm rests and all of her muscles were tense, her blue veins popping up underneath her skin. Sweat glimmered on her skin and made her flat hair stick to her face in strings. Dirt had stuck to her white dress, the bottom of it caked in it. The top was nearly see-through due to her sweat.
Hatter tilted his head, studying her. Her eyes were staring straight ahead, not looking at anything. For a moment, he thought she was lost already but then her eyes flickered to his for only a moment. Hatter smiled at her attempt to fake absence. Her pain was still there, she simply had the will to control a small portion of it. He imagined she was still feeling her organs seize in her body as much as she tried to keep them still.
He took two steps forward and knelt on his right knee, extending the cake towards her.
"It hurts." He whispered watching as she tried desperately not to look at him. "You want it to stop." He moved the cake even closer to her, right under her face. "Blow the candle out my dear, and make your wish come true." His right hand fell onto her knee and she looked down at the cake. As she looked at it, seemingly contemplating giving into his request, he ran his thumb over her skin. She was surprisingly cool underneath the dirty fabric of her dress.
Suddenly, Alice's eyes grew dark and with one brief glance at Hatter, she spit on the cake. Hatter felt his blood start to boil in his skin as she looked away again. His hand squeezed her knee before standing to put the cake back on the table.
As he placed it on the table, March pointed at him and went between laughter and singing while he bounced in his seat. Hatter glared at him but he didn't stop.
"You're pushing your limits, Alice." He said, still facing away from her. "You only have so much fight left in you." He picked up his knife and turned back to her. "I'm just trying to help." He slid the knife into his sleeve as he circled behind her. He put his hands over her shoulders and leaned down to her ear. "I hate seeing you like this." He leaned forward so he could see her face. She was trembling. "Such a beautiful creature in such pain." He moved his hand around her and toward his own face and brushed his fingers over her forehead, moving her hair from her face. "I just want to help."
With his hand cradling the side of her head, he moved down to her neck and pressed a kiss to her skin. He felt her stop breathing, the column of her neck stop moving, and tense up. His hand slid up, tangling in her hair. He expected he'd need to use more force but with a gentle tug, her head lolled to the side on its own. He started kissing her exposed neck again with a little more enthusiasm. He nipped at the skin just below her jaw and felt her suck in more air to hold. He licked and then sucked gently on her jaw line.
Everywhere he kissed, everywhere he touched was buzzing in pleasure. Even the wet trail left by his tongue hummed without pain. It felt so good. He was murmuring words in her ear but she wasn't listening. She wanted to welcome the feel of him.
"Hatter." His name was let out in one breath, much like a moan. Hatter smirked as he moved down her neck, fingers massaging her scalp.
"Alice." There was no mistaking his voice. His was a moan filled with lust.
Her words were slow, punctuated. "Get the fuck off me." Hatter chuckled against her skin, enjoying the feel of the vibration returning to his lips. "Now." Her voice cracked but was still strong.
He moved only inches, only back to her ear. He removed his hand carefully from her hair and let it hang at his side just long enough for the knife to fall from his sleeve into his hand. Then the blade was at her throat and the hand that had been on her shoulder was yanking her head backwards by the ends of her hair.
"You're not in a position to be making demands." His voice was dark and unkind. "So I recommend that you don't." He whispered into her ear. He placed a small, gentle kiss on her cheek and released her. "So sorry about the restraints." His voice was normal again, almost happy and playful. "Couldn't have you running off like you did when you were ten, now could we?" He stepped beside her and tossed the knife onto the table. It landed on the cake, sinking into the letters he had written on it. March laughed and threw his own knife at the cake.
"Let," Alice paused, catching her breath and pushing away pain. "Me go." The last two words were rushed, let out in one breath before sucking more air in.
"Alice," Hatter sighed. "Dear Alice." He crouched in front of her, placing his elbows on her knees and his face in his hands. "You still don't understand." He smiled, as if talking to a child. "This is the unbirthday the Caterpillar foretold years ago. The day you go mad. The beginning of our life together." He leaned forward and nodded still looking at her and smiling wide. Alice tried desperately not to look down at the man between her legs but she found herself unable to look away. "We will rule as King and Queen of Wonderland if only you would just let go." Alice tore her eyes away from him and looked straight ahead. "Why won't you just let me help?" He dropped his arms so they rested on her legs, his hands holding her hips.
His touch soothed the pain. It always did. He was warm and teasing. Her legs relaxed involuntarily, now only feeling weak. Her brain still rattled in her skull, still producing pain everywhere else. He could make it stop.
It took all of her strength to spit in his face.
Hatter closed his eyes and wiped her spit from his face. He was becoming fed up with her rebellion. He had not expected her to be so strong, had not expected the watch to tick so slowly. He felt himself grow hot with anger. He cocked his head and smiled sourly at her.
"That's the second time you've spat at a gift that's been offered. You might want to think twice next time." He dug his fingers into her hips and started dragging his hands down her legs. "You see, I can make it better, or worse."
Alice screamed in pain, throwing her head back and trying to thrash around. His fingers felt like knives running down her legs. She could almost feel warm blood trickling down her skin through her white dress. When his hands reached right above her ankles, he squeezed so hard she could feel her muscles spread as if to pop out of her skin.
"Stop!" She cried out through her screams. "Please stop!" He released her and she welcomed the pain that came with it as it was a dull throb compared to what he had just done.
"You need more time." He whispered and patted her knee before standing. Alice felt herself drift away, sobs escaping her and tears running uncontrollably down her dirty face. "She'll make a good queen." Hatter nodded to March as he went back to the table.
"What do we do after the watch stops ticking?" March asked as he sniffed his cup.
"We release her of course." Hatter pulled an unused chair around to the head of the table, refusing to sit anywhere else. "It would be rude to keep her locked up."
"What if she's another Doormouse?" March asked, his face suddenly blank and serious.
"She won't be." Hatter snapped at him picking up his own teacup. March visibly drew back, sinking into himself and pulling his teacup closer. Hatter felt himself sigh heavily and shake his head. "She can't be."
Hatter knew that somewhere, in one of the tea pots, though he couldn't remember which one and honestly didn't want to, was a straight razor stained with blood. Doormouse's blood.
Doormouse had been their last addition to the tea party before Alice. Her state of madness had her kill herself before she could be of any use, slit her throat literally ear to ear with a straight razor.
Alice could not be another Doormouse. But the more Hatter thought about it, the more it seemed possible. Perhaps he had the wrong Alice. Caterpillar never specified which one and he had found out that Reality did in fact have many more than one.
"She won't be." Hatter told March once again. He brought his tea up to drink but stopped. March froze as well noticing what Hatter did.
They heard neither Alice's crying nor the ticking of the watch.
A slow laugh rolled out from behind Hatter. It started as a single chuckle but became two, and then three until it was slow and steady. The laughed rolled to a stop and they heard Alice start to chant.
"Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle," It was as if she found something new about the word each time she said it. "Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle."
March started laughing himself while listening to her. Hatter simply smiled.
"I think she's broken." March said. Hatter took another drink of tea.