Dreaming of Alice:
Alice Blackborne loved Lewis Carroll's fairy tale novels of Alice Liddell's dream more than she could describe, but she never imagined that she could ever find that Wonderland stuffed in between Dream and Reality. Now she finds herself as the Eighth Alice to visit Wonderland, a crown princess stolen away five years too late, and yet another victim to the tragedies bound to unfold if she cannot settle the lands between The Queen of Hearts and The Queen of Spades. Based around Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Dreaming of Alice: "A Meeting with Time"
He looked quite silly, Alice thought, but then again, she'd yet to know anyone here who looked normal. It was all rather odd, now wasn't it?
And he was no exception, the man before her, in his gentlemanly ensemble of bloated black and white pants, a tattered cherry jacket and a strange maroon top hat with fat copper gears attached to the top and bottom of it. Alice quite wondered how he didn't get such a headache from wearing that hat all day long; he must've worn it all day because he hadn't stopped to remove it when he took his tea, before Alice dropped in (and quite literally, I might add).
Alice inched closer to the man as he took another graceful gulp from his teacup, making sure to examine him further for signs of the Wonderland lifestyle as she moved along. Carwyn hadn't lied when he said Time was a hard worker, as the ink stains on his waist coat extended to his hands and a few small spots on his paper pale cheeks. His hair showed just as many signs of neglect, despite his assistant's desperate attempts to straighten out the white blonde braid during his master's break, it still looked brittle and dead as it hung down his back.
But Alice had quite lost interest in the man's hard work when she caught sight of his accessories. Besides the red and pink stockings standing out horrendously against his pants and his brass wing tipped shoes, Time carried a rather large collection of pocket watches, all of various shapes, sizes, colors, types and states of decay. Some, Alice noted, were nothing more than leftover gears and springs, and some were as brand new as the shiny silver thing dangling from his braid.
Most of the new watches hung across his belt, along an unusually large and solitary white minute hand strapped to his right flank. Alice hadn't it paid much mind at all; then it caught her by surprise and spun out of control on the man's belt, causing his hand to reach down and swat the blunt edge of it, almost as if he were spanking a child.
"I suppose you haven't had your trip to the Looking Glass Land and seen Dee or Dum yet," the man finally spoke, "else you'd know your manners. I suppose I can blame your punctuality on Whit, considering the time you spend with that boy. Tsk, tsk, wasteful. Though I don't know who to call out for your inability to knock. I suppose the shame for that falls on you now, does it?"
"Oh, my!" Alice gasped. "I am sorry; I didn't wish to interrupt you. And I am sorry for barging in. Carwyn pushed me. Again," Alice added with a hint of bitterness. She ought to take more care to where that Hatter stood in respects to her.
"Ah. Well then, Alice Blackborne, I am afraid that you have absolutely failed to impress me as the crown princess. You broke in and entered, you stared at me for a good three and two third seconds before never introducing yourself and to top it all off you were twenty minutes late to begin with. Now then," the man rose abruptly, paid no heed to the cacophonous clatter of his china and straightened out his plenty disheveled garb.
"I am a very busy man, Miss Blackborne, so if you will see yourself out, the exit is by the steam vents, mind the lose hatches, they get playful at times and move. Farewell, it was not a pleasure; please do not visit again soon." With those final words, the man turned heel and started to walk away, and Alice found herself getting very red in the ears—partway out of anger and partway out of embarrassment.
"Oi!" Alice shouted as she strode up to the man and yanked hard on one cherry sleeve. "Carwyn said I would be early when he pushed me and you have the gall to claim I'm late and tell me to go back? Even Mattie wouldn't be so mad!"
"Well, Miss Blackborne, if we follow your time, yes, you are early, but by my time, you're twenty minutes late, twenty and a half now," the man replied as he checked a pocket watch and scribbled something down on the wall.
"That's preposterous," Alice huffed, "There's only one time, and now I know what he looks like. He's tall, dreadfully skinny, completely unkempt, callous, rude, and sporting the dirtiest and most ill-matching outfit I've ever seen."
"When the Hatter pushed you down that Rabbit Hole did anyone miss you?" the man sauntered on in an unconcerned manner as he checked random valves around his grimy factory. "I certainly ca'nt imagine anyone missing you."
"I am not leaving until my grievance is addressed!" Alice shrieked as she crossed her arms and stiffened by the valve Time was fiddling with.
"Then I'm afraid you will rot where you stand, my dear. My patience for dealing with childish tantrums is far beyond that of your life expectancy. Besides, this whole grievance could've been addressed during your five minute allotment at the beginning of tea time. It's hardly my fault that you missed it."
"Only five minutes?!" Alice gasped.
"Yes, only five, I only take tea for twenty minutes once a week, I'd like to enjoy at least fifteen of those minutes without hearing you whine. Now please go away, I'm busy."
Alice let out another huff in frustration, but as she turned heel for the exit a switch caught her eye, a shiny one to control the factory that was marked simply with either "fast" or "slow". Alice knew what to do with this. She knew quite well. She took a firm hold on the switch and silently began flicking it between the two controls, watching carefully as the gears and gizmos of the factory went haywire and as Time frantically searched for the source of the problem, only to find it in a corner he had been ignoring.
"Did your parents never teach you not to touch things?" he hissed as he marched towards Alice and detached her from the switch. "For the last time Miss Blackborne, you missed your appointment. Leave."
"Not until my grievance is addressed!" the young girl insisted, "and if you bruise my wrist, Carwyn will kill you again, truce or not."
"You should explain that you hurt my factory when he sees your wrist then," Time seethed as he released Alice's arm and turned back to the valves on his factory. "You aren't a wink like the first seven Alices. They wouldn't have dared."
The young girl could only laugh at the thought. "Hurt your factory? Machines don't have feelings."
"Au contraire, little girl, they feel plenty, quite unlike humans."
"Rather backwards compared to reality," Alice commented as she rubbed her sore wrist.
"Not backwards at all, my dear. Oh yes, backwards!" the man clapped his hands together and beamed like a child before scampering for a valve at the end of the hall. "I nearly forget this order every week. Thank you for reminding me, Miss Blackborne."
"Order? Of what?" Alice inquired. "To whom? In what sense?"
"An order for the White Queen, if you're done being so daft," Time mumbled as he played with the valve and a few knobs next to it. "Did the Hatter tell you nothing of my job? What am I saying? Of course he told you nothing, it's all he knows."
"What's so special about the White Queen that you always forget about her? I mean, I know she's not terribly interesting or charming from what Carwyn's told me…" Alice considered the Queen as she twirled a small strand of her pale blonde pigtail between her fingers, "but I never thought her to be something that forgettable, she is a Queen after all."
The man straightened up in front of the valve and pulled a large notebook from the handkerchief he had stuffed away in his left pocket (Alice felt that it seemed quite the silly place to put a notebook). "I forget it because I'd prefer not to deal out such a tampered time stream," Time looked up at Alice briefly with his chocolate eyes before pulling out the quill stuffed behind his ear and returning to his notebook.
"The Lady of White takes her time backwards every week," the man explained as he strode past Alice to a control panel further into the factory. "She insists on doing so, won't have it any other way, she says. I personally think she's bonkers, but I'd rather not argue with a paying customer, mad or not."
"Mad is a tradition here, shouldn't you know that better than I?" Alice smirked.
"Yes, well, imagine someone weeping over the damage of a windstorm before it's happened, fumbling and panicking their way through it and then preparing for the storm while everyone's cleaning up and then tell me with a straight face that you can appreciate that level of bonkers."
"I guess I see your point," Alice noted as she strolled towards the control panel casually, "is it a difficult order?"
"No, it does take some time though," the man paused and gazed at Alice as the last syllable crept off his tongue. "You are hell bent on that grievance, aren't you, Miss Blackborne?"
"I was early for my appointment," Alice pointed out.
"By your time."
"Well I ca'nt very well follow your time, so maybe you can spare me a few minutes."
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Time sighed, "just spit it out already, silly girl! What do you want with me?"
"Well… you deliver the time that Whit's pocket watch measures, yes?"
"No, of course not, there's more than one silly little immortal time keeper," the man spat, "What about the time measuring that boy's stupid watch?"
"Carwyn says it's been too early lately."
"I'm aware. Whit requested I push it five minutes faster. He's about two thirds as persistent as you but sadly thrice as annoying so I heeded his request to get him out of my factory faster. I was hoping I wouldn't have to heed yours too."
"Well, Carwyn says you need to change his time back."
"Since when was Whit's time even a lick of the bloody Hatter's responsibility?"
"Well Carwyn says he's too early now. He arrives five minutes earlier than he's supposed to to everywhere; it's beginning to be bothersome."
"So you're here to voice the Hatter's complaint?"
"Carwyn says you don't like him much."
"I don't like anyone much, what makes him a bloody exception?" Time glared at Alice briefly, "I hope you aren't supposed to be his mediator because I like you even less."
"That feeling's mutual," Alice replied bluntly, "Whit's time is supposed to be five minutes late, but now it's on time. You changed it, you can change it back."
"I could, true, but unlike you and the Hatter, I'm the one who will have to deal with that boy when he finds out you switched it back, since I'm assuming he doesn't know you're here. And furthermore, I do have some sense of dignity, and I don't tamper with people's time against their wishes."
"But Carwyn says—"
"Oh good god!" Time shouted out abruptly as he hoisted himself out of the seat by the control panel and walked away from Alice. "I swear that's the twentieth time you've said that since you got here! The Hatter says this, the Hatter says that, I'm truly starting to question your position as future queen! You sound more like the Hatter's messenger girl, and mind you, you aren't very good at that job either!"
"Oi!" Alice exclaimed in irritation, "You said you'd address my grievance."
"Yes, your grievance, sure, I'd address it," Time swirled around the heels of his wing tips and glared at Alice, his handsome facial features distorted with pent up agitation, "but as you've just clearly stated, you don't have a grievance, you're here to discuss the Hatter's grievance about someone else's time that isn't his problem at all. So please, forgive me if I don't address his complaint about someone else that he sent the bloody annoying crown princess to deal with."
"What if I had a problem with the early arrivals?" Alice retorted calmly despite the aggravated twitch of her jaw.
"I still wouldn't care," the man said with a simple smile as he tipped his hat and began to walk away. "Besides, you wouldn't have a problem with it. You don't even realize that he's early."
Alice's jaw twitched again as she glared daggers into the man's back, but she just walked up behind the man nonchalantly. "I guess I'll just have to stay here for a while until you've fixed it," Alice replied as she came in stride with Time. "After all, you do seem to love the company."
"I believe we've discussed my patience for childish tantrums already, Miss Blackborne."
"And you made some novel proof of that patience five minutes ago," Alice smiled, "when you had a little fit of anger. Maybe I should find another switch to mess with."
The man stopped in his tracks, but instead of glaring at her again, he just gazed at her inquisitively. "Why all the fuss? You just won't take 'no' for an answer. Or is it not you that won't accept 'no'? Tell me, Miss Blackborne, did you not consider the Hatter's motives in trying to change Whit's time back?"
"I… well, no, I'm quite certain I hadn't the time to ask," Alice murmured as her eyes trailed towards the hole of her entry, "he's quite persistent, that Carwyn…"
"Alright, Miss Blackborne, I'll change back Whit's time, on one condition, that is," Time smirked.
Time's smirk broke into a toothy grin as he strutted into the young girl's personal space. "Yes, one condition. I'll make Whit's time stream five minutes slower if I can make your time stream five minutes faster. And then maybe you'll walk in on that silly Hatter's dirty little secrets."
Alice glared at the man as he turned heel again and walked away, but this time, she would not confront him. She knew better than to consider his request, despite her curiosity.
"I would discuss the trade with your dear Hatter before your reply if I were you," Time called back from the dingy hall of his factory that he'd trekked down, "I do think he might change his mind now. Now you know where the exit is, I'll assume that you can see yourself out. Please don't come back soon."
Alice fumed a little before turning heel and heading for the exit. She had had quite enough of Time and his factory, yet, as she turned for the door, she found herself with many more questions for the elusive Carwyn King that sent her here.