Hatter in Overland

"Fairfarren" said the Hatter as he faded into a light blue-green mist.

Alice climbed out of the hole, excitement filling her and bubbling over into her run. She finally had a life she wanted to live, not one that others wanted for her. She burst breathlessly into the oh-so proper garden and finally delivered her decision to Hamish. She was momentarily amused by his shocked expression; he really should know his manner was against him in affairs of the heart. She turned round the circle of people, giving them important pieces of advice she hoped would save them trouble in the future.

Finally, though, her mother decided it was time the left since the party had become rather awkward, with no one knowing what to do or say since the 'engagement party' suddenly wasn't. A slight worry suddenly gripped Alice, how could she invent an excuse to leave her mother and return to Underland? It had to be a very thorough excuse that wouldn't involve the need to leave a forwarding address or necessitate frequent visits. Not long ago it seemed as if only the slightest of obstacles stood in between her and complete happiness, now it seemed as though it would be nearly impossible to return to what had become her 'home'.

When they reached her mother's house she received a long-suffering fussing from her mother, wondering if she was all right, what had she been thinking, and what on earth she could possibly do with her life now that she had turned down a lord! Alice hardly noticed her fussing, she realized that her mother was just worried for her, and a little disappointed, but she had bigger problems to deal with than whether her mother might try to get her institutionalized or not.

Eventually she was left to the privacy of her own room and she racked her brain, trying to come up with the tiniest shred of a plan that wouldn't leave her relatives stricken with worry. Sometimes she thought that they could use some tumult in their life, but she didn't really want to hurt them. After long hours of useless thought she fell asleep with an awful headache. Her sleep was dreamless, but still filled with the odd wisp of smoke that occasionally coalesced into the vaguest semblances of a face.

The hatter watched as Alice disappeared and was almost disappointed when she didn't immediately reappear. After all, she did say she'd be back before he knew it.

"She'll be back" sounded in his ear, and he turned around to see Chess floating by his ear.

"What if she can't come back? McTwisp had a dreadful time finding her, what if she can't find the rabbit hole? Overland must be at least as big as Underland, it is almost impossible to find things around here, what if it's the same there..."

"Tarrant, you worry too much. Whether she finds her own way back or someone helps her, she'll be back." Chess didn't even pause to hear the hatter's mumbled 'sorry', speaking with a laconic confidence. Absolute certainty was deep within his voice and it did cheer the hatter a little.

Without any more than a nod and a hurried, almost flustered smile, Hatter ran off towards the clearing where his ramshackle house and tea tables were. If Alice was coming back, she would come back to a beautiful Wonderland. He would make sure it lived up to the name she gave it as a child before time stood still for him. She had loved it then, when she was only a child he had almost felt like he was there just to entertain her, but now that she had grown up she was so much more than that curious little girl.

If he was truly in the mood for it Tarrant had a remarkable energy to focus towards any given task. Within the hour his house and tea tables once again looked like new. All the cracked china was disposed of and the dented silverware fixed. The peeling paint on his house was redone, and the curtains hung brightly at the windows. Since the fall of the Red Queen the blight had faded from the land and the smog had disappeared. The sun once again shown brightly and Underland was nearly Wonderland. People everywhere had fixed things long neglected because now there was a point to it. Life could be wonderful again, not the misery 'Bloody Big Head' had foisted on everyone.

Having fixed his home Tarrant decided he should probably do a little fixing of himself. The bandages on his hands were filthy, his clothes were tattered, and his poor hat was scorched and battered nearly to pieces. He didn't want to take the time to make new ones so he fixed the hat and clothes and re-did the soiled bandages, throwing the old ones out. Throughout all his work the little worry that maybe Alice couldn't get back by herself didn't leave.

At long last he decided to go with his instincts on this one, worst case he had some strange experiences in another world and Alice had done admirably in his; the least he could do was giver hers a go. He took a deep breath and headed towards Mamorial. The White Queen was sure to know how to send him to Overland.

Alice woke the next morning to a brief happiness, it was dashed almost immediately by the knowledge she still didn't know how she could return to Wonderland (for that would always be how she thought of it). She decided to make up an excuse for just a day so that she could visit Wonderland and assure her friends (and especially her Hatter) that she hadn't forgotten them. She desperately wanted them to know she would come back as soon as she knew how.

Alice looked through her wardrobe and, after sighing that none of her dresses were nearly as nice as those she had in Wonderland, picked out a bright blue dress lined with pink ribbon. She neatened her hair and went down to her mother in the sitting room.

"Mother?" Alice inquired in a gentle tone.

"Yes Alice?" came the patient tone of one who expects soon to hear something ridiculous.

"I was wondering if I could go into town today and...look what sorts of positions might be available in ladies' shops?" Alice asked on a sudden inspiration.

After sitting up a little straighter (if that were possible) in surprise she replied "Well certainly, if that is what you want."

"Thank you mother!" Alice nearly shouted for joy and gave her mother a quick kiss on the cheek.

She hurried to a little field outside the Ascot estate. Then she left her horse to enjoy the grass, and she snuck over to the gnarled stump near the rabbit hole. She was filled with an unspeakable horror when she realized that the hole had been filled in! She thought that the only way it could have been filled in was if it wasn't always open to Wonderland, but now she had no way back. She could never see the world she loved, or the man she loved, ever again. She sat down and cried for a while and then stopped, purposing to find some method for returning, no matter how long it took.

"I do understand your wish to follow her, but are you sure you understand the full implications of you proposed actions?" Mirana asked, concern plain on her face.

"Of course I do! It couldn't be any worse for me to go to her world than for her to come to ours!" Tarrant was very pleased with this reasoning and smiled as he stated his argument.

Mirana looked at her loyal friend sadly. She loved his quirks and knew him to be a brave and honorable man; but she sometimes worried for him. She knew quite well that he was mad, not in a bad way really; still, it could lead to difficulties at times like this. "Tarrant, you have to understand how different the worlds are. Alice can thrive in our world because she is more like us than like most in her own world. She can do well in either because she is of both, in a sense. But you are born and bred to this world and you fit it like you were made for it and it for you. The only thing in Alice's world that would be at all fathomable is Alice herself." In the moment of silence that followed her speech Mirana was hopeful that she had gotten through.

Then the silence was broken with "Than I shall have to find her as quickly as possible." He turned his face up and she saw hope and determination absolutely shining from his entire figure.

Seeing that he would not be swayed Mirana finally decided to at least make it as easy for him as possible. "There is a mirror in the palace that can take you to her world while keeping you your proper size. The only problem is that you don't always know what mirror you'll come through in Overland. Only someone who knows where the mirrors are in Overland can 'steer' to the correct one."

His eyes grew brighter as she told him this news, but suddenly faded slightly at the end. "How will we get back?"

She almost laughed at his complete certainty in his quest but she refrained. "All mirrors in Overland will return you to the palace if you instruct it saying:

Mirror take me far away

To a place I know

From here where all realities sway

Mirror, mirror help me go."

Mirana watched as Tarrant closed his eyes and muttered the words to himself a few times over. Then he turned towards her and asked "Where is the mirror, I ought to be going as soon as possible since it could take a while to find my way to Alice from a mirror." His soft lisp belayed his persevering nature.

Mirana led him deep into the castle to a mirror carefully set up so that it wouldn't be broken or accidentally run into. "Now, just imagine Alice as well as you can when you enter the mirror and you'll probably wind up at least in the same...city...as Alice."

Tarrant nodded closed his eyes and whispered "I coming Alice." and he stepped into the mirror and vanished from view.

Tarrant blinked rapidly to clear his vision from the swirls the mirror travels had left there. He finally realized that a small boy was staring at him open-mouthed. Tarrant looked around and saw a once-elegant room that had been made scruffy by many years of children's play. The furniture was old and worn, the odd toy was an equally battered thing, the occasional book was terribly dog-eared. But the whole picture was rather pleasant, even if it was a little shabby. Tarrant had just made up his mind he might like this place when a very proper-looking nanny entered the room and shrieked at the top of her lungs.

The ensuing running (on Tarrant's part) and chasing (on the part of some large, fierce dogs) convinced him that despite his distinct impression from Alice that her world was a very safe place, a great deal of care should be exercised in dealing with its inhabitants. He had been quite surprised that the dogs didn't talk, he thought it very unsociable of them; even the meanest Wonderland dogs would warn you away before they started their snarling.

When he finally lost his pursuers, Tarrant found himself in a thin forest. The trees were tall and very pretty, but they weren't nearly as ramshackle as the beautiful twisting trees of Wonderland forests. The few mushrooms that were scattered around were terribly small and seemed drained of color. The flowers lacked faces and the insects were utterly unknown to him. One thing that he liked though, was that green flooded this world, it had as much green as Wonderland had finally revealed again after years of faded dust.

Now that he had acquainted himself with his new surroundings, Tarrant turned his mind, such as it was, to his main problem: how to find his dear sweet Alice in this world. First he wanted to discount the problem by saying that she was so full of muchness and life that she would shine out like a beacon in this drab world, but he had to admit to himself that she was indeed wonderful but personality does not constitute an accurate tracking method. Finally he concluded he would simply have to look for rabbit holes large enough for whole girls to fall through. Better still, the rabbit hole had to be near enough a house for Alice to have been wandering by it.

Happy to have a plan of action, Tarrant jumped up and started climbing a tree so he could see how many houses were nearby. He spotted three within fairly close proximity to his location. He chose the nearest and started off, he took great, purposeful strides. Examining the country around him as he went. While he walked, he made up his mind to ask any people he met about Alice, since it appeared that none of the animals or flowers were really alive.

He had finally reached the first house when he saw a gardener off behind the hedge. He hurried towards the man to find out what he could about the whereabouts of Alice. The man looked up from his work when he heard the Hatter's calls of "Hello!" and his eyes widened dramatically at the picture of an orange-haired, brightly-colored man running towards him. He nearly started running himself- the other way that is. But something stopped him at the last minute. The man looked mad, yes; but he didn't look dangerous, he looked excited and hopeful. Even at a distance he could tell that. So he stayed put, if he was wrong he still thought he'd have the upper hand in a fight with his garden shears.

"Please, could you tell me, do you know Alice?" at the soft, gentle tone the rest of the gardener's doubts were allayed. There was no harm in this man, he was just very odd.

"Well, I don't know really," the gardener began, "depends on which Alice you mean."

"THE Alice." Tarrant replied confidently. At the lack of immediate recognition he forged on. "A beautiful girl. Lovely, blond hair. And she's so full of muchness! She couldn't be like any other girl in the world, I'm sure that if you'd once met her you'd never forget her. She..."

The gardener had listened in amazement as his words began to come out faster and faster, so he broke in "Hold up!"

The strange man jerked slightly and croaked out a small "Thanks, I'm fine."

The gardener gave a small smile at that and said "The only blond Alice I ever knew around these parts used to live over on West End. Her father employed me for a while. I'm not sure if she is the Alice you mean, but she was very precocious when I knew her. The family probably still lives there." He didn't think it would really hurt to direct this queer fellow in the general direction of the old Kingsley home, he really didn't seem to hold any malice towards them; and if he knew them maybe they would know what to do with him.

The gardener considered himself to be very bright for figuring it out so neatly to get the man back where he belonged, wherever precisely that was. And so pointed the general direction. He also gave a slight description of the house just in case. And he sent the man on his way, continually voicing his thanks all the while.

Tarrant felt much encouraged by his encounter with the gardener. The man had been very odd, certainly, but he was helpful. The Hatter just hoped that the house he had been pointed towards would indeed contain Alice. But most of all he hoped that Alice had really regretted leaving as much as he thought she had. If that was the case, then she would certainly return with him.

He had a great deal of time to consider his feelings about the whole matter on his walk. And he finally come to the conclusion that he should tell her what he felt for her. Tell her that she was the most beautiful girl I the world. Tell her that she had so much muchness that all others paled in comparison to her. Tell her he loved her.

But this raised an even greater problem: how should he tell her? Should he try an wait for a romantic setting, or would it be better for him to tell her as soon as he found her? He finally decided that he would simply have to find her first and then he would know what to do. Alice did that, she made thoughts and feelings easier to decide upon and decipher. He quickened his pace so he could find dearest, sweetest Alice as soon as possible. An extra gleam took up residence in his already brilliantly vibrant, green eyes, making them almost shine with a light of their own.

Alice returned to her mother's house and decided that, since it seemed she would be stuck in this world a bit longer than planned, she would change her tiny piece of the world to suit her until she could go to a world that did suit her, full of people who made her feel so very alive.

To her mother's slight disappointment she did not change her position on corsets or stockings. But she did help make the whole house (excluding her room, of course) look just as her mother liked it, in order to try and compensate her mother for the difficulties of having such a strange daughter. In all reality though, her mother wasn't truly upset. If her mother hadn't liked something about the strangeness of her sort she would never have married Alice's father. Using that line of reasoning, Alice tried to figure out whether he mother could ever conceivably accept as a son-in-law the only man that Alice could envision marrying. The only conclusion Alice could reach was that her mother wouldn't believe that such a man existed, making the point a rather moot one. With a sigh, Alice abandoned her musings for the moment and went back to adding some color to her room.

Tarrant could've leaped for joy when he saw a house that seemed to fit the description provided by the gardener. To tell the truth, this world did have him a little on edge because of its washed out appearance. He was almost afraid that the Red Queen had somehow established her reign in Overland. Such thoughts were driven out of his mind when he thought about the wonder and delight Alice had shown especially on her first trip. Anyone who had grown up in Wonderland loved it, of course, but they didn't tend to be amazed by what was, to them, quite natural.

Still, the prospect of seeing the vibrant Alice in this dim world cheered him immeasurably. He broke into a run and stopped when he reached the door. He used the large brass knocker rather vigorously to make certain he was heard. A brown-haired maid wearing a stripy dress with a lacy apron opened the door and let out a (loud) exclamation of shock at the appearance of the visitor. Without moving, or even shifting expression, she called out: "Miss, there is someone at the door I very much think you should see!"

She remained silent afterwards despite Tarrant's continued efforts at conversation. He eventually carried on a one-sided conversation with such ease it was quite apparent he'd had practice when other conversation participants had been less than communicative. Eventually, the arrival of Mrs. Kingsley relieved the need to talk at the unresponsive maid who gratefully removed herself to the sitting room where she availed herself of tea and scones to alleviate her shock.

Mrs. Kingsley took his appearance somewhat better having already prepared herself for something out of the ordinary (though not this unusual). After a few false starts she managed to ask "Good afternoon, what do you want?"

"Oh, I would like to speak to Alice." he replied.

"H..How do you know my daughter, may I ask?" inquired the bewildered mother.

"Oh she's your daughter? Then let me congratulate you on raising such a wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, terrific, stupendous, amazing, charming..."

He picked up speed as he listed the various adjectives that applied to Alice and showed no sign of stopping. He probably wouldn't have had Alice not come downstairs to see what the commotion was.

"Hatter!" She shouted and ran to him, giving him an enthusiastic hug.

"I'm fine..." was muttered by the surprised man. A moment later he was hugging her back, happier than he had ever been in his whole life.

Naturally, after such behavior a very thorough explanation was required for poor Mrs. Kingsley and the maid. It took several pots of tea (though some of that was Tarrant's fault) and several plates of scones, not to mention quite a few hours. After they had accepted the explanation and had their questions basically answered, they sat in silence trying to digest all that they had heard.

Tarrant finally couldn't hold it in any longer, so he turned to Alice, got down on one knee, and in a rush of words to rival all previous floods of his he said "Alice, I have to tell you, I love you so much. You are the muchiest girl in any world, and I have never been as happy as the times I have spent with you. You have made my life worth more than it ever was by itself, you have changed everything in Wonderland, even making it Wonderland instead of Underland. No one else ever could be what you are. I...I want you to marry me."

He stopped the flow of words of his own accord, maybe for the first time in his life, and turned his face up to Alice, hopes, fears, joys, sorrows written there as clearly as if they had been carved. Alice was silent for only a moment, but her immediate, radiant smile told everyone what her answer had to be. Through tears and a smile so broad it was almost larger than her face she answered "Oh Hatter yes! Yes! Yes! I will marry you!"

The two embraced, full of joy and relief that the other really did care for them. Even Mrs. Kingsley wouldn't dream of trying to stop the marriage if she hadn't approved of the groom. Their perfectness for each other, and her daughter's complete joy told her this was not something which could or should be stopped. So she gave her blessing, and showed them to a nice full-length mirror.

Alice and Tarrant had been married for five years now. They had two children and were expecting a third. The ramshackle, old mill still had its odd, quirky charm; but it seemed more stable than the stoutest of English houses. The garden was very bright and over-flowing with beautiful plants. The tea tables were always in readiness for a host of guests who all came on time for their tea; Chess, the Hare, and Mallyumkin still practically lived there and even the Tweedles occasionally stopped by. The whole of Wonderland had returned to its full, former beauty, and peace reigned everywhere. All the people who had been wronged by the Red Queen had been aided by the caring White Queen. The world was complete, as was the joy of Mr. and Mrs. Hightop, who never again were parted.

The End