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That was an awfully long way to fall, you decide.You shall have to be more careful wandering around your grandfather's property; you could have gotten seriously hurt. You struggle to your feet, rubbing at your sore posterior as you glance around the place where you have fallen. Is this a room? It certainly seems to be one, an odd one with unlit corners and a gently-flickering lantern in the middle of the floor. There is a closed door with a series of imposing locks in every wall except one; this one has a door that is slightly ajar planted in it, and through the crack between door and jam, a small amount of happy light pours out. You very much dislike being alone in the small, dark room with nothing but a weary lantern to keep you company, and so you edge closer to the open door, mutely curious about what is on the other side. You find it hard to be cautious or afraid of anything right now; you've just taken a long tumble down a very bumpy hole and found yourself in a strange underground room with no evidence of you crashing through the ceiling, and so surprise and the need to get back home are all you can feel. Maybe the door leads back to the outside world?
But this is all just a dream. It can't be real. There are no rooms with flickering lanterns so deep in the ground.
As you approach the door, you can hear a voice inside -- it is a desperate voice, one that breaks with sudden cackling and what could be sobs. You are suddenly quite apprehensive about opening the door; what could be on the other side that is making that noise? What horrible scene could await you if you nudge open the door and peer inside? You cast a nervous glance over your shoulder at the dark room, the flickering lantern, and the undamaged ceiling that still baffles you -- there is nothing for you if you go back but to sit in the dark room and ponder your fate. You might as well forge ahead and face whatever is on the other side of the door.
There is a hatting room on the other side of the door.The happy light you had seen comes from the stained glass windows that line the top of the walls; beyond them, there is sunlight winking in, streaming beautiful colors onto the mountains of hats that fill the room almost to bursting. Stacks of bowlers rise, crooked and nearly ready to topple, like vast columns up towards the ceiling. Top-hats grow up like yards-long stacks of pancakes, while wig heads sit, well-used and mute, askew amid piles of half-finished hats. Rolls of fabric and huge bobbins of thread are stacked like bricks interspersed with the mounds of hats, and pincushions and scraps of cloth litter what can be seen of the floor. This is a path, you notice, through the jungle of hats, a path that you follow closer and closer to the unnerving voice.
As you drag yourself to meet the owner of the strange cackling and sobbing, you marvel at the diversity of the hats around you. They are extraordinary, the likes of which you had never seen above ground. Some of them had elaborate corset lacing and clockwork gears stitched into them, while more still had great floppy rabbit ears growing from the brims. What sort of mad hatter could be responsible for making such bizarre and wonderful headgear? You are almost afraid to know the answer, but before you can turn back out of fear, the narrow path through the mounds of hats widens, and a soft pink glow catches your eye. You've entered the heart of the room, where a vast table stretches towards either edge of the room, vanishing into mountains of hats before it can reach the walls; it is covered with drapes of fabric and all manner of pins and loose thread. Unfinished hats sit, awaiting attention, on its worn wooden surface, and between you and the table, back to you, sits an odd little creature who is sewing frenetically at what must be a half-finished hat, tail twitching as it swishes back and forth; it has worn a groove into the floor from years of the same repetitive motion.
"Get it to work, get it to work, just get it to work!"the Demi chants as he frantically stitches. His shoulders shudder as he laughs and sobs and mutters to himself, his tail coiling and uncoiling like a spring with every sudden change in his mood. The pink glow seems to come from a small orb that sits nestled in an upturned elaborate top-hat a foot or so away from him; it is the Demi's minion, an Entranced Pink Snow Fairy, and she seems quite concerned with the Demi's behavior. She is pressed up to the glass of her bauble and appears to be speaking to him, and as you reluctantly draw nearer, you hear her saying in a soft voice, "Papa, it does work. You got it to work, Papa."
You're afraid to say anything, and contemplate leaving this quite mad hatter to his business; but there is no way out of the room without getting past him; and as you attempt to edge around his personal space bubble, his little minion turns her radiant face in your direction and smiles kindly at you. "Hi there, stranger," she says cheerfully, holding up a diminutive hand and waving at you. She's very pretty, with wings like lace and long wavy hair that could be either dark blonde or magenta, but it's hard to tell with all the pink light coming from within her orb. Her cheery attitude does a bit to ease your worry, and you venture closer to her, asking quietly about a way out. The sooner you can get back above ground and away from the piles of hats and their batty creator, the better. Even if this is a dream, you don't want to spend it around a complete nut and his house of hats, not when you could be off flying over rainforests or parlaying with pirates.
But as you speak, the Demi seems to take notice of you: he stops moving and talking to himself, then clears his throat and reaches down to brush his hands on his thighs. He turns to face you, clasping his hands in front of his chest, and draws himself up a bit. "Good morrow, stranger. My name is Jefferson, but around here, they just call me Perdition," he says in a mild voice much unlike the one you had heard earlier. He extends a hand up to you (you are a foot or so taller than him), smiling pleasantly and looking very much unlike the babbling, incoherent creature that so desperately put stitch after stitch in a top-hat moments ago. Now he looks gentlemanly and almost regal, and rightly so: he is smartly dressed in a supple leather waistcoat, an opulent greatcoat with leather cuffs and collar embossed with roses, and fine satin cravat with paisley inlay. There are rings on his fingers, silver ones with fine jewels of varying sizes set into them, and on his head sits an elegant satin top-hat the color of the night sky just after sunset. But still, something is amiss: deep shadows hem his eyes and a thick stitch runs between them and down over one cheek. His ears are notched and raggedy, and as you reach down to shake his hand, you notice a great line of stitching lacing his throat, one that he has attempted to hide with his elegant scarf.
His minion makes a small noise that could be called a laugh and he chuckles fondly, reaching down to lift the bauble by its silk ribbon; he clutches it to him and looks down at the fluttering fairy inside. "And this is my daughter, Grace," he rumbles, only looking away from her for a moment to meet your gaze. The little minion curtsies and beams up at you, and you can't bring yourself to ask how on earth his daughter is a tiny fairy trapped in a glass ball. Perhaps this Demi is madder than he seems, or perhaps you should simply pinch yourself and rouse yourself from this curious dream.
But before you can move to do so, the strangely-named Demi speaks again: "Please, won't you sit down and have some tea with us?" He makes a sweeping motion with one hand and, with hardly a sound, a series of wonderful tea sets and trays of finger foods replace the hats on the table. Where did the hats go? And where was he keeping all these wonderful things for tea? Certainly it wasn't magic; that's just for children. One can do anything in a dream, you suppose, and so you politely accept his request and try not to puzzle yourself about the strangeness of it all.
"What brings you here to Wonderland?" he asks,a hint of displeasure in his voice as he says the name of this place you apparently have fallen into. You explain your curious situation and point to the ceiling as you settle into a chair and allow him to pour you a cup of tea, feeling rather foolish at your own words. He listens intently, plunking two cubes of sugar into his cup and pouring steaming tea on top of them without breaking eye contact with you. Its almost as if the tea is pouring itself (or he has had way too many tea parties in his day). Things keep getting curiouser and curiouser -- he pours a third cup of tea, and with a snap of his fingers, it vanishes and suddenly appears, at a much smaller size, inside the bauble belonging to his minion, much to her delight. You remind yourself that this is just a dream and this strange creature that's come out of your subconscious can do whatever he'd like here, though you do feel a bit perturbed admitting that such a thing could come from your psyche.
"Down a rabbit hole, huh?" he says with a chuckle, leaning back in his chair and taking a small sip of his tea. "Interesting. You remind me of someone I met a rather long time ago." You don't pry: he looks suddenly very wistful and nostalgic, and so you take a sip of your tea and find it to be one of the most delightful drinks you've ever tasted. You chase it down with what appears to be a small meringue tart, and its as light and fluffy as meringue should be. But of course, in a dream, everything would taste like your favorite things.
You sit in companionable silence for a while, eating and drinking and quietly talking to one another. You learn that Perdition is a charming but aloof young creature that once made his fortune traveling to other lands through his enchanted top-hat. He had been very wealthy, having made quite a bit of gold off of trickery and deceit (he stole items from other realms, a trick that few others could do); but he gave up his career as a realm-jumper with the loss of Grace's mother, whoever she was. They had shared a poor life together, and he had fallen for a few tricks while trying to make a better way for his daughter. He had spent a good deal of time separated from Grace and trapped in this place called Wonderland, in the very room you now share with him, where he was forced to make hats (the very word seemed to cause him a great deal of pain) in order to get back to her. You don't ask how they managed to reunite, but he seems to know an awful lot about the upper land, and so you speculate that he has been up there before and that this is possibly where they met up again. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to ask him to take you back up to the surface -- surely his magic hat could manage that. And why not do it? After all, dream or no dream, it would be fun to say that you took a trip through an enchanted hat.
The soft glow from within Grace's ball slowly growsbrighter and brighter as the light beyond the stained glass windows begins to fade. Part of you wonders if your family is missing you, and the you catch yourself making up realities and chide yourself -- 'silly, this is just a dream. No time has passed at all.' Still, better to be rid of it and go back to some peaceful sleep; so you push back your chair, thanking him politely for the tea and saying that you really must be off, that you have to get back home.
He smiles and gets to his feet, moving to stand in front of you and blocking you into your chair as he clutches Grace's bauble close to his chest with one hand. "Of course, but I would like to ask a favor of you first." The tone to his voice sets your teeth on edge; its too smooth, too aloof. Misleading. With a wave of his hand, the tea sets disappear, and he tips his head forward and allows his hat to somersault down his arm and land, brim-up, in his palm. It really is a nice hat, satin with a few paisley swirls too lightly-stitched to be seen from afar; he sets it where the tea sets once were and then moves behind you and shoves your chair back up to the table. You are growing more and more unnerved by the second; the Demi has suddenly grown rough and a bit demanding, and the idea of doing any favor for him truly frightens you.
Suddenly, a sharp pinch stings the flesh of your shoulder; you yelp and jump a bit in your seat, unable to get up from it as you are trapped between the arms of the chair and the edge of the tabletop. Jefferson - Perdition, whatever his name is - sticks the pin into a nearby cushion, fixing you with a grave look as he makes his way back to your side. He rather reminds you of a caged animal now; there is a wildness in his gray-green eyes that is reminiscent of a Tigrean staring down a Devonti. "This isn't a dream like you've been thinking. I'm not crazy; this is all real. Grace and my hat and I are real. Wonderland is real. Magic is real."
Did he really just pinch you? Yes, he did...but you are still at the table, surrounded by outlandish hats and rubbing your sore arm. A pinch would have woken you up, especially one that came from being stuck with a needle. But you can still taste the cake crumbles in your mouth and the tea on your breath, and you can still feel the plush swell of the pillow on the chair beneath your backside. The ominous realization that this isn't a dream settles over you like a heavy woolen blanket, and a lead ball sinks with a thud into the pit of your stomach. The rather crazed Demi before you, and the sad-looking minion pressed against the glass of her bauble, are suddenly very real, and the sharp pair of scissors the pet holds in his hand are that much shinier and make your heart race that much more.
You ask him what he wants.
He drops an armful of fabric onto the table beside his lovely top-hat. The hole inside it seems to stretch forever. He leans down to whisper in your ear; his breath is soft and smells of cinnamon teacakes, but you don't want him that close to you, especially not with scissors in his hand. "It was an accident that you tottered into the very place my hat sent up a portal. You fell in where we were supposed to get out. Now my hat is out of magic, and a hat without magic is just a hat." He leans forward to drop the scissors on the tabletop with a loud clattering sound that startles you and makes you quake like an aspen in a breeze. Your jaw feels like lead; you can't move it at all to respond to him, and so you simply rest your hands on the tabletop and stay very, very still. You can feel the breath coming in and out of his chest as it presses squarely between your shoulder blades; his chin rests delicately on top of your head and you can feel him staring down at the hat as if it has grievously offended him. His hands come to rest on your shoulders, his ringed fingers drumming rhythmically against your coat collar; every bit of him seems to be alive, twitching, trembling with pent-up emotion that you are too frightened to name. He exhales a light breath before grinding out his demand against the crown of your head, his voice rough and sending a chill up your spine:
"You're gonna get it to work."
The Poison: All American Rejects -- 'And you'll fall down a hole; that's the one place we both know. You'd take me with you if you could, but I wouldn't go -- I guess sometimes, we both lose our minds to find a better road.'
Always Running Out of Time: Motion City Soundtrack -- 'I have to know, if you flew away with me, the faster I go, the further away it seems we get...'
Regina Mills -- You knew only two could go through the hat...
Allies and Enemies:
Cold Hearted Killer -- ...which is why you didn't tell me about your father.
Dark One -- Well, come with me in my hat; I'm sure we can work something out!
Veralidaine -- Such a pleasure, my lady.
Charmed Life -- I'm not a threat, I promise you.
RedRidingHood -- Howling at the moon, are we?
Gepetto -- There is nothing more painful than losing a child, no matter how real they may be.
Fanpet for the Mad Hatter/Jefferson (as played by Sebastian Stan) from the television series Once Upon A Time; I don't own the character, just the changes made to suit Subeta.
Why yes, the music is from Pan's Labyrinth; and no, it has no direct tie to this story other than being pretty and fitting the mood.
Overlay by blackunia.
Stories, layout and coding by Charles.