Mad as a hatter

Ah fairy tales…
I wonder why sometimes life reminds me of a long time forgotten fairy tale with mesmerizing plot twists where everything is possible. I would gladly go back then, when everything was new- every feeling, every place, every touch. My own fairy tale, where I create the “rules” just to show you the way which I don’t know. But if nobody knows where we are going, then we can choose whatever road we want to, right?

In the coldness of January, I’ve decided to take into my fairytale some well-known characters and of course to throw a tea party. But the small, weird and even rude hatter didn’t appear on time, probably lost his clock. It turned out he didn’t appear at all. As I sat down to enjoy the party, I heard some strong tapping. Fashionably late a young man appeared at my door, with a soaking wet red hat and some blue curls beneath it. Was he the mad hatter or just a mad man with a hat? He looked at me and asked – “How simple question is that? Aren’t you waiting for a man with a hat? Or he has to be mad?”
The tea was getting cold so as the room and I invited him in. While I was closing the door, purple and wet tail I saw.
-is that a cat?
-Does he have to be mad?
Big purple wave of fur crashed onto my ankles and suddenly spoke with low, deep human voice:
-Don’t worry dear, we are all mad here.
After that obvious ascertainment my guests followed me into the house. Pouring the tea, I noticed them placing themselves comfortable around the fire. It’s not surprising if you accept tea invitations in that terrible weather.
A teapot steaming, buttered scones and walnut cake. Time for sweet conversations, warmth and joy.
-Do you wait for somebody else? – the hatter interrupted the gravely silence.
-A rabbit, two fairies and an elf.
-Good, then we have all the time! –announced the cat with a grin. So fluffy his purple tail, so precious his eyes and so wide his smile.
Did that mean my guests weren’t coming or that all we have was time or all the time was ours, I still don’t know. But listening to the fire cracking I noticed something common and quite peculiar in these two. That wide, mysterious, dangerous, sparkling smile.
-What are you looking at? – something more like a bark scared my rude, unwanted gaze.
-More tea? – inserted I with a heavy heart and sweaty hands.
-And cake – mentioned the hatter.
-Or good manners for start- added the cat.
Slightly embarrassed, I left the room for some cake, but my curiosity painted colourful pictures. What was that smile? Did it hurt? Who did this and when? I couldn’t put my mind to rest, I was cutting and serving, pouring tea, quietly observing.
-Although we know you are a storyteller, you seem pretty quiet today. – said the hatter. –So I should tell a story hopefully heals the bad thoughts in the gloomy weather.
-Oh I am not a storyteller.
-And I am not a hatter, that’s fair.
-Would you finally start? – protested the cat.
-Of course, my friend. Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom lived a boy. He’d never knew his mother but believed she is somewhere protecting him from all the bad in this world.
-And the world is bad.
One beautiful Sunday morning he went to the market to buy some butter and bread for supper. And he never came back. The end.
-But that doesn’t make sense. –I exclaimed. – What happened to him?

-You know better I think. But I guess I am better storyteller.
-You are the only storyteller.
Just around the corner of High street he followed his dream. The dream was running fast but he never gave up. He reached his hand and felt it, so suede soft it was. He smelled it, so intoxicating and free. But suddenly it disappeared from his sight. Looking around he noticed it was already dark. It was much colder as he was wearing a thin jumper, it was time to go home. As he turned back he realized it was not his town.
-Where am I? And what time is it? – simple questions, he would never know the answer of. He sat near the passing river and started crying when suddenly he caught a glimpse of his own beautiful dream in the water! Oh how sparkling it was like a star in a night sky.
-Wait up! – he yelled and jumped straight into the cold waters. He did it, he caught the hand of his own dream! Now we can live happily ever after, he thought.

And the hatter just went silent. The blazes of fire were dancing in his young eyes.
So cold were the waters, so dark was inside them. The white silver glow of the dream was the only light he could see. But suddenly a strong grip of a hand he felt under the water. Something was pulling him out, and that feeling of pure misery spread through his heart. Like a venom, like a filthy decease.
-There you go! – a cheerful voice was yelling somewhere in the distance. Crisp, painful and incredibly strong. – We almost lost you, dear boy!

A panic has risen in our hero’s mind; Has he lost his dream? Someone was talking, like out of a blizzard, losing his tracks, yelling and pointing. Soaking wet, the boy made a step, then a second one when finally found a path, not far from the river, leading out of the town. Alone in the dark he was walking, for hours or days, I could not tell. He found himself in a village, people were crossing by, mouthwatering smell of freshly baked bread of wheat and rye.
-You look so hungry, my boy. – tingling sound of a voice. – There you go!
-Thank you, lovely lady- he managed to say, with slightly closed mouth, heavily breathing, but happy and alive.
-Now, hurry up, give me a smile and go!
But to smile, he couldn’t… He lost it, somewhere, along with the dream and stood still.
For a moment he thought he saw his dream again, just around the corner of the bakery. He jumped out with attempt to follow, but the dream has vanished. Where was his beautiful dream? Lifting his head, he saw a man with a red hat and a bunch of papers in his hand.
-Good day, sir! – said the boy.
-Oh Good day, laddy! What are looking for in this dark alley?
-I’ve lost my dream sir, and I thought I saw it here.
-Dream? During this busy day? – the man was confused.
-What are you doing sir?
-I am searching for an assistant. – proudly said the man. – I am a hatter, the finest fabrics I use, the latest fashion, the best in the whole shire. Are you in a job hunt, laddy? You had to say so!
The boy was sleepy and still hungry, he was watching the vibrant colour of the hat, so captivating red, like wine, like…. blood.
-Is your assistant being served food?
-But of course! And a shilling a day.
When you are lost and alone, and hungry and cold, you can’t just say “no”, am I right? So our hero followed the hatter. You could not miss this windowsill, with all colours of hats and bright lanterns.
-So here we are. – said the hatter and just like that a new adventure has begun.
Quick learner was the boy, hardworking and fair. Although Somewhere between the fabrics and terrible smell, he forgot his dream and felt safe and well. His loneliness has melted into the whispering voices and beautiful music. There was one thing that never changed- his smile. Weirdly how he couldn’t express joy, happiness and affection by a single, so well-known gesture. The whole village knew him as “the boy who never smiles” and soon they began to grow affection towards the poor orphan.
But cruelty of men cannot be ignored, never forgotten.
One dreary afternoon, our new hatter went out earlier to catch opened the post office. They were expecting exotic new fabrics; the business was thriving and he couldn’t wait to try them. Walking down the gloomy alley, he heard steps behind. A hissing sound, more like a whisper, a twisted prayer he heard:
-Why don’t you smile?
Our boy found himself on the wet ground, trying to breathe, trying to get up, to move, but all he could do was to listen. A powerful burning pain was running through his head. He stood still and listened. A piercing scream in the distance kept him awake for a while till everything disappeared again. How deep was that pain, his little heart couldn’t bear. His mind was trapped in a cage of fear until he finally managed to open his eyes for the second time. He was surrounded by people, trying to help,
trying to see.
-Don’t worry dear boy. Everything will be all right! – a gentle voice has tried to calm him down.
After a few deep breaths, our character felt his hands in place. He lifted them up to touch his head, his face, to trace the primary source of his pain. Disturbing feeling of wet, sticky liquid occupied his brain. Blood. That was blood. Someone tried to prevent him to touch his face but it was useless. His fingers traced opened cut wounds on both of his cheeks, starting from his mouth. And something other than pain possessed his gentle heart. Not long enough the doctor came and all turned dark again.
“He is alive and that is all that matters now! Everything will be alright! “– he heard them talking. But it won’t…
No matter how good the people were with him, how many days have passed, that dull whisper in his mind that nothing is the same grew stronger till finally turned into scream.
For one sec, he moved his gaze from the mirror in front of him to see a big fluffy purple tail. He jumped and ran after it but I guess he was too slow.

-You’ve always been.
But a few days later, he saw it again – so vibrantly purple and it was attached to a cat with a round-shaped face and enormous eyes! He was shocked to hear it speak with tenderly human voice like a melody.
-Hello! –said the cat. –Nice to meet you! – and jumped off the table, running out of the open door. An impulse sparkled into our boy’s heart. He followed the cat outside to the nearest tree.
-Wait! Where are you going? – he yelled in desperation.
-Wherever I want.
-And where exactly is that?
-You know, just to follow a dream. – answered the cat.
The boy turned his head towards the village. A single drop of doubt was enough for him to come back to his “normal” life but he couldn’t find any.
-I am coming with you! –he finally said.

Alright, only if you keep up with my tempo. –purred the cat.
And the weirdest couple left the village to search their dream. The end.
– said the hatter with a smile.

I felt like being hit by a giant wave and couldn’t speak. The fire was crackling but I shivered down through my spine. Then I took a sip from the cold tea and said:
What a wonderful story.
The hatter was just smiling but his brave companion jumped on the mantelpiece and replied:

Indeed! Amazing story but as you already know, the stories can change, dear and that’s why we are here.

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