Chapter 1:

Chapter 1. The mysterious hatter

I hate loneliness but it loves me dearly

Heavy rain fell upon the city. It poured so hard it was difficult to see properly which made all people hide from the streets. All, except one: a tiny girl ran swiftly down the road, trying to cover beneath the trees as much as possible. It would've been faster if she wasn't holding a red backpack in her hands, covered by her raincoat to prevent it from soaking. She almost tripped several times but her will to save her belongings kept her going without failure. Those who saw her silhouette from shop windows could only shake their heads in disapproval.Finally, she left the main road and turned left to the backyards: she was almost home. She rang the bell in haste, waiting anxiously for someone to open the door. She probably had the key herself but didn't want to risk soaking her belonging while rummaging through the backpack. Nobody answered the call for a solid minute. Finally, the door opened and a grumpy lady showed up on the doorstep: she yelled at her for another minute and finally let her in. The stray cat who thoroughly watched her adventure jumped down from the tree as if it wanted to hear the conversation closely. But it couldn't, of course: the rain made too much noise and, more importantly, it was just a cat who doesn't care about human affairs. Or does it?— Explain this, young lady: why did you run through the rain and didn't wait at the school for it to end?! Just look at yourself: there's no dry thread left on your clothes! And why didn't you wear your raincoat in the first place?! Answer me, now!— I... I didn't want my supplies to get wet... — the girl said quietly while shifting from foot to foot. She was freezing but her mom purposely ignored that for the sake of the lecture.— If you'll end up ill I won't watch over you! I am extremely busy and we have bills to pay! If your little worthless hobby will continue to cause this much trouble I'll consider to stop paying for it. You're not a little girl anymore and drawing some silly pictures won't get you anywhere in life!— Those are not some silly pictures! — the girl cried back refusing to give her mom a backpack. — I cherish them dearly! Why won't you understand?!She ran up the stairs leaving wet stains all over the place, accompanied by angry mother's yelling. The girl ran to her room and locked inside, crying and trembling. She carefully opened the bag and watched the damage: gladly, no papers were soaked. She gently checked the drawing album, flipping through the pages til the last one. It was a fantastic drawing. Some regal regal boy stood in the center of the it while holding beautiful white flower in his hands. He was incredibly sad for some reason — even the author herself couldn't tell why she pictured him like that. There was some giant tree behind him as well and rays of moonlight gently shined through its branches making the boy's silhouette almost ghostly.— Alice! Open the door! — her mom demanded angrily and knocked the door. — You're all wet! If you won't change and take a bath immediately you'll get sick! Stop with this nonsense and go down already!— Yes, mom, — the girl sobbed and shut the album, carefully hiding it in her drawer. Alice didn't want to upset her mom even more — she worked at two jobs already and didn't have a time to babysit her as well.— I brought some dry clothes downstairs, — said her mom from the entrance. — I'm leaving, don't forget to lock the door!— Yes, mom, — the girl answered as usual while waiting til she'll leave. She left the room immediately after she heard the door closed. Peace, at last. She was going to cook her mom her favorite dish to please her later and make her forget about the threat of not paying for extra classes. Drawing was all she had since her childhood after all.Something moved quickly in front of the window. Alice cautiously checked who it was only to learn it was some fluffy kitty who spied at her this whole time.— Shush! Go away, kitty! You'll get wet if you stay! — she tried to scare him away but the cat didn't listen. He scratched the window as if asked to let him in. But she couldn't.— I'm sorry, kitty... Mom will be super mad if she'll find out, — she whispered with sadness in her voice. — I'm sorry...The cat nodded and gracefully jumped down the road walking away slowly as if the rain never bothered him at all. The girl couldn't believe what she saw and eventually decided it nodded only in her imagination. After all, she was an artist so it wasn't that uncommon to her.***In that manner, the remaining three weeks passed. The summer vacation has finally arrived. Alice and her best friend Susie walked from the classroom together while discussing their plans for summer:— Finally! I thought I'll die before this stupid summer vacation finally starts! — sighed her friend, swiftly packing her belongings. — My mom promised me to travel to Paris if I'll end this year with good grades. Can you imagine it?!— Of course I can, — Alice smiled gently. — You never stopped telling me about it for a half of the year.— Well, of course! It was but a dream back then but it's a sweet reality now! Hey, Alice, — she asked suddenly, — do you want me to bring you something? After all, the opportunity to visit Paris is hard to come by! Maybe some pretty albums?— That would be great! — the girl had brighten up immediately. — I've just finished my last sketchbook and would love to get another one!— Hey, Alice..? — someone suddenly called her from behind. — Can I ask you something?— Sure..? — she answered cautiously. — She was never comfortable around boys and had an idea what was about to happen once again.— C-can we go on a d-date?! — he suddenly yelled loudly, attracting the attention of everyone around them. And since it was after school time — there were a lot of people.Alice froze in a place, stuttered. Everyone were looking at them — even Susie watched her expectantly as if encouraging her friend to agree. Alice hated it wholeheartedly.— I'm sorry... I don't think so, — she said reluctantly and started running away.— Huh? But why?! — the boy yelled in an attempt to chase her down. — Is that because I'm not to good for you?!— I'm sorry! Leave me alone!— Alice, wait for me!"Gosh, what a drama," — she heard distant whispers as she was running away. "She's back at it again. What's her problem?""It sucks. She's so pretty and yet she waste her time drawing pictures".Alice ran and ran, eventually breaking through the school gate and turning the opposite side of her house. She didn't want to go home — she knew she'll be chased either by that guy or Susie. She didn't want anyone to see her tears."Why does it keep happening?!"It wasn't her first time in such embarrassing situation. A tiny pretty girl with dreamy eyes — for some reason, many boys fell for her over the years. But Alice hated such attention: "Why would you want to go on a date with me, you don't even know my name?" They never had a valid reason. So Alice was lost in her drawing more and more and eventually the only friend she had was Susie, who genuinely enjoyed her company.She finally stopped running and looked around. She ended up on some unfamiliar street. It looked really abandoned for some reason — there were moss on the buildings and tree's roots sprouting through the asphalt. There was no people either which quickly made Alice super worried.— Kra-a-a! — a raven croaked suddenly as it flew from the branches. Alice slowly stepped back only to realize that the street behind her looked the same as in front.She got lost.— On ho, what should I do..? — she mumbled to herself while hugging her red backpack. Of course, nobody answered. To calm down a little she opened the bag and lured an album from there. It was the same album she carried the other rainy day, but this time it was fully finished. She forgot to swap it for a new one — and to be fair, she wasn't in a hurry to do that. She slowly opened it and flipped through its pages once again: there were some beautiful scenery of an unknown mountain as well as a random lake with a cherry blossom tree at the beach; one page even showed some incredibly detailed castle standing on top of the hill, surrounded by thick forest. And, of course, there was that painting of a regal prince, who was as sad as he remembered him to be. — That's some nice pictures you have there, — someone said out of nowhere, making Alice to jump from her seat. She looked around in panic just to realize there was no one but her. The taste of horror slowly crawled up her throat which almost made her to burst in tears again.— W-who's there..? — she finally mustered all of her courage and asked into the wilderness.— Oh, don't be so scared, that's just me, — someone talked again, She raised her head up and saw a pretty stray cat — the very same one from that rainy day.— A kitty... talking? — she couldn't believe her ears and proceeded to immediately pinch herself, expecting to wake up. But it was not a dream.— Of course not, silly, — the voice answered and some strange man emerged from the leaves — tree branches hid him completely so the girl failed to see him. — Kitties can't talk our language.— R-right... — she agreed anxiously and backed one more step away. — But we can talk theirs! — he added merrily and jumped from the branch down the road. The jump was quite high but he didn't seem to be fazed by it at all. — You just have to talk with your heart and not your mouth.— With m-my heart..? — she asked and immediately regretted that: her mom taught her well not to speak to strangers. She followed this advice even now, at the age of fourteen. — Yes, with your heart! — he smiled gently and reached his hand to her. — Do you want me to teach you?— N-no! — she backed away even more, preparing to run for her life. — I-I'm not supposed to talk to strangers! Leave me alone or I'll scream!— Leave you alone? But how will you find the exit then? — he tilted his head to the side. — I thought you were looking for help. The strange man looked really bizarre for present times. He was wearing a while tailcoat decorated by numerous candy stripes which were resting on spiderweb-like pattern of his clothes. A long colorful umbrella rested in his left hand which he used as a cane. But the most noticeable part of his design was a fancy topper hat: — it was decorated by large cards, a print of a skull and even some fresh flowers. He looked like a character from a movie and not a person you normally meet on the streets.— I'll just walk back the road I came here, — she said reluctantly and proceeded slowly. — D-don't follow me or I'll scream, I swear!— But you won't come back to your world if you do that, — he said in disappointment while lifting the kitty up. The cat didn't mind and started purring loudly.— My world..?— You heard me, — he confirmed softly. — There's only me who knows how to leave this place. Of course, I won't stop you to look for the exit on your own but why would you waste your time? Aren't you tired? Aren't you hungry?As soon as he said that her stomach rumbled loudly. Alice blushed in embarrassment, refusing to admit that the stranger was probably right.— What do you mean by "my world"..? — she asked carefully, not letting him to come closer. He wasn't really trying to do that anyway.— Your world. The "no magic" one, — he answered casually as if it was some common knowledge. — Truth be told — it's quite rare for someone like you to walk in there so casually. It only happened twice during my watch so I'm quite intrigued. But worry not! I can help you to leave. I don't want to clean the mess after the night falls, after all.— To clean the mess...? — she asked in horror without any wish to know what that meant. The hatter dodged the question to her relief.— Just let's get over with it, — she smiled gently and reached his hand again. — Please, tell me your name, young lady.Alice decided she didn't have a choice if she wanted to get home.— Alice. Alice Bergliez, — the girl decided to answer honestly. The hatter smiled happily and shook her hand in excitement:— Nice to meet you, Alice Bergliez! You can call me Karl the Hatter, — he finally released her hand. — Now, Alice Bergliez, look at your palm, please.She did as he said. There was some sparkly sign in the shape of the crescent moon — it didn't seem like she could erase it easily even with soap.— What's this? — she asked with no fear in her voice. She actually found the sign familiar and warm for some reason.— That's, my dear Alice Bergliez, the key. The key between worlds. Just put your palm against any surface and the door to the other side will be opened: it's up to you to decide where to travel. You can go back to you home world by touching any surface at any time. He felt silent for a moment and added in a conspiratorial voice:— Or maybe, you can touch the mirror or some pictures and see what will happen yourself, — he bowed graciously and proceeded to walk away.— Wait! What do you mean by that?! I don't get it! — she yelled to the Hatter desperately but the man never stopped.— Try for yourself! — he said one last time before disappearing into the mist.Alice was by herself in an abandoned city again.She looked down at her palm — the sigil still rested there as the only proof the Hatter was real. The sun started to go down — the dawn was approaching quickly. She suddenly heard some distant inhuman scream mixed with the sound of the branches cracking. She had no time to waste.— Touch any surface to open the door... — she repeated his words as she came close to the nearest building. She reached her hand to the wall reluctantly but stopped midway. His other words was bothering her all this time so she opened her backpack and pulled out her beloved album.— This is so stupid... — she sighed to herself as she opened the sketchbook. The royal boy was still there, admiring his flower as usual. She gently touched the paper. Nothing happened.— Silly me, what did you expect..? — she sighed again in an attempt of closing the sketchbook. Suddenly, the air roared loudly, almost making her fall off her feet. Everything started to spin around her and the last thing she could saw were a dozen of red eyes staring at her from the top of the trees. She lost consciousness.***— Hey, are you okay..? — someone asked her worryingly. Alice slowly opened her eyes and was greeted by gentle touch of moonlight. This scenery was oddly familiar: the moonlight, the giant blooming tree, the giant flower field... She knew them really well. After all, she made this place herself.— Hey, can you hear me..? — the voice asked again as someone gently shook her by shoulders. She turned her head and saw the regal boy who smiled softly.— Where... Am I? — she asked knowing the answer very well.— We are at the Goddesses tree, — he answered while as he rose his head up. The soft moonlight shone through its branches, making it almost otherworldly.— I see, — she said still trying to wrap her head around what was happening. It hurt really bad: it seems she fell from quite a height when she got there.— At last, I found you, — the regal boy said suddenly and hold her hand gently, passing her the moon flower he admired a moment ago. — You're finally within my reach, my Lunar Princess.Bookmark here

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