The window expands and you find yourself stepping through it, the Mad Hatter in front. His white gloves twitch and then disappear, before your own body starts disintegrating.
Oh well, you think, at least it’s not dark in this oblivion.
However, you are not obliviated, simply cast into what looks like the angelic halls of every colour merged together.
“Welcome,” the Hatter says with a smile. His air is much toned down now, despite the fact that his outfit still declares otherwise. “Here we can talk. What are your questions? I can see that you have many.”
You look up to his eyes, gleaming, and the smile that is still plastered across his visage. Your question to answer his is clear, surging to the front of your mind.
“Where are we?”
The hatter nods.
“This is a safe place where the mists and micro-optics of fibres cannot get us. Technically, we’re up here-” he taps his temples, “-but I don’t want to complicate things by having to explain the logistics. It’s fair to say that here, however, we can talk without worrying about the chance of being overheard. Next question.”
“Who is overhearing us?”
“Who would overhear us. Who is the most likely candidate for overhearing us.” Here, he laughs again, his tone rich, but not mocking. “The Red Queen, that’s who. She rules this Wonderland that you have been brought into. The mist is filled with tiny, electronic listening devices, that’s why it’s so thick. The Red Queen wants to make sure that all her subjects will bow down. I only sometimes wander around here because of the things I hear. Rumours about you, for instance.
“Now, my name isn’t the ‘Mad Hatter’, it’s Lord Hattington of Philos. I used to serve the Queen, back when she was no more than a lady at the real Queen’s side. When The Red Queen ascended, they knew I was too ingenious for the likes of them. They outlawed me, making me wear such silly garments as these. Not that I mind anymore. I’ve grown to fit the new self they assigned me. That’s part of their plans. And they said…that they’d drive me mad. I guess they’ve succeeded, thought I don’t know how far. Are you an illusion?”
You ignore his remark, going on to say:
“You need me, don’t you?”
“This whole place needs you, child.”
“We need you to rid the world of the Red Queen. This mansion is her first test for whomever ends up being drawn into our world. You could have jumped from the tower, but you would have still been in her power, as each outside area is filled with new traps, like talking paintings. I don’t know whether you saw the wooden door just off a turning. Her pet creatures riddle anyone who steps near enough, threatening them with death by fire or water or stone. Beyond there is one way out of this part of the torment…the other is through a secret trap-door hidden somewhere in the mansion.”
You look at him for a minute, sceptical. Then you cry…