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Page One: The Day I Went Mad

The Mad Hatter wasn’t always mad. Crazy certainly, but never mad. He used to be Charles Hamilton III, he once told Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee when they were inclined to listen, which wasn’t very often. He told them he was a certified public accountant working for one of the biggest companies out there, waving his hands to indicate a far off place as he spoke. He was at the top of his game, he mused when the twins left.

Even without an audience and only a teacup for company, the Mad Hatter kept talking. I remember the old days, he said to no one in particular since there was no one in particular there. He stopped and thought for a moment, then began again, this time speaking of Charles not as himself, but as someone else.

Right after topping the CPA exams, Charles was taken in by Madison and Madison – they aren’t related, it just so happened they had the same last name. He started at the bottom of Madison and Madison, slowly working his way to the top. The air was always fresher at the top, he mused one day as he entered his office. There was no one there. Charles loved coming in before everyone else. Today was no different. Oddly enough, he could hear the ticking of a clock. It didn’t really bother him at first, but when everyone started coming in, the ticking wouldn’t stop. I must be going crazy, he thought just for a moment before the daily meeting started.

Work was always his answer to everything. When he faced a problem, he worked. When a crisis needed solving, he worked. When he thought he was going crazy because he could hear a ticking clock in his head that no one else seemed to hear, he worked. Nothing beat working when you had to ignore a ticking clock, he thought. Again. To himself.

Charles hardly spoke to anyone at Madison and Madison outside of work. It was all business or no business at all. That was his motto. He was proud that he possessed a motto and once thought of having someone make it into a sign to hang in his office since the space had nothing else on its gray walls but cracks. Someone gave him a plant once, but Charles didn’t know what happened to it, he just continued working.

The Mad Hatter took a sip of his tea and continued his story.

The ticking clock never stopped.

As days came and went, the ticking got louder and louder, until he was beside himself, short of banging his head on the wall.

"Make it stop!" he screamed.

"Stop what?" a disembodied voice asked.

Charles searched his tidy, clean, bare apartment. "Who’s there?" he asked even if he had a sinking suspicion no one was.

"Who’s where?" the voice asked back.

"You."

He looked around, and to his surprise, he saw a white rabbit in a tuxedo jacket and a red bowtie holding a gold watch fob chained to the pocket of his jacket.

"Me?" The rabbit closed the watch.

"Yes, you!" Charles pointed, still unbelieving.

The rabbit looked around. "This place isn’t for you, but I will be late sooner than later," the rabbit said. "Would you like to come with me?" It hopped away.

Charles couldn’t believe he was having a conversation with a white rabbit in a tux jacket. "What do you mean come with you?"

"I don’t have time to explain because I am officially late, but if you want to follow, this is where you need to go." The rabbit hobbled into the full-length mirror in the dinning room and disappeared.

Charles rubbed his face hard. He was officially crazy.

"Yup," the Mad Hatter said. "He was crazy."

"Who are you talking to?" March Hare came up to him as he took out his watch and clicked it open.

"Someone worth talking to," Mad Hatter replied while refilling his teacup.

"But there’s not one here," March Hare said.

"Precisely."

Mad Hatter took a sip. "No one is always the best to talk to," he said as he placed his teacup onto the table. "Care for tea or are you already late?"

"I always am," March Hare said.

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