The Mad Hatter’s Missing Brother: Dalton Madigan

Dalton Madigan had worked hard to be a Milliner for the ages, and his skillset—that of a ninja, US Army Ranger, Navy Seal, MI6 agent, and KGB operative rolled into one—now surpassed his instructors’ expectations, their estimates of his potential, as high as they had been, having proven too conser­vative. Yet technically, Dalton was still a student, a cadet at the academy where generations of select Wonderlanders had trained in hopes of becoming members of the queendom’s most accom­plished security force.

The morning of his graduation, Dalton spent his last hours on campus walking the grounds in quiet contemplation, every sight a touchstone to memory. There, next to the sprit-dane topiary, was where he’d tended wounds that his younger brother Hatter had suffered while toying with a wrist-blade. ---

There was the patch of grass inside the service gate, which Dalton had fre­quently used as his own private training area, spending count­less hours perfecting hand-to-hand combat fundamentals. And there—the curving path to the kitchens that he and Hatter had first taken eight years earlier, when they had been brought to the Millinery to live as its wards after their parents Belmore and Lydia were killed on a mission.

“He’s so little!” Cook exclaimed of Hatter.

Dalton placed a protective hand on his brother’s shoulder. “He’s the son of two of the greatest Milliners in history.”

“Of course!” Cook said and gave them each a plate piled high with jollyjelly scones.

Dalton strolled on, past the banquet hall and the Wonder­ground practice field. The Millinery had, unsurprisingly, become more than just an institution to him; it was home. But every­body had to leave home some time.

At only twenty years old, Top Cadet in his class, Dalton Madigan had been awarded the post of Queen Theodora’s per­sonal bodyguard, the highest possible honor a Milliner could receive in Wonderland.

Dalton Madigan deploys his Milliner Blades

Carrying a dusty old box, Dalton found Hatter (aka the Mad Hatter) in his newly assigned dorm room. It was a small, minimally furnished space, but a decided improvement over the basement apartment where he, too, had lived before formally beginning his education.

“I might not have a chance to see you alone again before I go,” he said.

Hatter merely nodded, shy around the queen’s new bodyguard.

Say something about how you’re going to miss him, Dalton prodded himself. Tell him you’d rather not leave the only family you still have.

Dalton pulled a battered stovepipe hat from the box he was carrying. “It belonged to Dad,” he said, offering the hat to his brother. “It’s the first one he ever wore as a Milliner. I was wait­ing to give it to you until you started your education.”

“Dad’s?” Hatter faintly echoed, his lips twisting in either per­plexity or displeasure, Dalton couldn’t tell which; and belatedly, the older Madigan realized: unimpressive as the hat was, it was nothing if not a stinging reminder of their parents’ absence.

Dalton opened his mouth to say—what? That the stove­pipe might inspire Hatter to accomplish great things, as it had inspired him? It felt like a lie. The hat had inspired him, but more from negative connotations than positive ones. The brothers hadn’t resided long at the Millinery before Dalton started hearing rumors that Belmore and Lydia had compromised themselves somehow, not only abandoning Millinery procedures, failing to perform up to the level of its least impressive graduates, but possibly engaging in treason.

Dalton, just twelve at the time, might have imagined worse than the truth. But since he never learned the truth, throughout his teen years he waffled between missing his parents, revering them as he had when they’d been alive, and being angry with them for having, by their deaths, abandoned him and Hatter— though not before compromising the Madigan reputation.

And Dalton’s worst assumptions were still with him. Which was why he’d worked so hard to excel at the Millinery Academy, to ensure that the Madigan name would again reverberate in people’s heads with respect, awe.

He must know the rumors, Dalton thought, watching Hatter wipe dust from the crown of their father’s hat. They hadn’t talked about it, but . . . he must know.

“I wish I could be around for you,” Dalton offered.

The words sounded false to his ears. Like many such orphaned siblings before him, he had tried to be everything to his younger brother—mother and father, all while keeping on top of his stud­ies. An impossibility. No doubt he hadn’t always been around when Hatter had needed him, and here he was, pretending he could make up for earlier neglect with a futile comment about the future.

“I wish . . . ” Dalton started again, but his voice petered out.

He knew that everyone at the academy thought him as emo­tive as a quartz slab. Not infrequently, he longed to bust free of the rigid exoskeleton under which he stowed all feeling.

Stepping forward, Dalton awkwardly put an arm across Hatter’s shoulders, unable to remember the last time he had touched his brother with more than a handshake.

The Hat of Belmore Madigan, passed down to Dalton and Hatter

It would be his last act as a cadet: to impress upon the incoming Millinery class a sense of what they might accomplish if they put in the effort.

Outfitted with his full complement of gear, Dalton stood in the open space of the academy’s Holographic and Transmutative Base of Extremecombat, a state-of-the-art training arena commonly called the HATBOX.

Floor, walls, ceiling: all were checkerboards of large blue and white tiles. Temporary bleachers had been erected at one end of the otherwise barren room, and the new cadets—Hatter among them—took their seats and waited in anxious silence for . . . they didn’t know what. Expressionless, immobile, Dalton also didn’t know what he was waiting for— not exactly. He had asked not to be told in advance, wanting to react instinctively to adversaries.

A sound like escaping steam came from the bleachers, the audience gasping in near unison as—

Zzmp.

Fourteen white floor tiles flipped to reveal a platoon of card soldiers from the Diamond Deck. The soldiers charged Dalton, and he shrugged to activate his Millinery backpack; it sprouted an array of blades—C-blades, J-blades, daggers, corkscrews— all of which he put to excellent use. ---

Succumbing to Dalton’s weapons, soldiers folded in on themselves. Only two were left. Leaping over the Four Card, midair, Dalton threw a dagger into its vitals. Landing, he dodged left to avoid the sword of the Three Card, whose life he deftly ended with a J-blade to the heart.

Breathing heavily, Dalton stood in the ringing silence, no longer aware of the bleachers’ worth of cadets holding their collective breath. He was alive only to his own survival.

Zzmp.

The tiles supporting the dead card soldiers flipped; up came a set of white chessmen—pawns, knights, and rooks—and they raged toward Dalton. In a single fluid motion, he snatched the top hat off his head and flicked it flat into spinning rotary blades, which he sent slicing into the nearest pawn. The blades took out two more pawns and a rook while—

“Yah! Ugh!”

Dalton defended himself against a pair of knights, the wrist-blades of one hand activated—a centrifugal blur of Wonderland steel that served as a shield against the knights’ thrusts. He lifted his free hand to catch his spinning hat blades as they boomer­anged back to him.

Thuuunnk!

A cannonball dropped from the ceiling—so close that it took out one of the knights. Dalton staggered backward, unable regain solid footing before the ball doubled in size, morphing. Nodules protruded. Panels retracted. Eight long mechanical legs unfolded. Dalton found himself backed toward a wall by what we on Earth might describe as a giant steampunkish arachnid. Like all cannonball spiders, this one had pincers capable of sev­ering a Milliner in half.

Dalton slashed his way through a converging scrum of chess­men and ran to meet the advancing spider, diving head first between its legs and taking up position underneath its “belly.” The spider scuttled about, trying to get out of its own way, as it were, its pincers clacking air.

Thuuunnk! Thuuunnk!

More cannonball spiders dropped from the ceiling. A pro­jectile the size and shape of an ordinary playing card whizzed past Dalton’s head, shot from a rook’s AD-52—an automatic dealer capable of shooting razor-cards at the rate of fifty-two per second. Dalton pulled a tab on his backpack’s shoulder strap; a complex of rods and blades telescoped up and out of the pack, arranging themselves into a horizontal propeller that whirred over his head, lifting him into the air.

Kkkrrchkkrchkchk.

It wasn’t the smoothest liftoff, ascending through the body of a cannonball spider. The propeller jammed more than once. Dalton veered at chest height amid chessmen, kicking at them to get free. A spider’s pincers tore off half a trouser leg, but then . . . up, up he went, pulling his knees close to his chest, extending his arms below, and flexing his fists to activate his wrist-blades as shields from the chessmen’s razor-cards and crystal shot.

The cannonball spiders started to climb the walls. Dalton, nearing the ceiling. deactivated his wrist-blades, and a hand again went to his shoulder strap. The propeller retracted, his backpack returned to its everyday innocuous appearance, and he punched his belt buckle to open the sabers at his midsection; the longest blades he possessed flicked out out from all sides of him.

He let himself drop, spinning like a blender into the chess­men below.

Swink, swink, swink, swink!

Pieces of pawns, rooks, and nights lay all around him. AD52s and crystal shooters littered the floor.

The cannonball spiders jumped from the walls as Dalton armed himself with an AD52 in one hand and a crystal shooter in the other. He aimed between their pincers, sending missiles down their mechanical gullets. Most of the spiders burst into pieces. Some wobbled, then folded their legs, forever inert.

Dalton again stood, out of breath, in a ringing silence.

Zzmp.

The HATBOX floor tiles flipped, clearing the arena. The exhi­bition was over. Every cadet in the audience, having ducked or crouched to avoid cannonball spider shrapnel, now sat with their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open, the name Madigan reverberating in their heads with respect, awe.

Dalton Madigan Rides a Spirit-Dane

The life of a queen’s bodyguard: constant vigilance, but so far, for Dalton at least, no combat. He told himself that he wasn’t get­ting soft, that just because he spent his days amid the splendors of Heart Palace, where royals sipped tea and strolled in gardens while Queen Theodora occupied herself with diplomacy—none of this meant that he was falling out of top Milliner shape, phys­ically or mentally.

He wasn’t entirely convinced.

More and more, as he stood discreetly within sight of the queen while she confabbed with the Lords and Ladies of the Diamond, Club, and Spade families, Dalton would be flanked by the Heart princesses, Rose and Genevieve. Was he always so stiff and somber? Rose would tease. She was a constant flirt and decidedly less conventional than her sister.

“How can you effectively fight against Dark Imagination if you don’t know what it feels like?” she asked one time.

“I don’t need to be a criminal to thwart a criminal,” Dalton answered. “An assassin to thwart a murder—

“But you are an assassin when called upon to be one, aren’t you?” Rose laughed.

His brain always went fuzzy in her company. He tried not to notice the way her tongue poked out deliciously from between her teeth when she was privately amused. He tried not to notice the curves of her body, so tauntingly outlined by the tight dresses of jabberwock-hide she favored. But he couldn’t help it; his head, his thoughts, kept turning in Rose Heart’s direction.

It wasn’t instantaneous but a gradual wearing down of his resolve. Dalton came to feel that he didn’t have much choice; he surrendered to Rose and let himself be seduced. Having an affair with the princess, the daughter of the queen he’d sworn to pro­tect: he could be expelled from the Millinery for such a breach of ethics.

He had no intention of being like his parents, sabotaging his reputation, and he vowed to himself to end the relationship. But every time Rose called for him, he went to her, and he soon discovered that he liked secretly breaking the rules. As long as no one found out, he wouldn’t be like his parents.

He knew that Rose dabbled in Dark Imagination, and more than once, as he guarded Queen Theodora’s rooms at night, she messaged him, asking him to retrieve her from some illegal establishment that she’d sneaked off to visit, too far gone on artificial crystal to make it back to Heart Palace on her own. The more wild Rose became, the more he liked her. She was so unabashed, so disregardful of etiquette, norms, expectations, so unafraid to just be. He “liked” her? No, he loved her.

Then something happened. Queen Theodora quarantined her eldest daughter. It wasn’t like Rose to tolerate such treatment, but Dalton couldn’t get any information out of Genevieve as to the reason for the quarantine or for Rose’s tolerance of it. When, after what felt like an excruciatingly long time, he saw Rose again, he didn’t know that she had given birth to a girl, allegedly stillborn. But along with everyone else in Wonderland, he did know that, on account of Rose’s rebellious behavior, Queen Theodora had removed her from succession to the throne.

“How are you?” he asked tenderly.

“Glad I won’t have the burden of ruling,” she said with seem­ing nonchalance.

A few nights later she messaged him, needing him to bring her home from an artificial crystal den. As always, he didn’t ask for a palace guard to cover his post because this would have been a public admission that he was shirking his responsibilities. He secreted himself off to the crystal den, but Rose wasn’t there, and he very soon discovered why: she’d used his absence to sneak into Theodora’s rooms and murder the queen, swearing that she would wear the crown.

With shock, anger, dismay, Dalton understood that he’d been an accomplice in the queen’s death—unwitting, but an accomplice, nonetheless.

He didn’t say goodbye to anyone—not to Rose, whom he couldn’t help loving despite all, and not to his brother Hatter. He jumped into The Pool of Tears, a portal presumed to take those who entered its waters to other worlds, though no one had ever returned to verify it.

Dalton’s impulse to run, his unwillingness to face the conse­quences of his actions, surprised him. But he refused to live with his disgrace reflected in every Wonderland eye that deigned to look at him.

The Pool of Tears

Earth is a gray and primitive place compared to Wonderland. But Dalton, going through his days as if serving a prison term, thinks it appropriate; he doesn’t deserve better. He has spent years working as a mercenary for the unscrupulous and power-mad. His self-hatred and constant proximity to corruption have smashed what was left of his moral compass. Now, unknown to him, Wonderland suffers a violent convulsion, and his younger brother jumps into The Pool of Tears.

Now, not one but two Madigans wander the earth; each lost to themselves, they might yet find each other.

A Look At Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland Through the Pool of Tears

As the Royal Scholar of Wonderland, I, Bibwit Harte am tasked with peering through the Pool of Tears to see the myriad of creations inspired by Wonderland, from Lewis Carroll's fanciful novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass first published in 1865, to the 1951 animated movie Alice in Wonderland from Disney to the very accurate 2006 New York Times best-selling series The Looking Glass Wars with Princess Alyss by Frank Beddor.

Today we will explore the influence of The Royal Millinery on other worlds. You maybe quite surprised to learn that in the less imaginative realms, hats are never imbued with Caterpillar Thread and are very rarely used as weapons. The only acts of violence ever ascribed to this mundane millinery is they are on occasion referred to as “Killer Looks.” (chortle)

In spite of their less dangerous designs, several hats in this world (and their owners) have become rather famous. Here is a little list…

The Venus of Willendorf’s Woven Cap

While there are not many official records of hats before 3,000 BC, they probably were commonplace before that. The 27,000-to-30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf figurine appears to depict a woman wearing a woven hat. Similar sculptures, first discovered in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are traditionally referred to in archaeology as "Venus figurines", due to the widely-held belief that depictions of women represented an early fertility deity, perhaps a mother goddess. Hats have been around since the time of the mastodon.

The Cap-Crown of Queen Nefertiti

Nefertiti was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the great royal wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped solely the sun disc, Aten, as the only god. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian. Nefertiti favored a flat-topped version of the blue war crown (or Cap-Crown.) The famous bust of Nefertiti depicts her wearing this crown. The crown linked the queen with the goddess Tefnut, a solar deity and it looked stunning! (Note to self: I should look into getting a similar hat made for Alyss of Wonderland.)

Archibald Armstrong’s Jester’s Cap

When King James I  succeeded to the English throne, Armstrong was appointed court jester. Archibald modified the traditional “donkey eared” fool’s cap and added bells and a third floppy cone creating the now famous (or infamous) Jester’s Cap.

His influence was considerable and he was greatly courted and flattered, but his success appears to have gone to the jester’s head. He became presumptuous, insolent, and mischievous and was much disliked by the members of the court, but James favored him and as long as he pleased his audience of one, he was able to keep his head (and his hat) safely attached to his body. Certainly, if Archibald had been in the Court of Queen Redd of Wonderland, she would have said, “Off with his head!”

Marie Antoinette’s Boat Hat

Marie Antoinette  was the last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution and before she lost her head, she was known for her outlandish hats and hairstyles. In Paris, following a maritime skirmish in 1778, women of fashion commemorated what they saw as a French victory against the British with the Coiffure à la Belle Poule, an elaborate hairstyle containing a replica of the ship itself.

The Queen was not to be outdone by her courtiers, so she created the most lavish nautical fascinator of them all. Certainly, this elaborate headpiece did nothing to silence claims of her extravagance. Queen Genevieve of Wonderland (Queen of Hearts) would have never tolerated such decadent behavior! Her royal subjects were her priority.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Bicorne

French emperor Napoleon understood the importance of branding, and throughout his life used imagery and clothing to convey power and status. His most famous hat was his black-felted beaver fur bicorne. The imposing nature of this chapeau gave the Emperor some much needed stature. Traditionally, the bicorne, with its distinctive deep gutter and two pointed corners, was worn with the corners facing to the front and back, but so as to be distinct on the battlefield, Napoleon wore the hat sideways so that anyone scanning the crowds would instantly know him by his jauntily angled hat.

The conquering ways remind this author of the Wonderland’s ArchEnemy,  King Arch of Archland.

Davy Crockett’s Coon Skin Cap

Davy Crockett was a celebrated 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. Even after he left his deep woods home to become a member of the United States House of Representatives, he still would frequently don his signature cap to remind himself (and others) of his humble beginnings.  Coonskin caps are fur hats made from the skin of a raccoon, with the animal’s tail hanging down the back.

The caps were originally worn by Native Americans, but were appropriated by 18th century frontiersmen as hunting caps. Davy Crockett, who is frequently depicted wearing a coonskin cap, seems to have had an authentic connection to them. He wore the hat during the famous Battle at the Alamo and the presence of the coon skin cap allowed his battle torn body to be identified.

Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat

Sixteenth president of the United States Abraham Lincolnwas exceedingly tall at 6 foot 4 inches, and the addition of his famous top hat accentuated his height even further. Lincoln used to keep papers and speeches tucked inside his hat and he would fish them out when needed, making his hat not just a natty bit of headgear but also a useful repository. The most famous of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats was the very one he wore on the night of his assassination at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. Gentle readers, you may recall that Hatter Madigan once instructed President Lincoln on the art of Hat Throwing. This adventure was chronicled in the thrilling tome, Mad with Wonder.

Winston Churchill’s Homburg

British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was renowned for his hats. Churchill himself once wrote a humorous essay on the subject, remarking that as he did not have a distinctive hairstyle, spectacles, or facial hair like other famous statesmen. Cartoonists and photographers of the day focused instead on his love of headgear.

Churchill wore a number of styles of hat, from top hats to bowler hats, but he is probably most famous for his homburg. The homburg is a felt hat with a curved brim, a dent that runs from front to back, and a grosgrain ribbon that forms a band. On the subject of homburgs, we are all very familiar with the Wonderland resident, Molly Homberg. Churchill certainly would have admired her spirit!

Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was one of America’s greatest style icons, and one of her most memorable looks was the pillbox hat perched on the back of her head. Kennedy had many versions of the pillbox, but the most famous is the watermelon pink one she wore with matching pink Chanel-style suit on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Jackie, who had been at his side in her pink suit, was covered in her husband’s blood. When aides repeatedly suggested she change her clothes, according to biographer William Manchester Jackie refused, saying "No, let them see what they've done."

If you enjoyed my little Hat History, please return soon for more posts about all things Alyss (and Alice) in Wonderland!

Lewis Carroll, the Writer that got Alice In Wonderland Wrong

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who gained international fame as Lewis Carroll, was born in Cheshire, England in 1832, the eldest son of a conservative, middle-class Anglican Family. A shy loner with a pronounced stutter, a sufferer of migraines and seizures, he was a precocious, scholastically gifted boy, and success in school came easily to him when he chose to apply himself; the young Charles, it seemed, was prone to distraction, to reverie. Nonetheless, his talents brought him to Oxford University’s Christ Church, where, in 1855, after earning first class honors and a B.A., he was awarded a Mathematical Lectureship. In 1861, he became one of the youngest deacons in the Anglican Church.

By all accounts, Reverend Dodgson was an austere, fastidious man, a puttering, fussy bachelor inclined toward conservatism in politics, religion, and social mores. His daily routines were precisely choreographed and adhered to; he inevitably took the same routes from his rooms in Christ Church’s Tom Quad to lecture halls and back again. He made diagrams of where guests sat when they came to dine with him, noting down what they ate so that the next time these guests visited, he wouldn’t serve them the same dish again. He summarized and catalogued every letter he wrote or received.

Such a man would seem an unlikely candidate to author Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, whose enchanting nonsense has held the world under its whimsical sway for over 150 years and counting. But the history of imagination is filled with surpris­ing paradoxes, and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was the greatest paradox of all.

Respected, comfortable, with a small circle of friends, contentment yet eluded the thirty-year-old Oxford Don when, in 1856, Dean Henry Liddell arrived at Christ Church with his family. Until then, a shadow of disappointment had hung over Dodgson’s life—he couldn’t have articulated why—but it began to lift as he befriended the Liddells and their three daughters, Edith, Lorina, and Alice.

Especially Alice, the youngest child, an adoptee.

Dodgson had always been more at ease with children than with adults, but in Alyss’s presence, the constriction inside him relaxed to a greater degree; the guardrails he’d so carefully set around his daily life wobbled. He found himself again drifting into reveries, as he hadn’t done since he was a boy.

It wasn’t anything untoward that drew him to Alice Liddell. She had an ineffable quality, an intriguing coupling of wisdom and innocence in her look and manner. Oddly, Dodgson felt as if he might learn from her—he didn’t know what exactly, only that whatever it was might dissipate the mysterious pall he felt over everything he did.

One afternoon, he took the Liddell girls out for boating trip to Godstow. They stopped to rest, and while Edith and Lorina played in the shallows of the River Isis, as that particular stretch of the Thames was called, Dodgson lounged on the grass with Alice.

“Don’t you want to join your sisters?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

Dodgson thought this a charming answer. “But why not?”

“After you’ve been a princess and had your queendom taken from you, as I have, it’s hard to get excited about a mess of fish and weeds in a river.”

Dodgson laughed. “Whatever are you talking about?”

Alice explained that her real name was Alyss Heart. She spelled it out: “A-l-y-s-s.”

Her mother was Queen Genevieve of Wonderland, she said. She and the queen and a party of courtiers had been celebrating her birthday in Heart Palace when her nasty aunt Redd, a grimacing woman with flaming red hair, attacked. It was a horrible, bloody scene, with Redd’s raging card soldiers fighting Queen Genevieve’s chessmen.

“Card soldiers?” Dodgson interrupted. “Chessmen?”

Alyss tried to describe the platoons of fifty-two soldiers who would lie in a stack before being dealt into action, then unfolded and fanned out to fight. She did her best to present him with a picture of the pawns and rooks and bishops under General Doppelgänger’s command, but what she really wanted to tell Dodgson was that she didn’t know what had happened to her mother, though she assumed the worst.

“You don’t know?” Dodgson gently pressed.

No, Alice explained, because Redd’s most fearsome henchthing, The Cat, had tried to kill her and she’d had to jump into The Pool of Tears with royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan, a graduate of the Millinery, where Wonderland’s elite security personnel trained. She had lost Hatter in the pool but was sure he would find her eventually and take her back to Wonderland.

Alice went on to tell Dodgson everything she still remembered about Wonderland: the giant mushrooms, caterpillar-oracles, tarty tarts, and looking glass travel via something called The Crystal Continuum.

“Let me see if I understand you correctly,” he said. “People can travel through looking glasses, enter through one and exit from another?”

“Yes. I’ve tried it here but none of the glasses work.”

“Tell me more about this Red Queen of yours,” Dodgson encouraged, thinking of Queen Victoria, her excesses and intimidations.

He took out pencil and paper, taking notes and sketching, as Alice went on at length about Redd—and about The Cat, and Hatter, whose top hat flattened into a weapon of spinning

blades. She described how General Doppelgänger could split into the twin figures of General Doppel and General Gänger, and each of them could then split into twins as many times as they wanted. She talked of her tutor Bibwit Harte, an albino two meters tall, with bluish-green veins pulsing visibly beneath his skin and ears a bit large for his head—ears so sensitive that he could hear someone whispering from three streets away. And, her voice dipping low in a sadness different in character from when she talked of her mother, she told Dodgson about her best friend, Dodge Anders, son of Sir Justice Anders whom the Cat had killed in front of her eyes at her birthday party.

Dodge. Dodgson.

He was the boy. The reverend was flattered, though he believed Alice’s stories to be the result of hardships endured before the Liddells had adopted her. It was likely, he supposed, that whatever had befallen Alice’s birth parents and landed her at the Charing Cross Foundling Hospital had been quite traumatic, and that she invented stories to cope with the horrors of her life. Mere stories? No, an elaborate fantasy life—harsh, to be sure, but startlingly inventive.

“You have the most amazing imagination, Alice,” he told her.

“I did,” she huffed. “It hasn’t been so powerful since I’ve been here.”

Charles Dodgson, energized and inspired to a pitch he’d never been before, didn’t realize it then, but with his pen he was going to try and bring some relief to this delightful child, this product of unknown traumas. He would transform her gruesome, violent imaginings into the ridiculous, rendering them laughable rather than things to be feared. And if, by turning Hatter Madigan into the Mad Hatter, General Doppelgänger into Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Redd’s assassin—who could morph from an ordinary kitten into a murderous humanoid with feline head and claws—into the grinning Cheshire Cat; if while Dodgson did all of this, he also managed to satirize the current state of British politics and its major actors, well, all the better.

Dodgson—let’s call him by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll— had written poems and little satirical works before, even pub­lished a few of them in journals he deemed not very special. (It’s curious to note that he’d first used the pen name Lewis Carroll the year he met Alice Liddell, for a poem he published in 1856.) Still, not Carroll’s earlier publications, not mathematical puzzles, not the beauty of logic, had fired up his imagination as much as transforming what he deemed to be Alice’s make-believe into a playful adventure novel.

He saw Alice regularly over the next several years, during which he found himself aglow with creativity. The world looked somehow brighter, more vibrant, and for the first time he thought himself to be truly happy. He had already taken up the new art form of photography (again, curiously, in the same year that he met the Liddells), but now his explorations of that medium increased until he was something of a master. He cre­ated an invention for taking notes in the dark, as well as an early iteration of a game that we know today as Scrabble. In mathe­matics, he developed new ideas in linear algebra. And when not exercising his imagination in these various ways, Carroll found time to befriend gifted artists and scholars—John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and numerous others.

With the manuscript of what he had titled Alice’s Adventures Underground at last finished, he presented it to Alice Liddell one afternoon on the banks of the River Cherwell. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied with a black ribbon. Dodgson watched anxiously as Alice untied the ribbon and carefully removed the wrapping.

“Oh!” the girl exclaimed, her mouth flat-lining in displeasure.

What sort of title was Alice’s Adventures Underground? She wanted to know. And why was her name misspelled when she had correctly spelled it out for him? And who was Lewis Carroll?

“I thought it would be more festive than saying it was by me, a stodgy old reverend,” Carroll said.

Festive? She had told him little that was festive. Alice opened the manuscript. Its dedication took the form of a poem, in which her name was again misspelled. Her gaze caught on one of the stanzas:

"The dream-child moving through a land

Of wonders, wild and new,

In friendly chat with bird or beast –

And half believed it true."

“Dream-child?” she murmured with growing concern. “Half believed?”

She turned to the first chapter. Carroll noted at once the quiver of her bottom lip, how she slumped as if she’d had the wind knocked out of her.

“I admit that I took a few liberties with your story,” he said. “Do you recognize the tutor fellow you once described to me? He’s the white rabbit character. I got the idea for him upon dis­covering that the letters of the tutor’s name could be made to spell ‘white rabbit.’ Here, let me show you.”

Carroll took a pencil and small notebook from the inside pocket of his coat, but Alice didn’t want to look.

“You mean you did this on purpose?” she asked. He had purposely twisted her memories—which, with his help, she had hoped to prove to everyone were true—into this foolish, non­sensical book?

“I . . . I thought it . . . m-m-might help you,” Carroll stammered.

Alice jumped to her feet, yelling. “No one is ever going to believe me now! You’ve ruined everything! You’re the cruelest man I’ve ever met, Mr. Dodgson, and if you had believed a single word I told you, you’d know how very cruel that is! I never want to see you! Never, never, never!”

She ran, leaving Carroll at the riverbank. Shaken, unsure of what had just happened, he picked up the manuscript, still warm from Alice’s touch, fearing that this was as close to her as he’d ever be again.

The publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland met a lukewarm reception at first, but within six years, it became a phenomenal commercial success. “Lewis Carroll” was famous, and the book’s royalties gave Dodgson the financial security to do whatever he wished. Although pleased by the public’s reception of his work, he preferred to remain at Oxford, teaching, serving tea to close friends. In short, he preferred to live modestly as a retiring bachelor.

Some of this might have had to do with depression. Alice was making good on her word never to see him again, and all friendly association with the Liddell family had ceased on June 27th, 1863. Without the enlivening spark of Alice’s presence, the pall Dodgson had known before meeting her resettled over his life. His interest in photography deserted him. He invented nothing.

He had heard through gossip that Alice resented what fame had come to her as the purported inspiration for Adventures. How it must have galled her, he supposed, that in betraying her memories with his book (as she believed), he had thrust a fame on her founded on absurd falsehoods. He gave up hope of ever spending time with her again and uncharacteristically destroyed four entire volumes of his diaries and ripped pages out of others— pages that detailed afternoons with Alice Liddell, as well as the day he broke with the whole Liddell family.

Life trudged on. Dodgson pursued his mathematical interests and wrote poetry, but the efforts felt mechanical. By 1870, after the death of his father had darkened his overall mood even further, he recognized that he needed Alice, his “dream-child” (he thought the designation a compliment), to help him—not just to live as fully in his imaginings as he’d once been able to, but also for the strength she somehow gave him to contend with a world full of grotesqueries, corruption, and petty vanities.

Dodgson never would have believed that Alice Liddell was one day going to return to him: a young woman with enlightened notions, on the cusp of marriage, who would not only forgive him for his so-called betrayal but recognize that, because of the fame his book had brought her, she had an opportunity to effect substantive societal change that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to her.

Nor would Dodgson have believed that, unexpectedly buoyed by Alice’s company, he’d again find himself writing as Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice found There, a sequel to Adventures, was published in 1871. A nonsense poem entitled The Hunting of the Snark entered the marketplace in 1876.

All of these things came to pass, reminding Dodgson that, in his best days, he had always preferred to believe in the impossible. Happily for him, another impossible thing happened: as Miss Alice Liddell recruited Charles Lutwidge Dodgson into her schemes for bettering the lives of the unfortunate, he discovered a world that even Lewis Carroll couldn’t have imagined.

Introducing Hatter Madigan, AKA the Mad Hatter

This is NOT the story of the Mad Hatter.

Hatter Madigan, is an expert bladesman, a High Cut of Wonderlands Millinery, not the tea guzzling madman of children's lit. The only visual connection to the (Mad) Hatter in Lewis Carroll's books or the Disney film Alice in Wonderland is the iconic hat. 

Discover the truth.

Hatter Madigan, leading member of Wonderland’s elite security force known as the Millinery, bodyguard to Queen Genevieve Heart, catapulted out of a body of water where none should have been, landing on his feet in a battle-crouch, ready to fight. He reached for the top hat that he could flatten into S-shaped rotary blades and send slicing through an enemy; it wasn’t on his head.

A current had carried it away from him in The Pool of Tears, the portal that—though he didn’t yet know where he was—had brought him here, to the Namib Desert in Southern Africa, Earth.

“Alyss?” he shouted, surrounded by creatures with thin legs and long necks who flapped their wings in annoyance; this drenched, obviously desperate individual had interrupted their wading.

“What place is this?” he demanded of the flamingos.

They flew at him. Hatter flexed his fists, and his bracelets opened into deadly propellers on the topsides of his wrists. He shrugged, and his Millinery backpack sprouted knives and cork­screws of various lengths and thicknesses. But the flamingos rose higher, flying toward the horizon, leaving him solitary in an endless landscape of sand dunes.

His top hat splashed out of the water and landed near his foot.

“ALYSS!” He had lost Princess Heart. It was the greatest failure of his life—a failure, as he was all too aware, that meant the end of Wonderland as he knew it.

Orphaned when his Milliner parents went missing on a mission, Hatter had grown up at the Millinery Academy with his older brother Dalton. He’d spent his formative years surrounded by its tenders (employees), its cadets, tutors, and Milliners. He’d been subject to the academy’s rules for almost as long as he could remember and had learned the Millinery Code as a bedtime lullaby, swearing allegiance to serve and sustain Light Imagination and its queen, to master the forging of immaculate blades, to excel in personal combat, and to contain and control all emotion.

Year after year, as Dalton proved his military gifts at the academy, Hatter longed to begin his own training, often practic­ing advanced moves with whatever he could find—a mop for a sword, a hatbox lid for the S-blades of a spinning top hat. More than a few times, his eagerness led him into trouble. He sneaked into training facilities that were off-limits to the younger cadets, never mind someone who wasn’t even old enough to be a cadet. And he “borrowed” weapons that weren’t his.

“You can’t just do what you want, when you want,” Dalton would scold.

It was antithetical to the discipline required of a Milliner. Hatter’s enthusiasm to begin training was commendable, but—

“You must learn to subdue your enthusiasms, your loves, and even your hates,” Dalton warned. “Emotion clouds judgment. All must be subordinate to duty—a dispassionate performance of one’s duties keeps a Milliner focused. In battle, it keeps him alive.”

As Dalton’s reputation at the academy grew, so did Hatter’s idolization of him. If his older brother wasn’t always around, well, it didn’t feel as neglectful as it might have because he knew that Dalton was busy with important matters, possi­bly queendom-saving matters. Besides, he could always find companionship with his best friend Weaver, a young civilian girl who, orphaned like him, was growing up at the Millinery.

The two youngsters often met up in little hideaways on the Millinery campus. Dalton graduated from the academy as Top Cadet just as Hatter officially began his training. Expectations for Dalton’s younger brother were high, and Hatter, doubting himself, often complained to Weaver that Dalton’s reputation felt impossible to live up to. But Weaver’s calm confidence buoyed him and gave him inner strength.

In his early years as a cadet, though, Hatter wasn’t the most disciplined, always eager to take on more than he was supposed to—his talents in combat training making him impatient with the slower progress of systematic tutelage. His stays in detention and the lectures he received from authorities only confirmed, in his own mind, that he would never be as good as Dalton, and who had never been chastised for breaking rules, who seemed as adept in political and social settings as he was in battle, whereas he, Hatter, wasn’t all that great on the social front.

Yet Hatter learned to control himself enough to graduate from the Millinery as Top Cadet, by which time, his and Weaver’s relationship had blossomed into more than friendship.

The Millinery

Hatter knew that, as a Milliner, he shouldn’t have been consorting in such a way with a civilian. Certainly, Dalton would not have broken Millinery protocol by having a secret, civilian lover. To lessen the guilt he felt for his trespass, Hatter worked extra hard at maintaining Millinery composure when on duty at Heart Palace, shadowing Queen Genevieve as her personal bodyguard, which meant being stoic, alert, ever ready to sacrifice himself for his queen.

If Hatter had learned that Weaver was pregnant with his child, the guilt he felt on account of their relationship might have proved overwhelming. But Weaver never told him. Knowing how conflicted he’d be at the news, understanding that the child would be a stain on his reputation, if not worse, she put off telling him. But then her pregnancy was becoming impossible to hide. At their next weekly rendezvous far from the center of Wonderland, she decided, she would confide that he was to be a father.

The rendezvous never happened: Hatter forced to cancel because it was Princess Alyss Heart’s birthday. Instead of basking in his girlfriend’s company, pretending that he and Weaver were just an ordinary Wonderland couple unencumbered by public duties and expectations; instead of such usual reveries being interrupted by Weaver confessing her pregnancy, he shadowed Queen Genevieve during the birthday celebrations.

In Heart Palace’s South Dining Room, Princess Alyss and her guests were enjoying wonder-crumpets and tarty tarts when the heavy double doors blew apart, a wall crumbled, and a horde of renegade card soldiers charged through the blasted opening with swords raised.

Appearing amid the crumbled stone and splinters of wood: a nightmare version of Queen Genevieve.

“Off with their heads!” the nightmare screamed. “Off with their stinking, boring heads!”

Hatter, instinctively flicking his top hat into a flattened array of blades that he flung at the attackers with a ninja’s accuracy, would have recognized the woman even without her gown of flesh-eating roses.

It was Rose Heart—a.k.a. Redd—Genevieve’s older sister, who had long ago been cast aside as heir to the throne for . . .behavioral problems.

Redd, supremely gifted in Dark Imagination, was no ordinary enemy, Hatter knew.

It’s a coup, he thought, catching the top hat blades that boomeranged back to him.

Wonderland chessmen engaged against Redd’s soldiers. Bodies fell. Courtiers scrambled for safety. Amid it all, Hatter deftly defended Queen Genevieve from violence, doing away with more of the enemy than seemed possible for a single Milliner, until—

“Take Princess Alyss and go,” the queen urged him, pointing at a looking glass. “As far away as possible.”

Go? But his life’s mission was to protect Wonderland’s queen.

“You must keep the princess safe until she’s old enough to rule,” Genevieve insisted. “She’s the only chance Wonderland has to survive. Promise me you’ll keep her safe.”

Hatter bowed his head. So long as Queen Genevieve lived, the Millinery code demanded that he should remain and fight. But wasn’t the queendom more important than any sin­gle queen? And if Wonderland’s future depended on Alyss’s survival . . . ?

He wasn’t sure about any of it, but he lifted his eyes to Genevieve’s. “I promise,” he said, and carrying the seven-year-old princess, he leaped into the looking glass.

They emerged in the Whispering Woods. Redd’s top assas­sin, The Cat, gave chase. Seekers—deadly creatures with vulture bodies and fly heads—screeched in the sky above, tracking them.

Nowhere in this realm will be safe, Hatter thought. As long as Redd believes that Alyss is alive, she will hunt the princess down. I have to get her to The Pool of Tears . . .

The pool: a rumored portal said to carry those who entered its waters out of Wonderland. No one who had splashed into the pool had ever returned.

The only chance she has to grow into a queen is to be as good as dead to Wonderland.

And so, with Alyss in his arms and The Cat about to pounce, Hatter leaped from a precipice overlooking the pool.

Milliner and princess shot deep into the water’s swirling depths. Currents shifted. It became increasingly difficult for Hatter to hold on to the girl. Her panicked flailing didn’t help.

Suddenly, she was out of his arms, falling away from him.

Again, currents shifted.

Hatter shot up to the surface with the same force and speed as his descent, emerging from a puddle onto the sand dunes of Namibia.

If Princess Alyss was Wonderland’s only chance to survive—a Wonderland governed by the enlightened principles of Light Imagination—then he had squandered it. He had—and he was sure of this; Redd was too powerful, too merciless—let Queen Genevieve die. He had forsaken his Millinery duty in the worst way. The Queen had meant to sacrifice herself to save her daughter and the queendom, but Hatter, in losing the daughter, had made a sacrifice of both of them. And still lost the queendom.

He felt a sham, a fraud. Losing Alyss proved everything he’d feared about himself—he wasn’t good enough to follow in Dalton’s path, hadn’t been worthy of Top Cadet honors. He’d never deserved his stellar reputation as a Milliner. From his earliest days as a cadet, he’d been unable to strictly follow the Millinery Code—his impatience with teachings, his love of Weaver. And now this, the worst violation of the code, his having left Queen Genevieve to die.

A group of natives crested a nearby sand dune. One of them glowed as if from an inner light.

The glow of imagination: Hatter recognized it from Wonderland. Princess Alyss, whose imagination was said to be prodigious, wouldn’t fail to glow in this world. Maybe those gifted with imagination in this world could lead him to his lost charge? Maybe, just maybe, he could find Princess Alyss Heart and redeem himself—not totally; he would always be supremely flawed, he now knew. But maybe he still had a chance to fulfill his promise to Queen Genevieve and save Wonderland from Redd Heart’s tyranny. He would follow the glow.

Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria, Hungary, Greece, Poland, etc.—following the glow of imagi­nation, Hatter twice traversed the European continent in his search of Princess Alyss.

No luck, though he did meet a number of people who, lis­tening to his tale of Wonderland and the missing Princess Alyss, were inspired to imaginative outpourings that brought them fame, such as Jules Verne and Bram Stoker.

But not all run-ins with imaginative Earthlings were positive.

In Budapest, Hatter rescued an orphanage’s worth of young girls who, by means of a diabolical machine, were being drained of their imaginations to make them easier to control (drain the world’s population of all imagination: rule the globe). For the good of humanity, Hatter destroyed the machine.

He saw echoes of Wonderland inventiveness everywhere. As in Wonderland, he realized, so too on Earth: Light and Dark Imagination were at war with each other.

If he was to find Alyss, he realized, he would have to follow not only the glow of Light Imagination, getting assistance from those similarly gifted to the Heart Princess; he would have to seek out enemies of Light Imagination—those who, whether they knew it or not, were practitioners of Dark Imagination, and who would either want to twist Alyss’s talents to their own purposes or kill her.

And so, driven by guilt over his failure to Queen Genevieve, to Princess Alyss, to the entire queendom, missing Weaver con­stantly, Hatter traveled the globe with an uncanny knack for influencing important social or historical events. He canvassed America during its civil war, and how much his meeting with Abraham Lincoln impacted military action, none can say. He traveled down through Mexico and South America, skirted the Antarctic Peninsula. He passed into Canada, made his way to the Far East.

Weaver.

He remained devoted to her in his heart—conflicted still, yet devoted. But this didn’t keep him from temptation. Realm, a Native-American, a sort of medicine woman skilled in the practices of Light Imagination on Earth, saved his life in an Arizona desert; Jet Seer, a Chrononaut or time traveler, was on a world-building quest, gathering DNA from history’s exceptional beings so that they could live again in the future: such strong, powerful women offered Hatter brief solace; he loved them in their own right, but they were also wistful reminders of the love he had lost in Weaver.

As he roamed, maps sticking out of every available pocket, worn from use and much scribbled on with notes of where he’d been and what routes he’d taken, Hatter’s legend grew. Though the languages in which it was told varied as widely as the terrain he covered, and the details of the story often changed, its basic premise was the same: a solitary man, blessed with fearsome physical abilities and armed with a curious assemblage of weap­onry, crossed continents on a mysterious quest.

Fearsome abilities?

The longer Hatter went without finding Alyss, the more trouble he had controlling his hat blades, the less accurate he was with knives plucked from his backpack, and the more he berated himself for his failure.

He had no way of knowing, but his increasing clumsiness and depression paralleled Princess Alyss’s waning memories of Wonderland. Just as in quantum entanglement, where a change of spin or position in one electron affects its partner, though the partner electron be a great distance away, so it was with Hatter and Alyss: the two were connected by a kind of entanglement of imaginative power.

Hatter’s confidence and abilities hit an all-time low just as Princess Alyss, growing up in Oxford, England as Alice Liddell, a middle-class Victorian young lady, stopped dreaming of Wonderland altogether—dreams being all that remained to her of her former life in Wonderland. With Alyss brainwashed by so-called reality, Hatter was reduced to a brooding wanderer with no special gifts, martial or imaginative; a seeming lunatic obsessed with delusions of some princess and a place called Wonderland. He still tried to fight sometimes, such as when he stumbled across the glow of imagination and thought he might have found Alyss, but he was easily subdued. Eventually, for the good of everyone, he was locked in a sanatorium.

Seemingly beyond all hope, mumbling his lunatic doggerel about Wonderland more from habit than anything else, Hatter got older in his cell. But then Alice Liddell again began to dream of Wonderland, and just as the truth of her history and her imaginative powers started to dawn anew in her, so Hatter, on account of their entangled imaginative power, began to regain his former self—determined, martially formidable.

A hand reached out of the small looking glass in his cell.

“Alyss!” Hatter breathed, unaware that whatever else the future was going to bring, this—Alyss Heart being alive, his chance to save Wonderland not yet gone—was only the half of it.