They say (and I am forced to assume that 'they' refers to the experts in the field of psychology) that mad people are not usually aware of the fact that they are indeed mad and that if one were to state that they are, then they are probably not nearly as mad as they think they are.

However… However…

I think I must be mad. But before I am lumped in with those who are simply saying it and are not really, truly so, I should say that I have taken into account the professional opinions of the experts. And they say I am. They say I am so mad that I need to be here in this insane asylum to get better.

Even Mr. Carroll thought I was. I could see it in his eyes, even as he eagerly scribbled down my so-called ravings for his novel (rather popular it has become too, I have been told.)

Quite a regular fan of the nonsensical was Mr. Carroll. Which I assume must be the reason he was skulking around an asylum, looking for a lunatic not so far gone that he (or she, for that matter) would not be incapable of telling him a nice little tale, dreamed up in their mind that would make a wonderfully original plot for a book.

It's a little bit strange, really. If one studies that book thinking they want to find out what mad people think about, they would have to consider the book to be practical. However, if one was simply reading the book without knowing it was based on the ravings of a madwoman, they would in turn be forced to conclude the book is not practical.

Very funny, isn't it?

Another rather amusing fact is that my decision to consider myself mad was not ultimately based on what the doctors thought. Nor was it because of Mr. Carroll's opinion. Nor is it based on the fact that young girls should not be able to go on extraordinary adventures through a fantastical world that does not exist. No indeed.

I have decided to consider myself mad because the cat told me I am.

Ah, yes… The cat. Let's move on to him (or it) shall we?

The Cheshire cat, or just Cheshire as I now refer to him, is a curious creature indeed. Yet he is my only companion in this wretched place. A figment of my imagination, surely, but I am truly glad for his company. Perhaps without him, I would go even madder?

Oh, but he can be a vexing creature at times! Full of mysteries and unable to answer the most simple of questions without citing a riddle. It is difficult to have a normal conversation with him. Then again, can one really expect to converse normally with a fictitious cat that has the power to vanish on a whim? I really don't think so…

But I do wonder… What exactly is Cheshire? I assume I would know, since I made him. Though he takes the appearance of a cat, I cannot help but feel as if he is somehow more then that.

He appears to me in this room. And tonight as I lie shivering in my cold bed in the asylum, I expect him to appear. I stare warily at the walls, as if the shadows cast across them will suddenly come to life and devour me like some kind of horrible monster.

Presently, I hear him arrive. Before I even see him, I can hear the soft pitter-patter of his paws across the thin carpet and then his voice…

"Good evening, Alice." He greets me, his tone rich and deep.

"Good evening, Cheshire. Cats are not supposed to talk, you realize." I reply, throwing in that little fact to see what he will make of it. I plan to ask him about what he is tonight.

Even though I still haven't turned over to look at him, I know his grin will stretch a little wider at my words. He chuckles softly and I feel him leap onto the end of my bed.

"But of course, you're right my dear. A cat certainly should not be able to talk." He says and I turn to look at him fixedly. He gives what can only be described as the feline equivalent of a shrug.

"A Cheshire cat, however…' He says and grins insanely. I look away again, once more staring at the wall. I should have known not to expect immediate answers, especially having not yet asked the question. Cheshire makes a sound of amusement, padding his way up my bed.

"I take it that was not the answer you were hoping for, dear Alice." He says. I just continue to stare at the wall in silence. He waits patiently, unmoving until I finally speak again…

"It's been bothering me, Cheshire…' I murmur softly "what are you?" I glance at him out of the corner of my eye and he cocks his head to the side.

"I am whatever you decide for me to be." He says. I sigh and sit up in bed, hair falling to cover my face.

"Foppish creature..." I say. The day I've had of needles and electric shocks has not helped strengthen my resolve to draw some answers from him and now it has completely died… A little like part of me died after being in this place for so long…

It's another funny thing… Perhaps I am regaining my sanity because Cheshire's visits are infrequent now. And I have not heard or seen a glimpse of Wonderland for a very long time now… It's funny because as I regain my sanity, I feel as if I am losing the very things that keep me alive in the first place.

It frightens me sometimes. When all traces of Wonderland have been flushed from my mind, what will happen? Will I be healthy again? Or will I become merely a shell and have to live until my final day in this cold, colourless place?

I couldn't help but think about it that night and Cheshire's appearance, more emaciated then usual, was a reminder of just how much of myself I had lost here.

"Oh, cat…' I sigh, leaning forward and burying my face in his ragged, tabby fur "I wish somebody would come and rescue me from this vile place." The nubs of his vertebrae stand out so frighteningly. I can feel them press into my cheek.

"You're shivering Alice." He points out.

"It's cold, Cheshire." I reply and he sighs a deep, rumbling sigh.

"May I stay tonight, Alice? You seem in need of… Not being alone."

I nod; my face still nestled in the curve of his spine and lie back. The cat curls up by my side and soon begins to purr deeply. I smile.

"Are you sure you're not just a regular old pussy-cat, Cheshire?" I whisper to him and he sniffs.

"I should like to think I am not." He says, sounding so indignant I just have to laugh. It soon peters out though and I sigh a little. A long silence then descends over me until I can't keep the words in any longer…

"If only you were real, Cheshire. If only you would become real and take me away from here…" I say. He does not reply. A quick glance at him tells me he has fallen asleep. I understand, I am tired myself and almost as soon as I lay down my head upon my pillow, sleep settles over me…

A slight movement jars me half way to consciousness, but not enough that I can truly comprehend what is happening. Against my wrist, a gentle pressure, the silk pad of a cats paw…

I don't really think much of it, my mind too hazy with sleep. I know it is just the cat anyway. But suddenly, I just have to tell him that I don't want to forget him or wonderland. I don't want to lose it all.

I don't –want-to be normal…

"Cheshire…" I mumble groggily "I really don't wish to go among sane people…"

He chuckles again, even softer then usual and his hand… His hand? But he…

No, it really is. The paw on my wrist is no longer a paw, but a hand encircling my own. The warm lump against my back has grown vastly in size too…

"It's alright Alice, you're here with me…' he murmurs, his new fingers entwining with my own as his other hand draws me closer to him…

"And we're both mad here…"