I don't own Alice in Wonderland. Pity.

Let me paint you a picture.

First the sky. It's gray -a gray that you know well. A changing, churning cauldron of fear and anticipation. You've seen it before, smelled it, and, perhaps, even dreamed it. The sky is alive with wind. It whips fiercely, lashing against you and spraying sea water.

Next the water. It's a dark, dark blue- almost black you'd say. It's choppy, edged in white foam. It thrashes about, and crawls across the dark planks of the Wonder. It darkens your coat; soaks your hair. It fills your uncomfortable boots. It's cold and inescapable as it sinks into your skin.

The Wonder is a lopsided vessel, weighed down by water and loose cargo. Its wood is stained dark by the storm and the night. It rocks precariously on the waves. You rock with it.

There are crewmen dashing about on its deck, securing lines and bailing water. Then there's you.

You cling to the banister, trying to stay out of the way and on the ship. The banister you cling to slips under your hands, slick with seawater. You feel nauseous and sodden.

Part of you wishes you would have stayed in Hong Kong for another week, if for nothing more than to avoid this storm.

The other part just wanted to go home.

But you're not thinking about London, are you Alice?

You're not thinking about your mother, Helen, or your sister Margret. You're not thinking about your room, or your possessions. You're not thinking about the lackluster skies, or the pressing fog.

You're thinking about a white castle. You're thinking about a trip down the rabbit hole. You're thinking about a man in a scorched top hat.

Fairfarren, Alice.

He'd whispered that in your ear, on the chessboard in the Tugley Wood, with a broken voice. You distinctly heard the catch in his breath on your name -a longing so close to despair. You'd felt the same catch in your heart as he'd faded into mist.

You'd had things you had to do. Questions that needed answering. Goodbyes that needed saying.

So, you'd gone back.

You wish you hadn't.

Another picture, Alice, love. You'll recognize it, I'm sure. After all, you dream of the same picture every night.

First, the sky. A brilliant twilight blue, with inescapable strands of clouds. They knit together the sky and the trees and it's so beautiful that it could take your breath away.

If you cared to do more than glance at it.

It's certainly not the most obvious feature of this picture, that's to be sure.

The first thing you'd notice is the broken windmill. It's a sad sight, with broken arms and not a breeze to stir it. Not that you could possible imagine it moving, let alone withstanding the breeze. It's a decrepit gray- the same color you associate with cobwebs.

It could have been beautiful, in a different time -years ago, when you were still a young girl. Back when all you had to worry about was nightmares. But it's not been taken care of, and now it seems that the only thing that lives in it is dust.

The next thing you'd notice is the thing that would hold your attention.

The tea table.

It's a too long tea table, set for far more than attending, and filled with broken tea pots and cracked saucers, moldy tea cakes and hardened scones. It's set for a tea time that never ends. That might have been charming when you were younger, but now you think of it as tragic.

It's worse than you remember it.

And, let's admit that you don't like remembering it. A little honesty never killed anyone, Alice. That I know of, at least.

Last, but most certainly not least.

Seated at the end of that disastrously tragic tea table, is a figure in a wingback chair.

He looks just like he did on the chessboard. Broken, disheveled, heartbroken, and mad. His face is paler and his hair brighter. His eyes gleam more madly than ever -a terrifying ocher.

It makes you so sad to think about it. To think that because he lost you- because you didn't stay- he'd finally lost what shred of sanity he had left.

You had liked his bewitchingly green eyes. They'd captivated you- posed questions you had no answers to. They'd made you think.

How is a raven like a writing desk?

You fear that this is what he's been reduced to -a man who speaks only in riddles and words that start with the letter 'M,' the one easily provoked to violence and Outlandish.

But you comfort yourself when you wake up, with tears staining your pillow and your cheeks, that it was only just a dream.

That's a lie, Alice.

We both know that nothing is ever just a dream for you.

Just two more pictures, then we'll be through. Where were we, before we skipped to your nightmare?

The Wonder, if I recall, love.

You were on your way home. Not to London -we'd established that.

Good. We can skip ahead a bit now.

Now where to start our third picture?

The Ascots' estate, I think. That will paint a lovely background, don't you agree, Alice?

After all, you look very relieved to be back where it all started for the second time.

That's right, Alice, you're there in the picture. Right in the middle, staring down the rabbit hole, deciding weather you've done the things you've come back to do.

The sky is a cloudless blue, like your dress. The hole is a dark tunnel. The Earth is rich brown. The grass is a timeless green. The dandelions are growing, and so are the daisies.

There's a mix of relief and indecision on your face.

Were you worried the rabbit hole would disappear? Were you afraid that you wouldn't be able to come back?

You shouldn't have worried so, love. We both know you didn't drink all of the Jabberwocky's blood. There's still half the vial left, hidden in your pocket for safe keeping.

You've always intended to come back, we both know that. So, why the uncertainty, Alice?

The things you wanted to do are done. You've lived out your father's dream.

You're goodbyes have been made, to both Margaret and your dear mother.

What's left?

Ah, the questions that needed answering.

Well, Alice, have you found your answers?

Is there anything in this world that can hold your heart like Wonderland?


Is there anyone?

Not in this world.

Then what are you waiting for, stupid girl?

The last picture.

The halls of the White Castle -can you see it, Alice?

The gleaming floors, the gentle light, the soft sound of waterfalls in the background. It's the picture of tranquility. Nothing could be more soothing.

But your nerves are shot, aren't they?

You, Alice, are a wreck. Worried brows paired with bitten lips and loose, anxious curls.

You're the right size- the Queen made sure of that- and you've been welcomed warmly.

Except by the only one who matters.

You're outside his workshop, biting your nails and gnawing on your lips.

You've studied the door for what seems like an eternity before you gather up your muchness -for it just wouldn't do to go in without it, he would notice it was gone right away- twist back the handle, and walk inside.

It's a white room, as all the rooms in the White Castle are, and it's filled with hats of all shapes and sizes and colors. They are beautiful. They are wonderful. You've never quite seen anything quite like them.

You couldn't care less about them, could you Alice? At least, not at present.

Because through the towers of hat stands and hats and ribbon and lace you see a man.

The man is hatting.

His hair is the most particular shade of orange, and sticks out on either side in a curly mass of chaos. His face is white, and stained with pink from the mercury in the glue he uses for his trade. He wears a shirt of the brightest shade of blue. He is smiling, happy.

You're worried brows relax because the most important feature is still there.

His eyes are still the most curious green.

He looks up from his latest creation. After all, you've disturbed his work. He's been obliged to do a lot of work, you know. He's killed Time waiting for you, Alice.

Not a tick ever since.

The expression on his face upon seeing you is elated bafflement, and it makes your bitten lips smile.

There's nothing to be done about your anxious curls however- your hair has always been in need of cutting, Alice.

"It's you," he says, and bounds through the room, stepping over hats and hat stands, treading on discarded ribbon and scraps of unwanted fabric- reminding you of how he ran atop the tea table.

You can help but laugh.

"You're back!"

His smile almost breaks his face in half.

"No," you said, "I'm home."