*Note to BlogBattlers: Only Part 1 is for the #BlogBattle vote. The original wordcount was too long, so I chose to divide this chapter up into 2 parts. 🙂
Chapter 12: A New Case Begins
Read previous chapters here. Enjoy!
“Wonderland is all around us, but you must have the eyes to see it.” Welcome to Okinala, the island where worlds meet. A crazy Wonderland where the Madness Solver must work to keep the peace between worlds.
Madnes Hatter has a rare gift, a special “vision” that allows him to see into the other world Wonderland as it overlaps his island home. This power was awakened by Cheshire, and he named him to become the world’s next Madness Solver–whose job it is to solve problems, mysteries, and act as peacekeeper. But there are other forces at work in these worlds…and previously he barely survived a deadly fall down Drop chasm….
He wanted to tell them. About Wonderland. About this crazy power he was forced to live with until his numbered days came to a swift end. But what came out of his mouth, instead, was slurred nonsense. “It’s…well, it’s this place that…that,” he suddenly realized he had no words to describe it—any of it, nor Okinala’s situation. How do you explain something so crazy people would send you to the insane asylum? “It’s this new job I have.” That was true. “The work makes me strong, I guess, and…the clock is a symbol-thing for the job.” There. All true, only…vague.
“Huh?” Harrey and Alice, his friends, both tilted their heads to the side as bewilderment reined over them.
He fidgeted nervously under their blank stares, then picked himself up and began the very long walk back to the Drop without another word. He didn’t wait for them to follow, his cheeks were red enough as it was. Why couldn’t he tell them? ‘Because it sounds too freakishly, ridiculously crazy, that’s why!’ He had to mentally prepare them first, or give some sort of proof before outright telling. Yes, he would tell them—eventually. When he didn’t look like a loon that got hit over the head with a glider too many times.
There, bright and early, the moment he stepped inside the weird, giant mushroom-of-a-building he was forced to call his Madness Solver Office, was Cheshire, and looking dapper as ever.
“N-no. Nothing of your importance,” he murmured a reply, hanging up his top hat—brown today, and complete with useless riding goggles, as was the Okinala teen fashion.
The cat adjusted a blue cravat and eyed him sidelong. “Not sure how I’m supposed to take that…”
“With fish and chips, if you like.”
“Haha. Has the power grown your sense of humor too?”
Madnes didn’t waste time going over to the coffee maker—an odd contraption fueled by steam as it heats and bubbles water before blasting it into the coffee grounds. He got a full pot boiling. He would need it. Now that school was out for the summer, and Uncle Cosmic kept waking him up at impossible early ours to “train,” the last thing he wanted to do was be stuck inside this musky office lacking air coolers on a muggy day—he wasn’t sure which was worse: the old musk scent of the office, or the scorching musk of the town as it baked under the sun.
“Are there ice cubes? I’d like to turn this into iced coffee.”
“In the basement.”
Cheshire followed him down, paws folded behind his back like a watchful mentor. “You know what’s to be expected of you, yes? How the job works?”
He pulled out a bag of ice from a large ice box. “To be honest, I don’t get the point.” He headed back up stairs to his brewing coffee. “Just what all is in the Madness Solver job description? Do you have some sort of check list or something I can follow along?” He said it with a touch of sarcasm, he couldn’t help himself.
“As a matter of fact, yes.” Cheshire pulled out a paper tucked inside his red silk vest. “Just printed it this morning.”
Stupefied, Madnes took the sheet and read:
“The Purpose and Duty of the Madness Solver”
- To keep peoples of both worlds behaved.
- To keep those who know about Wonderland quiet, not allowing them to spread word to the rest of Earth or start a possible “battle of the worlds” and other such drama as you see in films.
- Act as mediator between worlds, and the representative of Earth to the Wonderland kingdom.
- Help keep watch with the current Cheshire over all portals connecting worlds.
He finished reading and looked up at the cat, who now stood on the countertop to be at eye-level—a mentor should be taller than his pupil, after all. “You do realize I have no idea how to go about doing any of these things, right?” Cheshire nodded. “Keep peoples of both worlds behaved?” he read again, “How the heck do I do that? I can’t make the people around me behave—let alone people I don’t even know.”
“There are Earthians who would love to get their hands on Wonderland, and likewise there are Wonderlanders who would love to get their hands on Earth. There are predators and mastermind tyrants on both sides, and it’s your job to make sure they behave. It’s quite vital. But don’t get your knickers in a twist just yet, Madnes; you’ll learn, and you’ve got that power to back you up—that power is quite important in making people listen to you.”
“Mastermind…tyrants…?” He wasn’t sure if his eyes could bug out of his head any further. He folded the paper up and put it in his pants pocket with a newfound anxiety. “Speaking of the power—” he began, when a bell jingled as the front glass door pushed open. Something short entered the office, and he had to lean over the counter to see who it was.
The most pristine woman he’d ever seen, complete with bonnet and red-rimmed glasses, approached them both—only she had a beak for a nose and a long white neck; in fact, despite her pricey garb, she was a goose. A rather large goose, compared to gooses in Okinala; she reached well above his waist. Her thick feathers like fingers adjusted the glasses as she eyed the human young adult and debonair cat.
“This is the Madness Solver Office, if I’m not mistaken, yes?” Her voice matched her pristine behavior. And a musk flower perfume hung in the air.
“Indeed it is, Madam Mother Goose!” Cheshire swiped his hat off and gave a bow.
“Mother…Goose…?” Madnes wanted to exclaim when a sharp little cat-boot heel met his big toe.
“What can we do for you, madam?” offered Cheshire.
“It’s my precious, yet so naughty, son, Ugly,” she explained, resting her hand bag on the counter while she did. “He’s gone and disappeared. I need you to find him, and bring him back to me safely—Not a feather on his head can be harmed!” A handkerchief she suddenly held dabbed at her bird eyes—much larger and more eyelashed than normal Earth birds.
“Where was he last seen?”
“Last night, at our home in the Shoe. I tucked him in for bed.”
“Hmm.” Cheshire looked to be taking notes. “Any ideas where he may have gone? Does he have a favorite place to hide, or a secret getaway?”
“Not that I know of,” she frowned as bitterly as her bill would allow. “Are you done questioning? This valuable time should be spent searching, not lollygagging about with questions!” She blew into her handcherchief. “Ohhhh, my poor Ugly. Poor, poor naughty Ugly!”
Madnes bit his cheek. Lollygagging? What a demanding, snooty…argh, he wanted to snatch that handkerchief away.
“Yes, well, I think we have enough to start on then,” said Cheshire, and taking care to ignore his incredulous look. “We’ll get on the case, straight away, madam. We’ll find your Ugly, don’t you worry about that!”
“Oh,” the handkerchief vanished and the tears stopped; she was back to her pristine self now that she got what she wanted. “Good, very good. I expect to hear from you soon.” She walked—waddled—to the door. “Remember: not a feather harmed,” she emphasized, as if she were the queen herself.
“Of course,” Cheshire bowed again, and the bell jingled her exit.
“Mother Goose from the nursery rhyme? And a snooty one, at that?” He was finally free to exclaim.
“A descendant. What, you’re surprised? Where did you think all of those stories came from? For hundreds of years Madness Solvers and select people have known about Wonderland and traveled to its world. Then several got the horrid idea to turn them into stories, and then into books. Like that Lewis man: turning our world into a story for profit. How rude is that? Making money off us is what it feels like,” Cheshire grumbled and dusted irate paws. “People in those tales were based off of real people, only twisted into a strange version.” He nodded to him, “Like the Hatter family, and the March’s family, and—”
“Wait, hold up! My ancestor was that crazy lunatic?! I refuse to be compared to that.”
“Not as crazy as they made him out to be in the tale. Just a bit like your mother is, I’d say.”
He was ready to protest, then thought about it. Mother was a bit quirky in her own way. “And are you the original Cheshire?” he leaned forward, studying the feline through narrow violet eyes.
“Goodness, no! I don’t have a mad giggle. And I don’t float about in pieces!—erm, well, maybe sometimes… But I absolutely never mad giggle! It was my lunatic of a relative of an ancestor who they got that Cheshire impression from, hmph!”
“Family history. Who ever would have guessed.” He finally sipped his finished iced coffee. “Maybe I should write a book, too, and make some money…”
A paw pinched his ear. “Try, and I’ll haunt you for life!”
“You already are.” He fended the paw off. “Why is she here? And you—any of you Wonderlanders—why do any of you want to live here?”
“Madnes, it’s rude to pry.” At his sidelong glare the cat shrugged furry shoulders. “Why do humans want to live on the moon? It’s airless, waterless, freezing degrees and you can never enjoy a shower again. Yet people still want to try it out. It’s the same thing.”
“…Huh?” Madnes squinted.
“Hoping for a better life in a new world. Getting a fresh start. Filled with the urge to explore. Or all of the above, combined. We aren’t that much different from you Earthians,” he gave a toothy grin.
“Now you look like your crazy ancestor.”
The grin wiped off. He tore a paper from a little notepad he’d jotted notes on and placed it on the counter. “We should get go—”
“Hm?” He was busy looking away, clearly still offended.
“Has the power ever…spoken to you?”
But at that he turned, facing him through wide cat eyes. “Spoken? Is that what you said?”
“…Yeah.” That reaction made him doubt whether he should’ve mentioned it.
“I’ve heard rumors from previous Cheshires—rumors passed down—but there was never any solid evidence… Are you—Did it speak to you? Did it have an appearance?”
“Ah, well, it sort of had wings like a fairy—those glistening see-through kind. And there was a lot of white everywhere, and mist. I’m not sure, it was hard to tell, very unclear. But…it was definitely a person, of some sort.” He let his voice drop, an uneasy feeling taking hold of him, “Do you know what It might be?”
Paw rubbed furry chin. “An old power from Wonderland…something ancient and forgotten…? I’m not sure, Madnes. But it may be worth looking into, during spare time.”
“You’ve got plenty right now,” his arms crossed.
“Don’t be silly. I have to help you find Ugly. You’re still a rookie at this.”
“Psssht! How hard can finding a duckling be? Besides, I need to start somewhere on my own without clinging to a cat’s tail for guidance—pardon the expression.”
Cheshire lifted a brow, scrutinizing him, then placed his miniature hat back on. “Very well, Madnes. Show me what you’re capable of. And, in the meantime, I’ll hop over to Wonderland’s library archives and see what I can dig up….”
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Dream.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your favorite to win!
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