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Jul 19, 2019 4:12 AM
Audrey in Wonderland
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"Bread and strawberries sounds wonderful, and I'll figure out otherfoods when I, um. Can remember how to say them."

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"Alright." 

They reach the kitchen, which is one of the few rooms in the house not full of hats. In fact, the only hat in here is the one on the Hatter's head. He starts looking in cupboards, and pulls out a loaf of bread from which he cuts Audrey a couple of slices. 

"Butter's safe, too," he says, fetching some and offering her a butter-knife.

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She wolfs them down even before buttering them, then looks at him plaintively. 

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He cuts more, plus one for himself, which he butters in demonstration just in case she doesn't know how.

"Were they not feeding you, back on Earth?"

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"Had to figure out how to feed myself, which wasn't so bad. Then I ran out of food, so I went looking and found a Wonderland instead. As well? As well." 

She stuffs another piece of bread in her mouth, and smiles with her cheeks full. 

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Could this...? No, they wouldn't have allowed...

"Do you remember having parents?" he asks carefully. "Or anyone who looked after you?" 

She might, he realises, not have the concept of parents if she never knew them. But she must have learned to talk somehow, so he can't be the first person she's ever talked to.

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"Ummm. No parents, no. There was a woman with silver hair, she gave me pillows and things. And there was a girl who was lost, like me. I found a way for her to stop living like that, but I couldn't come with her..."

She looks away. 

"... sorry, I don't like to think about it much. Do you have any grapes? Grapes are nice."

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"Yes, I think I have some grapes somewhere." He goes looking.

"They're one of the foods that do things, though, and I can't remember exactly what because it's not one I use. I just eat them two at a time so it doesn't affect me."

He finds a bunch of grapes, takes two, and offers the rest of the bunch to Audrey.

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Audrey pops them quickly into her mouth, not paying much attention to how many there are.

Nothing seems to happen. 

She smiles at the Hatter. "Alright, I think that's settled my stomach for now. So, if this isn't the place where isn't is, where is it? There certainly seems to be enough isn't issing for it to be the place where isn't is." 

Tapping her chin, she frowns. "Oh, I should probably say that like I would to a human. Ummmmmm. If this isn't a place where fantasies are real, what kind of place is it? It seems to have enough fantastic things to be a place like that."

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...'imperfectly and idiosyncratically' is apparently how she learned to talk. At least she can translate into regular speech, even if she doesn't always remember to use it.

"Are you not human, then? Or is it just that your regular conversation partners haven't been?" the Hatter wonders.

"This is Wonderland. It..." He sighs. "It used to be a place that one might describe as 'where fantasies are real'. Now, it's the place where the Queen's fantasies are real, and everyone else has to live with it."

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Audrey blinks. "I should hope not! I mean, you're not a human either, are you? All the interesting people pretend to be humans, but then you get to know them better and they're not. Humans are boring, they don't pay attention and they talk stupidly and they don't know the proper turnings of the world. People are much nicer."

She frowns. "This queen of yours sounds like she's a human." 

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So, in Audrey-speak, human and person are two mutually-exclusive categories? That...bodes well for her accepting Everless and other nonhuman persons, at least, even if it might require some translation.

"I don't know if she's a human biologically, or if she ever was, but she doesn't sound like your description of humans either," he says thoughtfully. "She definitely pays attention, and knows a lot about what goes on in Wonderland, and I wouldn't say she talks stupidly."

"Why call them humans? Why not...stupid people, or something like that?"

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"... being stupid is too vague? Being human is a specific kind of stupid, about being normal and correct and expected and assuming everything else is and trying to make anything or anyone that's not normal or correct or expected be human too. Humans don't understand it when people have more than one mind in the same body, or see sounds, or say that people who are supposed to be in charge are getting things wrong, or anything else strange. When you tell them they call you a liar: if you insist they call you crazy."

She looks at the Hatter seriously. "You have to be a little mad by human standards, if you want to be anyone at all interesting or good or kind." 

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"Well, it's a good thing I'm mad, then, isn't it?" he says with a charming smile.

"And I think you'll find Wonderland is full of mad people. Speaking of which, I should invite my friend Everless to meet you."

The Hatter starts rummaging through his pockets, eventually producing a pen, a small ink bottle, and a crumpled sheet of paper which bears the marks of having been folded up in his pocket for a long time. He starts writing a letter, still holding a slice of bread and butter in his other hand.

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She nods and smiles back. "I don't call them mad people unless they want to be called that. That's a human thing. I just call them people. Who's Everless?" 

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"Everless is a person who happens to be a raven," Hatter explains. To someone less likely to understand, he might have said, a person who spends most of her time in a raven's body, and before he understood, he would have said, a talking raven

"She doesn't like being called mad, but I do, and most of the people you meet here will cheerfully accept the label." He remembers his food exists, and takes two bites out of habit even though bread and butter wouldn't do anything.

"I'm guessing you prefer to be called a person," he continues. "What other labels do you accept? Girl, child...?"

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"Girl, definitely. Child... well, depends. Humans tend to use it to mean I can't do things for myself, which is obviously false. But it's certainly a fact about me that I'm a child. And I don't expect you to use it that way, you know?" 

She cuts herself another slice of bread, and butters it. This time she takes bites from it, rather than just stuffing it all into her mouth.

"A raven, hmm? That's not so bad a body. I wouldn't mind being one, if not for the lack of thumbs."

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"I'm glad you think so highly of me on such short acquaintance."

He laughs at the comment about thumbs. "Oh, Everless solves that problem with Wonderland food. Blackberries let her turn into a raccoon for tasks that needs thumbs. I think she'd prefer to have wings all the time, if it weren't for writing. Which reminds me," he says, leaning forward conspiratorially.

"Do you know," he whispers, as if it is a secret of great importance, "why a raven is like a writing-desk?"

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Audrey grins. "Oh, oh, I know this one! There are three traditional answers, all of which are wrong. In ascending order: 'it isn't', which is technically correct but betrays an amazing lack of creativity: the second is 'Because it's nevar put with the back end in front', which is wrong of writing desks, terrible to the language, and rude to ravens: and the third is 'Poe wrote on both', which is an acceptable pun but falls completely flat if the person you're talking to doesn't know Poe." 

Audrey adjusts her glasses. "If you want to know my honest answer... it's because if you need to share a secret, you can tell it to a raven or a writing-desk, and it will go to the people who should know."

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"That," he proclaims with delight, "is the best answer I have heard to that question in all the decades I have been asking it of people. I'd almost think you'd met Everless already, but..."  He trails off, struck by a thought again.

"No, the odds are astronomical. We calculated them once - " He cuts himself off with a shake of his head, coming to a decision. "I'll ask Everless what she thinks. I could very easily be imagining things, but if I'm right..."

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Audrey pauses. "... you know, it always seemed like I didn't quite fit right on earth, and that mirror looked... familiar. Are you going to tell me that you think I was originally from Wonderland?" 

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"I'm not sure, but I think it's possible," Hatter agrees. "If so, you went to Earth as a very small child, probably, since you don't remember."

He seems slightly distracted. "Do you remember where your name came from?" he asks, starting to write again.

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"I named myself. I'm not sure why Audrey: it just seemed to fit. Why? Should I have a different one?"

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"If Audrey is the name you chose, then it is your name. I was only asking because, if my theory happens to be right, you used to have a different one."

The Hatter finishes the letter and folds it into an envelope shape. After writing something on the back, he re-folds it into something more like a little paper bird, which starts flapping its wings once it's finished. Getting up from the table, he heads out of the kitchen and takes it to the front door, where he lets it fly away.

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Audrey smiles, shifting in her seat to watch the bird fly away. "That's a proper sort of letter, isn't it? Very obliging."

Then she looks back at the Hatter. "Go on, tell me about my maybe history then."

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