The Mad Hatter’s Macabre

     Some thought it was just a seedy little town, spreading its excrement to other parts of the world. 

The land of nowhere–in tune with the dance of death.  An invitation would be a ghastly dissertation, ensuring one’s departure to the untimely realm of happy-never-after.  Here is One such gatecrasher:

     His fingers curled at the tips due to a previous misfortune, like a guitar player with a single ominous strand.  The hatter thought it odd that his invitation to this invocation wasn’t forthcoming.  Yet his worn overcoat was a reminder of his exclusion.

     It was true he never enjoyed their company.  Yet there was something about this event, that mesmerized his mind to the point of attendance.  Perhaps, it was the intrigue or mystique of a sixteenth-century bridal shower or display of costumes arrayed in abundance, courting the halls.  Too, fine wine and delicious foods were delicacies he could hardly afford.

     There was a stroke of the eighth symbol on the clock in the hallway near the entrance.  In due time, the hatter would be ready.  Never mind showing up early or even on time, for that matter—at least not without an invitation.  They wouldn’t even know he was there and if he was detected by chance, the festive fools would be well drunk by then.

     Still, he paced the floor in the usual manner, grasping his chin while deep in thought.  It was most unusual to attend such an event without a proper proposal.  Indeed, his behavior was alarming for such a backward fellow who spent most days in seclusion. 

    What would the festive dwellers think of his personal influence?  Would they greet him warmly with well-drunken kindness or encourage his dismissal?  He grew disturbed at the latter.  “Why I have just as much a right to be there as anyone!”  He pounced his cane against the old wooden floor beams.

     Perhaps, the courier was unable to deliver due to the displacement of his invitation.  A situation like this is certain to occur now and again with the imperfection of spirits in their duties.  He grew satisfied with the latter.  “Just a simple oversight,” he concluded while withdrawing to his rocking chair.  He grew tired of deliberating and quietly dozed off to sleep.

     What inner dreams befell such a one?  How nobler still his thoughts than a thousand dreams of nobility in ten thousand foolish men!  In the distance, he heard a cacophony of hoofbeats as smoke ascended from a northern sphere moving in his direction.

     He surveyed the landscape for an oasis, but the long foregoing raids blistered the landscape, rendering it inhospitable.  The reportable shrubs and small foliage brought little comfort from the incubus moving forward swiftly in a hegemonic fashion.  He was horrified by the lack of shelter and heaping waste of the surrounding sphere.  What had happened to this precious commodity, weaving into its fabric such ruin?

     He concluded his position was hidden momentarily from the valley formation surrounding him.  Should they continue to move in his direction, his only alternative would be to blend in with the scenery somehow.  Perhaps, they were not hostile in nature and would suffice to befriend him or at least, pass by disinterested.  The smoky apparition rendered their numbers inestimable.

     His thoughts turned toward the murderous eclipse, aborting the sun’s exposure.  The atmosphere turned grey and dismal, casting obscurity on the horizon.  He was powerless to outrun the demented shadows leaping toward his bosom!  How he hoped they would withdraw or change coordinates, though it all seemed improbable.

     Nervously, he sighed and sat down in crouch formation, watching the beast’s ascension.  Its appearance was contrary and hideous.  Anxiety and sadness swept over him as he lowered his head in contrition.  What had all this come to?  He wept from the ugliness, the morbidity, and the decadence. 

     Tears streamed down his cheekbones, leaving an imprint from the recoiling winds.  It would have been too much to desire a different scenario than the one he now faced.  Time left no escapable recourse, and he was all alone.

     Hoofbeats pounded the pavement, drawing the old man’s attention.  He covered his ears.  What power arose beneath its dusty veil, this hypocrisy of valiance in the shadows of the undead!  Remorse turned to dread.  He was blighted by their fervor and ghastly persuasions.  Why were they gloating in a war-like fashion and who was their perceived perpetrators?  It was a ridiculous notion he could defend himself against such a mob.  The fate of his vitality rested on their approval or disapproval.

     The apparition drew closer as it descended into the valley.  He heard a humming sound breathing from the beast’s womb that birthed the conjoining of many little beasts, singing in rapture of their supremacy.  In the distance, it appeared as one with their voices joined in unison.  Yet, the tone was staccato and revolting.

      Swiftly, he searched the area again and the winds blew wildly, distorting his vision.  He grasped the collar of his overcoat and shielding his face from further injury, retrieved in the opposite direction. 

     The sun forced its position on the earthen vessel and the ground gave way to a reddish clay appearance.  Some areas were absorbed with deep reddish earthen tones and others were lighter in texture.  It was both magnificent and dreadful as his mind fixated on the oncoming Jezebel.

     In suffering salutation, he dropped to the earth for further seclusion, resting his temple on a wayward rock.  The ground coursed through his temple as he closed his eyes, unable to defend even the hairs on his forehead.

     Distance altered the apparition’s appearance, now less than a furlong away.  Slowly, the roar diminished as the old man continued to lay comatose in fear.  He heard faint voices, but their words were indistinct.

    The dust settled and still, he moved not a limb.  “If death is what they are searching for, then death is what they shall find,” he whispered to himself.  He trembled as several hoofbeats drew closer.  The figures descended from horseback and proceeded to his location.

  Within moments, a sharp blow struck his midsection.  “Get up,” a voice ordered.  The old man feigned feebleness as another struck his forehead.  The painful blow coursed through his head and eardrum, as blood escaped his temple, curtailing any desire to defend himself. 

     He lay there for a moment, disoriented, as the vagrants dragged him to his feet.  He limped from the pain that coursed through his body anonymously, detracting from the wound’s circumference.

     Slowly, his eyesight returned as the men forced him onto a stallion.  What did they want of him?  He had no token of wellness or riches to deter their minds.  He was consumed by their endless greed of the landscape and forthright manner in approaching him.  The blows, too, were insulting, as well as injurious.

     The two figures mounted on horseback, and one clasped the old man’s reins, while the other followed close behind.  He noticed the men were in rogue attire with dark veils, shielding their foreheads from the sun’s warmth. 

     What strange covering for a militant group, and he pondered on their lack of armor and proper weaponry.  Their surety was embarked on the similitude of their vast numbers and the deadly curvature of their allegiance, as he faced the apparition’s tribunal.

     His eyes forced adjustment to the prevailing winds that moved swiftly through the valley.  The dust counteracted with a powerful display, the apparition’s potency.  Dark veils covered the entire valley floor in such vast numbers, he was unable to fathom their sum.

     The lots were cast against him as he approached the maelstrom.  The horses and riders separated, letting him pass by without injury as he approached the prefects.  The men in front were adorned with aristocratic costumes displaying their leader’s position.  A voice commanded their removal and the aristocrats retreated by the wayside.

     From the midst of the circle, a woman emerged on a beautiful black stallion.  She was arrayed in a black gown, more fashionable than her henchmen, yet frayed from time’s exposure.  Her hat, too, was stylish, unlike the masses who followed, with a display of black lace, caressing the breeze.

     “What do you want of me?” The old man replied awkwardly.

     The woman shrilled disapprovingly, “What could you possibly have that I would want? Look around you.  This place is unfit for habitation.”  The old man winced at her tone, though her voice was recognizable.  Surely, they had met before in passing. 

     “Further south, there’s an abundance of provisions for all of us.  I’m sure, even conveniences an old man like you would enjoy.”

     Could it be?  Her voice sounded like that of his long-departed wife yet mingled with the unsavoriness of wormwood.  Her appearance was so emaciated and abhorrent, he could hardly gaze upon her. 

     “Unless, of course, you choose to be a hindrance.” 

     The old man looked down at his curled fingertips and nodded in agreement.  Their numbers were too vast, and any resistance would initiate further antipathy.

     The general shouted over his shoulder and beckoned the grey hoods to move forward.  The assembly obeyed, each following mindlessly behind the other.  Their stride was subservient to the woman’s approval and dissident gestures, displaying her powerful position.

      He gazed over at her dark veil, pulled back from the wind, revealing her grey, pale skin.  The resemblance to his deceased wife was uncanny, yet remarkably repugnant.  Her eyes were encased in grey circles, revealing a woman well past her prime.  Was there some decrepit well or fount of youth that struggled to keep her alive?  Her presence stank like a pool of rotten corpses on a humid Sunday! 

     Where was this land of prosperity?  He wanted nothing to do with her lavish proposals.  For many years, he strove for the betterment of society while she pilfered his works to ruin.  Destitution was her gift to him.

     Inconsolable, he whispered in his silent chamber, “Ms. Malady, Ms. Malady, why do you visit me?”

     The woman twisted her head in the old man’s direction displaying the fangs of a bloodthirsty canine.  She opened her mouth further, heaving bloody mistletoe in the old man’s face.  He dodged the brunt of the force and the impact struck the hindquarters of the horse to his right.  Immediately, the flesh turned gangrenous, followed by atrophy of the benefactor’s wound, and the horse fell to the earth motionless.

     The old man’s vision was consumed with blood and gall.  Her gory potion agitated the blood vessels around his pupils with an immediate succession of coagulation.  The infection pulsated through his forehead with tremendous leverage, rendering confusion and misconception.

     The mawkin watched with contempt at the maelstrom of suffering hidden within his bosom until he slowly lifted his head.  The ground trembled with resonance while his eyes burned embers of fiery indignation.

The earth’s crust fissured from the old man’s deliberation and sweltered from his perspicacity. Chaos overwhelmed the horses and their riders, while the herd disbursed into smaller swarms from the pandemonium and fluctuation of the earth’s cavity.

     These conditions were only temporal as a great chasm opened to his left and right.  The siren and her entourage plunged into the dark abyss.

     The clock tolled midnight, waking the old man from his slumber.  He sat in his rocking chair recalling the memories of his long-departed wife.  Her image in his sleeping vision was brutal and depraved.  What had become of her since their last engagement?

     The woman in his dream possessed no qualities of his true love, though they inhabited the same body.  She departed this earthly realm and a scoundrel, full of foul witchery, spoliated her body.  It was iniquitous and criminal, sacrilegious and debase.  He felt robbed of the due benevolence that should have accompanied her from their association.  This woman was unknown to him.

     Time beckoned the old man from his reflection and he realized he was due for a present engagement at the House of Commonwealth.  He drew from his rocking chair with uneasy steps.  A fireplace and mantle consumed much of the perimeter of one wall with an adjacent closet near the front entrance.

     His stride was sullen from his dream and stiffness accompanied his joints.  He reached in the closet for his overcoat, a black drawn cape, and top hat.  He had worn the top hat before on auspicious occasions such as funerals and weddings.  As of late, it set accumulating dust. 

Time had left an inconsolable sadness that he had somehow been forgotten by the town’s folk.  It would have been a small gesture to consider his presence.  His absence of descendants was not applicable in their minds and entitlement was inconceivable.

     A large oval-shaped mirror hung on the wall near the entrance.  The old man slipped into his costume as the tightness in his muscles relaxed.  He positioned the top hat, turning his head left and right in the mirror, laughing anonymously.  “Why, you jolly good chap.  How strikingly appropriate if I should say so myself.”  He tipped his hat, “Madam, so fiendishly delighted to meet you.”  Again, he positioned his hat, and a surge of energy pulsated his frame.  His laughter this time turned dreadful.  “You’re just a mad hatter, aren’t you?  Mad hatter of…Canterbury?  No, no, no.  How about Montague?  No, too elegant for this occasion.”  A feminine whisper echoed in the mirror, “…Macabre.”

     He reached into the oversized bureau and retrieved two objects.  Their position gleamed with the light’s dispersion, reflecting off the mirror as he buried them deep in his pockets.  He gave one last glimpse in the mirror in passing.  The dissentients of his pupils glowed with the stirring of embers on a dark, wintery night.  Gently, he closed the door behind him while the mirror lamented, “…Macabre.”

     Old faithful, his stalwart mare, was waiting outside for his association.  She had served him well over the years, during fortune and misfortune.  He mounted her with ease, and she whinnied in approval, nodding her head.  “Let’s go girl,” he responded.  “We have an engagement to attend to.”

     The night was eerily quiet as they passed the old church house.  It reminded him of his childhood days when time seemed endless and the cares of the world had not yet affected him.  The passage of playful youthfulness dissipated with the years, rendering his mind sequestered.  “As it should be, I suppose.  You’ll always be by my side, won’t you Adie?”  He patted the mare’s neck.  She neighed in familiarity as they trotted past the post office and barber shop.

     Silence ensued, except for the clip-clop of the old mare’s steps.  “Haven’t seen the light of this place for a while.  It’s a hard road to follow when a fellow’s not welcome.”

     Off in the distance, laughter and music permeated the air.  “Hear that Adie?  Sounds like a real humdinger, eh?  Maybe it’s high time we humbug this hobnob.”  The mare nodded in response to the old man’s tone.

     Gravitas settled over the hatter’s demeanor as they rounded the bend to the House of Commons.  “Whoa, little lady, slow down a bit.” 

     The structure’s overview was dilapidated and ill-conceived with a Gothic arch over the entrance.  The building suffered from much neglect over the years.  While once it stood for hope, it now offered desolation. 

     The dungeon echoed with the ghastly taunts of its guests while a few well-wishers tossed coins in a nearby fountain.  The shattering of fragility could be heard within its structure.

     The old man dismounted the mare and stroked her chin.  He whispered confidentially in her ear and turned his gaze toward the stony asylum.  The heavy doors belched from the exit of well-drunken partygoers and last-minute arrivals.

     He ascended the winding steps leading to the veranda and the heavy doors were unforgiving of the old man’s vitality.  He resisted the urge to initiate a scene of undue force.  Several times, he rapped with considerable grace, and each time, his presence was unduly ignored.

     After several attempts, the hatter grew angry with the contraption and tugged with considerable force.  The doors released their grip as the discourteous partygoers exited, knocking the old man aside.  Though his patience suffered more than he cared to admit, he straightened his top hat and quickly penetrated the hiatus.

    The hatter entered the vestibule still recovering from the uncouth manner of the previous guests.  The front parlor was lined with velvety red carpet and a lectern to one side.  A book lay open with the names of all the attendees and their guests.  He felt the rudiments of attending a party without a butler and quickly discarded the thought since he lacked an invitation.

     The front parlor opened into a fantastic reception hall with music and celebration.  A group of young women walked by, arrayed in extravagant costumes.  A few were adorned in green silk and another, gold.  The old man politely tipped his hat as the women continued by, unaware of his presence.

     A magnificent chandelier hung from the cathedral-style ceiling over the dining area.  Many of the candles had expired, casting dismal shadows over the stony floor.  Beyond the height of the chandelier was a huge stain-glassed window, partially broken, reflecting the moon’s dissidence.

     Inconspicuously, the old man wandered toward the dining tables, watching the crowd frolic about in drunkenness.  He was disturbed by the milling of maidens in their conquest for succulence, while the bagpipes played a sour note in response.  The scene lacked propriety though acceptable in the shadowy delirium of each other’s company.

     The hatter’s disturbance rang with the equal consistency of their inability to address one another with genuine decorum and respectability.  Indignation erupted within at their overzealous trivialities and financial persuasions.  They were unable to comprehend the very nature of their omissions while wallowing in the muck of filthy lucre.

     The hatter’s madness increased as he gazed down at the table of dainties.  A few hours before, the display would have delighted the inspection of any one of the most scrupulous guests.  Now, the preparations were spoiled by the previous toadies, leaving a scrap heap for the delayed arrivals.

     Two ladies approached unaware of the hatter’s presence, immersed in conversation and sipping champagne.  The hatter tossed the appetizer in disgust and reached into his pocket for a handkerchief.  “Filthy pigs,” he muttered.

     The women looked in his general vicinity and the hatter stepped forward.  “Ladies?”  He tipped his hat in their presence.  “Would you be inclined to discuss the overindulgence of this fine table?  And perhaps you could enlist your condolences over the decadence of the general locality.” 

     The ladies, well-drunk giggled in response.  “Yes, well, I see you both are wearing beautiful fine ornaments.  Your costumes are quite exquisite for such, should I say, hap-less souls.”

     The eldest of the two responded with a mixture of drunken amusement and apprehension.  “Sir, I don’t believe we’ve met.”  She displayed her gloved hand.

     “No, I don’t believe so.”  The old man mockingly kissed her hand, not allowing her to rescind the offer. 

     She withdrew in anger, massaging her wrist.  “Well, I never…!”

     “You never what, madam?  You never thought perhaps others might have need of the victuals you’ve so caustically profaned?”

     “I assure you, I’m not the only one who spoiled this table!”  Her voice rose to a shrill.

     “No, but you are one of the many who assumed I wouldn’t mind.”

     “You are a very rude old man!”  The woman exclaimed, positioning her hand on her hip.

     “That may very well be, but you, madam, are a Jezebel.”  His voice rose over the delirium of the auditorium, and several faces gathered to witness the confrontation.

     “Step up, dear acquaintances, and join in our debate over Ms. Jezebel’s inadequate behavior at my table.”

     “Who is this man?”  A fellow bellowed while moving to the front of the crowd.

     “I am the Great Commissioner of aristocratic descent, though unrecognizable to you.  You must be Cain, Jezebel’s husband, or one her headless coterie.”  The men pressed further in retaliation to the hatter’s words, while the crowd protested his attendance.

     A tall and gaunt fellow with an authoritarian demeanor stepped forward.  “Sir, this is not your table and if you would be so inclined to respect the other guests, you may continue in our festivities.”

     “Your festivities are not my concern.  It’s your sycophantic gluttony that leaves me inflamed,” the old man responded.

     “Where’s his invitation?” a woman bellowed from behind while the crowd agreed.

      “Yes, we implore you to produce an invitation,” the tall spokesperson demanded.

     “Implore?” The mad hatter bellowed with contemptuous laughter.  “Since when did the bearer of this festivity need an invitation?”

     The crowd gazed around at one another in confusion.  “Yet, let me assure you, ladies and gentlemen, I am not only the bearer but the deliverer!”

     The mad hatter’s voice transformed into a feminine pitch as his mask unveiled and fell to the floor.  A woman emerged with strikingly charcoal hair and moonlit beauty.  Her black leather glistened in the dim light and the crowd gasped. 

     “Why so shocked?  The old man transpired many years ago.  If any of you had sought his company, you would have known this much.”  The crowd stepped back further in fear.

     “Kali, the Destroyer, is your savior now!” She crossed her forearms and withdrew two gleaming rapiers from her side.  “Look up, ladies and gentlemen!”  The foundation buckled in response.  “Your redemption is upon you!” 

     The cathedral ceiling splintered with the oscillating structure, and the crowd disbursed in shrieks of horror.  The chandelier swayed from the earth’s vibration and descended with a thunderous crash.  The candles ignited several tapestries, causing smoke and fire throughout the auditorium.

     The assembly fled to the front entrance, but a smoky apparition appeared, blocking the vestibule.  Kali raised her swords and with the scourge of a hundred warriors, slew the stampede. 

Several fled in the opposite direction, escaping through windows and other exits.  When the bloodshed was finished, Kali bowed her head, secured the rapiers to her side, and gently closed the door behind her.

     The restless mare was anxiously awaiting the return of her master.  She swiftly jumped the winding steps in doubles and mounted the horse with ease.  The mare, nervous from the chaos, raised her front quarters in response. 

Kali held the reins tightly, “Come on girl, let’s go!” The huge stained-glass window exploded with an ebullition of shards and debris regurgitating the last of its remains.

     They sped away on a remote path and after a few furlongs, she turned and gazed at the edifice.  The structure was consumed with fire, lighting up the night like a blazing torch.

     She patted the mare’s neck.  “Told you I’d fool them.  In their minds, I was just a weak old man.”  The torch cast dim shadows across Kali’s face.  “Where to now, girl?  Rome, perhaps?”  The mare neighed in response, and they galloped away, into the night. 

The Mighty Hoofbeats of One penetrated the darkness with a blaze of glory that could be seen for many miles, in search of the danse macabre.