2 Years Ago
I cease for a moment and pinch the dramatic tone from peeling over into my next statement as I work to stand from my vintage accent chair. Tall and equipped with an abundance of padding, it is a sleep inducing nook simply on fabric alone. I’m always hitting the floor toes first due to my own shortcomings (again no pun intended) so I often have to thrust myself from its hold by utilizing the expertly carved arms - clearly sculpted by a talented individual long ago - as my bearings to jump down and to regain balance. I look in their direction and with a slight sigh, I offer more condolences than rhymes.
As they they stood in front of me, this quadruplet of once intended-to-be-Alices, I became more assertive and played to their nostalgic remembrance of our first encounter.
That was 15 years ago that I saved them.
Now, these girls have turned full bred women and were isolated and kept under my watchful eyes and remained there until I felt them completely trustworthy to mingle (at very specific times) with the outside world. Their devotion to me and complete gratefulness for sheltering them from further abusive was still ever thriving and has only increased over the course of fifteen years. I continued enforcing my love for them for my own gain, and my own perfected deceit has become second nature. Don't get me wrong. These girls grew up under my care but they, just like everything else that has opposed me in my past and will oppose me in the future, they will not stand in my way from obtaining and recreating a better Gotham! A Hatter's Gotham. I can certainly use their loyalty though. As much combative preparation/training and physical toughness, years of hellish workouts, and early sister-ish bonding evolving into an unstoppable unit of death dealing, they have been and will be a proverbial ace in the hole - literally hahahahah - for an imaginative and intricate but so simple plot. Everyone will see!
I have a soft spot for them, I do... but there are bigger things that harden the very tissue behind that very small soft area that their likeness for me have kneeded within me. So I placate to their development and manipulate my words to suit each and every one of them. For they can help me achieve my goals.
A grin ensues as I see how the appreciative and cherishing outlook of me, Jervis Tetch, is molded across their faces. I knew they were entranced after my third word. A fiddle. Four fiddles on elementary settings, I played them flawlessly.
Come now my children, you've earned this.
Brought into this world victims of deviant behavior by ones meant to care for you most, they were a rather easy target for what I wanted to do. Honestly, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do at that time. All I knew was that I craved a cemented status. Whether it was out of fear or respect, I would do whatever it took to gain control of such a clueless and lazy society. A swift kick in the nads would wake up a sheep like society such as this one. If they needed to be awoken though, I really want nothing to do with them as those: the poor, the homeless and the struggling understand. Without much in their life, they tend to truly appreciate opportunity. Mad Hatter's City, whether a Pawn or a Bishop or a King, you would be awarded opportunity under my rule! You'll all have purpose if I so deem it.
As for Pyer, Violet, Karys and Dunn, they all experienced despicable acts perpetrated on their self. Some were abused and neglected. One of them was fed scraps (if their guardians remembered them). Cold, alone, and learning to live quietly in the shadows; a weeping soul of single digit age left to fend for herself in her own abyss, a dim and locked cellar; chained to a thick pillar in the corner of the room adjacent to a useless furnace. Nothing more than an out of style hunk of metal. A child finding the will to live under such unrelenting and undeserved torture was the precursor that brought them to me. In her (Pyer’s) personal scenario, a constant but forgiving solitude was her only friend. Considering...
Considering the ones who would visit her occasionally and.. use her. Again and again. Bloody responses and dirty mattresses did nothing to stop the reoccurring assaults on her innocence.
Their penchant for making amends with who they once were reminded me of myself. Hence why they survived under my tutelage for so long.
I was a laughing stock for a cruel god. My existence here was intended only for indecent gazes at my stature with immediate shame and pity for Jervis. A quick double take ensuing their glance before they pretended that they couldn’t see me was the norm. It still is. But at least I understand it now. At least I am aware of what compulsions drive me to do the things that I do! All I wanted was acceptance and the compassion that the rest of humanity so often shows among themselves. Why was that so bad? Why was I wrong in desiring it?
Is what I would have once said.
Humanity is a pit of misery and pain and no one truly cares about anyone. From mothers drowning all of their children in the bathtub one by one because she's "sick"; to a mother stuffing her baby's head into a shoe box in an effort to conceal her wrongdoing; to a sardonic cheating father murdering his youngest daughter in front of her sister via suffocation and then doing the same to said witness; to a grandmother stabbing into and cutting off a screaming newborn's arms while humming along to a gospel soundtrack.... am I really all that Mad? The answer is Yes. I am.
These girls looked to me, Tetch - The Mad Hatter for guidance and life support. If I wanted to care for these angels I would need to keep them safe and in seclusion for as long as possible. Was it for my own means? Of course but at least they were better off with the Hatter than they were with the deviants that littered the populace.
I had so many locations across Gotham to house my girls but none of those was ever going to be a hundred percent safe from that uptight bumbling crusading psycho that perches atop rooftops. So I wasted no expense and I wasted no secretion of brain matter that still functioned normally in even my ill - fated but abnormally sized skull.
I hid them near water and raised them as my own for a very, very long time.
I trek far away and into distant lands in order to convince the most skilled fighters and some of the most deadly mercenaries to download all of their knowledge onto my girls. They weren't that hard to find actually. If they were hesitant or denied - most of them were - a dose of encouragement that was located tucked into my sleeve came in the form of white powder. I would rile it up into a gust of wind as I would subtly exhale in order to propel the grains of influence into their faces and invade their senses. A quick huff and puff transitioned them from unwilling participant to getty volunteer. My girls trained hard and battled through massive sores and gaping wounds. Decade old scars adorned the toned extremities of them all. With special forces style endurance, pinched nerves, torn muscles, broken bones and mental draining was every Thursday for them. Their discipline and reliance on each other was astounding. They would know that it was necessary to brave this era of their life and they did. The blood was no longer the only difference between the four of them but it was an irregularity. A farce. They might as well have been spun from the same origin and mother seeing how close they had gotten.
They were dangerous and they were mine.
Back at my most unknown and concealed residence, only known to me and them, I unlatch the door from what they've known for fifteen years with tears welling up around my eyes. Another uneven feature from a dissimilar symmetry that made up my rough and naturally gnarled face. I gripped the handle already nearly unhinged from the bolted frame (my upkeep on this particular place wasn’t a main priority seeing how they had gotten older and wiser) with forced heartache drawn on my face. Adding onto that, I made it as though it was difficult for me to look at them due to the immense "sadness" I was feeling. Pyer stepped forward. Her silhouette clashing with the intruding moonlight as she approached the exit. The other three followed behind but began to flank my view of the outside in what seemed to be a planned catechism on their part. I knew what was coming but the dramatic aspect of this exchange was still necessary. Pyer began,
"Father we know who you are. We know what you are and why you tend to appear and disappear for days and weeks, and even months on end."
I pretended to wipe away tears and stayed an approaching smile. I then looked up at her waiting for her to continue.
"People aren't like us. Our own parents beat on and refuted our very existence. We all gave up on life long ago, father. It is because of you that we harbor even a modicum of hope. We know that your past attempts to change others into beings of wonder and acceptance has been thwarted by the Batman.
Pyer says while seeming to be deeply bothered by the fact that the dark knight has been so successful against her savior. An under achieving genius with an intangible handicap; primarily his Alice obsession interfering with his detailed and extravagant plans. Of which, would work on almost anyone had the Mad Hatter not pursued acceptance for most of his life. With reassurance of his relevance taking priority, the compulsion for it blinded Jervis to what his potential could be.
Last night all of that disintegrated and his true purpose was laid out before him. Pyer's description of what ails Mad Hatter continues to impress Tetch.
"But it is also because you collapse and falter in your ideals when it isn't fun or fit your world."
"Don't you think I know that.." I begin before being drowned out by the inner thoughts of sheer honesty from Pyer. I'd have to admit, she was right. She was always a very observant and curious young woman. I listened for what else she had to say.
"You're a highly capable man, father. You are worth so much more than half assed robberies, corny schemes and lyrical wordplay. You fail because inside of you, deep inside of you, you are just like all of us were before you recused us. Lost and wandering around in a world and in a society where you don't fit in. By opposing force and by exhausting hopes for acceptance, do you now yield to standards placed by people around you that don't understand you and have no interest in ever doing so? You believed in us and gave us what we needed most."
"What's that?" I ask still fixated on every motion of her lips. The way they keep moving, the more raging a fire burns within me to prove her right. She's impressed me with her hypothesis on my life of crime and why it hasn't panned out. I am however still enthralled with inner excitement. An abundance of butterflies flutters inside my chest and tickles my lungs as I give deep breaths because literally every thing she has said is what I expected her to. They won't leave. Even if I open the door and offer them to. No mind control needed. They want to be alongside me, for me! And in that is a success!
Mossandra spoke with certainty, excitement, love and conviction all at once.
"You made us believe, father. Let's make Gotham believe in you. Let us help you. We can make everyone believe wholeheartedly in the Mad Hatter. In us.
(Inner doubt combats my apparent prediction of their choices and words being correct. I very much enjoyed being four, five, six steps ahead but -
Are they even capable of eliminating hurdles/lives to get what they want?)
I surveyed what I had created and looked every one of them in the eyes.
"I, I just am not sure if.."
I halt my twitching nerves as I gaze at an open floor in an area where it shouldn't be empty. I recalled the previous night's interaction with my most recent flawed Alice and pondered why her slain carcass was no longer there. I glanced toward the nearest wall as the door had been swung ajar and the moon continued to provide a clearer view in the darker corners of the house. The brightness of the moon cut through the night and lit my tiddly shape, effectively tossing my dim shadow on an otherwise blank white canvas that hung no pictures but I was not a singular silhouette for long. I was joined by a trio-like contour of figures that were of similar size and stood idle beside me as their shadows met mine.
"She's gone." The one on the right muttered matter-of-factly. I began to turn around and my timid stance was now one of unsureness and complexity.
"She is taken by the undertoe by now."
Violet speaks up.
"Or she was eaten. A lot of sharks come close to the shore this time a year."
"Yeah, that trash is long dead by now. She was really pretty though, even when dead." Dunn said unapologetically as she un-bottoned a bottom clip of her cyclist jacket; a black leather one with the letters AIF on the left shoulder patch. A personalized touch for the youngest of them. I was then finally able to respond.
"Where did --" I start to request the scene in which the act took place.
"A bay out of town." Dunn said as she dug her ringed fingers in her pockets. She's always wore rings on every finger. This time she hid her hands for more of a convenient posture than anything. Dunn was the youngest and the second birthed of her Karys. Karys was three minutes older than her.
I find myself disappointed at the lack of creativity or the caution they need to cover their tracks as I go on confused.
" The only body of water that aggressive sharks navigate is under constant surveillance by a private militia; cold blooded killers extensively trained in the art of war. Surely there are cameras and constant security maintaining the docks. I mean, if.." Again, I was interrupted.
"There were." Karys said as she stepped beside a stoic and motionless Pyer.
"There was security. Armed and dangerous and on high alert seeing as its perimeters were cloaked and guarded by hundreds of yards of barbed wire, sixteen snipers, electrical fencing, guard dogs and a literal mine field."
Dunn chimes in almost unnecessarily:
"We needed alot of cement blocks. Extra for the chubby ones."
"It took a couple more minutes than we thought it would."
Pyer's face never changed as she awaited my thoughts. I couldn't resist my feelings (something Iost long ago) of anger, sadness, disappointment, and confusion devolving into a single emotion - un-repressed joy.
"So, we heard you talking to yourself last night. We want in.
Can we get started?" Violet said quickly.
I glanced up, as she was quite tall. Even more than her sisters, Violet towered over me. Etched across my face was the evidence of what I was feeling - an unforced smirk. My question had been answered. I hadn't had much to say during this interaction but there was so much to listen to! They were everything I thought they were going to be, and more! The plan to give them a choice to stand by my side or leave the mansion couldn't have gone better. A smile was indefinitely plastered on the rigid and knobbly base of my jaw before I let my response seep out:
Mad Hatter:" My Girls. "