“We’re all mad here”

“So why do you think you’re here, Alice?”

I ponder the question for a while. “Well,” I say, “I think probably because of my cat.”

I don’t miss the eyebrow raise, despite her head being low over the notepad.

“Your cat?”

I nod.

“Why is that?”

“My Mother says we talk too much.”

“You and your Mother?”

“Me and the cat.”

“You and the cat?”

“Yes.”

She scribbles something down on the pad. “And, how much do you ‘talk’?” She says the word tentatively.

“Every day.”

More scribbling. “What do you talk about?”

“Everything.”

“Can you give me an example?”

I sit back and think for a while, “Yesterday we talked about flowers.”

“What did you discuss?”

“Roses.”

“What about them?”

“How nice it would be if the white roses in our garden were colourful. Red roses would be much more vibrant.”

“I see.” She scribbled some more.

“Now, tell me, how long have you been talking to your cat?”

“Since he arrived.”

“You didn’t buy him?”

“No, he came to us.”

“Was he homeless?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Was he micro-chipped?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did he have a name tag?”

“No.”

“So have you named him?”

“No, he told us his name.”

“And what’s that?”

“Chester.”

She flips over the page of her notepad and looks at me closely. “Alice, are there any other creatures you talk to?”

“Only my mouse.”

“You have a mouse too?”

“Oh yes, he and Chester get on very well.”

“That is surprising, to say the least.”

I say nothing, she takes this as a sign to press on. “Tell me Alice, does your mother talk to these animals too?”

I laugh, “Of course not! She doesn’t seem to notice them half the time.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, sometimes they’re right in front of her and she seems to walk straight through them.”

A heavy frown appears on her face. She writes a few more sentences and underlines some words. I can’t read her writing, it’s too scrawled.

“What did you write?” I ask.

Instead of answering she places both notepad and pen on the desk beside her, and shuffles more comfortably in her seat. She looks at me with a set expression. “Alice.” I know when she begins a sentence with my name it will be something patronising.

“Yes?”

“These creatures you speak to do not exist. Your mother has assured me you have no pets, I believe these are hallucinations.”

“They’re not.”

“Yet no one else can see them?”

“My best friend can.”

This takes her aback. She makes no effort to contain her shock, and frowns deeply again.

“Who is your best friend?”

“I don’t know his real name.”

“Why is that?”

“He won’t tell it to anyone.”

“So what do you call him?”

“Hatter.”

“That’s a peculiar name.”

“He makes hats.”

She shakes her head as if trying to understand a particularly difficult equation. “Hats.”

“Yes, big hats, little hats, top hats-”

“Ok, ok, I understand. Listen Alice, I am trying to help here. You need to take these sessions seriously, enough jabbering now.”

I smile, “Jabberwocky, jabberwocky, that’s a whole other story…” I can see she is becoming frustrated, not very professional at all.

“Make sense Alice, listen to yourself! I won’t sit here twiddling my thumbs while you spew out insignificant gobbledegook.”

“Ah, that’s right. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were there too.”

She takes a deep breath and leans forward, elbows resting on her knees, fingers arched under her chin. “I need to ask you a question Alice, and I need you to be truthful,” she begins, in a voice more suited to reprimanding an infant who has painted all over the walls. “What is this drug you’re taking? Where does it take you that makes it so good?”

I sit back and look through the window, away from her confused stare. Outside in the grounds a rabbit bounds across the grass. It disappears suddenly at the base of a tree. I stand up.

“Alice?” She’s nervous.

I smile encouragingly, “I just want some fresh air.”

“You need to answer my question Alice.”

“Well,” I continue looking through the glass. The rabbit has appeared again. It sits on its hind legs, nose tilted upwards as if trying to find a scent on the breeze. Then its eyes lock straight with mine. Its nose twitches in a satisfied sort of way. I smile again, “I guess, I guess you could say it takes me away, far away, to a sort of – a sort of wonderland.”

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