notes // i planned to write this for nanowrimo but then my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and i started writing it immediately because he always wanted to read my writing and i didn't want to show him fanfiction... it took half a year before i worked up the courage to post it so, even if you only get through the first paragraph, thank you for reading
He climbed the hill with his bouquet, and looked over the edge of the cliff. Waves crashed on the rocks as a cold wind swept the shore. When the sea had calmed again, he let the flowers down, watching as they flitted away and scattered above the shadow in the water.
✻ ✻ ✻
He woke up from a long sleep at the tap of rain on his cheek. He could feel the grass between his fingers and the cold on his skin, but his eyes could only see the dark. For a long time, he was unsure of where he was, or if he was awake at all.
"Ha...breathing...s he dead-"
A voice, faint and skipping like a pulse, reached him from somewhere in the distance.
"O...ine he....ust sleeping-"
His eyes cracked open to a pale sky. Pine trees circled around his head, bending and sighing in the wind as the caw of a lone crow echoed around the empty space. They began to chorus from every direction, and he watched in a daze as clusters of black feathers burst from trees and took to the sky. A shadow stretched over his head, blocking out the rain and the light. He blinked at it with bleary eyes until it gradually took the shape of a human face.
The shout gripped his ears. They rang from the shock as the shadow - human, man - shifted his focus back to him. "Are you alright?" he asked in smaller voice.
There was a sound of hurried footsteps in the grass, and he felt a hand clap around his wrist as another pressed against his back. The trees seemed to tilt and spin as he rose to a sitting position, and found that two other men had now crowded around him. One was older and broader, while the other was slight and young and looked as horrified as he did curious. They were all dressed in dusty overalls, with grass-stains on the knees.
He rubbed his eyes with the sleeve of his jumper and looked down at the muddle of broken twigs and branches all around him. Then, tipping his head back, he squinted up at the cloud of white fabric snared in the top of a tree. There was a murmur of overlapping voices, before the cogs in his head slowly ticked into motion, and everything began to feel a bit more real and a bit less like a dream. His voice came out a rasp when at last he asked, "Where am I?"
"The Caterpillar Wood," came the reply.
This odd string of words meant nothing to him. Separately, they all meant something, but together, he couldn't make much sense of it.
The men stared at him for a moment, then silently exchanged glances.
"...Do you think his head's alright?"
"Maybe he's got amnesia."
They looked at each other again, much graver now than before. His stomach knotted when they turned their attention back to him.
"Ah... Alright," the older one began. "Let's see now... What year is it?"
"Uh," his face blanked, he lowered his gaze. "...I'm not sure."
The older one rested his hands on his knees and rose to his feet. He shook his head as he started back into the trees. "He's got amnesia, alright. Hatt, take him to the hospital, will you?"
[ My name is Swift. ]
The younger of the three stood up and trailed after him. "Amnesia... What a strange word... Am-ni-zi-ahhhh..." He paused to glance back at Swift, and called to the older one, "Do you think he remembers how to spell amnesia?"
"Don't go digging for apples! Who knows if he knew how to spell it in the first place?" he chided. "Leave him be, now. Got enough trouble as it is..."
They vanished into a thicket of trees with their wheelbarrow of saws and clippers, and from their direction soon came the sound of a tree falling.
[ I'm 28 years old. I enjoy factoring polynomials, pretending I know a great very many things, and speaking like I was born in the 1600s. My favourite colour is red, and my favourite food is butter. Just butter. ]
The hand that had been supporting his back gave him a gentle pat.
"Amnesia..." he mused. "That sounds rough."
[ And I am not an amnesiac. ]
He came around to face him, and offered his hand. "Can you stand?"
The answer to that question was just as much a mystery to Swift. It felt as though his legs hadn't been used for days. Taking his hand, he slowly came onto his feet, stumbling a bit as he found his balance. Twigs and dirt rolled off his clothes, and he stared at the dried mud on his hands, wondering to himself how long he'd been lying in the grass.
"Alright," he said to Swift. "Let's go."
There was a moment of silence, and of stillness when Swift curiously looked him in the eyes.
[ For the purpose of giving context to the events recorded in this journal, I'll first give a brief history of the events leading up to this point.
2068 A.D. → American scientist Lagado Balnibarbi publishes a paper that utilises Einstein's theory of relativity and Nietsnie's theory of ytivitaler to map a potential guide for a time travelling device.
2073 → After five years of heated scientific and congressional debate, a government funded research team sets out to refine Balnibarbi's design and construct the device.
2081 → The iDecidusTempus is completed. Because its shape is similar to a boat with wings, it is popularly referred to as simply: the time ship. After several devastating test trials, a human is sent on a voyage to the future for the first time in documented history. In the meantime, the country plunges into an unprecedented recession as a result of the tax payer money that was funnelled into this wholly necessary endeavour. Two months later, the voyager returns with news of a disparate world where an unknown disaster has caused humanity to perish, and has left the earth an ashen hellscape. Also, due to the powerful magnetism in its body, the ship returns with an unintentionally stolen Chinese satellite stuck to its side.
The government tries to hide these revelations, but a whistleblower leaks the news, and global panic spurs the president to marshal troops who will travel meticulously through time in an attempt to pinpoint the date and cause of the disaster, as well as search for signs of future human civilisations. For reasons unknown, each time trip has a 27% chance of blighting the traveller with a fast-acting decay that spreads from the eyes. Troops are therefore drafted from the lowest at-risk group (healthy male adults aged 25 to 28, with 20/20 vision, who have never had a cavity or a sunburn, and whose ancestry is at least 40% Irish and no more than 2% Korean, and who grew up drinking the tap water in Kansas City, specifically). It should be noted here that in fact the risk for this group is merely 0.2% lower, at 26.8%. ]
He took a step back. "...If we go now, the doctor can probably see you right away."
As he turned to lead the way, Swift grabbed at the end of his sleeve.
"What's your name?"
He paused and looked over his shoulder.
Swift opened and closed his mouth in silence, not unlike a fish. "...Hat?" he echoed. "That's an unusual name, isn't it?"
"Is it?" he puzzled, starting through the clearing. "It's short for Hatter," he added, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world.
Swift stood motionless in the grass as he dwelled on this, before his thoughts flickered back to the present and he hurried after him.
They weaved through patches of tall grass and narrow spaces, and emerged onto a trail that ran up a steep hill. Somewhere at the halfway mark, Swift brought his hands to his knees and hunched over with a loud wheeze.
Hearing his struggle, Hatt looked over his shoulder, and waited.
Swift looked up, muttering between breaths, "Just... one minute..."
[ From this point on, events will be paraphrased from a Carrollist history book. It should be noted that years will now be written in the format A.C.B (After Carroll's Birth).
285 A.C.B. (2117 A.D.) → A disaster nearly eradicates humanity and renders the earth largely inhabitable. The cause of the disaster is never confirmed, as the only survivors are the 1279 passengers (and pets) aboard the Applelon Plumusk Submarine Hotel, more than six miles under the sea. Many theories are put forth, but later investigations strongly suggest it was the result of nuclear war. Upon returning to an apocalyptic surface, humans begin documenting as much knowledge as they can, believing that what was lost can eventually be recovered if there is record of its existence. Sciences are documented as thoroughly as possible, but still riddled with gaps. There is a focus on mathematics, because they reason that if everything can be explained in numbers, it is the most important system to preserve. Knowledge of the arts is archived in the form of short retellings of famous books, poems, movies, television series, games, in awkward recreations of famous paintings, and in lyrically inaccurate notations of famous compositions. These mediocre summaries are celebrated and revered. By the year 293, much of this knowledge has been preserved on paper, and several libraries have been constructed to protect them. Since electronic devices may fail at any time, and cannot yet be reconstructed, they are not trusted as forms of backup. ]
He dragged himself upright and willed his feet to move up the hill. Some ways ahead of him, Hatt was already climbing down the other side. As he reached the summit, he paused again to look into the distance, at the space between the trees where the trail tapered off, and where he could see what looked like the curved edge of a rooftop, and where he could hear the sounds of bells as the wind swept the hill. His eyes were wide with wonder as he tore down the trail, leaving Hatt in his dust.
Dumbfounded, Hatt looked over his shoulder, then back to Swift as he watched him rush ahead. "Oi... Oi! You shouldn't run!" he called, hurrying after him. "You nearly collapsed earlier!"
Deaf to his words, Swift raced to the end of the trail. His shoes left the dirt and touched down on stone, where he stopped again to catch his breath. Stretching before him was a long, narrow street, fenced in by tall cobblestone buildings that didn't leave an inch of space in between. Their roofs were dark and curled at the edges, hung with signs and strung with lights that glowed softly in the daylight. There were shops and cafes and offices, and rows of apartment complexes where every balcony was crowded with clothing lines and potted plants - daffodils, yarrows, sunflowers, cornflowers. More plants in pots filled the empty spaces at the entrances of buildings, where many of the stone walls were cracked and chipped, or shrouded in curling vines like they'd been standing for a hundred years. People bustled about in red and green clothing, as shop employees held up signs outside their doors and shouted down the street about sales and specials. A person on a bike rushed past him like a gust as they swerved the corner into the main street, and pedalled up the arched bridge that connected the town where it was separated by a river.
A flurry of footsteps came up behind him as Hatt finally caught up, leaning over to catch his breath. He glanced up at Swift, who seemed so oddly mesmerised by the sight.
[ 381 → Documented flaws in the history of humanity's first wave have made the second wave wary of repeating their mistakes. As a result, they live in small, tightly-constructed cities where everything is in walking or biking distance, with the exception of the farmlands that extend beyond their borders. Long distances are travelled by boat, and for this reason towns are always built by the sea. Records of the global warming epidemic have also caused an aversion to electricity, and its uses are strictly limited. Chemicals are instead used for things such as lighting, heating, and food preservation. While they see merit in personal computers and handheld devices, the idea of staring at a screen every waking hour of the day is equated to poison, and they have outlawed the recreation of such machines. Their computers, while of great capacity, have very little function, and are utilised only by employed programmers in storage facilities where they back up historical data and government records. These machines are never made available for commercial or business use. Also, for fear of another "great disaster" it is illegal to invent (or conspire to invent) any weapon that can harm more than one person at a time, with the exception of canons equipped to large sea vessels. ]
Hatt's voice suddenly cut into his thoughts. "Uh, the hospital is this way."
He followed him through clusters of people, some of whom exchanged nods with him as they passed. Here, the smell of baked bread filled the air. A block down, the smell of grilled fish came from the open door of a restaurant. He ducked his head as they walked under low balconies where plants hung from the railings, and found himself having to step over an old man who sat slumped against the door of a shop with tinted windows, half-asleep in a cloud of smoke. He stumbled back when a cat leapt from a rooftop and cut in front of him, scurrying into an open door. He slowed his step to peer into the window of a shop filled with clocks, where the pendulums all swung in perfect unison. Then, he stared again when they passed a bookstore where cover of the book in the window display read: The Canine at the Door, and beneath the title, Best Selling Thriller!
Unsettled by how peculiar it all was, he closed the gap between him and Hatt, practically stepping on his heels when Hatt came to an abrupt halt, and Swift bumped into his back.
"Oh! You alright?" Hatt spun around in surprise. "The entrance is here." He stepped into a building made of grey bricks, and held the door open for him. After a moment's hesitation, Swift followed him inside.
It was a wide room of stone floors and high ceilings and bright windows. Hatt moved past the wooden benches furnishing the waiting area and went up to the counter, where he spoke to a woman who stood behind a sheet of glass. At a loss for what to do, Swift wandered around the room, looking through windows and reaching out to touch the plants that sat on their sills. Among them, there was a butterfly resting on the leaf of a potted ivy. He watched in silence as it slowly beat its wings. Suddenly rain began to pour into the streets, and the people all raised their mushroom-shaped umbrellas and hurried away. For a moment, he was sure that he was dreaming as he watched giant mushrooms dance down the street. Turning away from the window, he saw Hatt again, sitting on one of the benches in the waiting area. Hatt was very earnest when he met his stare and said, "You know, you can sit on these. They're very sit-able on-able."
Swift deadpanned at this remark, but he supposed he was acting quite strange. Putting on his best I am perfectly normal and not at all strange face, he took a seat on the bench across from Hatt.
[ 624 → Humanity has begun to flourish across the coast of Scandinavia, and to a lesser extent, the coast of China. They have purposefully spread to either sides of the earth in the event that natural disaster should befall one region. Their motivation lies not so much in the preservation of the human race, but in the preservation of history. Without humans to protect it, learn it, and acknowledge it, four billion years of the earth's history and several millennia of human achievement would amount to nothing but dust. Interestingly, they acknowledge that the earth itself will some day amount to nothing but dust, yet they persevere. ]
A man in plain white garbs emerged from the hallway, holding a clipboard to his chest. He made his way to the counter and exchanged papers with the woman behind the glass, then returned to the waiting area.
"Next patient, please."
Swift glanced around the empty room, realising that he and Hatt were the only ones there.
They followed him down the hall to a door marked by a gilded seven, and motioned for them to step inside as he unclipped the papers and left them on the desk. Before Swift could look much around the room, a man in a familiar-looking white coat opened the door. He gave a curt bow and took his seat at the desk. Pulling his glasses out from his pocket, he began to read over the papers, squinting and raising them to his face as he tried to make sense of Hatt's scrawls.
"Which one of you is... 'don't know'?"
Hatt immediately pointed to Swift, who immediately deadpanned again upon hearing this.
"My name is Swift."
Hatt looked more surprised by the revelation than the doctor.
"Oh? You remember your name, then?" the doctor asked, setting down his papers.
"I remember a good many things, actually," he said indignantly.
"Well that's good news," the doctor smiled, patting the empty seat beside his desk.
He felt a bit reluctant to have himself examined for a false reason, but when he considered his options, walking out now could only make things worse, seeing as he had nowhere else to go, and no idea what to do - so he took a seat.
The doctor began by shining a light in his eye, then in his ears, and up his nose. He felt around his head for any signs of swelling, and tested his reflexes. This all felt very familiar.
"You say you're suffering from amnesia?"
Swift glanced to the side. "Apparently."
The doctor gave a nod. "What kind of things are you having trouble remembering?"
At this, Hatt felt it appropriate to say, "If I may, sir, he probably can't remember the things he's having trouble remembering."
Swift sank into his chair, biting back a loud sigh. The doctor turned to Hatt with a thin smile and adjusted his glasses. "Well, perhaps you can shed some light on this matter, then."
Hatt looked up, then down, then to the side, as if thinking very hard about it. "Well, uh, earlier... he couldn't remember what year it was."
The doctor turned back to Swift, observing him so closely that Swift shrank under his stare. "Can you tell me what month it is?" he asked.
Swift said nothing, and looked down at his lap.
"You say your name is Swift, but is that your first name, or your last?"
Swift curled his hands over his knees.
"Do you remember the year your were born?"
He wondered to himself how mad the doctor would think him if he said he was born "at least a hundred" years in the past. But he was under strict orders not to reveal his identity or his mission should he make contact with future human civilisations. If anyone were to see him as a threat, it could put him in danger, or become an obstacle to the mission's success.
After a long silence, he mumbled under his breath, "...I remember that I'm 28."
"Ah! That's a start."
The doctor turned to his desk again and scribbled his notes on Swift's papers. "Well," he said, sitting back in his chair. "It's certainly true that you're having some difficulties with your memory, but there don't seem to be any signs of physical trauma to your head. Perhaps, with time, your memories will return to you. More importantly, you're quite pale... and very much underweight. You exhibit signs of one who is malnourished. It should do you some good to get more protein and fruit in your diet."
Swift glanced to the side again, offhandedly thinking that he'd been living on nothing but protein bars for the last two months.
"Thanks, doc," Hatt chimed.
The doctor gave a nod as he stood up from his desk and collected Swift's papers. "I trust I can leave him with you?" At this, Hatt nodded vigorously, as if it were his duty and honour to nod as hard as he could. "Right then," he said as he stepped into the hallway. "Come back and see me if anything should happen."
Swift looked up, and gave a halfhearted nod as Hatt gave a bow. When the door shut, his gaze fell into his lap again, into his hands as he hunched over in the seat, wondering what he should do now. More than anything, he needed to find the time ship, before it was found by anyone else. But even if he were to leave now and begin looking for it, he couldn't go home before he'd learned the time and the cause of the disaster, or before he'd documented the discovery of a post-disaster civilisation. All this time, they'd been staring out of the ship's windows at ashes, at rubble, at burnt corpses and black water. Now that he'd finally found living humans, in a working society, surrounded by clear water and growing trees, he was overwhelmed by the work ahead of him. His task wasn't as easy as running back to the forest and climbing into the ship. And now, having lost his comrades to the time illness, he alone was carrying their hopes, and the hopes of everyone back home. He sank deeper into his chair, buried himself deeper in despair. Then, Hatt's voice cut into his thoughts again.
"Uh, Swift sir-"
Swift looked up.
"You, um, you must be hungry... Should we get something to eat?"
He wondered why Hatt was suddenly so sheepish. He was a good bit taller than Swift, who was pale, underweight, covered in dirt, and who didn't know what year it was. If Hatt was afraid of him, he'd probably shot him one too many glares. Sighing, he tried to soften his expression. But as strange as it was, food was the last thing on his mind now. If anything, he felt more like vomiting than eating.
He lifted his hand off of his knee, and watched it tremble horribly in his attempt to keep it still. However hungry he was or wasn't, food would probably do him some good.
"Alright," he said, standing up from his chair.
For a moment, Hatt looked relieved, and then, not, when Swift suddenly ran to the sink and gripped the sides as he threw up his last meal of protein bars and vitamin shakes. He was stiff as a board when Swift turned around and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and he was covering his mouth to hide a very obvious look of disgust when Swift looked up.
Heaving a sigh, he pushed off from the sink and stood himself upright. "So? What are we eating?"
His disgust faded quickly as he lowered his hand and put it to his chin in thought. A moment later, he lit up. "Oh! I know a great place! With Bunberryburryborn tarts!"
Swift grimaced at the sound of it. Who could eat a thing with such a ridiculous name, he thought.
✻ ✻ ✻
Rain pattered on the awning as mushrooms continued to dance down the street - red, brown, white, spotted, flat, round, uneven, and all of them with human legs for stems. They were seated at a table in the outdoor space of a bistro, waiting for their orders. Swift was curiously reading the refreshments menu, to find he didn't know what a single one of these names meant.
Poppypun Purkpin Shake...
Nippynop Noon Sap...
Centrifugal Force Water-
He sat upright in his chair.
What is that supposed to be?
He imagined a bucket of 1 cent tap water being swung around several times, then bottled and sold for 2 dollars each.
I'd like to try that, he thought decidedly.
When the waitress came around to their table, Swift watched in a combination of horror and fascination as she put down a flatbread with clams and blood oranges baked into it, and slid it to Hatt. In front of Swift, she placed a pair of chopsticks, and a plate of what looked a bit like sushi, but rolled with bread instead of seaweed, filled with baked honey-glazed salmon, and topped with shredded cranberries. In between them, she slid a tart that looked something like a pie, but it was flat and its dough was a bright red gradient, like the eeriest sunset. Sugared mint leaves and cucumber shreds decorated the top, and in the middle was a salty, spherical biscuit. She explained that inside was a sort of greenish custard, and eight different types of berries, with the base of the tart being a chocolate-filled cinnamon walnut pancake.
This must be the awful tart, he thought, noting to himself that it looked about as ridiculous as it sounded. But his attention quickly strayed from the tart to the sight of Hatt cutting into his blood orange and shellfish flatbread. After a few seconds of shock and disbelief, and a brief inward monologue where he lamented how regretfully the human race had regressed, Swift made his peace with it. "By the way..." he said. "What year is it?"
Hatt froze. When he got past the absurdity of being asked such a question in earnest, he couldn't help laughing to himself. "It's 919."
Swift blanked. He stared back at Hatt, open-mouthed and lost for words when he realised he had no idea what this number meant. He was sure he'd travelled here from the year 2081. And he was sure that he'd travelled forward, not back. He was also sure that nowhere on earth was human civilisation so advanced by the year 919 on the Gregorian calendar, so Hatt must have been using a different counting system. He was pulled out of his thoughts again when Hatt looked at the tart and said, "How positively luminescent! I bet it's fresh."
Swift puzzled at his remark, glancing down at the tart as he echoed the word, "Luminescent?"
Hatt looked up in question.
"What does luminescent mean?" Swift clarified. He didn't think luminescent was the right word to describe a tart, but he considered that it may have been slang, or had even taken on an entirely different meaning. His curiosity grew as he waited intently for Hatt to shed light on the matter.
"I'm not sure!" Hatt twinkled. "But it's a nice, grand word to say."
Swift's expression went cold again. This person is an idiot, he thought. He leaned his elbow on the table and rested his chin in his hand, waving a chopstick at Hatt. "I wouldn't use words I don't know the meaning of if I were you," he said, giving him a look.
Hatt shrank under his stare, and turned to his plate again with a pout. "I don't think there's anything wrong with it... You sure say some uncarrollist things."
"Uncarrollist?" Swift asked, half wondering if it was a word he'd invented this time.
"Uncarrollist," Hatt reiterated. "As in, not Carrollist."
"Yes, I speak English," Swift muttered. "I've grasped that much."
The sour turn in his mood had frightened Hatt all over again, and he smiled nervously as he cast a glance to the side, twirling his fork in his lap. "I-it must be hard for you, having amnesia and all... It might be easier if you just come to tea."
Come to tea... he wondered, like, afternoon tea?
Understanding Hatt when he spoke was an endless uphill battle. He shifted his attention to his plate instead. His food was colourful and varied, but in all the wrong ways, he felt. He tried at first to position the chopsticks between his fingers, managing to pinch them hard enough to keep them from falling, but too hard to move them in any useful way. All the while, Hatt watched him with his lips parted, as if ready to say something, but too afraid to say it. Dropping the chopsticks in defeat, they rolled across the table as he picked up a piece of breaded sushi with his hand, and bit into it. Though he'd braced himself for the worst, he found that it was actually very good.
"In any case," he went on. "Using words you don't know the meaning of is quite problematic."
"What's problematic mean?"
Swift took another bite of his sushi, looked up in thought, and said with the utmost conviction, "It means exactly what you want it to mean."
Hatt cut another piece out of his flatbread, and held it up. "This bread is wonderfully problemati-"
As he lifted another piece of sushi, his gaze wandered to the tart in the middle of the table.
[ Though it may seem insignificant in this timeline of events, I assure you it is of the greatest importance that on the 8th of April 625 ACB, the Bunberryburryborn tart was invented. ]
He slowly reached out and curled his hand around the tart, locking eyes with Hatt as he slid it to his own end of the table.
"...Do you mind?"
Hatt vigorously shook his head, as if it were his honour and his duty to do so. "It's for you."
[ It is, without a doubt, the height of human ingenuity. ]
Swallowing the last of his cranberry-sprinkled salmon, he curiously eyed the tart, turning the plate on its ring as he wondered where he should start.
I suppose, with the biscuit, he thought, leaving a green hole in the bed of dough as he pulled it out.
"Ah-!" Hatt sat up in his seat, unable to stop himself from speaking up now. "Did you know, you're supposed to crumble that on top of it? To make it salty."
Swift looked up at Hatt, then back down at the biscuit in his hand. He carefully crumbled it over the tart, surprised by how soft it was. Wiping the crumbs off his hands, he sank his spoon into it and took a bite, mindlessly counting the colours inside the tart as he chewed.
This is... perfection, he thought. It was a flawless balance of sweet and salty and sour and cool - a god among tarts, among pastries, among food. Every flavour and texture blended together perfectly. In that moment, he firmly decided to himself that something as genius as the Bunberryburryborn tart was too valuable to leave behind.
I shall have to procure the recipe for my mother, he thought. She will be positively delighted. I suppose I can also give a copy to my sister, but- he stared into the distance. No, no, nonono, that will never do. I was angry with her for something, something... I can't remember what, but it was something important, I'm sure. Something of paramount significance. Something of the utmost substance. He took another bite of the tart, sitting back in his chair. I suppose if she'll grovel at my feet, I can allow her to glimpse at its greatness, if only for a second... Satisfied with himself, he shovelled the rest of the tart in his mouth, so quickly there wasn't a crumb left on the plate when Hatt looked up from his food. As the waitress passed by their table, Swift leaned over the side of his chair and motioned to her.
"Can I have another tart, to go?"
"To go?" she asked.
"I mean, like, to take home with me."
Hatt opened his wallet, nervously peering inside.
She gave a bow. "My apologies, sir. That was our last one for today."
Hatt sighed in relief, dropping the wallet in his lap as Swift sank back into his chair, sulking to himself.
"Oh, no... It's fine."
✻ ✻ ✻
Stuffed with rice and berries and custard, he followed Hatt over the long, arched bridge that connected the town. Across the water he saw a quaint, brick house, like something out of a storybook. It sat in the middle of a grass field, and it was the only building Swift had seen that wasn't sandwiched between several others. Red rose bushes had been planted along its four walls, and a lattice overrun with grape vines decorated the side that saw the noon sun. A short distance from the house was an old oak tree that covered a stretch of the field like a cloud, and in its shade was a long table set for tea. It looked like it could seat about thirty people, but many people were instead lying in the grass under the tree, leaving most of the seats vacant.
So it is a tea party, Swift thought.
As they crossed the field, some of the people lying in the grass gave polite nods to Hatt, who bowed back. Meanwhile, Swift followed on his heels, pretending to himself that if he stuck close enough to Hatt, no one would see him at all. He followed Hatt's example when they reached the table, and took a seat in the chair next to his. Their cushions were decorated in the same ornate, blue pattern as the tablecloth, and as he sat down, he took notice of the book that was set by his place at the table. Its cover was made of a soft, brown imitation leather, and had no title but was embossed with the image of a rabbit in a tailcoat. There was an identical book placed before every seat at the table, as well as a cup on a saucer, and a spread knife. At the centre of the table was circle of tea pots, and in the middle, a plate of toasted bread biscuits and a large dish of butter. Others who were seated at the table had already started eating their buttered toast, and were reaching across the table to pour themselves some tea. Swift thought to himself that he had no room left in his stomach for air to breathe, much less for bread and butter. But if ceremony called for it, he had no choice but to oblige and eat everything they had to offer.
His attention turned from the tea party guests to the house when the door creaked open, and a little girl in a powder-blue dress and white stockings stepped out. The guests at the table and in the field bowed to her as she trotted over the grass, to which she curtsied in reply before taking her seat at the end of the table, nearest the trunk of the tree. She looked about ten years old, give or a take a year, Swift thought, watching her straighten the folds in her dress. Then, she opened the book. Save for the crunching of those eating their buttered toast, the table and field fell silent when she began to read in her childish drawl. As he watched the spectacle unfold, Swift had the feeling that it was no ordinary tea party after all.
"She had read several nice, little histories about children who had gotten burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them," she read. He was hit by an odd sense of nostalgia at these words. "Such as," she went on, "that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds."
I know this story, Swift thought, sitting upright in his chair as he opened the book.
"And she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison'," at this, the whole table chorused the word poison with her, startling Swift so much that he nearly dropped the book, "it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."
[ 627 → A book is unearthed in the ashes of a first-wave city. It is, to date, the only book that has been found perfectly intact in the aftermath of the disaster. The superstitious among them take this to be a sign, and the idea that it may be a holy book begins to circulate. This idea soon takes its roots in society, laying the foundations of the first major second-wave religion. ]
He frantically flipped to the beginning of the book. Printed ink black ink across the first page, he saw the words:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll
[ 630-740 → The influence of Carroll's book gives birth to an organised belief system known as Carrollism. In 632, the first reprints of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are distributed. Its reach extends along the coast of the Scandinavian settlements, and eventually by sea trade, the Chinese settlements. It becomes fashionable to speak in mock-English accents, and grow gardens inside and outside the home, and bake everything imaginable into a pie. People begin to discover the influence of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in various mediocre summaries of first-wave entertainment. They find the Japanese were particularly fond of the book, and used it frequently as an inspiration for various works of fiction, music, and games. It is thought that the Japanese "must have known something" and as a result, many of their customs are adopted and preserved. Chopsticks are used in a seemingly white society, rice is eaten as a staple with every meal, buildings are constructed in likeness of their architecture, seasons are celebrated, and they leave unpleasant sentences half-finished.
743 → Carrollism becomes the official religion of humanity's second wave. Their congress votes to rename their Scandinavian settlements The Wonderlands, and to rename their Asian settlements The Underlands.
May 919 (2751 A.D.) → I crash into a forest known as the Caterpillar Wood, and remain unconscious for days after being separated from the time ship. ]