“Conundrum made most of his living telling people who they were. This sounds odd because you would think that most people know who they are, but this is not the case. People like it when a magician can tell them the truth about themselves. Anyway, the usual stream of revenue just wasn’t coming in. Conundrum had no way to attract patrons of his advice. He preferred to live quietly and liked to talk to me more than anyone. One day it occurred to him that he needed an attraction to bring in money and the only investment he could think of was me. Of course, he asked for my consent. He fed me some milkweed and unicorn hairs and suddenly I began to grow. Many important things happened to me that day. I grew larger, but I also took on other characteristics. I developed a rational mind and was able to pass in and out of people’s awareness; like a phantom that chooses when to be seen. Conundrum told me that every living creature possesses unique traits that react to an injection of magic differently. Despite his close relationship to magic, he had no idea who he had been in his past life.”
“Conundrum needed an attraction that could grab the attention of traveling people. I possessed several unique traits that we hadn’t yet discovered. Most of my magical gifts happened by accident. I wasn’t always big. On some days I woke up small and on other days I grew so large my bed broke. Conundrum explained that it took practice and discipline to control magic.
On one occasion, I left his wagon to look for clover in a neighboring field and a fox chased me. Suddenly, my speed increased like a galloping horse. Another day, I woke feeling bloated. I couldn’t move because I was the size of a gypsy cart.
These experiences happened frequently. Soon I could think like my master. He taught me how to read and write. We worked for hours every day and in no time I learned multiple languages, advanced arithmetic, and the philosophy of the sages. My master trusted me to make decisions about his affairs. We put on a carnival and the two of us hashed out plans to bring in enough money to live in obscurity.
Conundrum was persecuted by his destiny. He felt out of place in space and time. He wanted to always be traveling, but going great distances didn’t satisfy him.
Eventually, I could no longer be the attraction pulled out of hats to dazzle onlookers. Conundrum wasn’t in a state of health to perform and I had to resort to less respectable means of survival. Being a pick-pocket wasn’t difficult when I could fade into the shadows like a phantom, but I never enjoyed making a living that way. Taking hard earned money from passing strangers was different than entertaining them.
One morning, Conundrum told me he was ready to drift into a permanent sleep. I didn’t like to see my master suffering, so I consented to stop mixing elixir of milkweed and unicorn hairs into his morning drink. It was early when I walked along the forest path. Fog was in the air so dense my fur became thoroughly soaked. When I looked ahead, I willfully transformed into the phantom.
I noticed something floating on the fog. At first, I thought it might be a ship’s flag. This black thing was a top hat; it parted the air as it approached. My white hair took on the likeness of the mist as I drifted closer to the apparition. I realized the hat belonged to a gentleman of flesh and blood who walked with a limp. He wore a traveling cloak and carried a brown parcel under one arm. The other hand relied on a stout staff. Several buds grew along the twisted wood. There was a playing card sown midway above the brim of his tall hat. The ace of spades was wrinkled and yellow. His eyes were almond brown and didn’t overtly display signs of magic. However, he was unusual. The traveler had a curly gray beard extending to his collar with hair running past his shoulders down the rough of his back.
I walked next to the stranger who moved in an encumbered, but deliberate fashion. I was about to snatch the parcel, when he spoke.
‘Don’t you know it isn’t polite to steal?’ he said.
I was flabbergasted; my disguise was usually undetectable. I restrained my paw for the moment and decided to converse. ‘How do you come to walk one of the loneliest paths in the Forest of Dawn?’ I asked.
‘Am I speaking to a ghost or do you assume other earthly forms?’
‘I’m a rabbit in regular life and a servant to my master who’s lost all hope to fulfill his destiny.’
‘That’s unfortunate.’ He looked straight ahead, walking closer to Conundrum’s gypsy cart.
‘Do you mind if I ask who you are?’
‘My identity is not something I share with everyone,’ replied the Hatter.
‘I won’t tell a soul,’ whispered the curious phantom.
‘I’ll tell you because of your loyalty. Your master imparted unicorn magic; a practice I don’t agree with, giving the stuff of unicorns to wild animals. However, I can see he spent a lifetime helping you control it.’
‘How do you know I can manage magic?’
The traveler smiled for the first time. ‘The fact that you are not visible to my eyes and waited to steal, tells me your master taught you self-control. Most creatures haven’t learned to control their impulses. They take what they need to survive. You waited to make my acquaintance before deciding what to do next; all evidence points to unusual circumstances, where an instinctual animal developed higher thinking through instruction from a great teacher.’”