Sequel to “Tornado.” Major spoilers for The Wizard of Oz.
“Please, just let me go!”
The girl clenched her hands together in the folds of her gingham dress, trying very hard not to cry. She had gotten over her startlement at seeing the witch’s green face, but it was hard not to feel helpless and sad. She could admit to herself that the work she’d been set at wasn’t really any harder than the chores she had back home, but that wasn’t it. It was the growing idea in the back of her mind that this was it. She’d never see her auntie and uncle again.
She lost the battle and tears began to spill down her cheeks.
The witch hissed at her. “Let you go? Have you forgotten what you were going to do to me? What you’ve already done?” She began to tick off grievances on her long, green, bony, clawed fingers. “You killed my sister, and then you have the audacity to come here wearing her shoes. And your vicious accomplices want to kill me as well.”
The girl wasn’t even looking at her. “I didn’t mean to do it, I didn’t mean to do it, I didn’t mean to!”
Unexpectedly the witch’s tone softened. “I know you didn’t. That storm was not your doing, and your power is too weak to direct so much as a branch. Not that it matters while every other knucklehead in the country thinks you’re a mage of the highest class,” she added scornfully.
The girl rocked back and forth. I’m sorry, came to her lips and then fled over and over; she knew the witch was evil and she had seen the poor villagers on the way in and yet she was an only child and could only imagine what it would be like to lose a sister.
“But the others,” the witch continued, “they must be punished. They are too dangerous to be left in captivity. They are Enemies of the State!”
“No, please,” said the girl, frightened now out of her reverie. “They’re my friends. They protected me!”
“Friends!” the witch scoffed. “Do they take you seriously? Do they understand you? Do you know anything about them at all?”
She wanted to reply that yes, they did, she did, but her voice wouldn’t come.
“The truth is they came with you out of self-interest. That doesn’t mean you aren’t comrades, of a sort, but there’s no lasting connection there.” Her voice dropped. “Trust me, I know.”
The girl was remembering, now, how the others had reacted when the wizard told them they had to kill the other witch. Scared, to be sure. But not one of them asked, as she had…
“I never killed anything, willingly, and even if I wanted to, how could I kill the Wicked Witch? If you, who are Great and Terrible, cannot kill her yourself, how do you expect me to do it?”
“I do not know, but that is my answer, and until the Wicked Witch dies you will not see your Uncle and Aunt again. Remember that the Witch is Wicked—tremendously Wicked—and ought to be killed. Now go, and do not ask to see me again until you have done your task.”
…it was horrible, horrible, but she trusted her companions. They were adults, after all, and they’d protected each other so far on their journey to the Emerald City, and if they could do it…
The witch was busying herself now with the picture frames on the wall, three of them, and the girl realized that the colors in the paintings were moving just before they resolved into images of her three comrades: one locked in a room with a crackling bonfire, one pinioned to the wall and looking very much battered and scarred, and one huddled in a corner while sharp shadows flickered and danced over his figure.
“Oh, please!” the girl said, throwing herself to the ground before the witch. “Let them go, let them leave your land, just please let them go!”
“After they tried to murder me?” It wasn’t shouted, but calmly spoken with a dry chuckle, and the word “murder” hit the girl like a slap.
(It would occur to her only years later that the witch had spoken as though she had been in this situation many times before.)
The witch turned, apparently satisfied with what she saw in the picture frames, and rubbed her hands together. “Now, my pretty, it’s time to give me those shoes.”
The girl looked up, shocked. “You’re going to kill my friends and you’re focusing on shoes?”
“They have a magic power,” the other said freely, “that is of no use to you and would prove very advantageous for me. And might I remind you that you’d much prefer to keep me in a good mood…?”
But the girl was seized with rebelliousness at the unfairness of it all. “I won’t!” she shouted, and suddenly she dashed back to her bucket of cleaning water and hurled the contents at the witch.
Instantly she regretted it, because she really was a good girl and had been taught to respect her elders, and because the witch’s warning about a good mood had just sunk in.
But the witch wasn’t looking at her. She was looking at her hand, holding it in front of her with a mixed look of pain and wonder on her face. “So this,” she said distantly, “this is what it meant.”
And the girl noticed with a start that the witch no longer towered over her, but was nearly her height—no, was less than her height—she was shrinking. Was this a thing witches did? What was going on?
The horrible truth burst full-force into her mind as the witch looked straight at her. “I curse you, girl, to remember. Remember what you’ve done, as a deliberate action, for the rest of your days. And may it take those dearest to you…!”
That last ended in a thin rising wail as the witch disintegrated into nothing. Only a sludgy puddle surrounding a pile of black robes and a tall, pointed hat remained.
And the girl knew that she’d never forget those dark eyes in that green face, staring directly at her as the life passed out of them. “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it, I’m eleven,” she wept on the floor.
The villagers found her there, hours later, still weeping and coughing and fevered.
The other three carried her back to the Emerald City, or held her hand as she walked without saying a word, until they reached the gates. As the doorsman held the way open for them, the first thought he heard a whisper come from the little girl’s mouth.
“I just want to go home.”
In the interest of “discussing creative process”, I will say that I had a hard time deciding whether the last sentence should use “want” or “wanted”. I think this Dorothy knew she “couldn’t go home again” after this, but she’s 11, and she really wants to just crawl back into her aunt’s arms and have everything be all right again.
I already talked about the motivation for this piece in “Tornado,” so I won’t go into that again.
The italicized paragraphs are actually taken verbatim from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, i.e. the original book that started it all; the rest of the world is a mix of Baum, the 1939 movie we’re all familiar with, and The Wiz (and probably a bit of Wicked too, since I’ve got such connections to that musical).
Part of NaCreSoMo 2016.