Tuesday, 9 July 2019

No Place Like Home


The characters in this short story belong to L Frank Baum.The rest of the writing is all mine.

I

Sometimes I dream of Kansas. The vast grey desert touches the endless grey sky so you can hardly tell where they meet. So different from Oz with its bright colours and shining cities. It surprises me how much I miss it. My aunt and uncle’s lined faces smiling at me as we rose before dawn to do the chores. The way everything tasted of dirt. Not things you think you would miss. There really is no place like home. But I can never go home.
II

“Dorothy, are you awake?” He tries to sound casual, but I hear the tremor in his voice. The Scarecrow, the last of my friends. And even he fears me.

I sit up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. They feel gritty, but everything feels gritty now.
He’s smiling from the outside of my cell. Too scared to venture in. I can see from his face that it’s worse today.

“It’s spreading faster now, isn’t it?”

His refusal to reply is all the answer I need.

I have no mirror in this cell, but I can imagine it, the green rash, spreading map-like across my face. Her final curse.

III

I still remember the sounds she made as she died. It wasn’t quick, no matter what they might want you to think. When they say she melted, you might imagine ice melting in the sun. it wasn’t like that. It was like acid had been thrown on her. The bubbling skin melting from her face, eyes a white goo that slid down the red meat beneath her skin, screaming, gurgling, choking on her own blood. It is not something you easily forget.

I wonder if this is the fate I am destined for. They tell me no, I am their hero, their saviour. The Lion told me of parades in my honour, back when he still dared to visit.

Yes, they celebrate me out there, but they don’t know what I have become. They were told I went back to Kansas, used those damn ruby slippers. Those slippers didn’t have any magic in them at all. The only magic is the curse running through my veins, transforming me. They don’t know that Dorothy is locked away in the lowest dungeon of the Emerald City, waiting to become a monster.

IV

I feel gritty, filthy. I haven’t washed in days. The water makes the green rash burn. I know what it will do to me once the transformation is complete. I smell like sweat, and something else. A lingering sweet, rancid smell, like swamps and sickly sweet flowers. I know that the smell is hers.

I thought she was the enemy. I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me as the hourglass ran its bloody course towards my death. She said it was better that way, that I would never know what it was to live to become a monster. If only I had known, I would have let myself die.

V

The Scarecrow spent so long searching for a cure. At first he would tell me snippets of what he had read, later he stopped speaking of it. I thought he had given up.

When he comes to me today there are papers in his hand. Old, crumbling papers, green faded to the yellow of sour cream.

For a moment, I feel hope. “You found something!”

“It’s not good news”, he tells me, his eyes unable to meet mine.

A sliver of ice pierces my heart. “Tell me.”

“It seems… it’s the Ancient Magic. The magic Oz was built on. To keep the balance there must always be a hero and a villain. When you killed the witch, the Ancient Magic chose you to be the next witch. There is no undoing it. You will transform. You will have her lands, her castle. And someday, a new girl will come to destroy you and take on your curse.”

So that’s it. The Ancient Magic. You can’t fight magic, I spent enough time in Oz to know that. This is my fate, to become what I hated, what I destroyed.

I begin to laugh, a high, hysterical laugh, and it sounds more like a cackle.

Dorothy is dead. Long live the Wicked Witch.

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