‘dorothy must die’ will change how you feel about oz – get a sneak peek now
Was the Wicked Witch of the West really that bad, or did she just get a bad rap? Was Dorothy really just a sweet-faced girl from Kansas, or a ruthless dictator? YA author Danielle Paige tackles those questions and more in her upcoming novel, “Dorothy Must Die,” a Oz revival story that makes “Return To Oz” look like a Disney-fied dream.
MTV News is exclusively premiering chapters four through six of the novel today. You can check out chapters one to three on Epic Reads, and the next couple excerpts later this week on Just Jared Jr and Hypable.
“Dorothy Must Die” — which comes just in time for the 75th anniversary of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” — tells the tale of trailer park resident Amy Gumm, who gets swept away from her dreary life during, you guessed it, a tornado.
Landing in the familiar — albeit fictional — land of Oz, Gumm is surprised to find that it’s not all gumdrops and friendly (and cowardly) lions. Dorothy, along with Glinda, has grown mad with power, and it’s up to Gumm, and The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, to bring Oz back to its former glory. Oh, yeah, and to off the pig-tailed one once and for all.
“Dorothy Must Die” will hit shelves on April 1 — and the CW soon enough — but you can check out a good chunk below right now-abouts. Read up!
Star and I walked, following the road, and when she seemed to get tired, I took her and placed her on my shoulder, where she perched patiently and looked out into the distance. She knew just as well as I did that we were very far from home.
Despite my crash landing in Oz, my body was surprisingly free of bruises, aches, and pains. Actually, I felt pretty good. The headache I’d had when I’d first landed had subsided, and now I felt full of energy.
I was hoping that the place would cheer up as I got farther away from the pit. I was still hoping for a tree that grew lollipops or a welcome committee of cheerful Munchkins — or anything cheerful, really. But as I walked down the road, the countryside remained as grim and desolate as before, everything cast in the eerie blue light that reminded me of the glow of a television from underneath the crack of a closed door.
There were no singing birds. The only signs of life were the giant ravens that occasionally swooped overhead, startling me every time they crowed. There were no trees to be seen, but the air smelled vaguely of burning leaves.
After a while, the bedraggled fields by the side of the road turned into huge cornfields on either side, with stalks as tall as my body. I was used to cornfields back in Kansas, obviously, but these were different: every ear was as black and shiny as oil. It looked like each one had been dipped in tar. Or like all the life had been sucked out of them and had something dead and evil pumped back in their place.
Curious, I reached out to pull one of them from its stalk. Before I could even touch it, a black vine sprung up from the ground and curled around my arm like a whip, squeezing tight. It burned. I yelped and pulled away, managing to twist myself free, and retreated to a spot in the center of the road that I hoped was safely out of reach. I made a note not to go poking around at anything else here. This wasn’t Dorothy’s Oz.
It was Oz, wasn’t it? The boy had called it that, and the fact that I was walking along a road made of yellow bricks was enough to convince me I wasn’t in Canada or Argentina. I just had no idea what this Oz had to do with the story I knew. It would have been nice if he’d given me a little more information.
Or maybe he had: Suddenly I remembered what he’d said to me before he’d disappeared into the pit. “Don’t make the same mistakes she made.”
Could he have been talking about Dorothy? “This is where it all began for her,” he’d said. Who else could he have meant? And what “mistakes” had she made?
I thought about it some more. What if Dorothy had been here, just like the book said, but she had somehow gotten it wrong? Like, what if the witch had killed her instead of the other way around? If so, this depressing version of fairyland definitely felt wicked enough to be the result.
It was a weird idea — so weird that I felt my headache coming back as I tried to wrap my head around it — but what if Dorothy had screwed everything up and someone had decided to bring over another girl from Kansas as some kind of do-over?
I shuddered to myself. I had enough problems of my own back in Kansas. Why couldn’t I have been swept away to an imaginary kingdom where nothing was wrong at all — where I could just kick my legs up and enjoy a nice, relaxing vacation? I racked my brain, trying to remember if there were any books or movies like that, and realized there weren’t any.
Well, one thing was for sure — I didn’t have any magical shoes to take me home. Even if I could click my heels together and be right back in Kansas where I’d started, I wouldn’t. This place was dark and scary and a little evil-seeming, but it was something new and different. Now I just needed to find someone to tell me what was going on here.
So I felt my heart leap when the road dipped down into a shallow valley and curved to the right, heading right toward a cluster of buildings that was sprawled at the foot of the hill.
A town. There had to be people living there. This time, I would make them give me some answers. As I made my way toward it, though, I began to see that my hopes for human contact might need to wait a little longer. The buildings, which were arranged around a decrepit stone plaza, were all cracked and crumbling and grown over with ivy that looked like it had never been tended. The facades of some of the houses had been spray-painted with some kind of graffiti tag: an angry, green frowny face.
The whole area had the distinct look of a place that had slowly been deserted, kind of like the town a few miles away from Flat Hill that everyone had abandoned when the plastic flower factory had shut down.
“Hello?” I called out when I had reached the ring of buildings encircling the town square. There was no response.
From up close, it was clear that this place had actually been nice, once. Even abandoned like this, there was something cheerful and quaint about the way the houses — all of various heights — were built so close together that they were practically stacked on top of one another, as if personal space wasn’t something they cared about around here. And although they were falling apart now, each house was beautifully crafted, with domed roofs and round windows and ornate wooden shutters with fancy iron hardware.
I had to hunch a little to peer inside the nearest window, which barely reached my chin. Inside, there was a table set for five with moldy food on each plate, like whoever had once lived there had left in the middle of dinner.
“They could really use some Munchkins around here, huh?” I said to Star, who hadn’t moved from her perch on my shoulder. She just stared back at me balefully and didn’t bother squeaking a response.
I jumped back in surprise when I stepped into the square. Someone was smiling down at me triumphantly. Then I realized it wasn’t a person at all. It was a statue cast in marble, and it was the first thing I’d seen in the whole town that wasn’t dirty and crumbling. In fact, it was so white that it was glowing — all except for the pair of glittering silver shoes on its feet.
Of course, I recognized it immediately. With her kind, smiling face, her jaunty gingham dress, and her neatly curled pigtails, there was no mistaking her: it was Dorothy. The silver plaque on the pedestal confirmed it: Here Stands Dorothy Gale, it read. She Who Arrived on the Wind, Slayed the Wicked, and Freed the Munchkins.
By now, I’d given up on the idea that I was dreaming — my body felt too heavy and solid, and as bizarre as everything was, none of it had the sticky, underwater quality of a dream. Even so, it was kind of unreal to confirm the alternative with my own two eyes: that I had been thrown into a fairy tale.
“Dorothy likes her statues,” a voice said, from out of nowhere. Startled, I looked around to see where it was coming from, and saw a face peering down at me from the second-story window of a house a few paces off. “Me, I have to say, I’m pretty sick of them.”
There was a thud as a small black knapsack landed next to me. Unthinkingly, I reached down for it. “Don’t touch that! ” the voice growled. I jumped back and saw her scrambling out the window. She dangled by her fingers before dropping to the ground, landing softly as if the height were no big thing. It was a girl. She looked up at me with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, and when she sprung to her feet, I saw that there was no way she was more than four feet tall, even in her platform boots. Now this was more like it. I was face-to-face with a real, live Munchkin.
At least, I was pretty sure that’s what she was. Her hair was inky blue-black and her eyes were caked in thick eyeliner with triple fake lashes. She was wearing a vampy eggplant-hued lipstick and a leather skirt. Her T-shirt revealed arms covered in complicated tattoo sleeves.
But she was short, and she moved with a springiness and agility that was something more than just plain old human. Anyway, I’d already been here long enough that I wasn’t shocked to find out that there was such a thing as a goth Munchkin.
“Excuse me?” the girl barked as I looked her up and down curiously. “Do you have a problem?”
Heat rose to my face as my mind flashed to Madison Pendleton. “Nope. Do you?” I snapped right back at her. I couldn’t even look at a Munchkin without starting trouble. Was she going to punch me now, too?
She didn’t. Instead, she let out a wry cackle and rolled her eyes. “Let’s see,” she said. “Do I have a problem? How about, do I have five thousand?” She marched right over to where I stood and grabbed her bag from where it lay at my feet. It was stuffed to the seams with what I figured must be an entire leather wardrobe. “The answer’s ‘yes,’ by the way.”
“I’m Amy,” I said, hoping this was what passed for friendly in Munchkin Country. I reached out a hand, which she ignored. “Indigo,” she replied. She eyed my shoulder. “Cool rat, by the way. I love rats. Does it talk?”
I glanced at Star, still hoping she would decide that the answer was “yes.” She didn’t respond.
“Nope.” I shrugged.
“Too bad.” Her eyes traced up to my head. “But I don’t know about the hair. She’s not going to like it.”
I put a hand to my scalp and brushed a pink lock from my eyes. “Why would my pet rat care what my hair looks like?” Again, Indigo hooted.
“Not your rat, dumbass. Her.”
Indigo scrunched her face up and swiveled her neck like I was a complete moron. “Oh yeah, who’s she? she asks. Please.”
“No, seriously,” I said. “I’m new around here. Tell me who you’re talking about.”
“I’m new around here,” Indigo mocked me in a squeaky falsetto, slipping her backpack on. But as she did it, she looked at me. Really looked at me.
“Wait, you’re not kidding, are you? You really aren’t from around here.” She was staring at my clothes. I guessed that jeans and a hoodie were not what the kids were wearing in Oz.
“No,” I said simply. “I’m not.” Her jaw dropped open in slow motion as it dawned on her. “Holy shit,” she said. “You’re from the Other Place, aren’t you?” She looked over one shoulder and then the other, then asked quietly: “How did you get here?”
I couldn’t tell if her tone was one of excitement or fear.
“It was a tor—” I began, but before I could finish, I was cut off by a loud, metallic clanking sound from somewhere off in the distance.
Indigo took a step backward. “You know what?” she said, her eyes darting nervously from building to building. “Never mind. It’s better if I don’t know. In fact, it’s better if I don’t talk to you at all.”
She busied herself with her backpack, her tiny face scrunched up with worry.
“Like I said, I’ve already got about five thousand problems, give or take a thousand. Getting caught conspiring with an outlander would be five thousand and one. I’d love to hear your story, but it’s not worth it. Good luck. You’ll need it.” With that, she hoisted her pack on her shoulders and began to walk away.
“No way!” I yelled. “Just let me ask you some questions. I have no idea what’s going on.”
“If you’re lucky, you’ll never find out,” she said, not slowing her pace or bothering to look back.
I wasn’t going to let this happen again. She was speeding along, heading off the road, but my legs were longer. I raced after her and grabbed her by the elbow. “Hey! ” she said, whirling around to face me. “Don’t touch me! ” She yanked her arm away, but I yanked right back. And I was stronger.
“Let me come with you,” I whispered urgently. I didn’t know where she was going, but she was the best hope I had. Hope of what, I wasn’t sure, but I would figure that out later. “I promise — I’ll do whatever you want. I swear I won’t get you in trouble. But I’m alone here, and I have no idea what I’m doing.”
She bit her lip. The thing is, I could tell she was as curious about me as I was about her. I could tell part of her wanted to relent. But then we heard that clanging noise again. This time it was louder.
“You seem like a nice person,” Indigo hissed. “And I love rats. But get your f—ing hands off me and get the hell away from me. The best thing you can do right now is get your ass back to wherever it is you came from and hope you never wind up in this sorry place again.”
“I don’t know how to go home,” I said. But I let her elbow go. This wasn’t getting me anywhere.
“It looks like you’ve got problems, too, then.” Indigo folded her arms across her chest, planting her stocky body firmly in place. “See ya,” she said.
Honestly, I was starting to think this girl was kind of an asshole. But if she wasn’t going to help me, I couldn’t think of any good way to force her. All I could do was keep following the road and hope it led me somewhere better than this.
So I walked away, back to the famous road paved with yellow bricks. At least I had a general sense of where that would take me. When I looked back over my shoulder, the angry little Munchkin was watching me go.
As I passed the statue of Dorothy, I changed my mind one more time. “Just tell me one thing,” I asked her, spinning around. She shrugged, noncommittal. She hadn’t budged from the spot where I’d left her.
“They talk about Oz where I’m from. I’ve heard about it my whole life. But this is messed up. What happened here?” Indigo’s impassive face twisted into a snarl. “Dorothy happened,” she said.
Dorothy happened. I’d tried to ask Indigo what she’d meant, but her eyes had gone from blue to black and she’d threatened to punch me in the face if I came one step closer or asked her another goddamn question. I had already been punched in the face once today — that had been today, hadn’t it? — so I did what she wanted and kept on moving.
It was only a few minutes before I put the tiny little town behind me. Now I was back on the road. Ahead, it led up a steep hill that was completely devoid of any grass at all, the raw dirt interrupted only by a few stunted, sickly shrubs here and there.
Dorothy had been here, I reminded myself. She had walked this very same path. “You’re like her in so many ways,” the boy had said.
Kansas, tornado, blah, blah, blah. I mean, the similarities were pretty obvious, right? But there were plenty of differences between us, too. First off, from what I remembered it hadn’t taken her long at all to make friends. It was like everyone she’d run into — witches not included — had wanted to jump on the Dorothy Express.
As for me, I’d come across two people so far, and exactly both of them had wanted nothing to do with me. It was kind of depressing to think that I could travel all the way to Oz and still be just as unpopular as I was back in Flat Hill, Kansas.
I didn’t know where to go next, but the Emerald City seemed as good a place to start as any. That’s where Dorothy had gone for help. The road would take me there. It wanted to take me there.
So I trudged up the hill, and as I did, the banging sound I’d heard back in the village continued. It was still intermittent — there were a few minutes of welcome silence for every 30 seconds of racket. It was getting louder with every step I took, though, and soon it was so loud that I had to cover my ears every time it started.
When I finally reached the top of the incline I saw where it was coming from.
In the distance, across a periwinkle field of dust and dirt and beyond a tangled maze of gnarled, thorny trees, stood a towering seesaw contraption that was attached by a mess of pipes and wires to something that looked like a cross between an oil rig and a windmill.
When I squinted, I saw at least twenty people of less-than-average height piled on either end of the seesaw thing. Every few minutes, the Munchkins would start bouncing up and down in place, and as they did, the taller machine would begin spinning and clanging, jackhammering into the earth. Above all of the action a statuesque figure in a glittering ball gown floated serenely in midair, just watching them at work. I tried to see what was holding her up but as far as I could tell she was just . . . floating.
Wait, a ball gown?
I couldn’t make up my mind which part I was more curious about: the fact that she was levitating or the fact that she was doing it above a field of dirt, dressed like she was on her way to the prom.
I stared at her with rapt curiosity. Even from here, I could tell that she was no Munchkin. Not just because she was too tall to be one either. There was just something different about her. Something familiar that I couldn’t place. She had to be at least a couple of hundred feet away, but it was like her image was burning right through all that distance and imprinting itself right onto my retinas.
She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. Her hair was red, and her skin was glowing, and her body was radiating a shower of glittering pink sparks.
I smacked my head as it came to me.
Duh. It must be Glinda. She was supposed to be the Good Witch of the South, right?
I felt my face light up at the sheer insanity of it all. When I’d watched The Wizard of Oz with my mother, Glinda had always been my favorite character — because who wouldn’t want to travel around in a flying soap bubble wearing an awesome dress? She’d been my mom’s favorite character, too, but for a different reason.
“She’s a witch, but she’s Good,” Mom always said. “Now that’s what I call the best of both worlds.”
Finally, Oz was living up to its name. I had to see her up close. As I stepped off the road and began to push my way through the thick mass of gnarled and twisted trees, I saw that they had sickly pale blue bark. They were thorny, too, and I had to gingerly push the branches aside, being careful not to cut myself. The whole time, I stared into the sky, mesmerized by the sight of Glinda. I couldn’t wait to meet her. I didn’t even care about the fact that my skull was vibrating from the noise the machine was making.
As I wound my way toward her, Star began to get uneasy. She clawed and fidgeted at my shoulder. There was something about all this that she didn’t like.
“Will you stop it?” I whispered to her. “It’s Glinda. Jeez.”
I could somehow hear Glinda’s voice echoing over the deafening noise, like she was speaking through a megaphone.
“There is no crying, little ones,” I heard Glinda call out, her lilting voice full of kind, gentle encouragement.
The Munchkin boy she was talking to couldn’t have been older than seven or eight. He was sitting in a little chair near the top of the seesaw, and from his red cheeks and puffy eyes, it was clear he’d just finished one major sob session and was working himself up for another.
Glinda was talking him down from it. “What we do, we do for the good of Oz,” she cooed. “You do love Oz, don’t you?”
The kid nodded, sniffing up his tears and wiping the snot from his nose, and then he threw himself back into the motion of the seesaw. The clanging began again. My skull was vibrating so hard that I thought it might explode. My hands flew to cover my ears, but that did virtually nothing.
I was close enough to really see her now. Her dress was even more extraordinary from this vantage than it had appeared in the distance. Instead of the beautiful, flowing dress that the character had worn in the book, this gown was more like armor: thin metallic petals made up the voluminous skirt while magenta jewels dipped and curved across her chest in a tight, plunging bodice. It wasn’t my style, okay, but it was still pretty amazing.
She seemed perfect. And yet, as I approached, an uneasy feeling prevented me from calling out her name.
Something wasn’t right. From far off, she looked beautiful, ethereal, otherworldly. But up close, there was something ugly about her. Something was wrong with her face.
Yes, she was delicate — featured with exquisite bone structure, her perfect strawberry-blonde curls escaping from underneath a blinged-out golden crown as she smiled benevolently down at her loyal subjects. But that smile. It was — I don’t know how else to put it — kind of super-gross.
It stretched unnaturally wide, spreading out maniacally all the way across her jaw from one cheekbone to the other, and it was twitching at the corners like her lips had been pinned into place.
Other than the twitching, it didn’t move. At all. Even when she talked.
“What’s with her mouth?” I asked Star under my breath, after the machine had halted its banging once again. I jumped when an actual voice answered in a hoarse whisper from behind me.
“(A) it’s PermaSmile, and (B) are you out of your dumbass mind?”
I whirled around to see Indigo’s bright, aquamarine eyes staring out at me from somewhere within the shadowy web of the tree branches.
“Have you been following me?” I whispered back at my stalker, and then— my curiosity winning out over my annoyance — added, “And what’s PermaSmile?”
“I wasn’t following you,” Indigo replied with a petulant scowl. “I was just going in the same direction you were going in.” She paused.
“Besides, I couldn’t let you just wander up to Glinda like she’s going to give you a kiss and a cookie. I’m a softer touch than you think. And this is PermaSmile.”
She pulled out a small tube and held it up. “I never wear it, but it comes in handy to have around,” she said, uncapping the top and smearing it across her mouth like lipstick. As she did, her scowling lips stretched like putty into a wide, maniacal grin and stayed that way.
“Ew,” I said, unable to help myself.
“I know,” she said. “I hate it.” Her huge grin barely moved as she spoke. It was like Botox in a tube. Then she drew it across her face again, in the opposite direction this time, and, just like that, her mouth returned to its customary half-scowl. “Everyone wears it in the city, and since that’s where I’m going, I’ll need it.”
“The Emerald City?” “Yes, the Emerald City,” she mimicked. “Where else? Now come on. We can’t just hang around down here. She could smell us at any second.”
“Smell us?” I asked, genuinely confused. “What is she, a hunting dog? Besides, isn’t she supposed to be a good witch?”
“Sure,” Indigo snorted. “Good. Like that means anything around here. I hate to break it to you, but just because someone has pretty hair and good skin tone and a crown instead of a pointy hat doesn’t mean she’s not the baddest bitch this side of the Emerald City. Seriously. I can’t believe I’m risking my own neck to help you out.”
“But—” I said.
“No buts,” Indigo said. “Look, I’m giving you a chance. If you want to stay here and hope she takes a liking to you, be my guest. If you’d rather not get killed, follow me.”
Then she was scampering back toward the road, effortlessly weaving through the thorns and branches like they weren’t even there.
I paused for a moment. Glinda and Dorothy the bad guys? It was all so upside down — and yet, something about what Indigo was saying seemed right. I didn’t want to believe her, but I knew all too well that you can’t always get what you want. So I followed.
By the time I made it back to the road I was a scratched-up mess, my shirt torn and my arms crisscrossed with tiny cuts. Indigo was waiting for me, looking typically sour.
“Don’t get too excited,” she grumbled, but I could tell that somewhere underneath all that, she was happy I was joining her. “You can come with me as far as the city and then you’re on your own. And you do what I say, got it? You’ve already proven you have no survival instincts.”
“Deal,” I said.
I craned my neck back up at the so-called good witch, who was still floating eerily in the sky. How could I come all the way to Oz and pass up a chance to meet the one and only sorceress herself? It was like going to Disney World and not getting your picture taken with Cinderella.
I don’t think I have to tell you that my mom never took me to Disney World.
I was still wavering when Star hissed at me angrily. I knew what she was trying to tell me. With a twinge of regret, I chased after Indigo. Sometimes you just have to trust your pet rat’s instincts.
“Now, can you tell me what was going on back there?” I asked when we were back on our way.
“She’s magic mining,” Indigo explained, with the tone of someone explaining why the sky is blue to a toddler for the five hundredth time.
I half understood. Maybe. “Magic mining? But she’s a witch. Doesn’t she already have magic?”
Indigo gave a loud, angry snort. “It’s never enough. Never enough for her, and sure as hell never enough for Dorothy. They’re digging holes from here to the capital and sucking it right up out of the land. Why do you think all of Munchkin Country’s such a dump? Oz needs magic to survive. Without it, it just dries up.”
“So magic is like — in the ground?”
I thought of the dark, gaping pit that had swallowed my trailer. Was that one of Glinda’s excavation sites? If so, Greenpeace would have a few bones to pick with the Witch of the South if they ever made it to Oz.
“Yup.” Indigo nodded. “Well, it’s everywhere, but it starts in the ground and seeps out from there. Dig it all up and take it for your royal self, though? No more magic. The end; unhappily ever after.”
I’d never thought of myself as someone who was slow on the uptake, but this was all very confusing.
“Okay,” I said eventually. “Back up. You keep talking about Dorothy like she’s still here. But she went back to Kansas. That’s, like, the whole point of the story. There’s no place like home and all that.”
Really, it was the one part of The Wizard of Oz that I’d never liked. Girl gets whisked away to fairyland and all she can think about is going home? Sure, she missed her auntie Em. But you’d think her aunt would be happy for her to have gotten out of Kansas. Personally, I’d always thought Dorothy should have knocked her heels together and wished for something better than a trip back to Nowheresville.
“You only heard half the story. She did go home,” Indigo said. “Turns out home wasn’t so great after all. So Glinda brought her back here. Or, at least, most people think it was Glinda who brought her back. That’s like, how the legend goes. One way or another, when Dorothy got here, that’s when the problems all started.”
“What do you mean?”
Indigo shrugged and waved her hand over the landscape. “See for yourself. She was okay at first — I guess — but then they gave her a crown and made her a princess. And somewhere along the way she got a taste for magic. Pretty soon nothing was enough for her. The more she got, the more she wanted.”
“So the magic made her go off the deep end and start digging pits? Why is Glinda even helping her?”
“Think of it this way,” Indigo said. “You’ve got your Witch of the East. Dorothy crushes her with a house. The Witch of the West — Dorothy melts her with a bucket of water. Glinda’s the Witch of the South. Notice that she’s the one who’s still standing? Glinda knows what’s good for her. She knows that the worst thing you can do around here is get in Dorothy’s way.”
“What about North?” I asked. Indigo gave me a puzzled look.
“East, West, South,” I said. “What about the Witch of the North?” I asked.
Indigo just looked away. “You ask too many questions,” she said.
The world had been changing color while we’d talked. The closer we got to the Emerald City and away from Glinda and her machine, the more the chilly blue glow of the sky melted into something sunnier and pleasant. The grass grew greener and thicker on the ground, too, and every now and then I noticed a few crocuses poking their heads out of the earth.
I wasn’t positive, but as I listened carefully I was pretty sure I even heard some birds singing a tentative song. On the other hand, maybe it was just the residual sound of the drill ringing in my ears.
“Why do the Munchkins cooperate?” I asked. “If it’s ruining their home, it seems like they wouldn’t go along with it.”
Indigo leveled me with a cool stare.
“How about you stop asking about things you’ll never understand,” she said. “We’re going to get you to the Emerald City and you’re going to find some nice witch who will know how to send you right back to Kansas where you and your pink hair belong.”
After that, we walked in silence. Every time I tried to find another avenue for conversation, she shot me right down.
I thought about what she’d said about Dorothy. The explanation that she’d given me was barely any explanation at all: it was one thing to believe that Oz had been corrupted by someone truly evil, but Dorothy had been good once. She had fought the Wicked Witch of the West and freed Oz. How had things gone so wrong for her?
Suddenly my mother’s face flashed into my head, and I remembered what it had been like for her.
It hadn’t happened overnight. She’d been in a lot of pain after the car accident, and at first the pills just made her happy again. In some ways, it was happier than I’d seen her since my dad had left and we’d sold the house. Which made me happy, too.
It always wore off, though, and then it started wearing off faster and faster. She always wanted more. When she got more, she wanted more than that. And that was the end of life as we knew it. Every time I came home to find her sprawled out on the couch, or on the floor, the orange bottle still in her hands, I found myself amazed that something so tiny could hold so much power over her.
If what Indigo said was true, Dorothy had gotten a taste of magic, and when it was gone, it had left her hollow. How much magic did she have now?
It wasn’t a question worth asking. To someone like her, or someone like my mom, it wasn’t a matter of how much she had. It was how much she didn’t have.
All of this was making me wonder where my mom was. I hoped she was okay.
It felt like we’d been walking for hours. My feet were shooting with pain but the sun showed no signs of waning. Although our surroundings had brightened up considerably, it was monotonous and unchanging. The novelty was wearing off. I was too bored to even be creeped out anymore.
I kept waiting to come across a unicorn or a talking scarecrow or a river of lemonade, or some other magical Oz thing. I would have settled for a regular tree or a river made out of water. Or even, maybe, a monster.
So far, there was nothing.
“I have to sit,” I said finally. Indigo twisted her lips and then nodded.
“Fine,” she said, plopping herself down onto a rock by the side of the road. I sat down next to her. I took Star off my shoulder and placed her on the ground, and she took the opportunity to scamper away into a patch of weeds. I knew she’d be back.
“How far is the city?” I asked. “We’ve been walking forever.” “Dunno,” Indigo said. “I’ve never been.”
So we sat in silence. I wished I could pull my phone out just to have something to do, but my phone, along with everything else I’d ever owned, was at the bottom of the pit. If the pit even had a bottom.
Instead, I found myself studying the Munchkin’s tattooed arms, trying to untangle the elaborate, inky swirls that were etched into them, but it was weird — the more I stared at the designs, the more they seemed to be a blur. It was like they didn’t want me to understand them; like they were hiding their true meaning from me.
Indigo noticed me staring, and she rolled up her T-shirt sleeves to let me take a better look. “It’s Oz. The real Oz,” she said. “I wanted to remember how it used to be. So I got it inked. They’ll have to skin me if they want me to forget now.”
As she spoke, the tattoos began to form themselves into a picture before my eyes and I saw what she was talking about: her arms were a history. It was a beautiful, picturesque panorama, filled with flowers and animals — some of which I didn’t even recognize — and happy, smiling people.
The craziest part was that the picture was moving. Just barely, but moving for sure. The Munchkins on Indigo’s biceps were dancing a jig. The animals were frolicking; the flowers were rustling in the breeze. There was even a witch, green and wicked with a pointy black hat, cheerfully dancing something like a hula. “Magic ink,” she said. “Cool, right?” She said it like it was no big deal, like she was talking about the new shoes she’d just bought at the outlet mall. She waved her hand in the air, gesturing at the landscape around us. “It’s better here since we’re farther away from the mines, but nothing’s what it used to be. It’ll just be one big pit soon.”
She looked so sad. It was the worst kind of sad, too — the kind where you’re sad about something that you know will never change. The kind of sad you can’t even bother getting angry about anymore.
Did all of Oz feel this way? If so, it must be a terrible place to live.
I stood up and brushed myself off. “Come on,” I said. “We’re going to the Emerald City.”
Indigo stared up at the sky like she was looking for a clue. I was beginning to wonder when the sun was going to go down. The sky was just as light as it had been when we’d started walking. It didn’t even feel like it was the same day, much less the same afternoon.
“I don’t know,” she said after a while of just looking. It sounded more like she was talking to herself than to me. “I don’t actually really know anything. I don’t even really know why I want to go. We’ll probably get caught before we make it there anyway. She has spies everywhere.” She sighed a long sigh. But she followed me back onto the road.
“You asked why they work for her,” she said. “You asked why the Munchkins don’t just tell Glinda to f— off and take her machine somewhere else.”
“Yeah. I was wondering that. Maybe it was stupid of me.”
“It was,” Indigo said, shooting me an annoyed look. “Do you think they have a choice? I was one of those kids bouncing up and down on a seesaw for hours, you know. But I got away. Now my family’s gone, my house is empty, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself. If I get caught, they’ll kill me. So. That’s why they do it, okay?”
“I didn’t know,” I said. “I’m sorry.” And I was.
“When we get to the Emerald City, we’re going to find someone to send you home. And when we do, they’re going to send me along with you. Anything’s better than this.”
She saw it before I did.
“What the hell?” she said, stopping dead in her tracks in the middle of the road.
Ahead of us, we heard a screechy, unearthly caterwaul. Star squealed in response. I sped up to see what was going on. Then I wished I hadn’t seen it at all.
A few paces off, something was tied to a post at the edge of the road. The something was furry. It screeched again.
“One of the monkeys,” Indigo said, almost in a whisper. The creature was dangling upside down from the post, a thick rope binding his ankles in place. This wasn’t your normal monkey, though: he was dressed like a little preppy in khaki pants with jaunty red suspenders and leather Top-Siders on his feet.
Despite his outfit, he looked a long way from Nantucket. He appeared to be in so much pain: his eyes were half closed, blood-crusted, and unfocused. His mouth was dry and cracked; his fur was dirty and matted. He didn’t look at us — I was pretty sure he couldn’t even tell we were there.
But he was conscious enough to express his anguish, and he let out yet another earsplitting scream. Indigo raced forward and when I caught up with her, she was kneeling, reading a sign that was nailed just below where the monkey’s head swayed inches from the ground.
“For the Crime of Sass, This Monkey Is Hereby Sentenced to Official Attitude Adjustment. Do Not Tamper. By Royal Order of Princess Dorothy.”
“The crime of sass?” I whispered angrily. They’d made that a crime? Indigo seemed paralyzed. She didn’t respond.
Well, at least I was here to help him. “Poor little monkey,” I said. “Let’s get you down from there.” I made a move to untie him, but Indigo grabbed my wrist. She was almost shaking.
“No,” she said. “We can’t.”
“What are you talking about? You can’t just leave a defenseless animal tied up by the side of the road. Look at him. I’m surprised he’s still alive. And what the hell? This is what she calls an attitude adjustment? What’s wrong with this place?”
Indigo shook her head sadly. “We have to leave him. If we don’t, we’ll be considered just as guilty as he is. I’ve seen it before.” She looked up at me with tears in her eyes, and I somehow understood that this had already happened to someone she loved.
“Welcome to Oz,” she said. Her voice caught, and then she stood and dusted herself off. Her face, which had just a moment ago looked close to crumpling, hardened back into her typical scowl.
“Come on. Let’s keep moving. Forget we even saw it.”
I shook my head at her. It was wearing pants. It had dried blood all over it. It was in eardrum-busting pain.
“You saved me from talking to Glinda.”
“That was different. You hadn’t been convicted of anything.” I looked at her and then back at the monkey. I couldn’t leave him. There was just no way. So without hesitating — without thinking, really — I reached up and began to untie the ropes that held him to the post.
“No!” Indigo cried. But she didn’t try to stop me. Within seconds I’d gotten him free. I caught him in my arms — he was heavier than he looked — and as I laid him carefully down on the yellow bricks, I felt two rough, bald little stumps on his shoulder blades. It took me a second to realize what they were, and when I did, I felt sick to my stomach. This monkey had once had wings.
“Sh—,” Indigo said, running her fingers through her hair in panic.
“Sh—, sh—, sh— sh—.” She had scampered to the middle of the road and was looking up and down in either direction like she thought they would be coming for us at any moment. But no alarm bells started ringing. No gunshots rang out; no flare was sent up. Nothing happened at all.
“What do you think is coming?” “You don’t understand. They have their ways. They know everything. They see everything.”
“They just do.”
“If they knew everything that went on around here, they’d have already caught us. Come on — you must have some water somewhere in that giant pack of yours, right?”
Reluctantly, Indigo dug around in her bag and came back with a canteen. She handed it to me, and I poured the water over the animal’s cracked lips and waited. After a moment, his eyes fluttered open. He gurgled and sputtered for a moment before registering our presence.
“There you are . . . ,” I said, leaning over to give him another sip.
“Thank you,” he said in a weak, hoarse voice.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed, jumping back. “He can talk!”
“Of course I can talk,” he croaked. Even in his weakened state, he managed to sound offended. “I’m an educated monkey. My name is Ollie.”
Although I was still freaked out, I bent down to help him sit up. My fingers brushed against the jagged, stumpy nubbins poking out of his shoulder blades.
“Don’t mind those,” he explained, seeing the look of confusion on my face. “That’s just where my wings used to be. Before I cut them off.”