I’m standing outside a storefront at a retail complex in downtown LA with six or seven other people. We mill about anxiously, making small talk and laughing nervously. The late September night is warm, save an occasional breeze cool enough to make the hairs on my neck tingle and confirm that Autumn is approaching. It’s a strange night, a strange meeting place, and we are gathered here for a strange reason. We are here to meet the Witch.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a slender, statuesque woman appears. She’s dressed in a black leather jacket, faded black jeans, and sturdy boots. Her auburn hair is loose around her face and her are eyes smudged with black kohl. There is something familiar about her, but I can’t place her face. Before I can think on it too long, she speaks to us. “I know there’s a truce and all, but… why are you here? Are you with Revolt?”
Some of the others answer yes. I do not. My alliance is with the Patchwork Resistance, although alliances seem to matter very little lately. The woman in black gestures for us to follow her inside the space. A few feet inside she stops abruptly and turns to us. “Do you hate me? I feel like you hate me. It’s okay if you do. I hate Kansas. It’s super boring here. Come on.”
We follow her a bit further, until she stops again, in front of a curtained doorway. “Some people think that I’m ‘intense’. But, I’m just loyal… to our king. To our former king. And, I don’t understand why everyone thinks that’s such a bad thing!”
She explains that she didn’t grow up in the Emerald City, but visited once as a child. While she was there, the Scarecrow King threw a parade and it made her feel so proud. She remembers seeing General Jinjur standing by the King’s side, ready to protect His Majesty at any cost. “I wanted to be just like her. I was obsessed. But, then she betrayed him. She betrayed ALL OF US! You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not very sentimental. Her death doesn’t make up for his.”
We pass through the curtain and into a dark and winding hallway. The silence is uncomfortable and I find myself wondering if coming here was a wise idea.
We’re ushered into a small room in which an altar to honor General Jinjur has been built. In the glow of the flickering candlelight I see photographs of Jinjur as a child, and several well-loved rag dolls limply leaning alongside offerings of flowers and favored objects.
“And, there she is.”, says the Woman in Black. “General Jinjur. I don’t think I’ll ever get over her betrayal. It still feels fresh. But… maybe this would help.”
The woman picks up a baseball bat and moves toward the altar, set to destroy it. Just then, we hear a woman’s stern voice behind us. “Put it down!”, she says. We turn and see Glinda, holding a very large gun pointed at the Woman in Black. “Put it down. NOW!”, Glinda repeats, punctuating her words with an assertive cock of the gun.
The Woman in Black complies, but can’t resist taunting Glinda. “You call yourself a witch, but you’re powerless.”
Glinda smirks, “You don’t need magic when you have a gun.”
The woman lifts her head proudly. “Do it! It would be an honor to die as his majesty did!”
“Oh. Just like he did? I seem to remember a certain girl sobbing over his body. You think any of them are going to do that for you? I’ll bet they don’t even know your name.”
I suddenly realize why the Woman in Black is familiar to me. She’s Lavender Pip, the Munchkin girl who was so bereaved at the Scarecrow’s death. The one I tried in vain to console. But, the woman before me is no longer the sweet, wide-eyed girl I met at the wedding. Grief and anger have stolen her innocence, and it breaks my heart.
Glinda yells at Lavender, “GET OUT!”
Lavender moves toward the hallway, then turns to face Glinda with fire in her eyes. “If she doesn’t kill you, I will.”. Then she is gone the way we came, her angry footsteps echoing into the distance.
Glinda steps in front of the altar. “I don’t want to hear any shit from anyone.”, she warns us. “Either you’re here for Jinjur, or you’re leaving. Understood?”
We nod in agreement.
Glinda tells us of her deep friendship with Jinjur. She speaks of camaraderie and the support Jinjur provided when relations between Giliken and the Emerald City began to deteriorate. There is love and deep respect in Glinda’s voice, and I feel a knot form in my chest as I listen. Her voice begins to falter as she is overtaken by sadness. But, just as quickly as the emotion surfaces, Glinda pushes it down again. She sighs heavily, then clears her throat. “It’s time to bear witness.”
“The winds brought forth the elements when time began.”
As she speaks, she hands each of us an elemental object: a small tin full of sand, a jar of seeds, a basin of water, and a small stick of charcoal glowing red at the tip: fire.
She tells us the story of how the elements created the land of Oz, and kept it alive and forever changing. “Only the winds are able to carry all of these elements. And, only the winds create life. One day… on a day decreed by death itself, the winds will command an element to take you. From these elements we are born, and so they come to take us back. May these elements guide you over the shifting sands peacefully, and return you home. If anyone would like to say anything to Jinjur, please say it now.”
A few of our group speak, and some lay flowers and other tokens of remembrance on the altar. I remain silent, unable to find words to express what I’m feeling.
Glinda stands straight and composes herself as she affirms, “Oz forever!”. She walks toward the doorway from which she appeared earlier and invites us to follow her. I step over the threshold and find myself in a large, dimly lit room cluttered with mannequins and miscellaneous shop wares. A large clothing rack stands against the length of one wall. At the center of the space, surrounded by stacked boxes and furniture is the place Glinda has been hiding. It feels reminiscent of a child’s box fort. Glinda’s home furnishings consist of a half-dozen rolling office chairs, an old, CRT television displaying a video feed from OZ, and a large easel on which is pinned a map of the US. Red twine has been crisscrossed over the map in some sort of pattern. It will soon become apparent that the twine charts the location of several portals between our world and the land of OZ.
We sit down and Glinda pulls out a bag of Oreo cookies. We pass them around, and nibble quietly as we listen. Glinda asks us what day it is and how long it’s been since the wedding. It seems it’s been difficult to keep track of time, here in Kansas. She’s been desperate to find a portal back to Oz, to return to save Jinjur. But, portals are unpredictable and incredibly dangerous and, even with time dilation on her side, she was unable to find a way. She tells us that the portals were created by Pastoria, when he hid his daughter, Ozma, in a fold in time. The portals were intended to be used as a means of movement between the two worlds. But, in order to reliably control the portals, one must control the keys. And, currently, the Militia controls most of the keys.
“If something good can come from Jinjur’s death, I think it’s this: I can find a way to create and collapse the portals. If I can control the portals…”
There is a startlingly loud burst of static from the television as words flash on the screen: INCOMING MESSAGE FROM OZMA. And, then her face is before us, Queen Ozma, the newly crowned ruler of Oz. She speaks directly to Glinda, as if she is in the room with us. As if she’s been watching the entire time.
“Hello, Glinda.”, she purrs. “I just wanted to… how do they say it in Kansas?… Pay my respects to General Jinjur. In loving memory.”
The lack of sincerity in Ozma’s voice is obvious, and I can hardly believe her cruelty.
There’s another loud buzz of static from the television and we are looking at another familiar face, this one a ghost from recent past. It is Jinjur, ragged and beaten, held captive and being interrogated by Ozma. “When did Glinda join Revolt?”, she asks.
Jinjur wearily answers, “When the Scarecrow bombed her castle with his Ozoplane fleet.”
“Why did he bomb the castle?”, Ozma asks innocently.
“Because Glinda had been hiding her people there.”
“In secret?” Ozma asks.
“How did the Scarecrow find out?”, Ozma teases, her voice saccharine sweet.
There is fear in Jinjur’s eyes intensifies. “Someone told him…”, murmurs Jinjur.
“WHO? WHO TOLD THE SCARECROW?” Ozma demands.
Jinjur cries out, “I did. I told the Scarecrow.” She turns to the camera and her eyes well with tears, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”.
The admission is a crushing blow to Glinda and she gasps in pained disbelief. How could her dearest friend betray her? Why would she do this to her?
Ozma continues her ruthless interrogation, “Why did you tell the Scarecrow?”
“Glinda needed a reason to join Revolt.”, replies Jinjur. “You were always so peaceful, Glinda. Always trying to find the good in every situation. That’s not the way the world is. I needed you to realize your full potential. So I pulled the trigger.”
Ozma’s voice is heard from off-camera, “Files… finish her.”
I catch a final glimpse of Jinjur’s terrified face, and hear her plead for mercy. Then the blast of a shotgun, and deafening static as the picture goes black. When the picture returns, we are addressed once more by Queen Ozma. “And, thus ENDS Revolt. Make no mistake. You’ve all born witness to the death of a movement. Oz… forever.”, she declares.
The broadcast ends and there is only white noise from the television.
We sit in silence for a moment unsure of what to say or do. But, the sense of betrayal and anger welling up inside of Glinda is palpable. Something shifts inside of her, and she orders us to get up and follow her. She has something to show us.
As we walk, Glinda speaks frantically. “There’s a saying in Oz: ‘The fastest way to loss is love’. Bullshit! Because love, and trust, and belief are long, and torturous, and painful! It is betrayal, and inaction, and confusion, and LIES… and pain. ENDLESS pain! Forever and always.”
We reach an elevator, and Glinda bangs on the door until it opens. She orders us to get in, quickly, and then instructs the operator to take us to the roof.
As we ascend, Glinda tells us, “When I had my magic… when I was a child… I could fly. Anywhere I wanted. Anywhere in Oz. Sometimes, I would take Jinjur with me.”
The elevator doors open, and we step out onto the rooftop. The city lights twinkle and glow before us and, for a second, I’m awestruck by the beauty, such a contrast to the ugly events that have recently transpired.
Glinda continues, “A storm came out of nowhere, and we were like a toy being thrown about by the wind. Jinjur was scared. ‘I don’t want to die!’, she said. And, I said, ‘I won’t let you. I promise.’ But, now… now… if I had known then what I know now…”
Glinda sobs for a moment, her eyes wide and helpless with grief. But, the display of vulnerability is brief, as her grief shifts to anger. “I have something Phoebe wants, and I haven’t decided what to do with it, yet. But, an eye for an eye is sounding pretty fucking great!”
Glinda leads us further onto the rooftop, and I feel dread in the pit of my stomach at what or who we’re about to see. We reach the far end of the roof and I see a man slumped in a chair, his wrists bound behind him. As he looks up, I see that it’s Phil, the leader of the Patchwork Resistance. His nose is cut, and he is bruised and bleeding. The last I saw of Phil, he had fled from his sister, Phoebe/Ozma, seeking Glinda’s help to restore order and peace to Oz. It seems that things had not gone according to plan.
“Phil found me after the wedding. He had some interesting things to say…” says Glinda, holding Phil’s head up by his hair. “I knew he’d be valuable… a bargaining chip Phoebe couldn’t possibly turn down. So, I tied him up. I was hoping to exchange him for Jinjur. But, that was before…”
She contemplates for a moment, then states, “To be honest, I think I’m just going to kill him.”
Phil begs for Glinda to allow him to explain, but she is tired of listening. Instead, she suggests that Phil should tell us what’s going on. Phil’s unsure. Can he trust us? Can anyone trust anyone, anymore?
“You can trust me. You just can’t rely on me,” Phil tells Glinda.
Glinda looks to a member of our group and tells him, “Ask Phil why we can’t rely on him.”
The man asks. Phil replies, “Because I’m a coward, and a failure. I have been for a very long time.”
Glinda mocks Phil. “A coward and a failure! The commander of the Patchwork Resistance…”
Phil stops her, “No! I’m not the commander. Dorothy took over.”
“Dorothy’s drugged on mind-inhibitors…” says Glinda.
Phil explains, no, he gave her the antidote at the wedding, after the assassination. But, yes, she was drugged. And, it was he who kept her that way. To keep her safe from Phoebe.
The questioning continues. But, it soon becomes apparent that Phil’s answers are irrelevant, no matter how truthful. Glinda wants revenge, and Phil is the most viable option, at the moment.
Phil struggles to change Glinda’s mind, “Dorothy told me to come find you, Glinda. Because I needed your help! Dorothy said she wasn’t the Lost Princess!”. He explains that Dorothy believes he is the Lost Princess. And, that Phoebe is also the Lost Princess. Ozma split herself and hid inside Phil and his twin sister.
Glinda scoffs, “Do you believe it?”
Phil asks, “Do you? I want to believe it. The good parts and the bad parts of Ozma were split apart, and we have to find a way to unite the two halves or both worlds, Kansas and Oz, will suffer.”
“Bullshit!” cries Glinda. “You would believe anything she says!”
“No! Why would Dorothy lie? She lost everything! I tried to get her to run away. But, she stayed so that I could find you! You can trust Dorothy!”
“But, can I trust you, Phil?”, Glinda asks doubtfully. “Did you know the Scarecrow was going to drop the bombs on Giliken?”
Phil hesitates, but Glinda continues to push him until he admits that he knew about the bombs. Still, she is not satisfied. She demands to know who told the Scarecrow to drop the bombs on her castle. Phil claims he doesn’t know, but Glinda is relentless. She screams at Phil to swear it, to swear on his life, on our lives.
Glinda steps back for a moment, then reveals the awful truth to Phil, “Jinjur told the Scarecrow. The world is broken, Phil. Everything is just fucked.”
Phil attempts to calm her, “Everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure that Jinjur…”
“You did nothing, Phil! Just like always.”
“I understand you’re upset. But, you are misdirecting your anger! Glinda, please! Don’t do this. What would Dorothy say? She sent me to find you, to ask you for help…”
Glinda’s eyes are wild with rage. “There is justice in brutality, after all. Only the wicked are punished. So, if you are punished, you must be wicked!”
“Glinda, you don’t believe that!”
“You could have stopped the bullet, Phil! But you. Did. NOTHING!”
Glinda lifts the gun and points it at Phil’s head. I feel my stomach drop at the realization that I’m about to witness the execution of an innocent man. Glinda pulls the trigger, and I brace myself for the sound of the shot. But, the only sound I hear is a small click. She tries again. CLICK! The gun has jammed.
Glinda can no longer contain her rage and lets out a primal scream that echos in the night. We all stand in stunned silence as she sobs, unable to control her feelings any longer.
Phil lifts his head and stares at us with a strange look in his eye. When he speaks, his voice is calm, soft, and clearly not his own.
“Glinda,” he calls to her.
“Fuck you, Phil!”, she says.
“It’s all right, Glinda.”. Phil rises from his seat. His posture is noticeably different, and he moves with calm grace.
Glinda is taken aback and approaches Phil-not-Phil cautiously. “Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m Ozma. You met my father once. I can see it in your memories.”, says Phil/Ozma. “Well, hurry, child. We don’t have all night. Phil is still fighting me.”
Glinda stares back at Phil/Ozma in disbelief and confusion. “I didn’t believe. I thought you’d died years ago. And, I’ve been waiting to say so many things.…” she whispers with tears streaming down her face.
“Of course you have.”, answers Phil/Ozma. “That’s what it is to be alive. Living is triumphing over the past. The roads that we walk are paved with the mistakes that we’ve overcome.”
“In a dream, your father, he said…”, Glinda begins.
Phil-Ozma stops her, “Yes. I was desperate. I split myself. I made a mistake. Just like you. Just like Phil. But, all the worst parts of me ended up in Phoebe.”
“She isn’t lying,” says Glinda.
“No. But, she is in danger,” replies Phil/Ozma. “We all are. All of us. Glinda, teach Phil how to use magic. Teach him how to be good.”
Glinda quickly unties the binding on Phil/Ozma’s wrists and he/she reaches out to Glinda and pulls her close in a gentle embrace, holding her tenderly, like one would a frightened child.
After a moment Phil/Ozma looks Glinda in the eyes, “Go on. Ask me. Ask me what it is you want to ask me.”
Glinda hesitates, then asks her question. “Why did you wait so long to come back? We needed you. I needed you! Why here? Why now? Why?”
We wait for the answer, but it never comes. The next sound out of Phil/Ozma is a choked gasp, like a man coming up for air after near-drowning. He staggers back from Glinda and stumbles, coughing, to the edge of the rooftop. For a moment, I wonder if he’s about to be sick. Glinda appears stunned and shaken. After confirming that Phil is alright, the two decide on a plan of action. Glinda leaves to secure the building, while Phil is left to see us out.
We follow Phil back toward the elevator. Just before we reach it, Phil stops in his tracks staring at the glowing city skyline. He seems awestruck, and utters a barely audible “Oh, my!”
We file into the elevator, and Phil speaks of his sister as we descend. He describes how she was always the brave one, the confidant sibling, the one who made friends easily.
“And, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t as brave, or as reckless.”, Phil says, “Because she took me with her. And, when she started to change, I wasn’t afraid of the change, I was afraid of losing her. Losing my best friend… my only friend. Phoebe is lost in the woods. I’m not going to leave her behind.”
We reach ground level and the elevator doors open with a soft ‘ping!’. We step out, and turn to look at Phil, still standing in the elevator. Phil meets our gaze, and there is something burning behind his eyes, a determination that wasn’t there before.
“One more thing.”, says Phil. “If any of you happen to see Her Majesty, tell her Ozma says hello.”
The elevator doors slide closed and I am left wondering if Her Majesty has any idea what is coming for her.
You can also read a recap of Ch. 5: The Vow here.