Fearless

This story is paired with Chapter 6 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


“So what’ve we got?” asked Detective Jill Haley, the question more formality than anything else. After so many years, even the grisliest crime scenes were familiar patterns.

But something about this one was different. For starters, the victim’s girlfriend had been wailing at the top of her lungs since they arrived twenty minutes ago.

“Male, 26-years-old,” her partner, Justin Bolger, replied. “He and his girlfriend—

“You mean Ms. Screamy McShouterton over there?”

Justin sighed and gritted his teeth. “Jill, can you please not be a heartless shell of a person right now?”

Jill bristled. It was bad enough having a second year detective be condescending towards her, but even worse that he thought she was ‘heartless.’

After countless crime scenes and cases, dealing with a homicide witness related to the victim still ripped her up inside. The only way to keep it together was to block out any emotions, limiting her focus to gathering information and evidence (which was difficult to do when the witness sounded like a tornado warning siren.) That often meant turning off your empathy so you could focus on putting together a crime scene without feeling like you were going to burst into tears.

It was a skill she’d been working on with Justin, who, despite being built like a linebacker, had the general disposition of a puppy dog when it came to dealing with witnesses. He’d been getting better, but something about this scene had him spooked so badly that he was actually shaking. He needed the Jill he knew as a mentor and friend, rather than a partner right now.

“Hey, it’s alright,” she replied, squeezing his arm. “Just trying to get focused, which we both need to be right now. Walk me through what’ve you got so far.”

Justin sighed and gave a nod before continuing, a slight tremble in his voice. “The vic and the witness were walking through Alfred Macdonald Park at approximately 12:30 AM. Witness claims they were chased by two subjects, approximately 120 yards to the south. Vic fell after a few feet, where one of the perps picked him up while the other decapitated him with his bare hands.”

“Holy shit,” Jill exhaled. “Any chance a weapon was used, and the witness just didn’t see it? I’ve seen PCP make people do some pretty terrible stuff, but this doesn’t seem possible.”

“That’s far from the only thing that doesn’t make sense,” Bolger replied, staring down at his notepad. “She thought the ‘things’ chasing them were bears until getting a good look at one of their faces. Then she changed her story to them being tigers.”

“So either she needs glasses, or was high on bath salts.”

“Maybe,” Justin said, cocking his head to the side. “But her pupils aren’t dilated. She also seems surprisingly lucid aside from the hysterics. As far as her reaction to all this goes, I think it’s at least somewhat genuine.”

“Justin, I think the world of you, but your ability to read other people is complete shit. You’re the type of guy who thinks the waitresses at Hooters are actually hitting on you.”

“Up yours,” Justin responded with a grin, giving Jill the first sign was starting to calm down. “Anyway, the vic ran fled the park and made it to North Crestway. She then ran to the Quicktrip on the corner of Oliver and 13th, where she called 911. Before getting there, however, she turned around to see that one of the perps had stopped chasing her at the park’s tree line. She also claims that her pursuer’s eyes were glowing.”

“Bath salts,” Jill stated, matter of fact.

“I don’t think so,” Justin replied. “Witnesses inside the gas station say the say the same thing. As if that weren’t messed up enough on its own, dispatch is lighting up all over Wichita with calls near the big parks. Chisolm Creek, Chapin, Glen Day…all of them are getting homicide calls like this one. The victims were decapitated by brute force, just like our guy; head pulled clean off from the neck. Some of those incidents had witnesses who also reported seeing some form a bear mixed with a tiger.”

“Damn,” Jill said, pulling out a cigarette. “Think this was some sort of gang thing with costumes? Maybe an old school 1980’s occult scare that’s actually real?”

“Hold up, this keeps getting better,” Justin continued. “While all this is going on, county gets a call from the psych ward over at Osawatomie Hospital. Dorothy woke up.”

*   *   *

“Sorry I snapped at you back there,” Justin mumbled as they turned onto the highway.

“Want to know a secret?” Jill replied, blowing a puff of smoke out the passenger window. “During my first year working homicide in Chicago, I was on a case where some guy was killing homeless people in wheelchairs. It really hit home, because my father was in one for most of his life.”

“My partner, on the other hand, kept referring to the vic as ‘wheelies’, which severely pissed me off. After the ninth or tenth time he said it, I gathered up all five foot three inches of myself and punched him in the teeth.”

“I believe it,” Justin chuckled.

“I was lucky just to get suspended. But to my partner’s credit, he stuck up for me. Later on, he explained that it was just a way of detaching himself from the vics so he could focus. I know that dark humor isn’t really your thing, but you’ll go nuts if you let your heart bleed for every victim and their families.”

“I hear ya,” Justin responded. “But still, you gotta cut me some slack for freaking out after seeing my first severed head.”

“If I’m being honest, it made me pretty sick, too,” Jill replied, after a long drag on her cigarette. “Decapitations are bad enough without freaks in lion costumes—”

“Bears with tiger heads,” Justin corrected her.

“Whatever. I don’t even know where to start with all this, but I’m guessing that this whole thing with ‘Dorothy’ isn’t even worth the gas and mileage.”

The girl had been all over the news after showing up during a freak thunderstorm a few weeks prior. A nearby farmer had found her, wearing a sign that read, ‘I come from Oz. I will wake up soon.’ She had brown hair and was wearing a blue dress, which pretty much made the name the media gave her unavoidable. She was also barefoot, which led to plenty of facetious discussions over whether or not her ‘magic shoes’ had been stolen.

“I wonder if someone hooked her up with a sweet pair of ruby pumps,” Jill said as they exited the highway. “Maybe that’s what got her talking.”

“Silver,” Justin replied. “The ruby slippers were just done for the movie. In the book, the magic shoes were made of silver.”

Jill stared in disbelief at her partner, as if he were speaking another language. “Since when do you read anything other than road signs and Maxim?”

My mom used to read the Wizard of Oz books to me and my brothers a lot before she died.”

“Ah shit, sorry,” Jill said, flicking her cigarette out the window. “Now I feel like an ass.”

“It’s all right. This is like, the one smart person thing I got. Maybe I’ll be able to help you on this case with more than just muscle and procedural crap.”

“So Mr. Situationally Book Smart,” Jill said with mock seriousness, “anything else about this one that I missed by only knowing the Judy Garland version?”

“Well, there is one thing. There are deadly creatures called ‘kalidahs’ that lurk in the forests of Oz. They have tiger heads and bear bodies.”

“Sorry I asked,” Jill sighed.

Justin turned towards the hospital and pulled into a nearby parking space. After walking inside, they were greeted by the supervisor, who led them to Dorothy’s room.

“No one saw her at the moment she woke up, but her behavior’s done a complete 180°,” he stammered as they strode down the hallway “It’s like someone flipped a switch or something. She went from completely comatose to screaming that ‘the beasts of the forest were coming.’ When we tried to ask her what it meant, she started rambling about how monsters from Oz that looked like tiger and bear hybrids might be lurking wherever there were trees.”

Jill and Justin looked at each other, neither of them sure how to react to the information.

“Sorry if this is something I shouldn’t ask,” the supervisor continued, “but what’s this all about? I know that this patient’s generated a considerable amount of local interest, but why’re the police involved? Do you know who she is?”

“We’ll let you know if we learn anything,” Justin lied. “Through this door?”

“Yes,” the supervisor replied. “I’ll be right outside.”

Jill and Justin walked into the room to find Dorothy sitting on the edge of her bed. Her face was no longer covered in dirt, like it had been when she was found. She’d been bathed and scrubbed clean, her long brown hair brushed straight so that it hung down to her waist. Her blue dress had been exchanged for a blue hospital gown.

“Oh thank heavens!” the girl exclaimed, jumping off the bed. “No one here will believe me, but you don’t look like the people who work here. Are you the police?”

“I’m Detective Haley; this is Detective Bolger,” Jill replied. “We just came from the city—”

“Which city?”

“Wichita,” Jill stated.

“Oh my,” the girl sighed. “I’m sorry for interrupting you, but I’ve desperately wanted to know where I was for days now. Please, go on.”

“We’ve had a series of murders that took place in various city parks. According to the staff here, you were able to give a description of the alleged perpetrators that matches our eyewitness accounts. Do you have any more information to share that might help us?”

“Oh no,” the girl said, teeth gritted, pacing from one side of the room to the other. “It’s already started. I had hoped to awaken before it happened, but the potion that Mr. Scarecrow raided from Mombi’s castle must have—”

“Ma’am,” Jill interrupted, “do you have any information about this case that could help us? Do you know who these people are or where they’re going to hit next?”

“Dorothy,” the girl replied. “My name is Dorothy. I know that’s what they’ve been calling me here. My story is well known in this world.”

“We don’t have time for games, miss,” Jill replied, edging forward so that she was nose to nose with the girl. “The longer it takes us to stop this group, the more people will die.”

“I don’t want anyone else to die,” Dorothy whispered, staring right back at Jill with her huge blue eyes.

Dorothy appeared genuinely devastated at the thought of people dying. Jill had dealt with enough sociopaths and whack jobs that tried the same routine, but this display of emotion felt real.

“Then help us,” Justin said, gently touching her shoulder.

“I’d like to do that more than anything!” Dorothy exclaimed. “Magic in this realm has been forgotten and unseen in such a long time. But if we really are in Wichita, then I know a great and powerful man who can help.”

*   *   *

Justin looked down at his phone as it buzzed against his leg.

Jill: I bet she’s leading us to a drug dealer.

He smiled and reached down, trying to keep one eye on the road as he typed.

Justin: Maybe we’re going to see the Wizard.

Jill: Not funny. And stop trying to text and drive, you dipshit!

Justin: Then stop texting me!

Justin swerved, hitting a curb. Dorothy gasped. After a glare from Jill, he slid his phone into his pocket and refocused his eyes on the road.

“You folks don’t talk much, do you?” Dorothy chirped from the backseat. “Sorry if I seem a bit antsy, but it’s been so long since I could talk with other people. Everyone thought I was asleep, but I could still hear and see everything happening around me that whole time. You’d think that would be scary. Mostly, I just felt lonely.”

“Bet the baths were fun, at least,” Jill muttered under her breath.

“We’re here,” Justin proclaimed, hoping he’d spoken loudly enough to mask his partner’s comment.

The trio stepped out of the car in front of an old electronics store. A small television hung over the front counter. Behind it, lights glowed and flickered, indicating someone was awake and working. Dorothy rushed ahead, pushing through the door and bursting inside before Jill and Justin could stop her.

“Oscar?!” she yelled. “Mr. Oscar Diggs?! Are you in here, Mr. Diggs?”

“Now Dorothy,” an old man intoned as he hobbled out from the back. “You know good and well that’s not my preferred title.”

“Oh, Mr. Diggs!” Dorothy yelled, rushing forward to embrace him. “I was worried that you might’ve gone back to Omaha!”

“I promised I’d stay close, in case you had to come back, didn’t I?” the old man replied.

Dorothy turned around to face the detectives, smiling like she’d discovered a hidden treasure. “This, Mr. and Mrs. Detectives, is The Wizard. He can do anything!”

“Well, I wouldn’t say anything,” the old man added sheepishly. “Just an old inventor and a showman. How are things in the Land of Oz, Ms. Gale?”

“That’s why I’m here, Mr. Diggs,” Dorothy replied, her voice serious. “Something’s wrong with the Cowardly Lion. Monsters from the Forest of Wild Beasts are showing up here in this world, and no one can find him. I’m afraid he might be hurt, or worse!”

“Alright, that’s it!” Jill said, slamming her hand down on the counter. “This Wizard of Oz bullshit’s gone on long enough.”

“Detective, just because you don’t believe something doesn’t make it ‘bullshit’,” the old man responded. Dorothy gasped, clearly perturbed at the sound of him swearing. “But if you don’t believe me, perhaps a bit of evidence will help persuade you, like the image on the television that’s made your partner’s mouth hang open like a fish.”

Jill turned to see that Justin’s mouth was indeed hanging open. She followed his eyes to the small television above them, where the broadcast had changed from a late night talk show to a live aerial shot of the city. A spider the size of a tank was rampaging down East Douglas Avenue, causing late night revelers and homeless city dwellers alike to flee in terror.

“I thought the Cowardly Lion destroyed that creature already,” Dorothy whispered.

“He did kill one, but there were always more,” the old man replied.

“Alright, Mr. Wizard,” Jill said, turning back towards the old man. “So how do we stop these things from making the city look like one giant acid trip?”

“What my partner is trying to say,” Justin interrupted, “is can you help us stop this?”

“Perhaps,” he replied with a sigh. “But first, I must admit something to you, Ms. Gale, something that you may not find very pleasant.”

*   *   *

Dorothy sat down in the large metal chair, looking uncomfortable for the first time since they’d arrived. Meanwhile, the old man had gone in the back to retrieve something. He soon returned clutching a pair of glasses with emerald-green lenses.

“Do you remember these, Dorothy?”

“Yes, sir,” she replied. “It’s what you made us wear when we first entered the Emerald City.”

“In the book,” Justin said in response to Jill’s confused look.

“Well, they weren’t just a ruse. You see, I also implanted a small chip on the side of the frames that could be absorbed into the skin. Some of this might not make sense to you, dear, perhaps I should just—”

“Mr. Diggs!” Dorothy snapped. “I may not be an inventor like you, but I’m not stupid. Tell me what you did this instant!”

“Yes, I was saying, the chips imbedded themselves into the skin of whoever wore the glasses. It then formed a neural connection that could uplinked with this computer right here.” He motioned to a computer tower and monitor that looked like it they were from the last century. “This allows me to see whatever the subject sees, even when they’re not wearing the glasses.”

“Mr. Diggs! How could you?!” Dorothy exclaimed. “Intruding upon people’s privacy like that isn’t just wrong, but incredibly gross and creepy!”

“I know dear, I know,” he sighed, hanging his head toward the floor. “But I miss Oz so much sometimes and I can’t always go back when I wish. This is the next best thing—and I always turned it off if the subject I was observing went to the bathroom!”

“We can do a presentation for the NSA later,” Jill said. “But for right now, show us how your creepy as hell technology—if it even works—can help us.”

“Why, to see what our friend Brrr is up to!” the Wizard cheerfully replied. “Please don’t call him that, though. He doesn’t like that name.”

“Wait, so he actually prefers being called ‘The Cowardly Lion?’” Justin asked.

The Wizard shrugged in reply, then pointed again towards the blank computer monitor. “Unfortunately, what you see on the screen before you is all that I’m getting from his neural chip. That indicates to me that the ruler of the Forest of Wild Beasts may very well be in distress.”

“Oh no!” Dorothy cried. “What do we do now?!”

“Fear not, child. There’s still one more option. The chair where you’re sitting can uplink with Brr—er—the Cowardly Lion’s neural implant. If the person who it links with has ever been to Oz—and he’s still alive—then his voice and spirit can use your body as a conduit and speak to us through you!”

“I don’t know about this, Mr. Diggs,” Dorothy said, her eyes darting back and forth.

“Yeah, me neither,” Jill added. “Why don’t you get your freaky ass in the chair instead of the girl?”

“Well I would,” the Wizard replied. “But—ah—I have to control the equipment and make sure that the spirit of our dear Dorothy is brought back safely.”

“And because you’re a chicken shit,” Justin interjected.

Dorothy raised a hand towards Justin, then turned back towards the Wizard. “It’s okay, detective. If this can help us find my friend and help your world, I’ll do it.”

*   *   *

“Are you ready, Ms. Gale?” the Wizard asked, tightening the straps around her wrists.

“I guess so,” she replied, her voice shaking.

“You’re a very brave young woman, Dorothy,” Jill said, putting her hand over Dorothy’s. “Detective Bolger and I will be here the whole time, making sure you’re alright and that Mr. Diggs doesn’t try anything weird.”

“Please don’t be mad at the Wizard,” Dorothy pleaded. “He means well, even if he doesn’t always show it.”

The Wizard began to respond, but a glare from Jill silenced him.

“Let’s begin,” he said after a brief pause, tightening the strap attached to the metal dome over Dorothy’s head. “Remember, you’ll only have a few minutes of uplink time inside the lion’s brain. While he speaks to us—if he’s still able—you’ll have access to all his memories and knowledge. Are you ready?” Dorothy nodded. “Good. This shouldn’t hurt much.”

The Wizard flipped a switch, causing the metal chair to rattle and hum. Dorothy convulsed and strained upwards against the restraints, her entire body shaking in one violent spasm. Justin moved forward and grabbed the Wizard’s shoulders.

Turn it off!” he screamed.

Before the Wizard could react, Dorothy’s body collapsed back into the chair. Her eyes were closed, but a smile had crept across her face. When her mouth opened again, a deep, rumbling laugh emerged—far too low to be hers, or from anything human.

Well, well, well,” the voice growled. “It looks like you found me, oh great and powerful one.” Dorothy’s eyes popped open, both irises glowing a bright emerald green. “I see that you’ve placed me into the body of a young girl, denying me the chance to properly maul you for this affront to my authority.”

“It’s Dorothy, your highness,” the Wizard responded, his voice small, timid.

Ah, Dorothy. I can’t remember—did she have nails? Perhaps I could still use those to claw open your throat. A bit messier than I prefer, but one must make use of the tools they’ve been given.”

“Was the Cowardly Lion a huge dick in the book, too?” Jill whispered to Justin.

You dare speak ill of me in my presence?!

The voice booming forth from Dorothy’s mouth made them both yelp. The roar that immediately followed caused them and the Wizard to fall back onto the floor. A few seconds later, the explosion of anger subsided into the low, rumbling laugh from before.

I’m so sorry,” the lion’s voice mocked. “Where are my manners? You may not have even known that I’m the ruler of the Forest of Wild Beasts. I command the most feared and dangerous portion of Oz—aside from the Deadly Desert, of course. This makes me the powerful ruler in all the land.”

“We left Mr. Scarecrow—King Scarecrow—in charge of the Emerald City,” the Wizard said, getting back to his feet. “That makes him your sovereign ruler.”

That buffoon?!” the lion roared. “He couldn’t rule a field of wheat the size of this little girl’s hand. I begged him for more of the green drink. The drink you gave me that helped me come to rule this place. But he wouldn’t listen.”

“Good lord,” the Wizard gasped. “What have you done, Brrr?”

Do not call me that name!” This time, the voice booming through Dorothy’s mouth was more scream than roar.

“What’s he talking about?” Jill asked, helping Justin up.

Why do you insist on talking about me when I’m right here?” the lion’s snapped, rumbling the floor beneath them.

“Fine,” Jill replied, staring into Dorothy’s glowing emerald eyes. “What’s this drink you’re talking about? I thought the Wizard gave you a medal.”

What?

“That’s from the movie,” Justin muttered. “My partner wants to know what the Wizard gave you.”

Why don’t you tell them, oh great and powerful one?”

“Yeah, I’d kind of like to know, too,” Justin said, turning back towards the Wizard. “I thought you just gave stuff to make them think they had brains, heart, and courage.”

“For the most part,” the Wizard stammered. “But in the case of the Tin Man and King Scarecrow, they were missing actual organs that were unnecessary. I was able to give them makeshift items to fill the empty spaces within their enchanted bodies. But actual courage required a little something else.”

And it worked!” the lion’s voice growled. “Some of the more intelligent species of the forest tried to tell me that it was a placebo, but I knew better. I could feel the change occurring within my mind—the fear fading away.”

“Along with all your empathy!” the Wizard snapped, showing a willingness to confront the creature for the first time. “One small dose was all you needed to temporarily dull the part of your brain that felt afraid. That was simply to help you learn to face your fears on your own. Repeated doses erode it over time, causing the user to lose touch with any sort of fear, including how your actions affect others.”

“Which in turn has made me a most effective of ruler. I am unburdened by fear. I can face any challenger to my throne. I can do things and make decisions that the sniveling, former version of myself never could.”

“Like sending any sort of threat against your kingdom to another dimension?” the Wizard asked.

Dorothy smiled, emitting a low, rumbling chuckle. “If it makes my subjects safer, then the death of others is a more than acceptable price.”

“That’s the exact opposite of being courageous,” Jill muttered. “In fact, that’s about the most cowardly example of leadership imaginable.”

You can see it however you choose,” the lion replied. “But it won’t change the fact that the plagues of my kingdom will continue to be your bane.”

“How are you sending them here?!” Justin hissed through clenched teeth.

“Oh yes—let me tell you how I’m sending the monsters of my land into your pitiful, drab dimension so that you may try and oppose me. Do you really think I would reveal—

Dorothy’s body wracked upwards, her screech cutting off the lion. After collapsing back down into the chair, her eyes opened to reveal that they’d returned to their original blue.

“My shoes!” she gasped, as if waking up from a nightmare. “The Cowardly Lion found the shoes I lost in the Deadly Desert all those years ago!”

The Wizard grabbed her hand. “Dorothy, my dear, are you all right?”

“Yes, Mr. Diggs, I’m fine, but the Cowardly Lion is most certainly not. I was inside the poor beast’s mind and saw all the awful things he’s done. It’s not his completely his fault, though. That stuff you tricked him into drinking is why he’s like this now. King Scarecrow tried to keep it from him, but he and a group of beasts from the forest got to it anyway.”

“I only gave him one dose!” the Wizard snapped. “I never made him raid the Emerald City labs for more!”

“Hey!” Jill yelled. “There’s a great philosophical debate to be had about sharing the blame for addiction between the user and the dealer. But right now, we need to know how to stop Wichita from getting destroyed.”

“Of course,” Dorothy replied. “The Cowardly Lion got my shoes by using a tunnel created by the Nome King under the Deadly Desert. He crunched them up—oh, they were such nice shoes!—and spread them out in an oval inside the tunnel. That’s where they send the beasts, who end up here in your realm when they try to escape!”

“Anything you can do with that?” Jill asked the Wizard.

“If Dorothy can tell me exactly where the portal is, I may be able to use the cyclone machine to suck it up out of the ground.”

“Cyclone machine?” Justin said, cocking his head. “I don’t remember that.”

“Neither do I,” Dorothy added, glaring at the Wizard. “Mr. Diggs, you and I are going to have a long talk when this is all over.”

“Dorothy my dear, you must understand, I never meant for the cyclone hurt you. It was an accident, but such a happy one indeed! Think of all the wonderful adventures you’ve had because of my little mishap all those years ago.”

“Like I said, Mr. Diggs, we’re going to have a long talk,” Dorothy replied.

“Is your ‘cyclone machine’ able to transport the portal without blowing us all to kingdom come?” Justin asked.

“Of course! It took some trial and error at first; you may have seen a few of my mishaps on the news a while back.” Now Justin and Jill were glaring at the Wizard along with Dorothy, causing him to look even more uncomfortable. “Right—well, I’ve gotten all that fixed now. The machine will create a localized storm and transport the target—in this case the portal—back here along with Dorothy.”

“Are we gonna have a sociopathic lion jumping through, as well?” Jill asked.

“No, but Dorothy will need to make contact with Brrr one more time.”

Dorothy nodded, her blue eyes wide with a mix of determination and fear.

“Very well then,” The Wizard replied. He walked back over to the machine, checking Dorothy’s restraints before moving over to the monitor. “Everyone hang onto something.”

Before Justin or Jill could heed his instruction, the Wizard flipped a series of levers. In the next instant, Dorothy was writhing and screaming. The cacophony of noise was accompanied by a howling wind, so loud that it that sounded like a train going through the shop.

No!” the lion’s voice bellowed from Dorothy’s lips. “Be gone from my mind!

“I’ve got a lock on the location!” the Wizard yelled over the chaos swirling around them. “Just a few more seconds!”

The lion’s roar began to rival the wind, stretching Dorothy’s mouth open far wider than should have been possible. Her eyes glowed green again, but flickered between the eerie glow and their natural blue.

“You’re gonna kill her!” Justin tried to scream, over the wind and roars.

Dorothy lurched forward, unbolting the front supports of the chair, attempting to charge them. Jill drew her gun, praying that she wouldn’t have to use it. This girl, who’d she’d previously dismissed as a loon, was risking her life to save a city full of people she didn’t even know. If the ultimate price came due, Jill didn’t want to be the one to make her pay it.

Unfortunately, it looked as if there would soon be no other option. Dorothy was down on all fours, pulling herself forward, dragging the chair behind her. Her eyes no longer flickered, instead glowing a solid, menacing green.

I will tear you all to shreds!” the lion roared.

Jill clicked off her safety and prepared to fire. But just as she was about to squeeze the trigger, Dorothy suddenly collapsed. The wind and rattling stopped. A mist of sparkling, silver dust was all around them, making the shop look like the middle of an enchanted snowfall.

“We did it!” the Wizard proclaimed. “According to my readings, the removal of the portal snapped the beasts back to Oz where they belong.” On the television above them, the spider was gone, confusing the previously terrified citizens. “Even better, Dorothy’s back and we have her shoes!”

“Where are they?” Dorothy asked, looking up from the floor.

“Why, they’re all around us, my dear!”

Dorothy gazed up at the silver mist falling over her, brushed her hair from her face, and collapsed in frustration.

“It looks like we’ll have quite a bit of work ahead of ourselves to repair these,” the Wizard said, getting up from his computer desk. “I’ll get a dust pan.”

“And I’m getting a CAT scan, along with statement from both of you,” Jill sighed. “But don’t think this just ends here for you, either Mr. Diggs. I don’t know how you do things in Oz, but we have rules here about illegal surveillance.”

“That the kings and queens of your land don’t follow either, from what I’ve heard,” Dorothy muttered.

“She’s got a point,” Justin said.

“Whatever,” Jill replied, bending down to Dorothy. “I’m just glad we decided to give you a chance, young lady. I still have no idea what the hell happened tonight, but I know it would’ve been a lot worse without you. In all my years doing this, you might be the bravest person I’ve ever met.”

“You really mean that?” the girl asked.

“From the bottom of my heart, Dorothy.”


NBR3-22NafpliotisphotoDuring the day, Nick Nafpliotis instructs students from the ages of 11-14 on how to play band instruments. At night, he writes about weird crime, bizarre history, pop culture, and humorous classroom experiences on RamblingBeachCat.com. He is a reviewer for AdventuresinPoorTaste.com. He can also be found on Twitter @NickNafster79.