This story is paired with Chapter 7 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.
The old man, brown and wrinkled from exposure, traveled the land between the boundaries of the wicked desert that bound the ruin of Oz; always drifting, wandering under sun and stars. He spent his time scavenging what the wanderers and munchkins had discarded long ago. Along Gillikin’s Grand Canal, scattered tribes had settled, some friendly but others not so welcoming, on the banks of the sand river. Occasionally he drifted past munchkin bones trapped in the clinging webs of the giant purple spiders that lay in wait for foolish strays like him.
Once, near the equator, a band of wild Winged Monkeys had plagued him by throwing rocks. To scare them off, and for his own amusement, he tossed bits of radioactive metal, collected from the Emerald Keep, back at them. The monkeys chattered wildly before taking wing back into the sky. The old man laughed at the memory. There were few things in Oz that could make one laugh, these days.
The mariner told fortunes as his trade as well, speaking to the wizards and witches trapped in his globe of stars. There were also spirits outside the globe, and they travelled with the old mariner. They were with him when he discovered the deadwood island with the dangling, eyeless dolls.
In the heart of Gillikin’s Grand Canal, on his boat, he built from water and covalent glue. The Mariner rounded a bend and came upon a strange site. He was greeted by a forest of gray driftwood protruding from the sand like petrified devil forks or ancient decaying antennae. They were dead limbs dangling small, frightful dolls swaying in the river breeze. In the center of this tiny macabre island was the gray carcass of a small abandoned castle.
The little brown man used a pair of discarded foil boots to move around the deck of the water boat, humming as he slid along the gentle surface, going from doll to doll, pulling himself along by grabbing the stark branches. There were glass dolls and many paper dolls, dolls with fine china skin and dolls made from corn-husks. The dolls’ eyes were wide and dead. There were many missing eyes, just empty sockets and gaping holes in cracked faces. None had brains, to speak of. Some smiled at him, but most had vacant faces. Except the blond doll, the one with a kneecap gone and patches of hair missing.
This doll had been encased in a cold solid slab of water that sweated but never seem to actually melt. The Mariner took a broom and shot fire at the ice, but it would not melt. He grabbed and axe and cold razor chips flew like a miniature blizzard, but still the ice remained. Finally, he wrestled the doll from the gnarled roots it nested in and put it near the small pile of radioactive metal separated from the deck of his water boat by a flotilla of lily pads.
The ice had no choice but to melt from the onslaught of radiation and it begrudgingly yielded its prize, the yellow hair miniature.
The Mariner recognized the gift from the gods and named her Trilby. She had one strong blue eye and chipped nose. Her dress of silver on silver gingham had a tear. He did not like it and ripped it from her, exposing a pale plastic shoulder.
“Would—would you mind if I called you Trilby?”
“It’s a pretty name. My name is Trilby,” she said. The mariner mounted her on the prow of his boat, and she sang to him.
Gillikin’s Grand Canal had many tributaries of sand, fanning outward. Trilby told him which ones to take. He trusted her. And the wizard’s and witches in the globe told him the ghost in the doll could guide him home. A place to anchor his boat; a haven from the shifting river of sands.
The old man, bent and tired, poled his water boat over the shifting sands until Trilby led him into a mile-deep gorge. There was a brief moment when he heard the gale before the winds pushed with frenzy through the giant ravine. They hit and Trilby sang as never before. The sand scoured and choked him.
The Mariner’s heart skipped a beat when he thought of Trilby, defiant and delicate Trilby, hanging from the prow of his boat. He looked at her, but only her head remained and it was swinging wildly in the wind. The storm had decapitated her and sent her body adrift, to disappear into the sand.
The covalent bolts that held the water together cracked and splintered. A minute later a large obsidian and flint boulder, formed by the erosion of time into a million chaotic sharp edges, collided with the boat, and it spilled into the sand. The impact impaled him on a dozen giant black needles of the boulder. One pierced his eye and he saw with the remaining two, Trilby; her tiny head impaled next to his through a gaping mouth. A tiny speaker hung from the neck by a thread of metal wire.
“Mariner?” The voice came from the tiny speaker instead of her throat.
“Yes, my dear.”
“Will Oz ever go back to the way it was before the sand and water turned upside down?”
“We die now, my darling Trilby, so why should it matter?”
Roger Lovelace calls North Alabama home, and currently lives in Athens, Alabama. He enjoys the slow pace but not the humidity. Always an avid reader, he has recently turned to writing, concentrating on short stories and flash fiction. He shares his home with his Chiweenie dog, Dixie. It gets quirky sometimes.