This story is paired with Chapter 10 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 Gale family moved to Perth just as Uncle Henry had decided.
There were no arguments about the change. The main, unspoken matter was that Toto, no longer a pup, needed hip replacement surgery, which Uncle Henry could not afford. Dorothy, cradling Toto in her arms, scratching his head in circles, bit her lower lip and marched up the porch steps of the new house that Uncle Henry bought in Australia.
She liked the house; however, she would have rather chewed shards of shattered glass after the furniture was arranged by the movers like how Aunt Em wanted. An hour later, the three of them looked at one another, and had broken bread together at dinner, and then Dorothy walked into her room, alone, shut the door behind her, having had looked upon her nightstand, where she kept her Thought Box, noting the lock of her first love’s hair, Adam’s, that she kept in a Zip-lock bag, and then at her assorted glass menagerie—chickens, pigs, cows and crows—that she also kept on an oval mirrored table.
That’s where she cut her lines.
Whenever Dorothy wanted to visit Oz she would strap on a magic belt that Princess Ozma gave to her then walked right through the magic picture hanging on her wall and, just as she was told, she ended up inside of the picture, that is, within the Land of Oz itself.
She had grown into a sensitive young woman that was cursed with an hourglass figure. Many suitors vied for her love-arts and her attention, but she only spent time with Toto, because Toto was the reason she woke up in the mornings, so depressed was she with the constant badgering and coo-calls from boys in high school, back in Lawrence, Kansas, that made her cringe, if not wish to scream: “Stop ogling me like that. It’s different from looking. I’m not what you want, okay? I hate everything you stand for. Don’t mansplain how you’re the man for me. I don’t go with men anymore. I loved a man once, but now I like girls.” The harassment was all more the reason that Dorothy was concerned with Ozma of Oz’s disappearance. Dorothy, as a younger teen, had not been back in Oz since she brought her parents there to meet her friends before 9/11. She was fourteen then. That was four years ago. She thought it would be the last visit, yet then a familiar figure showed up in the magic picture on her wall. She jutted up; her eyes had widened.
“Doro-thy!” She heard her named called, though did not see a soul. Then she saw one: bliss.
“Scarecrow! Why are you so sad? Tell me. Tell me. Tell me of all that has happened since the last time I left. Where is Tin-man? Where is Cowardly Lion? Oh, Scarecrow, I am so confused.”
“Dorothy! Hug me now or I will die. Ozma—she…” Scarecrow walked up to Dorothy and clumsily embraced her. He let go then said: “Your friends are there. And they are there. I don’t know what to say,” he said. “Ozma has vanished. The emeralds of Emerald City are lackluster and opaque. The poppy fields have been flattened by carpet-bombing with the help of Secretary MacNamara. The Wizard is AWOL—he’s power-drunk ever since Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, blessed him with noble power for the purpose of spiritual warfare against the Nome King; he comes back from Nebraska from time to time. But Ozma! She is gone. And for how long, or if forever, I do not know. I found out from Glinda, The Good Witch of the South, that everyone in Oz is imprisoned within a VHS tape and we’re going to be transposed to digital format soon by a hacker called He Who Has No Name, but we need the Wizard to find Glinda, because Glinda is a player now, Dorothy. She’s addicted to Texas Hold ‘Em, and smokes cigars, and drinks cognac to a fault, and has five boyfriends: two much younger than her, brothers, underwear models, then some political-type newcomer who is vying to succeed Putin. Glinda, bless her, she even has a heroin addict, Renaissance man as a lover—her fifth! How she does it, I don’t know—I think Viagra, but only the Wizard himself can conjure Glinda. Tik-Tok said we must find the Everlasting Yes—that’s what he was talking about yesterday. I don’t know what he was talking about. I don’t know anything. I’m a stupid, stupid Scarecrow! I do not know the entire story. I mean what is ‘the Everlasting Yes?’ I’m afraid the Land of Oz is in peril, that everyone has forgotten it or given up on it, except me. Do you understand where I’m coming from? I’m alone and I want Ozma here back in Emerald City. Where to start? Where? Send a search party? I think that’s the only wise decision.”
Only Dorothy knew what the Everlasting Yes was and she sadly looked at Scarecrow, with a primordial fear of love she could not obey. “And Tin-Man. What happened to Tin-Man?”
“Nick? Chopper? He’s running after a ward named Nimmie Amee. He’s a womanizer now. He attends Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings ever week, though is not working a program.”
“I knew he’d become Casanova. And where is Cowardly Lion?”
“He flew to Africa on a quest. He arrived in ‘the bush’ in with the help from the Wizard. The Wizard still resides in the Emerald City during the colder seasons, when it is festive and all are drinking grog, devouring candy, munching stuff picked off the Lunch-Pail Trees, which as you remember, sprouts Lunch-Pail Boxes packed with a sandwich meat, two slices of bread, an orange, mayonnaise, mustard, a cup of apple sauce and fist-size box of chocolate milk.”
Dorothy held it in as long as she could bear, then burst into tears. It was a cry above others that came before it and she choked on her own tears; and she had to wipe them away, too, like everything else in her life, for she recalled everything and anything, how she had once arrived in Oz one day by way of a cyclone as a little girl, how Aunt Em and Uncle’s Henry’s home had smashed and gutted the Wicked Witch of the East’s body—before her quest for Silver Slippers, before her adventures with her beloved friends, before ambling down the Yellow Brick Road, even before her red, talking chicken, Bellina, laid an egg before the Nome King.
She recalled a day one Kansas autumn. Uncle Henry had said: “There’s too many people in the world, Em. I’m telling you and it jostles me. I’m telling you, Em, Australia would do us good. The dollar will collapse. Dorothy and Toto would love it there. There are kangaroos there and koalas. But let me put it another way: the project is in Perth, where the investors are, who want to check on progress, and my boss just insisted that we move to foster algae. Insisted, Em!” Aunt Em sighed, folding a checkered placemat, having had fed everyone dinner. She remained quiet for a spell then said: “Henry, all I know is that Dorothy would surely despise such a place. She’s eighteen now. By Kansas standards, she’s a nubile woman. She should keep her eyes out for a man to come along, because time does not preserve us, Henry. Do you really think it’s time to make such a drastic move?” Uncle Henry was holding a hat, he held with both hands before his chest, though had nothing further to say, but he knew he loved his niece more than an idea.
Yet they moved one day—and without further warning.
Dorothy turned around in her bed room and looked back at the Land of Oz, inside of the throne room of the Emerald City. At sixteen, she went to juvenile hall for stealing her teacher’s gems that were brought in for a lesson in geology. Bedecked in ranger’s boots, black jeans, a woven shawl over her shoulders, a halter top with a plunging neckline headlong down to her navel, Dorothy looked as if she just returned from boutique shopping on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. She had gathered her wits. She had a switchblade. She knew the primary culprits were either Mombi (the former Wicked Witch of the North) or the Nome King (the ruler of Oz before Ozma’s father King Petraius II’s reigned), who was as a monolith of a creature, a polymath, a bibliolater, solely comprised of rumbling granite, that smoked fresh brown pellets of hashish from a saxophone shaped tobacco pipe that had a bowl the size of dried out swimming pool Dorothy looked back into her room in Perth by staring through at the magic picture. She was then turned her back on home, in Oz now, having had spun around, tightened her lips together and clenched both her fists. She saw the inside of the throne room of the Emerald City, a place she missed, that she had not seen since she was twelve. Ozma was not there. Ozma, the Supreme. Ozma of Oz, who ruled over the King of Munchkins, ruled over the King of the Winkies, ruled over the King of the Quadlings, and the King of the Gillikins exactly like those kings ruled over their own people. How many imprisoned princes and princesses were there in the Omni-verse? Locked in the shell of who they once were, they feared who or what they could become, locked in time, thrown through time, misunderstanding how their own prisons were precursors to their freedom. Three Bloody Mary’s and a hurricane brought Dorothy to the Impassable Desert, on her second trip to Oz, that was proof enough: it was as if the storm of twin tornadoes never blew or spun or tore each other apart, smashing into one another, like dueling twisted sheets, splattering and dancing with one another, at night, upon the abyssal surface of the Nonestica Ocean. Dorothy learend about Ozma’s previous incarnation as Tip, a boy, on her third trip to Oz from Ozma herself: Ozma explained to her over tea and ladyfingers how she became the Supreme Ruler of Oz by way of a castration after her father, King Pastoria II died. She wanted to become a woman. And so, she jointly ruled the Land of Oz with Scarecrow—he, the philosopher-king and she the Divine Adoratrice, better known as the High Priestess.
“Blessed be,” said Dorothy, now walking away from an abandoned Emerald City.
“Ditto,” said the Scarecrow, stomping forward on the Silver Brick Road, leading Dorothy East.
“What the heck is going on!?” Dorothy heard a screeching sound of bicycle brakes. She spun around, taking in her environs, in a quick 360°. It was like nothing had changed, yet everything had changed. Four peripatetic Wheelers, who had five foot arms with bicycle wheels for hands cycled passed her at a ruminating speed, heading, it seemed, to Mombi’s castle, the place from which they hailed. That heinous castle, Dorothy thought—with thirty decapitated maidens’ heads from reality T.V’s shows were locked in a pearl mausoleum of bust-sized, compartmentalized closets that ran down the center hallway of Mombi’s castle, just as Dorothy had remembered.
Without taking Scarecrow with her, Dorothy Gale, on her own, followed the cycling path of the Wheelers and looked ahead of her, suspecting that it was, in fact, Mombi, who had taken Ozma from the Emerald City to ravage her or collect her or do whatever it was that Mombi did with her decapitated women’s head collection. She, the former Wicked Witch of the North, donned a woman’s head of her choosing upon her neck, a flat surface with each chosen head upon it, so as to give her a new look. Kidnapping Princess Ozma, it seemed, was intended for that purpose: so Mombi could be whoever she wanted, as if she had thirty-some-odd profiles, all of which bore her name, though were not her physically, because her mind was in her heart and her heart went with her stomach and her empty stomach ran down her leg. Everything was kicked down a notch, so Mombi could accommodate the maiden face that she had chosen.
Tectonic plates rubbed against another and produced a small earthquake, and a hologram from the fault-line, for sure, was Mombi who appeared as a hologram. “Charlie Parker’s Bitch’s Brew on full blast during Christmas decorations and there will be more mischief, Dorothy Gale! You’ll never find Ozma. We sleep in many rooms in my eco-friendly castle that you can’t even fathom it and this time all my precious heads are all locked up. I’m assert my 2nd amendment rights, just so you know, I have a handgun, you just step—”
“Shut up and stand back,” said Dorothy. “Or I’ll slice your neck from ear to ear.”
Yet Dorothy Gale flung out a switchblade, even though she knew it was a hologram.
Mobmi laughed. “Desist, Dorothy Gale. Ozma is safe. Ozma is mine. Ozma will be me!”
“Never,” said Dorothy. She dashed towards the hologram of Mombi in attack formation with her weapon held ice pick style. She then heard a BOOM. Chicken feather, confetti was falling from the sky. She looked up at the sky, then went blind in both eyes and deaf in one ear for about an hour. It was like time stopped. She could not speak; she held her throat, and felt like she was choking. She lied down on her back, then regained consciousness, stood up erect mechanically. Who controlled the weather? She thought. Was the Wizard back in town? Why, she noticed, were there scratches, bubbles, blips in her perceived reality? Was she in some other dimension? What’s with the white streaks and zigzagging lines of light? Hallucinations. I’m losing it, she thought, but the streaks everywhere she looked, but then everything suddenly became clear again, back to normal, which in mathematics, Dorothy recalled, simply meant “perpendicular.”
Mombi had disappeared. All that was left of Mombi was a business card on the ground.
Holy Moses, thought Dorothy. She kneeled down to pick up the card then read:
Egyptian-style Cabaret, Tribal, Veil,
Romany (Gypsy), Finger Cymbals
Near Eastern Dance
Dorothy flipped the card over; it read:
In calligraphic ink were the written words:
Quiet. We’re imprisoned in a VHS tape.
Ozma and I are lovers.
We need to find He Who Has No Name.
Somewhere in Melbourne, Australia, He Without a Name, a grad student, ejected a VHS tape that had Dorothy, Scarecrow, Mombi, Ozma, the Wizard and Glinda all on it. The tape, thick as a book, to him, was much more endearing to watch than even the cutting-edge CGI graphics in the latest new blockbuster that came from Hollywood. Clearly, someone had a created a film. He felt a change taking place. He felt it and it brought him no profit to make a point about it in class. As a Philosophy of Science scholar, he was reluctant to make a fiasco of transferring the tape to digital, but after talking to an aspiring film editor from the Film Department, he decided he would transfer the plot of the Land of Oz into digital format. It would lose a quality, he thought, yet would be easier to control. Stopping and starting would be a cinch. With the assistance of his best friend, a dog named, Master, he used a firebox and made the transfer. The vibrancy of the Emerald City had returned; everything and everyone in Oz had been revived, as if they had a cultural renaissance much as films back in the day that went from Black & White to Technicolor.
Dorothy saw the crimson fields of poppies bloom open like a sheath of running water in a kitchen after a faucet accident, seeping along the sides of the once famous Yellow Brick Road.
Now the release of Ozma became apparent. She had heard it—and Ozma was a screamer.
Dorothy looked up at the window at the portcullis of Mombi’s castle.
He Without a Name, using Dolby Digital 5.1 technology, transferred the new tape to an Mp4 file using Nerovision Express. He thought of the Harvester of Sorrow of Progress. Yet he loved the Land of Oz so much he was doing all he could to protect it and cherish it: no ocean bordered the landlocked Land of Oz, surrounded by four deserts. There were, however, other lands beyond the Land of Oz; the Kingdom of Ix, for example, and the Land of Ev. All of the three lands, Ix, Ev, and Oz were located on Nonestica, a large continent upon the Nonestica Ocean. No one ever said the Land of Oz was not on Earth. Realizing that fact—that the Land of Oz could be on earth—He Without a Name daydreamed about how he could live in other dimensions. In one of them, he was naturalized as an Australian citizen and chose the name Raul Popov. He clicked the Mp4 icon on his desktop, so he could watch the story.
There she was: Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz, looking up at the window of Mombi’s Castle upon hearing Ozma’s long moan. A short mouse-click forward, a quantum leap in Oz, Dorothy had summoned a search party of two Winkies, two Quadlings, and three Gillikens as well as the Scarecrow and Tic-Tock, now looking for the Wizard who was Facebook friends with Glinda.
Glinda had five thousand friends and never checked her PM’s.
Many people from all over the world had had stolen images of Glinda from the computer and set up hundreds of fake accounts in her name. She was now a Digital Goddess, and, it seemed, could do almost anything: grant a wish, offer a favor, set up an appointment or an illicit affair, but even Glinda was not stronger than The Everlasting Yes, which was stronger than the Force.
The Wizard of Oz, fully-empowered, appeared before Dorothy, seemingly out of the aftermath of a tossed grenade, standing next to Mombi and Ozma, the lovers of the Land of Oz. The people of Oz had voted; Mombi and Ozma could get married. The Wizard said: “We are all trapped on the Land of the Face now. It is a banishment called Facebook and in a cesspool shall we be.”
Then the Wizard of Oz told Dorothy and the Scarecrow, forthrightly that Mombi and Ozma had been lovers since 9/11 and that all Mombi was waiting for was a body part: a constructed member. She had been in hormone therapy for longer than a spell; she had Vicodin salad for breakfast every morning after her mastectomy, yet the tabloids blathered on and on about how Ozma and Mombi made love, pale and naked, fast and furious, though still in their socks. How was all it possible? Because Mombi used to be the Wicked Witch of the North and she wanted to become a man, even as Ozma was the Divine Adoratrice that ruled Oz with Scarecrow.
Mombi wanted to become a man and make love to Ozma forever.
But no magic, nothing even by God or Goddess could make it happen.
Only the Everlasting Yes.
Raul Popov knelt before the computer screen as if it were an altar: he set pause on the Mp4 and using editing software, cut out the entire love scene between Ozma and Mombi (for he thought it would be gratuitous). He clicked on new icon for some software called “Godhead 5.7” that required him to use video much like Skype, yet with “Godhead 5.7” he could mirror what he himself was doing as a selfie on the screen before him and then also edit himself into the movie he was commanding. His voice was picked up the computer microphone. “Hello? I’m Raul Popov. Testing. Testing. I’m Raul Popov. Testing.” He thought he sounded like a parrot. He hit stop, then hit replay to see if his audio was caught on the Mp4. He then cut to the frame of the glorious Poppy Fields as Mombi was madly running through them, flinging her arms into the sky, with tears streaming down her face, with gauze wrapping her upper torso, having had gone through the mastectomy, then having had the doctor forge a penis finally belonging to her skin, belonging that place where everyone who was orphaned, widowed, or displaced called home.
Her body was a temple; she called her temple home.
Raul Popov, He Who Has A Name Now, funded it; he knew he could refer Mombi to gender replacement surgeons by using “Godhead 5.7,” which would be outdated soon, so he already signed up for the upgrade and he punched in his dialogue into the story. It’s as if he was hovering above the Land of Oz and talking into it much like a person hangs a wet cloth over their head, steaming their face over a bowl of water, so as to reverse the dreadful symptoms of influenza.
It was the Everlasting Yes, the ability to say yes that made Dorothy return to and from her house in Australia with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and the Land of Oz. It was an Everlasting Yes that was the gentlemen disguised as grace that opened all the doors for her, so that she did not have to, so she, instead could find new ways to have adventures, alone, or with others, or stay home and do nothing at all, meditating on her own redemption.
Dorothy wanted one thing more than anything for the world: that all people who were lonely, displaced, mocked, ridiculed, talked down to, abused, could visit the Land of Oz. And it wasn’t because Dorothy herself felt that way now—she had not felt that way in such a long time—but she was tired of being trapped in between worlds for so long, clinging to her family out of duty and love, clinging to Oz for all the friends she made along her quest, even those she lost because they went on quests of their own.
Like the Tin-Man, who had no heart but had one, like the Cowardly Lion who had gone Pan-African and returned to the bush to be among his fellow beasts or to lie down with the Lamb, which was nothing short of bravery in Dorothy’s eyes, bravery to speak the Everlasting Yes.
Raul Popov clicked his mouse and the story moved forward: Dorothy kissed Ozma on the lips with a ferocity she had only known since her first love, Adam, whose lock of hair she kept in her Thought Box, long after she returned from Oz. Now Ozma was going to marry Mombi. A boy and girl would be in love and stay in love. And as Dorothy stood beside Scarecrow, as the Maid of Honor at their wedding, she remembered from where she had come from, even as the copy of a copy of a copy, she would change….and Glinda would say: Dahling, we’re so blessed to be alive, no moment will be like this. No second, no third. No sequel. Just this, Dahling. Give me a kiss. Hit me, baby, Hit me one more time. Meteorites seared up headlong down across the Earth. The Land of Oz existed. It was always-already there and always-already would be there, as long as there were men without brains, without hearts, without courage, and women, too, with a profound sense of coextension with those selfsame missing, though not so missing attributes, be it a path or format or means or drive or guts or proof or knowledge, grace—that The Emerald City would shimmer green for a child picking up a book, or as an adult re-reading ancient texts on-line, so anyone can find the city, even though not everybody wanted to.
Upon Ozma’s release then marriage to Mombi, returning to be the rightful ruler of the land, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and Dorothy braced themselves to walk through the magic picture to live in the Land of Oz forever. Dorothy then called out: “Toto, come here. Come here. We’re going on a trip!” And just as she has summoned Toto, who hobbled over with a sprained hip and jumped right up Dorothy’s leg and crawled right up by her sternum, the bone that covered her heart. And then the four of them walked into Oz through the magic picture, having had each, all, uttered at the crossroads between consciousness and the conscience the Everlasting Yes, which could never stop, unless, of course, Raul Popov clicked his mouse or punched in the words “The End,” which never seemed to come.
Paul Rogov studied Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley and Social Work at USC. His literary work has appeared in Danse Macabre, Exterminating Angel Press, Stepping Stones Magazine, Femicatio Magazine, Cultural Weekly and others. The Fallen Years was released in October 2011. In 2013, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is currently shopping his novel The Serpent and the Dove (a part of a family saga that spans four generations) to agents.