Authors: danielle paige
People say I’m heartless—pretty ironic, when you think about it. I’ve heard the rumors, the back talk. I know what goes on behind closed doors, and not just because I have spies everywhere in Oz. But that’s not the whole story, not by a long shot. My problem, when you get right down to it, was that all I ever wanted was love.
Think about the first time you really fell in love. No, I mean, really think about it. How it was like your whole life before that moment was a black-and-white movie, and suddenly you stepped into Technicolor. (We don’t have that stuff in Oz, but Dorothy’s told me about it.) Now imagine the moment you fell in love was also the moment you got a heart—I mean, literally.
I’d had a heart back in the day, and thought I was in love, too. And then I’d lost both heart and girlfriend, thanks to one hell of a wicked witch, and I assumed I’d never have the chance to love again. Before Dorothy won me a new heart I could only listen
to people talk about what it was like, while knowing I’d never again feel the same way, cry the same tears, experience the same joy. I thought I’d have to spend my whole life that way, in an empty colorless world, only able to imagine the kinds of experiences everyone else took for granted. Not just falling in love, but the whole package. The giddy first moments, the blowout fights—because you can only get
mad if you
care—getting to a place with someone where you can’t imagine your life anymore without them.
That was never going to be for me.
And then Dorothy got here, and everything changed. Not just for all of Oz. For me. Everything I thought I knew about love—well, Dorothy rewrote the book. I thought I had been in love before her, but I didn’t even know what the word meant. Dorothy didn’t just give me a new heart. She gave me a new life.
So you can say what you want about the decisions I’ve made and the things I’ve done. Sure, there are some things I’m not proud of. It’s possible I’ve even made a few mistakes. Even when I didn’t have a heart, I was always a compassionate person. I don’t like to see others suffer, even when it’s necessary. I’m not like Scare; I don’t thrive on the pain of others. And now that I have my heart—the heart that belongs to Dorothy—I know my own worth. I don’t need to make other people feel small in order to boost my own ego. I do important things every day. I’m in charge of the safety of Oz, and I take my job seriously. It’s actually pretty fulfilling, if you want to know the truth. I think I have a real gift. But the important thing, the thing you have
to remember, is that everything I did—the good stuff, the bad stuff, and the stuff in between—was out of love. Judge all you want, but I bet you’d have trouble saying the same thing about your own life. I want that down on the record. All of it, everything, the whole shebang: it was for her.
It all started the moment Dorothy returned to Oz. She wasn’t from our world, and we—the Scarecrow, the Lion, and I—knew that she’d want to go home. After she went back to Kansas, the three of us went our separate ways. The Lion, off to rule as the King of Beasts in the forest. The Scarecrow back to the Emerald City, of course, to take the Wizard’s place as ruler of Oz. And for me it was back to the land of the furry little Winkies, where Glinda sent me to replace the Wicked Witch of the West as their ruler. The Winkies were a peaceful, dull people, and I had a lot of time to spend thinking about how much I missed Dorothy. About the last time I’d seen her, her face wet with tears as she kissed me good-bye. She’d hugged the Scarecrow, patted the Lion on the head—but
, she had kissed, sobbing all the while, and even though my cheeks rusted a little where her tears had stained them I left the marks to remind me of her.
Dorothy, goodness incarnate, with her sweet face and her little checked dress and her cute dog and her picnic basket. Dorothy saw the best in all of us from the start. Each of the three of us was missing some crucial piece of ourselves, and she never cared. She loved us for what we were. And once the Wizard placed that tiny new piece of magic in the empty space inside my chest, and
I could feel its power fill me with a love even stronger than the kind I’d known when I was an ordinary man, I knew that there was only one woman for me: Dorothy Gale, the savior of Oz.
So when I heard she was back, I just about lost it. I was staring out the window of my throne room in the Winkies’ palace when one of the house Winkies knocked at the door. “Your Majesty,” he said politely, adjusting his suspenders, “a messenger from the Emerald City has arrived.” The messenger was a Munchkin, on the tall and skinny side for one of his people. His ink-black hair fell into his eyes, and he kept pushing it out of the way awkwardly.
“Your esteemed, uh, Highness?” the Munchkin began, stumbling over the title.
“That’s right,” I said. The Winkies might not be much, but I was still their king. And a pretty good one, too. Those people loved me. Just ask them. Well, maybe don’t ask them
But if you’d asked them then, I’m sure they’d have said I was a vast improvement over the Wicked Witch.
The Munchkin bowed sloppily, cleared his throat, inhaled deeply, and recited his entire message in one breath. “HergloriousnessthealmightyOzmarequestsyourpresenceatacelebrationhonoringthereturnofourbelovedliberatorDorothywhohascomeback—” My heart, silk pillow though it may have been, skipped a beat in my chest.
“Wait,” I interrupted, and the Munchkin used the opportunity to take another huge breath. I kept talking before he could recite his stream of babble again. “Did you say—did you just
say that Dorothy is
?” He looked confused for a moment. Obviously independent thought was not part of the job description.
“Er, yes,” he said finally.
?” My heart was racing. All this time I’d spent, daydreaming of just such an occasion, never daring to hope my desperate wish would actually come true, and now everything I’d ever wanted was finally within reach? “Where is she?”
“She’s, uh, at the Emerald Palace,” the Munchkin said, tacking on a hasty “sir” when I frowned. The tin plates of my face squeak when I smile or scowl, and sometimes it unnerves people. I used to feel bad about it. These days, it comes in handy. “That was the rest of the message,” he added, looking sulky. “But you cut me off.”
I ignored him. “But I must leave at once,” I said, thinking out loud. “I must—I must—WINKIES!” I bellowed, and a flood of my subjects scrambled into the room, tumbling over themselves in their haste to answer my call. “Prepare my things! Bring my finest oilcan and dress my joints! Ready my carriage! I will be leaving for the Emerald City on the hour!”
“The party’s tomorrow,” the Munchkin mumbled. With an imperious wave, I dismissed him. I was so excited I didn’t even care that he forgot to bow when he left my throne room. Dorothy—my Dorothy, the most beautiful girl in this world or any other, the kindest and the most good, she of the magical slippers and perfect pout, was back. Was it possible—could it be—that
she’d come back for
? Did she remember the kiss she’d given me when we both thought we’d never see each other again? Was there a chance that I could finally have the happiness I’d longed for all those days in my palace—that I could finally have her?
I was so distracted that I barely even noticed the journey to the Emerald City. I hadn’t left my palace in months, but I didn’t even see the scenery of Oz as it flashed by. I couldn’t stop thinking about seeing her again. When we drove through the jewel-encrusted gates of the Emerald City, I thought my heart would stop beating altogether. I couldn’t stop thinking about Dorothy. What would I say to her? How could I possible tell her the depth of my feelings? “You are my sun, my moon, my starlit sky,” I said aloud, trying it out.
“Pardon, sir? Are you asking about the weather?” called the Winkie coachman.
“Mind your own business!” I snapped. “Your lips are like a rose,” I muttered under my breath. “Your breath like tulips—oh no, that’s awful.” Overcome by despair, I got out of the carriage the moment we pulled up in front of the palace, accidentally slamming the door in the coachman’s face in my haste.
The palace was a hive of activity—Munchkins bustling back and forth, visiting dignitaries who’d arrived ahead of me thronging the halls in their finest dress, Nomes and Pixies gibbering delightedly in the corners. Tiny, buzzing globes of light swirled through the hallways, occasionally crashing into a wall and exploding into a shower of daisy petals. A plate of pastries sailed down one hall, floating on a current of chocolate-scented air as passersby snatched snacks. The last member of a small parade of Munchkins carrying a bundle of streamers down the hall tripped over a trailing bit of crepe paper and tumbled to the ground, sending the rest of the Munchkins falling like a line of dominoes. The bundle of streamers gathered itself into the shape of a giant bird and flapped toward the ceiling, cackling hysterically, as cursing Munchkins chased after it. I even caught the briefest glimpse of Ozma herself, drifting down a hallway in a wispy black dress with a long, lacy train, but Dorothy herself was nowhere to be seen, and when I moved to run after Ozma a Munchkin servant stopped me. “Welcome to the palace, sir,” he said gravely. “I shall show you to your chambers.”
“I want to see Dorothy,” I snarled, and the intensity of my voice was such that it startled both of us. “I
“I’m sorry, sir,” he said, sounding a little less certain. “Dorothy’s guests must wait until the banquet tomorrow night.”
“I’m not her guest,” I said. “I’m her dearest friend. Don’t you know who I am?”
“Of course, Sir Woodman,” he replied. “But I’m afraid there are no exceptions. Even the palace staff don’t know where
Dorothy is right now. She’s asked not to be disturbed while she prepares for the celebration.” I realized that badgering him wouldn’t get me anywhere.
“Very well,” I said. “You may show me to my rooms.”
The last time I’d been in the palace it had been under the Wizard’s control. The guest rooms then had been nice enough, but Ozma had clearly had them all redone. The ceiling of my room was high, the bed enormous. The windows were paned with green-tinted glass—an homage, most likely, to her predecessor. In the bathroom, fluffy green towels unfolded and floated in the air, singing a soothing lullaby when I entered, and the bath began to fill itself with sweet-scented water foaming with green bubbles. A green rubber duck popped into existence, sending green droplets flying into the air.
“I won’t be needing that, but thank you,” I told it, and obediently the water drained out of the tub and the duck vanished. I sat cautiously on the bed, hoping the oil from my joints wouldn’t stain the soft coverlet. I wanted to make the best possible impression. At home, I preferred to sleep upright in a wooden cabinet.
Dorothy would want to see me right away, of course. Why else had she invited me? It would only be a matter of moments before she’d come to my chambers herself.
But she didn’t. The only possible explanation was that she didn’t know I was in the palace, and so the next morning I oiled my joints quickly and made sure the tin of my face and chest was brightly polished before I set out in search of her. I cornered the first Munchkin I saw—this one cleaning an already-sparkling
window with a bucket of water in which several small, brightly colored fish swam about cheerfully. “I must get a message to Dorothy at once,” I burst out. She turned around in surprise.