Author's Notes: Okay, so I'm not really all that crazy about this chapter. Really, chapters 3,4, and 5 were originally one big chapter, hence the odd start-up of this one. I had to break up the monster-chapter because it was… well, a monster. One warning—the flashback scene is quite dark.
Chapter 4: The Knowledge of Good and Evil
"Tell me… I want to know. I want to know about Elphaba."
Glinda pulled the handkerchief down from her eyes.
She had given the name to Dorothy, yet found herself swiftly offended when the girl chose to use it. It felt as if she'd invaded something private, something precious, something she was not entitled to. Her voice mirrored the offence. "You want to know about her? I'm not sure how much I can tell you. It's I who should be asking you that question, really. You saw more of her in the last week than I have in two years."
"But was that… all of her?" Dorothy felt foolish, and knew she must sound so. "Was that… real?"
"It was more real than she is now."
Dorothy tried again. "If the… if everything…" She could not make herself say melting. If everything hadn't happened that way… at the end… do you think she would have hurt me? To get the shoes?"
She was not sure what to expect in answer, but certainly she did not expect Glinda to laugh. Yet laugh Glinda did, though sadly. "Shoes…if Elphie had known it would all end over shoes." She laughed again, faraway, and Dorothy wondered if she was going to a place where it was a little easier to bear.
"They weren't magic? When the Munchkins asked you to give them to me, they said they were magic."1
Glinda was diverting, and Dorothy saw it clearly. She had seen her Uncle Henry do it countless times, usually when dealing with a displeased Aunt Em—and Aunt Em was displeased a good deal of the time. What she could not understand was the reason behind the diversion. Why should not Glinda want to defend one who had so obviously been dear to her? Was it possible, despite all the refuted rumors, that there was no defense to be made for the Wicked Witch of the West after all? Dorothy wondered at the sudden sense of comfort—relief—that came with that possibility. What was it after all, she questioned herself, that she wished Glinda to tell her? She had supposed, for the sake of believing in the good of humanity, that she'd wanted her growing suspicions confirmed. But did she—really? If the Witch of the West was Wicked indeed, the world will be simple again, wouldn't it?
If Elphaba Thropp was Wicked, would the wave of guilt, a wavering threat trembling over her head, recede? Dorothy, caught in the riptide, was out too far to get back. "But would she have?" she asked again.
"Not the Elphaba I knew," said Glinda, because it was all she could say. She didn't know how much of Elphaba had become the Wicked Witch of the West, or how much of the Wicked Witch of the West had been her Elphie. She would never know that, now. She was left with only the knowledge of her own wish-- that the Witch of the West had been as much a veneer as the Good Witch of the North had been."I can do whatever I want—I'm the Wicked Witch of the West!"
'Oh, Elphie, tell me you didn't believe that.'
It was not a difficult thing to believe-- that Elphaba had decided in her anger to give the people what they expected of her at last. This, Glinda could understand. From her privileged youth she had learned to give society what they desired, not out of vengeance or vindication but to gain her own ends. She'd given them an impossibly perfect, ever-smiling princess—the epitome of all that was good. As Galinda she had actually believed in the image she'd created. Galinda may have been shallow and unknowingly selfish, but she was not a willing hypocrite. Glinda knew better, and was."So much of me is made from what I learned from you…"
'Or tell me that you did believe it, Elphaba. At least that's honest. You were always honest.'
It didn't matter, really, Glinda realized. Even if it had truly been the Wicked Witch that she'd held that last hour, she was no less her friend.
Either way, what she did know for certain was that even if the Witch was real… with her rage and her cruel words and the girl sobbing in fear behind a locked door… that her heart—grown hard and bitter—was still good. She could not believe that it had turned. She could never believe that, not of Elphaba. Not of Elphie. Elphie would not have hurt a hair of that child's head, and Glinda knew that more surely than she could feel her own breath."Promise me!"
But she could not say it, and it quietly broke her heart.
Presented with another of Glinda's sidestepping replies, Dorothy was cognizant of a change between them, a shifting of roles. In their verbal dance she was now in lead, without being at all aware of how she had gotten there. She pressed forward now, and Glinda retreated… though all the while her misgivings grew about wanting the truth at all. She had gone too far to let off with the mystery half-solved. It was beyond her ability to stop. It was like worrying a scratch or scrape, with the same far-off promise of trouble and pain. Dorothy may have dreamed, once, of a place where there wasn't any trouble, where troubles melted like lemon drops—but the truth of it was that she'd always had a way, without any conscious thought, of inviting it. It was this curiosity, mindless of consequences that had led her day after day past Miss Gulch's garden with Toto when another route would have been just as easy. It had caused her to walk along the rails of the hog pen on gusty afternoons and to leave her farm home while thunderclouds gathered and darkened on the horizon. She would have wondered about this strange drive within herself were she old enough for such self-analysis. It was something the adults in her life would have discussed round the supper table after bedtime, were their minds not filled with the constant demands of farm life.
There were so many questions. "What about the Tin Man? Why did she turn him into tin?" About the Lion she asked nothing. She did not need to. Much as she loved him, his story had already unraveled.
"We never discussed her reason," was all Glinda would say, flatly, eyes fixed blankly ahead in miserable obligation. It was true enough, however. Elphaba had never told her what happened in that fatal circle of she, her sister, and Boq. Oh, yes—Boq—Glinda would never forget his name again. By cobbling together overheard conversations between the Wizard and Morrible, the varying stories of the Ozian folk, and by adding her own knowledge of the previous goings-on at the Governor's Palace in Munchkinland, she'd managed to come up not with a definite version of the tragic tale but a definite conclusion. Elphaba had saved Boq's life the only way she could think to at the time. His trauma and devastation, combined with the fear of one witch and his resentment of the other had caused the Munchkinlander to overlook what should have been obvious to him.
Glinda's shock was absolute when the girl's next words mirrored her own hidden thoughts.
"She told me a reason. She told me that she was trying to help him. That she was trying to save his life and it went wrong."
"She said that to you?" Glinda's words were out at once, her mask dropping if only for a moment. Suspicion immediately followed. Conspiracy? Were these baited questions, borne not of a desire to learn but of entrapment? The theory was short-lived. Everything she knew of Dorothy denied it, besides the fact that it made little logical sense. Who could be behind it but Morrible, and what could the now-imprisoned press secretary learn from Dorothy that she did not already know?
"She said a lot of things, and so many of them are true! She said that the Wizard is a coward, and he is, and that he couldn't get me home—he can't. Was she only trying to help? She said that she tried to help everyone, and they turned on her. That they didn't want the truth, and they'd turn on me too someday if I wasn't careful… is that right?" Glinda said nothing, but her face had grown rigid, her eyes wet. "Please," she added simply, as plaintive as she had ever been.
Glinda opened her mouth to lie, and she could not do it. The lies died on her tongue and she was silent. Omission, she could have handled. Evasion, she could have done. But Dorothy, though Glinda suspected she did not yet know it, wanted only verification for a truth she already possessed. Nothing could counter it but a flat-out untruth, and the words stuck in her throat. Lip trembling, she turned her face away—and Dorothy knew.
"It's true, isn't it?" said the girl softly, with no trace of accusation. "If it wasn't you would just say so." With every syllable came dawning realization… and dawning fear. She blurted forward, past anything Glinda had silently confirmed. "But if she wasn't really a wicked witch then why— "
Like Miss Gulch finally coming for Toto with a warrant in her hand, promised-for strife caught up with Dorothy. She realized it now-- somewhere deep inside she must have wanted the Witch to be wicked after all. She was ashamed of it, but it was what it was and she could not let it go. Was this how Eve had felt, if only a little, with the bitten apple in her hand? She had the knowledge she sought but the knowledge was terrible. Could she get back to where she was before? No. Like the pedal of a bicycle kicked backward, she only spun helplessly, rapidly. Mind racing, Dorothy sought to erect any possible defense against the onslaught. Glinda! Glinda was not exactly trustworthy, was she? That put the word of only the two witches against everyone else she had spoken to in Oz, including her friends—her heroes. No, no, that was no use, she had already been through that, already proved that… Instead, Dorothy pulled up every threat she'd heard with trembling, every rasp in her ear, every tear she had cried in her captivity. She remembered cold stone towers and the void of the sky. Glinda may have said that the Witch wouldn't have hurt her and physically she had not... but for that one moment…and the Witch hadn't meant to… Dorothy turned from the thought. There were more ways than the physical to hurt a person. How could someone with good in them have possibly treated her the way the Witch had?"Have I scared you so badly as that?"
" – then why did she kidnap—""Kidnapping? Is that what you call detaining an assassin where you come from?"
"--why wouldn't she let me go? I tried to give her the shoes, but they wouldn't come off! I couldn't help it!"
Glinda was a badly shaken as the girl. If she had wanted catharsis, this was too much; too much blood had been let. It had not come in a shouted declaration as she had imagined, but with nothing said at all. The girl knew—not all of it, but enough. She didn't know the political specifics. Even so, she had found out the very thing that Elphaba had wanted hidden-- ironically, coming most of the way to the truth through the words of Elphaba herself. That didn't stop Glinda from feeling like the lowest traitor who ever broke their word. At the very time she should have lied, she had not been able to… and Dorothy was the least of her worries. Glinda had the instinctual feeling that when she told the girl not to reveal the story, her command would be heeded. It was also not a difficult matter to keep a close eye on her until she could be sent home… if she could be sent home… No, the real trouble lay elsewhere. There was but a slim minority in Oz who would even think to question Elphaba's supposed evil nature, and an even slimmer one who had openly supported her-- but both existed. There were the Animals and their sympathizers, as well as some wise souls who simply chose to question Morrible's speeches and the Wizard's policies. It was an easy thing to go along with a lie, but how was she to answer these people when they came to her with the truth? How was she to right the wrongs done to the Animals yet speak against Elphaba at the same time? It was a nearly impossible challenge even for someone with her social and political expertise, and at the first test she had crumbled like over-fired pottery.
"It wasn't the shoes. The only magic they had she gave them herself. It was Nessa's death."
"But that was an accident! I never wanted it to happen!"
"I know," replied Glinda, sincerely but not gently. "But it wasn't an accident." She took a deep shuddering breath. "Elphaba knew that. She must have suspected you had a part in it and the shoes only helped prove her case. Oh, I never should have given them to you…" she moaned, pressing her soaked handkerchief against her eyes.
"But I told her… I told her I was sorry!" Dorothy protested, then grew still with pause. "Or no… I didn't, did I?" The words came slowly. Her brown eyes lifted and sought Glinda's, then dropped again as her question turned inward.
"She may have been past the place where she could believe you," Glinda said after some time, putting down her handkerchief as she felt her hands and spine stiffen. She did not like her own words—the sense that she must defend her friend to this girl. However, she thought that she could read in Dorothy's nature a desire to learn, a drive to know the true way of things even when it was safer and simpler not to. It was not unlike the way Elphaba had been, there in the classrooms of Shiz—and afterwards. The girl was fighting it now—Glinda could see the signs—but she had asked to begin with. That was more than Glinda could say for most people she had known. And so she went on, telling Elphaba's story-- for her own sake or for Dorothy's education she could hardly tell.
"You have to understand what she'd been through," she continued, the icy distance in her tone beginning to thaw. "It all started when… well, no… it started from the beginning of her life, I suppose. She was shunned from the moment she was born, all because she was… different. Her own father hated her--"2
"Why?" asked Dorothy, more confused than shocked at what was, to her, a foreign concept. Fathers did not hate their children; that was not how families worked. She had been very young when her own father died and her memories of him were vague and dream-like. Still, she remembered very well how big and strong he had seemed to her in his Stetson and tall boots, and how warm and safe she had felt when he was near. 'My little Dottie' – that had been his special nickname for her. What would it have been like to have this source of absolute love and protection give off hatred instead? Dorothy could not imagine. She had always supposed that it was the hardest thing in the world to have lost her father and mother. She wondered now if their hatred would have been far worse.
"He blamed her for her mother's death, and for Nessarose being crippled the way she was. Of course those things weren't her fault—they were his if they were anybody's. But he wouldn't see that. Nessarose was everything to him and Elphaba was nothing— nothing except a servant for her sister. He gave Nessa those horrible shoes to prove it." Both looked down and indeed in that moment the shoes were horrible. They innocuously glittered a savage, beautiful red, completely unknowing of the tragedy that had been wreaked around them. Dorothy wanted nothing more than to kick them away. "He died blaming Elphaba still, and then Nessarose took over where he left off." Glinda wavered and again tried to fight back a flood of tears with a steadying breath. "Don't misunderstand—Nessa loved Elphaba, in her own way. I remember when we were at school… but things changed. She got so caught up in her own misfortune that she couldn't care about anyone else, not really. She took out her misery on her own people. They suffered, and Elphaba suffered. You see—she believed it."
"It's my fault.""Oh, Nessa please, please, please forgive me!"
"Her sister died blaming her too. Elphaba would have done anything in the world to help her, but Nessa didn't see that. It was the same with the rest of the people in this place. Oz turned on Elphaba—or most of it, anyway. The Animals tried to help her, but how much could they do? Those who could have… those who should have stood by her looked the other way. Only one person would stand by her—and they killed him for it. They killed him for it on the day you came, on the same day Nessa died." Her voice cracked and broke. There was no stopping the tears then. Forgetting her handkerchief entirely, Glinda paused to swipe the back of her hand across her eyes, only succeeding in spreading glistening wet bands across her face. Her nose began to run, and she sniffed wretchedly even as she knew that she must gain mastery of herself. If this was to be her lot, and if she was to keep her promise, she had to learn to bear it. When the Ozians asked her of the Witch of the West, her voice would have to be neutral, her eyes dry. When Fiyero's tortured body was found one day soon, she could not break down weeping with the stares of the people upon her. Dorothy was a witness to her grief, but she must be the last person to ever see tears shed by Glinda of the North.
Dorothy, wanting escape, had let herself be drawn into the story. She didn't see it for the noose it was, laid out shining by fate, ready to catch and hurt her. For the first time the thought flitted across her mind that Glinda's mourning was intermingled with personal remorse. Was Glinda the one who had looked away from her friend? Why had she been a part of the celebration of Nessarose's death? What did she know about who was behind it? Dorothy's mind, however, refused to dwell on these questions. They were too objective, too distanced. They might have saved her from what was to come. But Elphaba's story had hit her deep—and far too close.
In a single day, Elphaba Thropp had lost two loved ones to violent death. In a single day, Dorothy Gale had lost both her parents. One short day had made her an instant orphan. Countless times she had heard comments from well-meaning people about how fortunate it was (as if losing both parents could ever be considered fortunate) that she had been so young when it happened-- that the tragedy had occurred before she could remember much about it. It was true that she had few sharp images of that time—but Dorothy remembered plenty. She remembered how she'd felt. There had been fear, of course. Incomprehension. Panic. Uncertainty. Overwhelming grief. And anger. Her parents had been run over by a wagon and left there for dead in the hot Kansas dust.3 No one knew why. No one knew who had done it. In Sunday School Dorothy had been taught that she was to love her enemies. That she was to forgive, seventy times seven, whether the person asked her forgiveness or not—whether she felt they deserved it or not. She knew this was right, but it was difficult. The person who had killed her parents had not asked her forgiveness. They4 had not even stopped.
Dorothy was not certain that she had forgiven that person, not completely, and she would never forget. Still, she had not held on to her anger. There came the time when she could think of her parents' death without the emotion rising inside. It came occasionally, though, on days when she was not expecting it. Days when she felt particularly put aside at the busy farm, and particularly lonely. Days when she felt called on to defend the loved ones she had left. She'd gotten in trouble once for raising her voice to a bank clerk who'd been disrespectful to poor Uncle Henry (even though she'd always thought Aunt Em was secretly proud of what she'd done). When Miss Gulch had swung at her beloved Toto with a rake, Dorothy'd had quite a few thoughts of pummeling the old miser with the rake herself—thoughts that she didn't imagine her Sunday School teacher would be any too pleased about, even though it WAS Miss Gulch.
She wondered if that was how the Witch had felt, on a much larger scale. It wouldn't have made her actions right, any more than her own wicked thoughts about Miss Gulch were right—but it was something that Dorothy could understand. And perhaps, she thought, in that way… she wasn't so very different from the Witch at all.
Glinda, pulling through her tears, seemed to have read her silent question. "After they died, Elphaba was... something snapped. Everything she must have been holding in, everything that happened to her… it was just too much. She'd had too much. You got the brunt end of it." 'But then again,' Glinda thought, 'if I thought someone were coming to kill me, I wouldn't exactly be inviting them in for tea.' She held the words in. They could do no good. "I don't imagine it was pleasant," she added instead.
It was an understatement, that she knew, but Glinda didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to hear the stories that Dorothy could tell. Instead she told a tale of her own, from an easier time when she could still understand Elphaba—or had thought she could. "I'm sure Elphie didn't help things any, the mean old thing," she said with a fond, sad little smile. "Even back in school she was always good at scaring people. Even when she didn't want to be." The smile faded with the remembrance of fellow students shrinking back in disgust, afraid lest they accidentally brush against a green hand in a crowded doorway. She remembered herself at first, religiously sticking to her own side of their dorm room. So many months wasted that could have been more time—just a little more time—with the friend she had lost. "Elphaba could be… abrasive. And honest-- people think it's the same thing, you know. She was always ready to bite before someone else could bite her first. But she was soft on the inside. It took me a long time to see it, but she was. Everything else was just protection. Just walls. I don't think anybody could blame her for that."
"I remember the first dance we had that school year," she continued, her mind deep in the past. Two tears slipped down her cheeks at the memory of Fiyero as he had been, astride the top steps of the ballroom's sweeping staircase-- every inch the careless, cocky, completely charming prince. He'd been so handsome, so perfect. "I'd played a horrible trick on Elphie-- don't look so surprised. Everyone was laughing at her—not any more than usual, really. But this time she looked like—like she hadn't been expecting it. It was awful. You know, I think that was the first time I'd ever felt guilty for something? So I went up… and I took her hand.5 If she'd pushed me away I would've deserved it, but she didn't. She looked so surprised. Like no one else had ever… and she held on. We were friends then. She was my friend. I should have held on…"
As Glinda drifted on her memories, Dorothy choked, wide-eyed and silent, in the stranglehold of one of own. The noose had tightened, little by little but so, so sure. She had thought to smother out the truth of the Witch by remembering her time in the tower. By letting herself float, unattached, on the surface of Glinda's reminiscing until she could leave the room and reach safety. Both ways conspired against her, dragging her under as she struggled. It was no use. Dorothy relived again and again that frozen moment when she had nearly reached out a hand herself. All she could see of the Witch now was Elphaba standing before her with desperate eyes.
"Give me my shoes, so you can go."
"I'll send you home… you have my word."
There was another time Dorothy had seen her look that way.
It was her most repressed memory. She'd tried to hide it behind the parades. Helpless now to stop it, Dorothy closed her eyes as it came.
They were thirty strong, the witch hunters-- a crushing, riotous mass of vengeance that knocked Dorothy to the ground at the first eager charge. Thirty men against one Witch, whose once-imposing figure seemed so small, so lost in their midst. She fought back at first, taking her forced stand in the center of them all. She cackled, she hissed like an enraged cat, matching them swing for swing as she flung out her broom in wide circles.
The weapons of the mob were barbed-- sick and sharp in the red-orange torchlight. The Witch's broom, for all its powers of fear and flight, was mere straw and cord batting away at pitchfork, scythe, and ax. Where was her fire, thought Dorothy, where were her hexes? Quick as thought, one weapon found an opening and caught her across her outstretched arm. Black wool tore, green skin opened, red blood sprang forth as the broom fell onto the stones below. Dorothy heard the hollow clatter as it met the floor, caught the surprised shrieking yelp of the Witch like a dog against a tight chain—and then there was nothing but the hunters' crowing yell.
The man who had done it was young— probably not a man yet. A boy. His cheeks were smooth—unshaved, unlined. At any other moment he would have looked like any one of the young men that Dorothy could name from home, lined up among the wagons after church to ogle the girls in their Sunday finest. Now this boy stared at the Witch with horror in his eyes—not at her face, Dorothy could see, but at the place where her fingers clutched and blood oozed between them. He could not seem to get over the blood. Dorothy had been told that the Witch did not bleed. She had been told that her evil was so great and so old that it had dried all the natural fluids of her body into sand.6 He must have been told the same thing. As the Witch hunched over in pain, the boy fell back in pain of his own even as his companions clapped his shoulders and roared their approval. The shovel he had used, the sharp curved edge smeared, dropped to the ground as he struggled free of their heavy hands and fled.
The blood was in the water then and the sharks were swarming. Dorothy had seen ants on a dead grasshopper once, in the flowerbed near the porch. It had nearly made her ill—and she a farm girl used to the natural way of things. Zeke had laughed at her reaction, but not meanly. "That's what they call a feeding frenzy," he'd told her. " It's not pretty but it's nature." Was this nature, too? If it was Dorothy did not want to know it, did not ever want to know. The faces in the mob were grotesque, as if they'd been molded out of clay with the features pushed and twisted in every wrong direction, twisted in ways that no human face should go. There was a difference, Dorothy thought, between the swarming ants and these swarming men. The ants, though pitiless, had no hate. She could feel hatred growing in the room, pure and wild, a presence all its own. The mob, gluttonous, fed it and fed off it in turn. It rose, dark and winged. Though Dorothy had heard numbered every wrongdoing of the Witch and experienced her wrath firsthand, could even all those things have birthed…this?
"Two wrongs don't make a right," Aunt Em had taught her.
"Never return evil for evil," she had heard on Sunday mornings. "But return evil with good."
This, Dorothy was sure, was evil through and through.
There were a few who saw and felt what she did—a few whose eyes cleared. They broke away and stumbled from the chamber. The Lion finally bawled and bolted—afraid of the Witch or afraid of his fellow witch hunters Dorothy could not tell, though she could speak for herself. They were more terrifying than the Witch could have ever aspired to. They were more terrifying and more real—more terrifying becausethey were more real. The Witch, with her green skin and black robes, was something Dorothy had only known from myth. The mobsmen, most of them in plain brown trousers and home-sewn shirts, could have walked down the main street of her prairie town and never turned a head.
Those hunters who remained didn't move closer to the Witch, but continued to swipe and harry with their long-handled weapons. They were only brave at a distance. None, Dorothy noticed, held a knife, or even a sword. No—no they were not brave at all, not one. They were cowards worse by far than the Lion, shivering in the corner and twisting his tail. He at least was honest in his cowardice, while the others played at being fierce. Not a one of them would have stood alone. Not a one of them would look the Witch in the eyes.
The Witch's pain intensified and became something more entirely when the Tin Man stepped forward, the cheers of the crowd behind him. The Witch… wilted… then—wilted like parched wheat. "You can always tell when the fight goes out of a critter," Zeke said once, and it was true. The fight went out of the Witch. Was it the sight of the woodcutter's axe at the ready, held by a man of solid metal? What did a witch who could disappear in a cloud of smoke or conjure up a column of fire have to fear? Why didn't she do it? Was it something else? The Witch looked as if she were drowning, as if she'd been beaten. Could she feel the arrow of hatred in the room as Dorothy could, all the worse for being its sole target? Wouldn't a Wicked Witch expect it as her due?
Eternal seconds passed as the Tin Man, the most vocal of the Witch's opponents, stared at her and did not speak. She stared back at him with dull eyes dark as coal. Her fingers dug into the rough wall behind her. Waiting. One of the men, taking advantage of the diversion, stuck in a thieving hand to grab the broom from before her feet. She made no move to stop him. As he hoisted it above his head and the crowd roared in approval, the Tin Man spoke at last—one word—
--but Dorothy could scarcely hear and could not understand. The witch hunters were all but baying like hounds, screaming—screaming for the man of tin to kill her.
"Kill her! Kill the Witch!"
Through it came the sound of quivering metal. It grew in a rattling crescendo, ringing louder and harsher until Dorothy's eardrums rattled with it. In an explosion of movement the Tin Man whirled towards his fellows, face welded in a new expression of anguish. Silvery rivulets snaked down his cheeks-- tears of ore—as he shouted to the hunters at the top of his voice.
Dorothy could not make out his words. No sooner had he begun but there came a deep, dark, rumbling of disgust. Of thwarted violence. Of dissatisfaction. She knew at once that it was the most dangerous sound in all the world. It could only breed something terrible.
And it did.
In two seconds, the Tin Man hit the wall of the chamber, his metal frame flung through the air by the rage of the mob.
In the next, a man rushed forward from the crowd and put the muzzle of a gun against the throat of the Witch.
At that exact moment, Oz became too real to Dorothy Gale.
It was then, and not any time before then, that Dorothy realized she'd never fully accepted the fact that Oz was real. She had told herself it was not a dream, yet there must have been a last little bit of herself—a part that she could not get to—that didn't quite believe it. Her wonder and terror had been real, yet there must have been some part of herself that hoped she would wake up at any moment. Her dealings with the Witch had been in magic spells, wands, ruby slippers—all things more suited to the world of make- believe than in the heartland world that was Dorothy's sole experience. She had not felt a full part of it, this killing of the Witch. Even the mob, while made up of men that looked so much like those back home, could have been out of a medieval story with their torches and pitchforks. But a gun… A gun, she knew. A gun was cold steel reality. A gun was shot-torn animals brought home for the supper pot and shot-torn men carried to the town doctor. There were no guns in fairy tales.
Time seemed thrown into suspended animation. Before Dorothy's horrified eyes, everyone in the room moved like mud-bogged cattle, every move amplified. The mob surged forward. The gun pressed upward. The Witch's eyes slid closed. The Scarecrow lunged towards Dorothy's feet, panic sewn into his face. His straw-stuffed body proved too light and he was tossed back into the savage sea. From somewhere came a woman's choked scream. There were no women among the witch hunters and Dorothy wondered if the scream was her own, ripped from her mouth unknowing. She felt outside herself. She felt swallowed. The room stretched and roared.
And then through it came the words.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot! The water! Throw the water!"
From the corner of her eye she saw it—a bucket, full near to the brim. Through the utter chaos and confusion that constricted the room and pounded her brain Dorothy had the sudden thought that the words had come from the Scarecrow. The bucket was what he'd been trying to reach. His command was the only solid thing on which she could grasp, and in the next second she grasped too the heavy wooden pail. There it was in her hands. There was the water arching through the air, onto the Witch and over the frothing mob.7
When the memory ended, Dorothy knew she had come to the end of herself. There were no more defenses. There was nothing more to learn. The truth was before her. She sat shaking in the aftermath, trying to make explanations to herself, to Glinda, to anyone.
Most of all to Elphaba, who despite everything had not truly been a Wicked Witch at all.
"I just got so afraid," she told the room in a quivering voice. Eyes fixed in an unblinking stare, she did not see Glinda's brow crease, her head tilt. "All those people were there, all the shouting… then there was the water and I didn't know it would hurt her! I was just so frightened!"
"You didn't mean for it to happen," said Glinda in a strange voice.
Dorothy's face crumpled. "But she didn't know that!" she cried, and burst into tears.
1 I took some liberties here, as we never see the giving-the-shoes scene in the musical. It isn't realistic, for characterization and canon reasons, to have Dorothy just pull the pair of shoes off poor Nessa's feet. In every version of the story, Glinda gives them to her, albeit with different motives. Bookverse doesn't quite work for this, and neither does the MGM film or Baum. In the musical it is hinted (or at least I took it that way) that spite may have played a factor in her giving the shoes to Dorothy. I softened this a bit by having her do as the Munchkins asked (which would make sense for them—passing on a symbol of their oppression to the person they feel freed them) rather than acting out of pure, out-and-out jealousy. Many thanks to Valieara for her help on this.
2 Going with musicalverse here.
3 Another liberty taken, done for plot purposes. I realize that in Maguire Dorothy's parents drowned, but it doesn't specify in any other source and I figured I could get away with it. (:
4 Yes, I know this is improper English. It would just really lose something if I wrote "he or she had not even stopped."
5 Yes, there was the dancing, but I didn't want to do a full scene re-cap here when only one part will figure in the plot.
6 From Baum.
7 My own take on the musical's melting sequence.