The house had landed.
Brushing her hair away from her face, Dorothy lifted herself upwards and blinked open her eyes. Her heart still hammered. While the barking of her faithful dog eased her an iota, chills squirmed through her body.
Or was it because of Toto that she felt the squirming? She knew she should have dove into the storm cellar as soon as the titan approached, to wait for its passing while in the arms of Aunt and Uncle, but Toto had ran back into the house. Poor dog knew nothing about what was coming nearer (sometimes Dorothy had wondered what it would be like to think like a dog, as she did wish for a life without worries).
While she knew she shouldn't have tried to catch Toto – she was proud of how much her upbringing had taught her what was right and what wasn't – her body overpowered her mind and she ran into the house seconds before it lifted off of the ground.
After her home had landed, she took a good look at her furry friend - her only friend - bouncing about the room while making indescribable noises. While her brain had begun to wish for his death, it also cheered at how he was still energetic after what happened. She thought that she should be mad at Toto for running away like that, yet scolded herself for following him when he would have survived anyway. Could she have two brains? Uncle had once said he was of two minds about selling the farm, and Dorothy was glad he listened to the mind that said not to sell it, but she certainly didn't want arguments in her head. Outside ones were bad enough.
She then stood, keeping her balance better than she thought she would, and looked around the room. The fading wallpaper with the floral pattern, which made Dorothy think of sleeping flowers that needed to be awakened, gave that little spark of familiarity, but it petered away quickly. Another look around revealed that plenty of furniture had been knocked over, with Aunt Em's favourite photo cracked, but that wasn't why this house didn't feel like the same one Dorothy had grown up in. Not knowing exactly what she felt, she turned to the furniture and tried to rearrange them in their proper position. Chairs went upwards, cracked photo went back on the wall, that thing went near the window.
When she neared that window, however, she closed her eyes, placing her palm over the pane for good measure.
After she had put most of the things back the way they were, that spark of familiarity ignited for a millisecond, and in order to get it to ignite again, she walked into the kitchen to see if there was anything to eat. After finding some bread on the floor, she heard her dog yap again, as he ran towards the door. Averting her eyes from the outside world once again – they were in Kansas, she kept telling herself – she grabbed Toto and brought him into the kitchen. When he was placed down on the floor, he calmed down a little, so Dorothy broke off a piece of bread, and gave it to him to nibble upon.
A slight creak.
Dropping the bread, Dorothy turned to the front door, which she noticed was beginning to open. Aunt? Uncle? Surely no-one else would come into this house since it wasn't theirs, and thieves always enter through the window, so it had to be them. Energy burst within Dorothy, and she ran to the door as it squeaked fully open.
In stepped something that made Dorothy freeze.
It resembled a human being, in that it had two arms and legs and wore clothes, though certainly not like any clothes Dorothy had seen. Its head, however, seemed to be made out of dough (Dorothy almost touched it to see if her fingers would be imprinted) and had no face save for two bulging eyes and three small slits that could either be a nose or a mouth. When it lumbered into the house, it stared at Dorothy right in the eyes, as it was the same size as her.
Dorothy backed away into the wall, scratching it as if doing so would create a door for her to escape through. The doughman approached with outstretched arms, its three-fingered hands open. As it neared, it made a series of noises that sounded like a dying chicken, which Dorothy might have laughed at did they not so perfectly emphasise what the fat little thing looked like.
Then it screeched.
Opening her eyes, Dorothy looked down to see Toto chewing on the leg of the being, causing the latter to flail its arms about and squeak in confusion. Seeing this amusing sight had caused Dorothy to regain her energy, and instinctively, she kicked the doughman in the leg, and soon, it toppled over on its back. No more did its odd appearance deter her, and she almost pressed her foot down on its face as a sign of victory.
Then she looked outside.
The doughman had left the door open, revealing where the house had landed. The first thing Dorothy saw was grey, but not the familiar, soothing grey of Kansas. What lay outside was a giant wall, one which reminded Dorothy of the evil witch's castle she had heard about in a fairy tale. With the doughman no longer a problem, curiosity overcame Dorothy, leading her outside towards the wall. While it was exactly as tall as she thought it was, with it piercing the clogged sky, it was nowhere near as wide. But next to it was another wall just like it. And another wall.
They were buildings. Houses just like hers, even if they towered over it. Though who would want to live in a building as dark as those? Looking back at the doughman, even he was too bright to live in one of those towers. As Toto came trotting out of the house, Dorothy saw another wall right behind her house, both taller and wider than it, and just as dark as the nearby towers.
While Dorothy wished to run back into her house, slam the door and hide away forever, her body wouldn't let her. One brain controlled it, while the other brain could only lie there and yell in protest. Slowly she stepped down the path made of stone – a little brighter than the walls but not by much – and looked around where she had landed. As she walked, she noticed the already-dark surroundings growing dimmer, and the area grew colder. Dorothy was sure it was in the middle of the day when the tornado had come, so how could night be falling now?
There weren't even any stars.
There were some lights, however. Yellow lights atop long sticks of some kind, like elongated versions of the candles Aunt would light once every year. She ran towards them, her feet echoing louder, but stopped when she beheld what lay beyond the walls. More of those towers, only they were shorter and more twisted, seemingly bending and writhing as soon as they saw Dorothy. The yellow light did nothing to ward away the grey, or the dull browns seen in some of the windows, and an indiscernible yet powerful stench wafted through the air, meaning Dorothy was forced to breathe through her mouth. Toto was as ecstatic as ever, Dorothy stood perfectly still, moving nothing but her head.
The streets were empty. Not even that doughman had left the house yet. No more of him walked down the paths, no dragons soared over her, no witches cackled in the distance.
This was a fairy world, wasn't it?
Just as Dorothy thought of walking away to find signs of life, Toto leapt up and began to bark furiously, heralding a carriage trundling down the path. Realising what this new place was like, Dorothy was not surprised to see the carriage being pulled by two skeletal white beings with elongated limbs. As soon as the carriage had reached Dorothy, it began to slow down. Once more Dorothy had two brains, but this time they were in agreement about something. One said that she should stay because whoever was in the carriage could help her get back home, and the other said that she should stay because another doughman may need putting in his place.
The door of the carriage clicked open, and when the rider stepped out, even Toto hid behind Dorothy's legs. The figure perfectly complemented its horses in how tall and thin it was; it even seemed too tall to actually fit in the carriage. Its face was dominated by two red eyes, framing a small mouth, all below a pair of floppy antennae. Its clothes, boasting a single shade of black, made it look two-dimensional, as if a drawing had escaped a sheet of paper.
Seeing the cowering Toto behind her made Dorothy continue to stand firm, attempting to ignore the creature's appearance. As it looked over Dorothy, its head turning like that of an owl, it tapped its chin in thought before stroking its eyeballs. Seeing her chance present itself, Dorothy struck without a single thought, stamping her foot on that of the creature.
It drummed its fingers on her head.
'I'm sorry,' said Dorothy, punching herself inwardly for ruining what might have been helpful, but the creature responded by tightly wrapping its fingers around her head and squeaking.
In a second, Dorothy found herself flung into the carriage, the interior of which was certainly more elegant than what Dorothy was expecting, with its crimson walls and padded seats. The creature entered calmly, and to Dorothy's surprise, she, Toto and the thing were able to fit into the carriage together. As the carriage began to move again, the creature began a series of high-pitched squeaks, its hand rotating.
'I'm sorry Sir,' said Dorothy, swallowing to hide her fear, 'But...' The creature then moved its head forwards, still making those owl-like twitches, and Dorothy was silenced. It was not because of the creature's appearance, no, rather its status. Only the rich could afford a carriage as regal as this, and only the rich dressed in black. If this being was better-off than Dorothy, it must be wiser and more important – how else could it have amassed so much wealth? – so Dorothy kept quiet until the carriage arrived at another tower.
Night, or whatever it was in this place, had completely fallen, and the three had travelled far away from the giant candles. Thus, the tower they had arrived at was a completely black blot, a giant shadowy finger threatening to bend down and flatten Dorothy. The creature had ceased his squeaking, and now only gestured towards the tower with his hand outstretched.
Holding Toto in her arms like a baby doll, Dorothy approached, flinching from the chill of the air growing stronger. A little voice pepped up and told her to run, but another one arose and noted there was no place to run to, so Dorothy let her feet take her towards the front doors.
The doors burst open as she neared, revealing another strange creature. It had a gangly form like that of the creature in the carriage, with its coat hanging loosely from its body. It reminded Dorothy of when Aunt put the tablecloth outside to dry.
Then Dorothy looked at its head. It was pink and fluffy.
Bending down slightly, the pink-headed creature fumbled about in its pockets and pulled out a small device that looked like a stretched 'C'. Gently, it placed it on Dorothy's head, making sure the circles on each end entered her ears.
Dorothy screamed in pain.
'Agh!' cried the pink-headed creature. 'Don't do that!'
'I'm sorry,' said Dorothy, rubbing her ears as they still stung.
'Oh good,' said the pink-headed creature, clacking its fingers together, 'You can understand us.'
The being's voice soothing her a little, Dorothy said, 'Yes, sir. What is your name?'
'A name?' The being scratched its head. 'I don't have a name, I don't need a name. That's useless information.' After pacing for a second, he leaned over Dorothy and tapped his head 'Do you know what this is?'
Dorothy would have said 'I don't know', but feared that, from the tone of the being's voice, he would be offended if she did.
'It is a brain, child, like the one you have in that little head of yours. My brain used to be in my head, but I'm much better like this.'
'I used to be a Munchkin...' said the brain, tapping his neck, 'and when I was one, I kept making all these silly mistakes. I would keep losing things, I wouldn't finish work on time, I got fired from my job. I thought it was because I didn't have a brain, but then I found out it was because I did have a brain, but I just didn't use it enough.' He raised his metal hand to gesture towards the big black tower, then pointed at the other creature. 'I came here, and Wogglebug there gave me this new body so I could think better. And I thought so well, he gave me a job here.'
'Yes, yes,' muttered Wogglebug, waving his hand, 'I made you what you are. You get too excited sometimes.'
'No, no I do not,' said the Brain, regaining himself, 'As you said, I do not need emotion now, for I am logical. I thought it would be logical to explain to the human why I am the way I am, for she probably doesn't have people like me where she comes from.'
Wogglebug narrowed his gigantic eyes. 'Fair enough,' he said, before grabbing Toto away from Dorothy.
'Don't worry,' said Wogglebug, walking into the tower. 'Your dog will be fine. Now then, you!' He pointed at the Brain. 'Please make our guest comfortable,' he added, playing with Toto's fur.
'Give me back Toto,' said Dorothy, before she was restrained by the Brain, 'I think you're a bad man.'
'Why do you think I'm bad?' Wogglebug placed an arm on his hip. 'It's because you don't understand me. I swear, children are all alike. Now, then.' Still holding Toto, he patted Dorothy on the head before going inside. 'My friend has some toys for you to play with while you wait.'
Dorothy raised her arm to ask what Wogglebug meant by 'wait' but the Brain took her by the hand and dragged her through the halls. 'Come on, come on,' said the Brain, 'You have to do what he says.'
The hallway seemed to have no end, its dark brown walls leading into an abyss of some kind. Before Dorothy could take a closer look, the Brain took her through a door, where she was greeted by a smiling round creature, not unlike the being that entered her house.
It was metal. The smile was painted on.
'Look!' said the Brain, placing his arm around the metal man. 'This is your new friend, Tik-Tok! Would you like to see what he can do?' Pulling a block from his sleeve, he pressed a button, and Tik-Tok lifted his arms and swayed them back and forth, stomping the ground with his gigantic feet.
As she sat down, Dorothy looked at the robot's little dance, and forced a smile that hurt her face.
'You aren't impressed, are you?'
'Oh no!' Dorothy shook her head. 'I think your robot is very nice.'
'You don't have to pretend,' said the Brain, switching Tik-Tok off. 'Ever since my renovation, I've been made to think more logically. I no longer have emotion.'
Dorothy raised herself from the seat and looked up at the Brain. 'What do you mean?'
'I mean I don't feel sad. I don't feel angry. That was a problem I had so often in my previous form. Sometimes I would be too sad to work, or too angry to concentrate.'
'Can you feel happy?'
'No, I can't. Yes, sometimes I was too happy to work as well...you're not thinking of leaving, are you?'
Dorothy turned away from the door and back at the Brain. 'No.'
'Tell me child,' The Brain leaned down like Uncle did when Dorothy got hurt. 'Have you ever done something you feel bad about?'
Dorothy recalled moments where she had felt a harsh poke in her stomach from hearing Aunt and Uncle's scolding, but considering how those moments compared to this moment, that poke did not surface again. Still, she remembered how much she wished she could stop feeling bad about herself, but that was because she wanted to feel happy all the time.
Suddenly, she remembered her doctor, and how he never seemed to smile or laugh. If the Brain became as successful as he was without being happy, so perhaps her doctor became a doctor because he was never happy.
'Ah. I can tell you're considering it,' said the Brain, 'When you are like me, you pick up things like that. Are you good at picking up things?'
'I'm not very strong...'
'No, I mean, do you...notice things a lot?'
'I...' She kept herself upright. Aunt had said to treat people of authority with respect. 'I don't think I do,' she replied, before she found herself backing away slightly.
'I know what you're thinking. You're nervous, because you think I'm going to make you like I am, and you want to stay the way you are. And you want to go home.' Despite being told that this being had no anger, Dorothy backed away and watched its arm. The Brain lifted his arm into the air, his pink head seemingly throbbing, and Dorothy shielded her face with her hands, closing her eyes as if doing so would stop the Brain.
Upon opening her eyes, she found an apple presented to her.
'Here,' said the Brain, 'This should calm you down.' Dorothy took the apple and played with it while observing the Brain and his movements. 'We need to keep you as you are, you know.'
'I am not sure you would understand.'
'No,' said Dorothy, throwing away the apple, 'Please, tell me.'
'This place must be confusing enough for you,' said the Brain, flinching. 'I think you should have a lie down.'
'No. What about Toto? Can I go home?'
'See?' The Brain jumped to his feet. 'You're too excited. You need to calm down.'
'Are you scared of something?'
'No! I told you, I have no emotions.' The Brain stood perfectly still. 'Now, I'll try to keep you occupied until we need you.'
'But what's going to happen to Toto?'
'I'm sure he will be fine.' The Brain walked to the other side of the room, where there stood a large bookcase. Pulling out a book, he observed it before walking over to Dorothy. 'Why didn't you eat the apple I gave you?'
'I wasn't hungry.'
'Oh. Well, would you like to read a story?' His fingers drummed on the book. 'It's a story about your world.'
'Really?' said Dorothy, gaining a small piece of energy. 'Where did you get it?'
The Brain's eyes darted around so quickly, they looked like they would fall out of his pink head. 'The Wizard gave it to me...' Right as he covered his invisible mouth, he almost stumbled over before Dorothy picked him up.
'Nothing's wrong. I'm fine. I told you, I don't feel any fear.'
Once again an argument raged in Dorothy's head, one voice begging her to go to the door, find Toto and escape; that was what happened in the stories, after all. Then she was reminded what Aunt had told her about helping people who needed help and certainly this creature qualified. Toto needed help too, however, as he was in the long fingers of that horrible Wogglebug. The Brain worked for Wogglebug, though, and the Brain was a good person, so if he was working for Wogglebug then Wogglebug couldn't have been bad.
Neither of those choices would bring her home, would they?
'Anyway,' said the Brain, 'This story is written in your language. While the device I have given you translates our language vocally, it can't translate our written language, so it is fortunate that I have this.'
She wanted to throw the book right at his head. She wanted to make him fall over so she could run out of the door. That door seemed to grow bigger and cried out to be opened, yet there was another force keeping Dorothy stuck in the room. While knowing full well this creature was not someone who wished her harm – at least it didn't seem that way – a fire had ignited within her. She attempted to calm it by reading the book – 'Great Expectations'. She opened the book and saw lots of words she didn't understand the meaning of, but she didn't focus on them. In her mind's eye, she saw Toto in chains, in the furthest corner of a dank dungeon, whinging and yapping for Dorothy's help. Before long, he was approached by a dragon, making the room shudder and quake with every step.
There had to be a dragon here. There was a wizard and all these strange creatures about so there had to be monsters.
She had to throw the book.
And a while later, she did.
Wogglebug had just entered the room, and as soon as he took his first step inside, 'Great Expectations' was thrown in his direction, but hadn't managed to hit him. 'You are quite excitable, aren't you?' said Wogglebug, 'Well, you should be pleased. You're going to be famous.'
Dorothy stayed silent.
'We've been waiting for another human to come here. That 'Wizard' may have been supplying us with things from your world, but he's so secretive. We've wanted to learn more about the world beyond, but it's been so difficult.
'But then there came the tornado. Many of us did retreat to our homes, believing it to be just a disaster, but I knew it would bring us something...important.' He reached out to Dorothy, pulling his hand away when she snarled at him. 'And now we have you.'
'Your dog is fine,' said Wogglebug in a monotonous way. 'The Witch has him. I think he will make a nice pet for her.'
Dorothy no longer snarled, but backed away. Wizard. Witch. She told herself that she had wanted to go to a world like this in the past, but that little voice was drowned out by a multitude of other voices, causing her head to throb.
'Soon,' continued the Wogglebug, 'News of you being here will bring the Wizard to us, and then,' He rubbed Dorothy's head. 'Then you can go home.'
Dorothy turned away, shielding her face once again.
'And you may have your dog back too.'
'No!' Dorothy cried. She ran to the door, slamming it open. Peering into the dark brown halls, she thought to herself which of the doors to use. She had gotten to the hall by letting her body overpower her brain, but surely she needed both were she to make a rescue and escape.
'You brat!' growled the Wogglebug as he approached. As soon as she heard his voice, Dorothy let her legs take her down the hallway with its infinite number of doors. Her ears, still with that device plugged into them, kept alert for any yipping or barking or whines.
Wait, what was that?
She was sure she heard Toto bark behind that door – the door with the light shining through its window. A special door. Her running ceased, just so she could listen harder and make sure. It was Toto's barking, coupled with a series of screeches and burbling of some kind. Those other sounds may have slowed her down slightly, but she still crept slowly and silently towards the door.
Then she was stabbed in the shoulder.
'I suppose we have to find other ways of making you co-operate,' said Wogglebug as he pushed down the needle. He said more, but what he did say was nothing more than incoherent squawking once again. The halls began to bend and distort as Dorothy lost her balance, stumbling to the floor on her stomach.
She still heard Toto's barking.
Soon enough, she drifted into darkness. It was like sleeping, only heavier and without dreams. She soon awoke, however, quicker than she usually did. Looking over herself, she saw that she was on a chair, padded like those of the Wogglebug's carriage. The rest of the room seemed to be shrouded in emptiness, nothing but shadows accompanying her. Worse, there was no sign of Toto. She couldn't hear his barking, nor his whines, or even the squeaking sounds she just heard in tandem with her dog.
She did hear breathing, however.
A harsh, rasp breathing that echoed throughout the room – or whatever to call this blank space she was in. A breathing that grew louder and louder.
Another light clicked on, revealing the dragon.
A blue creature, bearing two black horns and an elongated mouth that accompanied hundreds of jagged, rotting teeth. Its most notable feature, however, was that while it did have one gleaming eyeball, its other socket was a big black hole.
This creature rendered Dorothy's mind as empty as its eye-socket. There was one thought she had – this was the thing that ate Toto – but other than that, she could do nothing but stare at the wrinkled being as its neck stretched to observe her further. 'I have heard,' said the dragon in a croaky voice, 'That you have been quite disobedient.' Dorothy flinched from the stench of the dragon's breath.
'Well,' continued the dragon, 'I'm sure you regret doing such a thing. And now that you're here, you won't need to worry about that anymore.' She – the voice sounded female – pulled back her head, making her neck seem slightly shorter. Still, she looked over Dorothy, wringing her wrinkled claws. 'You do have one quality that has been lacking in this land, however.'
All of a sudden, Dorothy's brain sparked, and she replied, 'What's that?'
Dorothy shook, but all the dragon had to do was slam on the chair's arm with her balled fist, and Dorothy was silent. 'As the years have passed, we seem to be more and more isolated. Food has been scarce, there has been little liquid nourishment, and the population is dwindling. Thankfully, you're here. You and the Wizard.' Dorothy tried to respond, but all that came from her mouth were jibbers and squeaks. 'What's that? Why do I want the Wizard? Well, I'll tell you...
'A few weeks ago, my campaign to improve everyone in this world had been growing stronger and stronger. I had made one Munchkin, whose crops had gone bad, live without food, and I made another Munchkin think better. I believe you've met him.'
'H-he's...' Dorothy croaked, 'He's my friend.'
'Is he now? Anyway, we had heard many stories about humans and the world beyond the Deadly Desert, but we never thought a human would come here. Not long ago, a man we called "The Wizard" came, and he brought us objects and stories from his world.' From behind herself, the dragon pulled out a small stick. 'In their world,' continued the dragon, 'they can create fire just by flicking this tiny stick. They have a wide array of beautiful and bewildering creatures. Oh, that reminds me.' The dragon crawled away into the darkness. Dorothy spent minutes sat alone, but soon, the dragon returned with Toto, locked in a tiny cage.
'Yes, Toto. An interesting specimen indeed. And, of course,' She shook the cage, and listened to Toto whinge. 'He is innocent too.' As she licked her lips, she looked over Dorothy. 'Don't be scared.'
'A-are you the Witch?'
'Yes,' replied the Witch. 'I had another name back in the day, but I don't need it anymore, for I am improved. "Witch" means a maker of magic, and that is what I am.' She lifted her head up in the air to solidify her point, then lowered it over Dorothy's own. 'But I digress. He came to us, but he's been constantly hiding. He gives us something from his world, then he leaves us. I have tried searching for the vehicle he came in, but to no avail. Then you came along, and I can make the Wizard come to me. Surely he would not abandon his own species.'
'C-can he take me h-h-home?'
The Witch's one eye twirled around in its socket. 'He very well could, and I bet he will. And I will come too. Not only will we then have a constant supply of food and new technology, I will be able to make more people's lives better.' While she pulled her head away, she still rubbed her finger – her claw- across Dorothy's face. 'I'll make you better too...but only after the Wizard arrives. Until then, we wait.' Pulling her claw away, she added, in a slightly softer tone, 'Would you like something to drink?'
Dorothy didn't reply, but the Witch crawled off anyway, leaving Dorothy alone in the shadows, with nothing except her own thoughts. The Witch wanted her here for improvements, did she? Aunt and Uncle had always told her to improve herself. 'You need to improve your attitude, young lady,' Aunt had said constantly, and Dorothy heard that phrase echo throughout the room she was trapped in. If Aunt had joined her in this land, she would have said it some more.
After the Witch had left, Dorothy finally lifted herself off of the chair. The room had suddenly become a little brighter, yet nothing was revealed except brown and orange walls and two doors. One door was unlocked, revealing a toilet. The other was the one the Witch had slithered through, and it could not be opened. Dorothy knew it was futile to try, but her hand still tugged and pounded on the door, as much as she told herself otherwise.
The words of Aunt and the Witch found their way back into her skull.
With the door still refusing to release her, Dorothy slumped to the floor, and lay down on it. It was rough and cold, yet Dorothy remained there as she tried to clear her mind. She had tried to empty her brain of troubling thoughts in the past and always found looking at the ceiling did just that.
Except this ceiling had a big black eyeball.
Dorothy did not know how many days she had spent in the room. Her best estimate was three or four, but the way time seemed to speed up and slow down had made it hard for her to count. When she thought of whether or not the Witch was coming in to improve her, the time quickened, but then there were bursts of excitement at the possibility that she may be returned home, and everything slowed to a crawl.
What did time matter in a room as empty as this, however? Nobody came in except for the Witch. Every time she entered, Dorothy ran to the end of the room, but all the Witch did was leave behind some brown liquid for Dorothy to drink. Dorothy liked the drinks – they tasted just like water with a pinch of spice – but she wished the Witch wouldn't enter at all.
Back on the farm, she had little toys or luxuries, but she made do with her imagination and, of course, with Toto. The room had as much as her farm did, yet there was nothing for her to do here except sleep, drink and wait. Her fantasies had died, and Toto was still being kept by the Witch.
That one day began with a prolonged lie on the seat, with small hopes of awaking in her usual bed, her body numb until the door opened.
So many times that door had opened, so many chances Dorothy had to dart out and escape. Yet whenever it opened, she instinctively cowered. This time was no different, as the minute she heard the squeak, another of her little voices shrunk away and she darted to the furthest corner of the room.
The Brain entered.
That squirming feeling subsided as he came in, and Dorothy's own brain demanded she leave the room immediately. Energy surged within her as she ran to the opening the Brain had created, images of saving Toto and feeling his tongue against her face again flashing in front of her. Before she could reach the corridor, however, the Brain seized her by the wrist.
'If you leave here,' said the Brain, pointing upwards, 'You won't be able to go back home.' Holding her hand just like Uncle did, he took her back to her seat. 'I think the Wizard is coming today.'
Dorothy flinched. 'What is he going to do with me?'
His hands on her shoulders, the Brain crouched down to speak to Dorothy. 'He will bring you home, and he will help us.' His head gestured towards the eye on the ceiling. 'Thanks to that little thing, the people of this land know you're here.' He turned back to her, his brain beginning to engulf his eyes. 'You're bringing them hope.'
With Dorothy on the chair, the Brain walked over to the door and locked it again. 'I do think,' he added, 'That it's cruel to keep you here alone. I'll stay with you.'
'Thank you,' was Dorothy's only response.
The Brain walked over to the corner of the room, and sat, not bothered by the state. Although the chair was much more comfortable, Dorothy walked over to him and sat beside him.
'Tell me what your world is like.'
Dorothy opened her mouth to answer, but the words slipped through her. Him asking about where she lived made her think of home. Aunt, Uncle, the house standing proud against the monochrome waste. Toto.
'You can't tell me, can you? That's because you have emotions.' The Brain looked up at the ceiling, towards the eye. 'I'm not sure you should go home the way you are. If you had no emotions, like I have, you would be able to get things done much easier.'
Dorothy punched him in the arm.
'That did not hurt,' said the Brain as he stood upwards, 'but may I enquire why you did that?'
Yet again, Dorothy couldn't answer. Her mind flashed again to the doughman in her house. The imperfect doughman who had little food and little resources. After a minute, she managed a 'I'm sorry.'
The Brain sat down again, rubbing his head. 'Don't be sorry. It does not bother me. I only asked for logical reasons.' He turned to Dorothy again. 'Is your world beautiful?' Dorothy nodded. 'I remember seeing a picture,' the Brain continued, 'of what your world looks like. It had these fields of yellow sticks, and the sky was blue.'
Then he hung his head.
In spite of the Brain's reassurances, the rest of the day passed without any mention of the Wizard. The door remained locked, and despite the Brain being in the room with her, Dorothy did nothing as she did the other days she was in the room. One of her brains did suggest she try and escape, but another brain reminded her of how she was apparently bringing the people of this world hope. Would that make up for the poor Munchkin she and Toto hurt? She did not know, and couldn't bring herself to ask the Brain.
The next day, the door opened again. Wogglebug stood before her, still donning his flat black.
'The Wizard is here.'
Once again, Dorothy's feet took her to the doorway, and once again she was grabbed on. The Wogglebug wrapped his fingers around her shoulder, and led her down the hallway. 'Am I really going home?'
Wogglebug snorted, turning his head upwards. 'Of course you are.'
'Is Toto coming?'
'Yes, Toto is coming.'
Dorothy looked at the floor, as Wogglebug's stare seemed to sting. Hearing an extra set of footsteps, she looked up and saw the Brain following them. He looked almost as regal as Wogglebug, with his brain turned to the ceiling and his arms behind his back.
The abyss that seemed to lurk at the end of the hallway shrunk away until it revealed a door, much bigger than the others in the hallway. Wogglebug pushed it open and there once again was the dragon, her face stretched into a smile. This room was more well-lit then the one Dorothy had spent so many days in, so her scales, her horns and the black hole where an eye should have been were all that much clearer.
In front of the Witch there stood a portly man in faded clothes. Dorothy jumped to see a fellow human, but the stare of the Witch forced her to stand still once more. The man turned to her, revealing a dirty white moustache above a set of crooked teeth.
'You see,' said the Witch, twiddling her claws, 'we do have the child here. We'll let you send her back home if you co-operate with us.'
'I do see,' replied the man, obviously the Wizard, in a hoarse voice, 'But...'
'But what?' The Witch roared, and her jaw seemed to stretch to her hips. 'Look at me.' Stretching out her claw, she snatched the Wizard's collar, bringing him closer to her. 'I used to be a fat little blob of nothing.' Her snout pointed at a picture of another doughman, or doughwoman as the case might be. A Munchkin. 'Now...now I've become something much more. I can see in the dark, I can hunt succulent beings much better...' Her claws dug deeper into the Wizard's shoulder. 'Just think what I can do to you.'
All of a sudden, she released him, and her very form stretched to the ceiling. 'You are denying your species the chance to be perfect, like your species has constantly been denying us your resources!' She turned to the Brain, and suddenly, the Brain held Dorothy close to his chest.
A sharp object came closer to Dorothy's neck.
'Just think, if you don't work with me and bring me to your world, your conscience will suffer oh so greatly. Not only will you have deprived humanity of a chance to better itself, a little girl will have died because of you.' The Witch bent over to look at Dorothy, the former's spine bending like wire. 'A shame if she were to die. She reminds me of a younger me.'
Dorothy's two brains argued once again. One brain said to spit in the Witch's face. Another called attention to the sharp object –it looked like a knife but it wasn't a knife – and noted that would be a reason to keep quiet. She stayed quiet, and her attention was turned towards the Wizard, pacing to and fro.
'You came here in a flying vehicle, did you not? Take me to that vehicle immediately, and the child will be spared.'
Dorothy noticed the Wizard had been as quiet as she, and had been shuddering too, which gave her a small relief. As the sharp blade moved an inch away from her neck, the Wizard spoke. 'I have been studying this world for a while now, and you have been one of the more interesting facets.' The Witch placed her claws on her hips and beamed an elongated smile. 'However,' said the Wizard, attempting to look the Witch right in the face. 'I am not sure you are...ahem...ready for our world just yet. I mean, it took me a long time to be accepted into your world, and the people of my home are far less tolerant then the people of your home. If you are really eager about going to my world, then perhaps I could bring one of your people...'
'No,' cried the Witch. 'I must see your world with my eye.' Pointing at said eye, she continued, 'I am the only one in this land who can fully understand what your world has to offer.'
'Well...' The Wizard began, following it up with nothing but a minute of silence.
Wogglebug flinched. 'You don't want to help us, do you? You only want to write about us and tell all your friends back home.' Swiftly, he snatched from the Wizard a selection of papers he had been carrying around under his coat. 'I can't make heads or tails of this language, but it's certainly treating us like we're animals. Creatures at the zoo for little children to giggle at.' His antennae relaxing, Wogglebug's head moved to the Brain's direction. 'Speaking of which.'
'Indeed,' replied the Witch.
Dorothy's brains had nothing to say.
She so wanted to close her eyes, but they demanded they stay open as the Brain brought the blade closer to her throat. It did not dig into her skin, but she still felt its rough surface against her neck. It was like a rock, only with an added chill to it.
'Do it!' cried the Witch, right before the blade dug into her throat.
The Brain shoved Dorothy away, sending her tumbling to the floor, and stabbed the Witch in her gigantic neck. 'Run!' cried the Brain as Wogglebug tended to his mistress, and in seconds, Dorothy found herself grabbed by both the Brain and the Wizard, running down the corridors to the beat of Wogglebug's screeches.
'Wait!' cried Dorothy, but then there came a message that wanting Toto back was the reason she ended up in this world in the first place, so she continued to let the Brain and the Wizard take her outside.
With the front doors closed, the three took a minute to regain their breath. As Dorothy's head began to clear, and she regained her balance, she asked the Brain, 'Why did you do that?'
The Brain, brushing off his coat, replied, 'Beca...' Before he could answer, he brought himself to face the Wizard. 'Because I want to come with you.'
The three walked away from the tower, and then the Wizard began to explain. 'I came here by choice, you see. I wanted to find what I call "the world's secret passage". A country, separated from the rest of the world by a desert that kills on contact, with its own creatures and culture. I have been bringing you things from my world to observe how you would react to them, and I have been compiling notes on your behaviour.'
'I am a logical being,' said the Brain, raising a finger, 'so I believe it would improve your research greatly if I were to accompany you. Then I would have a selection of things to interact with.'
Dorothy listened to the conversation, but she also looked back on the castle she had just left, the castle she had spent several days trapped in before the brave knights came to her rescue. She thought of the weak little dragon, dying from the blade stuck in her neck.
She thought of the dragon's murderer.
'Come. I'll take you both to my hot air balloon.'
Dorothy's head burst into flames. In Dorothy's mind there screamed a voice that demanded she go back to the tower and leave the Brain to his own devices. There was a witch who had offered to improve Dorothy, who had tried to give her people hope, and she was dying and needed help. As soon as Dorothy's legs wriggled towards that building, another voice screeched that Dorothy was going to be killed, Toto was still held captive and that this was the only chance she had to go home. The image of her Aunt and Uncle with arms wide open soothed her, but it was immediately replaced by the weak witch in a puddle of blood, and an angry Wogglebug nearing Toto.
Go back, she thought.
No stay, she thought.
Go back, she thought.
No stay, she thought.
The next thing Dorothy knew she was in the Wizard's balloon. It had landed.
Peeking out of the basket, which almost dwarfed her, she saw that she had not landed in her home. She wasn't in grey Kansas, rather a brightly coloured forest. The sky was blue, the floor was covered in light browns and oranges.
She was the only one in the basket.
Stumbling out of the vehicle, she looked around for any sign of the Wizard, or at least a way back to Kansas. She walked aimlessly about the forest, the leaves crunching under her feet, and though she still looked for a way home, she embraced the lighter air of the forest.
After half an hour or so, she didn't find the Wizard. But she did find the Brain.
He sat on the ground and looked up at the sky. She did so too.
Her mind was a complete blank.