Questions before I write
I wanted to make this scarier and so far, I haven’t done that. How do I make this scarier? Or at least a bit more unsettling? How do I make Scarecrow even more important to Dorothy so that she trusts him more than she might fear him? To a little girl from Kansas, a walking, talking Scarecrow seems a bit scary. What if there are crows… but this is Oz, so not quite crows. Not quite ravens. (I am a huge fan of crows and ravens, some of my favorite birds, I hang out with them at home all the time.) Something that could be scarier to a little girl alone in a cornfield.
This is an ongoing project for NaNoWriMo in which I rework the famous story, The Wizard of Oz. You can read about my project and start at the beginning here.
Chapter 4 continued
The Birds and the Scarecrow
Dorothy awoke the following day, cozy, with Toto snuggled next to her. She was under the thick covers now, but still in her gingham blue and white dress. Her bonnet had been neatly folded on a chair and her silver slippers sat on the floor next to the bed. She stretched and noticed the soft glow of light coming into her room. Despite being deep under the hill, there was a small window that glowed and lit the space.
She made her way up the long hallway, smelling something deep and rich, and found her way to the kitchen. It had a large circular window that overlooked the fields below. The ceiling was beamed with tree roots.
A very small Munchkin child, no larger than Toto, crawled about on the rock-tiled floor wearing a diaper of soft, fuzzy leaves. The child laughed in delight as Toto danced around him, wagging his tail. The table was set with meats and cheeses and eggs, pies from the night before, fruits and juices. A small Munchkin woman with deep auburn hair curling past her waist was washing dishes at the sink, and upon seeing Dorothy, brought her a plate and a cup.
“Eat as much as you like. You are welcome here. Our food is yours.”
Dorothy thanked her, filled her plate, and began to eat. Toto was given a plate of meats, which he quickly devoured, and then returned to playing with the baby. The woman watched with a smile and soon sat down on the floor to play with them both.
“We do not have this creature here. What do you call it?”
“He is a Toto then?”
“No, I mean, Toto is his name. He’s called a dog where I come from.”
Boq came through the door, smiling at the woman and the child. He bent down and kissed her on the top of the head before picking the babe up and kissing him on the cheek.
“Good morning wife. There are Munchkins asleep out on the grass, but the sun is strong and I think they shall wake up soon.” The baby squirmed to get back down to Toto. Boq chuckled, placed the baby back down on the floor, and sat at the table next to Dorothy. He began to fill a plate of his own.
“Perhaps we should have good strong chocolate for them when they wake,” she responded, “to help them on with their day.” She stood and left Toto with the child, going to a large stove and stirring a pot filled with a dark liquid.
“Must you leave today, then?” He asked Dorothy in his deep, rich voice.
“Yes, thank you so much for giving me a place to stay, but I must find my way home. Do you know how far it is to the Emerald City from here?”
“I’m sorry, I do not. We have been under the control of the witch for so long, that I have never known a time without her taking our crops. In the early times, there were Munchkins who went to Oz for help, but they were refused entry at the gate. They were told that Oz would not interfere with the affairs of the witches. But we were still able to live our lives, and grow our plants. We live simple lives, but we have food and drink and even under the witch’s control, our children did not starve.” He looked at the child on the floor.
The woman looked at Dorothy from the stove, “It is a very long and dangerous journey. Oz may not see you, are you sure you won’t stay?”
Dorothy started to respond, but Boq interrupted, “You think that Oz is gentle because you have only seen the land of the Munchkins. Our land is beautiful, but when you leave here, it will become treacherous. There are things that even Locasta’s kiss can not protect you from. I see her kiss shining on your forehead.”
Dorothy felt afraid and touched the spot where the good witch had kissed her. She wondered what it would be like to stay here, but she kept seeing Auntie Em’s eyes as she looked at Dorothy from the storm cellar, screaming Dorothy’s name. “When I was in Kansas, a great storm came and took me away from my Uncle and my Aunt. Your land is so beautiful and I am afraid of what will happen to me and Toto on the way, but if my aunt and uncle are okay, then I know that they are looking for me. I want to see them again in my life, and that’s why I can’t stay.”
Boq and his wife looked at her quite sadly, but they said nothing more about her journey. Boq’s wife refilled Dorothy’s pail with food from the table and they said their goodbyes.
Dorothy found herself once again on the road of yellow brick. She knew from what direction she came but checked to be sure that Oz’s eye pointed her way. Toto ran at her heels.
Dorothy walked for many hours, watching the landscapes change, the houses became further and further spread out. She soon found herself walking between fields of corn, the stalks still green, the ears just beginning to grow heavy. A wooden fence separated the corn from the road on each side and Dorothy noticed her stomach beginning to grumble.
“Shall we have a bit of dinner?” Asked Dorothy. Toto sat and wagged his tail.
Dorothy hung the pail from the top of a post and sat next to it on one of the fence beams. As she opened it, a black bird landed on the fence across from her. It reminded her of the crows at home, but bigger. Bigger than a raven as well. Dorothy thought it was even larger than the largest of the hawks she had ever seen.
“Hello,” she said to the bird. It stared at her, unmoving.
Another bird landed on the fence across from her. Large, like the first, and now she saw that its eyes were a shade of red mixed with black. Its black feathers, glossy, were deep red at the tips. Its claws were more like talons and gripped the wood, cutting into it.
Another landed on top of the post where Dorothy hung her pail and pulled the cloth from the top, exposing the food. Toto began to growl and tried to move between the bird and Dorothy.
“Shoo!” She yelled at it and waved her arms. She was still sitting on the fence, and the bird lifted only a bit but then came back to the pail. She reached up to remove it from the post when the giant bird pecked her hand.
“Ouch! You leave me alone!” She grabbed the pail and jumped from the fence. The bird eyed her. “Toto I think it’s time for us to go.” She looked at her hand, a bead of blood rising to the surface. As she turned away, she realized that the long fence across from where she had been sitting was now lined with birds, for as far as the eye could see. They all watched her, silent. Hundred of birds, sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Dorothy held the pail in her left hand and scooped Toto up in her right, holding him tight to her chest. He did not squirm or try to get away. She began to walk, keeping her back straight. She wanted to run but did not want to seem afraid. She walked slowly and with purpose. After only three or four steps, one of the blackbirds flew from the fence to the brick directly in front of her. There it sat.
When she tried to go around it, another bird fluttered to the ground before her, and then another. They were as tall as her knees. She turned, but the birds had landed behind her as well, blocking either direction. The yellow brick road appeared black, covered with these giant, silent birds. She stood, looking around, not knowing what to do or which way to turn when suddenly a single bird let out a loud caw.
It seemed to be a signal as all of the birds suddenly took flight, screaming and cawing in the air above Dorothy. The sun was blocked out as birds flew around her head, she could feel the wind from their wings on her skin. She fell to the ground, protecting Toto with her body, covering her head with her hands. There were pecks to the top of her head, her hair felt like it was being pulled from the braids.
She began to wail an inaudible cry for help when suddenly she heard a yell that seemed to come from the cornfield.
“Leave her be!” It demanded in a low and craggily voice. “Leave her be!”
She heard a squawk and a thump and a bird fell to the ground next to her. And then another squawk, and another. The pounding wings lifted and the air became silent other than the voice.
“Are you okay, Miss?”
Dorothy peeked out from under her now tangled hair, but saw no one. There was a dead bird lying in front of her, a trickle of blood running from its eye. All the other birds were gone and she was alone with Toto huddled beneath her.
Dorothy sat up. The contents of her pail had spilled, but nothing seemed to have been stolen. She gathered the food up and Toto pressed to her side, shaking. She was shaking too and struggled to return the cloth to the pail.
Then she began to cry. Not the silent tears that had so often come to her in this land, but loud, sobbing cries that filled the air. When there seemed to be no tears left and Dorothy was finally able to catch her breath, the voice once again spoke.
“Are you okay?” It was deep and old.
“Where are you?” Asked Dorothy.
“I am in the field, you can’t see me from there. The corn is blocking your way.”
“Can you come out of the corn?”
“I’m afraid not, Miss, I’m a bit stuck at the moment. But if you feel like you can, you can come to me.”
Dorothy didn’t like the idea of climbing through the corn, especially after what had just happened, but she felt she needed to thank whoever was speaking. She wasn’t sure how they had made the birds leave, but they had. She needed to thank them properly, and if they were stuck, as they said, perhaps she could help them.
She took her pail and turned to the corn, Toto back at her feet.
“Could you please say something, so that I can follow your voice and find you?” Asked Dorothy.
“What would you like me to say?” Responded the voice, and Dorothy could hear that the voice came from her right, beyond the corn.
“Anything, really,” she responded and crawled through the fence and into the tall stalks.
“The Munchkin who made me used to sing a song, would that be okay?”
“Oh, yes, that would be perfect,” responded Dorothy.
As she made her way through the corn, the voice began to sing in a deep baritone,
“The corn grows,
The day is long,
The sun will set,
My day is done,
My life for the earth,
My dreams to the wind,
I wake up,
And start again.”
Dorothy followed the voice through the tall stalks. As the verse ended, she found herself entering a small clearing. A post of faded, splintering wood stood in the center and there, stuck at the top, was a scarecrow.
The Scarecrow’s head was made of an old woven sack with stitches along the edges roughly holding it together. It was filled with dried grasses that stuck out between the seams and beneath the neck. The eye holes were ripped into the fabric and lined with dark stains, looking deep and hollow. The mouth was a slit cut sharply and then sewn open with red faded stitching along the edges.
The scarecrow did not have a nose, only a dark smear where it should have gone. It wore a tattered blue coat, buttoned up the front and fading blue woven pants. There was a grass hat in the style of the Munchkin people, but they had been small and Dorothy realized that this scarecrow was certainly much bigger than she was. The scarecrow wore old grey gloves and shoes filled with holes, the soles hanging off.
She looked around, not knowing where the person could have gone.
“You’ve found me!”
Dorothy gave a startled jump, for the voice seemed to come from the scarecrow.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see you. Could you please sing your song again?”
“But you are standing right in front of me,” said the scarecrow, and this time Dorothy saw his gaping mouth move.
“Oh! Is it really you that is talking to me?”
“Well, I think so,” said the scarecrow, “but I suppose I could be mistaken as I don’t have a brain.
“That’s impossible,” said Dorothy, “everyone has a brain.”
“Not everyone,” he responded sadly.