no place like oz Page 10

Then, before I could say anything else, something happened that not even they could ignore. On the little ramshackle porch, the air began to shimmer with energy. It was pink and glittery, like a little pink fish was swimming through the air, twisting and looping in little spirals, growing brighter and stronger and pinker by the second until Aunt Em was moved to shield her eyes.

Henry clenched his fists at his sides as if preparing for a fight. I wasn’t worried. I’d already seen such strange things in this land that I just watched in excited curiosity as the energy crackled and glittered and grew until, slowly, it began to resolve itself into something resembling a form. Into something resembling a person.

Her face appeared first, pushing its way through the light as though emerging from a pool of water. Next came her golden crown, then finally the rest of her. She was standing right there on the porch, regal and glowing, just as beautiful as I remembered her. Her face was porcelain-white, punctuated with piercing blue eyes and a perfectly red, perfectly tiny little mouth. She was sheathed in a slinky pink evening gown that looked almost liquid and hugged her body scandalously.

“My oh my,” Henry said under his breath.

I knew exactly who it was. And I can’t say I was very surprised to see her. “Glinda!” I exclaimed joyfully, running to hug her.

I stopped in my tracks when I saw that she wasn’t responding. She wasn’t even looking at me. It was like she hadn’t heard me at all.

Then I noticed that her image was flickering and translucent. I could even see the faint impression of Henry’s prized door knocker shining through her image from somewhere behind her rib cage. She was fading in and out, getting clearer but then more indistinct, like she wasn’t entirely here yet.

“Dorothy,” she said, still not turning her face to meet mine. “Help me.” Her voice was a hoarse, urgent whisper.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, moving instinctively toward her. “What do you need from me? How do I help?”

Now I was standing right in front of her, but her eyes remained unfocused. She still didn’t hear me. “Help,” she repeated. “Help.” Her image came fully into focus for a last, brief moment. I lunged forward and reached for her, trying to grab her hand.

“Glinda!” I screamed.

But before I reached her, there was a bright flash of pink light, and with that, she was gone.

Six

“Well,” Aunt Em said shakily, as if it had just dawned on her that something funny was going on. “That was unusual. Was that woman some kind of actress?”

“Of course not,” I said. I do try not to lose my patience with them, but sometimes it’s an effort. “She’s a sorceress. I’ve told you all about Glinda, remember?”

She and Henry both stared back at me with a look of blank confusion.

“A . . . sorceress?” Aunt Em seemed hesitant. “I suppose it did seem magical. . . .”

“It seems magical because we’re in Oz. You may have noticed the sneezing flower and the fruit that changes colors?”

My aunt and uncle exchanged a look. “Now see here, young lady,” Henry said. “I don’t care if this is Oz or Shangri-la or Timbuktu. You can’t just go spiriting people away like that with not so much as a how-do-you-do. It’s the busiest time of year and I have work to do tomorrow. I need to get a good night’s sleep if I’m going to be up before dawn to milk the cows.”

Aunt Em was nodding along with him as he spoke. “I’m not quite sure what’s going on here,” she said slowly. “But it’s all very strange and, well, I would feel a lot better if I could sleep in my own bed tonight. Wouldn’t you, dear? It’s been a long day for you.”

I’m the first one to admit that Oz is a lot to wrap your head around all at once, especially for two people who had always been perfectly content to spend their lives on the farm. At the same time, I had told them about this place so many times. You would think that would have given them at least a bit of a head start.

I tried again, this time speaking slowly and simply and trying to keep the creeping frustration out of my voice. “We have been transported to Oz,” I said. “My friend Glinda the Sorceress must have brought me here. She’s in trouble. I need to help her.”

Toto barked one sharp yip of approval.

Neither of them looked very convinced, but before they could protest any more, Toto and I were already on the move, charging across the clearing, away from the house and the stream, in the direction of the Munchkin village I knew to be close by. I guess Aunt Em and Uncle Henry didn’t want to be left alone in this strange place that might as well be Timbuktu because they began to follow.

I had imagined my triumphant return to Oz a thousand times. Probably more. This had not been exactly how I’d pictured it. I thought that I’d cleared up every last bit of trouble last time I was here. This time, I’d assumed my family and I would get to enjoy all the luxuries a magical kingdom had to offer without me having to go to the trouble of battling evil and saving the land.

I should have known better than that. Of course the very reason I’d been brought back would be because they needed my help. I’d saved Oz before. If Glinda was in trouble, that meant Oz needed rescuing. Again.

I have to say—it was nice to feel special, but I would have preferred to be able to just relax and see the sights with my family. You know, like a vacation.

But it occurred to me that maybe a quest is the price of admission into a magical kingdom, and if that was the case I wasn’t going to complain. I just hoped I could get it over with quickly. And the only way to do that was to keep moving.